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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Coffee with a Mentor
What does it say about the way we're approaching the ministry if we who have been trained for it do not know how to follow Jesus when we have our pajamas on? -Sensing Jesus, page 286

That quote encapsulates what Zack Eswine's book, Sensing Jesus, is all about. His desire is that we learn how to do life and ministry as human beings. Eswine is real about his own...
Published 23 months ago by Michael Leake

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Content, but too Long
The content of this book is incredible. Challenging stuff for a pastor to think through. The one criticism I have about Eswine and his books is that what he says in 5 pages could've been said in 1. That is why I gave it 3 stars. If you are willing to push through the book, you won't be disappointed, but you will find yourself ready to throw in the towel a few times. If...
Published 18 months ago by Joshua Reich


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Coffee with a Mentor, January 11, 2013
What does it say about the way we're approaching the ministry if we who have been trained for it do not know how to follow Jesus when we have our pajamas on? -Sensing Jesus, page 286

That quote encapsulates what Zack Eswine's book, Sensing Jesus, is all about. His desire is that we learn how to do life and ministry as human beings. Eswine is real about his own humanity and the humanity of many of our ministry heroes (noting at one point that Jonathan Edwards passed gas).

Eswine believes that "the stale waters of celebrity, consumerism, and immediate gratification" (17) has infiltrated pastoral ministry. As a response he has written a poetic and autobiographical book with the aims of guiding our hands into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.

After the two introductory chapters, the book is divided into two sections. The first section exposes our temptations. Here Eswine tackles our desire to be everywhere, to fix everything, and to know everything. In the second part Eswine examines our mentoring. This is where the title sensing Jesus comes from. Here he considers the physicality of ministry and confronts such cultural idols as celebrity and immediacy. The book closes with a conversation with a young minister that serves as an apt summary of the book.

My Take:

Zack Eswine is not an old man. But he has been doing ministry for over twenty years. He is a seasoned pastor that we can learn from. The book reads as if this gracious and battle-tested pastor has agreed to meet with us once a week over a cup of coffee to discuss life in the ministry.

He writes poetically but it does not feel forced. It feels like a wise sage picking up a dandelion, blowing it in the wind, and teaching us about life as he does so. Here is an example. Read as Eswine describes a bagpiper at a funeral:

...the bagpiper stands as if ugly and holding a goose. He breathes in and out into a moaning that wheezes air into a haunting melody of `Amazing Grace'. A swan of music emerges and takes flight. Sobs and whimpers accompany the tune with red eyes, along with tear-stained mascara bleeding on cheeks. The wind ripples through the fall leaves...

The writing style makes the reader pause and feel. You can almost smell the coffee (if I drank coffee) rise to your nose as you listen to this pastor tell of his journey and the lesson that we can learn. Eswine forces pastors to feel. Which is something that many of us have perhaps given up on years ago.

I believe the book will stick with me. Much like meetings with pastoral mentors that I have had in the past. I might not even remember where it came from but as I guide others into an everyday relationship with Jesus, or shepherd other young men into pastoral ministry, I'll be drawing from these encounters.

Should You Buy It?

Pastors really ought to buy this book. But not only pastors, any church leader would benefit from a month of Thursday's over a coffee with Pastor Eswine. But not only church leaders, every disciple would benefit from thinking through doing life in Jesus as a real human being. The draw to celebrity snares far more than just pastors. We all need the message of doing life and ministry as human beings.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is not a quick read but it is a necessary read. I imagine I will be revisiting this one a few more times in the upcoming years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top 10 of 2012, December 18, 2012
This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
This book was a timely read for me regarding some struggles in ministry as well as personally that I have been navigating my way through. Zach exposes some sins people in ministry are prone to and applies gospel salve to those wounds. He masterfully brings to the surface some false notions we have as Christian leaders and pastors, all the while doing it without condemnation and having you smirk and laugh through some of it. It is a extremely personal book as well as Zach pours out his hardships he went through to help the reader engage and see himself in the same spot. Highly recommended for all, especially those who are in the pastoral or Christian ministry. You will not forget this book or doubt your purchase after you dig in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding aid in recovering our humanity in ministry, February 5, 2013
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Ministry isn't easy, if for no other reason than people are involved.

Instinctively we know this, and yet it seems like we expect pastors to be somehow above the messiness that comes with being human. And our fascination with celebrity doesn't help this tendency. We want to be everywhere, do everything, know everything... We stretch ourselves so thin that there's little of our humanity left.

Zack Eswine wants to help us recover our humanity--and his new book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, goes a long way to accomplishing that goal.

Divided into two parts, Sensing Jesus examines first the temptations plaguing those in ministry (and, honestly, all of us)--the desire to be everywhere-for-all, the know-it-all and the fix it all--before addressing the solutions to these issues, the recovery of our humanness in Jesus.

At their most basic level, these temptations represent an attempt to usurp God's incommunicable attributes:

Only God is omnipresent--but we act like we are, trying to be everywhere at once for all people and becoming endlessly frustrated whenever we run up against our boundaries.

Only God is omnipotent--but we try to be, trying to fix all the problems in people's lives without realizing God's not intended us to do so.

Only God is omniscient--but we think we are, trying to provide every answer for all questions when sometimes God's grace to us is most clearly displayed in us saying "I don't know."

"Which are you more tempted to pretend that you are: an everywhere-for-all, a fix-it-all, or a know-it-all?" Eswine asks. "What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?" (56) I can see all of these temptations in my life without looking too hard.

I love information and knowing things, and it frustrates me when I don't know something. I like being able to solve problems, and not being able to (whether because of ability or responsibility) makes me twitchy.

But the desire to be everywhere is probably what I've seen is the most consistent problem for me (though my wife mentioned being a know-it-all is more of what she sees, which means she's probably right). This is where I've noticed all too often that I need to be careful, simply because I'll take on too many projects, try to do too many things, and either neglect the primary concerns in my life (God, marriage, family), or just go until I drop altogether.

Neither option leads to happiness or increased holiness though, does it?

Opposed to all these, though, stands the incarnate Christ, who fully embraces and defines what it means to be human. His ministry engages the senses--the physical--and expects us to embrace them. He gives us the ability to hear with new ears, to use language well, express kindness with a touch, to see with new eyes. On this last point, many of us would do well to consider carefully Eswine's words:

"Eyes with the scales left on cause men to see in comparisons. We compare biceps and bulges, paychecks and professional titles, and we tally points scored whether with siblings, sport, business, or our prowess with women. Some men compare penis size, other men compare church size--there is little difference between these games. Both are false measures and are of the same genre of self-misdirection. So Jesus calls men to places where glad-handing does not work and advancement in the company has no merit. Jesus looks grown men in the eye and tells them that caring for children and those equally dependent and overlooked will make us great (Luke 9:46-48). Likewise, when wealth and a powerful position seem to cause a man to believe that he will lose out if he loses both, Jesus says in essence, "Let me strip you of your money and your position so that you can know what true life, true wealth, and true happiness as a real man with God can be" (Luke 18:18-30)." (215-216)

This is good advice. When we measure only by what we can see, we inevitably fail to recognize what God is doing, and succumb to the trap of the celebrity mindset.

We view church size as a sure sign of God's blessing. Attractive, sparkly programming as the sure way to win people to our churches... and we stop asking questions.

"A celebrity mind-set sees no reason to ask any further questions. We, with those who are considered the model of best practice, attend feasts and seats of honor. We are able to say that we know them or go to their church, and we have large crowds visibly enjoying it all. These signify God's blessing, because a celebrity assumption believes that appearances are reality. But Jesus disagrees." (254)

Eswine reminds us (sometimes to our chagrin) that while influence isn't a bad thing, our Savior was notoriously fame-shy during his earthly ministry. His common practice was to turn crowds away, to escape into periods of rest and solitude with His Father, and to spend vast amounts of time with the "undesirable" members of first century Judean society.

Eswine is careful, however, not to condemn celebrity altogether. It's not wrong to have the influence God has given. But,"Celebrity opportunity does not remove the arrangements for neighbor love that still exist. Someone will need to care for the sheep, create clothes for others, provide milk and food for neighbors. . . Glory [has] not delivered [us] from the daily grind" (263, 265).

Sensing Jesus, by the author's own admission, is meant to be a slow burn. If you blast through this book, you're going to be sorely disappointed. "Apprenticeship needs meditation and time," as he puts it (27). Readers would do well to take Eswine at his word. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Make lots of notes. Be willing to recognize where you see yourself in its pages, and consider how God might challenge you through it to recover the humanity of your ministry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensing Jesus for the Love of God and People, January 2, 2013
This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
What happens when the great plans and high expectations we have about ministry fall flat on our faces? What happens to our self-image and our ministry desires when things instead of getting better appear to be getting worse? These questions and more are dealt with in this very down to earth book about ministry life and the call to sense Jesus more. Instead of letting our expectations go out of hand toward some super-spiritual experience, what is needed is a sense of self-awareness that is down to earth, human, humble, and hopeful. This is possible when we live sensitive to Jesus. It is necessary to remember once again our purpose on this earth. When we remember how human we are, we will also remember that we are not God. Thus we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we have attributes of God such as Omniscience (All-Knowing), Omnipotence (All-Powerful), and Omnipresence (All-Present). At the same time, he needs to be reminded to walk a path of holiness in God. He communicates these through his preaching barefoot, where firstly, he is human (barefoot), and secondly, the platform he is standing on is holy ground (God is holy).

With frank and sometimes painful honesty, Eswine writes in a poetic manner reflecting life, and ministry. Taking a first-person posture, he speaks openly about God, his pastoral struggles, as well as his vocation as a preacher-writer. The book is not going to be a quick-read, or any of those how-to manuals to become a better Christian. Instead, it is a journey of sensing Jesus from the perspective of a fellow human traveler. He tries to sense what it all means when a pastor-mentor-friend of his committed suicide. In class he struggles to make sense of life amid the disappointments and confusions it brings. He reflects a lot through Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, and Proverbs, writing in a way that bears a little resemblance to these biblical wisdom books.

It reminds us that the highest plans of man are not necessarily the best way for God. In fact, when we start forgetting our humanity and our limitations, we are in danger of losing our humanness and start to be overestimate our abilities. Eswine reveals how real the temptations are, which all servants in Christ must take note. When we become blind to our weaknesses, we foolishly serve the Church or the people of God in harmful ways. When we start to monitor our inner selves, and to let God guide us toward a life in Jesus, we not only become better servants, we become more complete in God. The difference maker is this: Christ.

It is not what we do but how we do ministry. It is not man's timing but God's timing that must reign supreme. It is not our plans, but what we sense of God's plan. While the ministry belongs to God, we often live as if the ministry belongs to us. That is why it is important to constantly check on how much we have yielded ourselves to temptations of sorts, especially those that move us toward erroneous impersonation of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Only God can be all powerful, all present, and all knowing. When unsure, check out Jesus. That is the key take home for this book.

Many of Eswine's words resonate with me. Like him, I am concerned about people, about revival in the Church, and for the gospel of Christ. Like him, I too am aware of my limitations, but at times, forget my physicality when I ponder the heavenlies. This book brings me down to earth and to remind myself that pastoral ministry is a ministry of sensing God, sensing people, and sensing self.

This is a great book for those of us interested in pastoral ministry, the Church, leadership, and all things serving God.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.

conrade
This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful, but a little too poetic, January 24, 2013
By 
Paul Carrington (ROCHESTER, NY, US) - See all my reviews
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I am not entirely through the book as yet, but have to say that I really do like it. All, except the language is a mite too flowery and poetic (my wife tells me kind of like ¨1000 Gifts¨). That said, it's got a lot to offer and drives at some critical points, namely, in our quest for significance, we often tend to climb the wrong mountain.

My favorite analogy was that of the man who spent his life climbing Everest and tackling other challenges, while leaving his wife and children at home for large spaces of time. His name is memoraliazed but in all, he climbed the wrong and EASIER mountains. There is joy and purpose in obscurity and in the mundane.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read, January 18, 2013
This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
Wow! This is a must read for those in ministry....and even those who aren't. :-) I really enjoyed this book by Zack Eswine. The subtitle is: Life and Ministry as a Human Being. The basic premise of the book is that our failure to admit our own struggles, humanity, and limitations actually hinder any attempts to minister, and really slander God in the process.
This is not an "easy read", as in, you most likely won't breeze through this book. There were times when I got a little lost in the author's poetic language, or streams of thought. But it is SO worth the time to deeply ponder these things.
Part One looks at "Exposing Our Temptations", including trying to be every where, fix everything, and know everything. With beautiful personal insight, Mr. Eswine walks through each of these temptations, showing that our very striving to be like God in these ways prevents us from experiencing the supernatural power of Christ, at work in those who would admit their need and dependence upon Him.
Part Two, "Examining Our Mentoring" helps walk through the physical, mental, and emotional patterns that we have learned along the way in our journey. Among my favorites was Chapter Nine, entitled Immediacy: Managing a Jesus Way of Time. Ministry, and life itself, presents many opportunities to take "short cuts" in an effort to produce more, right now! Jesus offers a slower pace. He is content to wait upon the Father.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It's implications for ministry are so important-returning to a way of life which follows our Savior, acknowledging our dependence upon Him. With helpful personal examples and useful illustrations, Zack Eswine pours over 20 years of ministry into this helpful book to remind us just how much we need our Savior, and how the place we most frequently find the "supernatural" happening....is in the mundane. Rather than striving for bigger ministries and more growth, this is a reminder to be faithful in whatever ministry God has given you (big or small, well-known or obscure).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gain a sense for REAL ministry ..., July 13, 2013
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This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
In a feverish pursuit of defining what has traditionally been identified as a Spiritual Director I believe the timely and refreshing encounter with Sensing Jesus authored by Zack Eswine was a providential appointment. Although intended for those in the pastorate, the hard-won principles borne out of personal suffering and untold hours of contemplation from one seeking reconciliation within and without in the throes of authentic ministry are applicable to anyone who takes the Christian faith seriously. Zack is painfully transparent in a self-inflicted postmortem. On the other side of an arduous process the impassioned soldier reenlists, but now transcendentally marked with practical and spiritual wisdom to be shared with others yet to venture down the oft dark trenches of ministry.
Eswine describes the intoxicating effect of successful ministry and the propensity for pastors to fall for the timeless Adamic temptation to be "like God," within the very rank and file of serving Him. He shares, "...the stale waters of celebrity, consumerism, and immediate gratification had infiltrated my drinking water, and I did not realize it." The reality is that many in ministry are drinking from the same tainted fount and stand on platforms, cup in hand, encouraging their naïve but ambitious protégés to partake as well. Perhaps the line most frequently attributed to the late American preacher, Dwight L. Moody, is the famous quotation: "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God's help, I aim to be that man." And yet, the potentially destructive consequences of taking such a challenge frequent the headlines of local and national media in shameful detail. In what begins as authentic ministry, the frequent exposure and proximity to the glory of God begins to tempt the ambassador to slip The King's ring of glory on for sizing, like Frodo placing the "ring of power, on his hobbit-sized finger. Glory thieves in the pulpit are running rampant these days like zombies on t-shirts. None can handle such glory. More importantly, our sovereign King has clearly stated, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another." (Isa. 42:8, emphasis mine).
Few in the course of professional ministry will ever be qualified to take a seat on the particular rocket-ride extended to Zack at such an early age, given his unusual giftedness and skill; however, there are universal occupational hazards common to all. In summary, the tendency to be god-like is an ongoing battle to those who dare to say, "Thus sayeth the Lord." Like an appointed steward of great wealth, we can unknowingly begin to behave as if we were the actual proprietor of these purely divine characteristics, known in theological circles as the omni's: Omniscience (all-knowing); Omnipotent (all-powerful); Omnipresent (all-present or present everywhere). The "omni's" belong exclusively to Him, He is God and we are not.
The recognition of these temptations is half the battle, much like a drug addict voicing his weakness to another as somewhat cathartic in the process of preventing further destructive consequences. Many are convinced that they are gifted to be in every hospital, home, or crisis situation on a global scale. Even this isn't sufficient. While present, the "competent" pastor must be a "know-it-all," having the right response and a full explanation of the circumstances at hand. If this isn't enough, he must be able to "fix-it-all," with full resolution of the particular issues involved, and bring about healing in the meantime. Indeed, many dare attempt to slip the stolen "ring on power" on and head down the crooked path toward Mount Doom. Eswine emphasizes the critical recollection of our earthly humanity in thwarting pastors from adopting such a faulty lifestyle. No matter how great our success in ministry, we remain lifelong apprentices, fully human and finite in our abilities. In the aftermath of great success followed by great sorrow, Zack says, "...if there is anything exceptional about me and about this ministry crowd of mine, it is that we are exceptionally broken." We are surrounded by the realities of this brokenness as we physically interact with the flesh and bones around us and put away the idea that we live in an abstract world of competing ideologies and academic prowess. We must be willing to admit our own frailties and courageously embrace the hurting masses as demonstrated in the life of Jesus as the Wounded Healer.
This book is highly recommended to all pastors and Christians serious about ongoing intrapersonal discipleship and behavior prerequisite to impacting the world as ambassadors for the King.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for pastors!, April 19, 2014
This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
Okay, let me get something off my chest. I want lots of people to read this book. And I know it is written with pastors in mind, but any Christian who desires honest and hopeful growth will benefit greatly by reading it. But there is a slight problem…

Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine is truly a terrific book, but you would not think so judging by its cover. I am on record saying another Crossway book (Why Cities Matter?) has a terrific cover and thereby heaped my praise publicly on the graphic designer. I don’t know what happened with this cover, but I guess everyone has a bad day. The cover for Sensing Jesus looks like a Shroud of Turin wannabe.

Covers and titles matter because they form the initial impression people have of a book. I would love to see many buy Eswine’s book, but the title with the cover design are confusing and frankly, a bit cheesy. Note to Crossway: redesign and retitle.

This truly is an important book which is geared for pastors, but contains much wisdom any Christian will benefit from. Among other things, it will help non pastors better understand the peculiar challenges of pastoral ministry.

Eswine is a gifted writer who writes out of his own brokenness. He could have easily fallen prey to self indulgence, but Eswine keeps God front and center. Broken and vulnerable humanity is kept wonderfully tethered to the God of all hope.

The creative folks at Crossway need to get brainstorming a new title AND design! And please do it before the next print run!

The present subtitle is good, so I say keep it as it is: “Life and Ministry as a Human Being.”
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Christian ministry leaders, April 3, 2013
By 
Wesley Vander Lugt (St Andrews, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Paperback)
Sensing Jesus is a call for ministry leaders to resist the temptations to be everywhere, to fix everything, and to know everything. By contrast, it presents a vision for being in one place at a time (local living), to accept the grace of doing one thing at a time (limited living), and to embrace the very human limits of knowledge (ignorant living). Eswine seeks to steer us between the Scylla of romanticism and the Charybdis of resignation, advocating instead a romantic realism resting on the Gospel of Jesus. The church today desperately needs to adopt this perspective.

This book is filled with moving stories, saturated with Scripture, and replete with practical wisdom. For example, in challenging the cult of celebrity that easily traps pastors, Eswine asks the penetrating question: how well-networked was Jesus? If anything, people criticized, overlooked, resisted, and left Jesus. He spent his days in prayerful disappearance, time with the broken unknown, and spending life together with his followers. What a contrast to our clamor to be known! For those of us who struggle with this, Eswine reminds us of a profound truth: you are already discovered, because Jesus knows you.

I hesitate to summarize the book any further, because I want you to read it for yourself. I guarantee it will be challenging, sometimes painfully so. But this is a good kind of pain, the kind that rips us out of destructive, super-human habits and enables us to follow the Jesus way as fully human persons.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading, June 9, 2013
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I've been a pastor for almost 11 years, and I began reading this book just before my first sabbatical. While I never quite identified with Eswine's erstwhile drive to do big things for God, I realize I have my own definitions of greatness that can drive me in similar ways. The Christian cultural milieu he describes, which encourages us to try to live and minister in superhuman ways, is very real and powerful. Eswine's prescriptions for apprenticing as a human being with Jesus draw from many wise sources and a great deal of his own hard-won experience. His writing is sometimes overwrought but always earnest and occasionally poetic. Many Christian books are inflated essays, but this one has solid content all the way through.
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Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being
Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine (Paperback - November 30, 2012)
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