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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspirational Read
I appreciated how Dobson sprinkled quotes about the reality of how hard it is to live like Jesus throughout the book. One example that made me smile was when Dobson was trying to "honor the Sabbath" but got so eager to wear tassels to remind him of the commandments of God ,that he talked on the phone, used the internet and bought clothes when he was supposed to be...
Published on November 15, 2009 by Lori A. Bittenbender

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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't get over what I felt was a mismatch between the premise and the reality...
One of the first books I read and reviewed as part of the Amazon Vine program was A. J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. It somehow seemed fitting to also select Ed Dobson's The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do when it showed up as a selection on Amazon Vine. Whereas I thought Jacobs stayed true to his premise in the...
Published on October 31, 2009 by Thomas Duff


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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't get over what I felt was a mismatch between the premise and the reality..., October 31, 2009
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One of the first books I read and reviewed as part of the Amazon Vine program was A. J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. It somehow seemed fitting to also select Ed Dobson's The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do when it showed up as a selection on Amazon Vine. Whereas I thought Jacobs stayed true to his premise in the book, I felt Dobson missed the boat on that criteria. That's not to say that there aren't things to learn in Living Like Jesus. I just don't think the actual journey lived up to the title.

Ed Dobson is an evangelical pastor with ALS, and he's to the point where he can see the end of his life in the next two to five years. He made a decision that was pretty radical in its intent.... he would spend a year living like Jesus would live. Remove all the religious trappings, remove all the labels that seem to put Jesus in a box, and come as close as you can to doing what it was that Jesus actually did. Go to places where "religious people" are not generally found, share with others, love others... Definitely not the type of lifestyle that's common these days. Along the way, Dobson had to reexamine many of his beliefs, go counter to prevailing attitudes in the circles he moved in, and generally change his entire lifestyle to accomplish his goal.

Being that there was an immediate comparison to Jacobs' book (Jacobs even wrote the forward), I was set to expect a story of how one would attempt to follow Jesus' teachings to the fullest in today's culture. But the execution got muddled right from the start. Do you choose to "live" like Jesus, placing yourself in a Jewish culture and trying to do the things that Jesus did in his day-to-day existence (keeping Jewish law, going to synagogue, etc.)? Or, do you choose to live "like Jesus", and follow his teachings and his words? It seemed to me that Dobson ended up doing a little of both, and the confusion detracted from the book. He spends a lot of time fretting about eating kosher, wearing tassels, and growing his beard out. Later in the book he seems to move more towards applying the teachings of Jesus, but the shift didn't work in terms of how the book was working for me at that point. There were also pages and pages devoted to why he voted for Obama over McCain, and how that upset his evangelical friends and colleagues. Yes, there was the discussion of how he made his decision based on his experiment, but the whole exercise went on for far too many pages given what I *thought* his year of living like Jesus was going to entail.

I was also completely confused by his continued exploration of praying the rosary, using Orthodox prayer ropes, and other forms of religious tradition along the way. Yes, he was trying to focus more on the value and emphasis that Jesus put on prayer. But Jesus wasn't praying with rosary beads nor using any other devices and gadgets. He also wasn't trying to see if he could read completely through the gospels once a week or recite a small prayer thousands of times a day. Dobson's continued focus on these rituals seemed to go *completely* against his book's premise, and as such I thought the book largely failed.

Had this book had a different title or been framed differently, it would have worked much better. Dobson did learn quite a bit about himself and his attitude towards others, the value of prayer, and how Jesus would have lived in a culture like ours (and in the process would have upset the very groups today that think they know Him best). And there *are* flashes of humor along the way as he learns what certain Jewish traditions entail (such as the tassels he would wear on his undershirts). But overall, I still couldn't get past what I felt was a mismatch between the title and the content of The Year of Living Like Jesus.

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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspirational Read, November 15, 2009
I appreciated how Dobson sprinkled quotes about the reality of how hard it is to live like Jesus throughout the book. One example that made me smile was when Dobson was trying to "honor the Sabbath" but got so eager to wear tassels to remind him of the commandments of God ,that he talked on the phone, used the internet and bought clothes when he was supposed to be resting.

Dobson's confessions of failing miserably when he attempted to fast and go camping were hilarious. He was trying to experience the same story of when Jesus was in the dessert for 40 days and was tempted.

Here are some things I learned from this book:
* The true meaning of "The Kingdom of God."

* Various ways to pray. Dobson uses scripture to pray. A concept that makes beautiful sense. I've also incorporated the saying, "Lord have mercy on ___________, " when I don't really know what to pray, but I know God can help.

* I've been a Christian all my life, but I've never learned much about other practices. Through his year of Living Like Jesus, Dobson taught me about the Catholic rosary, Episcopal prayer beads, and Orthodox prayer rope.

* He also gets brilliant advise for the concept that most Christians have a problem with: praying to Mary.

During the year of living like Jesus Dobson went into bars where he was able to casually talk with customers. Yes, he drank a beer when he went into these bars. His conversations with the bar tender and customers were amazing. They asked all kinds of questions and perhaps Dobson planted some seeds. I applaud his efforts.

During this year, Dobson leads a group of people on a tour to Israel. I have no idea if I will ever get to visit the Holy Lands, so his descriptions of the places he takes his tourists sounded beautiful.

As you can imagine from the concept of this book, Dobson is an amazing individual. I would love to hear him speak some day. In the book, he shares examples of two sermons he preached that would have been fun to hear. In one, he used live goats and in another, he carried a large, heavy cross on his back.

Inspired by this book, and the scripture, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people entertained angles without knowing it. " (Hebrews 13:2), I've started a campaign to help a neighbor/family who I don't know, but who is struggling with their health and finances this Christmas season.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ***1/2 The Author Fails to Find his Voice, December 2, 2009
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Ed Dobson seems like a genuine follower of Jesus who would be a great friend or pastor to have. Unfortunately, he rarely seems to find his true voice as author of "The Year of Living Like Jesus." He faces two immediate hurdles that he just cannot overcome in my view.

One is that he has set himself up against A.J. Jacobs' "The Year of Living Biblically," and if you are trying to write like A.J. Jacobs and you are not A.J. Jacobs you are in the weeds already. Jacobs' book is without a doubt one of the best non-fiction books I have read. Dobson seems to imitate Jacobs' writing style and activities in his own book and falls short of the mark. It seemed like Dobson was consumed with trying to live like a modern-day orthodox Jew. He also seemed to assume the role of a neophyte in things like daily prayer; rather than the mature Christian he is. He follows Jacobs' example of meeting with religious leaders and learning from them. This seemed unnecessary for Dobson who was a longtime pastor and seems like a person who practices living as a Jesus-follower everyday of his life. It takes time for Dobson to really reveal himself in these pages.

The second challenge for Dobson is that the very act of living like Jesus is an impossible feat. Only Jesus can live like Jesus...that is why he came in the first place. So Dobson just has to bite off bits and pieces of what he thinks Jesus might do. Dobson's time spent at the synagogue takes up much of the writing. I don't think we see enough of Dobson's personal interactions with others. He shares information about Jewish habits and holidays and offers biblical interpretation to show how Jesus might have lived.

There are some special moments in the book when Dobson becomes vulnerable and honest about the challenges of trying to be like Jesus or just to follow Jesus. He shares his attempt to camp overnight and fast and pray like Jesus. Dobson struggles with fasting and exercise due to his having ALS. Through the book, readers learn something about the trials in general of life with ALS. This leads to a frustrating evening when Dobson experiences failure and grief at not measuring up to Jesus' standards. This is the reality of being human and of Jesus our Savior's love, mercy and grace. Some other highlights are when Dobson shares encounters with non-believers in various places. These are always interesting. Dobson's ethical decisions are also interesting to read. There are stories about encounters with the homeless, lunch with two other sufferers of ALS, a conversion of a non-believing couple, and discussions over beer at bars, but there are not enough of these on the whole.

Dobson eventually begins sharing about Bible stories and how they relate to his journey, and these are good reading. Just as he seems to be gaining momentum, we hit November and election season. For me, Dobson made my stomach drop when he launches into writing the justifications for voting for Sen. Obama for President because he is the candidate most like Jesus. The assertions are subjective and take the pro-Obama view. He spends several pages justifying the decision to vote for the pro-choice Obama against the pro-life McCain. Although Dobson emphasizes he is pro-life, he cites what I think are some awful views on abortion. I think this section and topic is a poor decision. It was problematic for me, because the information is selective and biased, and I think it belittles those who would disagree with the decision. All I can say is that if you are not pro-Obama, you probably won't appreciate this section and may feel stigmatized and a little sick to your stomach. Then the topic comes back around in the writing on December at the end of the book, so I would imagine any readers who are not on the Obama bandwagon will complete this book with a bad taste in their mouths and a sucker-punch feeling in your gut.

In his writing on August, Dobson summarizes his quest thus far:

"I've been thinking about my journey this year. I'm eating kosher, keeping the Sabbath, wearing an undershirt with tassels, observing the feasts and festivals, and praying like Jews pray. I'm also praying the Catholic rosary, the Orthodox prayer rope, and the Episcopal prayer beads. I'm a confused individual!"

Guess what...at this point, I was a confused reader. I never feel like I got to know the real Ed Dobson or the real Jesus in these pages except for a few times when the guard came down.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Majored on Many Minors, November 11, 2009
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The process of spiritual formation - the drive to live like Jesus - is becoming a deeper concern among evangelicals, and it is a good thing, too. More and more it is harder to distinguish an evangelical from a typical American atheist. So I was drawn to the premise of this book, wondering how Dobson would take on this ultimate question. If a person is a disciple of Christ, they are, by definition, trying (ought to be trying) to live like their master.

Early on I was intrigued by his attention to odd detail. The beard is just the beginning. His first sets of concerns are with things like kosher foods, clothing, prayer tassels, prayer beads (he even takes up the Rosary), alternate prayer traditions from the Eastern church, and so forth. In and of themselves these are interesting and even helpful things, but as matters of substance in service of his premise, I didn't catch the significance.

A lot of the book was like that for me. By its nature, the premise of the book is a little subjective, so I fully expected to find some of his answers in the book disagreeable. I wasn't disappointed. But I wasn't bothered by those things as much as I was by what was missing.

A serious reading of the life of Christ in the Gospels reveals a Messiah who began his ministry with the sermon, "Repent." His staunch stances on doctrinal matters bothered people, and he didn't put up with much from falsehood. Dobson's focus of attention is on the "good deeds" kind of Jesus. And while it is true that Jesus loved and touched the unlovable, Dobson's final portrait missed a significant and even necessary aspect of the life of Christ.

While there are challenging and even touching moments, the book is a bit laborious and ultimately not all that informative about the life of Christ lived out among us.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, Confronting, Thought-Provoking, November 4, 2009
By 
J. Graham (West Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
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Rather than meeting the familiar and expected beneath the cover, I opened this book and found page after page of things that challenged me. Ed, a man living with a degenerative terminal illness, set out to live like Jesus for a year. To do so, he committed to reading through the entire Gospels once a week. He began eating kosher and growing his beard. He went to Synagogue and kept company with people living on the fringes. To the best of his abilities, he took the Bible literally and used it as a filter for every fork in the road.

Ed also embarked on a personal journey to discover Jesus in other contexts, something I applaud. He explored what it is to pray the rosary, he purchased an Orthodox prayer rope which moved him deeply, he talked to priests and rabbis and learned folks in an array of different settings, all with the hope of understanding more fully who this person of Jesus was and is.

The Year... is arranged as a journal until August when he abandons this format for a broader, more topical analysis of Jesus and faith practices. While I found that many of the Jewish synagogue prayers and procedures were a lot to take in during the month of October [due to Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur], I did come to appreciate the history and faith of a people I still know little about. Isn't it ironic, that so many Christians [I'm putting myself in this category] seem to all but ignore one of the most important components of Christ?

In the end I came away with many questions, many things I continue to ponder, and a truer, more accurate portrait of what it means to follow Jesus. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those of you who would like to really *measure the cost.* Not that Ed did it perfectly, by his own admission! Not that you'll agree with all he did, perhaps, or with all of the decisions he made. But walking with every good intention and doing one's best while confined in our sinful humanity is not as easy as we make it out to be when we wear a WWJD bracelet. Living for Jesus deserves a fresh lens, and I believe Ed Dobson has loaned us his, full of joy and struggle in equal measure.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises and Confusion, October 31, 2009
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I made a game effort to like this book, but the author didn't make it easy for me. My fondness for his premise, and my interest at his many and varied discoveries, was offset by his tendency to wander off on tangents and apparently forget what he was doing. There is a great deal to recommend this book for a committed Christian reader, but actually getting through it will require an effort of will.

Inspired by A.J. Jacobs, pastor Ed Dobson decides to try and recreate the life of a First Century Jew, much like that Jesus might have lived. With the help of several books, a local rabbi, and every resource he could draw on, he struggles to find out what that life might have been. A year of his observations and insights are a real eye-opener into what it means to take Scripture seriously.

The problem is, we don't know much about Judaism in the First Century. A.J. Jacobs set about to live out the Mosaic Law, which is written down. Dobson has to figure his way along based on sketchy records, informed suppositions, and a close reading of Scripture and the Talmud. So a great deal of what Dobson undertakes can charitably be called tentative, and his failing health makes him compromise on even that.

For instance, Jesus talks a great deal about prayer, but not much of his prayer is recorded. So Dobson experiments with the Catholic rosary, which was invented in the Sixteenth Century, and Episcopal prayer beads, which were invented less than thirty years ago. While I enjoyed reading what Dobson learned from the experience, that isn't likely to be how Jesus lived. That could be the centerpiece for a sequel instead.

And Dobson appears discomforted by how much people fixate on how he decided that voting for Obama over McCain was in keeping with living like Jesus. If he's confused about why so many Christians consider this an issue, he might consider that he himself dedicated most of a chapter to his reasoning. Perhaps if he doesn't want his voting to become a public controversy, he might not want to discuss it in public.

Not that this isn't a good book. His insights about handling money, about dealing with strangers, and how much the world is oriented against a Christ-centered life are spot on, as are his discoveries made while visiting other faith traditions. But Dobson promises one book, writes another, and seems to have three or four others waiting inside his text to actually be written. I look forward to reading those books when he gets around to writing them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let Jesus live like Jesus, November 12, 2009
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It has been hard to review this book because there is hardly an objective way to do so. I know that some authors read their reviews, and the thought that Ed Dobson would read this review and negative comments about it would hurt his feelings is too terrible to think about. I liked the book and would recommend it to pretty much anyone -- whether they are Christian or not. It's well written and it's meandering and the narrator appears as human, tired, upset, frustrated, and guilt ridden as the rest of us. It may not be everyone's cup of tea because of all the baggage associated with Jesus, but I don't think Dobson set out to write THE book about how Jesus would definitely live if he were walking around now.

Monasteries have existed for centuries in order to give men and women the opportunity to cast all aside for Christ and live without personal possessions, money, family, luxury, etc. Dobson can't go that far because of several hindrances: he has ALS so no fasting or sleeping on the ground; he is married and has children and a grandchild; he has a house and personal possessions and his wife would freak if he gave them all away; and he has a job at a conservative Christian college that expects him to live like the clean-cut tee-totaling Jesus they envision.

This book has none of the silly fun that A.J. Jacobs' Living Biblically had. Instead of remembering ridiculous rules like blowing the rams horn every new moon, not mixing wool and linen in the same garment, and not touching a menstruating woman or anything she has touched, Dobson focuses more on living out the Sermon on the Mount by not making an oath, loving his 'enemies' or people he doesn't really like, giving to anyone who asks of him, etc. The guilt and sense of "I can never do all this!" settles in pretty quick. Added to that, Dobson tries to live a little like an Orthodox Jew and also makes use of Catholic/Orthodox/Episcopal prayers and prayer beads. It's a casserole of religiosity.

My biggest problem, and this feeling returned to me throughout the book, was that Dobson, when faced with an end that nightmares are made of, would choose to do this in the first place. Living like Jesus, indeed. You have ALS! Take it easy! Eat Lucky Charms and PopTarts all day! Buy the most comfortable mattress you can afford and stop fretting over not being able to sleep on straw. Go through your tailored suits and decide which one you want to be buried in and forget about giving them away. Your wife can do that when you're gone. Give up the guilt and the chest-thumping mea culpas of being human and imperfect. If you believe you're going to spend eternity with Jesus, then enjoy what time you have left and let Jesus live like Jesus and Ed live like Ed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little light on the Jesus, November 30, 2009
By 
Jean E. Pouliot (Newburyport, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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In "My Year of Living Like Jesus," Ed Dobson self-consciously sets out to imitate the quest of A. J. Jacobs, who wrote the hilarious and insightful "My Year of Living Biblically," this time applied to the New Testament. But Edward Dobson's homage to the earlier book comes a bit closer to imitation than I expected. Dobson, born into a fundamentalist Irish family, has been a conservative pastor for many years. He worked in Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority for over 10 years. So his fundamentalist bona fides are sound. Given that approach to Christianity, I expected to be drowned in narrow-minded and even hateful rhetoric about non-Christians. But Dobson fooled me. Surprisingly tolerant, his year-long journey embraced Roman Catholic and Orthodox prayer-forms like the rosary. This was remarkably broad minded and even bold, though his exploration of those traditions seems to have stopped at a basic knowledge of Incarnational theology and a primer on how to "say one's beads." But Dobson dove deep into the well of Judaism. Wanting to live as much like Jesus as possible, he grew his beard, ate kosher and attended synagogue. His evident love and respect for Judaism was admirable. And I appreciate that he never tried to convert the rabbis who advised him.

But is shunning pork, wearing tassels and not shaving tantamount to living like Jesus? Dobson barely dipped a toe into the hard work of discipleship as outlined in the gospels. Not that he is ashamed of his faith -- it seemed more that he was afraid of looking at it too closely. While he did try to give away extra clothes (John the Baptist's advice, actually), he did not try to put many of Jesus's teachings into practice. Some -- like gouging out your eye if it causes you to sin -- are not intended to be practiced literally. But Dobson never wrote about turning the other cheek, or walking two miles when asked to walk one. He did not go out preaching, eating what as set before him and shaking the dust off his feet if rebuffed. He went nowhere near the Sermon on the Mount with its admonitions to consider blessed the meek, the mourning, and the poor, some of Jesus's major themes. And Dobson went nowhere near the issue of Jesus the deliberate Sabbath-breaker.

Still, Dobson's stories of suffering with ALS were quite touching. His illness may well have softened his heart and opened his mind to the experiences of those unlike him. His wrestling with his vote for president in the 2008 election showed a man who was less interested in the ideological position of his fellow fundamentalists, than in a one committed to empirical comparison of gospel teachings to each candidate's platform. And his decision to hang out in bars was not only Jesus-like, but brought him into contact with the kind of people Jesus would have sought out -- the rejected, the sick and the alienated.

Dobson's book is not the definitive look at applying gospel teaching to ordinary life. But it does show how one disciple can take a few baby steps outside the boundaries of his own culture and religious training and see the good in all kinds of people -- a *very* Jesus-like thing to do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going Beyond WWJD, November 1, 2009
By 
Chad Estes (Boise, Idaho, USA) - See all my reviews
I was disappointed when I saw the title for Ed Dobson's new book, "The Year of Living Like Jesus." I am a big fan of A.J. Jacob's book, "The Year of Living Biblically" and wish that more Christians had read his thoughtful journey through a year of trying to follow all of the biblical commands. Since Jacob's book isn't available at most Christian book stores, that market was ripe for someone to come in and do a knockoff version. I figured this is what Ed had done. Although I agreed to read "The Year of Living Like Jesus" for its blog tour, I was predisposed not to like it.

Imagine my surprise when I cracked open the cover to find the foreword was written by none other than A.J. Jacobs. He explains that though the two books are similar in concept that the authors' journeys were quite different. It is obvious that Jacobs was moved by Dobson's humility and found value in his story. Then in his introduction, Dobson is very clear that it was while reading Jacob's book that he was inspired to take a disciplined walk in Jesus' shoes for a year. I figured if they both had appreciation for each other, that I could be open to Dobson's book as well. I am so glad I did!

Having the education that he does in fundamentalist strongholds like Bob Jones University and having served as the Dean of Students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University you might expect Dobson to have the educational edge for Jesus-styled living. Having had the pastoral experience at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan for 18 years, including being named "Pastor of the Year" by Moody Bible Institute, you might expect Dobson to have the ministry insights for following in Jesus' footsteps. But while many Christians would think that they are already living like Jesus, Dobson's travels through the calendar year show that there is much of Jesus' culture that we've barely inserted our toes into. As A.J. Jacob's puts it, "Ed jumped in."

The dozen chapters are broken into the 12 months of the year, but instead of just chronicling the passage of time through the experiment, each one covers a specific theme about living like Jesus both in his day and ours. Themes of food, religious fashion, and fundamentalist rules accompany discoveries in prayer, devotion and friendship. Dobson does tackle each with open-mindedness and honesty--this is a far cry from typical fundamentalist stances. He is even brave enough to give a sincere look at Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish traditions in the way they interpret Jesus' life and background. What he learns is expressed with gentleness and consideration towards others. While some may feel this doesn't fit within the context of his exploration, understanding his religious background makes this openness both important and welcome.

Dobson's life experiences while writing the book, including living with the debilitating ALS disease, taking a new job as Vice President for Spiritual Formation at Cornerstone University, and becoming a new grandfather are meaningful themes.

Readers may be surprised at some of Dobson's conclusions, but then again Jesus' life was more than a little counter-culture to the religious establishment. That his journey led Ed to a place of considering the plight of the poor, marginalized and oppressed; to consider how to treat one's enemies; and to consider how to be committed to peacemaking, may cause the reader to pause and consider how they are living out their faith as well.

There are several things that Ed shares that he would have liked to have included during his experiment of living like Jesus that were not accomplished in the calendar year. This may be due to the nature of his illness, but to me it spoke of this being an actual lifestyle for Dobson instead of a clever writing assignment. Had it been the latter, this book may have meant little more than a WWJD bracelet. As it is, following Ed through these pages as he is learning to follow Jesus is a worthwhile journey indeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but ultimately superficial, February 1, 2010
By 
Aoife (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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I was intrigued by this apparent spin off of AJ Jacob's adventure in living biblically. I opened the book hoping for both entertainment and enlightenment, but in the end I was just glad when it was finally over. Dobson obsesses over many minutiae, for instance he agonizes about eating kosher and wearing Jewish ritual fringes. There is one absolutely painfully awful scene where he goes on a camping trip in an attempt to replicate the temptation in the desert. Overall these examples point to what I think was Dobson's biggest problem in approaching this project: not only was he excessively literal, he couldn't decide in which sense he was going to be literal. That is, does "living like Jesus" mean roughly approximating the lifestyle of a Jewish man ca. 1 AD? Or does it mean approximating as closely as possible the ideals Jesus taught for people to live life by? Dobson does a little of both, but his obsessing over the former eclipses any major insights that might have been gained from the latter. And further, the long digressions--about Rosh Hashanah in a contemporary liberal synagogue, about voting for Obama, about working for Jerry Falwell--do little for the book but add further confusion and distraction. I found this book disappointingly irritating to read; it put me in a bad mood.
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The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do
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