Thursday, March 28, 2013

Keeping Faith FIRST -- Firsthand Book Review

Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your OwnFirsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan Shook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Firsthand is a quick but engaging read.  What Ryan and Josh Shook have done in this book is take a look at how many Christians don’t “own” their faith, instead they rely on the faith of others.  The surprising thing is many people don’t realize this.  They have gone to church, participated in mission trips and everything else that “good Christians” do. 

I wish this book was around when I was younger, because this was me.  In fact one chapter is entitled “Trashing the Checklist”.  When I was in high school, I literally had a chart where I would tick off each item as I did it and gave myself a grade each week as to how I preformed as a Christian.  Thankfully God doesn’t rely on what we do or don’t do, but Grace is His measuring stick, and He doesn’t grade on a curve but it’s a “pass/fail” as to if we have asked Him for that Grace in our lives.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was at the end of each chapter there was a section entitled, “Making it Real” where it helps you apply what you just read.  I especially enjoyed the “Other Voices” where people from around the country told their experiences with that part of making faith real.  Some of these mirrored my experiences.     I could relate so well to some.  I grew up in church, spent three years in a Christian school, went on mission trips, taught Vacation Bible School, memorized entire BOOKS of the Bible, but it was just what I felt I was supposed to do to earn God’s love.  That’s where some of these people were.  Others I didn’t really connect with their experiences, but it was interesting to see how people are different in their faith.

Another thing I particularly liked about this book is they encouraged people to question.  I asked lots of questions in my search for truth.  I had one pastor tell me, “It’s a waste of my time to talk to you.”  when I was asking him questions.  Being told it’s okay to doubt is something I rarely see in Christendom.  I particularly liked the quote in this chapter, “God is no less with you in your doubts than He is with you in your certainties.”  (Page 123).  Often I have been made to feel the opposite.  Not sure about something?  Doesn’t that mean you’re backslidden and need to make a trip to the altar?  Not always.  We’re human, and God understands that.  Thomas was with Jesus, saw Him with his own eyes, and Thomas still doubted.  It’s unnatural to assume we will never have doubts when we haven’t seen with our eyes.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is disillusioned with church (or God.   Many times we say we are disillusioned with God when it’s the church we have become upset with the inconsistencies in “rules”.)  I also would recommend this to anyone who even grew up or has been in church for a while.  Even if you once had a firsthand faith, it’s still easy to replace it with a secondhand one.  While aimed at younger people, this book has value to all ages.

You can watch a talk about this book here:

FTC disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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