Crazy Love

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

I first saw Francis Chan speak a couple years back at a conference in Northern California.  I was completely taken by his ability to be honest, transparent and vulnerable while presenting a message with depth and substance.  Since then I’ve seen a few video blogs, heard a podcast and read a few articles of his online and really enjoyed his consistent authenticity.

This book definitely had it’s engaging and sleepy moments for me, but I really feel the overall message is brought home with a challenge to leave the safe and expected for the risky and crazy journey of faith and love we should be on as followers of Jesus.  His writing style feels consistent with the conversational and relational way he speaks and conveys his message in a live setting.  One fun thing he did with this book was to have video chapter introductions on the book website.  Definitely a cool way to connect with who the author is and get a more personal sense of his heart.

One thing I appreciate here was Chan’s willingness to embrace a bit of controversy in some bold statements throughout the book.  There may be people who will fully dismiss his message because of one or two sentences in this book, but I believe that would shortchange the reader from some great challenges and insights throughout this read.

Crazy Love ultimately prods the reader to evaluate if we’ve chosen the safe and comfortable American dream in place of the radical call to actually love people the way Jesus did.  Are we willing to sell what we have, give away our stuff, love the poor, serve with our time, let go of our money and hang out with our enemies?  To live and love like Jesus…it will radically change us and wreck the security we’ve been told is what’s important.  It’s not a condemning message…convicting, yes…but kind of a reality check to look inside and see where our personal treasure is.

Well done Francis.

::: Have You Read This Book?  Post Your Thoughts? :::

Publisher’s Info:

God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response?

We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not…we all know somethings wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions?

God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts—it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

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unChristian

This book took a while for me to get through because I wanted to kind of sit with the info presented and absorb it into my thinking and understanding.  I’m a guy who was raised in the Christian faith and has been part of a church from my earliest memories.  I’ve wrestled time and again with living in an isolated Christian sub-culture that is very disconnected to the ‘real’ world.  I’ve been guilty of being many of the stereotypes detailed in this book.  It’s been a process for me to try and get away from goofy thinking and unrealistic perceptions of what my life looks like and how I actually connect with the world around me.

I was impressed with the way the author’s were able to present research based information and extrapolate the message into an accessible discussion. A conversation looking at the actual perceptions people have of Christianity in America.  The heart of the message here is absolutely convicting, while hopeful.  Many people (while calling themselves Christians) haven’t done any favors to the ‘brand’ or perception of what Christianity actually represents.  The book suggests that if we begin to live like Christ and genuinely love people who don’t exclusively reside inside the Christian culture, we can change the negative image some people have.

I think that God followers who are really interested in loving people the way Jesus modeled for us should give this book a read.  It could also be good for people who are steeped in the Christian sub-culture; helping us get an accurate sense of how people on the outside of our faith really perceive us and how we might consider changing the way we view them and the lives they lead.

I’m busy evaluating and changing many of the ways I was taught to judge and keep myself separated from “the world.”  I’m hopeful that I can genuinely love people for who they are…even within and through our differences.

Publisher’s Info:

The New Testament writer Paul told the first-century Christians: “You yourselves are our letter . . . known and read by everybody.”

When a person “reads” your life, what does it say? What does your faith look like to outsiders?

A major new research project, unveiled for the first time in this book, describes the increasingly negative reputation of Christians, especially among young Americans.

The research shows that Christians are best known for what they are against. They are perceived as being judgmental, antihomosexual, and too political. And young people are quick to point out they believe that Christianity is no longer as Jesus intended. It is unChristian.

It shouldn’t be this way.

What Christians believe may not be popular, but Paul also advised the first believers to “live wisely among those who are not Christians” and to “let your conversation be gracious and effective.”

In this eye-opening book, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons–along with more than two dozen leading voices within Christianity–unpack the major criticisms leveled against Christians. Understand why those negative images exist and how you can best represent Jesus to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Your life is an open book. Is it unChristian?

Same Kind of Different As Me

Although I can’t remember who, there was someone who had mentioned this book to me a while back.  I recently picked it up as a diversion from some of the other types of books I’m currently reading.  Great decision!

The book is a sort of memoir written from the first person perspective of two men.  Broken up into short chapters recounting the journey of their lives and eventual friendship, I was quickly drawn into their individual stories.  I really enjoyed the writing style as it seemed to genuinely reflect the stark differences between these two guys.  Making it all the more powerful for me was the fact that this is a work of non-fiction.

The essence of the story is one of friendship, faith and belief in the value of people.  You couldn’t have selected more unlikely characters to find their way into each others lives.  A successful white businessman and a homeless, uneducated black man from the plantations of the South and an era that seems as if it should have been at least 100 years ago.  Destiny reached into their worlds and changed them both forever.

There were several moments in the book that moved me deeply.  Some of the profound observations grabbed me and may never release my soul from the truth within them.  Reading their story has reminded me of how comfortable I’ve chosen to live and challenged me to look again at what I am and am not doing to love everyone in my path.

An easy read and an easy recommendation.  Give this book a go…you won’t be disappointed.

Publisher’s Info:

A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery.

An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel.

A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream.

A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it.

It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana . . . and an East Texas honky-tonk . . . and, without a doubt, in the heart of God. It unfolds in a Hollywood hacienda . . . an upscale New York gallery . . . a downtown dumpster . . . a Texas ranch.

Gritty with pain and betrayal and brutality, this true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.

You Better Not Cry

My kids gave me this book for Christmas.  I’m pretty sure they got it on the merits of the cover alone, but my wife knew I’ve enjoyed the author so she signed off on it.  This is the third Augusten Burroughs book I’ve read.  While we don’t share moral or faith perspectives, I have have a strong appreciation for his talent as a writer.

This book is a collection of anecdotes from the author’s life, each having some connection with Christmas.  There were definitely some laugh-out-loud moments, along side of some well-crafted thought-provoking observations on his life and relationships.  I was particularly taken by his experience with the homeless woman who challenged him to not waste his talent and loose himself to his addictions.  His honesty in his failures was refreshing.

Burroughs has a conversational and engaging writing style that I really enjoy.  His approach and world view may be difficult for some of those who read this blog to connect with because he is blunt about his lifestyle and occasionally uses profanity.  Overall this was an enjoyable read and a fun departure from the other books I’m currently reading through.

Publishers Info:

You’ve eaten too much candy at Christmas…but have you ever eaten the face off a six-footstuffed Santa? You’ve seen gingerbread houses…but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You’ve woken up with a hangover…but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself? Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present—as only he could. With gimleteyed wit and illuminated prose, Augusten shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.

Bo’s Cafe

It was a struggle for me to get through this book.  I had heard that the story was interesting and subtly profound.  Unfortunately, I found this book seriously lacking creativity and suffering from a contrived style of writing.

I have read a lot of Christian fiction over the years, and in my opinion this was one of the most poorly written books in that genre.  The character development was weak, the plot relatively boring, the imagery flat and the dialog predictable.  I was also turned off by the apparent assumption that the reader of this book is a highly churched Christian.  When reading a book, I hope to be taken on a journey and be surprised by an insightful and thought provoking story line.  This just wasn’t the case with Bo’s.

The overall thought the book is trying to communicate is the need we have for authentic community and that people should lovingly extend God’s grace to everyone we know and meet.  There were a few moments when I felt the book was beginning to build towards a good point, but the author’s seemed to bail out awkwardly on each one.  This left me frustrated because I kept hoping for a nugget or new perspective that I could take away.

It’s my opinion that too often the Christian community excuses things done poorly because people have a “good heart” or intention in their motivation.  In any creative medium I believe that we should pursue excellence in our message and presentation.  While I can see the message the authors were trying to bring to light, it was a challenge for me to really engage in the story.

Overall a bit disappointed with this one.

Publisher’s Info:

High-powered executive Steven Kerner is living the dream in southern California. But when his bottled pain ignites in anger one night, his wife kicks him out. Then an eccentric mystery man named Andy Monroe befriends Steven and begins unravelling his tightly wound world. Andy leads Steven through a series of frustrating and revealing encounters to repair his life through genuine friendship and the grace and love of a God who has been waiting for him to accept it. A story to challenge and encourage, BO’S CAFE is a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God’s unbridled grace.

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years : What I Learned While Editing My Life

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years : What I Learned While Editing My Life

I quickly became a Donald Miller fan after reading Blue Like Jazz.  I enjoy his conversational writing style, mixed with profound observations on faith and our human condition.  Since then I’ve read all his books.  When this book came out, I bought it and began reading it simply because it was Miller’s next offering.

A few years ago I began using a little phrase that I’d put together through several different life experiences.  “What makes the better story???  Do that!!!” This became a running joke and expression that I would use with close friends and family when faced with insignificant choices and other weighty decisions.  At times it would result in ridiculous experiences and in other moments challenge me to choose an uncomfortable, yet rewarding path.

It was a lot of fun reading this book because Don takes a look at our life through the lens of story.  He explores and uncovers what makes a good story in a book and on film, and how that contrasts with real life.  I found the book prompting me to ask the question what kind of story am I telling with my life?  Reminding me that I can choose to write a great story, to be a great character, to pursue life in all it’s fullness!  Or I can choose a less interesting and safe existence.  Every choice I make plays a role in determining my story.  It was a good reminder that always choosing what is safe, or comfortable, or popular can actually dull my story.

Pam and I have purposefully made decisions in our life to create memories with our kids…telling a better story.  We’ve realized that our kids will remember the things we did that were outside of the norm…beyond the expected.  One example was the year we decided to have Fruit Loops for Thansgiving Dinner.  Rather than focusing so much time and energy on the meal, we spent all our time playing and hanging out together.  Our kids still talk about that year, and we’re threatening to do it again someday.  Next time we’ll probably have Lucky Charms though.

Would I recommend this book…absolutely!  Miller’s honest and creative writing has a way that I’m sure can connect with most anyone.  I appreciate the way he openly wrestles with his faith and how it works in his life, but without jumping on the sometimes all-too-popular “let’s bash the church” train.  It’s a pretty easy read, and might even challenge some of us to get off the couch and live a better story.

7 Practices of Effective Ministry

7 Practices - CoverThis is the first book I’ve read by Andy Stanley.  I’ve heard from several friends that I should check out some of his books, and I’m glad I finally got around to it.  This book lays out some great, practical and implementable guidelines to approach and measure effectiveness in your approach to ministry.  I thought their approach to looking at these as steps and practices rather than just implementing a new program was well thought out.  Here is a quick listing of the 7 practices:

  1. Clarify the Win
  2. Think Steps, Not Programs
  3. Narrow the Focus
  4. Teach Less for More
  5. Listen to Outsiders
  6. Replace Yourself
  7. Work On It

The book opens up with a fictional story that outlines these practices in a practical real-world scenario.  Following the story, the authors explore each practice in depth.  The application to church ministry is very clear and well defined.  I enjoyed the many examples they used from their own church and ministry experience.

I really felt this was a helpful book as I’m part of a leadership team that is trying to cast vision and move our church into the future.  I’m hopeful that our entire team will go through this book together and explore the concepts in more depth and consider the application for our ministry here.

These practices also have a place in the marketplace and business world.  In full-time ministry, or in a business that you’re wanting to see move forward with purpose and vision, this book is a worthwhile read.

Publisher’s Info:

There’s no scoreboard in the sanctuary, and the only plate is probably for the offering. But every church leader needs to know how to win, and every congregation needs to know when to cheer. This insightful book speaks to every church leader who yearns for a simpler, more effective approach to ministry. An engaging parable about one overwhelmed pastor is followed by an overview of seven successful team practices, each one developed and applied in a ministry setting. Reinforced by relevant discussion questions, these clear, easy, and strategic practices can turn any ministry into a winning team.

Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing. If you are satisfied with those results, you don’t need this book. If not, it’s time for a change.

Like your own personal trainer, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry is an insightful guide for any leader who yearns for a simpler, more effective approach to ministry. Here are seven strategic principles that when put into play will bring focus and clarity to everything you do and turn your ministry into a winning team.