I’ve Got Good News

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel

“Gospel” — this word is unbelievably over-used…and under-used. This word “Gospel” is derived from the Greek word “euangelion”, which simply is the word “good” plus the word “message” (or “news”). It is the proclamation of a glorious truth. We’ve often turn this word into an invitation or a point of advice, or into a secret handshake that makes us feel elite because WE are the REAL gospel people. But the reality is that The Gospel is  not primarily a fact, theology, philosophy or even way of life. The Gospel is a person. Jesus is The Gospel made flesh. He IS the good news that has come to us in the hurricane of our deepest need to give himself in our place so that we can be brought to life from now and forevermore (verses 1-5 pretty much explains the entire core of what The Gospel is).

But even saying this, we can see the Gospel as the baby-food of Christianity. But in fact The Gospel is for the believer and the non-believer. The Gospel is the beginning and the end; the way in, the way through and the final conclusion. We never for one moment outgrow the gospel and into deeper points of theology and truth. We don’t believe the Gospel to become a Christian and then turn to all the minutia of theology to grow. The Gospel is the Truth of our need and Jesus sacrificial gift, and it is what permeates every atom of our specific personal lives. This gospel freedom, which tells me that my identity is secured because of Jesus’ actions rather than mine, speaks hope when I’m insecure; when I fail and when I succeed; when I make my year-end goals; when I am criticized or flattered; when I am betrayed and when I betray somebody else.


From Tent to Palace

I love to go backpacking. I love the whole process of packing my backpack, getting the dogs and food, hiking into the woods and setting the campsite up. I tend to go overkill and make a nice spot with hammock and a comfy tent (and I even bring 2 pillows because I’m like my comfort, even when camping). Yup, camping is sweet. But it’s not where I live, thank the Lord! For me, when I’m out in the wilderness, it’s a mixture between enjoyment and longing. I really enjoy being out there because it is so peaceful, fun and simple. But it’s also fun because it’s short term. If I had to live out in the forest, it wouldn’t really be much fun.

This is the illustration Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 5 when talking about this world and the next:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Our current “tent” (our physical bodies and this current form of creation) is brokenly beautiful. And utterly temporary. Yet we all spend the vast majority of our resources making our tent comfy, with extra pillows and hammocks. We spend our time, money, obsessions etc etc on that which simply cannot last. On the one hand we ought to enjoy and dance in this “tent” we’ve been gifted, while also not worshiping it and acting like it’s the end-all, be-all. We have a greater tent God is preparing in advance for us. A “realer” tent that will swallow up this tent. What we have here won’t just vanish, it will be ingested into the REAL creation when God re-creates this broken beauty (our bodies, forests, relationships, animals etc). One day the clock will stop ticking and LIFE will overwhelm, overcome and overtake the fallen world. We saw this in it’s initial phase on the cross when Jesus, who was/is LIFE in the flesh, allowed darkness and death to overcome him so that, when he rose again, his LIFE would reverse the curse of sin and bring hope to our otherwise futile world.

So on the one hand…enjoy! This “camping trip” we are on can be beautifully bitter sweet. But what makes it even more enjoyable is knowing that it is temporary. I can give my entire self away because before the blink of an eye, it will be transformed into something more “real” that will reveal our current world as a fleeting shadow that is being transformed into glory .

See C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce for an amazing little short story that illuminates this concept.


Advent 3: Joy – Nostalgic Anticipation

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Peace on Earth? Joy to the World?

It’s easy (and natural) to be overwhelmed by life and all the craziness that swamps our time, heart and relationships. It’s  easy for fear to sneak up on us and joy to elude us. To be honest, even knowing what Peace and Joy even are is the real issue. We typically (even inadvertently) allow our current circumstances to determine the quantity and quality of peace and joy we have. But the truth behind the facade is that peace and joy are not circumstantial but relational; not in flux but permanently acquired on our behalf; not an emotion but a faith-perspective. Peace at it’s root means being whole and complete, the way we’ve been Designed (in Eden) and the way we are Destined (in Heaven) to one day be again. Joy at it’s root is the perspective to see this peace that Jesus has purchased on our behalf on the cross as he fully paid for God’s righteous anger, and to live it out regardless of the ebb and flow of circumstantial emotions that often dictate our perspectives. But this is so far beyond our abilities. We cannot just tighten our faith-belt and believe better. We need, like the shepherds in this passage, need to have heavenly voices sing over us and remind us of the True Gospel; that God himself came to heal all that is broken; bring life into all that is dead; to draw near all those who are far off. Jesus is God himself as a baby, come to be our Ultimate King to lead us back (even through stormy seas) to our Home of Peace. Joy is NOSTALGIC ANTICIPATION: the ability to live in the present while looking backwards with nostalgia at who we were in Eden and simultaneously looking forward with anticipation our Life to come (which C.S. Lewis calls an “insatiable longing”)…like when you see Christmas presents under the tree and think about what that was like when you were a kid as well as what it might be like this upcoming Christmas morning when everybody is together enjoying the celebration.

This is actually more natural for us than we think. Do you remember a time you unexpectedly were overwhelmed by a specific nostalgic scent? Maybe a perfume or a food that instantly brought you back to a glorious time in life? I was sitting downstairs this past week when Amy (my wife) was surprising me by making some toffee. The scent wound it’s way down the stairs and into my heart. I was immediately transported to a time when I was a kid in the grandmother’s kitchen during Christmas. It also transported me to the time when I would feast on the toffee currently being made. That is Joy! It wasn’t the scent itself as much as it was the nostalgia of what it meant to me and the anticipation of what it would soon be. That is the life Jesus has for us that is based on how we were originally designed and destined to one day fully be.

Advent 2 – Peacelessness

Peace, man.

The world would be such a better place, if only ____.
If that person would just _____, then things would be ok.
If ____ gets elected, the world would be a better place.
We all desperately search for and attempt to bring about “peace,” as defined by us individually. Some of your answers to the above little pop quiz might in fact make life and the world a better place, but that’s not the point. The reality is that there are endless opinions on those answers, and many of them are the opposite of yours (to which you say “well, if that person would just see things my way, then the world would be a better place”.) And the reason is that we all want peace, harmony and love. We are designed for that from the very beginning and spend our whole lives trying to make it back to Eden. But we do it by trying to rebuild Eden here, in this broken world among broken people. It is absolutely true that we are called to be agents of love and peace in this world, fighting for the oppressed and against darkness. But we do this not in an attempt to make heaven here and now but as an act of love spilling over from the just righteousness of our God who cares for His creation. And though we are called to be agents of peace, every worldly step forward will be temporary (though we are still called to do it).
And this is why Jesus came as the Immanuel, God With Us. He came to bring actual, perfect, eternal peace to all of creation firstly by bringing peace between us and God. Sin is our treasonous attempt to overthrow our King as we declare ourselves Lord of All. So Jesus came as a Child King from Nazareth so that, in his death, all the just-judgement that stems from our Peacelessness has been paid. How ironic that the sign that hung above Jesus’ head on the cross (“INRI”) said “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”…which mimics Luke’s account of Jesus birth:
Luke 1:26-27
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
Jesus came full circle, from Heaven to Nazareth as the Ultimate King in the line of David to bring his people back home into perfect Eden-Shalom, into peace and rest, which motivates us and even empowers us to Live-Eden now.
Clearly this doesn’t mean that life in the here and now is easy and “feels” peaceful. Life can be really hard, but the Great War is OVER. Jesus has made a peace-treaty on our behalf. In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33)!
Dig Deeper: The Bible Project is an excellent resource for young and seasoned people to engage and learn about Scripture and it’s application to real life. This link will take you to 4 Advent videos that unpack the Hebrew and/or Greek words for Peace, Hope, Joy and Love…the 4 Sundays of Advent.

Advent 1 – Eucatastrophe

I know this is awkward, and I hope you aren’t too squeamish, but this is my shoulder after my third surgery. I have the problem of being built with gymnast joints (flexible) but an obsession for competitive (and contact) sports. When you combine those two traits, the result is a myriad of bone dislocations. This scan shows the result of shoulder surgery #4 with some glorious screws holding my bones together. The thing with dislocations is that, when that bone is out of socket, you (pretty much) look normal from the outside, but the inner stuff is totally out of wack and causes horrific pain. After too many dislocation episodes I have now figured out how to get the bone back in, even if I am by myself (though that one was pretty tough, and the words that were uttered may have made some animals on the bike trail blush). But…once that bone goes in, I can’t begin to tell you the instant relief that courses through your body. It’s almost like your whole body gets put back into socket. And this is the Gospel. In our sin we are “out of socket” from the “image of God” in which we are made. We may look “normal” but we are disconnected and causing horrific pain. So Jesus became dislocated from the Father so that we could be “re-located” into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

This idea came from a letter (#89) of J.R.R.Tolkei: “I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection (and BKL would also say about Advent) was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”


Before there can be Thanksgiving, there needs to be ThanksReceiving. But ThanksReceiving is actually harder than we think. To receive something is obviously a breeze. Hold out your hands and enjoy. But to truly give thanks, from the depths of your heart and not the syrupy plastic thanks, is an act of dependence and humility. It is putting the gift-giver in a place of honor and reverence, which by definition puts us “below” and somehow “in need”, which is about the last place we all want to be. It’s too vulnerable. Too childlike. Too helpless.

But this place of dependence is one of the cornerstones of the Gospel. As long as we believe that we aren’t in shocking and paralyzing need of Jesus and his Grace, we don’t really get the unfathomable extent of Jesus’ love and gift to us. We believe that, at least to some extent, we don’t really need THAT much grace and forgiveness; we need God’s gift of forgiveness, redemption and life, but not as much as _______. (see Jesus parable in Luke 18 about a Pharisee that thanks God he isn’t like these other people.)

In truth, the Gospel is so much better than we think. The gift is so so much bigger and more valuable than we realize. And as we realize this truth, we are drawn deeper and deeper into honest, worshipful passionate thanks-giving. But Thanksgiving only comes after ThanksReceiving as we hold our needy hands open to the Gift God has given.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

It Is Finished

Tetelestai. It is Finished.

John 19:30.

One Greek word.

One complete sentence.

The Entire Gospel.


This tattoo is on my buddy Scott Stewart. It’s his only tattoo (so far) and is there to be a perpetual reminder of what is most important…that Jesus has completely accomplished everything needed to bring us life, love, hope and peace. His entire life was lived in humble, sinless, sacrificial obedience, culminating in the Grand Finale on the Cross where he became the perfect sacrifice our rebellion required. But that’s not all. If he “only” died for our sins, then we still would be lacking in the required righteousness needed to be in God’s presence. So while taking our sins upon him, he put his perfection on (in) us. And it is finished. We can neither add  nor subtract  from his perfection. Our darkest failures have already been fully paid for and even hidden from God’s sight. They cannot subtract from the imputed righteousness we have in Jesus. Likewise, all of my “good deeds” added up cannot adjust my status before God in the slightest. Not in the slightest. I try really hard to stay away from the really naughty things, and now I want some divine-credit for my humility. Well, that’s what my sinful heart says at least. But the really good news is that the Gospel is Jesus+Nothing. God didn’t give me his perfection and then I threw on some gravy to make it a little better. There is nothing better. When I believe that my behavior adjusts my status before God and when I think that my personal righteousness has an impact on God’s love for me, I am fundamentally saying that Jesus’ righteousness wasn’t enough…that my sin diluted it or my goodness added to it.

So be free. Confident. Satisfied. Your Father dances over you with singing not because you are good but because He is.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

“Thou hast made us for thyself,
and our heart is restless
until it finds its rest in thee.”
Augustine, Confessions

Malachi 4:2
But for you who fear my name,
the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Rest. Stop.

Hebrews 4:1-2
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who had been taught about “entering God’s rest” for thousands of years, starting back in Genesis 1 where we were created to be at rest in God, then through Joshua as they entered the Promised Land and then in David as their powerful King under whom they could “rest”. But throughout it all, they (and we) have been a perpetually un-restful people. We were designed to have full and utter peace without friction. We walked around “naked and unashamed” without any anxiety or sideways glances about what others think. More importantly, we were designed to not have any tension between us and God as we walked together in the cool of the morning in perfect relationship. But sin is our attempt to find hope, peace and rest in something else, in “more”. More information. More stuff. More pleasure. More morality. MORE ME! The ultimate and inevitable product of this pursuit of personal peace is to bring me LESS PEACE because it’s built on a sinking flood plane of this world.

In 2016 a podcast called S-Town came out and has become by far the most downloaded podcast of all time. It is a radio-interview-biography centering around a middle-age atheist genius named John B. McLemore and his home of Woodstock, Alabama, which he angrily refers to as “S-town” (“S” being an expletive). He is constantly angry, critical and restless as we complains about how horrible the world and all it’s inhabitant are. He and his 20-something year old friend Tyler, who also finds himself in the throws of strain and stress, can find no peace. So what they do is start “church”. Church is when Tyler strolls across the road and into John’s into home-based clock-repair workshop to get drunk on Wild Turkey while piercing various parts of John and tattooing him to no end. In order to get relief from the pain of life, John wants to experience some degree of acute “manageable” pain. He even had his back whipped by his friends so that Tyler could then tattoo duplicates of the real-life whip marks.

We are all in the throws of inner turmoil, seeking peace, hope, fullness and rest in the most exhaustive and exhausting ways. Only to be left less peaceful than when we began.

John B. McLemore is by no means unique. Back in 400AD a guy names Augustine spent the early part of his life seeking inner-peace through every conceivable means of pleasure he could find. He knew the Gospel, but wanted, like us, to forge his own path and find a salve for his soul. He would say this about his sin: “I loved my own error – not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” Simply put, he liked the sin. He found pleasure in putting himself over God. He would even pray “Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”

But later in life he would come to the end of himself and realize the futility of his peace-seeking, and pen this: “My heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in Thee.”

This is all of us. We work and work and work in life, looking for it to pay off in ways that only the Finished Work of Christ can. When Jesus was dying on the cross he declared “It is Finished!” He was essentially repeating Genesis 1 where it says that, after 6 days, God was finished with his act of creation. We would then break creation, but Jesus would ultimately finish our Re-Creation so that, though our works in this broken world will continue and bring with it tension, our “works” to satisfy God’s righteous commands have been completed in Jesus and granted into us by His Spirit. Meaning that, when it comes to our relationship with Him, we can finally and perfectly REST. We cannot add to Jesus’ works; we cannot subtract from his works. It’s done. Relax. Rest. Be still and Know.

The Other Side of Town

John Prine is an incredible artist, writer, musician. He has a song called The Other Side of Town that features a guy (he jokingly says is not autobiographical) that mentally checks out when his wife goes on nagging a bit too long. So he is physically sitting there and going through the motions while he is “actually” on the other side of town waiting for the lashing to be over.

It’s funny because it’s true, and we all want to laugh and say “Man, it would be horrible if that was me” while we realize that…it’s all of us. Don’t you remember doing this when you were a kid and your mom or dad went ballistic on you when you didn’t do your chores (or lit the kitchen on fire or cheated on  your homework)? This “dissociation” is simply a survival technique we’ve mastered, engaging our auto-pilot without even realizing it.

As a teacher and preacher it’s a stark reality that a good portion of folks sitting in the auditorium or classroom are doing this exact thing….and that I am doing it to God. When I see him as a nagging parent who is utterly disgusted with me, my actions and my heart as he sits on his pedestal wagging his finger at me, I go to the other side of town until he’s done, at which point I will “assume the body of the person you presume who cares.”

But I have it all wrong. Actually, I have it absolutely and utterly REVERSED! Because of Jesus’ sacrificial gift of life on the cross, the Father is completely SATISFIED with me. Yet I am the one that casts stones at him, putting onto him a scowling brow that no longer exists. I tell God that it’s not cool to “hurt someone who’s so in love with you.” He then says that this is exactly what I have done to Him; what we’ve all done. But then he did the impossible because…“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)”

God is not nagging you. He wants life for us, and then for us to live out of our new lives in worship and glory. He is utterly satisfied, so come out of that chair behind your ears and rejoin your body at the kitchen table with your Abba Father and enjoy a sweet meal together.



Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you get fueled by being with others or by being by yourself? Do others drain you or get you charged up?

As I’m sure you know, extroverts get their energy and heart-fuel from being around other people while introverts get their’s from being by themselves and “inside” their own heads. But don’t be quick to categorize others or yourself. Their are very social introverts (who need to get into a sensory depravation chamber after the party) and very quiet extroverts (who need to go to a loud and crowded restaurant after studying all afternoon).

Neither of these are right or wrong (though I bet most of us feel like our “-vert” is the best). Also, I don’t think that their are any pure introverts or extroverts. I lean heavily toward extroversion, but, after being married to an introvert, I have grown to deeply value my alone quiet time (as long as I can go hang out with a bunch of dudes afterwards).

As you look under the hood of these -verts, we get a chance to ask ourselves how and where we get our fuel. But the scary wrench in this engine is that both of these -verts are about me and my kingdom. What makes ME feel energized? What are MY preferences. There’s nothing wrong with our God-given tendencies toward inside/outside. But there is a greater heart-fuel, a greater hope, a greater power, a greater inner-peace that has a vertical power-line.

John 6:35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.


Jesus himself, the Gospel in flesh, is the source of our true nourishment. Not being with others or being by ourselves (though those are important to know). But if we just focus on the E/I, we get stuck in everything being about ME. So my challenge to us all (especially myself) is to soak in the presence of Jesus…me in him and him in me. In my Gospel-o-version I can be all alone, but be fully with him; and be in a massive loud crowd while also being alone with Jesus. So regardless of how my relational circumstances, Jesus’ death has torn the curtain temple in two, unleashing the presence of God to swarm and surround me, giving me heart-fuel that can never be taken away.