Oh… So That’s What Happens On A Summer Study Break
Oswald Chambers writes, “In Christian work our initiative and motivation are too often simply the result of realizing that there is work to be done and that we must do it. Yet that is never the attitude of a spiritually vigorous saint. His aim is to achieve the realization of Jesus Christ in every set of circumstances.”
Dallas Willard comments, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.”
There is much to do, but not to the neglect of Jesus. Matt Chandler believes, “Doing flows from being.” We have freedom to be because all that Jesus has done. The Gospel certainly motivates, but only after it captivates and allows us to see the whole and sufficiency of the work already done by Jesus. Work and workers are highly commended in the Bible (see chapter sixteen of Romans), but it’s always and only as a result of the power of Jesus’ good news in their lives. So very cool.
With that said, it’s intriguing to consider the ride God, me, and CCC have been on. It’s been slow, methodical, and Gospel-centric. Slowly, God has captured our hearts with the grande story of Jesus. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. The plot contains God’s pursuit of us with an epic reconstruction plan of a new earth and paradise. It includes Jesus draining any semblance of power held by Satan, death, sin, and the law. Jesus’ work crowns Him King of a Kingdom that has come and is coming to this earth.
To see all of scripture through the lens of this great gospel story constitutes an awakening of sorts. There’s a Gospel stirring going on. We began with a healthy understanding of an EPIC Gospel. We studied through Mark, Genesis, and Galatians to see the story unfolding and still working. It’s given us a focus. We’re beginning to grasp a vision of Jesus and the power of His Gospel good news (which, BTW, is somewhat redundant to write).
I have perused former study break blog and journal entries over the past several years. God has been merciful and kind to give me the time and space to grow. With previous study breaks, I have chronicled my busyness. I would blog my wake up times, lengths of strenuous jogs, sermons listened to, books read, books of the Bible studied, and would write a blog a day if it killed me. Sometimes it did… almost kill me. I would drain myself to crank out fourteen blogs in fourteen days. I’m tired just remembering. I also would earnestly seek what new program, vision, or creative thought to take back and implement within the self-proclaimed borders of being the lead pastor. Geesh.
Why did I have such laborious resolve in years past? Who was I trying to impress? Or… was it part of my sanctification process in achieving my own level of holiness and righteousness? Was it an earning thing on my part? If not for salvation, perhaps approval? Was it a, “Thanks Jesus for saving me, but I can take it from here” kind of thing? I don’t know.
But this year, I tried to blog every other day. I think I achieved that. Was I lazy? I don’t think so. I was, however, zoned into the Gospel and the awesome work of Jesus both for my justification AND sanctification. With this being true, my reading, thinking, writing, and otherwise became more a thing of worship and Gospel passion than my doing. Doing flows out of being. I enjoyed being like no other year. I believe I did better this year at simply being while all the while basking in Gospel insights that would only fuel my wakefulness. The Gospel is to be enjoyed, seen, proclaimed, and not achieved. I think I did better with this. You can ask Sherry if this is true or not.
And what about vision? I still sought the voice and direction of the Lord. I’m entirely fond of early morning coffee with dolphins and God. Do you want to know what I think I heard? The whisper simply directed, “Just stick with the Gospel. Make everything and anything all about the Gospel. Let THAT be the vision.” And so… at Cumberland and in my messy life, I want to point other messy people to the Gospel of Jesus.
This awesome study break has been all about the Gospel. With various angles of approach, it’s been about the living story of Jesus that has happened, is happening, will happen, and transforms our lives with power. And… how can you miss with a Gospel focus and a beautiful ocean laid before you? Geesh.
During this year’s break, I studied through Romans. I have enjoyed working through Eugene Petersen’s Message translation of Paul’s letter. “Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.” I’m confident we’ll dive into a lengthy series through the book of Romans, probably sometime during the first quarter of 2016.
All five books I’ve read, I would heartily recommend. This has not always been the case.
Jeff Vanderstelt’s “Saturate” is a very practical read of how to let the Gospel saturate your life. Basically, Vanderstelt gives practical thoughts about what discipleship can look like, and what specific life rhythms should play out as a result of being saturated. There are items within this book I want to talk over with my community group. I’ve asked Joe Braun to read this book, and to pay close attention to the community group covenant samples at the end. There is also a three-week message series on baptism I will do as a result of Vanderstelt’s teaching of being baptized in the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good stuff!
Tim Keller’s awesome work called “Preaching (Communicating Faith In An Age of Skepticism)” was sheer pleasure. Keller is Gospel saturated, and this comes out in every sermon. Arguably, Keller is one of the best Gospel preachers and Gospel insight prophets currently crushing it. Simply put, God is using Tim Keller. Insights into Keller’s thinking and preaching through this book are spectacular. For me, it was the curtain pulled back on OZ, but with delight instead of regret. This will shape me and re-direct me in my own teaching. How Keller uses the Gospel effectively towards current cultural push back is God ordained, and soon to be employed in my life. I want every speaker at CCC to read this book. Mandatory stuff.
Jared Wilson’s “Gospel Wakefulness” was a harder, convicting read. It was slower in a good way. Wilson believes only the Holy Spirit and brokenness can cause such powerful Gospel awakening in people’s live and subsequent churches. This book formed prayers for me. I began praying for my own burgeoning and continuing Gospel wakefulness. I want the elders to begin praying this for the people of Cumberland. I want staff to pray for Gospel wakefulness with their volunteers and folks they lead and love. I want the church to begin praying for Gospel wakefulness for themselves. Saturated. Addicted. Passionate. I pray for a revival of Gospel wakefulness in my life and at Cumberland to create a great confidence and a deep humility that only Jesus can create.
Reading N.T. Wright is like being back in the classroom with one of my BEST college professors. Such keen insight and new thinking attached to the good news of Jesus lies within “Simply The Good News.” The theology found within Wright’s book is rich and thought-provoking. His chapter and tremendous Gospel take on the Lord’s Prayer might possibly form a Christmas series for CCC.
Finally, Matt Chandler’s “To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain” was a fitting end to my summer study break. Chandler uses the encouragement of the book of Philippians to push for Gospel maturity. Having read through Chandler’s rich, verse-by-verse exposition of Philippians leads me to think about a series through Philippians one day. As God grows Gospel saturation and wakefulness at Cumberland, a series to take us further into Gospel maturity would seem fitting. I’m hopeful of such prospects as God gives a constant Gospel hunger to regular folks, and allows new folks to hear the powerful good news each week.
The music I listened to this week was:
– Liz Vice (There’s a Light). Thanks Megan! I love this whole earthy, organic, stripped down, Adele-only-with-Jesus album.
– Hillsong United (Empires)
– Elevation Worship (Wake Up The Wonder). I love Already Won & Unstoppable Love
– David Crowder Band (All I Can Say) I like He Was There & Rain Down
– Gungor (Beautiful Things & Ghosts Upon The Earth) This is such great beach walking music!
Michael read “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman
Morgan read “Encounters With Jesus” by Tim Keller
Sherry read: Bread & Wine & Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, and The Promise of Palm Grove by Shelley Shepard Gray
I am so grateful for a staff, elders, and church who give me and my family such great, rich time away. I’m so grateful for how I always leave filled, inspired, and restored. This year, Brooklynn & Jared and Lauren were also able to come for a few days. That was life-giving time as well.
Now… may a Gospel wakefulness overtake us all.
Blessings & Peace.