Most (but not all) of the “gospel” preaching that I have heard in my short time as a Christian has been mostly about a transaction (i.e., you give God faith in Jesus and he will give you salvation; eternal life; forgiveness…) or an avoidance of something bad (i.e., God's wrath; eternity in hell). Rarely have I heard the gospel presented as good news about a restored relationship with a loving, self-giving God. Darrell Bock seeks to buck this trend in Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News. A quote from the introduction will give you an excellent idea of what Bock is trying to communicate in this book:
The gospel starts with a promise: a relationship in the Spirit. It is pictured as a meal and a washing: the Lord's Table and baptism. It is rooted in a unique action supplying a unique need: the cross. It is inaugurated as a gift that is the sign of the arrival of the new era: Pentecost. It is affirmed in divine action and Scripture: God working uniquely and inseparably through Jesus. It is embraced in a turn that ends in faith: invoking the name of Jesus. It involves a different kind of power and is designed to be a way of life: reconciliation and the power of God unto salvation. (5)
Bock unpacks all of these ideas as chapters in the book. This is a short, accessible read that will give you a more comprehensive look at the gospel than most of us are used to. Although the book goes into more detail, the video below will give you a glimpse of some of the ideas you will find in the book.
For the past year or so, I have been trying to understand the “big picture” of the Bible. Thankfully, a dear brother in Christ, Don Pucik, told me about a book called God's Big Pictureby Vaughan Roberts.
This has been one of the most helpful books I have read on understanding the Bible. Roberts (rightly) sees the overarching theme of the Bible as being the kingdom of God, which he defines as “God's people, living in God's place, under God's rule, and enjoying God's blessing” (paraphrase), and then unpacks this idea throughout the whole sweep of Scripture. Visual learners will enjoy the charts, and there is also a Bible study at the end of each chapter.
I highly, highly, highly recommend this book!!! If you aren't a reader, check out these four videos:
Let's be honest: no matter how much you love the Lord, no matter how high your view of Scripture may be, sometimes Bible reading becomes dry. The next time that happens, get Frank Viola's new eBook, When the Pages are Blank: How to Bring the Bible Back to Life. In it you will find twenty exercises to help revitalize your Scripture reading. The book is only $3.99 and is short enough to read on your lunch break. If your Bible reading has become drudgery, try one of these exercises from Frank's book. If you find this eBook to be helpful, check out his blog and free podcast.
Last night I finished reading The Naked Anabaptistby Stuart Murray. I had never heard much about Anabaptism before picking up this book, but I am very intrigued by what I have learned so far about the Anabaptist tradition. In the book, Murray expounds on the Seven Core Convictions of Anabaptism, as distilled by the The Anabaptist Network.
As the church loses its privileged status and moves farther to the margins of society, we would do well to learn from a tradition that has spent its entire existence on the margins. Stuart, while being honest about the imperfections, blemishes, and deficiencies of Anabaptism, makes a strong case that we can learn much from their story of what it means to be disciples of Jesus, especially in our post-Christendom context.