Sunday, April 15, 2012

Your Outlook on the Future, and Why it Matters.

This article appeared in the May 2011 edition of my column, Fresh Brewed Theology, that I write for The Choteau Acantha. 

You may recall all the hype surrounding Harold Camping and his failed prediction of the end of the world.  What is funny about this particular article is that because of the way my deadline works, I had to have it submitted before May 22 (the day Harold predicted the end) for publication on the 25th. It wasn't a big risk though. If a prophesied event has already been fulfilled, whoever tries to predict it happening in the future will be wrong!

I think you will see that this article definitely pushed the boundaries.


Fresh Brewed Theology: Future Outlook
Popular Christian Radio host, Harold Camping has been proven wrong... again.  Last Saturday was his latest failed prediction of the beginning of the end of the world.  
In this column, I want to address a very fundamental question to which many Christians have not given any thought. That is, how does your outlook on the future affect your impact on society? 
Many modern Christians have a very short sighted, pessimistic view of the future. Popular sayings like, “don’t polish brass on a sinking ship” or “Satan rules this evil age” dominate pulpits and radio waves.  The expectation is that the world is under a Divine curse and will only get worse before Jesus comes to rescue us and destroy the physical planet. 
This pessimistic outlook starts a vicious cycle that ends up dividing communities in the long run. Let me give you just one example.
If the physical creation is destined to be burned up sooner than later, than why take care of it? With such a short sighted and negative view of the future there is no incentive to take responsibility for our actions when it comes to things like the environment. 
The responsibility needed to maintain true liberty in regards to property rights is ignored. This causes others who recognize real problems to lobby bureaucrats thousands of miles away in an effort to enforce new regulations to protect the environment. The loss of liberty causes citizens to resent those in office. They get behind other politicians who will use the power of the state to protect un-responsible behavior and the cycle escalates.
(Imagine how negativity towards the future influences foreign policy.)
However, with an optimistic and long view of the future individuals are motivated to look for ways to maintain sustainable environmental conditions voluntarily.  Wild places will be kept wild, not because of laws handed down from Washington but because people want their posterity hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years from now to enjoy them. Sustainable farming becomes very attractive instead of a short term burden.
Choteau is dominated by agriculture and tourism. Whichever outlook of the future dominates the minds and hearts of our citizens will have an enormous impact for generations to come, whether good or bad. 
So, is there a Christian theology with a long view of the future? You probably haven’t heard of it, but there is, and it’s growing. Covenant Eschatology is a movement within Christianity that takes Jesus at his word when he said that he would return before all of his disciples died. (Matthew 24) It argues a Spiritual fulfillment to Jesus’ prophetic teachings, and that the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 was the sign that a New Creation had been consummated. 
If the “end of the world” that the Bible talks about is actually in our past would that affect our outlook on the future? 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stand Up!

What's the deal with Resurrection, and how does it affect family life? I think they are more connected than one might think. 

Here are some quick thoughts. 

Resurrection, from the greek word anastasis, is used to describe "the hope of Israel" (Acts 17:14-15, Acts 28:20). 

Israel as a nation, understood that they were "dead" because of sin. God had removed them from the promised land. They were individually alive people, but they had lost their communion with God. (See Hosea 13, Ezekiel 37, Isaiah 26 just to name a few.) 

Actually, the story of Israel parallels the story of Adam in the Garden. In a sense, we can see Adam as IsraelWhat Israel needed was the same thing that Adam needed. The ability to "stand up" before God. 


Now here is the kicker. Paul is clear that Moses (the Law), and the prophets taught that Christ would be the first to rise from the dead. (Acts 26:19-23) In fact, Paul says that he preached nothing outside of the Law and the Prophets. Everything he preached had to do with the hope of Israel! So, Christ, would be the first to "stand up" and would then proclaim light, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. 

Through Israel's national Resurrection, believing Gentiles would also be grafted into this resurrected Body. There is no salvation outside of Israel's redemption. 

Now for a quick side note. Adam died "in the day" he ate the fruit, even though he did not die biologically. Christ was "the first to rise from the dead," even though he was not the first biological person raised from biological death. If anything else, these two facts should cause us to seriously re-consider the true nature of "the death" of Adam. (See this post for the correlating idea of eternal life.)

Ok, now let's continue down the rabbit hole...

In Matthew 12:38-42, Matthew records the Pharisees asking Jesus to give them a sign. This was typical of the prophets per the Old Testament Law. Prophets had to prove they were from God by displaying signs and wonders. However, the unbelieving Jews continued to reject the signs Jesus was displaying (healing's, feeding the 5,000, etc.) all the while continuing to ask for signs. 

Jesus responds that their wickedness was driving their unbelief, and that no sign would be given them, except the sign of Jonah. 

There are two aspects to the Jonah story: 1) Jonah was "dead" in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights and then resurrected, standing again on the land. 2) The Gentiles that Jonah was sent to repented and worshipped God, despite Jonah's hard hearted and prideful attitude towards them. 

Part 5 of this sermon series explores this more in depth.

In fact, everywhere that Christ refers to his physical resurrection, he always says that it is a sign. A sign always points to something greater. 

I love looking at pictures of my wife, but they aren't the same thing as being with her. When I am with her, I put the pictures away, because the thing that those pictures point me to is there, right in front of me. 

So what did Christ's physical resurrection signify? Well it signified that he was "the first to rise from the death of Adam." He was the first to stand again in the presence of God, perfect and clothed with the royal robes of righteousness. 

Through this standing again, all Israel would be raised from the dead. The hope of Israel would be achieved through faith in Christ. This is why Paul and other New Testament writers can speak of an ongoing resurrection (Ephesians 5:14). It is also why Jesus, Paul, and other NT writers always go back to the Old Testament when talking of this "rising from the dead." 

In essence, we can say that the Body of Christ is true Israel resurrected. 

Of course this is going to be controversial for many Christians. It should cause a lot of questions about what we are typically taught about resurrection. These questions are good and should be asked. We need to wrestle through these types of things. 

Case in point: Both Daniel and Jesus pinpoint the timing of the Resurrection at the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the old covenant age. (Daniel 12, Matthew 13:36-43, Matthew 24-25)

But how does this affect parenting? 

1) Christ's physical resurrection happened. 

The historical evidence is overwhelming as well as the theological evidence. Christ had to rise from the death of Adam, something that was not biological, so there had to be a significant sign. The entire OT is filled with stories that pre-figure this amazing redemptive event. 

2) Use this historical event to teach our kids how the Biblical narrative works. 

This "sign pointing to reality" is a great way to communicate proper Biblical interpretation. Particularly in this case, we can teach our children about the beauty of the sign that Christ performed to prove the reality that is accepted on Faith. We can show our kids how to connect the dots from Genesis to Revelation.

3) We can teach our kids that their reality is living in the Body of Christ, which means that they are standing up before God!

Of course this will cause even more controversy, but I believe it is high time that we start accepting (or at least considering) the corporate and covenantal context of the Bible. God always promised to be a God to "you and your children." Our kids are within our jurisdiction and that makes them a part of the resurrected corporate Body of Israel. If only one parent is a believer, then the kids are "clean" (1 Corinthians 7:12-16) The language Paul uses in this passage is ceremonial language. While our children are under our jurisdiction they are acceptable to God because they have legal standing in the Body. 

It is my conviction that fewer kids would leave the Church if we actually told them the truth about where they stand in relation to God. If we continually tell our kids that they are on the outside looking in, many will simply accept that vision and start living consistently. 

4) Grow your kids in the rich Garden soil of fulfilled redemption. 

I teach my kids that they are princesses and princes in God's Kingdom. They know nothing other than Garden living. Because the Body of Christ is resurrected Israel, we can boldly approach the throne of grace because we live in the presence of God. We have Eternal Life. 

Through the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Christ we can finally Stand Up once and for all!

Resurrection is a reality. It is a reality that we should allow our kids to live in and enjoy as the their roots grow deeper and deeper in rich Garden soil.