Gospel within the Gospel

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In preparation for our upcoming sermon series at Christ Church Mansfield on Luke 15 I came across this magnificent quote, explaining how to read and understand the parables of Jesus, from Kenneth Bailey.

A parable is not a delivery system for an idea.  It is not like a shell casing that can be discarded once the idea (the shell) is fired.  Rather a parable is a house in which the reader or listener is invited to take up residence.  The reader is encouraged to look out on the world from the point of view of the story.  A “house” has a variety of windows and rooms. Thus the parable may have one primary idea with other secondary ideas encased within it.   It may have a cluster of theological themes held together by the story.  Naturally the interpreter should only look for the themes that were available to the first century audience listening to Jesus.  What themes are set forth in this marvelous “Gospel within the Gospel” as it has been called for centuries?” Kenneth Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal, p. 87

The Importance of Community for the Church

Why is community so important to the church? And why do we too often neglect it?

I was reminded earlier this week of one of my favorite parts of the Cormac McCarthy novel, The Road. It’s where the father is trying to impart some encouragement to his son, as they journey through the bleakness of the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the United States,

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F: You have to carry the fire.
S: I don’t know how to.
F: Yes, you do.
S: Is the fire real? The fire?
F: Yes it is.
S: Where is it? I don’t know where it is.
F: Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Many have speculated about the significance of “the fire” to which McCarthy refers. Is it a reference to Prometheus’ gift of knowledge to humanity in Greek mythology? Or perhaps a reference to God Himself, and the importance of faith and religion in making us human in an inhuman world? Is it simply the life that is still existent in the love of the son and his father contrasted with the death and chaos around them? These would certainly fit the narrative of The Road.

But what I find interesting is that this particular exchange shows us how community – or, fellowship – functions.

There is a goal, or mission, and a very real struggle. What sustains us through the struggle is having someone be in it with us. What helps us when we cannot see something is to have someone else see for us. What keeps us from quitting or falling into despair is the presence and performance of another.

In other words, life is too hard to go it alone; we need others. We need others to not only accomplish the work, task, mission we have been given to do, but also to make it through any given day.

And yet we so often miss out on the presence of others in our lives due to so many reasons. Busyness. Work. Play. An “always-on-and-available-except-to-the-people-that-matter-most-to-us” mentality. Living in a constant age of distraction and disruption.

What would happen if we chose to disrupt the disruption? What could happen if we gave time, energy, and attention to the relationships that need it most? What if we as a church collectively regained our sense of purpose in “carrying the fire” – the light of the world – out of our buried baskets and frazzled lives and out into the world that’s desperately dying from not having it?

Might we just see that fire spread to others? Could we perhaps get a glimpse of what it looks like when the world starts to be healed, redeemed, restored, and renewed and brought back into life and alignment with God? Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

Could we perhaps get a glimpse of what it looks like when the world starts to be healed, redeemed, restored, and renewed and brought back into life and alignment with God? Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

Would we not see the knowledge of the glory of God cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)?

“Our collective holiness is a witness to our Holy God. How we live, then, not only expresses our calling but also narrates a story to the world. It tells others something about who Jesus is and what he is doing in the world. If our life together is focused on fulfillment from “one another,” we will quickly devolve into a dysfunctional community marked by disillusionment, silent record-keeping, or unrealistic demands. We are called into community but not for community. We exist for Christ and in Christ. He is our all in all. If this is true, we will live together in a gracious, forbearing, truthful way. This way of living is a counter-cultural witness of Christ to the world. Our community becomes part of God’s greater mission for us. We are not only conceived in the church, but also called into God’s mission—to redeem social ill, make good culture, and share a whole gospel. We are sent together, called to carry the good news to people and into cultures.”

– Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson,

Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities

 

 

 

 

Jesus Brings a Deeper, More Comprehensive Fix (Mark 1:40-45)

christcleansingHere we have what seems to be a familiar enough story. As Jesus was going through all Galilee preaching in the synagogues and healing people, a man approaches Jesus with a particular need. Up to this point, we might expect Jesus to say a word and heal the man. After all, Jesus has places to go and people to see. He just told his disciples that He couldn’t stay put long enough to meet the requests of everyone who had needs (Mark 1:35-39). But Jesus surprises us (you would think we might get more comfortable with this, even this early in the Gospel of Mark).

Jesus touches the man and he is healed. Actually, he is “made clean.” What vexed this man was he suffered from leprosy. Today, we can distinguish between leprosy and other skin abnormalities, but in Jesus day, any skin related issue – deterioration, discoloration, deformity, etc. – would be labeled leprosy. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “This disease in an especial manner rendered its victims unclean; even contact with a leper defiled whoever touched him, so while the cure of other diseases is called healing, that of leprosy is called cleansing.” According to Leviticus 13-14, anyone who suffered from the affliction was to be isolated and in effect quarantined in order to contain the spread of the disease. Likewise, if anyone came in contact with someone suffering in this way, they themselves became “unclean” – a term not necessarily denoting that they became leprous, but at least susceptible to it and thus needing to “purify” themselves to become clean. This man was not in that situation.

Most likely, he would have been living with the other “outcasts” – those who because of their unclean status were forced to live outside of the city walls. It was common for these people to dwell in caves with others in similar situations. If they had loved ones or deeply committed friends, they might have a visit occasionally with the visitor bringing some kind of food, often lowering it down into the cavern. This man had no basis for hope of escaping his stations whatsoever; at least not until Jesus shows up.

Imagine the obstacles he had to overcome to come to Jesus. Wading through crowds of people that Jesus tended to attract, venturing into the city’s perimeter, even daring to cross the six-foot perimeter he needed to maintain in order to approach this popular teacher and healer.

This man implores Jesus to heal him and make him clean. And Jesus is “moved with pity.” The phrase is translated from a single word in the Greek, its splanxna, and it means “the inward parts,’ specially the nobler entrails – the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys,” and eventually would come to denote “seat of the affections.” Jesus sees this man and is moved in his inmost being.

Remember, Jesus can heal with a word; he has just done so in the verses preceding our passage here. But here it says that Jesus “touches him,” and he is cleansed. Why this peculiar detail? Is it just a demonstrable flourish for Jesus?

To a man who has spent perhaps his entire life being isolated away from others, not able to participate in the community life, always making sure he kept his distance (or rather, feeling the awkwardness and emotional devastation of watching others adamantly avoid him), this man didn’t just need physical healing from the leprosy – he needed a more comprehensive healing.

He needed one that covered his physical (cleansing from leprosy), his emotional (the touch from another person) as well as his social and even spiritual needs. Jesus goes on and doesn’t tell him to go on about his new life. Instead, Jesus directs him to present himself to the “priest” and make the acceptable offering for his cleansing to him (Mark 1:44; cf. Leviticus 14:2-32). Why bother with this at this point? Jesus had healed him. More to the point, Jesus is doing something so new and qualitatively different from the priests of his day – why bother sending the man there?

This was the accepted practice to be restored to the community at large. Jesus was telling him to go through the official, proper channels, not in order to become clean, but in order to be seen as clean. For Jesus, this is proof enough that the kingdom of God is at hand, and a new thing is being done in their midst. There’s no need for the man to go out and make a big show of what happened. Just go do what is necessary to be welcomed back into the life of the community. But the man can’t help himself. His deepest longings and wildest hopes have been met by this different kind of teacher, a different kind of healer than even he had dared possible.

How could he not tell everyone about it?

What We Have Suffered Will Wither Away

What can possibly help us cope with the sad, sorry state of affairs that we encounter in this life?

This past week has brought this question to the forefront of a lot of our collective hearts and minds. At Christ Church Mansfield this past Sunday, we found hope in God our strength and our refuge, the God of Jacob, from Psalm 46, and saw that it is the presence of God with us in the pain, rather than the mere absence of pain, that helps us get through life.

lightstock_190452_medium_user_3970569But we never get through unscathed nor unscarred.

So where does my hope for a better future that sustains me in the brutal present come from? How, once again, can we make it through?

One author helped me appreciate that all this pain and suffering and sorrow will not disappear, but simply “wither away.”

“What we have suffered weighs us down like a heavy load we long to have lifted; like an indefatigable enemy, it assails us relentlessly.  The wreckage of history – a trail of shattered beauty, defiled goodness, twisted truths, streams of tears, rivers of blood, mountains of corpses – must somehow be mended.  That the past must and will be redeemed is a conviction essential to the Christian notion of redemption.”

“Will we let go of them [memories] so as to be able to rejoice with complete and permanent joy in God and in one another?  No, that is not quite the right way to think about the not-coming-to-mind of memories of wrongs suffered.  We will not ‘forget’ so as to be able to rejoice; we will rejoice and therefore let those memories slip out of our minds!  The reason for our non-remembrance of wrongs will be the same as its cause: Our minds will be rapt in the goodness of God and in the goodness of God’s new world, and the memories of wrongs will whither away like plants without water.”

– Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (pgs. 42, and 214)

 

 

End of Year Ministry & Financial Update, plus “Thanks” from the Gensheers

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Friends,

This update is long overdue, but just in time before the year 2015 comes to a close. This is the 18 month mark for Maggie and me being in Mansfield, and we have a lot to be thankful for – to God, for what He has done and continues to do; but also for you all, who have partnered with us and supported us with your prayers and financial contributions to the church planting work.  It has been an amazing year and a half at Christ Church Mansfield; a year in which YOU played an important part.  Take a look at this short list.

TOP THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST 18 MONTHS

  1. Three people placed their faith and trust in Jesus during our time here.
  2. Launched a new community group and weekly Bible Study, reaching and engaging people not already a part of the church (but later have come to be part of our church community).
  3. The church has experienced significant growth, in attendance (up 82%), membership (8 new families/singles joined as members), giving (up 66%), and especially in visitors and regular attenders (almost weekly with new people and 24 “regular” visitors, at least monthly).
  4. Preached through the Gospel of Mark, Lord’s Prayer, Isaiah (for Advent), Spiritual Disciplines, and currently working through Romans, to help us grow in the faith.
  5. Church received some free, positive publicity by being written up in local Mansfield Magazine.
  6. Launching and supporting new ministries on the campus of University of Texas, Arlington.
  7. Moved out of the school and into the Aristide Event Center, a nationally recognized wedding and event location, with a great working relationship with the owners and have been blessed by the space for our children’s ministry and easier-to-find location.
  8. Through our partnership with the Southwest Church Planting Network, contributed to church planting works in downtown Houston, Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Albuquerque, NM.
  9. You were a part of all this because you made a financial contribution and commitment to pray!


That’s an amazing list, and those were just a few of the highlights.  You may never know how many marriages were saved.  You may never hear about how many children and teenagers were impacted.  You may never see how many people have been influenced by a different picture of God and the gospel, and hopefully many more coming to saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ! We can’t measure the influence of the gospel being lifted up all around our city, only capture a glimpse of it, and what we have seen so far, is nothing short of amazing.

As your friend, and one who has had the privilege of being sent out and supported by you in this work, I want to personally thank you for your sacrifice to make all of this happens.  You’ve heard me say it before, but real ministry takes real money, and I am honored that you would choose to partner with us in this way.  I consider you a vital part of our team, and you’ve got an important role in the mission.

As we look forward to 2016, I can’t wait to see what God does in our church and in our community.  In the coming months, I’m looking forward to sharing with you details about several things:

  • Our new partnership with The Common Ground Network, a group dedicated to meeting the social, physical, and financial needs of our Mansfield/South Arlington community, and ways we can continue to “serve the city” with the love of God.
  • Our long term partnership with the Southwest Church Planting Network and increased efforts of growing as a church that reflects the diversity of our community – becoming more multi-generational and multi-cultural through this and other strategic partnerships.
  • The expansion of our children’s ministry – we’re improving so we can serve even more children and families, which is a key demographic of our community and ministry we have experienced significant growth in over the last 12 months.
  • Growing and launching new initiatives involving discipleship of men, women, and children, as well as efforts to help strengthen marriages and families as a whole.

We believe these are things worth funding.  That’s why we’ve given our lives to spread the Gospel and that’s why I serve as the church planter of Christ Church Mansfield.  I believe in what we’re doing here, and want to invite you all to become a part of it with us if you have not yet partnered with us, or to continue to be a vital part, through your prayers and financial support, in 2016.

We left Santa Fe and came to Mansfield with a financial goal of raising $100,000 to support the work over a two year time frame. Through your generosity and partnership with us, we were able to raise our first year goal of $60,000. Now, we are asking that you continue to partner with us in 2016 and help us reach our second year goal of $40,000.

Will you consider giving again to this work if you have given a one time gift in the past? Or if you were unable to give in the past, would you consider giving now?  You can give online through this link on our support raising website:  http://www.frontiermissionproject.com/#!how-to-give/c1smk

I wonder what a “Top Sixteen Things That Happened in 2016” list would look like?  Let’s find out together!

In Him,

Chris Gensheer

P.S.  No matter how you choose to partner with us, through prayer, and/or financial support…THANK YOU! We couldn’t do this without you.

And here are some more pictures to enjoy – some of our family, and others from the church plant in Mansfield.

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Learning to Have What it Takes…from Mary

lightstock_8127_small_user_3970569In my studying this week for our upcoming Advent sermon series on the songs of Christmas from Luke 1-2, I have been thinking a lot about Mary, the virgin who would carry and bear “the One who created her,” (Augustine).

While there are some very good reasons why as a Protestant, I do not want to ever advocate for ascribing to Mary a more prominent or necessary role in the work of redemption (nothing less than the fact that she herself rejects such a position or posture of being a co-Redeemer with Christ or even a necessary mediator on our behalf to Christ; cf. Luke 1:46-55), I am utterly astounded at what she has to teach me about the nature of faith and growing in it as a follower of Christ.

She, a teenage girl, has a lot to teach me, a middle-aged man, about growing in the gospel.

Take for example the fact that when she goes to greet her cousin who is also with child, Elizabeth, she takes the praise directed at her and redirects it all back to God (Luke 1:39-55).

She is not concerned so much with herself as she is her God, her Savior, and her Lord.

Here’s a great quote from Jared C. Wilson in the new ESV Men’s Devotional Bible that sums up what I’ve been pondering and wrestling with this week in particular.

“Am I strong enough? Do I have what it takes? Will I be able to get ahead in the world and provide for my family? Will I be remembered? Does what I do matter in the long run?

Most men think about these things often, both explicitly in their worries and implicitly in their actions. And these are not, in themselves, wrong things to think about. But because sin is real and our flesh is always at war against the spirit, too often these areas of concern become ares of self-concern. We have in mind with these questions our own name and renown, our own glory.

In Luke 1:39-56 we find these very issues in play, and what can be humbling for the Christian man is to see that we learn their proper context and proportion from a teenage girl!

Mary has been blessed with the greatest blessing anyone could ever receive – to bear the Messiah, King Jesus, in her virgin womb. She knows that she will, from this moment on, be considered blessed by future generations. And yet, her song of praise is not to or about herself – it is about the glory of God.

Her soul is not full of itself; it is magnifying the Lord (v. 46).

When she examines herself, she sees only lowliness, poverty, weakness. But when she sees herself in the light of God’s grace, she sees his glory, his riches, his strength working through her song of praise: ‘His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation’ (v. 50).”

How Grace Works

There’s a reason why God has to save anyone by grace, and grace alone, and not anything we can do.

The apostle Paul uses two “heroes” from the OT to prove this point in Romans 4, Abraham and David. He shows through their lives that even they were made right – justified – through God’s act of grace, not their efforts and achievements. They lived by faith and stood on grace, because only God can “make beauty out of ugly things” (U2), or in Paul’s words, “God justifies the ungodly.”

The good news of the gospel is that grace and life comes to screw-ups and failures. In other words, God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished

Quotable/Tweetable Thoughts

“God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished.” – Chris Gensheer

“Not only am I completely incapable of making God love me more, I’m equally incapable of making him love me less.” – Scotty Smith

“An idol is pursuing something you want, but don’t possess; your boast is holding on to something you have, but don’t want to lose.” – Chris Gensheer

“To “credit” righteousness is to bestow a positive, not merely forgive a negative.” – Chris Gensheer

“I’m much more interested in grace because I’m really depending on it.” – Bono

“Grace makes beauty our of ugly things.” – Bono

Christ Church Mansfield exists to love God, connect people, serve the city, and reach the world with the transforming power of the Gospel in Mansfield, Arlington, Midlothian, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Fort Worth and Dallas TX, and beyond.

Member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Southwest Church Planting Network, and The Gospel Coalition.

Skeptics, curious, misfits, and mavericks welcome!

For more go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day Everybody!

And those blasted Presbyterians!

And those blasted Presbyterians!

May we humbly suggest that this 4th of July, you take a moment and thank 3 sets of people:

Veterans and Military Personnel – who fought, are fighting and will fight to preserve our nation’s freedom for all citizens and those in need around the world.

Politicians – who, regardless of their differing views and at times shenanigans, are doing what they can and working the best they know how to develop policies and laws for every citizens enjoyment and full use of that freedom.

Presbyterians – those “blasted” pesky controversial types who helped get this whole thing started in the first place.

HT Don Sweating for this short but sweet article).

http://donsweeting.com/2014/07/04/those-blasted-presbyterians-reflections-on-independence-day/

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn (or The End of the World as We Know It): Jesus and the End Times

Here is the video to my latest sermon at Christ Church Mansfield, To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn (or The End of the World as We Know It) from Mark 13.

This is part 30 of our series in the Gospel of Mark called, The Way of Paradox: Following the Right-Side Up King in an Upside-Down World.

“To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven.”- Pete Seeger and Ecclesiastes 3

When Pete Seeger penned those words to the classic folk turned rock song (popularized by The Byrds), he was putting music and emotion to the wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes that said “No matter what you are experiencing, it won’t always be like this. Things will change. They will “turn” eventually.”

When it comes to biblical prophecy, and more specifically, apocalyptic literature (like Mark 13), those same words hold true but with a different meaning. Biblical prophecy gives us a picture of the future as told from God’s perspective – what Tim Keller calls “poetic history told ahead of time” – for the expressed purpose of giving those who see what He sees and hear what He hears a chance to respond appropriately in the present.

In Mark 13, Jesus will address one of the most controversial topics that have been debated and even divisive within all of Christianity throughout the centuries – eschatology; or the view of the “end times.” And what we find in Jesus’ “Little Apocalypse” here is that perhaps we have focused too much of our discussions on minor points, and completely missed the major point.

While there is little consensus on the minors – such as timing, sequence, correlation to world and geo-political events – there is overwhelming consensus on the majors; namely Jesus Christ will return at the end time to judge as well as redeem, renew and restore all things, inevitably but unexpectedly.

Tweetable Thoughts:

“Christ’s return is inevitable, even though it will be unexpected – no one will know before it happens.” @gensheer @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“The real abomination is man in murderous revolt against his Maker & Redeemer.” @gensheer @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“When Jesus comes it is the end of the world as we know it.” @gensheer @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

About Christ Church Mansfield

Christ Church Mansfield is a worshiping community on mission to make to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth, TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to www.cpcmansfield.org

Gospel Centered Giving: Grace Made Visible

Here is the video to my latest sermon at Christ Church Mansfield, Gospel Centered Giving: Grace Made Visible from Mark 12:38-44.

This is part 29 of our series The Way of Paradox: Following the Right-Side Up King in an Upside-Down World, a Study in the Gospel of Mark.

In this sermon, we explore the extraordinary giving of woman of humble means but full faith, contrasted with the meager giving of the wealthy, established and religious elite, and exposes a fundamental principle we often overlook when it comes to giving of our resources…

Giving is first a heart issue, before it’s ever a money issue.

The widow in Mark 12 shows us what gospel centered giving, grace made visible, actually looks like.

Only those who first give all that they are can give all that they have. And we can fully give all that we are and have because we have received from God all the best that He could give us in Jesus His Son.

Tweetable Thoughts:

“Giving is a reflection of the health of your heart, not the wealth of your wallet.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“Only those who give all that they are can give all that they have.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

“Our money & where it goes betray what our hearts find most valuable.” @ccmansfieldtx #wayofparadox

References in the Sermon

Ann Voskamp’s article on Waging Love in Iraq with Preemptive Love Coalition Link:

Ann Voskamp on Twitter (@AnnVoskamp)

Relevant Magazine article “What Would Happen if the Church Tithed.” 

Christ Church Mansfield is a gospel centered worshiping community on mission to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to http://www.cpcmansfield.org/