Teaching or leading in a Christian context is always a bit of a risk.
There’s the perception that you just might have all the answers; that your life is all nice and pulled together; that you and God have some kind of agreement about how life is going to unfold — when the truth is that most of us (teachers, leaders, and writers included) have more issues than National Geographic. Daniel Fusco, church planter, pastor, and musician, begins Honestly with the . . . well, honest admission that there are certain things in life that just don’t make sense. Life is messy.
Messiness, however, is not a post-modern phenomenon. People in biblical times had their fair share of it, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides a backdrop for Daniel Fusco’s examination of the root truth that Christianity is not intended to resolve all the questions; nor does it sanction sweeping unanswered questions under the rug.
As a bass player and lover of jazz, musical themes carry buckets of Daniel’s narrative flow, and the metaphor is powerful. Just as music goes into minor keys and just as improvisation can sound really chaotic and unstructured to the untrained ear, so goes life. However, “when we listen closely to life, we can start to hear the melodies in the midst of the mess. . . Nothing we do is free of the mess, but sometimes in our mess we catch the tune of the Master.”
In a startling and refreshing take on the pure Gospel, Daniel concludes that “Jesus will always be our beauty in the middle of the mess.” A quick perusal of the gospel accounts will confirm that His earthly existence was a study in messiness, but in His dealings with people he demonstrated the fact that “issues precede miracles.” And we all have issues.
Daniel Fusco opens a window and lets in all kinds of fresh air with his voice and approach. Normally, I would object to so many occurrences of the word “like,” but somehow, Daniel’s conversational style earned him a pass for all the “so, yeah’s” and the explanatory words that precede dialogue: “Paul is like . . .” Daniel assists his readers in seeing that the Bible is NOT an answer book, but a collection of “thoughts and stories that lead toward hope.” And if you give your life to Jesus, guess what will happen?
“Nothing — and everything!”
“Your circumstances may not change, but you change. You change because you come into relationship with the God of your mess.”
With theological precision, we are freed from the algebraic approach to Christianity where A+B behaviors equal “a good Christian,” when the truth is that “it’s not about what you’ve done or left undone — it’s about what Jesus has done for you.” Or to put it another way, “God does not love you because you’re good; God loves you because God is loving.”
Following Jesus through the mess is the theme of Honestly, and His calling transcends our circumstances, providing the rhythm to which we walk through the mess. Prayer is the basis for this life of intimacy with God. Ephesians 3 finds Paul on his knees on behalf of his little Ephesian flock, asking God to grant them a sliver of comprehension of the vast dimensions of His love for them. This is key for all believers in managing the unanswerable questions about the Christian life such as “Why doesn’t God give me what I ask for when I ask for something that is clearly good?” When God does something that we don’t understand, we need to rely on what we do understand about God.
Ephesians 5:2 lays down the bass line. Let’s move our feet and our hearts together in the dance of faith:
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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