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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
This book is broken up into six sections. The first section, "Incarnation," explores what we mean when we talk about Christ's incarnation and what it means for us to be incarnational as a faith community. The second section, "Reputation," is probably the most helpful section of the book. Here Halter explores the ins and outs of how one goes about being incarnational. A major part of being incarnational is earning a reputation in a community that gives you authority to speak into the deeper issues of people's lives. You do this by avoiding shallow religiosity, planting yourself down in a community long term, working well, and practicing hospitality. Doing these things goes a very long way and actually set us up for having the type of conversations he describes in the third section, "Conversation." As we incarnate God's presence in the world our conversations must be filled with truth, but they must also be filled with grace. We must also learn not to point people to our church or to our religion. We must learn to point people to Jesus first. This means that the name of King Jesus must constantly been on our lips, and we must ooze out the gospel in our conversations. Eventually these conversations lead to a confrontation; the next section is aptly name "Confrontation." It only consists of one chapter, but it's a very important one. It's the chapter that most people are probably waiting for ("when are we going to talk about evangelism!"). Halter makes the important point that this final step - evangelism - is supposed to be a spirit led and inspired moment. He concludes this book with a section titled, "Transformation," where he addresses the issue of conversion without discipleship.

1. The book is filled with great stories that help put "flesh" to the ideas he is writing about.
2. He clearly communicates the notion that incarnational ministry is not easy and that it takes a lot of time and work.
3. He does not "church bash" - at times these sorts of books tend towards a "the church has it all wrong" attitude; that attitude is absent in this book.

1. Halter briefly addresses this, but many have written about how "incarnational ministry" is actually a category mistake. They argue that "incarnation" is unique to Christ's role, thus we cannot be "incarnational." This might not be the book to address those types of issues, but I think Halter could have spoken a bit more to it.
2. The chapter on confrontation tends to overlook some important parts of scripture - Halter says that "Jesus never tried to confront someone. They always tended to confront themselves." Halter holds this up as a model for Christians when they interact with friends and family who are making poor choices. I am pretty sure that Jesus did confront people, however he knew how to confront them well. We cannot simply let people "confront themselves" because there are certainly times, especially within the church, that we need to confront one another.

Hugh Halter has written an excellent book describing what it looks like to live incarnationally. There is much wisdom here, especially for those who want to jump quickly into "sealing the deal." We need to learn to slow down, do life with people, and earn a position to speak the gospel into people's lives. That slowing down and doing life is the "incarnational part." I think Hugh is right, we need to learn to be more like Jesus who spent 30 years "moving into the neighborhood" before he began preaching about the Kingdom.

May we learn to "move into the neighborhood," learn the community's rhythms, learn what is "good news" for our friends and neighbors, before we begin preaching a gospel that makes no sense to them...

(Note: I received a advanced copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and David C. Cook in exchange for an impartial review)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2014
I like Hugh. I like the book. I enjoyed the a stories and the analogies. I respect the fruit of the labors. My reservation is on how to complete the circle that I agree with Hugh on. I find great encouragement, great advice, and great practice in these pages...yet without consistency in understanding the bible as a whole I am concerned it won't last. As one small example, if the cross is not most important, but the life of Christ, then we have no hope for he finality of what the cross accomplishes which later the author agrees with when he says that we don't invite Jesus, he is the inviter who gives us the grace. Both are needed but life could not have been without the death and resseruction, it's like aging Christmas was more important than Easter. Actually both are wildly important, and Christmas would have been another birthday without the stone being rolled back. And Easter could never have happened without Him coming. So there are some points of the book where I say "yes and amen while nodding constantly" but other points where I said "wait...what, doesn't that negate what I just agreed with" I suppose no book is comprehensive and as far as "Flesh" and practice of grace it hits a great resounding chorus. As far as a manual for a complete way to minister to people, it may not have all the t's crossed. I liked it and so should you.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2014
I have read all of Hugh's books and I think this is his best so far. It's encouraging and personal, yet challenging as well. There were many times I put the book down for a moment and went "duh" why didn't I think of that? -other than those moments I could not put it down. You will not be disappointed. Great read. Excellent for those trying to wrap their minds around the whole Jesus as fully man and fully God. MD--Illinois
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2014
I served, a few years back, on a jury panel and it was an extremely exciting experience. The process was efficient, the lawyers were dynamic, and the judge was pretty funny. And, to top it all off, former controversial Dodger Milton Bradley was among the potential jurors. He wasn’t selected, but he and the other mentioned factors made my one and a half week service an enjoyable one. I might be in the minority, but I wouldn’t mind being one of the twelve again.

The case: an attempted murder trial.

I was one of two pastors selected to serve, so naturally (or supernaturally) we connected well. We talked ministry during our breaks and we shared some of the things our respective churches were doing for the community. For some reason, however, our ministry conversations became competitive in nature, as if we were trying to one up each other on who was doing more for the Kingdom.

And then our already short connection became even shorter.

I simply remarked that it seems Christians are more known for what we’re against than what we’re for. My spiritual brother from another mother retorted, “Well, the closer we get to the end of the world and the more this world acts in opposition to God, the more we ARE going to be known for the things we’re against.”

I smiled. I shrugged. And we never talked again.

Although, in many ways, I see where pastor number two was coming from, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of arrogance flying off of his tongue. You know what I’m talking about…the “I’m-saved-and-they’re-not-attitude”…with nose high in the air. He seemed certain that the sole way of Christ was to oppose everything not Christian, rather than express the same love toward others that God showed the entirety of humanity when He sent Jesus. In fact, some of the most arrogant people I know wear the garb of Christianity. We forget, many times, that Jesus didn’t just come to save us from sin and direct us into heaven. Jesus also came to show us how to be human among other human relationships. He showed us how to love. He taught us how to forgive. Jesus showed us how to embrace those who don’t necessarily believe what we believe. Yes, Jesus revealed truth, unfortunately, in our quest to be theologically sound,
we’d rather die over doctrines than build authentic inclusive community that looks to explore the realities of Jesus.

Hugh Halter, in his new book “Flesh,” said, “Those doctrines are important … but not central. They can help us know Jesus, but they can also hinder us from knowing Him. Jesus is what is to be central, and He is the person people are really looking for.”

This is ultimately why Jesus came. He didn’t come to convert people. He came to rescue His family. Jesus came to restore what was broken when the original sin was committed. He came to break down the barrier between us and God that sin created. Unfortunately, we build this wall back up every time we choose to view people as prizes we win, rather than people to love.

In other words, Jesus came to show who He was for.

Hugh Halter does a great job at painting this picture in the book; a picture of godly love, rather than religious condemnation. Hugh uses stories from his own life where he engages with the “non-believing” world and shows them a love that transcends religion. The stories Hugh uses, much like those in his previous books, are far from candy coated. The stories Hugh shares are a definite reflection of him meeting the incarnate God and him wanting to show others what the incarnation looks like in their own lives. They’re raw. They’re real. They’re really good.

And, also familiar to avid Hugh Halter readers, are the reflection question at the end of each chapter. “Flesh” isn’t simply a book you read through to eventually place on the shelf under its dust collecting grave. It’s a book meant to stir up thoughts and action steps that’ll get you closer to Jesus. You can’t help but pause after every chapter asking yourself “how can I experience God today and help others do the same?”

Hugh goes on to say, “Christians often make it sound like Jesus came only to die for sin and then make converts, grow a religion called Christianity, and make more converts. But God never wanted converts, church attenders, prisoners, or parishioners. He wanted His family back.”

“Flesh” is a great read for both believers and non-believers. It challenges the religious quo with the possibility of offending many Christians and it’s encouraging even for the person with the hardest of hearts toward religion.

Go get it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2014
I have read most of Hugh's books. He is a prophetic voice and a great story teller. This book is no exception. While I was reading this book I felt self-conscious because of my tears. At other times I would embarrass myself while sitting in a cafe as I bust out laughing at some of his stories. Like a good bottle of Scotch, Hugh seems to get better with age.

I understand that Mike Frost (Incarnate) and Hugh were originally writing a single book together, but the Lord made it clear that these were two separate works on the same subject but from different angles. I am glad they listened because the result is two very different books that are both needed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2014
"If we bear the artistic, altruistic image of Jesus, something remarkably natural and yet miraculous will become the new norm. It may take a little time to get used to, but Jesus's life can have a nice, snug fit in the natural rhythms and cadence of living here on planet earth." ~ Quote from Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth.

The Incarnation has been on my mind a lot lately, and so this was the perfect time to encounter Flesh.

I did my first reading of this book in one four hour sitting, in the dentists office. I was making notes (always a sign of engagement) underlining (capturing my favorite quotes) and laughing (yes... laughing out loud.)

This book really gave me a lot to think about. It is a flesh-and-blood centered look at imparting the good news of the Gospel, living in the full-bodied peace of Shalom, and walking in the reality of the our place in the Incarnation.

Hugh Halter talks all about Jesus... how he arrived in the world, how he moved into a town, how he knew names and faces and cared about people, how he presented himself and offered us himself when he entered a scene.

Several things jumped out at me, including the parable of planting seeds and the Kingdom growing while we sleep, and our call to be whimsically holy, rather than religious. How accurate! People think they know what to do with a "religious person."
We religious people are common enough that we can be ignored, like the coffeemaker that you see each morning.
Religious people can quickly be put in a box, unexamined, packed away in the bubble wrap of preconceived notions.
We can be categorized: "Right wing conservative fundamentalist... gun rights and America as a superpower," "Cafeteria Catholic who's skipped confession since Reagan was in office."

But a person who lives by Truth and Whimsy? One who has a sense of humor and dirt on their hands because they work hard and play easily on earth?
One who walks in the light of a Holy God and talks about Him all the time? A person who is joyful and calls you to Christ because He is calling everyone as children to come and be adopted? Someone who invites you to celebrate, and then tells you "By the way, that was worship." Who eats with you and says "That was communion."

That's a person who you can't overlook, can't silence, and can't dismiss. They're too compelling, too real, too honest, and too obsessed with Grace. And frankly, their message actually sounds like Good News, and you don't want them to shut up.

That's a good start for envisioning whimsical holiness. And I like it a lot. I see that in various saints, people such as Rich Mullins and Gladys Hunt and Ravi Zacharias and my own uncle who can morph from spiritual counselor to comedian in 30 seconds flat... and remind us that it is often one and the same role.

"The people of God are to be a stabilizing presence among all the swirling opinions...."
"Remember, if you let grace ooze out of your life, people will eventually seek the truth in your life."

Thank you David C Cook for my review copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2014
FLESH does a great job helping us all understand the process Jesus went through to help people understand who he was. By setting forth a very clear paradigm of incarnational evangelism, Hugh Halter makes talking about Jesus to others both accessible and attainable, and in doing so, moves the ball down the field for individuals, churches, or small groups to be more effective at communicating to anyone outside of faith. Like Jesus, Hugh is going to shake up a lot of church people in the way that he is willing to shamelessly love folks that are far from God. His personal examples are both inspiring and challenging. Some folks will simply not like this book, and my guess is that may be because they love their traditions more than they are willing to love human beings. But for those who really care about helping people discover who Jesus is, this is an essential guidebook in the right direction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2014
Hugh Halter brought Jesus to life for me and I've been a Christian for 35 years! Have I been doing it wrong? No, but I haven't been letting Jesus live in me the way the author describes in this book. Let Jesus become REAL in your life as you discover ways to talk to people, interact with people, love people naturally, and welcome people into your life as Jesus did, without being preachy or turning them off.

A wonderful read, one I will be reading again and again!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2014
Not a bad book if you're looking for semi-relevant anecdotes and down-to-earth quips about living as a Christian in a post-Christian world, but from my perspective it's theologically vacuous and at times descends into a treatise on how to be a "hip" Christian (at one point the author disses visitors to his church who don't seem to want to join in the boisterous social atmosphere among he and his buddies. In other words, introverts beware).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2014
If you can get past the tattoos and the bar in the living room you will find a very interesting perspective on the incarnation.
I admit I live in a different culture and though I may enjoy a brew now and then I am holding up on the tattoos although I have plenty of surface area. I mention this at the outset because in much of American culture pastors who drink and have tattoos won't get much of hearing from teetotalers. That would be a shame because there is much in the book to think about.

I think people are more willing to be themselves in a pub then in a church which is one of the lessons we can learn from this book.

As I reviewed my notes I found I had highlighted many passages For example, "People are not pagans to be converted. projects to be preached at, or demographics to be reprogrammed". And "If you want a safe faith you will never really know God because he doesn't hang out in the shallow end much...."

There is one point with which I take issue. This quote is found on page 46, "Jesus did not come to convert people. Nowhere did he ever say that was his goal. What we do see is that his primary desire was to give glory to the Father by revealing his glory...."

I certainly agree that Jesus came to glorify the Father. He is clear about that in John 14-17 but Jesus also says in Luke 19:10 "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This sounds like conversion to me. So seeking to convert is not at odds with glorifying God but in fact the way in which Jesus glorifies the Father. This reminds us that incarnation may involve invocation.
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