The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right  -     By: Lisa Sharon Harper
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The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right

WaterBrook / 2016 / Hardcover

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Racial discord, toxic relationships, political upheaval---we live in a fractured world. How can it be fixed? Journeying from Genesis to Revelation, Harper explores the concept of shalom to show God's original intent for creation, how brokenness manifests itself in Scripture and society, and how God will bring us to wholeness. Foreword by Walter Brueggemann. 240 pages, hardcover from Waterbrook.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: WaterBrook
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 160142857X
ISBN-13: 9781601428578

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Publisher's Description

God once declared everything in the world "very good."
Can you imagine it?
 
A Vision of Hope for a Broken World
 
Shalom is what God declared. Shalom is what the Kingdom of God looks like.
Shalom is when all people have enough.
It’s when families are healed.
It’s when churches, schools, and public policies protect human dignity.
Shalom is when the image of God is recognized in every single human.
Shalom is our calling as followers of Jesus’s gospel. It is the vision God set forth in the Garden and the restoration God desires for every relationship.
 
 
What can we do to bring shalom to our nations, our communities, and our souls? Through a careful exploration of biblical text, particularly the first three chapters of Genesis, Lisa Sharon Harper shows us what "very good" can look like today, even after the Fall.
 
Because despite our anxious minds, despite division and threats of violence, God’s vision remains: Wholeness for a hurting world. Peace for a fearful soul. Shalom.

 

Author Bio

Lisa Sharon Harper is the chief church engagement officer at Sojourners, a nonprofit organization committed to putting Christian faith into action in the pursuit of social justice, peace, and environmental stewardship. She is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...or Democrat and coauthor of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith. Harper has been recognized by The Huffington Post as one of "50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders" and is considered one of the nation’s most influential voices on a faith-rooted approach to advocacy. Harper speaks extensively, nationally and internationally, and lives in Washington, D.C.

Endorsements

"Lisa Sharon Harper has presented the gospel, the good news, as it was meant to be-whole and complete. Our world has compromised so many elements of the good news that we are left with a divided gospel. We need to recover the whole Christian gospel, the wholeness of the church, the wholeness of relationships. Lisa has unleashed the whole-ism of shalom. Her application of the good news for America, for our culture, in the world, reminds us that God is bigger than our problems. My wish is that Christians and non-Christians alike read this book." - DR. JOHN PERKINS, co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association, founder of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, and author of Let Justice Roll Down

"Lisa Sharon Harper is so smart and interesting-she's a wonderful leader. I respect her immensely and am passionate about the message of this book." - JEN HATMAKER, speaker and best-selling author of For the Love

"For many decades, both mainline Christianity and the evangelical church have been captive to competing, shallow, and 'thin' understandings of what the good news of the gospel really is. In The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper masterfully presents the case that the very good news God brings to us is about the restoration of shalom-that is to say peace, well-being, wholeness, and abundance-which conquers the false dichotomy between social justice and personal salvation. Lisa shows us that God's creation is emphatically, even forcefully, good, and it is the duty of every human being to responsibly steward God's creation. Lisa's clear, evocative prose blends scholarly theological insights with moving life experiences to show the clear applications of the gospel to our cross-gender relationships, our struggle against racism, how we care for the environment, our relationships with ourselves, and much more. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to understand God's true purpose for the world and for our lives." - JIM WALLIS, New York Times best-selling author of America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine

"There are lots of 'gospels' out there competing for our affection-the gospel of the Kardashians, the gospel of Trump, the gospel of American exceptionalismÂ…but Lisa Sharon Harper dives into the one true gospel, God's very good news. On these pages, the Garden of Eden meets the world we live in. Harper stirs up an ancient, radical vision of shalom, whereby God heals all the wounds that sin has created-in our hearts, in our streets, and in our world." - SHANE CLAIBORNE, activist and author of Executing Grace

"To speak of the gospel as good news, it has to be good news for the oppressed, the impoverished, the brokenhearted. To embody God's shalom is to embrace and restore the image of God in all humanity no matter who or where they are. Chapter by chapter Lisa Sharon Harper builds the case for reading, understanding, and living the gospel as the life-giving, freedom-bringing, shalom-infused reality it really is. There are new, exciting voices coming from a new, younger generation of evangelicals, and they are turning the traditional meaning of that word around. Lisa Sharon Harper is such a voice and well worth hearing." - ALLAN BOESAK, South African human-rights activist and the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University

"Lisa Sharon Harper writes in a fresh and personal way, combining rich theology with deep experience working with contemporary issues to inspire us not to settle for a thin gospel but a thick gospel-the fullness of the good news of God's reconciliation and shalom that touches all aspects of life. The Very Good Gospel is for all of us struggling with how the good news of Jesus should impact not just our own lives but also speak to the injustices in our world. This book brings all the threads together and weaves a glorious picture of God's redemptive work in creation." - KEN WYTSMA, president of Kilns College and author of Pursuing Justice and Create vs. Copy

"Exposing racism, sexism, and exploitation as a direct assault on God, The Very Good Gospel weaves its wisdom around God's shalom-the blessed web of creation, where the flourishing of one is a flourishing of all. It is beautiful and true. Thank you, Lisa!" -DR. MIMI HADDAD, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, www.cbeinternational.org

"Part mountaineer, part miner, Lisa Sharon Harper has somehow ascended the mountain of Scripture to survey its entirety while also digging deep into its core to extract raw truth of immense implication and conviction. Lisa's revealing stories, scriptural depth, and prophetic voice make The Very Good Gospel a very good read-one you won't want to miss." - DAVID DRURY, chief of staff for the Wesleyan Church World Headquarters and author of nine books including Transforming Presence

"One can scan across the landscape of the church and not find a better articulator of the essence of the gospel in the twenty-first century. Lisa Sharon Harper follows a rich tradition of reformers and iconoclast theological practitioners who deeply love the gospel and God's people. She has made it her life's project to challenge lethargic and cynical people to live love and practice justice. Our world is richer and more vibrant because of her compassionate and strong voice." - REVEREND DR. OTIS MOSS III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ and author of Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World

"In a world that has legitimate reasons to question the possibility of a good God, Lisa Sharon Harper reminds us what is in fact not only good but beautiful about the God who loves us more than we want to be loved. Her winsome words wash over the reader with gentleness, while simultaneously striking out with a fierce love that is corrective and healing. The Very Good Gospel is more than just a social activist's field guide; it is a road map to a better world-one marked by faith, hope, and love." - CHRISTOPHER L. HEUERTZ, author, activist, and founding partner of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Very Good Gospel

"Lisa Sharon Harper is so smart and interesting—she’s a wonderful leader. I respect her immensely and am passionate about the message of this book."
-Jen Hatmaker, speaker and best-selling author of For the Love

"For anyone who has ever wondered if we were meant for more, Lisa Sharon Harper’s The Very Good Gospel provides a resounding ’yes’ revealing God’s eternal vision of shalom for all creation—people, families, genders, races, and the nations. Our gospel has long been presented in a shallow way—and unattractive in its narrowness. The Very Good Gospel declares the breadth of God’s Word, reconciling social justice and personal salvation, and inviting readers to share the rich message of shalom for all people, as it was intended."
—Michael Eric Dyson, political analyst, professor, and best-selling author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

"Lisa Sharon Harper has presented the gospel, the good news, as it was meant to be—whole and complete. Our world has compromised so many elements of the good news that we are left with a divided gospel. We need to recover the whole Christian gospel, the wholeness of the church, the wholeness of relationships. Lisa has unleashed the whole-ism of shalom. Her application of the good news for America, for our culture, in the world, reminds us that God is bigger than our problems. My wish is that Christians and non-Christians alike read this book."
Dr. John Perkins, co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association, founder of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, and author of Let Justice Roll Down

"For many decades, both mainline Christianity and the evangelical church have been captive to competing, shallow, and ’thin’ understandings of what the good news of the gospel really is. In The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper masterfully presents the case that the very good news God brings to us is about the restoration of shalom—that is to say peace, well-being, wholeness, and abundance—which conquers the false dichotomy between social justice and personal salvation. Lisa shows us that God’s creation is emphatically, even forcefully, good, and it is the duty of every human being to responsibly steward God’s creation. Lisa’s clear, evocative prose blends scholarly theological insights with moving life experiences to show the clear applications of the gospel to our cross-gender relationships, our struggle against racism, how we care for the environment, our relationships with ourselves, and much more. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to understand God’s true purpose for the world and for our lives."
Jim Wallis, New York Times best-selling author of America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine

"There are lots of ’gospels’ out there competing for our affection—the gospel of the Kardashians, of Trump, of American exceptionalism—but Lisa Sharon Harper dives into the one true gospel, God’s very good news. On these pages, the Garden of Eden meets the world we live in. Harper stirs up an ancient, radical vision of shalom, whereby God heals all the wounds that sin has created—in our hearts, in our streets, and in our world."
—Shane Claiborne, activist and author of Executing Grace


"To speak of the gospel as good news, it has to be good news for the oppressed, the impoverished, the brokenhearted. To embody God’s shalom is to embrace and restore the image of God in all humanity no matter who or where they are. Chapter by chapter Lisa Sharon Harper builds the case for reading, understanding, and living the gospel as the life-giving, freedom-bringing, shalom-infused reality it really is. There are new, exciting voices coming from a new, younger generation of evangelicals, and they are turning the traditional meaning of that word around. Lisa Sharon Harper is such a voice and well worth hearing."
Allan Boesak, South African human-rights activist and the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University

"Lisa Sharon Harper writes in a fresh and personal way, combining rich theology with deep experience working with contemporary issues to inspire us not to settle for a thin gospel but a thick gospel—the fullness of the good news of God’s reconciliation and shalom that touches all aspects of life. The Very Good Gospel is for all of us struggling with how the good news of Jesus should impact not just our own lives but also speak to the injustices in our world. This book brings all the threads together and weaves a glorious picture of God’s redemptive work in creation."
Ken Wytsma, president of Kilns College and author of Pursuing Justice and Create vs. Copy

"Exposing racism, sexism, and exploitation as a direct assault on God, The Very Good Gospel weaves its wisdom around God’s shalom—the blessed web of creation, where the flourishing of one is a flourishing of all. It is beautiful and true. Thank you, Lisa!"
Dr. Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, www.cbeinternational.org

"Part mountaineer, part miner, Lisa Sharon Harper has somehow ascended the mountain of Scripture to survey its entirety while also digging deep into its core to extract raw truth of immense implication and conviction. Lisa’s revealing stories, scriptural depth, and prophetic voice make The Very Good Gospel a very good read—one you won’t want to miss."
David Drury, chief of staff for the Wesleyan Church World Headquarters and author of nine books including Transforming Presence

"One can scan across the landscape of the church and not find a better articulator of the essence of the gospel in the twenty-first century. Lisa Sharon Harper follows a rich tradition of reformers and iconoclast theological practitioners who deeply love the gospel and God’s people. She has made it her life’s project to challenge lethargic and cynical people to live love and practice justice. Our world is richer and more vibrant because of her compassionate and strong voice."
Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ and author of Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World

"In a world that has legitimate reasons to question the possibility of a good God, Lisa Sharon Harper reminds us what is in fact not only good but beautiful about the God who loves us more than we want to be loved. Her winsome words wash over the reader with gentleness, while simultaneously striking out with a fierce love that is corrective and healing. The Very Good Gospel is more than just a social activist’s field guide; it is a road map to a better world—one marked by faith, hope, and love."
Christopher L. Heuertz, author, activist, and founding partner of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism


"Christian social activist and public speaker at Sojourners in Washington, D.C., Lisa Sharon Harper (Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat) releases a salient, provocative look at scripture through the lens of her own life. From the shalom offered by God to humanity in Genesis, through the "wreckage of the fall," and forward to Jesus' "very good" gospel, Harper mirrors scripture's long arc with contextual family drama, including information about her "third great-grandmother" who was "the last adult slave in [Harper's] family." In an engaging accessible voice, she interweaves the provocative history of 19th-century evangelical movements, 20th-century social gospel and civil rights movements, and the 21st-century Black Lives Matter movement with her own testimony of coming to Christ and her varied experiences as a progressive evangelical. Harper provides detailed history, statistics, and vibrant stories that reveal the possibility of America's redemption. The willing reader will be restored to a "very good" gospel, which sets free those who are broken, economically poor, abused, ashamed, and oppressed. Built on a foundation of solid biblical study, Harper provides a vital, effective contribution to the narrative theology movement. When systematic theologian James W. McClendon coined the phrase "biography as theology," he was advocating for this book: life stories that remake the way we think about God today. (June)" —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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  1. Blaine, WA
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    And it was Very Good
    April 22, 2016
    James
    Blaine, WA
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    A number of recent publications have helped us enlarge our frame of what the gospel is beyond 'pie in the sky in the great by-and-by.' Lisa Sharon Harper's The Very Good Gospel (Waterbrook Press, forthcoming June 2016) is one such book. Harper helps us see the expansive implications of the biblical concept of shalom (peace). Our contemporary concept of peace is deficientour imagination forged in the eras of Cold War stalemates and our tenuous Post-9/11 world cries for 'peace in the middle east.' The biblical concept of peace is more robust than the mere cessation of conflict. It involves good news to the poor and oppressed, justice for all, and "God's vision for the emphatic goodness of all relationships" (14-15). In short shalom means that everything wrong can be made right.

    Harper's voice is one I trust. I have read her online articles at Sojourners (where she is the chief church engagement officer), and The Huffington Post and I follow her on social media. With Leroy Barber she was on the ground in Ferguson training clergy on how to respond to the crisis. She is a passionate advocate for social justice tackling racism, economic injustice and systemic oppression. As an African American woman she brings perspective and insight to these issues; however, what also makes The Very Good Gospel so very good is her deeply rooted faith and her serious engagement with biblical theology.

    Harper draws on the insights of Walter Bruggemann (who writes the forward), Miroslav Volf, and a host of other scholars, commentators and researchers). In this book she unfolds the biblical concept of shalom. She explores what it means to live at peace with God, and to live at peace with self, to have real peace between the genders, to live at peace by exercising proper dominion in creation, to bring peace to broken families, to have real peace between races and nations, what it means for Christians be witnesses to God's kingdom peace, and to have peace in the face of death.

    This book goes a long way toward helping us see how robust Shalom really is. Harper blends personal anecdotes from life and ministry with biblical theology and astute cultural analysis. She shares some of the ways she has seen (or experienced firsthand) the lack of peace, and where shalom has burst into our broken world. She has practical suggestions for how to live into God's kingdom shalom. Harper shares painful moments and touching and poignant parts of her own journey (such as her final goodbye to fellow evangelical justice advocate Richard Twiss). This is a very good book and it oozes good news. Read it. I give it an enthusiastic five stars!

    Note: I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.
  2. 4 Stars Out Of 5
    This book has meat to it
    April 20, 2016
    Melissa
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. It was one of those book I thought was a different author then it was and I am glad I made that mistake. This book has meat to it. It's not a feel good, fluffy read.

    Lisa has depth and she carries that throughout her book. She touches on tough subjects, things we often don't think about.

    She isn't afraid to address issues that we tend to gloss over. As an African-American she brings a much different perspective to things and sees things that I wouldn't see.

    She sprinkles her personal story throughout the book, which I always appreciate. She shares her hurts and struggles and how she had to find her own shalom with God.

    I highly recommend this book as Lisa takes you from the beginning and the fall into God's ultimate plan for redemption and peace.

    I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
  3. Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    "Shalom" brought back into the world.
    March 19, 2016
    Sufficient in Jesus
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    "If the construction of human empire is our goal, we will become enemies of God's purposes on earth. If the flourishing of the image of God and all the relationships in creation is our goal, then we will become partners with God, exercising dominion that is in the likeness of God." ~Lisa Sharon Harper

    This book is a like a stick of dynamite. Handle it with care or else it will explode, blowing away your preconceived notions and altering the landscape of your understanding.

    And hey, maybe that's a good thing sometimes.

    If you could go back to the beginning, what do you think you would have seen between God and the world? Imagine it- the formless and void now sculpted and filled, God himself resting in satisfaction, the newborn sunlight shining on First Man and Woman, and all creatures utterly at home in the earth.

    The Hebrew word for this utter wholeness, intense health, and holy happiness is "shalom."

    That "shalom" is everything we're craving, individually and nationally.

    Lisa Sharon Harper understands that creation was steeped in shalom at the start, and she knows that our hearts long to return to that place. She believes that shalom can be brought back into the world when men and women commit to acting justly, with mercy and generosity.

    If that's the case, then we as people of faith have some marching orders. Evil must be exposed, corruption reformed, and all oppression ended. Human dignity must be championed. Debate of the crucial ideas must be civil, and must not be censored. We must seek out "good governance" and keep our government systems accountable.

    It's tempting to think of this all as abstract thought, but it isn't. We read the news of missing shalom every day. Bloodshed and violence, violated victims, lies and deception, economic struggle- we sleep in a planet-sized broken home.

    As Lisa addresses these concepts she points us to current events. There are plenty to choose from, when discussing the need for shalom.

    I came away from this book reminded that life is a gift, and we want to live well. And there's so many areas of need, so in whatever way we can let's make our life count. That will never look the same for two people in a row, but we can pursue the goodness of God while looking hard at reality and we can find a way to work for shalom.

    I thank Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
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