Your life is messy, hard, and uncertain right nowand if it isn’t, it has been or it will be. Messiness is the human condition. Part of the messiness is the unpredictability of life, not the unrelenting evil of life. And Jesus shows up inside all of that, because He experienced every aspect of what it’s like to be human: joy, physical pain, family arguments, frustration, existential trauma, and more. If Jesus is a real person, we should expect to meet Him in all of life. And only through the Good News and love of Jesus can we learn how to thrive in the midst of our mess.Daniel Fusco, a pastor and jazz musician, riffs on the major themes of the book of Ephesians to help each of us find God in the midst of our mess.
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Getting Real About Jesus and Our Messy Lives
By Daniel Fusco, D. R. Jacobsen
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2016 Daniel Fusco
All rights reserved.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE MESS
I, Paul, am under God's plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers.
EPHESIAN S 1:1
So here we are, in the middle of the mess.
Maybe you've lost your job. Or hate your job. Maybe your best friend abandoned you, or you've never had a best friend. Maybe you're pulling out your hair because your teenager is doing stupid stuff and you can't get him to realize it's stupid. Maybe your closest relationships are strained. Or worse, boring. Maybe you feel betrayed by your body or your parents or your church. Whatever the specifics, we all have stuff in our lives that seems to make zero sense. Things that hurt us or confuse us or make us doubt we'll ever be able to catch our breath.
That messiness goes along with being human. All of us were born as broken people into broken families living in a broken world. Life happens amid that rubble.
What a fun place to start a book, in the middle of the mess! But since I promised to be honest, we've got to start with what's wrong. We have to acknowledge that everything is not okay. That it's actually less than okay, a lot of the time.
Trouble is, like we talked about earlier, the Christian message sometimes gets hijacked. Ever been told that that if you're really tuned-in to God, your life won't be messy? That everything will work out? Like the messiness is all pre-Jesus, and after you get saved life will always come up roses. But the honest truth is, that stuff isn't true.
Just remember, no matter how deep into the mess we get in this first part of the book, the message doesn't stop there. Good news is coming. Messiness, by itself, is not good news! But messiness that Jesus can work in and through? Absolutely good news!
You may not believe me. And you don't have to. But I bet at least part of you believes that, or wants to believe it, which is why you're reading this book. Because you're looking for someone to shoot straight with you about how messy and unpredictable life is. And I know firsthand. I'm a starter for team Life Is Messy.
If you're hurting today, or confused, or just plain tired, you've come to the right place. Remember that I'm right there with you. We're going to walk into this together. And not so we can have a pity party or rant about how unfair life is. We're after something bigger and far better. We're chasing something that's a mix of joy and wholeness and grace and peace. We're after something that's part contentment and part purpose.
And we're going to do it together, starting with acknowledgement. Life is messy, period.
After all, if life wasn't messy — if we could find peace on our own, without Jesus — the book of Ephesians wouldn't exist. (Or the whole rest of the Bible!) Paul never uses the words life is messy in his letter to the Ephesians, but he talks an awful lot about how God speaks healing into the messy parts of our lives. Why not take the next twenty or so minutes, grab your Bible, and read through the entire letter. You'll see it clear as day.
So as we crack open the good news in Ephesians, we're going to discover that we aren't the first people, or even the billion-and-first people, to struggle with the messiness of life. Which means we have a lot to learn from Paul about how to live in the midst of it all.
Again, you're not alone. I'm right here with you in the messiness, and so is every other person who's ever lived. Including Jesus, too, as we're about to discover.
RIFFING ON THE MESS
What mess are you in?
PERCEPTIONS AND PRESENCE
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross.
I was watching this TV drama the other night, and I had to laugh. The premise wasn't quite as unbelievable as one of those Lifetime heartstring-tuggers, but it was close.
Excerpted from Honestly by Daniel Fusco, D. R. Jacobsen. Copyright © 2016 Daniel Fusco. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsShout Outs, ix,
Start Here, xi,
PART I: Acknowledgement,
1.1 Acknowledge the Mess, 3,
1.2 Perceptions and Presence, 5,
1.3 The Difficulty of Jesus, 9,
1.4 Rockin' a Limp, 17,
1.5 Becoming Unbroken, 21,
1.6 Can I Get a Remedy?, 23,
1.7 Reflections on a Messy God, 27,
1.8 Bad News First, 30,
1.9 Cultural Cancer, 34,
1.10 Choose Hope, 41,
PART II: Resolution,
2.1 Resurrection, 49,
2.2 Jesus, Center Stage, 51,
2.3 Saved, 56,
2.4 Living God-Style, 60,
2.5 Schooling Angels, 65,
2.6 Far More Than You Could Ever Imagine, 69,
PART III: Pursuance,
3.1 You Have to Go Through It, 77,
3.2 Walk This Way, 80,
3.3 Getting Intimate, 85,
3.4 Embrace the Crutch, 89,
3.5 Training for the Race, 92,
3.6 Bowels? Yes, but It's Complicated, 97,
3.7 Walk by Faith, 102,
3.8 Imitate God, 104,
PART IV: Psalm,
4.1 The Beginning of the End, 117,
4.2 A Mess of Love and Life, 119,
4.3 The Real Shape of Love, 129,
4.4 Love, Negatively, 132,
4.5 Time to Reflect, 136,
4.6 Filled to the Brim, 143,
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Down to earth reading that's easy to understand and really touches home.
In the Midst of Your Mess Teaching or leading in a Christian context is always a bit of a risk. There’s the perception that you just might have all the answers; that your life is all nice and pulled together; that you and God have some kind of agreement about how life is going to unfold — when the truth is that most of us (teachers, leaders, and writers included) have more issues than National Geographic. Daniel Fusco, church planter, pastor, and musician, begins Honestly with the . . . well, honest admission that there are certain things in life that just don’t make sense. Life is messy. Messiness, however, is not a post-modern phenomenon. People in biblical times had their fair share of it, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides a backdrop for Daniel Fusco’s examination of the root truth that Christianity is not intended to resolve all the questions; nor does it sanction sweeping unanswered questions under the rug. As a bass player and lover of jazz, musical themes carry buckets of Daniel’s narrative flow, and the metaphor is powerful. Just as music goes into minor keys and just as improvisation can sound really chaotic and unstructured to the untrained ear, so goes life. However, “when we listen closely to life, we can start to hear the melodies in the midst of the mess. . . Nothing we do is free of the mess, but sometimes in our mess we catch the tune of the Master.” In a startling and refreshing take on the pure Gospel, Daniel concludes that “Jesus will always be our beauty in the middle of the mess.” A quick perusal of the gospel accounts will confirm that His earthly existence was a study in messiness, but in His dealings with people he demonstrated the fact that “issues precede miracles.” And we all have issues. Daniel Fusco opens a window and lets in all kinds of fresh air with his voice and approach. Normally, I would object to so many occurrences of the word “like,” but somehow, Daniel’s conversational style earned him a pass for all the “so, yeah’s” and the explanatory words that precede dialogue: “Paul is like . . .” Daniel assists his readers in seeing that the Bible is NOT an answer book, but a collection of “thoughts and stories that lead toward hope.” And if you give your life to Jesus, guess what will happen? “Nothing — and everything!” “Your circumstances may not change, but you change. You change because you come into relationship with the God of your mess.” With theological precision, we are freed from the algebraic approach to Christianity where A+B behaviors equal “a good Christian,” when the truth is that “it’s not about what you’ve done or left undone — it’s about what Jesus has done for you.” Or to put it another way, “God does not love you because you’re good; God loves you because God is loving.” Following Jesus through the mess is the theme of Honestly, and His calling transcends our circumstances, providing the rhythm to which we walk through the mess. Prayer is the basis for this life of intimacy with God. Ephesians 3 finds Paul on his knees on behalf of his little Ephesian flock, asking God to grant them a sliver of comprehension of the vast dimensions of His love for them. This is key for all believers in managing the unanswerable questions about the Christian life such as “Why doesn’t God give me what I ask for when I ask for something that is clearly good?” When God does something that we don’t understand, we need to rely on what we do understand about God.