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Christianity is an interesting thing.  We gather together in groups, sings songs, clap our hands, read books, handle snakes (haha, at least according to Mark’s gospel), and all other manner of activities groups of people could do.  When we gather together, frequently we listen to someone preach some sort of sermon or lesson about God or being a Christian or proper snake-handling technique.

Often we teach sermons on different books in the bible, and we will go through the whole book, or at least large chunks of it. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that rarely do we Christians spend sermon series on what are called the gospel accounts.  Out of the sixty-six different books in the bible, four are devoted to Jesus; his life, teachings, works and ministry.  We call these four gospels, and we get that from a Greek word that literally translates as “good news”.

When we call ourselves Christians, we necessarily align ourselves with Jesus, The Christ (the early Christians were first called so as a slam, they were derided for running around the Middle East and Asia Minor trying to be like Jesus, so they called them “little Christs”).  However, it seems like we Christians spend little time reading, discussing and learning from Christ’s life as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  A friend recently remarked at how she has attended church her whole twenty-five years and cannot remember a sermon series devoted to the entirety of a gospel book.  Annie and I thought about it, looked back at our own experiences and came to the same conclusion.  Annie even mentioned that she had to take a history class at UCLA to spend time reading and teaching through the whole gospels.

The question that then arises is, “Why?”  Why do Christians neglect the corporate study and teaching of entire gospel accounts? The quick and cheap answer to this question is that to do so is dangerous and scary. The gospel writers weren’t very good at painting a neat, tidy picture of Jesus.  He does and says things that conflict with other things he does and says.  No matter who you are and what you think of Jesus, after reading just one whole Gospel (let alone all four) that preconception will be challenged and broken.

Jesus breaks out of whatever metaphorical box we mentally put him in, consciously or unconsciously.  Jesus presents us with a tangible picture of God, and that God is more than we can understand; any mental box placed around God will eventually be broken.  Jesus, therefore, is more than we can understand; he is mysterious, powerful, wonderful, loving, critical and anything but safe (he hung out with hookers, drunks, lowlifes, sick, lepers, and anyone else his society shunned, for goodness’ sake!)

Anyway, I plan to take our high-school midweek bible study through Mark’s gospel in a couple months when we finish the letter to the Ephesians.  I am continually reading through Mark and I love it; I am daily challenged and encouraged by Jesus’ unpredictability.  The only difficult part about Jesus being more than we know or can handle, is that it makes it a little difficult to teach a room full of high-schoolers what Jesus means and wants from them with any unwavering definition.

Well, here’s to seemingly difficult tasks, and the beauty that comes from trying not to sanitize and Jesus or castrate The Good News of its power.   And The Good News is this, that we were created to live in a certain way; that we exercised our independence and turned away from God’s way; that God broke all the rules by manifesting on earth in Jesus, and providing us a way to turn back to God.

So there lies our challenge.  To intentionally read Jesus’ accounts and live the way he calls us to, loving God with all that we are and have, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Hopefully we can see that Good News, and accept the Gospels’ incomprehensibility as Jesus’ beautiful way.

ps- To anyone who Googled Ben Harper and hit this post, I’m sorry and I know I ripped-off a Ben Harper song title for this post title, then proceeded to make a nearly contradictory argument to his but hey, when a title is good, you just gotta go for it.  Also I am sorry for my extended absence, I was very busy and the thing that had to suffer was blog production; but more is to come.

Only In Love,



I have committed to blog informal reviews and mental wrap-ups of what I read and am titling these blogs by the book’s name itself. This blog is long overdue, but i needed time to think. So here it is…

Here is my overdue “review” of Robert D. Lupton’s Theirs Is The Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. I finished the book a couple weeks ago but due to the fact that I have been pretty busy and I also need to time to mentally digest some of the content so I am only now posting about it. I got so much out of this book spiritually but in all honesty, I feel like there was so much more there that I missed, like I was shooting a fire hose into my mouth and drinking from it; anyway, all that is to say that I will need to read this book many more times.
Lupton works as the director of a coalition of community services in inner city Atlanta, Georgia. He writes this book with Barbara R. Thompson, a freelance writer also from Atlanta. This book’s format is that it is divided into nine different sections and each of these sections is further subdivided into one to three page essays. The short essay format works wonderfully because those few pages are usually packed with truth and gravity, and they are easy to read. Lupton conveys deep theological and relational truths through the lens of his experiences in urban Atlanta. The gospel presented by Lupton is one that applies directly to the poor, downtrodden, oppressed and broken-hearted; in actuality those for whom Jesus came. He writes about our modern world of efficiency and organized ministry and how they often directly oppose the interactions Christ calls us to as his followers.

Lupton presents God’s economy as one living for today. The church exists to give away. The resources are pooled and then disbursed, nothing is saved, for God will provide the next time the offering plates pass around. Lupton’s words can anger his readers; “the church must be financially responsible!” we cry. “The church cannot spend itself carelessly,” say the board members. Lupton gently and radically shows, however, that the church by definition cannot exist for the future and savings accounts. As the Body of Christ, we are called to spend ourselves without saving. We trust God will provide the next day. We can think of the Israelites wandering in the desert, receiving food from heaven. They were commanded not to gather more that they needed; if they hoarded, it would rot. Lupton’s writings about God’s economics make us wonder if our modern churches don’t experience similar concepts when we store wealth.

The writing itself is poignant and powerful, showing the disturbing tragedies of poverty, urban ethics and survival, and misguided ministerial charity programs. Lupton writes with skill and depth unexpected from such brief vignettes. He shares his own shortcomings, misconceptions and breakthroughs and his honesty convicts and spurs the reader to examine his own heart and absolutely penetrates to the core. Lupton writes as one who takes Jesus at his word; that the world should know us as his followers by our love for one another, and our lives should be marked by extraordinary community. The themes he writes about are filled with the applications and buzzwords that are currently moving throughout Christianity. His themes of social justice, real, deep relationships, allegiance to Christ, and even political issues like abortion, gay rights, war and pacifism, and elections speak directly to a reader in 2008, though it was written in 1988.
It seems like Lupton’s honesty and discernment help his words cut so deeply to our own core, twenty years later. As one who desire’s to live like Jesus and take his teaching to heart, Lupton’s words convict me to love people through the messiness and reality of life, to understand that my time and life are not my own, but God’s to direct and ordain. I also feel connected with Lupton’s writings about inner-city ministry because there are parts of Hawaii that closely resemble Lupton’s Atlanta. Some areas of Honolulu obviously are inner city, but also, some areas of Hawaiian homestead land deal with the same issues of poverty, generational welfare, survival ethics and more. I don’t say this to bash those people, but rather, it seems like that mentality can arise wherever areas of government-subsidized housing exist for some time. There are sort of ghetto-survival situations that arise, and the areas of Hawaii, mirror Lupton’s descriptions of inner city Georgia. I can honestly say that this book about the author’s inner city Atlanta experiences has burdened my heart for the people of Oahu.

There are too many quotes I could include and as I reread the book, will probably post more, but I wanted to conclude with a quote from the final essay, “Snowflakes and Sunsets,”.

I think God must detest sameness. At least, he has gone to great lengths to avoid it. Every snowflake, every cloud, every flower is unique. He has created and continues to create an endless variety of trees, bugs, sunsets and beasts. He has created billions of human beings, every one an original…And humans…are given the high privilege of being cocreators with God.

I suspect that one of the results of the fall for humans was the loss of some of our creativity. Not all of it, of course, We still are quite capable of creating symphonies and paintings and children and other beautiful things. But I think that sin brought with it sameness. Boredom. Monotony. Instead of being cocreators with God, we opted for making molds.

Lupton uses this incredible image to lead into a discussion of the city as a melting pot, which he concludes by wondering why God’s selection for our final dwelling place to be the city of God. Lupton’s appreciation for God’s diversity and creativity is contagious, he reminds us of God’s creativity and helps us to love God more for it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who will listen to me, and look forward to reading it many more times, both for the beautiful reminder of God’s kingdom, as well as the invitation to participate.

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