Book Review: Simply Christian

I grew up in a home where music was part of the everyday routine of life. To his credit, my father never attended college after high school, but raised us with such a love and passion for the arts that two of his children pursued careers in music and obtained bachelor and graduate level degrees in music. Given the amount of time that was devoted to music and music related performances, often times we were less than enthusiastic about attending said performances. Even further, when the last note was played and the other concert attendees stood to their feet and applauded suggesting that the audience would like to hear an encore, I remember times when my siblings and I would refuse to join in simply because we were tired and wanted to go home. The thought of having to “endure” another piece seemed like too much for our impatient little bums to handle. We had other things to do! Other things that seemed much more fun than this!
Sadly, when it comes to a personal relationship with God, there are many who perceive the relationship to have a similar feel. It is almost as if there is a cosmic performance of some sort that humans as created beings have to show up for. One that we have to cheer and celebrate God at because if we don’t, or if we appear to be bored with the whole process, God can choose to make things worse for you. In Simply Christian, N.T. Wright picks up on this analogy and says: “If it has crossed your mind that worshiping the true God is like that, let me offer you a very different model. I have been in the audience for some great performances that moved me and fed me and satisfied me richly. But only two or three times my life I've been an audience which, the moment the conductor's baton came down for the last time, leaped to its feet in electrified excitement, unable to contain it's enthusiastic delight and wonder at what it had just experienced. That sort of response is pretty close to genuine worship of the living God.”
I find this illustration incredibly powerful. Perhaps, it is because of my own background, and the number of hours in which I have found myself seated in those funny spring-loaded chairs. Yet, I think there's more to it than that. I believe the author has captured the essence of what it means to connect with the God of the universe. To reflect back the glory He so perfectly deserves. Still, this is not where the book begins. Instead, N.T. Wright takes his readers through a journey of the grand story of Christian doctrine concerning God, Israel, and the coming of Jesus Christ to earth to rescue the world. The author’s purpose seems to be to write a primary source for explaining Christianity to skeptics and unbelievers. In the introduction Wright tells us "My aim has been to describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain to those inside.” He artfully weaves in and out of familiar Scriptural texts for those familiar with them, but does so in a way that brings the skeptic along for the ride. For example this is how Wright describes the exile. “Israel came back from Babylon; but, as some writers of the time put it, they were still slaves in their own land! Empire followed Empire: Persia, Egypt, Greece, Syria, finally Rome. Was this what it would look like when God rescued His people and put the world to rights?”

What would it look like? What would it look like when all that had been promised was brought to fruition? The author drives his readers to come to the conclusion that Christianity is not about a new moral teaching. “Christianity is about something that happened. Something that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Something that happened through Jesus of Nazareth.” Wright goes on to make a case for Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts. He talks about the church and its purpose, the idea of continuity between the family of Abraham and the worldwide family of the church. For me, his writing drives me to a similar response as to that he described after hearing an incredible musical performance. It pushes me to jump to my feet and applaud! Not for the author of this book however, but instead to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. That, and that alone is ultimately what I believe gives this book tremendous value. That is what it truly means to be “Simply Christian."

Finding Hope In The Muddy Waters

We had the privilege of serving this week with a newly formed Disaster Relief Team from Southern Baptist Churches all over NY State.

It was incredibly encouraging to be able to serve the flood victims in the city of Central, Louisiana outside of Baton Rouge along with great teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois, as well as many other regions of the country as well. It was fun to be welcomed in to the Disaster Relief family as the northern-most response team at this location, and we wore our yellow NY hats as a badge of honor everywhere we could.

But nothing meant more to us than when Patrick and his two teenage kids, members of our NY team and single father of 4 from Kingston, NY received a troubling call from home about a family emergency with one of his kids. Teams from all over the country came to his aid, and put resources together to make sure that he and/or his family could fly home that night. What beautiful demonstration of the body of Christ. 

Patrick got on a plane, and our team took responsibility of traveling his teenagers the 1000 miles back to their family. I was so proud to see our team, specifically Cliff Miller and Bill Hynd care for this hurting family. Again, to see the Body of Christ in action!

Tragically, after working all week with us mudding out in LA, and after arriving at home via airplane to visit the hospital for the family emergency, our new friend Patrick suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack. Within a few hours we got the troubling news late Saturday night that our team member had passed away, leaving his 4 children without a parent/guardian. In fact, due to a flat tire our team was a few hours behind and still in the process of transporting two of them back home.

Honestly, my heart is wrenched in two. This was a family we worked with all week doing "God's work." How could this happen? Here is what I'm coming to grips with. We were responding to a flood, where all slices of the population were effected, Jesus lovers and God haters alike. Yet, our creator allowed the flood to effect them all. While we worked, we experienced tremendous stories of hope. In fact, the location we were in has seen almost 200 people saved since the waters rose.

Even though I'll admit my vision is a bit like looking through muddy water,  I choose to believe God is in control. God knows what he is doing.

Would you be in prayer for our friends in Kingston, NY? The Byrne family is processing more than they ever imagined. Their pastor and their church is doing all they can to support a family that sent 3 members away on a mission trip, and didn't have everyone come back. Today they need our support. Today they need to feel connected to the greater Body of Christ. Today they need to find hope in the muddy waters.

Please pray with me.

Pastor Milo

Send Our Mud-Out Team To Baton Rouge With #FloodBucketsOfLove

Monday September 5th, I will be leaving with Bill Hynd, Mike Flannery, and a few others from WNY to go to Baton Rouge for a number of days and aid those who are in great need on the ground in Louisiana. Many of you showed interest in going with us, but as the timing came together you were unable to join us this time. Thats OK! But we could still use your help.

This Sunday Sep 4th, we will be receiving flood buckets at Randall and Renewal Church so that we can load them into trailers first thing Monday morning when we hit the road. Would you be willing to support our team in this way? The list below will allow you get everything you need in one stop at Home Depot. As you load items into the bucket, please be in prayer for the homeowner on the receiving end in Baton Rouge. Also be in prayer this week for our safety as we work long hours in tough conditions. Pray that the love of Jesus would be demonstrated in a very practical way. Thank you so much!

Pastor Milo

SBDR / Home Depot Flood Bucket 
  • 5 Gallon Homer Bucket 0000-131-227 $2.97
  • QEP All purpose sponge (3pk) 0000-634-115 $3.44
  • 1- Ct Heavy duty Disposable Green gloves 0000-695-836 $1.18
  • Workforce Small soft grip scrub brush 0000-687-400 $1.99
  • Sharpie Permanent marker (black - 2 pk) 0000-451-153 $1.68
  • Retractable utility knife 0000-377-784 $1.98
  • HDX All Purpose wide mouth sprayer 1000-050-563 $1.72
  • 3M Eyeglass protector 0000-211-680 $1.15
  • E/O Conbrobium mold control spray, 32 oz 0000-106-067 $6.46
  • Dawn NC BA Fresh Rapids detergent, 25 oz 0000-771-632 $1.97
  • Firm Grip 2 pk Leather palm gloves 1001-098-898 $3.98
  • Mr. Clean Summer Citrus, 40oz 0000-127-489 $2.98
  • 5 Gallon Homer leakproof lid 0000-529-776 $1.38
  • HDX 33 gal drawstring embossed, 50 ct 0000-960-098 $9.47
  • HDX N95 respirator valved, 3 pk 1000-055-593 $3.50
  • HDX APC with Bleach, 32 oz 0000-129-028 $1.98
  • HDX Terry Towels, 4 pk 0000-390-427 $2.17
Total Cost: $50.00

P.S. Here is a well done video from a previous Mud-Out in WV to help you with the packing. Our list is a little different, but you get the idea.

Click Video Link Here: