Jesus Manifesto Book Review

Earlier this month Thomas Nelson released Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.  A good deal of fanfare, (Facebook, Twitter, Blogosphere, etc.) preceded and accompanied  it’s release.  When books come to us this way, I find that many are disappointing, but that is not the case with this book — quite the opposite.

The title serves as a clarion call to the Church to make a course correction that provides an alternative path that is neither left or right, but forward with Christ.  From the introduction to conclusion, “Christ must be  ‘the ‘North Star’ or ‘Southern Cross’  in our exploration to know Him.   The point: the church is off course and nothing will bring her back on course, but “an inward revelation of Christ to our hearts by the Holy Spirit — “a progressive unveiling of the person who stands behind the sacred page and is the occupation of all things.” (p.19)

Throughout Sweet and Viola constantly and consistently make their call to course correction by providing their readers with fresh and needed correctives to our understanding of the person of Christ.

The serves as reminder that Christ is our chief occupation in both life and ministry.  Too often the Church occupies itself with secondary issues and doctrines (evangelism, missional ministry, social justice, praise and worship), relegating Christ to a mere side issue, or sub-point.  The reader is reminded in a fresh and culturally significant way that the route back is once again placing Christ as the end all and be all of all things.  The corrective is always found in the person of Christ – first and foremost.

Here is some of what I highlighted reading through this book:

  • God doesn’t lead you through phases or steps.  He draws you to Himself in continuous motion. p.69
  • In all the religions and philosophies of the world, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder with having a relationship with that founder.  But not so with Jesus Christ.  The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus Himself.  Christ is still alive, and He embodies His teachings.  This is what separates Him from every great teacher and moral philosopher in history. p.82
  • Our problem is this: We have even created a narcissistic form of Christianity, in which “conversion” is less a turning toward to Christ than a turning turning toward success or fame or fortune.  Narcissus never had it so good than in best-seller Christianity, which has become self-centeredness wrapped up as “spirituality,” which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything.  p.100
  • The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to principles of justice or complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success; not wealth or health or anything else. Only love. p.117

If you are one who is dissatisfied with the present anemic condition of the western church, whether you are conservative or liberal, armenian or calvinist, reformed or pentecostal, whatever your theological ilk; this book is latent with Christological insight that all should agree on.  It serves as a timely corrective that will provide for the church a view and understanding of Christ that will aid it in an authentic embodiment of the Good News before the present postmodern world. Reading this book will engage many with a Christ they never knew and for others it will renew the “first love” they lost somewhere along the way.

If I were fashioning a curriculum for a “Christianity 101” class, this book would be at the top of my required reading list, it is extremely relevant, valuable, prophetic and timely.


Knowing Me Ministries

I’m continually in search of local missional ministries in the Portland/Vancouver metro area that involved in effectively serving the community incarnationally; being Jesus right where they are and doing it well with all of their heart and soul.

My friends Mike and Angela Davis are such people.  About two years ago, they felt called to leave the church they were pastoring in North Portland in order to more intentionally serve the poor and homeless.  They possessed no base of support from a denomination or mission organization, but strongly felt God’s call on their lives to serve in His Kingdom in this manner.

They are ministering to homeless in our area admirably and with deep humility and integrity.  They recently structured this new ministry in order secure more funding and prayer support.  You can learn more about them and their story by clicking Knowing Me Ministries. If you are looking for a viable totally faith based ministry to give to this Christmas Season….. and throughout the new year, I would suggest this one – none better.  There is also a link on this blog on the right sidebar.

Salvation for Me and Me Alone

Soong-Chan Rah writes:

The expression of excessive individualism in local church life is rooted in the excessive individualism of Western evangelical theology. Evangelicalism’s idolatry of  the individual has crippled the church’s ability to view sin and salvation outside of the narrow parameters of a personal faith. Evangelical theology becomes exclusively an individual-driven theology instead of a community-driven theology. In an individual driven theology, individual sin takes center stage. Continue reading

God is good! All the Time!

I’ve been basking in the words “Cancer Free” voiced by my oncologist August 24th following seven months enduring chemotherapy and all the stuff that goes with it. Needless to say these are the words Linda and I desperately wanted to hear; more than words themselves can describe.

Thoughtfully musing, and pondering this whole experience has reminded me once again of the wonderful goodness of God; maybe in a deeper, more real way then in previous times.  God is good all the time even in the not-so-good times.

What if  we had not heard the words “cancer free,” but something else which honestly I was half expecting.  After all, my cancer was at stage three, plus it was an aggressive form.  Is God’s goodness only real when good things happen and not the bad such as sickness, disease, trials, tribulations and what some would describe as godawful?

Continue reading

The Happy Dance Psalm

Tuesday morning a day after hearing the good news “Cancer Free,”  I spent some time reading in Psalms.  I came across the following Psalm and found it to be somewhat biographical this last eight months.  I share it here because it blessed me and refer to it now as the “Happy Dance” Psalm.

1  I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me.

You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.

2  O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,

and you restored my health.

3  You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.

You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

4  Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones!

Praise his holy name.

5  For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime!

Weeping may last through the night,

but joy comes with the morning.

6  When I was prosperous, I said,

“Nothing can stop me now!”

7   Your favor, O LORD, made me as secure as a mountain.

Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

8   I cried out to you, O LORD.

I begged  the LORD for mercy, saying,

9   “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave?

Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness?

10  Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.

Help me, O LORD.”

11  You have turned my mourning into

into joyful (happy) dancing.

You have taken away my clothes of

mourning and clothed me with joy,

12  that I might sing praises to you and not

be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks

forever [Psalms 30, NLT]

Quote from Augustine

I’ve been praying and thinking about “living in the love the Creator, my Father.”  I came across this quote in one of the books I’m currently reading.  Really touched a nerve.  Maybe it will for you.

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.  And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created  things which you made.”    — Augustine, Confessions

A Scripture for Postmodern Pilgrims

God, teach me lessons for living

so I can stay the course.

Give me insight so I do what you tell me –

my whole life one long, obedient response.

Guide me down the road of your commandments;

I love traveling this freeway!

Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,

and not for piling up loot.

Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets.

invigorate me on the pilgrim way.

Affirm your promises to me –

promises made to all who fear you.

Deflect the harsh words of my critics –

but what you say is always so good.

See how hungry I am for your counsel;

preserve my life through your righteous ways!

(Psalms 119:33-49 The Message)