Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Beauty & Power of Forgiveness

The Grand Rapids Press ran a lovely story of forgiveness in this morning’s paper.  It’s the account of a mother who is reaching out to the incarcerated young man who shot her son.

I was struck by this woman’s realism regarding the choice confronting her.  She could surrender to the temptation to wallow in anger, destroying her.  Or, she could somehow experience the healing power of forgiveness.

From the story:

“When you can’t change things, you have two choices,” Arntz says in a matter-of-fact tone. “You can hate or you can love. I choose love.”

She doesn’t hold out the rosily romantic (false) hope that all will be well nor does she expect that the pain of loss will ever fully subside.  Her story is a realistic depiction of how seeking to inhabit forgiveness is a struggle, and straining toward redemption is both brutally tough and the most hopeful path to take.

A few years ago I reflected on the complexities of forgiveness regarding a similar story.

Dictionary of Jesus & the Gospels

Students of Scripture know the supreme value of IVP’s line of dictionaries.  For most of us, they’re located within easy reach on the shelves of our studies and are seriously well-worn.  My Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels is one such volume and I’ve been very much looking forward to using the revised and updated version as I work through Mark’s Gospel over the next few years.

I just got my mitts on it, have paged through it a bit, and it looks brilliant.


I’ll be working through a bunch of it in coming days will post a review.

Abolitionists in Action

My colleague at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Catherine Mueller-Bell, is hosting an exciting event under the auspices of the Women’s Studies Lecture Series.

On Thursday evening, November 7, Julie Slagter will be speaking at the seminary on modern slavery and practical steps that we can take to stop it.  Julie is the Project Manager at the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing and the founder of the Michigan Abolitionist Project.

If you’re in the area, plan to attend!  Check this out for more information.

The Story of God Bible Commentary

The first two volumes of The Story of God Bible Commentary will be available very soon, Scot McKnight’s Sermon on the Mount and Lynn Cohick’s Philippians.


They’re very well-written and will prove to be excellent resources for Bible teachers, pastors, and those interested in grappling with the biblical text and its implications for Christian faithfulness today.


You can check out each volume with a free preview.  Zondervan has made available excerpts of their volumes as free ebooks.  McKnight’s is called Kingdom Vision, and Cohick’s is available as Eager Expectations.  Check ’em out!

I’m delighted to be part of this project, contributing the volume on the Gospel of Mark.  I’m heavy into it these days and thoroughly enjoying working through the text in the series format.

The Gospel of the Kingdom, Pt. 6

I started this series of reflections by noting that in the NT Gospels, the gospel proclamation involves “the gospel of the kingdom.”  Jesus is announcing the arrival of God’s restored order of flourishing with his advent.  And I claimed that this reality should shape how we conceive of the gospel.

Unfortunately, many good Christian people conceive of “the gospel” in terms of a “gospel presentation,” the brief summary of a transaction whereby individuals can be set right with God.

Over the last few posts, I wrote that Christians ought to think about the gospel from the starting points of Genesis 1-2 and Israel.  We see God’s original intentions for creation in Genesis 1-2, and we come to understand the broad outlines of how God aims to set things right when we consider Israel.

In thinking about the gospel, then, we should imagine the set of language that describes God’s creation of a people who embody the gracious reign of the Creator God in Christ through practices of joyful self-sacrifice, service, justice, love, compassion, care for the poor and for creation itself, confession of sin, and forgiveness.  And the gospel is speech about God’s creation of a people who embody God’s passionate pursuit of the whole of creation.

In the New Testament, “the gospel” is the news that God is currently doing this in Jesus.

Now, my discussion to this point assumes the existence of a gospel-shaped community.  “The gospel” is not a bit of information that exists in the abstract.

“The gospel” is first and foremost the church’s speech about its own identity.  The church has been caught up into the Creator God’s pursuit of his creation, to enjoy his love, to inhabit and embody his gracious reign, and to be agents of his restoration of all creation and every creature.

When it comes to speaking about the gospel to outsiders, however, “the gospel” shouldn’t be disconnected from the concrete reality of the church.  It makes little sense to claim that God has created a people to embody his love for the whole of creation when you cannot point to a community that depicts this reality.

So, if you don’t inhabit a community like this, or if you can’t point to a community that embodies this reality, should you avoid talking about the gospel with outsiders?

Not necessarily.

But you may want to consider how you can become a catalyst in your church becoming more of a gospel-shaped community that inhabits the redemptive love of God in Christ.  Perhaps your efforts can be focused more strategically toward the end of your community’s flourishing rather than announcing to others the news of God’s creating communities of flourishing without being able to point to one.

But there’s much more to say about this, and much that is hopeful.  But I’ll leave it for next time.

The CEB Study Bible

I got my hands on the new Common English Bible translation Study Bible and must say that it is quite a handsome volume.

CEB Study Bible

I was happy to be asked to write the study notes for Ephesians and honored to be included in the excellent lineup of contributors.  The more I’ve used the CEB, the more I’ve been impressed with it.

You can check out the translation on, and you can find a preview of the Study Bible here.

Also, check out the CEB home page.