Archives For Hope Springs

AllThingsNew

I remember being taken back by his request. As we sat down to spend some time together, a colleague and friend said, “Steve, tell me your story.” “What story?”, I responded. “Your story”, he replied, “Let’s start with where you were born and brought up and then just go on from there.” “How much time do you have?”, I asked. “Why don’t we start with an hour”, he responded.

I don’t think I’ve ever told “my story” like this before. Frankly, it’s very rare to find someone who sincerely wants to hear someone else’s story in great detail. I guess that’s because we’re all so naturally self-centered. As I told “my story” I realized it was made up of a succession of smaller stories. Some of the stories were happy. Some were very sad. My friend was even moved to tears during one of my stories.

At another time, later, I reciprocated and heard his story. The result was that we came to know each other at a much deeper level than before. That’s because you can’t really know someone without first knowing their story. The same is true about God. The only way to really know God is to know his story. And the bible is a record of that story.

Even though the bible contains hundreds of stories it has only one overarching story. And even though the bible contains sixty-six books it has only one overarching message. If you’re not careful you can know a lot of the stories of the bible and miss the story. And if you’re not careful you can also know a lot of the messages of the bible and miss the message.

What’s interesting is that the central message of the bible, the gospel, comes to us primarily by means of stories found in the bible. So the gospel is best understood as a story or a drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. This one story unfolds throughout the bible like a four-act dramatic play.

Cosmic Gospel Diagram

ACT 1 CREATION: The first act, creation, sets the stage for us and introduces us to the main characters and context.
ACT 2 FALL: In the second act, the fall, evil enters the story resulting in a cosmic conflict with horrible consequences.
ACT 3 REDEMPTION: In the third act, redemption, we see God’s great acts of redeeming that which was lost in the fall primarily as he works through the people of Israel and culminating in the redemptive life and work of Jesus Christ.
ACT 4 RESTORATION: In the fourth act, restoration, we see God’s final restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil—including humanity and all of creation.

So where do we fit in this story? Today we are living in the third act—redemption. We are living in that unique time between the resurrection of Jesus and the restoration of all things. During this time the kingdom of God has come but it is still coming. So we are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This means we are now called to make our own contribution to this supreme restoration project—which is God’s restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil. This project of “making all things new” will be completed by Jesus at his return. He will finish what he started. In the meantime, we are called to join with the worldwide body of Christ in this mission of God (Plantinga).

While no single definition of the gospel can do it justice, the gospel is nothing less than the good news that God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to restore his fallen creation and to rescue people from all the consequences of sin—including not only salvation from personal guilt but also from heart corruption and even cosmic corruption.

The good news is that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has now invaded this fallen world, and it is bringing with it not only the promise of forgiveness of sins (a new status) but also the promise of a transformed life (a new nature) and eventually a transformed creation (a new world).

Never forget that you are not an accident. Life is a story. It has a beginning and an end. In between there is an unfolding plot in which God means for you to play a significant role in the restoration of all things. You can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

To read about the first act in the greatest story ever told click here.

A Look Ahead:

In this Introduction to the All Things New series, The Greatest Story Ever Told, we’ve seen how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until  you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

In Act 1 of the All Things New series, The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be, we will learn that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you can never fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.

In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we will learn that because of sin, mankind’s: 1) perfect standing with God was lost (resulting in condemnation, guilt, and separation), 2) mankind’s perfect life with God was lost (resulting in death, captivity, and corruption), and 3) mankind’s perfect world with God was lost (resulting in alienation from God, self, others, and creation).

In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are (The Already), we will learn how God, through the nation of Israel, and the person and work of Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit, graciously provides a redeemed standing, a redeemed life, and a redeemed world.

In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Will Be (The Not Yet), we will catch a life-changing glimpse of the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to mankind of a new standing, a new life, and a new world–as he Makes All Things New.

Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers

For Mature Audiences Only (Double Entendre Intended)

by Steve Childers

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During the last few years my wife, Becky, and I have become members of a new demographic group that’s quickly dying off called “Thirtysomethings”—couples who have been married for more than 30 years (32 so far).

The first time I heard about the movie Hope Springs (PG-13, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell) was from my doctor at my annual check-up. He walked into the examining room, looked up at me and said, “Well, have you and Becky seen the sex movie yet?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He then told me every couple should see it, especially those who’ve been married a long time—like us.

I disregarded my physician’s advice for the last several months—conveniently long enough for the video to be available for streaming in my own living room so no one would catch me walking out of the theatre. Last Saturday night I mustered up the courage to watch it with Becky. I’ll be honest. Even though Rotten Tomatoes gave it good ratings, I was still cynical (one of my issues)—especially after I read the Rolling Stone review that referred to it as the “AARP version” of young love.

Here’s the story line: After 3 decades of marriage, empty-nester Kay Soames (Streep) realizes she and her husband, Arnold (Jones), have settled for being amiable roommates. Kay deeply longs for something they once had, but haven’t had in a very long time–emotional and physical intimacy. So she cleverly manipulates Arnold to attend a week of intense marriage counseling at Dr. Feld’s (Carell) Center for Intensive Couples Therapy.

And intense it is. Easy it is not. After experiencing a few blundering, fleeting glimpses of what used to be, they return home and fall back into the same platonic patterns. Having naively and tenaciously held to the hope of something more for years, Kay finally gives up. But Arnold finally wakes up from his slumber of relational passivity, heroically embraces his fears underneath it, and discovers a renewed longing for something more.

As Arnold begins to risk moving toward Kay in new ways, Kay finds herself awakened to new ways she wants to move toward him. They decide to begin their new journey toward greater intimacy by renewing their marriage vows on the beach with Dr. Field officiating and a few close family members and friends observing. With unfeigned transparency and humor, they stand on the beach and read to each other the new vows they have written (yes, Becky and I played it back several times so we could write these down):

Kay: After 32 years of marriage, I can honestly say that I love you more than I ever did.

Arnold: The day I met you changed my life and made my life. I can’t imagine living my life without you. It wouldn’t be any kind of life at all.

Kay: When I think about spending the rest of my life with you I only regret that it won’t be long enough. So I now want to make this next chapter of our lives something that we’ll both cherish. I vow to watch more golf with you without complaining.

Arnold: I vow to watch less golf and to buy you good presents that aren’t for the house—like jewelry.

Kay: I vow not to cut my hair any shorter than it is because I know you like it longer.

Arnold: I vow not to complain so much if I can help it (but sometimes there really is something that needs to be complained about). I vow to go to one of those sleep studies like you’ve been asking me to go to. I vow to take you somewhere once a year that’s more than 200 miles away from home that isn’t to see a family member.

Kay: Now on this wonderful day I give you the rest of my life, and I thank God every day that you’re in it.

Arnold: I vow to tell you how I feel. Not just when you ask me. And I’ll tell you how I feel about this. I love it and I love you.

Kay: I love you.

We all know that syrupy happy endings are provisional (my cynicism starting to rise up here). But to my surprise I found this movie to be anything but Pollyannaish. Director David Frankel’s intent was clearly not the typical Hollywood disingenuous use of erotic imagery. This movie is not one you’d probably feel comfortable watching with your mother or your kids. And it may even be too offensive for some adults. So consider yourself warned.

In the end, Hope Springs is a counter-cultural case for not giving up on your relationship—even after it dies. It’s a radical call to repentance from unloving, long-term relational patterns of passivity and indifference. And it’s also a call to a new resurrection hope for a deeper intimacy that’s worth fighting for.

At a critical turning point in the movie, Dr. Feld privately asks Arnold whether he’s done everything possible to save his marriage. If not, Dr. Feld says, he’ll live with regret later. “The moment is here,” Dr. Feld tells Arnold. “You have to ask yourself, have I done all that I could? Is this the best you can do?” And, of course, it wasn’t.