Monday, December 16, 2013

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel? How would you define it in a short paragraph? All aspects of the Gospel can be unpacked in great length but if you had to describe the Gospel as concisely as possible, how would you phrase it? Expressing things in few words is something I like to do :-) ... ask my wife!

So here is my take at a simple, concise, yet not too short, definition of the Gospel.

God, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is reconciling all things and renewing all things. He has made Jesus Lord and calls us to trust, follow and obey Him by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do you think? To long? To short? Something missing?

Ok, your turn. How would you describe the Gospel?

(Jesus is Lord is a good answer when you only have 3 words. I'm letting you have more than that!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Are church buildings overrated?

I was having a conversation with a church leader and asked if they had considered selling their building. I asked primarily because in this case the building is more of a financial burden than it is anything else yet in my mind the question is about more than finances. It was a short conversation but what really bothered me was his answer. He said they had been told if they didn’t have a building they would not be able to be a witness to the gospel in the city. In other words, you need to hold on to your building if you are going to be the church.

That seems wrong to me.

I am not advocating against church buildings. I am simply asking if it is true that churches need a building.

Are church buildings overrated? Could it be that we often give them more importance than they deserve? They can certainly serve a purpose and be useful in some cases and at some point, but are they necessary? I would argue that, in many cases, church buildings are more of a hinderance to discipleship and the furthering of the gospel. Of course, it is more than the simple matter of a building. It is a much bigger and deeper matter of understanding who we are as the church and what are calling is in the city. Yet, the building is often one of those things that can quickly throw us off track while keeping us busy serving it and the programs that happen inside.

What do you think? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Next I’ll post some reasons why I think we shouldn’t be too quick to want a building and suggest what I think are better ways of rooting ourselves in our communities.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fan clubs encourage secondhand living

It is easy to become so consumed with what we think we are missing that what we end up missing is everything we have and are in this moment.

I am reading Eugene Peterson's, Run With the Horses, and a few quotes from the first chapter stood out to me this morning.

Speaking of our biblical "heroes" of the faith :

...they were disappointingly non-heroic. We do not find splendid moral examples. We do not find impeccably virtuous models. That always comes as a shock to newcomers to Scripture: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered and complained; David committed adultery; Peter blasphemed. ... We find that scripture is sparing in the information that it gives on people while it is lavish in what it tells us about God. It refuses to feed our lust for hero worship. It will not pander to our adolescent desire to join a fan club. The reason is, I think, clear enough. Fan clubs encourage secondhand living.

Fan clubs encourage secondhand living! Living our seemingly boring lives through the lives of those we have set up as our idols, whether they be found in the bible, the church, in sports or in the arts. We sit back and set them up as the all in all and then look at our lives and wonder how it is we have been dealt such a sorry lot.

We find diversion from our own humdrum existence by riding on the coattails of someone exotic.
We do it because we are convinced that we are plain and ordinary. The town or city that we live in, the neighbourhood we grew up in, the friends we are stuck with, the families or marriages that we have-all seem undramatic. We see no way to be significant in such settings, with such associations, so we surround ourselves with evidence of someone who is.

Can you see yourself in that description? I know I easily find myself there. Here is the important takeaway :

Scripture, however, doesn't play that game. Something very different takes place in the life of faith: each person discovers all the elements of a unique and original adventure. We are prevented from following in an other's footsteps and are called to an incomparable association with Christ. The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God's creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he had never used before.

What we negatively interpret as "the hand we have been dealt" is rather a work of art being uniquely shaped. What is your story? How does the gospel help shape it?

The difficult pastoral (and I would add personal) art is to encourage people to grow in excellence and to live selflessly, at one and the same time to lose the self and find the self.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What the hell?

My wife and I enjoyed watching Hellbound? last week. Although we haven't yet had much time to discuss the content, we both thought it was well done. It certainly brings up much to think about and is a great conversation starter. Can you guess what it's about? ;-)

The documentary explores the subject of hell by considering 3 major views. Not all 3 views were explored equally however. The traditional and universalist views were explored at greater length with what seems to be a more positive nod toward Universalism. Annihilationism was given only a brief mention.

I'd say the traditional eternal torment view was presented in such a way as to at least make you think twice about it. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to listen to some good down to earth evangelical perspectives on Universalism. I had never before given much thought or heard much about Universalism other than hearing guys like Driscoll talk it down.

Here is the trailer :

Hellbound? Official Trailer from Hellbound? on Vimeo.

You can buy the movie or rent it on itunes.

So what do you think? What is your view on hell? Eternal Torment? Universalism? Annihilationism? Doesn't exist? Don't know?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Disconnected belief

The pharisees were really trying hard to please God. They had their "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed. They would nail you at bible jeopardy. They had memorised way more scripture than I ever will. They were quick to spot all the things a God fearing person should not do. They made sure to let everyone else know. They meant well. They were serious about right belief and proper doctrine. They wanted to protect God's reputation. Yet, they didn't get Jesus. He made no sense to them. They hated him. They crucified him. They were isolated, not loved much and not very loving. While they were so busy labeling who was in and who was out, they missed out on the life giving and life transforming Spirit of Jesus.

Could we be in danger of the same error? So caught up in believing the "right" set of doctrine (someone else's preferred set of beliefs) that we are losing sight of Jesus. Could it be that while we fight over the "i's" and the "t's" we are actually missing Jesus. Not seeing where he is going and where he is working. Not hearing him. Not listening.

I hear some of you thinking, "ya but Georges, it's important to believe the right things!" Sure. Of course there are many important truths to be grasped and understood. However, there are probably fewer than many Christians would like to think. The pursuit of right belief can easily be disconnected from Jesus' call for us to follow him. Jesus liked to go where the "proper belief" people didn't like to go.

We are divided left and right, up and down. We are divided on just about everything imaginable. The truth is, the Bible is not always as clear as we'd like on many of those favorite doctrines. Yet so much time is spent debating them and labeling as "heretic" anyone who dares to think differently. We can't even agree on what it looks like to follow Jesus! Lord have mercy :-)

Jesus calls us to follow and trust him as life giving saviour, Lord of all, and perfect example.

Maybe discipleship is not primarily about believing the right things but more about following the right person AND, as we follow him, learning to know him as he truly is. A slow but steady process and trajectory, unfolding in community, of those being daily changed and transformed into the kingdom life of Jesus. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Seasons - Rachel Held Evans

Along the same lines as the quote I posted yesterday, here is a post written by Rachel Held Evans that I enjoyed this morning. What do you think?

Some of us are in seasons of speaking, and some of us are in seasons of silence. Some of us are in seasons of mending, and some of us are in seasons of ripping apart. Some of us are in seasons of mourning, and some of us are in seasons of dancing. Some of us are in seasons of searching, and some of us are in seasons of giving up. 

Click here to read the full post.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Skeptical Believer

I recently started reading, The Skeptical Believer - telling stories to your inner atheist, and it is proving to be quite interesting. I was drawn to the book because I felt it was describing me. Here is a description from the opening chapter :

So, is it good to be a Skeptical Believer?
Not necessarily. It is simply one way of believing, and one way of being skeptical. It is not the best way to believe, there being no single best way. It is, in fact, a rather precarious way. Skeptical Believers often have their skepticism overpower their belief. They are prone to dark periods when belief, if possible at all, hangs on a thread. They often are plagued by an incessant grinding of the mind that leaves them weary and paralyzed. Their faith is prone to being theoretical and attenuated rather than practical and robust. Encouraging spiritual highs are followed by new rounds of analysis and doubt-filled lows. (The Skeptical Believer - Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist by Daniel Taylor, p.6)

What do you think of the description? Does it describe you? Does the term, Skeptical Believer, even make sense to you? Is it possible? What do you think?