Archive for the ‘Lordship’ Category

Sacramental Living at Christmastide

December 28, 2007

This Christmas season has been a time for simple pleasures: quiet conversations over cake with family, a glass of wine, sitting on the front porch watching the children play, getting tape tangled in my fingers as I try to wrap a gift, the smell of evergreen as I walk into the house. It’s made me remember that good living is sacramental living.

Sacramental living is seeing life as the Sovereign God intends that we see it – with everything (literally everything!) shot through with His goodness and grace. It means that all of creation with its variety and beauty and complexity is a gift of grace to us. And it means that the universe and the earth and its bounty and its creatures, and food and home and sex and labor and domestic joys and struggles and sitting and standing and kneeling in worship – all of it is a signal of the presence of God to us. It is all God’s good created order meant to bless us with life and meant for us to take and transform into life in God. That is sacramental living. It is a basic disposition toward daily life that sees God’s bounty in everything He has made and receives it as a wonderful gift from Him and a signal of His favor and love for us as His redeemed children, His new creation, His new humanity in whom he delights. God made all things good, and He is redeeming all things for our sake. We can live with the joy of knowing this is true.

Modernism and postmodernism are telling a different story about the world. Modernism, which is the worldview of the Enlightenment, and postmodernism, which is the monster made in its image, are the controlling thought patterns of our Western world. Modernism can be described as the loss of the sacramental character of creation. With man’s reason enthroned over all, modernism sees the physical world as merely the effect of a prior cause in the material processes that began with the Big Bang and continues with celestial expansion and survival of the fittest and chemical chain reactions, of which you and I are a small but meaningless part. So we are just another part of the physical world; we are a bunch of colliding atoms living in the middle of a bunch of other colliding atoms, with nothing really special about those atoms. They are just the random collocation of physical processes fizzing and bubbling on a blue marble in an empty void. However we moderns see ourselves in relation to the physical world, we have to make it up for ourselves. We are just blobs of protoplasm on the evolutionary scale at the whim of big natural forces, so make life whatcha can.

C.S. Lewis described modernity as “the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law.” That “ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism” is the result of the secularism that arises from the godless world out of which Enlightened man kicked God with his almighty reason. If there is no Creator, then the universe is all there is, and the universe is a pretty bleak place. We are up against scientific processes a lot bigger than us, as we have to try to make the most of it and maximize what we have. That’s pragmatism: ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, or what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” In a world of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, if a pregnancy keeps a woman from fulfilling her dreams, kill the baby. If the people demand cheaper products, rape the countryside to give it to them. If the world craves more and more power and more and more stuff, light the fires of industry to give the stuff to them as efficiently as possible with no regard for beauty or the good life. Whatever works best for making life as efficient and technologically advanced for man as possible is what we should do. In the modern world what matters is the free market economy creating material wealth; what matters is efficiency that makes way for consumerism and renders everything as cheap as possible; what matters is having it all. And the Christian church has been complicit in creating this world gone mad.

But Christians should be telling a different story, the story of Christ and the good life in Him. The good life of the Christian vision sees the whole world as having a sacramental character. Nature, food, fishing, lovemaking, wine, sunsets, shopping, art, laboring, cleaning, building, dirty bathtubs after bathing four dirty children, melted ice cream dribbling down the chin, a sweaty brow with the smell of freshly cut grass, the crisp smell and stiff spine of a new book – it all has the sacramental character of a gracious gift and a means for knowing the blessing of God and fellowship with God. Architecture, economy, government, performing art, agriculture, education, publishing – all of it is a gift from God for the beautifying of His world, for the transforming of the world into a place of communion with the Lord of life, in which everything is received as a gift from Him and everything is a means of offering worship to the Living God.

Genesis 1 tells us that God originally made all things very good and that God in His providence has never stopped caring for and lovingly tending His creation. You can read a psalm like Psalm 104 and hear how God provides for the animals and for humans alike. Now with the entry of sin into the world, the creation changed and became corruptible, but the creation is still good. God intends to redeem His creation. God will complete what He first set out to do – which was to make the whole world a place of fellowship and worship between God and His image bearer, man. The ultimate evidence of God’s intention to redeem His entire creation is the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is God’s great restoration project for all creation.

A biologist from Calvin College named Stephen Matheson, by virtue of his training, puts it vividly. He wrote,

The ascension [of Christ to heaven in a human body] carries the following startling implication, as articulated by theologian Gerrit Dawson: “The meaning of a continuing incarnation is revealed in all its splendour: in the person of the eternal Son, the Triune God has taken up humanity into his being for ever” (Jesus Ascended, P&R Publishing, 2004, 53). There is human flesh in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.

Human flesh, with protein and carbohydrate, bone and muscle, DNA and mitochondria, is in heaven, already, waiting to greet other embodied beings who will be raised with him. . . . It does not imply that the whole shebang is good, for surely there was a transformation (glorification) of Jesus’ body, and there were some things that he didn’t take with him. But it does imply that flesh, biological stuff, cells and DNA and blood and guts, are things that do not merely and universally pass away. They can last, somehow, forever.

I’m living in the new creation and loving it this Christmastide. Hope you are too.

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The Sub-dominate Gospel

July 28, 2007

I went to a new blog this weekend and stumbled across this post about Sean Hannity and Montgomery Gentry.  They are putting on Freedom Concerts, raising money to support the families of fallen soldiers.  A worthy cause to be sure… Boneman, the writer of this new found blog, noticed a glaring contradiction during the event though.

When we were walking to our seats we noticed that there were huge silhouetted woman decals decorating the stage.  We later learned this was part of the Montgomery-Gentry country music act.  Fair enough, but imagine the jarring disconnect of this backdrop while Michael W. Smith sang Gospel music.  I’m sorry, but it was too big to miss.  Add to that a bunch of ass-kicking “my town” song / talk, and you have yourself one heck of an interesting experience!  Go America! (?) 

The decals to which he refers are most often found on the mudflaps of our more risqué truckers.  Them ladies are nekkid you might say.  Anyway…

 I wrote the following in his comments section…

As the saying goes, Politics makes for strange bedfellows.   

In America we tend to compartmentalize much of our life.  The Lordship of Christ is put into a separate category of our being.  We are then taken aback when things don’t work out that way in reality.   

Many Christians think that they can keep their politics and their faith ontologically separate.  What happens in real life is a grafting in of the gospel into politics, making it a part of the whole.   This would be great if the gospel were dominate, but the fact is when we (Christians) enter politics we do everything we can to keep Christ separate… from actually taking over.

It happened to the liberals with their state as savior theology and it has happened to conservatives and their moral majority.

Not only is the gospel made part of the whole it is subdued and made to say things that are not true, neither of Christ and his glorious gospel nor the “kick-ass” politico/music act.  To subdue the gospel like this is to hand a cloak for vice to the masses who take in your music/polical speech.  And we are not to use our Gospel liberty that way.

 1 Peter 2:15-17
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men —  16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice , but as bondservants of God.

al sends

Trinitarian, Missional, Festal

July 14, 2007

The Trinity is the first society. Before the world began, before ever there was an earth or man to inhabit the earth, there was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit dwelling in an everlasting bond of fellowship that we call covenant.

The covenant is an eternal bond of union, communion, and self-giving love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of the three divine persons eternally relates to the other two in peace and humility. The Bible tells us that God has graciously and sovereignly chosen a people to be drawn into communion with the divine family. These people are the church. Believers and their children are made members of the covenant through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son incarnated in human flesh. We enter into this covenant through baptism. Then this union gives way to communion, celebrated in our weekly partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

What does it mean to be a Christian? It is many things, but at the center is to be a part of this people chosen to be welcomed into the society of the Trinity. To be a Christian is not merely an individual affair. It is to be part of the communion of saints – the one holy catholic and apostolic church we confess, that is this people whom God has chosen for fellowship with Himself in the bonds of His covenant love.

The church is Christ’s body, the presence of Jesus the Head in the world, participating in His incarnation and furthering the redeeming purpose of God in the world. The church is Christ’s bride, being made ever more beautiful and lovely as she is prepared for the great feast that awaits her at her wedding day still to come. The church is a thriving olive tree with many thriving branches vitally joined to it that is growing to fill the whole earth. The church is a building rising on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and being built stone by living stone until it rises to be an eternal house of worship for the triune God.

All of this truth about the covenant and the sacraments and the metaphors of body, bride, vine, and building all speak of corporate realities, of the church as a people being welcomed into fellowship with the Trinity. To be a Christian is to be part of the community of God in the world.

This is to repeat something that I have said again and again. The good life that we are sent to embody in the world is corporate. It is communal. And that kind of life is a rebuke to the individualism and privatized faith of our day that we have accepted from modernity. Too often the church has been domesticated by American culture, rather than embodying and announcing a new way to be human under the triune God’s reign. But our task must be finding ways to rediscover how to live the good life in community together as a way of showing to the world what it means to be in right relationship with God and to live life as God intended. That is being a missional community.

Consider the place of feasting in the Christian life and the life of the church. The good life is lived at its best during times of celebration and feasting. Can you imagine a feast of one? One solitary hermit celebrating a feast of his own making? The very nature of feasting is that it is communal. It has toasts and laughter and sharing and giving at its heart. Something special happens when people sit down to eat together with joy. Something sacramental. It echoes the partaking of Christ Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. It joins people together and displays their love and compassion and enjoyment.

Have you considered that the better we feast, the more God-centered enjoyment we derive from sharing a feast and celebrating together, the more we are being cemented together as families and as a covenant community, and the more we are then embodying the social reality of the Trinity relating in peace and humility? This is the good life in service to the mission of God. This is a missional community centered around the gospel of grace and love, and it is the very thing we are sent to do.

All That Exists Is a Gift from God

June 29, 2007

Modernity, which is the worldview of the Enlightenment, and postmodernity, which is the monster made in its image, are the controlling thought patterns of our Western world. Modernity can be described as the loss of the sacramental character of creation.

With man’s reason enthroned over all, modernity sees the physical world as merely the effect of a prior cause in the material processes that began with the Big Bang and continues with celestial expansion and survival of the fittest and chemical chain reactions, of which you and I are a small but meaningless part. So we are just another part of the physical world; we are a bunch of colliding atoms living in the middle of a bunch of other colliding atoms, with nothing really special about those atoms. They are just the random collocation of physical processes fizzing and bubbling on a blue marble in an empty void. However we moderns see ourselves in relation to the physical world, we have to make it up for ourselves. We are just blobs of protoplasm on the evolutionary scale at the whim of big natural forces, so make life whatcha can.

C.S. Lewis described modernity as “the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law.” That “ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism” is the result of the secularism that arises from the godless world out of which Enlightened man kicked God with his almighty reason. If there is no Creator, then the universe is all there is, and the universe is a pretty bleak place. We are up against scientific processes a lot bigger than us, as we have to try to make the most of it and maximize what we have. That’s pragmatism: ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, or what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.”

In a world of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, if a pregnancy keeps a woman from fulfilling her dreams, kill the baby. If the people demand cheaper products, rape the countryside to give them what they want. If the world craves more and more power and more and more stuff, light the fires of industry to give the stuff to them as efficiently as possible with no regard for beauty or the good life. Whatever works best for making life as efficient and technologically advanced for man as possible is what we should do. Of course we should; who would think otherwise? In the modern world what matters is the free market economy creating material wealth; what matters is efficiency that makes way for consumerism and renders everything as cheap as possible; what matters is having it all. And the Christian church has been complicit in creating this world gone mad.

But Christians should be telling a different story, the story of Christ and the good life in Him.

The good life of the Christian vision sees the whole world as having a sacramental character. Nature, food, fishing, lovemaking, wine, sunsets, shopping, art, laboring, cleaning, building, a dirty bathtub after bathing four dirty children, melted ice cream dribbling down the chin, a sweaty brow with the smell of freshly cut grass, the crisp smell and stiff spine of a new book – it all has the sacramental character of a gracious gift and a means for knowing the blessing of God and fellowship with God in Christ. Architecture, economy, government, performing art, agriculture, education, publishing – all of it is a gift from God for the beautifying of His world, for the transforming of the world into a place of communion with the Lord of life, in which everything is received as a gift from Him and everything is a means of offering worship to the Living God.

To quote Alexander Schmemann:

All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.

The Gospel and Lordship

March 14, 2007

Romans 14:9 is a profound statement by the Apostle Paul. “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Paul acknowledges something taught elsewhere in the New Testament: Jesus died and rose again so that He would be given the highest place of Lordship and so that He would reign as the One to whom all things – even you and me – have been given as an inheritance. Christ died, Christ rose, and Christ lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living: this is a concise statement of the work of Jesus Christ, the gospel, and the effect of the gospel on our lives.

All three of these phases — His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension — are related to His Lordship in the New Testament.

So, for example, in Acts 2:36 we hear the Apostle Peter proclaim that what God the Father did through the crucifixion of Jesus. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Was Jesus both Lord and Christ before His suffering and death? Yes, but it was (more…)

Placarding the Wrong god

January 31, 2007

So I was driving in Pensacola yesterday, and I saw one of those church signs. Now let me say that I am not favorably disposed to church signs with sayings on them. Seeing so many has prejudiced me against them, I suppose.

Try this one on for size: “Interested in going to heaven? Apply inside for flight training.”

Now, do I really need to mention how trivializing, how absurd, how small this is? It is no wonder that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is so monstrously belittled in our culture. He is monstrously belittled in the church. And then that shrunken god is placarded in front of traffic as if he were something to brag about.

I am convinced that the soul of contemporary evangelicalism, unfortunately, shows through. This is no Holy God to fear and love and before whom to humble oneself. This is no God of glory and of grace. This is the god of the glib, the god of studied nonchalance, the god who gives you cool stuff.

Paul wrote in Galatians 3:1 that he clearly placarded Christ as crucified in his preaching. What about that for church advertisement?

King Jesus

January 26, 2007

Who is your King?

I was on the radio the other day and an older lady called in to voice concerns about the state of our society. She said we had left the Bible behind, going on to list some of the areas where America is not in agreement with “the Standard.” She said:

“We took prayer out of the public schools…” Well, prayers to a generic god don’t do much good anyway. No big loss there.

“We are killing our unborn children” For which God is judging us.

“We are going to allow homosexuals to marry.” There is the judgment of God I was talking about.

“We cannot say the pledge of allegiance to the flag any more.” Ummm…

Here is an interesting report from WorldPublicOpinion.org. On page 29 of the PDF document you will find this graphic:

       National, Religious, Global

OK. I live in the South. Down here Proud to Be an American is sung as offertory. Like the dear lady from the radio, we just know that America is God’s country and we are His special people. But are these numbers accurate?  Only 6%!!!

I don’t think you can find America in the Bible (apologies to the Van Impes) anymore than you can find an admonition to say the pledge.  I do find that King Jesus has moved your citizenship.  While you may be an American, British or Iranian passport holder your loyalties to country are carried out under the Lordship of Christ.   

Phil 3:20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Do you think of yourself as primarily a Christian?   

Al sends