Genre: Christian Living
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: August 2012
Reviewed by Jacob Ortega
QUICK HIT – Neighbours and Wise Men is a collection of stories, and a story itself. It is a story about the church, and the broken people that make it up. It is a story about a God whose love makes beautiful stories out of the dust of human depravity. It is a story about hope, and a beautiful book.
“I was raised in a two-team world … My two-team world was one of spiritual haves and have-nots. The “haves” were Christians. The “have-nots” were everybody else.
Tony Kriz (also known as “Tony the Beat Poet” from Blue Like Jazz) uses the words above to sum up the philosophy subtly ingrained in his psyche from his beginnings as a Christian. Tony grew up in the church with a passion about mission and ministry. Soon after graduating school with a communications degree, he was desperate to go out into dangerous, uncharted territory and make disciples of the spiritually lost. A noble task to undergo surely, but one he eventually found he was far from qualified for. He eventually lost his faith (or so he thought at the time) and with it his field position, and was sent by his leaders back to his home in Oregon for a year of rehab, er, seminary.
But with his whole world turned upside-down, as Tony realises throughout telling his story, God never left him. On the contrary, even in the midst of the crashing and burning of Tony’s professional and spiritual life, He was transforming Tony into the man he was meant to be, and setting a path to true faith before him. And to help him along this path God provided some amazing people: Muslims, drug addicts, alcoholics, atheists, homosexuals, nudists, bums…and even some Christians.
In these pages are some of the most honest, inspiring, and challenging stories you will find in a memoir sold on Christian shelves. Tony Kriz explores the most controversial aspects of the church and American Christianity – and some of the most rewarding and wonderful gifts of a sacrificial life – through stories of real people. While living with Muslims, Tony experienced humility and intimacy like never before. At one of the most liberal and “godless” college campuses in the country, he saw the kind of respect and community that Jesus valued. In a dim, smoke-filled pub in downtown Portland, through ramblings of broken and addicted men, he felt the words of Christ’s spirit nudge him on, when he thought of giving up. To many religious people, this may sound hard to accept, or even blasphemous. Tony admits that it did to him as well. And as he illustrates, it took a long time for him to let go of his personal religion and grasp the idea that God could speak through anyone in any situation.
As we follow Tony’s journey in overcoming his spiritual prejudice, we are forced to look inside ourselves and think of how we as Christians have limited the voice of God. Can not God teach the most educated of church leaders, through the words and actions of the most unlikely people? Neighbours and Wise Men is a collection of stories, and a story itself. It is a story about the church, and the broken people that make it up. It is a story about a God whose love makes beautiful stories out of the dust of human depravity. It is a story about hope, and a beautiful book.
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