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I got a free PDF of this book for blogging purposes, but I liked the first chapters so well that I paid for the actual ebook so I could finish reading it on my phone (which is where I seem to do most of my reading now).

I also told my husband that this book could have been written specifically for him. And then he read it and agreed!

Being Jesus In Nashville started off as a bit of a gimmick – Jim Palmer was going to do a modern version of In His Steps, the 19th century classic that first asked, “What Would Jesus Do?” He was going to apply the question to his own life and write about his experiences. Simple enough, right?

But it turned into a book that his publisher declared “outside the bounds of biblical, orthodox Christianity.” And he suddenly found himself without a publisher. So this book is now self-published.

What happened? It’s hard to explain quickly – but really, it’s right there in the title. Jim asks whether a person, like himself, can BE Jesus. Not just be LIKE Jesus — BE Jesus. That’s the controversial part. But he’s not saying I’M GOD, WE’RE ALL GOD, either.

It’s worth reading just to try to make sense of it all. Palmer’s written a couple of other books, which he refers to during this one. I rather wished I had read them before, but I don’t think its necessary, either.

Find out more about Being Jesus in Nashville (and how to buy a copy on Amazon) at Palmer’s blog.

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I guess I didn’t notice that this is really a book for pastors. I am neither a pastor, nor currently a church leader, so it didn’t exactly speak to me. It is full of good information and ideas, though. The first section is about power; how power has traditionally been used (or in some cases, abused) in the church, and how pastors can change that. The second section deals with servant leadership, and the third is a practical section about prayer, scripture reading, following the ancient monastic vows of povery, chastity and obedience, and becoming a servant leader.

I found the practical information most helpful — it was a good reminder to add some structure to my spiritual life, with concrete ideas for doing so.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to change the way you pastor.


This book has a SQUIRREL on the cover. I have no idea why. Somebody should figure that out. [update: my husband reminded me that there’s a story about a squirrel in the introduction. I was too busy thinking “SQUIRREL?!” and thinking about this.]

The subtitle is The Art of Not-Evangelism. I love this. I have never felt like traditional, getting-people-saved evangelism was an effective tactic. Actually, I’ve never felt like the whole philosophy of “let’s convert people and get them to attend our church on Sunday” was a good one. So this book is right up my alley.

According to Medearis, “making disciples of all nations” doesn’t mean we have to get everyone to go to church on Sunday, subscribe to a certain set of theological beliefs, or recite a certain prayer or prayers. It just means helping people to develop a relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus.

And that’s it. It’s about Jesus. Not about Christianity or any other religion.

I loved it. It’s well-told and easy to read.

Here’s a sample:

Visit Carl Medearis’s blog.

Buy this book from Powells.com

If you’ve ever done any therapy, you’re probably familiar with the idea that we all live by scripts. Sometimes we’re living out scripts that are unhealthy, even though they’re familiar.  Author Frank Viola suggests that as Christians, we need to look at the scripts we’re using to live out our Christianity with a critical eye, because not all of these scripts actually come from God. He exhorts us to re-center on God, and let Him revise our lives.

Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script is short, to the point, and full of good examples, including some humorous stories and some that will probably make you cringe.  If you’ve read and liked Viola’s other books, you’ll appreciate this one, too.

We went to see the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend, and while it was often quite different from the book, the Christian messages included by C.S. Lewis were definitely still there.

Not everyone sees this, though, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the Christian themes in the book, Carl McColman’s book The Lion, the Mouse, and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is a great place to start. McColman goes through the book chapter by chapter, tracing the lessons. It’s a good analysis, especially for those who are new either to Narnia or to Christianity.

Colors of God: Conversations about Being the Church was co-written by three authors/pastors: Quentin Steen, Dave Phillips, and Randall Peters. The three are or have been leaders of an emerging church called neXus in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.

The book draws on their experiences working with an emerging congregation, but the three also come from an Evangelical background, which is reflected in their theology. In fact, the evangelical aspects were a little off-putting for me at first. I come from a Roman Catholic and United Methodist background, so I have a hard time with statements about “the finished work of Jesus Christ”, like “the gospel says that Christ has fully met all the expectations and requirements of God on my behalf.”

I think behind the language we probably do agree more than disagree, though. I do agree that we should not be worrying so much about whether we are pleasing God with our holiness. God is already pleased with us and loves us, and nothing can come between us and the love of God! And I do think we need to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for God’s grace. I just don’t necessarily believe in the theology of atonement that goes along with that.

Anyway. The book is divided into four sections. Blue represents Gospel Faith, Green is Healthy Living, Red is Inclusive Community, and Yellow is Cultural Engagement. These are the tenets that neXus is based on. In each section, the three authors carry out a three-party conversation, which is apparently to the sermons/teaching they do at neXus. This is followed by a chapter of question and answer with questions frequently asked by other people, and a chapter of additional notes on the topic, again in a conversational style.

I really enjoyed the conversational style and humor of the authors. In one of my favorite exchanges, Randall references Karl Barth on whether everyone goes to heaven (Barth says no, because some will choose not to), and Dave and Quentin respond.

Dave: By the way, let me say, I believe you just quoted a German theologian. I kind of think that makes you a dangerous liberal, but I’ll leave it at that.

Randall: He’s actually Swiss, by the way, not German.

Quentin: Nicely played.

The authors also refer constantly to scripture, and specifically to Jesus’ parables. They do look at Scripture a little differently. I thought their take on the Good Samaritan was a little odd (the injured man represents Jesus?), but I thought their look at Matthew 18 was interesting. Matthew 18 begins with the disciples asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It then moves quickly from “unless you become like little children” to “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away,” and on to the parable about leaving the 99 sheep to look for the one lost one. This is followed by the instructions for what to do if your “brother” sins against you:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV)

And then we get Peter asking how many times we must forgive someone (seventy times seven, says Jesus) and the parable of the unmerciful servant.

The interesting part to me is the authors’ interpretation of treating someone like a pagan or a tax collector. They point out that many churches use this passage as instructions for (or justification for) kicking someone out of the church. However, how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? Levi/Matthew WAS a tax collector who became Jesus’ disciple. And Jesus was well-known for treating outcasts with love.

I think this book is great for anyone with a fairly orthodox theology who’s interested in the emerging church, or the future of the church in the 21st century and beyond. I found it easy to read, but also thought-provoking and spirit-stirring. I definitely recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review as part of The Ooze Viral Bloggers program.

This is life: noisy, dirty, dangerous. And it’s the best we get in this fast-paced, hard-nosed, crazy-making world. But is there more than chaos, commotion and calamity? Is there some majesty even in the dust?

In this unique compilation of journey notes, new author Krista Finch asks these questions, speaking honestly about herself and the world around her. With curiosity and passion, she digs into ordinary moments for the truth about awakening and reawakening. Brokenness and beauty. Ruins and restoration. And what she keeps finding in the clumps and clods is nothing short of glory. Welcome to life as is – unfinished but beautiful.

As Is by Krista Finch is a well written series of notes and vignettes. It’s just not really my thing. I prefer to read something with an overall story and/or structure, and this is really just a series of short pieces. If you enjoy short, beautifully-written vignettes, you might really like this book. It just didn’t work for me.

I received a free copy of this book from The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review.

Gospel. Good News. What was the actual good news that Jesus and his disciples preached? Was it really about who gets into heaven, or is there more to it?

Many Christians have considered these questions in recent years. This material will be familiar to anyone who reads Brian McLaren, Frank Viola, or Leonard Sweet. David Rudin comes at these issues from an analytical and biblically literal point of view, but still comes to similar conclusions — that Jesus was telling us how to live NOW, not that we needed to believe in him in order to be saved from our sins and get into heaven.

It’s an excellent analysis that will make the reader think, even if he/she doesn’t agree with the conclusions.

The Gospel You’ve Never Heard is available in paperback through Amazon, but you can also get a free PDF copy through the book’s website.

Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!

A New Kind of ChristianityIn A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren finally comes to the point. He’s no longer trying to express his beliefs and remain acceptable to fundamentalists (which wasn’t really working anyway). He comes right out and says that it doesn’t make sense for God to condemn the majority of people who have lived on Earth to eternal conscious torment. He says that homosexuality itself isn’t evil. And he’s still saying that everything must change.

That was his previous book, Everything Must Change, which I thought was terrific as well. But McLaren explains in this book that a lot of Christians still aren’t ready to address the issues in Everything Must Change (crises of prosperity, equity, security, and spirituality), and that that’s why he wrote this book. Here’s a description of what happened on his Everything Must Change book tour:

During the Q & R session, most questioners simply ignored the four crises I had talked about. Instead, they focused on arguing fine points of theology with me – all within their conventional paradigms. It was as if they said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. But you’re decentralizing our preferred theory of atonement!”

And so he wrote a book directly confronting these conventional paradigms.

McLaren discusses ten key questions in this book:

  • What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?
  • How should the Bible be understood?
  • Is God violent?
  • Who is Jesus and why is he important?
  • What is the Gospel?
  • What do we do about the church?
  • Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
  • Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
  • How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
  • How can we translate our quest into action?

As a Christian, I’ve been asking myself these questions for a long time. And I’m actually pretty comfortable with my answers now (although perhaps that means those answers could use confronting, too). But these are also questions that I often hear non-Christians or marginal Christians asking, and maybe those are the people this book will really speak to.

I’m delighted that McLaren has written this book, and that more and more people are asking these questions.

Links

Brian’s personal website
Brian on Facebook
Brian on Twitter
Browse inside A New Kind of Christianity

Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!

I chose this book to review because I thoroughly agree with the metaphor: our own lives carry the message of Christ to all, better than any sermon.  Dukes’s message in the book is that the church has to be more than Sunday morning worship (which others have said), but even more, that it has to go beyond other forms to which we have restricted church and religion, and into the function of living sent.

I found the first part of the book frustrating to read. Much of it is philosophical, biblically-based explanation rather than real-life stories.  I’m familiar with the Bible passages and explanations already. It might be different for someone who isn’t; but it’s hard for me to see it through that lens.

There’s one chapter at the end packed with stories of real people who are living sent. I would have liked to see these stories fleshed out more and included throughout the book, rather than being crammed into one chapter.

The PS for pastors and other church leaders is, in my opinion, the best part of the book! It’s snarky, practical and to the point.

In summary, I wholeheartedly agree with what the book says, but wish there were more emphasis on detailed real-life stories.

You can find out more at the book website or on Jason Dukes’s blog.

The cover art slyly references these two passages in the postal markings:

John 20:21 (The Message): Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

2 Corinthians 3:3 (The Message): Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.

Disclaimers: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review. Links to Amazon are affiliate links; I get a small commission if you purchase through my links.