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Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

I have to agree with Gordon MacDonald who wrote, “I’d like to be part of a church that this hero ends up proposing.”  Chasing Francis is a historical novel that tells the story of a disenfranchised, evangelical minister who goes on a pilgrimage (sabbatical?) to rediscover his faith.  He makes it very clear that he didn’t loose his love for Jesus but for Jesus’ church.  Through traveling to Italy and following the journeys of and studying the life of Francis of Assisi, Chase (the main character) comes to a deeper understanding of what it means to truly follow Christ.

From a theological standpoint, I struggled with the emphasis on Francis instead of a focus on Christ, but I had to remind myself that the book is fiction and not necessarily what we would consider “Christian Living.”  However, his final picture of the church he wants to lead is in line with Christ’s vision set out in the Gospels.  There are some things I would add to his vision, but I believe the implication behind the story is not that the church needed so much to be only what was presented but needed to add to what it was already doing, while changing some things, to better realize Biblical Christianity.

Over all this book was worth reading and I’d love to participate in a discussion group of it.  For the record, I was in tears at the end of it.  It’s been a long time since I read a good piece of fiction (literally, probably over 10 years), and this was a great re-introduction to the genre.  Overall, I’ll give it 4/5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Chasing Elephants by Brent Crowe

While I was excited to read this book when I first got it i was slightly disappointed as i worked my way through it.  Part of that was probably my own bias.  I have never read anything by Brent Crowe before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The writing was easy to read, though i don’t want to call it simplistic.  I just did not find his style intellectually stimulating.

My biggest struggle with the book, though, was how complicated he made what seems like such a simple question.   The book’s thesis examines Christian freedom in light of three main scripture passages and then attempts to apply that freedom to what Crowe refers to as “elephants in the room”, or the gray areas in our lives.  He sets out to establish a set of questions believers can ask to help them arrive at whether certain actions are permissible or not.  He is very clear that individual believers may answer questions differently and arrive at different conclusions, but the process is just too cumbersome.  There are a total of 16 different questions he proposed can be asked.  While all do not need to be answered, he mentions that the ones chosen by an individual may lead them to one answer while another person could come to a different conclusion just by answering a different subset of these 16 questions.  To me this seems to be very confusing and doesn’t help me answer the questions in regards to the “grey” areas in my life.

Personally, I find myself addressing grey areas by answering two primary questions.  The first is “What does the Bible say about it?”  This can either be in terms of specifically allowing something or specifically prohibiting it.  The second is, “Will doing this make me more or less like Jesus?”  Some people may answer that second question differently based on their personal convictions and experiences, and that is okay, but to wade through 15 questions to come to that conclusion seems to be overly cumbersome.

There are a few key quotes from the book that have caused me to pause and reflect, and for those tidbits I do have to say it was worth my time:

“We must understand that our freedom should motivate us to see others released from the bondages of sin, even at the risk of sounding preachy. In the end, people go to heaven and people go to Hell. Those of us fortunate enough to bear [Christ’s] name have the sacred responsibility…to always be pointing people to Christ.” (p57)

“This is the great challenge for us today…to live lives worthy of imitation. Fewer ideas are more convicting and motivating than the thought that someone could be imitating us, following us as an example. Yet, this is the goal of freedom: that in following our example, others will be led to the feet of Jesus.” (p59)

“A proper understanding of freedom will contribute to seeing others as infinitely valuable.  Grace demands of us that we don’t keep the message of Jesus to ourselves.” (p168)

Overall I will five this book 3/5 stars.  An easy, quick read, but if you are looking for an in-depth study of any of the gray areas mentioned in the book (Homosexuality, Social Networking, Social Drinking, Entertainment, and Humanitarian Efforts) you will most likely find yourself disappointed.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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