All out of coffee. What can be done? The obvious solution might be to pick some up next time I go to town. But I forgot that day. And the next. And the next. Right about now, some of you are judging me – a real coffee drinker wouldn’t forget. Well judge on, because I’m talking about instant coffee.
So the backup solution was to walk down the street the neighbor’s little home-front shop to buy three sachets of my 3-in-1 drug of choice. In the process, I ended up sitting down and talking about spiritual things with my neighbor. He expressed that even though there was presently so much injustice in the world (in his case a rapidly fluctuating Thai Baht that was bad for his bottom line), nevertheless, the wicked always get what they deserve, and the oppressed are always exonerated. Really? Are you talking about some kind of make-believe world? As it happened, I had just finished reading Psalm 73, so we had a lively talk on the issue.
Many of us prudently opt to get supplies in bulk when we can. Maybe making trips to Makro or Lotus (Thailand’s equivalents to Costco and Wal-Mart) saves a few Baht, but at what cost? I hadn’t had a talk about the things of God with this neighbor for a very long time. How many talks had I missed? Much has been written over the years about the effect that big chain stores have on mom and pop stores and local economies. What effect do they have on the spiritual economy? I’m not talking about a wholesale abandonment of all big chain stores, but why not intentionally get a selection of products at the mom and pop shops? One more way to make sure we are not walled away in mission compounds, removed from the community God has placed us in.
On reading large portions of scripture together as a family, Bonhoeffer anticipates some objection:
“Not only the young Christian, but also the adult Christian will complain that the scripture reading is often too long for him, and that much therein he does not understand. To this it must be said that for the mature Christian, every scripture will be too long, even the shortest one. What does this mean? The scripture is a whole, and every sentence possesses such multiple relationships with the whole that it is impossible always to keep the whole in view when listening to details…it is good for us to be reminded daily of this fact, which again points us to Jesus Christ himself, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ (Col.2:3)” –Life Together, pg. 52
Gospel-centered worship. Gospel-centered preaching. Gospel-centered parenting. Gospel-centered discipling. “Gospel-centered” is a bit of a buzzword in the ministry world. This is exciting to see, as we know the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The more gospel the better. My only reservation about the current trend is the terms are sometimes a bit vague. Getting together for the gospel sounds great (it IS great) – but what does that mean specifically? A popular preacher has rightly lamented many times that his country is “not gospel-hardened, it’s gospel ignorant.” Every semester I pose the question to my incoming bible student’s: “so, what exactly is the gospel?” This typically yields a variety of answers, ranging from “we need to love each other” to “Jesus died for you.” As a pastor, church planter, and missionary, Trip Kimball’s life is one that has been dedicated to propagating the gospel both at home and abroad. One of his passions is training church workers and leaders in ministering the gospel. In his recent book “The Mystery of the Gospel,” the gospel is spelled out in simple (but not simplistic) terms. Mr. Kimball starts with a diagnosis of the problem of gospel ignorance and the sometimes vague terminology that is often assumed, but rarely defined. From this diagnosis, he moves to an overview of the comprehensiveness of the gospel by following five “threads” of gospel revelation in the book of Matthew. After that is where this blogger sees Kimball begin to really shine, as he goes into what he terms the “essential gospel” – the core, non-negotiable, irreducible elements of the gospel message. This is a great lesson, and with that foundation laid the book fleshes out this essential gospel into a broader gospel overview; how these essentials permeate what we believe about Christianity, from the incarnation to the return of our Lord.
All in all an excellent book – read it, and be instructed in how to better, and more clearly express the gospel message that is at the center of our faith. Pick up a copy from Amazon or direct from the publisher.