Friday, July 30, 2010


The celebration of a day of rest was, then, the announcement of trust in this God who is confident enough to rest. It was then and is now an assertion that life does not depend on our feverish activity of self-securing, but that there can be a pause in which life is given to us simply as a gift.

- Walter Brueggemann

An Appeal

I am making an appeal through this blog:

If you know of any good material pertaining to "Sabbath Rest" that I can look at for free and steal from in order to compose a 30-day devotional for a First Assembly of God church, then please pass that coveted information my way. You will be handsomely rewarded for your services*.

* not strictly true.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Haunting Question

What is the gospel?

This question has haunted my dreams for the past two years or so. Everywhere I turn as regards Christian doctrine and praxis it shows up. The question is knocking on my door, wanting to be answered. "I'm coming", I'll say, but I'm really just fixing myself a bowl of cereal and settling down to yet another Christian book. I check the window to see if it's still there, and it is - patiently waiting for the door to be opened.

Well, during my time in Worcester I've had a chance to come to the door and open it, ever so slightly.

My first conviction is that when Jesus talks about the gospel and when Paul talks about the gospel, they're talking about the same thing. So for Jesus, the gospel is "the gospel of the kingdom". For Paul, it is "the gospel of the king". These are two sides of the same coin - king and kingdom. Jesus saw himself as one who was establishing the kingdom of God on earth; Paul saw Jesus as the one through whom the kingdom had been established.

What makes this "good news"? What makes this gospel?

We only need to look at what the reign of Jesus is about. I've come up with 5 things:

  • Defeat of evil
  • Forgiveness
  • Fellowship
  • Justice
  • Judgement

The reason I like these "gospel realities" is that they include the ministry of Jesus. In fact they spring forth from the ministry of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. If we take many of today's gospels as being sufficient then we are left to conclude that Jesus didn't actually bring the good news at all! If the gospel is simply "You're a sinner, Jesus died for your sins so you wouldn't have to, accept this reality by faith" then Jesus failed miserably in terms of evangelism.

But Jesus was a bearer of good news. He said himself that "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news...", and he wasn't lying. We read of him casting out demons by the Spirit of God (defeat of evil). We read of him proclaiming the forgiveness of sins (forgiveness). We read of him eating meals with tax collectors and sinners (fellowship). We read of him putting creation to rights (justice). We read of him denouncing that which is evil (judgement). All of this occurred because the kingdom of God was at hand. All of this occurred because The King was at hand. The story of this King -- the story of Jesus -- is the euangelion, the gospel, the good news. That's why the Gospels are the gospel!

What should one do in response? Repent, and believe the good news! That is, turn away from your present kingdom and entrust yourself to the reign of Jesus.

Paul was making the same appeal when he announced that we needed to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news was that through Jesus:

  • evil has been defeated (Col. 2:15)
  • forgiveness is secured (Col. 1:14; 2:13)
  • fellowship with God and others can be restored (Col. 1:19-20; 3:12-14)
  • justice is being unleashed, and God is restoring people to his kingdom (Col. 1:13)
  • judgement is being rendered on all that is anti-God and therefore anti-human (Col. 3:5-6)

And the focus of all these realities? The cross of King Jesus. This is why Paul can write elsewhere that he desires to know nothing else except Christ and him crucified. This is why he can write that the word of the cross is the very power of God.

There is so much more to explore in all of this, but that's where I'm at in terms of answering this haunting question. But it is also a beautiful question, and one I hope to never cease being asked.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Some snippets from a Bible Study on Colossians I'm leading here in Worcester:

What is God up to?

The first 14 verses talk of fathers, brothers, and sons, and it struck me:

God is creating a new family; or perhaps, God is re-creating an old family that was torn apart by a disobedient younger son , but was reconciled by an obedient older son.

As such, the legal court is not the primary arena of our relationship to God. Remember Kirk:

The story of the universe is not a court drama.

The story is actually a family drama, about a loving Father who has sought after his wayward sons and daughters and acted with astonishing grace to reconcile them to himself. When Paul writes "God our Father" in his letter to the church in Colossae, he really means it.


How about this for a definition of "faith in Christ Jesus": entrusting oneself to Jesus's reign. [?]

I like it because it steers clear of the "mental assent" trap and it also incorporates those passages of faith in the Gospels that we're not quite sure what to do with. For example, what did it mean for the centurion to have faith pre-cross--resurrection? Well, good reader, it meant that he entrusted himself to Jesus's reign! He brought himself under the authority of Jesus, confident that this figure of authority would act powerfully for the good of his servant. The same was true for all of the other recipients of Jesus's mighty works, and the same is true for us who stand in the shadow of cross--resurrection. Faith in Jesus means entrusting ourselves to the reign of Jesus, which is a reign of servanthood and self-giving love on our behalf and a reign which compels us to do likewise.

This is why faith and love are inseparable.


It's all a bit hazy at the moment, but hopefully something vaguely coherent is coming through.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

5 Days

I'm lying on a bed in Auburn, MA, continuing to sweat despite it being after 9pm. I'm almost done with my first week in the U.S., but it feels like I've been here three times that long. As my brother-in-law remarked, I've probably done more in the past 5 days than in the past year. I've also gone up a coupe of waist sizes, but that's par for the course when you're staying in this wonderful country.

I don't know what all of this will do to my blog. When I do get the time to write I want to focus on keeping in contact with people, so I imagine Charismata will suffer as a result. I suppose I could turn it into some kind of travel journal; a place to document my take on America. Or I could perhaps start a whole other blog for that. I don't know. If I do something like that I would want to do it well, and I'm not sure I'll find the time.

Anyway, that's about it for now. Must go eat ice-cream, or something.

Happy fourth!