(read Mark 9-12; 22% of “The Gospel As Center” by Carson & Keller’ 50% of “Love Does” by Bob Goff)
I didn’t know the Gospel Coalition was formed by pastors (including big dawgs like Timothy Keller & D.A. Carson) who long for and work towards the good news of Jesus being restored in our churches and teaching. They define the gospel as the epic narrative of scripture to restore all God’s creation in a new heaven and earth… reconciling all things through and by Jesus, and exposing God’s smile and glory like it was always intended. This is the premise and work of “The Gospel As Center” that Keller and Carson co-authored (along with several other Gospel Coalition pastors) How do I get into THAT group?!
Wow. How far has the western church strayed that a Gospel Coalition is necessary? I asked one of my college roommates about how I missed the epic news of God’s Kingdom restored on earth in college. This guy is really smart, and was a model Bible college student. His Facebook reply was short: “i don’t remember much at CBC about the new heaven and earth concept.” Seemingly, even the guys on the Dean’s list didn’t get this. Incredible. We studied our brains out on creation, the fall, and redemption… but fell short of restoration. Why? Was it small, selfish thinking about my personal salvation that missed the epic, glory touting restoration of God’s whole creation? Perhaps it’s as simply profound as John 3:16. For God so loved the world… the earth, the universe, and us. Did higher education miss the epic foolishness of God somehow?
But it is what God pounded into my head and heart for the past two weeks. No church strategies. No vision to rattle the staff with. Just a bigger gospel and Kingdom than I’ve never imagined. It’s bigger than getting saved and being good so we can get to where God’s at in heaven someday. Bigger. Epic. Now… and for a glorious later.
When I say God’s pounded this stuff in me, I’m not kidding. Chandler’s “Explicit Gospel” opened the door. N.T. Wright substantiated everything with solid, scholarly theology in “Simply Jesus.” John Eldredge made it very real and touchable with “Beautiful Outlaw. God’s whispering turned to shouting with “The Gospel As Center.” The GOSPEL of Mark brought a living texture to this same epic Kingdom Jesus was announcing. But… my study break took a wonderful turn from hitting the books to embracing them with “Love Does” by Bob Groff. Wow. It was not on my book list, but Lauren insisted that I read it. Wow. Yes, Lauren (and God).
Lauren is my almost 18-year-old daughter who has always despised study break reading assignments. We would bribe her to read through Jude. She flew through “Love Does” in one day. I can see why. Bob Goff writes short vignettes of living out the epic, restored creation gospel now. His whimsical approach to life and love can only point to how, through Jesus, we are new, audacious creations while being made into new creations for a new Kingdom God has planned here on a renewed earth. Goff’s humor lightened my heart while God was pounding it.
Now my study break comes to a close. Strangely, I’m anxious to return and teach… and flesh all of this out. I have to be aware of the fire hose syndrome usually attached to sermons following study break. All of this has deeply affected me in ways that gladly push me away from this tropical paradise hideaway. The irony of my Florida study break paradise pointing me to much bigger paradise is fun to chew on. But… I’m ready to practically explore more of this epic gospel and Kingdom of God stuff back home. Strangely and uncharacteristically, I’m ready to go. Good signs of a great study break.
So… with this final blog for study break 2012, I contemplate the priceless souvenir I picked up for free. I spotted it while wearing my black “what if” hat, and walking the sand with Gungor blasting my soul. I grabbed a lifeless piece of driftwood. For some reason, I was drawn to claim it as lost treasure. Once there was life infused in this dead piece of wood. I questioned where the living took place. I do that a lot on the beach… question, that is. I keep seeing mangoes in the shallow waters each morning. What’s up with ocean mangoes? My curiosity paints pictures of divinely protected pieces of fruit traveling from Africa to Florida. Maybe. It’s a story line worth examining… sometime. I am sure my driftwood has stories to tell as well. At least it did. However, death and creation’s fallen nature have created lifeless, water-logged drifting wood. Can I restore it? It’s starting to dry out. I think I’m going to shellac the thing and make it shiny. I can see it adorning my desk. Many will ask questions. I’ll tell them about creation, the fall, redemption, AND restoration. I will use my restored driftwood to paint an epic picture where all things have been made new. WHAT IF… in a new heaven and new earth there will be no AIDS? There won’t be. WHAT IF… in a new heaven and restored earth there is no driftwood. There won’t be; souls or otherwise.