Eschatology – or the study of “Last Things,” has often been mis-applied. What the Bible tells us about the end of all things is not to make us speculate or to make us panic and evacuate. Rather it is about living NOW in light of the in-breaking of Christ and His Kingdom! It’s about being prayerful, pure, watchful, and on-mission. Preaching on 1 Peter 4:7-11 made me appreciate again, the challenge of living the rest of my life with POSITIVE URGENCY. (Here is the sermon)
This is a section from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christianthat further unpacks the practical implications of the Bible’s end-times teaching:
God’s future has arrived in the present, has arrived in the person of Jesus. In arriving, it has confronted and defeated the forces of evil and opened the way for God’s new world, for heaven and earth to be joined forever…Not only heaven and earth, but also future and present, overlap and interlock. And the way that interlocking becomes real, not just imaginary, is through the powerful work of God’s Spirit. This is the launchpad for the specifically Christian way of life. That way of life isn’t a matter simply of getting in touch with our inner depths. It is certainly not about keeping the commands of a distant deity. Rather, it is the new way of being human, the Jesus-shaped way of being human, the cross-and-resurrection way of life, the Spirit-led pathway. It is the way which anticipates, in the present, the full, rich, glad human existence which will one day be ours when God makes all things new. Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what’s going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn’t a matter of doing things to earn God’s favor. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world! Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good. It is about growing up and grasping something even better. Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.
And a closing prayer:
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: Give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In our study of 1 Peter, we’re doing a mini-series called YOLO – or – What will you do with the rest of your life? We began with the often misunderstood passage in 3:1-7. It can sound archaic and out of touch to modern ears, but when understood in context – it is revolutionary, then and now! I invite you to compare the Christ Church sermon, The Cross Shaped Family, with this blog post from Rachel Held Evans. I have recently started following her very thorough and studied blog and came across this post on our text in 1 Peter and related passages. It tracks perfectly with my own study and will give you more food for thought.
God’s Kingdom is worth everything we have! That is the message of Jesus’ Treasure and Pearl Parables. It is also the message of a marvelous movie seen by so few. It is the story of a community of Cistercian monks in Algeria in the early 1990’s, who have close relationships with their Muslim neighbors but who must decide whether to stay or leave when they are threatened by Islamic militants.
Whatever they decide, one thing is clear: The monks are committed to making the decision as a group. Several conversations between the men ensue, revealing a model process for how tough decisions can be reached in community and how issues of individuality, sacrifice, and hierarchy can peacefully be negotiated with wisdom and charity. It’s an environment of openness, where all perspectives are welcomed, including fear and doubt. One younger monk in particular (Olivier Rabourdin) struggles with apprehension about staying and lets his frustrations show. Eventually the monks do arrive at a conclusion: They’ll stay.
In one of the film’s most remarkable sequences, the monks sit silently at the U-shaped communal dinner table, pondering the decision they’ve made together. One of the monks puts on an old tape of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which, as it builds and climaxes, leads the men to a state of sublime contentedness. Letting the music wash over them, sensing the Last Supper solemnity of the occasion, they seem united by the conviction that—even in the face of death—beauty prevails. Cinematographer Carline Champetier captures the moment by tenderly observing the monks’ faces in gradually closer framing, so that by the climax of the music we get glimpses of each man’s face in extreme closeup, revealing joy, tears, resolve, and oneness in Christ.
There are two types of security I’ve been struck with this week. Both are found in God alone. One relates to trust and contentment in a material sense. The other is about what it means to be a human being, finding our intrinsic worth in Christ – our identity as image bearers of the Divine.
A second resource is an excerpt from a paper written by one of my URI Biblical Thought students, Deanna Gee (used by her permission). Deanna wrote on the implications of being created Imago Dei – in God’s image. Her thoughts on finding her identity and security in how God sees her are very personal and powerful. We need to shout it from the rooftops! Here are her words:
I am one of many young adults who have struggled on the voyage of answering this seemingly impenetrable question: “Who am I and by what do I measure my worth?” Consequently, the media generates an ambush for this very inquiry. Flash. Thin. Flash. Money. Ipod. Glamorous. Right before the youthful eyes of our American teenagers, magazines, billboards, and commercials provide an artificial definition for how one should measure one’s worth. I feel the pull from this enticing mirage. But finally, Continue reading Finding True Security→
“Little children – keep yourselves from idols.” So the apostle John ends his first letter to the early church. (1 John 5:21) I don’t think he was warning against Caesar dolls! Interior idols and the cult of ‘Things’ is the ever-present danger. Whenever we look to something other than God for our meaning or security – we become idolaters.
Imagine a community of people unattached to their stuff? Living creatively, responsibly, generously in the world so that everyone can see the living God?
Jesus would call it ‘Church!’
I’d like to re-post something from a few years ago on the dangers of modern idolatry.
Consumerism has been called “The Cult of the Next Thing.” The essay by Mark Buchanon and is available here. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus calls us to check our hearts and our eyes as it relates to possessions and Kingdom priorities . If Money is one of the idols – or gods of this world, then Jesus wants us (in the words of Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew) to become the real atheists to the secular gods of consumerism, successism, pride in possessions, self-serving, overspending, and indifference to needs…”
The antidote to terminal consumerism is generosity: both the tithe principle of regular, planned giving and offerings of what we have that come from a heart of compassion in the face of urgent needs.
Randy Alcorn has a voluminous website with a section on Money that is well worth checking out. As with any author, we may not agree with every emphasis, but Alcorn covers the questions thoroughly and with a heart of Christ-centeredness. Alcorns books, The Treasure Principle, and especially Money, Possessions, and Eternity are excellent. Much of their content is on the website in the form of articles or downloads.
The goal of the Christian life is full communion with God! “God became man that we might become like God.” Variations on this quote permeate the Church Fathers. A modern day Orthodox bishop, Kallistos Ware describes the beauty and fullness of this truth:
“Our Lord saves us by becoming what we are, by sharing totally in our humanity, thereby enabling us to share in what he is. Thus through a reciprocal exchange of gifts he takes our humanity and communicates to us his divine life, reestablishing that communion between Creator and creation which sin has destroyed.”
Another way to put it is the mysterious and wonderful truth that the Triune God invites us into the Divine dance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “The one God exists in three persons engaged in a single circling dance…” (Scott Cairns, Short Trip to the Edge)
The “Trinity Icon” – above – by Andre Rublev is considered by many to be the most beautiful work of iconography in the world. If you are not familiar with this work, this link will describe some of the meaning behind the Trinity. Click Here.
Gerry Sittser sees martyrdom a little more broadly than he used to. It’s not just dying for Christ physically in an arena or under a dictator; it’s also dying to self through the situations when we hold onto faith even when it seems impossible to do it; when there seems to be no material evidence that shows us God is good and for us. It’s being faithful in the face of affliction. Sittser lost his mother, wife, and one of his children in one car accident! He is a theology professor and does not just write about grief and prayer, but he does those two very well. In a sermon on John 16 last week at Christ Church, I mentioned Sittser and many were asking for more information. Here is the Amazon list of his works. I also listened to a podcast interview with him on his book, When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer. The podcast is The Illumined Heart and the June 5, 2009 edition is with Sittser and can be downloaded or subscribed to at Ancient Faith Radio here. Here are some of his key insights that I shared Sunday: Continue reading A New Look @ ‘Answered Prayer’→
Since you don’t particularly care “what I am doing now”, I thought I’d tell you what I did earlier today!
I listened to one of my favorite podcasts as I went to the dump and other exciting things. It’s The Kindlings Muse, by Christian cultural observer Dick Staub. Some really well done conversations with very sharp people on books and film and music in our culture. This week is a discussion of U2’s new album, No Line On the Horizon. Whether you are fascinated or frustrated by Bono, like or dislike their music, you need to listen to this discussion. It is a great window into the spiritual journey and vision of one of the most creative and dynamic social justice voices of our century. This album is filled with intriguing re-frames of the redemption, hope and holy risk-taking needed by Christ followers in today’s world. One of the songs is Unknown Caller that captures the hope of new life in technology terms of “restart” and “reboot” and ourselves being the human “password” that still matters. If you are an iTunes person – subscribe to this podcast.
Another thing I did was read the latest Time Magazine cover story on the Twitter phenomenon. Before you right me off as advocating mindless, trivial, egocentricity, read this article – more to understand the changing times we are in and the neutrality of technology in itself. It’s what we DO with it. I’m preaching this week on John 15 and “abiding in the vine” – the need for Christ-followers to be in “Constant Connection” with Christ. Any lessons here? What do you think?
Somebody has said, ‘There is only one sickness, and that is homesickness.’ Whether modern man knows it or not, that is his chief sickness – he is Home-sick. He knows that he has one foot in time and another in eternity, and he doesn’t feel at home in either one. He is afraid of both. He is afraid because he can’t put these two together and make them come out as sense. His sums don’t add up. Something is basically wrong. (E. Stanley Jones, The Way, 1946)
E. Stanley Jones is one of my literary mentors (who died in 1973). He served 50 years in India, was an evangelist to the world who Time magazine called second to Billy Graham, and worked passionately as an ambassador of peace. His writings were filled with the confidence that the Christian Way was THE way – not just theoretically, but by experience. He would say this with a hundred different vivid examples. Here is a sample: Continue reading The Way and ‘Not-the-way’→
ruminations on biblical thought and human flourishing