Yesterday was one of my favorite days – Thanksgiving!! Josephine’s food was great as usual and the pies were to die for.
But as I walked around Shepherd’s Bush yesterday, nobody seemed to be bothered. Going to work, going to school, going to shop – it was as if they didn’t even know what day it was. Most of them probably didn’t (although I did get a few “Happy Thanksgiving” greetings from British friends).
I almost wanted to stop people on the street and let them know the good news. “Today’s the day to feast! Go home to your family and friends. Eat, drink and thank God for his goodness to us all.”
But I did no such thing.
Isn’t this just like the good news of the gospel? Most people walking through life – going to work, going to school, going to shop – and never knowing the love of God in Jesus.
I’d like to stop people on the street and let them know the good news. “Today’s the day to feast! Go home to your family and friends. Eat, drink and thank God for his goodness to us all.”
My friend and boss, Bob Heppe, recently returned from a three week trip to India where he taught in various settings. In this post, he shares an outline of what he taught (and what he passionately teaches to anyone else who will listen):
The corporate and cosmic scope of the gospel: King Jesus is not merely saving us out of the world, but saving a people to be sent as his renewing and transforming agents of this fallen and broken world. We have a gospel that reaches “far as the curse is found”.
The missional purpose of election: The pattern of God’s dealing with man from Abraham through Israel, David and the church, is to call a particular people for his universal purpose. We are not elected instead of the world, but for the world.
The church as the sign, instrument and foretaste of the Kingdom of God: We are called into the blessings of that final shalom of the consummated kingdom, to experience and embody it in advance in communities of grace, love, embrace acceptance, unity, and joy and celebration.
In light of this glorious and exhilarating purpose of God for the world and the church, we then began to address the other side of the story, that there are forces of sin and darkness still very much at work both from within and from outside of us. Given the intense opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, we began considering:
The necessity of lifestyles of repentance. We spent considerable time considering the subtle self-serving, self-reliant depths of the flesh and of the need to practice repentance: the constant reorienting of our lives around Christ and His kingdom, and regular rejection of self-dependence by returning to Christ to find grace through faith-dependence on Him.
The necessity of seeking grace for lifestyles of peacemaking, reconciliation, and forgiveness and love. To paraphrase Leslie Newbigin, a gospel of cosmic and corporate shalom must be communicated in and by communities which are embodying (“if only in foretaste”) that reality.
The utter appropriateness of lifestyles of joy, celebration, and acceptance and embrace of one another. Again, we saw the need of repenting of self and seeking grace to see and relate to others in light of the great love, welcome and embrace we have known in Christ (Col 3:12ff; Rom 14:17, 15:7).
Finally, we considered our prayer lives in light of the gospel and the present state of the world. Reflecting upon the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 (with the help of David Wells’ “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”), we saw that we must seek to cultivate a mindset that will not accept the suffering, injustice, oppression, idolatry, sin, selfishness, materialism, brokenness, sorrow, misery hopelessness, bondage, apathy, compromise, division, sorrow, … that we should not accept this world in its fallenness as natural, normal or inevitable.
Passionate, persistent intercessory kingdom prayer dies when God’s people become insensitive or reconciled to the fallen world’s status quo. We saw we must nurture a proper faith perspective about our Father in heaven. He is not like the unjust judge. His passion for reversing the effects of the fall is evidenced by the cross where His own Son bore the full force of its evil. Our God and Father wants to rid this world of sin and its consequences.
Jesus’ question at the close of the parable is, essentially, “Do we really believe it?” Lord, I believe. But there is so much contrary evidence. Help my unbelief!
I just finished reading “Killing Bono”. No, this was not a how-to manual on knocking off the biggest rock star in the world.
“Killing Bono” is the personal story of Neil McCormick who went to high school with the members of the band, U2. He also wanted to be a rock star but could never quite make it in the music scene. Every time it looked like the big break was coming, McCormick would run into a brick wall.
He eventually became a writer, and a very good one at that. He became the pop/rock critic at The Telegraph with over a million weekly readers. He is a regular on BBC and has spent time with the biggest music stars on the planet. But in the telling moment in the book, he confesses to his friend, Bono, “I still feel like a failure.”
After all that he had accomplished and he feels like a failure.
Bono was living his dream. His deepest desire was to be a rock star. And over time that dream died a thousand deaths. What was the emotional fallout? For McCormick, his envy turned into a deadly comparison between his life and Bono’s.
Even Bono’s love for God drove him crazy. At one point, Bono told him that there was a hole in his life that can only be filled with the love of God. Instead, McCormick sought to fill that hole with the love of adoring fans.
Each of us are just is like McCormick with a hole in our hearts. Each of us wants to have a purpose and meaning to our lives. This is the way were were created. We often look for something else to fill that hole – relationships, money, pleasure, sex, food and drink – anything to make us feel good and worthy. But our Creator has made us to only find satisfaction in him.
And when those other things are taken away – you better watch out! Murder is just around the corner – probably not real murder but murder in our hearts by the one who blocks the path to our personal happiness.
This is what Jesus is condemns in Matthew 5:21 –
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Why is the angry person in danger of judgement? Why is he danger of hell? Because the anger we express reveals the passion of our hearts. When someone blocks whatever it is that we are seeking to gain pleasure and significance from, the tendency of our hearts is to lash out in anger. Usually emotionally, sometimes verbally and on rare occasions physically. In the mind of Neil McCormick, Bono had blocked his path to success and the envy turned to anger.
The root of bitterness is cut when our lives are resting on the knowledge that we are loved completely by God because of what Jesus has done on the cross. There is truly no other way forward.