On March 20 and 21 of this year, I was privileged to be a part, once again, of another Good News Tour. I truly love the people who organize this event each year. They are some of the most remarkable people I have met so far in my travels. One such person I was privileged to meet this time was Dr. Gregory Boyd, pastor of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and professor at Bethel University.
Greg presented three talks during the weekend: his own journey out of atheism into faith, the reasons behind his belief in the historical validity of the Gospels, and the clearest and most moving presentation I have ever witnessed on what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.
There was one phrase that, seven days later, I still have echoing over and over in my head:
“Above all . . . LOVE!” (1 Peter 4:8)
That means above everything. Above all else.
Paul put it this way:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Especially in the area of religion, we are too often overly concerned about being right, rather than being Godly. God is Love (1 John 4:8). This is the truest “mark” by which to know that we really are following the truth: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus himself also said to the Pharisees of His day, “If God were your Father, you would love . . .” (John 8:42). John the beloved wrote, “Let us love one another . . . everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
I’d like to share the opening passage from the Message Bible as well:
“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:7-11, The Message)
How, then, is this love to be found in us? Only by love is love awakened. We only love “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Is it the mandate to “above all” love something that you find your own heart gravitating toward? Then I lift up to you the greatest revelation of love ever manifested before human eyes—the cross of Christ. When His sacrifice is truly understood in the hearts of those who claim to be His followers, then His love, in our treatment of all with whom we come into contact, will be manifested among His followers as well.
The end of all things is at hand! May we not only grasp the love that’s in God’s heart toward us, but may we also, ABOVE ALL . . . Love!
Also, I thought I would include for you what Greg himself wrote; being a Baptist Pastor, his experience was preaching the Gospel alongside Seventh-day Adventist brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray you’ll find it as inspiring as I did.
The Good News Tour
March 24th, 2009
This last weekend I was in Vancouver, Canada participating in The Good News Tour. This is a traveling conference that celebrates, proclaims and defends the beautiful character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Some of you might recall the controversial poster I talked a lot about last year which depicts Jesus washing the feet of world leaders, including Osama Bin Ladin. The poster was created by Lars Justinen, and The Good News Tour is the ministry that sponsored it. (You can view and purchase the poster here. Incidentally, I feature the poster in chapter 7 of my new book, The Myth of a Christian Religion, which will be available in a couple of weeks).
Anyway, I had an absolute blast at this conference. The folks who sponsor The Good News Tour really get – I mean really get – the unfathomable beauty of God’s love. It’s the central passion of their life and it permeates the very fabric of their being. I’ve rarely heard the magnificence of God’s perfect love presented so profoundly. It’s always refreshing to be around folks like this.
I had fun presenting three messages focusing on Jesus as the definitive revelation of God and how replicating Christ’s self-sacrificial love is the distinguishing mark of a Jesus-follower. But I was especially blessed by the passionate and insightful messages delivered by others.
Brad Cole gave an outstanding talk entitled “Scary God or Scary People?” which attempted to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God revealed in Jesus. It was one of the most insightful explorations of this topic I’ve ever heard. Herb Montgomery, founder of Renewed Heart Ministries, gave several passionate talks on the character of God and how to reconcile God’s love with the problem of evil. This young man has a remarkable ability to communicate very complex concepts in a clear and compelling way. For example, he presented the complex variable theodicy I spend several hundred pages developing in Satan and the Problem of Evil in a five-minute illustration, and it landed! I was blown away. And Marco Belmonte, founder of Heavenly Sanctuary, which sponsors The Good News Tour, gave a passionate (and sometimes hilarious) testimony about how the revelation of God’s love transformed this former drug addict into a passionate disciple of Jesus. The entire conference was shrouded in God’s love and I was honored to be a part of it.
One last word: I have to confess that I have always tended to associate Seventh- day Adventists with legalism. Well, I hereby publicly repent of this assumption. Each of the presenters in this conference, along with the church that sponsored it (and the wonderful pastor of this church, Manuel Silva) are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and believe me, these folks are as free of legalism as anyone could possibly be! In fact, one of the objectives of The Good News Tour is to bring the Good News of God’s transforming love to Seventh-day Adventists and everyone else who may be entrapped in legalism.
This just goes to show how dumb our labels and stereotypes are.
I’d like to thank Brad Cole and The Good News Tour for inviting me to be part of the Vancouver conference and for blessing my sox off this weekend.