The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).

Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.

In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption  is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection? Continue reading

About that time Peter demanded his religious freedom

jesus-and-disciplesIn what has been one of the most bizarre, sleaziest election season, it goes without saying that the choice for Bible adhering, gospel-centered Christians has been quite challenging. Typically motivated by issues of life and religious freedom, it makes perfect sense to me that there is a natural compatibility of Christians towards conservatism and are either fully entrenched in the GOP or as independents, like myself, lean right and want to uphold these values. We who naturally gravitate towards the GOP naturally want to ensure that one who supports our values will occupy the highest seat of the nation. Not that the executive branch acts alone (why we have a checks and balance system), but there is a certain orientation towards issues that we typically expect.

These concerns are quite legitimate. We care about the rights of the unborn. And we care about the liberties granted us under the founding principles of this nation, that are to ensure freedom of worship. And so the typical response at elections is who will align with these values.

But there’s just one problem. The candidate of choice in 2016 has created an ethical dilemma.

Nonetheless, someone has to occupy the Oval Office. And so many evangelicals have convinced themselves that the issues of religious freedom, right to life and same-sex marriage are far too important to concede to the likes of Hillary Clinton. After all, she would only continue the legacy of Obama with it’s same-sex agenda, government coercion whose ideology goes directly against the grain of the principles upon which America was founded.

And so as conservative evangelicals clamor to justify a vote for Trump, despite the fact that his character maligns every ounce of morality that Christianity represents, the argument goes – but our religious freedom, the Supreme Court, traditional values. We need to live as Christians, after all. And living as Christians in this great nation means we should not have to bow to the heathen regime of Alinky-esque rulers who strive to squash our position.

It’s like this is the most important thing. Continue reading

The greatest lesson I’ve learned for successful Christianity

man standing on rockI’m not really a task oriented person and shun the standard listicles of how you can have a better life. Our world today gravitates towards simplified pragmatism for improvement and living a Christian life is no exception.

However, I might just break that disposition . . . maybe. There is one principle I’ve learned in all my years of Christian living. It’s the one thing that successes and failures and trials and disappointments and uncertainty and bad church experiences have brought me to time and time again. What is this one principle, you ask?

Get over yourself.

Yep, that’s it. Everything rests on that. Yes, but what accepting Jesus? Well, it starts with that. First, I had to get over myself to even be a Christian. It’s when you realize there is no way that any goodness on your part makes you acceptable to the Father, that your best efforts fall way short and it is only through faith in Christ. It means wholeheartedly accepting his life, death and resurrection and what that means.

Then, I had to try to understand who this God is. Though I spent some years following all kinds of distorted roads, over time, I came to realize that he spoke to us through his written word that testifies to the Incarnate word through whom we come to God in the first place. I came across hard passages, stories that made me cringe, divine actions that made me question, and I ask questions. Lots of questions.

However, in all my years of Bible reading, I’ve recognized the importance of getting over myself. Because you see, I could read hard things, troubling things and then set myself up as judge and jury over God’s actions to determine what I would find acceptable or not. I could shape my own version of Christianity based on my level of comfort and acceptability. But that would make me full of myself. Continue reading

Some honest thoughts on #BlackLivesMatter, the church and real reconciliation

black lives matter2I actually started drafting this post some time ago, like a few months ago. When I first started the draft, it was a really tough post for me to write because it involves some issues that are near and dear to me. And tough because it involves people with whom I am united in the bonds of Christ and with whom I find myself increasingly coming into stark disagreement. It’s tough because I know these thoughts, which have been stewing for some time, might cast me and Christians who think like me, in a negative light.

At the heart of the matter is the Black Lives Matter movement and Christians’ endorsement of it. Now a lot of ink has been spilled so I don’t necessarily want to rehash whether Christians should support it or not. I’ve drawn my own conclusions as will be evident in this post. Nor do I want get into the #BlackLivesMatter vs #AllLivesMatter paradigm because I think there is something bigger at stake. I also don’t think framing the issues that way have been particularly helpful.

I actually thought I would leave the issue alone and hence my draft sat, picked at from time to time but never published. However, when I saw this post on Christianity Today, Where John Piper and Other Evangelicals Stand on Black Lives Matter just days after seeing this post from John Piper, What Can We Learn from Black Lives Matter, the way the questions were framed and the ambiguity around supporting Black Lives Matter confirmed a growing concern that I have had, which is this;

#BlackLivesMatter has become the litmus test to racial reconciliation within evangelicalism. Continue reading

On #LivingRocks, throwing stones and racial reconciliation

stones in handsWell, I’ll get to the point. The other day, Dr. Russell Moore penned this piece in the New York Times, A White Church No More. In it, he argues that the swelling support of Trump by evangelicals belies a white institutional vanguard that in actuality, is far from reality. Rather, evangelicalism is a multicultural array of every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 7 anyone?)

The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals. The vital core of American evangelicalism today can be found in churches that are multiethnic and increasingly dominated by immigrant communities.

Given the intent of the post, from what I read, was to point out that the white evangelical suburban paradigm that was at the heart of Christianity no longer had a stranglehold on the kind of evangelicalism that finds its support in Trump. If I’ve read his article right, he is denouncing the idea that white evangelicalism speaks for what evangelicalism truly is.

Apparently, some Christians weren’t happy with what he wrote, not so much because he challenged the status quo thinking of the majority culture (though I suspect he probably got negative responses on that end). Rather, it’s because what he wrote wasn’t good enough and did not adequately address the real issues of power structures. It represented a continuation of the problem. Continue reading