Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Surprised By Hope

Occasionally, I come across a book, movie, or piece of art, that just rocks my world. I've been on a pretty good run of late! However, along with the busy holiday season, and otherwise crazy schedule, I've been able to keep reading, but not blogging. Today is a usual day off for me, and in my devotional time, I thought it'd be good to do some catching up.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to go to my bud Joel Heron's church in Greenville MI, to do a worship workshop with their teams. It was a blast! What a great church and great bunch of servants glorifying God with their art! Bringing heaven to earth! Somewhere in all the preparation, Joel had mentioned to me a book I ought to read. He always recommends only the best books, and I certainly wasn't disappointed this time. The book is: "Surprised by Hope" (Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church) by N. T. Wright. This book is not your average walk through a candy shop, looking for that special treat that will momentarily satisfy your sweet tooth. It is much more of a long, long walk through some of the most intense landscapes your eyes could ever behold. The cover of the book is somewhat unassuming, actually it's sort of like a plain paper bag. Inside, I found some of the most fresh thinking I've experienced in a while. N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham for the Church of England. Frankly, not where I would have expected to find a piece so rich. My mistake, it's where the likes of C. S. Lewis came from! (Duh!)

I highly recommend this book as not only a great read, but one of the most challenging books I've read in a long time. The premise of "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church," was intriguing to me. Is this guy some heretical fanatic that is out to reorder God's word to fit his theology, or could he be on to something? This book messed with me! There are a lot of what I'd refer to as, traditional western thinking, that I've been rethinking since reading this book! Wright brings incredible biblical clarity to the ideas we have of Heaven, Jesus' resurrection, (and the implications of that), as well as how to proceed from here. It has restored a hope that I wasn't fully aware that I'd lost.

As a teaser, I'd just like to share a couple of paragraphs here. "The some of it's parts are greater than the whole" cannot be said of this work! It is the entire piece, taken in context that is so impressive. The some of the whole, in this case, is better than it's parts. Each "part", will lead you into a deeper place. But, I'd like to share this thought for today.

A couple of weeks ago, Linda and I we're able to go to Montana for a little getaway. One of the questions I was frequently asked was, "why in the world would you want to go there?" "It's so cold...so snowy...so blah...blah...blah!" "I thought you'd go south to someplace warmer."

Friends is one of the main reasons we go there. We have some beautiful Godly friends that are so gracious to invite us to stay on their beautiful ranch. They're amazing. (Thanks Randy, Kay and staff!) But, the other is largely beauty. Montana, especially Western Montana is incredible this time of year. It is any time of year, but especially this time of year when the mountains are full of snow. The natural beauty there is so stunning! The high prairies, the mountains, the rivers, the wildlife, it's truly an amazing place. Our time there was precious, and we hope to go there again and again. When I see beauty, natural beauty, I tend to think of God. He is Beautiful! I also believe we, the ones created in the image of God, reflect Him when we are creative.

In chapter 13, "Building for the Kingdom," N. T. Wright says this: "To make sense of and celebrate a beautiful world through the production of artifacts that are themselves beautiful is part of the call to be steward of creation, as was Adam's naming of the animals. Genuine art is thus itself a response to the beauty of creation, which itself is a pointer to the beauty of God." He continues later in that same chapter, "Art at its best draws attention not only to the way things are but also to the way things will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. That remains a surprising hope, and perhaps it will be the artists who are best at conveying both the hope and the surprise"

What can you expect to take away from reading this book? First-Hope. Hope that there is purpose in this life. Hope of paradise, heaven, Christ's return! Hope of His coming judgement! Hope in the mission of the church, which I believe is the hope of the world. Secondly-Surprise. Surprise, that He is all around us, drawing us to Himself, pursuing us with a relentless love. Revealing Himself to us, in us, through us, in ways we'd never previously imagined.

Don't miss this one folks, it's hard to find in book stores. You can find it online!

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