Soundcloud is so aggressive in suggesting their pro option that I just moved everything over to BandLab, where I’ve been spending a ton of time lately anyways. Everything Soundcloud does for me, BandLab does about 10x better…and for free at the moment.

15 years married to Amber today. She’s the best friend anyone could ask for, an inspiring parent, and an absolutely dedicated wife. Faithfully follows Jesus day in and day out. Works hard for the kingdom and her family and her friends. Teaches me about what’s truly important in life daily. Smartest person I know, too. I know I don’t deserve her. So grateful to be facing the future together.

02 What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that God loves the world and offers salvation from sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103:1–13; Isaiah 53:4–5; John 3:16–17; 1 Corinthians 15:1–5)

From To Be A Christian - An Anglican Catechism

The Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is absolutely at the core of the Christian message–and the Christian life.

Over time I’ve come realize that the Gospel isn’t just the first truth in a long line of other things to learn about God and life, that eventually I move beyond.

Instead, for me it is more like a key that unlocks every other theological truth, whether they are presented in succession or not, so that it is always with me.

The Gospel is the gravitational center around which the fullness of what we can know and experience about God, humanity, and all of creation orbits.

Food for thought: >“The shallow character of many strategies for renewal is revealed just to the extent that the resulting churches cannot understand how Christians might face persecutions. This is a particular problem in America, where Christians cannot imagine how being a Christian might put them in tension with the American way of life. This is as true for Christians on the left as it is for Christians on the right. Both mistakenly assume, often in quite similar ways, that freedom is a necessary condition for discipleship.”

Stanley Hauerwas, in his commentary on Matthew.

A risky faith

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of risk-taking, faith, and Christian witness. They are all intertwined–and rightfully so–for Christian community, and necessarily come to the forefront in times like these.

I don’t think we prove we are Christians by taking unnecessary risks in “faith.”

For example, snake-handling is not a biblically justified practice even though there are some verses in the Bible about God’s protection from snakes in certain circumstances.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but deliberately exposing yourself to a disease isn’t biblical either, even though we have plenty of Scripture about divine protection and healing from sickness.

These are not universal promises for every situation, but usually poetic devices pointing the the ultimate security of the believer as they trust in God (Ps. 91), or instructions for a specific, time-bound assignment (Luke 10:19).

Certainly miracles of protection from things like snakes and poison can and do accompany the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 16:18). Nevertheless, these passages are not generally understood to be about keeping rattlesnakes as pets or lacing your Diet Coke with arsenic.

This stuff isn’t about a generally rash lifestyle or “proof” of personal faith, but rather signs to confirm the truth of the Gospel message in specific situations (e.g. Acts 28:3).

There are no guarantees of divine protection if you put yourself in harm’s way just because you can…especially in a effort to “prove” your faith. John Wesley said in his commentary on Mark 16:18, “God never calls us to try any such experiments.”*

That said, I do think the world will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:45), which always entails an element of risk.

The way we approach that risk isn’t “faith” that we won’t be hurt, though. Our faith is that acts of love of are worth the suffering. Our faith is that though we die now in the act of the love, we yet live again because our life is ultimately in the hands of God. Our faith is in the Christ that leads us not away from the Cross, but though it with him.

In other words, our motivation for taking risks in faith is to demonstrate hope and love in suffering, not to prove a level of personal “faith” that we won’t suffer.

Put still another way, Christians take risks for the sake of others, at their personal expense, not to make sure they are looking “strong”–especially at the expense of others.

Christians often look, seem, and feel weak and vulnerable in this, yet it is in these moments we are most like our Lord in his earthly ministry. God’s desire isn’t for us to look “strong” in the face of something like the current pandemic by throwing caution to the wind.

He wants us to be faithful to him, love our neighbors in practical ways, and exercise wisdom–even as we endure suffering through circumstances out of our control and beyond our understanding.

So, to find evidence of faith, we don’t look to extraordinary acts of boldness, we look to see if we growing and bearing fruit (John 15:8).

“*But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.*” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV)

That’s what we’re looking for.

*John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, Fourth American Edition., (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 140.

“Mystery, in the New Testament, is never total, enduring obscurity, but the grace of God made manifest in God’s way and time.” - F. Dean Lueking, The Lectionary Commentary

God’s purpose is not that we should be Old Testament Christians, regenerate indeed, but living in slavery to the law and in bondage to indwelling sin. It is rather that we should be New Testament Christians who, having died and risen with Christ, are living in the freedom of the indwelling Spirit.

John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today, (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 215.

John Stott cites Tom Wright in his commentary on Romans. Pretty exciting find for me since these are two of my absolute favorite pastor-theologians.

Sitting down for a morning of pastoral administrative work (uploading the podcast, reviewing parish hall remodel estimates, email, etc) with a delicious cup of coffee and one of my favorite tobaccos from The Country Squire

“God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for His worthiness who is believed.”

Richard Hooker, Definition of Justification, ch. XXXIII.

Just got my video in for Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir! I did not sing perfectly but I gave it my best with the time I had.

The way of Jesus expresses hope that transformation is possible for ANYONE. Even enemies.

Thankfuk to RNAtreasures for this great find at a fair price. Perfect little pipe for walking the dog, reading, and on the go. The deep bend in the stem means cleaning is not quite as simple as my straight pipes, but it’s a worthy trade for portability and clenchability