Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's God Up To On Planet Earth?

Tomorrow night is the launch of my new book, What's God Up To On Planet Earth. A No-Strings Attached Explanation of the Christian Message. It is publised by Affirm/Castle. It is the culmination of years of work which began when I became a dedicated follower of Jesus at 24.

My first engagement with Christ was at 13 when I heard the Christian message and was convinced of its truth claims. I didn't carry through on this in a family that was pretty opposed to the faith. I remember crying out to God that it was too hard and that when I left home I would follow Jesus. When I left home in my early 20's I found myself working through many struggles and eventually realised God was calling me to honour what I had said. Eventually I relented and turned to Jesus and became a disciple. It was fantastic, I was liberated and my life took on meaning. My excitement at being a Christian and the wonder of Jesus grows everyday!

From early on I started sharing the gospel with anyone and everyone I could find. I wanted everyone to know about Jesus. I told the story of my conversion and set about learning the story of Jesus. I memorised verses, I read, I studied, I thought. I learnt a lot from debating. Over time I began to develop a method of arranging the gospel. I have preached this pattern a number of times and have found it very effective. It is not a new one, built on models I had been taught.

The book is the culmination of this. It arranges the Christians story around the 5 R's of the Gospel: Relationship, Rupture, Restoration, Return and Response. Each articulates an essential element of the Christian message. Each chapter answers a question within the framework of the big one, what is God up to. The first is 'why am I here?' Answer: relationship. The idea here is that God wants to hang out with us forever and that this is what moves him to create i.e. his relentless and overwhelming love. The second is 'what is the problem with the world?' The answer, evil and from a human perspective, sin i.e. the world is infected with a virus that must be resolved. As we do wrong we violate God and our humanity. We and our world needs healing. The third is 'what is the solution?' The answer, restoration. This is found in Jesus, through whom God has moved to resolve the problem of evil which corrupts his creation. The fourth is, 'how will it end?' It picks up the important notion of the return of Christ, the climax of history and the beginning of a new story. We cannot tell the story of Jesus and faith without getting and exciting vision of the culmination of the world when love and justice will prevail. The final question is 'what do I have to do?' The answer is 'believe in Jesus as saviour and Lord.' I unpack what that means; essentially, it means bowing the knee to King Jesus, sayng yes to his extraordinary offer of eternal life with God. There is a follow up chapter on 'where to from here' which tells the reader what they can do next.

It is designed to be a no-strings attached explanation of the Christian message. It is designed for those who have heard the story in some way or another, and don't quite get it, or need to understand it better. The idea is that they can read it, without someone pressuring them, and make a call on whether they want this Jesus. My hope is that Christians will read it and pray about who it is appropriate for, and give it to them. It is useful as an aid to Alpha and other evangelistic programs.

Several features of the book I think make it interesting. First, it is written with my story splashed through it at points to bring it alive. Secondly, it is written in a non-dogmatic way explaining to the reader various ways Christian resolve issues. For example, it briefly touches on different views of creation, and of hell. It prepares these new Christians for the variety of ideas they will encounter. I hope it appeals to the post-modern in this sense. Thirdly, it is written hopefully with a sense of humility and without the sort of pressure that can turn a non-believer off. The gospel itself is offensive without me adding to its offense! Fourthly, there are no bible verse references in the text or footnotes. Rather, there are endnotes with the appropriate texts for the reader to check out themselves when they have read the book. Finally, it presents a compelling vision of what God is up to. It hopefully will excite readers with their role in what I call Cosmission, God's mission to restore every inch of his glorious world and to see everyone live forever with him.

It is not an apologetic book full of answers to the tough questions like, 'is there a God?' 'Why do good people suffer?' Etc. That is one of my next books, or send them to one of the many other books that deal with these things.

So, I hope it is well received and I hope many come to faith through it. Indeed, that is what excites me most about it, that someone somewhere might become a Christian through it. I also dream of putting together a children's version, youth version, a video series and more around it. If there is anyone who wants to help sponsor those ideas, let me know!

There are a number of places you can buy them. You can email me at mkeown@laidlaw.ac.nz to arrange payments. It is also available through Castle Publishing