Frank Viola’s New Book: Jesus Now

Note: I received a free advance copy of this book from the author but I have not had a chance to read it yet.  I’m promoting it anyway because it will be available to you at a 50% discount for the next few days–and who doesn’t like discounts?
Len Sweet Calls It a
Masterpiece! JESUS NOW – 50% Off & Free Study Guide Until May 8th

Leonard Sweet says this of Frank Viola’s just-released book,
Jesus
Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ
.
“Frank Viola is a master at
the discipline of historical context, and Jesus Now is a masterpiece
that shows us how to ‘Christify’ our story—to move from an unscripted
spirituality to a scripturally scripted identity.” ~ Leonard Sweet
Jesus Now contains
8 months of fresh material on the present-day ministry of Christ, answering the
question, “What is Jesus doing NOW . . . since His ascension?”
The book explores every text in the New Testament on the
subject, breaking it down into 7 ministries that Jesus has today:
Great High Priest * Chief Shepherd * Heavenly Bridegroom *
Author and Finisher of our Faith * Builder of the Ekklesia * Head of the Church
* Lord of the World
If you purchase Jesus
Now
between May 5th and May 8th from Parable.com,
not only will you get the book at a 50% discount (the best price anywhere), but
you will also receive the companion Study Guide at no charge.

Book Review: Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee

I received a free copy of Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee as a part of her Book Launch Team.  

When I first met Jennifer last spring or summer and she told me about Love Idol over lunch, and that it was about our need for approval, I said “I think I need to read that book”.  There are a few statements that caught my attention early in the book:
“But no matter how much we get–or how good we are–there’s someone always doing life better, writing her story more poetically, speaking her words more eloquently, living her days more gracefully, raising her children, being promoted more regularly (And she probably has better hair).” (xx)  We always compare ourselves to others, we feel as if we need to constantly be or do more and more in order to find our worth.  Jennifer teaches us that seeking this approval and acceptance as we do can make us become controlled by it: it becomes our Love Idol.  
I also appreciated that she wrote that she couldn’t “pinpoint a trigger in [her] personal history to explain why [she has] sought human approval over these years” (5).  Even though her parents believed in hard work, they never made her feel as if she had to earn her love an approval.  Many people today will tell stories of trying hard to earn love, and, like Jennifer, I never felt that way.  Yet, like Jennifer, something in me craves approval.
Throughout the book, Jennifer weaves in stories from her life as a reporter, interviewing Al Gore and covering the death of Timothy McVeigh, as well as ways that her daughter is facing similar approval issues in her young life, using examples from 4H events and spelling bees.  She hopes to be able to break the hold that approval has on both of them, as well as any of us reading the book.  She writes of being able to try and fail instead of needing to be perfect.
Her main point is that God already loves us, and we do not need to prove our worth to him or find our worth in others.  I would recommend anyone who may be struggling with finding one’s worth read this book–and assure yourself that you are preapproved. 

Book Review: Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity, by Ed Cyzewski

I received an Advanced Copy of this book to review.

In this book, Creating Space:  The Case for Everyday Creativity, Ed Cyzewski gives creative people permission, in a way, to be creative (it’s along the lines of Jeff Goins’ You Are A Writer).  There are five short chapters:

  • Why Create?
  • Sandcastles
  • Safety
  • Gifts
  • Something
Each chapter begins with a story as an example of what the chapter will be about, and the stories and chapters tie together nicely.  The book is one of those types of books that quietly encourage and inspire a person to continue to pursue his or her calling to be creative.
Ed writes:  “This is a call, an invitation, a challenge, and a shove to let your creative gifts come to life and to sustain them” (7).  For those of us who struggle with whether or not we are doing what we are meant to be doing creatively, this is the permission to do so.  Throughout the book, Ed gives examples and advice that anyone creative can relate to, and shows how to continue being creative and why it is important despite the negative thoughts one may have.

This book helped me to think about my writing, how I sabotage myself (getting distracted!), and made me want to work to be better.

Worth Reading Wednesday: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

It’s probably not a surprise that this week’s edition of Worth Reading Wednesday is promoting Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

In Held Evans’ book, one of the topics she writes about is the “Proverbs 31 Woman” (chapter 4, January, “Valor”).  She writes that in the Evangelical Christian subculture in which she grew up, she learned that the woman described in Proverbs 31 is “thought to represent God’s ideal for women” (74), explaining that guys on her college campus “described their ideal date as a ‘P31 girl'” and that “young women looking to please them held a ‘P31 Bible Study'” (74).

I never grew up with this idea that a woman must aspire to this image.  When I was in college and took a “Women of the Bible” class, my professor explained that this Proverb was sung to Jewish women by their husbands on the Sabbath.  I remember thinking “how great that a husband thinks his wife is all that, even if she falls short” (because who doesn’t fall short?), yet I also remember (I think; it’s been a LONG time!) my professor thinking that the singing of the Proverb was telling women they had to do all of those things.  We had very different perspectives on this Proverb and the activity that goes along with it.

When I read Proverbs 31, I read it as the things that a woman is capable of accomplishing, not as a must-do list.  Are you a woman who is organized and competent?  Great!  Perhaps you have the makings of a great administrator (“She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls”–verse 15.  This verse shows that she is organized, can plan the day, and oversee help/employees).  Are you a woman who is generous and caring? (“She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy”–verse 20).  Perhaps you are called to use those skills to help others.

When I read about the Proverbs 31 woman, my thoughts are also drawn to the ideas of spiritual gifts in the New Testament.  Just as we all have different gifts and are all different parts of the body, perhaps this proverb is meant to celebrate the unique gifts of women as a body, and to show what we can all accomplish if we work together.

What does “Biblical Womanhood” mean to you?  Do you aspire to be a “Biblical Woman”?  If so, what is your understanding of what that means?  How have you learned about it?  What has your perspective been on the Proverbs 31 woman?  Do you see it as a celebration of women or as a list of what all women should be striving to be?

When We Fight With Our Christian Family

This morning, I read a post at Frank Viola’s new Patheos Blog that I happen to think is very timely.  Not only because we are nearing the end of a hateful political season and we’ve all failed in loving our fellow Christians who believe differently politically, but also because of something new I’ve gotten involved in:  a book launch team for a book that is getting a lot of publicity:  Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

There are a great many supporters and a great many dissenters of Evans’ book.  It is easy for me to interact with others who loved the book as I did, but a great deal more difficult to interact with fellow Christians who are tearing it down (with or without having read it).

There are times when my husband has come home from work and asked me about prominent Christians that coworkers mentioned, and I immediately roll my eyes, get all indignant, and tell him exactly what is wrong with their ideas.  Of course, none of you readers know that because I don’t do it publicly, but does that make it any better?  Or does it make it worse?

In the post I linked to above, Frank Viola writes:

Civil disagreement and even debate, when done in the spirit of Christ, are healthy and helpful.  But when disagreements descend into second-guessing motives, distortions of one another’s words, mischaracterizations of one another’s views, and personal attacks, then we’ve moved into the flesh.

And so I wonder how to interact with and respond to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we disagree about a book.  What is the loving way to respond?  I don’t want to get into petty arguments, but I do want to have helpful and fruitful discussions.  Is it possible?

I can understand that people will not see this particular book in the same way that I will, but it saddens me to see it attacked and described as mocking the Bible.  I know that as I read it, I felt the Bible come alive; I saw an honest and searching approach to understanding how different women view and are viewed in the words of that beautiful book that points us to Jesus.

Will Evans get everything 100% correct?  No.  But who among us will?  I certainly won’t.  Even the greatest theologians in history failed in certain ways (I’m looking at you, Martin Luther, for your “On the Jews and Their Lies” essay), but the good news is that we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves…not to love our favorite theological method with our of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I have two hopes.  The first is that those who are attacking this book will actually read it with an open mind, and be able to see the good in it.  The second is that when I read articles or posts or books with which I disagree, that I will read them with an open mind and be able to see the good in them, and not be so quick to roll my eyes and get disgusted, and try to see where the writer is coming from.

Book Review: Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

I received this Advanced Reader’s Copy of Jesus: A Theography from Present Testimony Ministry as a part of Frank Viola‘s Book Launch Team.

For the first time in a long time, I picked up a book to read on a topic of which I was very unaware:  the presence of Jesus throughout the entire Bible.  Over the years, I had heard about the idea of the pre-incarnate Jesus (which usually was just a checklist of “here’s where Jesus appeared), but had not paid it much mind.  Until now.

The back cover of the book states that “Biographies of Jesus generally have been written by those trying to investigate the historical Jesus, with little attention given to the grand narrative of Scripture. On the flip side, those interested in tracing the theology of Scripture are typically disinterested in historical Jesus studies. These two approaches have yet to converge. . . until now.”

To combine these two ideas is fascinating to me, and to see how Sweet and Viola weave the narrative of Jesus from Creation to The Return of The King made me want to pick up my Bible and compare notes as I read along (in hindsight, having a Bible and a notebook to jot things down in while reading would be something that I highly recommend–simply highlighting text isn’t enough!).

I can’t begin to imagine the amount of work that went into creating this book.  The endnotes are extensive; there are over 80 in the introduction alone.  I greatly appreciated that the authors did this; it shows they are willing to let anyone see what they used and where their ideas originated.

While I can’t speak for the veracity of their premise and what actual Biblical scholars (of which I am not) might have to say about it, I found it to be a worthwhile read that sparked my curiosity and kicked my questioning and wondering brain into gear.  Rather than just telling someone about the Bible, reading this book encourages one to go to the Bible itself to explore the claims.  In this, Sweet and Viola place the focus on Jesus, as it should be.

Book Review: Beyond Evangelical by Frank Viola

I received a free review copy of this e-book from Present Testimony Ministry as part of Frank Viola’s book launch team.


When I first began reading Frank Viola‘s blog earlier this year, I read so much that seemed to express thoughts that I had already been having, and when he asked for people to join his book launch team, I applied.  I received my copy of Beyond Evangelical in June, and for various reasons (none of them are probably all that great an excuse), was not able to actually get around to reading it until this week.

Beyond Evangelical is a compilation of already-written posts on Viola’s blog combined with new chapters; there are 20 chapters total and some are quite short.  While the chapters do not easily flow into one another, I think this is actually a strength in that they are each stand-alone.  One could read any chapter of this book at any time without having to read the surrounding chapters to understand it.

There are two things that I appreciated most about Beyond Evangelical.  The first is that it showed me that I am not alone in my thoughts.  Secondly, each chapter can make me ask the question “how does this apply to my life?” without telling me exactly how it must be done.  I think this is because those who will identify as “Beyond Evangelical”, are, as Viola says, found in all streams of Christianity; there is no one denomination that would fit.  It is simply a desire for and knowledge of something more than is currently offered.  “Those who have moved beyond evangelicalism,” Viola writes, “want to know Jesus Christ in reality and in the depths.  They aren’t quietists, pietists, passive mystics or gnostics.  Outward activity is important, but it’s like fruit falling off a tree.  It’s the natural result of living by the life of Jesus.” (Chapter 2).

Beyond Evangelical should not be considered a book that puts down other streams of Christianity, but rather, one that acknowledges that none of the expressions we have are truly adequate.  Quoting his book Jesus Manifesto, Viola writes the following in Chapter 14:

“Concerning the reality of Christ Himself, all the fullness of God dwells within him.  It is for this reason that every theological system breaks down somewhere.  Every systematic theology, no matter how coherent or logical, eventually meets some passage of Scripture or passage of life that refuses to fit into it.  Such passages have to be bent, twisted, and forced to fit the system.
Why is this?  It’s because Christ is too immense, too imponderable, and too alive to be tied into any immovable system of thought constructed by finite humans.  Thus, He will always break out.”

If you are struggling with something in your Christian faith but can’t quite put your finger on what it is, you might be moving beyond evangelical, and it would be worth your time to read this book.   A variety of options for ordering can be found here, in a listing of Frank Viola’s other books.

Are You Beyond Evangelical?

Frank Viola’s new book “Beyond Evangelical” has just released.
Here’s the book description:
Recent studies indicate that evangelical Christians are known by
the world as people who are narrow-minded, judgmental, self-righteous,
legalistic, callous, hard-hearted, politically partisan, and quick to attack
their own. Why is this, and is there a viable cure?
The evangelical Christian world has fractured into four main
streams. One of these streams has grown weary of the Christian Right vs.
Christian Left squabbles and vitriolic disputes. If this describes you, then
you are not alone. And you will be encouraged to know that God is raising
up a new breed of orthodox Christians who are breaking free from the Christian
Right vs. Left quagmire.
Beyond Evangelical explores
the changing face of evangelicalism and introduces readers to a growing segment
of the Christian population who do not fit into the Right or Left
categories, but who are marked by an uncommon devotion to the Lord Jesus
Christ as this world’s true Lord.
To read the Introduction, Table of Contents, and ordering
information, go to http://frankviola.org/evangelical.htm