If you have ever lost track of the Good News and the joy, acceptance and motivation it brings, then read the Ragamuffin Gospel. You will find yourself right back on your Heavenly Daddy's lap full of hope and strength to be one of His.
This book was so good that I ordered a paper copy before I had even finished reading the ebook. Yep. And as soon as I finished the ebook, I ordered another paper copy to give away as a gift to friends. This review is going to be short; not because I don't have a lot I could say about the book, but because I don't know how I could put it into words.
As I started off reading this book, I had a slight notion that this could be one of those "health, wealth, and prosperity" types of messages. I mean, how can you write an entire book devoted to the single topic of grace without seeming to neglect the fact that God is also a just God Who does not allow sin to go unpunished?
Give this book a chance and read the first 25 pages with a heart that is desiring to hear the author's message rather than a suspicious mind looking for flaws (that is where, I admit, my mind often starts out when reading a new book, especially one that deals with anything theological). I am not asking you to throw out discernment; I am asking you to give the author an adequate amount of reading so that you can really get a feel for where he is coming from.
I think you'll not only be pleasantly surprised at the number of hits-the-nail-on-the-head statements you'll find, such as:
"As I listen to sermons with their pointed emphasis on personal effort- no pain, no gain- I get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion. [page 12]"
"I can be addicted to vodka or to being nice, to marijuana or being loved, to cocaine or being right, to gambling or relationships, to golf or gossiping. Perhaps my addiction is food, performance, money, popularity, power, revenge, reading, television, tobacco, weight, or winning. When we give anything more priority than we give to God, we commit idolatry. Thus we all commit idolatry countless times every day. [page 60]"
"Trust at the mercy of the response it receives is a bogus trust. [page 82]"
But you'll also be invigorated by the encouraging truths that are renewed in our minds and hearts:
"We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited. [page 32]"
"The moment the focus of your life shifts from your badness to his goodness and the question becomes not "What have I done?" but "What can he do?" release from remorse can happen; miracle of miracles, you can forgive yourself because you are forgiven, accept yourself because you are accepted, and begin to start building up the very places you once tore down. [page 83]"
"The contagious joy of Jesus (only carriers can pass it on) infected and freed His followers. [page45]"
This is not just a feel-good book to remind us of God's consuming love, nor is it a heresy naming-and-claiming select verses out of the Bible. I am glad I chose to read this book despite my initial impressions. My pastor of 15 years had recommended this book to me, saying, "Read it; it will resonate with you." He was absolutely right. God is good; I serve the Lord and desire to follow Jesus Christ, not to merely fulfill religious traditions or expectations nor to prove anything to the world. I desire to follow and obey Jesus out of my deep love for Him and am extremely grateful that He first loved me. (1 John 4:19)
In A Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning speaks of God's amazing grace, of how God loves us based on His standards not our own, about how Christianity is a grace-laden mystery. Manning's theme is that we underestimate grace, we fail to understand that God loves us no matter what. It's a ragamuffin gospel, "written for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out", for those who are weary and discouraged.
Manning's message hasn't been universally accepted. Many churches preach what has been called a "Jesus-plus" gospel: to be a proper Christian, you have to have Jesus and tithe your 10%. To be a proper Christian, you have to have Jesus and attend church three nights a week and twice on Sunday. To be a proper Christian, you have to have Jesus and pray for an hour a day.
This is a church that preaches the grace of Jesus but doesn't always practice it, and it's bringing Christians under condemnation for never being good enough. That's what Manning is saying: we will never be good enough on our own, but we are all good enough in Jesus. All we need is to accept God's grace. It's not that tithing, attending church or praying are badâ€”they're notâ€”but they don't affect our salvation. God loves us unconditionally, and can't love us any more or any less.
And that's the Ragamuffin gospel. Jesus, and his grace extended to me and you. It's not what you do; it's Who you know. Recommended.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a free ebook for review.