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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is Gospel?

For most of my life as a follower of Jesus, I have understood gospel to mean, "the good news." While this definition is accurate, I no longer consider it appropriate.

Here's what I mean. When you and I hear the word "news", we tend to think immediately of WORDS. We read "the news" in a paper- column after column of words. We watch "the news" on TV- 30 or 60 minutes of talking heads telling us all about local stories, weather and sports. We ask others to catch us up on "the news"- fully expecting a verbal report of what has gone on in their lives.

Because of all this, it is only natural for us to think of Gospel, the good news, as being a matter of words. We believe in these powerful words about Jesus, what he has done, and what he can do in our hearts. The problem with this, in my mind, is that we have come to put our faith in words- great words, mind you- but nonetheless, still words. These words come in all shapes and sizes- in creeds, worship songs, and even the pages of the Bible.

If you read through the gospel of Mark, you will be surprised at how little Jesus talks. You may also be surprised at how much Jesus does- he goes places, he heals the sick, he raises the dead. What you encounter in Jesus is a Gospel, not of words, but of power. I would argue that the only reason people were listening to His words was because they had seen His power. Jesus came in the power of God to release captives, open the eyes of the blind, and set the oppressed people free. And so people listened to His words. Perhaps this is a big reason why more people aren't listening to the words churches have to say today. We offer words, but not power.

I am just wondering today how often we settle for a Gospel of words. Good words, meaningful words, but often devoid of an expectation that God will show up in power. When Jesus met with his followers for the last time, He was clear with them, "You will receive POWER (not words) when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses."

What does all this mean? I'm not entirely sure. I'm just becoming aware in my own life of how often I settle for words when perhaps God wants me to hunger for his power. By sharing this with you, I hope it will provoke a desire in your own heart to pray, fast, cry out for, and expect more of God's power to be displayed in your life.

May you know the power of the gospel today as you journey with Jesus,


Monday, October 04, 2010

Things You Don't Have to Teach

The experience of parenting can be challenging to say the least. As a parent, you enter a seemingly unending journey of teaching your children about all they should and should not do, and how to tell the difference between the two. Pick up your toys. Use your fork. Don’t hit your brother. Don’t run with your fork.

What I find amazing, however, is all of the things I have never had to teach my children. I have never had to teach my daughters to play with dolls. I have never worked with my son to teach him how to make car noises. I have never had to convince my girls to love Barbie movies. Some things just come naturally.

If you survey the book of Acts and look into the life of the early church, you will find something that came naturally to that group. In a word, COMMUNITY. No one ever teaches the believers to gather. None of the disciples have to stand and say, “You know, you really ought to get together.” We find quite the opposite. These believers, apparently of their own free will, are meeting daily, celebrating meals in one another’s home, and even pooling their property in order to share with one another.

So now for the big question: WHY? Why did this group have such a natural inclination to be with one another? I believe that their decision to follow Christ was intricately tied to a decision to be with His people. To love Christ was to love His people. To know Christ was to know one another. To worship Christ was to worship with others who had the same desire.

Though we live in a radically different culture today, we can move in that same direction. Here are a few ideas how:

1. Look for the Spirit. The first church had encountered God in a radical way on the day of Pentecost. I think they gathered together because they experienced more of that Spirit when they were in community. When we celebrate as a church, whether at our weekend service or a special event like a Baptism, we can experience the same thing. Seek out those places where the body of Christ will gather- the Spirit has a way of showing up!

2. Think people before tasks. One of the real traps of our society is that we are taught to think task first. What am I accomplishing? What am I getting done? Sometimes we approach church with the same mentality, “I am going to church. I went to church. Check that off the list.” How different would it be if we consistently thought, “I am going to gather with others who seek God with me.” Suddenly the whole point of our meeting takes on new meaning.

3. Place reality before formality. When we think of church as an organization or a social structure, we begin applying rules to how we should act. Dress a certain way. Say the right words. Act like life is fine, and then go home and be real. As a community of believers, however, the church is a family. And family is a place where you can be real and find acceptance no matter what’s going on in your life. When we can stop “cleaning up” and just be real, we find the kind of community Jesus had in mind from the beginning.

I dream of the day when my kids will be naturally inclined to clean their room. Until then, I will keep training them in the right way. I also dream of a day when each one of us feels naturally inclined to gather regularly in Christ-centered community. Until then, I will keep encouraging people to move in the right direction while modeling a life that does the same. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.