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  • TRIUMPHANT AND RESURRECTED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    The death of Christ was a monumental event.  As an Evangelical Protestant, I have often placed great emphasis upon this moment, almost to the detriment of another event.  Easter came three days later, the moment that death was conquered.  It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we can say along with St. Paul in I Corinthians,

    O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?

    Something that we don’t often dwell upon is the monumental event that occurred at the resurrection.  It truly was an event that shook the foundations of the world, the powers of this world were conquered and the Kingdom of God began to be implemented.  Now that that has occurred, we live in the tension of the now (kingdom of man) and the not yet (full realization of the Kingdom of God), in a state of waiting.  While we live in a state of constant tension, it is important to realize two things.  First, that we are empowered through the resurrection.  We are given strength to live life today, if only we yield to the Spirit.

    The second thing I realized was that our allegiance belongs elsewhere.  If Jesus is Lord, as Christians of every denomination historically affirm, then Caesar is not.  A recent editorial that I read in the Orange County Register captures this theme surprisingly well.  The editor writes,

    But if Jesus really rose from the dead after being duly executed, then he stands as a challenge not only to the Roman empire and the religious authorities of that day, but to every empire from the beginning of time down to the present day, to every mere human being who claims the right to rule over another human being, thus usurping the authority of God.

    The resurrection brings power and an authority that is rooted only in the actions of Jesus.  J. R. Daniel Kirk discusses this at length in his recent Christianity Today article.  Our lives ought to be different because of the empty tomb.  It is given power through the work of Jesus in an individual.  Of course this power is not meant to be lorded over other people as many rulers have  done and will do throughout the ages (Mark 10:42-43).  Instead it comes through service and cruciformity in the image of Christ. It is in the complete message of the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus, that we can live as a transformed ambassador for the Kingdom.  For if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar and ourselves are not.

  • PROMISES, PROMISES

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    There have been many promises that have been given to people through the pulpits and private conversations.  At the moment of conversion, there needs to be a brilliant light that shines forth and a quartet of angels singing audible praises, or at least something similar to that.  There are promises of Jesus filling the “cross-shaped” void within hearts and promises that happiness will consume the individual.  Pledges of perpetual temporal happiness and pledges of never having a bad day or missed credit card payment.  All this sounds too good to be true!  The problem with all of this is that it is either not entirely true or it misses out on what has been ensured for us.

    The promise that we do have, the sure hope that we can cling to, is not related to temporal pleasures (although there is nothing wrong with enjoying life).  We are given the promise of provision and assistance through the Spirit. We are given the promise of heaven, but let’s not just stop there!  We are assured in the hope of resurrection and the hope of, as N.T. Wright* would say, a “life after life after death.”  For those that are in Christ, they can walk with assurance that no power, whether earthly or spiritual, can ever destroy us.  What a blessed assurance!  Martin Luther would write about this hope saying,

    If the knowledge of sin or the fear of death should break in upon it, it is ready to hope in the Lord.  It does not grow afraid when it hears tidings of evil.  It is not disturbed when it sees its enemies.  This is so because it believes that the righteousness of Christ is its own and that its sin is not its own, but Christ’s, and that all sin is swallowed up by the righteousness of Christ.  This, as has been said above, is a necessary consequence on account of faith in Christ.  So the heart learns to scoff at death and sin and to say with the apostle, “O Death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” {I Cor. 15:55-57}.  Death is swallowed up not only in the victory of Christ but also by our victory, because through faith his victory has become ours and in that faith we also are conquerors.

    It’s not about living your best life now.  Perfection and complete happiness does not come right now.  Donald Miller is right, “the complete climax of life doesn’t happen at conversion, it happens when we are reunited with God.”  And in that hope we can cling.

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    *See NT Wright on ABC’s Nightline explaining this here.

  • THOUGHTS ON AVATAR

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture, Theology

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    As mentioned in many blogs, articles and Facebook status updates, ‘Avatar’ was a film that lived up to the hype on the technological side.  The visuals were stunning and the technology truly put you on the ground of the extraterrestrial planet called Pandora.  While there were certainly blatant and subtle political themes that were interwoven into the plot line, there was also one concept that I thought was very beautiful.  Racism, anti-military, anti-colonialism, and hyper-environmentalism have all been listed as possible themes for the film, but I would like to take a second look at the majestic planet in light of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection.
    To start off with, our planet is not too shabby.  While some moviegoers were depressed with the inability to live on the planet of Pandora, I do not find myself depressed, instead I am encouraged.  Encouraged because this planet is incredibly beautiful and is full of majesty in the most unlikely of places.  Encouraged because this planet is not operating at its peak level, since it is under the bondage of sin that humanity brought into this world.  Encouraged that the cosmos will be corrected when evil has been supplanted.  Paul writes in Romans 8 to give assurance,

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (8:20-22)

    It was the entrance of sin that subjected the universe into disarray.  It is through redemption that everything from a slug to an asteroid will be rectified.  The universe is not the only thing that has a promise.  Paul takes this idea another step further and writes,

    And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (8:23-25)

    I do not believe that Cameron attempted to portray this insight into the film, but it truly was a remarkable thing to think about.  To think that our planet will be righted.  And that is encouraging.