Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Where's the Good News?

My husband was listening to me complain, for the umpteenth time, that so many Christian Life (a subject category) books are about 80% fluff and cotton candy. I showed him "God's Gift for Mothers" a Thomas Nelson (2008) inspirational paperback. It has about 100 meditations on marriage, parenting, friendships, careers, children, etc. arranged by subject, beginning with ABIDE and ending with WITNESS. Very little about Jesus except in the most generic, general way, not even in the Preface, where the Good News might have been a foundation for building on other topics. I read to him the LOVE passage--it's not untrue, it's just not the TRUTH about love as revealed in Jesus:
    "Poets have tried for centuries to capture the essence of love. The Bible tells us quite simply that real love is caring more about others than we care about ourselves and our own needs. Be a model of selfless love in your relationships. It will be contagious." p. 75 (John 13:34)
My husband said no daily meditation book could include the Gospel in every selection. But there is one that hits the mark about 99%. Concordia Publishing (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) manages to produce 4 times a year a daily meditation pocket or purse size booklet, Portals of Prayer, where the authors of most entries begin with a scripture, then 1) introduce the day's topic with an anecdote, 2) move to application in your life, then close with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in some form--usually in two sentences. Sometimes the (3) authors will switch the template around a bit, but usually this is the pattern. I mean, how hard can it be to say, You are a sinner unable to please God, but Jesus has died on the cross for your sins and risen from the grave, and you will too as a believer? Yet, that powerful message, the theme of the Bible from the fall to the 2nd coming, seems to be the toughest for Christian writers and publishers to either quote directly or paraphrase!

Here are some examples: April 2 (which begins with the role of an architect in construction)
    "Regardless of our diligence, we cannot earn favor with God. But Jesus earned God’s favor on our behalf. Christ accomplished the work of our salvation when He carried our sins on the cross. His resurrection was God’s mark of approval that proclaims Christ’s victory over our sin. We cannot add to His gift, but daily work, done in faith, can be a grateful response that honors our Master Architect."
May 26: Here's the concluding paragraph for the Memorial Day selection which began with an explanation of the holiday, then an opinion on war, then the Good News about how our works are judged:
    Those who die in Jesus do not appear before Him empty-handed. "Their deeds follow them." A soldier returning to headquarters is followed by a report stating what he has done. All believers report to God because their names are written in the Book of Life, and all that they have done by faith in the Son of God follows them. In that day, we will rejoice as all that God has done in us will be remembered to His glory and our blessing."
The June 25 selection includes background on the Augsburg Confession, in which Lutherans call the Roman church away from abuses in the church and concludes with:
    Without clear proclamation of Jesus as Savior, the Church would fail. No matter what things disturb the Church, Jesus must remain the center of preaching and teaching. This was the concern . . . of the reformers. . .and it remains the concern of the Church until Christ returns in glory. Jesus, the Center, will sustain us, forgive us, and grant us life until that final day."
Amen, Christian writers and publishers.

Why does it matter if you already know the Gospel and walk by faith? Why can't you start or end the day with something fluffy, pink or sweet? The number one reason to remind believers of the Good News is so they will keep their eyes on Jesus and not slip back into a works mentality, believing it all depends on them, or it is pay back time, or they need to run ahead to see what needs to be done.

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