Gospel questions, part 2

ST Faith's Anglican Church, Rotorua, NZ (Saints Matthew, Mark Luke and John)“Is there nothing more to this?” was one of the questions that I shared last time I wrote about if what I knew to be the gospel. I seemed to have questions about it, but no one else did. And even when I posed them to some people that I trusted I didn’t get much of a response from them. Then I had what seemed to be a blatantly obvious question: If the translation of the word “gospel” means “good news” and that seemed to be narrowed down to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how that deals specifically with my sin, then why were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John called “gospels”? Huh? Anyone else ever have that question? I mean seriously, I couldn’t figure a way to reconcile it. I couldn’t. If a whole book about Jesus is good news, then why did what I knew to be good news only include the last few chapters of that book (i.e.- the parts about His death and resurrection), and a few more chapters in a book that Paul wrote (i.e.-the book of Romans)? The “Gospels” themselves included way, way more than the gospel that I knew. It just didn’t seem to be a logical fit for me.

Then three years ago I started hearing friends using “the gospel” in a way that I hadn’t heard before. Phrases like “The gospel leads us to that.” “That is opposite thinking of the gospel.” “Do you think the gospel would take you to that conclusion?” It confused me because I didn’t know how to reconcile my idea of the gospel with what they were saying. And I didn’t ask. You might wonder why I never asked. Well, I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand what they were saying. Honestly. I have an Masters degree from a seminary and didn’t know what they were saying when they used the basic Christian term “gospel” that way.

But then I was given a book by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford that seemed to help me a bit. It was The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight and…finally. Wow. The light come on. At last there was a language was given to me that put a lot of the jumbled up thoughts in my head on to a piece of paper in a logical form. I am not saying Scot was my “savior” for understanding the gospel, but all of a sudden I began to see it in a way that was bigger than what I ever knew it to be. It meant a whole lot more. It gained so much weight. It actually became greater news instead of just being good news. It wasn’t confined to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but it spread to before Jesus was even here on the scene, and stretched past when He ascended into heaven. It was almost as if the word “gospel” was freed to be itself in my mind. The way it had been used around me the past few years suddenly clicked. The questions I had about “The Gospels” being called just that went away, because the whole book became a story that was incredible news for saints and sinner alike. I felt like I actually began to understand the gospel. It made sense. And the gospel began to be a comfort to me.

 

A Year of Reflection: Worry

One year ago my wife and I packed our car and made our way up highway 71 to Kansas City for the weekend.  We came up to visit Adam and Courtney Christensen and the people who make up Midtown Community Church.   I met Adam in 2006 when we took a seminary class together.  It wasn’t long before me and him connected for a number of different reasons…our common baldness not necessarily being one of them.

Any who – we came up to visit a year ago this weekend to see if God might be leading us to move back to KC and join the church here on mission.  It doesn’t seem like it has been a year because it has gone by so fast.  But calendars don’t lie, and it says its been a year.

On our way up to KC our car started to make a rather funny noise.  Turns out the in the middle of January our little Honda’s air conditioning compressor went out.  When we got to Adam’s house he took a look at the car and told me that he could fix it over the weekend.  To him it didn’t seem to be a big deal, but when it comes to me and cars, especially this car, I tended to worry quite a bit.  This car had given us a bit of trouble in months prior and I didn’t want it to give us anymore.

The weekend here was packed full!  We had dinners with people, lunches with others, meetings with staff, and some question-and-answer time with yet more people.  But anytime that we didn’t have something to do I was worrying about the car and bugging Adam about when we were gonna get started fixing it.

Worry.  Worry is what I did for a good portion of that weekend.  It was then that I realized that I had a problem.  After the weekend was over i couldn’t believe how much time was spent just fretting and worrying about that stupid car.

The reason that it is a problem is because the Gospel does not lead a person to worry.  It actually leads them away from worry.  If God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, then we don’t need to worry about Him taking care of us.  And taking care of us includes being in control of our Honda Accord.

In the past year I am thankful to the grace of God and the gospel.  I am thankful for them because I worry so, so much less now.  Since we have moved back to KC our car has had problems 3 more times and each time my response was “Well God, I trust You to take care of it.”  And every other time something crazy has happened like our computer breaking, my bike getting stolen, our dog running away, etc. have all been handled the same way.

The gospel has worked on me a lot to change my mindset to being one that trusts God a whole lot more than it ever did before.  And that is why this past year has been good.

…review of Barefoot Church…

First off, I want to start this review by saying that I am honored to be able to preview and review Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker.  A while back I noticed a tweet by him asking if anyone would like to review his book before it came out and I jumped at the opportunity.  About a week later the book showed up in the mail and I was pumped to be able to start pouring over it.

I was not sure what to expect when I began to read Brandon Hatmaker’s book.  It was his first book, it was my first time really becoming acquainted with him, and also the first time I read some of the kinds of material/information/thoughts that are in a book like this.

Brandon doesn’t hold back on what he believes should be at the core of the modern day New Testament church – serving the neglected.  He lays out his belief through honest, written conviction and verses and stories straight out of scripture.  I mean honestly, how can you argue with that? :)

I’ve been on a journey as of late redefining what scripture claims that “discipleship” really is. I was pleased and excited to see that Brandon touched on this – which only helped me think more on the subject.  On page 109 he wrote, “The problem with our current forms of discipleship is not necessarily found in what we do well; its found in what we’ve neglected.”  I found that to be strikingly insightful because we, as a church culture, usually try and fix what we are already doing.  We spend hours upon hours searching for a solution to something that might not even be a problem. Instead, it might behoove us to try and figure out what we may be lacking.

If the only thing that I read in the whole book was the first sentence on page 127, it still would have been worth it for me.  The sentence is very short, but reads as follows: “It is risky to be different in the church.”  Many of us out there have have felt that prompting.  We have wanted to step out, risk something, challenge the system, and just plain ask “Why?”  However, we often fear what the response will be.  This sentence along only encouraged and challenged me to live the life in response the Gospel that I feel God has always been, and always will, be calling me to.

One of the last things that I thoroughly enjoyed about the book was the Brandon did was that he encouraged you to seek the Spirit’s help in figuring out what your family’s, or church’s, or your own next step might be.  He gives examples of what you could do, or what Austin New Church did.  But in the end he tells you that you need to figure it out.

I think many times we can read a conclusion in a book, and convince ourselves that “Oh, that will never work with me.  I couldn’t possibly do something as drastic as that.”  And that will ease our conscience until the Spirit brings that topic back up in front of us.  But every Christian has the ability, and responsibility, to ask the question: “God, what do you want of me?”

Brandon, thank you for the challenging words, the stories, shedding light on scripture, and risking to bring a message that isn’t very popular yet in the western church.  I appreciate it more than you know.

(I received this book for free from Brandon Hatmaker and  Zondervan Publishing for this review.)