Tag Archives: Books

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus+Nothing=EverythingA good friend of ours read a book a while ago and thought that I might enjoy it, too. She was right.

What I most enjoyed about this book was it’s emphatic emphasis (is that a thing?) on the singular fullness of Jesus. (Which, I’m sure you already gleaned from the title.)

The concept is, nothing we can add to who Jesus is, and what he has already done, will in anyway add to or enhance our lives, our existence. And, in a slight bending of the commutative property of addition, he asserts that removing Jesus from everything, leaves us with nothing. (That was for my kids, who do not hold much love for math…)

Here’s a quote from early in the book:

God seemed bigger to me than ever, when I’d never been so small.

When you actually feel like you have nothing, Jesus becomes more to you than you ever could have hoped or imagined.

Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

The gospel became for me more than a theological passion more than a cognitive catch-phrase it became my functional lifeline.

Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that:

Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose.
Because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

At a very difficult time in his life, the emphasis of the author’s real, tangible life became completely focused on who Jesus is, what Jesus does for him… and the reality of its completion and accessibility to him. And to us.

The gospel erases us, in [a] sense, which is why we avoid it. But that erasing of self is the key to our freedom.

The gospel doesn’t take you deeper into yourself; the gospel takes you away from yourself. That’s why Paul reminds the Colossians (and us), “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:3) The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we’re not the point.

Jesus is the point.

We who call ourselves Christians certainly already realize this. But it is not often realized in our lives. The days we live. The hopes we have, challenges we face, thoughts we think. We do not live in the fullness and reality of the gospel: that God so loved [all of us] that he took on skin and defeated sin and death, that we might know eternal life. In Him. And then the “Christian life” flows from knowing, accepting, and living that.

At one point the author proclaims a “hatred” for ‘accountability groups’ because of their incorrect focus. Christianity tends to focus on behavior, and inward attempts to change. But the change only comes from Jesus’ work in us. Once on the cross, and ongoing as we walk with him.

He says this about how we can encourage one another as we live our lives in step with the Spirit:

So, instead of trying to fix on another, why don’t we “stir one another up to love and good deeds” by daily reminding one another, in humble love, of the riches we already possess in Christ? ….

Our greatest need is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves, because the gospel is not our work for Jesus, but Jesus’s work for us.

The truth that this book presents is that we have everything we need in Jesus. Period. The end. Nothing more is needed. Anything else just gets in the way, and takes our focus off of the Life source: Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2 comes to mind.)

Today, if you are weary, or burdened, or feel as though you are missing something… please look to Jesus. He is already there, with you, waiting for you to cease your struggle and simply follow him. Trust him.

If those are just words, please ask Him to show you how to experience them. There is no life without him. Everything minus Jesus is nothing.

But, as Tchividjian says (I just wanted to get his name in here! It’s pretty crazy!):

Jesus, plus nothing, equals everything.

And in that, we are free.

What Makes A Good Story?

Who doesn’t love a good story? We are drawn into some tales, so much that we feel we can’t turn away. We can’t put the book down. We are mesmerized.

What is it that grips us so? Is it a likable character, or characters, who draw us into their own stories—almost as if they were our own—or does a compelling story grab our attention, whether or not we find depth and humanness in the characters who play it out?

Lots of Books

I really don’t know. I feel could be swayed either way.

My kids love a good story. We will often read “chapter books” together just before bedtime. We’ve read some great stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Gentle Ben, and we just finished off The Jungle Book (the real stories by Rudyard Kipling, not the Disney-fied versions) and The Black Stallion. Next up is C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia!

But they pretty quickly recognize a story that is missing “something”. (We would not recommend Irma and Jerry, by George Selden, though we loved The Cricket In Times Square!) The most interesting part was that we began Kipling’s Jungle Books after giving up on Irma & Jerry midway through, and within mere paragraphs all four listeners were hooked (as was the Reader!) by the tale Kipling spun.

On the other side of the coin, the oldest two boys and I tried—and tried, and tried—to read Dickens’ Great Expectations together, until after months of trying, we finally put it down and have never returned. While the story has some interesting, likable characters, we would say the plot was not only not compelling, it was perhaps entirely nonexistent?

What is it that is either present or lacking in a story that compels or repels the reader?

I am a reader. I am also a writer.

I am currently enjoying the process of writing out a story that has been very well-received. The plot is not very original, I don’t think, though there are plenty of cliff-hangers and interesting adventures. The strength of this story does seem to be its cast of likable characters. The reader (and even the writer!) want to know what happens to these characters. We are rooting for the “good guys” and against the “bad guys”.

The story that I am writing was originally told over a series of nights at bedtime. It was perhaps a couple weeks. Maybe slightly more. The kids love the stories that I tell, and they especially love the ones that I make up with them as the main characters!

We need to identify with the story. That’s important.

Does that mean the characters are the most important part of a “good” story? Or can a strong, interesting story overcome less interesting individuals who are playing it out?

I’d really love to hear from you, Dear Reader. What do you prefer? What prevents you from putting down your book? When real life demands you pull yourself away, do the characters, or their story remain in your thoughts. Do you find that you miss them, or wonder what will happen to them?

Or is it both?

These are the questions that I currently ponder as I enjoy the characters and stories of books read and written.

Now, I must return to my book… 🙂

The Church Book: Revisited

htc-smallI came across a copy of my “Church book”, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church!, just today, and on a whim I picked it up and flipped through it. For some reason, the epilogue, titled “Concluding Remarks”, caught my eye this time.

If you think the book is anti-church, these words should dispel that notion. The words are the written expression of many weeks, months, and years of deep, soul-searching, truth-seeking efforts for the church, the Bride of Christ.

Happening across these words again today was interesting, coupled with a conversation we had this past week with an old friend. The subject of “the church” was central to a portion of our discussion. We both spent much time crafting emotional, spirit-filled, Jesus-centered programs. Everything was meant to point the hearer/seer to Jesus. And it was wonderful. We commented that we definitely miss those moments. And still, we also recall the not-just-physical exhaustion of energy possibly slightly misdirected: building up an organization and event, rather than one another.

If you haven’t purchased (or downloaded for free) and read a copy of this book yet, I wonder if what I wrote at the end of the book might encourage you to do so? I had forgotten about this part, but I think eight years later, this is all still true. (Even while some of the other things I’ve read might have been slightly modified by the passage of time.)

Here, today, is the short epilogue, in its entirety.

As I finished putting this book together, I couldn’t help but think that I had missed something. I tried to go back over each chapter in my head, wondering if I had said all that I hoped to communicate through a few thousand feeble words. I want so much to convey the astounding freedom that we have in the quite undeserved love of our Father. I want to communicate that we as the church could be so much more! I don’t want to attack, or belittle the things that so many brothers and sisters cherish (as did I in the not too distant past). I only want to offer what I believe we Christians already know and teach, but perhaps are just not living out.

A phrase from Scripture comes to mind quite often when I ponder the current forms of the Church. “A form of godliness, but denying its power.” To me it seems that could define the church, and the lives of many believers today. We have created a facade that would pretend to offer us life with Jesus, when in fact it is only a set of ethics to which we must adhere. It’s only a meeting to attend. A job to be done.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more. It’s here, now. Jesus has made it possible for us to know him and the Father by his Holy Spirit right inside us. He is always with us. Through good, and bad. This is the nature of the church. In reality, it’s not something we have created to propagate truths passed down through generations. We have turned it into that. But the church is the living, breathing, body and bride of Christ. It’s much more real than we have allowed it to be.

I don’t know if the words on these pages have stirred you or not. If they have, it was not the words that stirred. It was your Father. He loves you, just like he loves me. He has communicated that to me through many means, and I am hopeful that you heard his voice through this book. It is not my intention to tear down anything with this book, only to liberate and help open our eyes to the greatness of what we have, and perhaps what we’re missing.

Live today in the freedom of God’s love and grace. Know he loves you, and longs to be with you. His love is perfect, and compels us to love as we’ve been loved. May you know the greatness of living life as the church with others similarly loved.

Grace and Peace to you, The Church.
Greg Campbell

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There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Clearance Sale Event – “Church Book” for $4.99!

UPDATE: This sale has ended, but if you’d like to purchase the book, you can find it at Amazon.com

Yesterday’s post, along with the several conversations about the church which I referenced having been party to in the recent past, have me thinking about the book I published on this subject. It you’ll allow me a very quick “commercial” post, I’d like to tell you just a little bit about it, including the currently drastically lowered price. (Who doesn’t like discounts!?)

Many years ago now, our musical travels took us to many different “versions” of churches. There were Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Worldwide Church of God, Pentecostal churches (of many varieties), Baptist churches, Catholic churches… pretty much every kind out there!

Along this journey, God was stirring something in our hearts.

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookOf course the differences were easy enough to notice. What struck me was the importance of the similarities.

Where one Baptist loved Jesus with all she was, another Presbyterian’s soul reverberated those same sentiments at the deepest core of his being. Whether demonstratively emotive in worship, or suit-and-tie reverent, there were people in each of these places—not all of the people anywhere, but there were some people in all of the places—whose lives were changed and forever united with the Jesus.

There’s only one. And it’s his church.

It began to become abundantly clear to me (many thoughts I’d had for years leading up to this being confirmed) that the church is much greater than a name on a sign, or an hour one weekend, or the person whom the crowds come to hear preach or sing.

There’s nothing wrong with belonging to a community with another name (any name other than simply, “the church”) but First Baptist Church of Your Town, USA is not “the church”. She is much bigger than that. Much more amazing than a building, its staff, or its programs, or anything under its lesser banner.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts… please dig through the archvies here. So much. (Much more since I published the book, actually.)

But I’d like to invite you to purchase this book.

The one at the top of the post. If what I’m saying here resonates with you, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading through what was essentially a journal of my own journey through the process of understanding a greater, larger, and simpler reality of who the church is.

We recently found several boxes of the book that I didn’t realize we still have here in our home, so I want to get them out to people—to you!

For $4.99 plus shipping (varies by quantity) you can purchase this book to enjoy yourself, pass along to someone else who has a hunger for the simpler church, and at the same time, help buy some food for the Campbell family! It’s a win-win, for sure!

Thanks for taking time to read this, and please share this with whomever you think might be interested.

Another great resource is The God Journey podcast, hosted by Wayne Jacobsen, or also his main website, Lifestream Ministries. Wayne articulates so well his thoughts about a life with Father without the burdens of religious obligations.

Hope you can help us clear out this inventory, and enjoy the greatness of Jesus’ Church at the same time.

Thanks!

One last thing… here’s the back cover of the book. Who doesn’t love more information?! Click for the full-size version.

HTC-full_cover

[ThisDay] Caught In A Snowstorm!

It is a beautiful, snowy day as I write this. Large, puffy snowflakes drift quietly to the ground, piling higher and higher—much to the Campbell children’s delight! Apparently this time of year is a snowy time of year! Two separate posts on January 23rds over the past decade have been about notable amounts of snow. Below is the story some unexpected fun while attempting a walk to the library on one of these snowy occasions. (If you’d prefer a topic on “going to church”, see the links at the bottom!) Enjoy!

snowy

Caught In A Snowstorm!

January 23rd, 2008

Last night I took our four kids up to the library to return some books, and to pick up a few new ones. The library is only half-way around the block, so we bundled up for a nice winter walk. It was even lightly snowing, so it was more fun than usual!

We even sang a song on the way there:

“Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow
Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow!”

It was perfect, and the kids did pretty well in the library. We got the books we wanted, and some stamps from the nice librarian. We bundled back up and headed out the door.

What we discovered was astonishing.

Swirling, blowing, blinding SNOW! Where did this come from?!? I just laughed! It was like a joke! What happened to our light flurries??? Well, we had no other way home, so I made sure faces were as covered as they could be and we set out into the storm.

And this was a storm! The wind was a constant 10-15 mph I’d guess, with stronger gusts. And the snow was collecting on the ground – and on us! – at an alarming rate. The worst part was, a third of our trip was heading west, directly into the wind! At one point during that stretch I turned around and pulled Julia in the stroller backwards (which helped a lot I think) and saw poor little Kirstie just closing her eyes and leaning into the wind as she pressed ahead into the blizzard!

It was crazy!!

Once we were able to turn south, and find a bit of shelter behind a giant brick church building, it got a little better. We laughed all the way home through the still rapidly falling snow.

Red cheeks, faces, and other exposed skin greeted Mom when we got home. Mom actually met us in the driveway, as she had seen the fierce winter storm and was coming to get us. But we managed to brave the elements and make it back home safely.

I told the kids as we were fighting the storm that we’d have hot cocoa and hot baths when we got home! And we’d also read a couple of the library books we just worked so hard to get.

And we did. 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 23rd

  1. This post was also very interesting, and discussion-worthy, if you’ve the time. It refers to a podcast posted in late 2012, or early 2013, regarding the trend toward not attending weekend worship gatherings by many who would definitely align themselves with Jesus. So, if that’s more your cup of tea…

Rhythms

The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a ToastThere is a definite cyclical rhythm to life. At least, there is in mine.

I am a creator. I enjoy creating things. I work with words, images, colors and designs, even code and systems. I also create with food, and a few other physical mediums. And I love to create with imagination. (Bedtimes with my kids are usually quite entertaining!)

And I love to create here. Words flesh out thoughts, which often interact with each other creating further thoughts, which beget further words about thoughts. It’s a rewarding and interesting cycle all to itself.

Then there is the longer part of the cycle. This part occurs at a slower pace, gradually, over longer cycles; months, even years.

As a creative sort, I often find that one season will be full of creating, whilst another will seem devoid of new work—but that is because I am on the other side of that cycle: intake.

I’ve written about it here before. (Numerous times besides that post, I’m sure.)

And today’s post will highlight the same.

I actually finished up yesterday a bunch of books I’ve been reading over the past weeks and months. With a serious increase in daily output here since June of this current calendar year, I’ve been in output mode, churning out words more than taking in.

But the intake has not ceased. (See here.) And in fact, I am detecting that it’s now on the increase.

I’ve been feeling what could almost be described as a need for more reading time, again. My library account has been active. I’ve purchased a book or two. (Gotta love library book sales! Am I right??) And there are plenty of free options (public domain, etc.) via electronic book distributors.

Have a look at this list of books on my “currently reading” list (available here)

currently reading

Yes. I am currently, whenever I sit down to read, cracking open each of those books at whatever point I am into them. Really!

(Yes. You are also correct that… I’m a bit whacko.)

We’ve also been enjoying reading chunks of the Bible together as a family. We’re slowly working through Acts together, and last week we took an evening to read through the book of Philippians in one sitting. (Highly recommend you giving that a try, too. Such an encouraging text!)

It’s good to enjoy each cycle. To intake when that is needed, and churn out when in the output cycle.

Output may slow here a bit in this cycle, but the rhythm will flow back to output soon enough.

Last thing for today: the word rhythms was used so beautifully in Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 11:28-30. Enjoy, and remember to keep in rhythm with your (our) father.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Thankful [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

You’ll probably notice, reading through these Memory Lane posts, that my kids are a very important part of my life. I love being a Dad, despite the challenges, hard moments, hard weeks. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s pretty amazing how much I learn from the kids (seems like it would be vice versa, no?)

This story was of another hard day that became so beautiful, just by being grateful.

Thankful

July 12th, 2011

There are days that it’s incredibly hard to see the good side. Where you’re so completely overwhelmed by the crushing weight of sadness, or failure, or just plain pain that you can’t see a way out of and seems it will never end.

For whatever reason, we’ve had more than our share of those around here lately.

But last night as I was putting the four youngest kids in bed, for some reason I decided to start (quite randomly) naming things that I was thankful for. “Thank you for Mom… and for (insert sibling name here)…” was how I began. Then I began just literally saying any word that came to mind. Some things I saw around their room, or then any related item or word. It quickly exploded into a fun game of who can think of the most random thing to be thankful for!

And the neat thing was, it worked.

The kids were not that excited to go to bed last night, but that little exercise lightened their hearts, and perhaps enlightened mine.

I found it was easy to rattle off all sorts of “good” things that we can be thankful for. Stars, trees, the sun, the moon, Grandmas & Grandpas, other friends we love, books, paper, paint, carpet, air conditioning, and so on. So I began intentionally thinking of “bad” things. (Or at least, weird things to be thankful for.)

“Thank you for toilets. For bottoms. For toilet paper.” Emma (our three-year old) picked right up on that, “Thank you for pee pee… AND poo poo!” And then I actually made myself say, “Thank you for HOT days.” (Reasoning in my mind that, though I loathe and detest the heat, I do love a good, juicy tomato … and they rather enjoy hot days.)

This seemed to work for all of the kiddos from the youngest (just about 2) who would grunt his approval with a little, “mmm hmm” after every word or phrase I’d say, to the room full of his three sisters all spitting out random words as fast as they were able to fit them in. It really was incredible!

One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampIt made me think of a book that Jen asked me to read, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Jen reads her blog, and so decided to purchase her book, and was challenged (in a good way) to try to change her perspective on life, as Ann has tried to do. It’s kind of a “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” idea, but a bit different. Her challenge was just to write down 1,000 things that you are thankful for. A few each day.

I think we may have hit about 400 last night alone! 🙂

There are so many things that we can be thankful for. It really just depends on your perspective. If you can come at life looking for goodness, you’ll often (usually) find it. If you’re expecting bad, you’ll usually end up there.

So maybe try it tonight. Putting kids to bed… after they are in bed… on your way home from work… just let you brain bounce from one thing to the next and speak it out, “Thank you for _____.” Not just things that God directly gave us, necessarily, but think about the things that are part of our everyday lives, and how they help us. We really do take much of life “for granted”, as they say. Doing so lifted my spirits last night, and four other tiny spirits.

Perhaps it can lift yours, tonight, too.