Tag Archives: resurrection

Celebrating the With-Us-God: Divine Humility and Human Hope

Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who is proclaimed by the faithful as the Prince of Peace and Savior of the World. The hopes of Israel are embodied in an heir of David who will be King and bring deliverance, healing, and restoration (See Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2). We are familiar with the humility of Mary and Joseph, the humble setting of the birth, shepherds receiving angelic visitations, and, eventually, Magi coming to worship a toddler Jesus in his home. May we nourish these thoughts forever.

But there is something even deeper about Christmas that can be lost in the familiar festivities. Christmas is the great moment of divine humility: The eternal Son, “God of very God, Light from Light, begotten, not made…” (from the 4th century Nicene Creed) assumes human nature and enters our history. Michael Card expressed this profound truth so well: “Behold the mystery fantastic and wild; a Mother made by her own Child.” The Eternal steps into time. The Infinite assumes finitude. The Holy One becomes forever human. This is why Matthew 1:22-23 declares that Jesus is Immanuel, which translated literally, means, the “With-Us-God.”

Jewish scholars were stunned by Jesus. On one hand, he was hailed as the Son of David, the Messiah coming to liberate God’s people. Yet Jesus chose a path of healing over violence, deliverance over despotism, inclusion of outsiders over catering to the elites. Jesus’ humility, powerful teaching, and miracles won him many followers. But Jesus was more than an expected King: he declared himself one with the Father and assumed divine attributes reserved only for the One True God: forgiving sin, receiving worship, and declaring his understanding of Scripture the final and full word. For the Jews, this was blasphemy and the unity of the Father and Son was impossible, for God is One. And this oneness is absolute, with no room for rivals.

As Christianity spreads beyond Judaism and welcomes converts from Greek and Roman philosophies and religions, the idea that Ultimate Truth could assume human nature was deemed illogical and impossible. After all, the soul was trapped in the material body and that which is perfect could never be contained in flesh. This dualism would later infect Christian thinking, with unfortunate consequences. Popular religion in Rome had a place for many gods, but Christians refused to bow to any other lords or gods other than the Eternal God revealed in Jesus, who is Lord and the Christ. So Greek dualism and Roman polytheism were rejected in favor of the adoration of the Father, the Son (Jesus of Nazareth) and Holy Spirit.

Let’s come back to divine humility. In Jesus, God is forever one of us! What an affirmation of being human! Jesus’ experience was just as ours, though without the sin that ruined our first parents and continues subverting our lives. Jesus developed from a child to an adult, faced all our temptations, experienced our emotions, knew physical fatigue and limitations, and enjoyed life with friends and family. His crucifixion was excruciating. On the Cross he carried our sins and sorrows, sufferings and unanswered questions. His bodily resurrection on Easter offers a preview of the eternity for all believers: our future includes embodied work and play, community and worship. Jesus is forever one of us. If we could somehow have Scotty (of Star Trek fame) beam us to heaven, we would be able to touch Jesus, for even as the glorified Lord, he is one of us.

This Christmas, let’s allow divine humility to heal us from inferiority or inadequacy arising from our past and the abuses and rejections we remember so well. We are worth God forever becoming human. We are worth the painful and unjust death of the Cross. We have a vision of our future on Easter. With God’s help and the support of many around us, we can walk in confidence and hope, for we have welcomed Immanuel into our lives. 

We Need New Hearts

We need new hearts.
Even if we righted every historic wrong, established the fairest pathways of opportunity, reformed every institution…we would still be incomplete in our pursuit of justice without one more change: a transformation of the human heart that is only possible with divine love. Yes to systemic change…and a concomitant yes to reconciliation with God and each other arising from the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. This more than a feeling…it is a metamorphosis of thinking, affections, and the will.

Lord, cleanse my heart of every hidden evil, all prejudice, and the selfishness lurking, waiting to take over in my vulnerable moments.

Lord, cleanse your church of apathy and fear, her sins of commission and omission, and help us reveal your love in how we love one another and all among us.

Lord, heal our land. Help us repent deeply, reconcile fully, and renew sustainably.

Lord, you resist the proud, and give grace to the humble. May your presence overcome polarizations. May your power overcome weaknesses. May your Passion be our pathway as we serve one another. Amen.

People of Faith in a Confused World

Friends, whether you are a devout Christian or a skeptic, inoculated to religious language or open to supernatural experiences, the importance of understanding faith is vital as we navigate our lives in a hostile and indifference world.

Four facets of faith are vital for our walk with the Lord and effective service and witness in our world where everything seems up for grabs:

  • We are people of “the faith” – the Event of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, sinless life, atoning crucifixion, burial, glorious bodily resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father, and Return in glory (I Corinthians 15; Romans 1:2-4, 16-17; I Timothy 3:16; Jude 3). Unlike most religious systems, our Christian life is built on God’s own activity in history, with the Cross and Resurrection as the defining events and definitive foundation. We must defend this truth amidst all the skepticism, historic revisionism, and basic doubt about the truthfulness of anything!
  • We are people with “saving faith.” We can be assured by the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children with a secure eternity (Romans 8)! How completely different this is from all other religions, with their emphasis on human effort. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2).
  • We are people with “growing faith.” This faith can move mountains when we trust God (NOT trusting our faith level!). Faith grows as we obey the Lord – and his first and foundational command is love (Galatians 5:6).
  • And, we are people open to the manifestation gift of extraordinary faith (I Corinthians 12). This is often linked with other gifts and is part of God’s sovereign activity as we seek to edify the Body and evangelize the world.

As we navigate the turbulent waters of a world in need, may the Lord strengthen all facets of faith, from solid apologetics concerning the Bible and truth, to deep assurance, to compelling obedience, and openness to the miraculous.

History is Made and the World Changes Forever

Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.

Easter includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the creations of brilliant marketeers.

For billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the denial of life after death).

Amidst all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).

The resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today. 

Please enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.

Observations of Our World

I am very concerned with the triumph of emotivism in academic/intellectual circles. Critical thinking is not confined to a culture, gender or race. Critical thinking needs new attention so our dialogues move us toward truth, and, where possible, principled compromise on policies. Please friends, let’s be unafraid listen with humility and observe with objectivity.

In our polarized world, there two things that offer hope:

  1. shared encounters in community worship; and
  2. shared engagement in God’s work that renews our communities. God’s presence expands our hearts in holy love and practical work expresses our unity in service.

For centuries, human beings have sought meaning. In our century, we are debating the meaning of being human. Grateful for the Biblical story that offers identity and hope, humility and purpose.

Lord, please heal us.
Heal our hearts: touch our deepest wounds as use us as emissaries of compassion.
Heal our heads: liberate our minds from captivity to crowds and release fresh thinking.
Heal our hands: deliver us from selfish motives and methods and unleash innovation and integrity for the common good.
Lord, heal our land, one prayer, one kind word, one sacrificial act at a time.
Amen.