A New Easter

18 And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. 19 In other words, it was through the Anointed One that God was shepherding the world, not even keeping records of their transgressions, and he has entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (TPT)

As a fourth-generation ‘Christian’ I have sometimes found myself attempting to explain the death and resurrection of Jesus through a lens that often did not make sense.  Christianity affirms that the death of Jesus brought freedom and forgiveness from ‘sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3, John 1:29).  That is a Bible fact.  However, at the same time, Christians hold to different theories about ‘how’ this exactly happened through Christ’s death.  In other words, how did Christ’s death accomplish the salvation of humanity and the world? 

The word ‘atonement’ is what most English translators use for the Hebrew word kippur (to wipe away, to cover over, to cleanse).  Our English word ‘atonement’ tries to describe the beautiful act of God making us ‘at-one’ with Him.  The result of what God was doing through Jesus made us ‘at-one’ with God in a ‘moment’.  Our ‘at-one-ment’ with God means that we have been cleansed from sin, reconciled, and re-united with God forever.  All of this happened at Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.  But how?

The Bible uses different images to convey this concept.  Here are a few:

  • Jesus as the Sacrificial Passover Lamb – an image of a life given, to take away our sins and give us our freedom (1 Corinthians 5:7, John 1:29)
  • Jesus as our Ransom – an image of a price paid for our freedom (Mark 10:45)
  • Jesus as our Conquering King – an image of one who achieves victory through what looks like defeat (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, Hebrews 2:14)
  • Jesus as our Healer – like the bronze serpent in wilderness, Jesus will heal the dying who look to Him in faith (John 3:14-16, 2 Corinthians 5:17,21)
  • Jesus as the New Covenant – the blood of Jesus guarantees God’s New Covenant (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25)

Oftentimes Christians do not disagree or debate these major images that the Bible uses to describe what was accomplished through Jesus’ death.  They are right out of the Bible after all. However, what Christians do passionately debate is the meaning of these images and metaphors.  What exactly was happening when Jesus died?  What are the metaphysics and meaning behind the metaphors?  This is where theories develop?

It is very important to acknowledge that atonement theories are just that – atonement theories.  They are believing humanity’s attempt to understand and explain the deep theological implications pertaining to the atonement.  We now enter the field of taking what the Bible says by trying to establish what the Bible means.

Throughout Church history different atonement theories have been pitched onto the proverbial playing field so to speak.  Here are a few:

  • Healing – Christ changes our hearts by taking sin and making us new
  • Penal Substitution – Christ changes God’s heart by taking our punishment and appeasing God’s wrath
  • Ransom – Christ took our place by offering His life  and defeated and fooled Satan by rising from death
  • Christus Victor – Christ conquered Satan by turning power upside down and ascending to His throne as the rightful King. 
  • New Creation – Christ’s death ends the old covenant and establishes a new way of relating to God and each other and launches the world towards ultimate transformation.

When reading the above theories, which one speaks to you and captures your mind and heart?  Perhaps a combination of them serve as your primary way to communicate what God was doing through the cross.  Most Christians holds to one of those theories, however, all Christians should avoid making any one atonement theory equivalent with the gospel.  When that happens, the gospel itself is weakened because atonement theories are not the gospel, but theories about the gospel. 

Currently, there are Christians in the world who passionately state that one is not preaching the gospel unless you specifically describe God pouring out His wrath upon Jesus on the cross.  In this light, Jesus serves as someone who steps in between God’s wrath and humanity.  Acting like a divine asbestos-suit, Jesus deflects God’s flames from us, or absorbs it on our behalf.  The fact is that YES, Christ’ death removed any and all punishment coming our way, and YES Jesus took our sin.   However, the Penal Substitution theory has some major issues with it:  1. It goes beyond what the Bible clearly and plainly says, 2. It seemingly is not Trinitarian (what is The Spirit doing in all of this), and 3. It seems to contradict what the early believers presented to non-Christians. 

In the book of Acts, there are over a dozen examples of the gospel presentation, and none of them bring up aspects of Jesus being punished or God’s wrath being poured out on Him.  In other words, the Biblical pattern of believers communicating the gospel with non-Christians do not use elements of the Penal Substitution theory.

I challenged you to read the following passages to see how Peter communicates the role God plays in the Easter story (death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus):

Acts 2:23-24, 2:36, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30, 10:39-40 

When you read those passages, a pattern emerges:  We are responsible for the death of Christ.  But God raised Him from the dead.  The only ‘wrath’ evidenced upon Christ was from humanity, not God.  For some reason the earliest of gospel writers do not describe God pouring out His wrath upon Jesus.  Simply stated, God discharging His wrath upon Jesus is something never stated in the Bible or preached publicly as the gospel in Scripture.  The early church never communicated an image of an angry God hovering over and above Jesus while pouring out His punishment for sin.  This was never stated.  We do see wrath, but it is the wrath of fallen humanity acting through the power of religion and politics raging against Christ.  God in fact was not operating in wrath, but in love.  Here’s how.

God was in Christ, suffering with Christ and loving the world (and us) through Christ. 

This is clearly stated in the Bible.  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer holding anything (our sin) against us. 

So I admit that I’m not a fan of the Penal Substitution theory to explain what God was doing and accomplishing through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Moreover, I am less of a fan of people who preach this theory like its the gospel.  However, let me end on a positive note: through Jesus’ death on the cross, God is reconciling the world to Himself, and us to one another.    

In the first-century world, Paul uses this concept to help the early church understand what God was doing by bringing the Jews and Gentiles ‘at-one’ with Him.  He writes in

Ephesians 2:14-16: Our reconciling “Peace” is Jesus! He has made Jew and non-Jew one in Christ. By dying as our sacrifice, he has broken down every wall of prejudice that separated us and has now made us equal through our union with Christ. Ethnic hatred has been dissolved by the crucifixion of his precious body on the cross. The legal code that stood condemning every one of us has now been repealed by his command. His triune essence has made peace between us by starting over—forming one new race of humanity, Jews and non-Jews fused together!  Two have now become one, and we live restored to God and reconciled in the body of Christ. Through his crucifixion, hatred died.

I believe we need to return to an outlook which truly emphasizes what the Bible says about the power and mystery of the Easter story: new creation.

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am thankful for a God who offers us a fresh, new start.  I am thankful for Jesus who endured more physical, mental and spiritual anguish than I could ever imagine in order to usher in a new reality for us to experience and have. 

NT Wright says that ‘on the cross we see dying love, and we recognize it as the undying love of God.’

Amen. This is Easter.  This is Jesus. 

Maranatha! 

Kitchen Reno’s and Kingdom Preparation

My apologies for not writing in a while and being absent from posting online in a number of weeks. The reason is that we are five weeks into a full kitchen renovation. We essentially gutted the kitchen area and have replaced pretty well everything except the wall studs! Doing this with three children while continuing to work has been an adventure. All of us have been eagerly awaiting the finished product. The good news is that we are almost finished and we should be all set for Easter week-end! Another good thing is that I have had some time to ponder more faith issues, and I am prepped to come back and share some with you. So here we go.

As we approach the Easter weekend, and if we were Jewish, we would be making preparations for the Passover meal. Passover is a much celebrated Jewish holiday tradition that lasts an entire week. On the eve of Passover, a special Jewish Seder meal is celebrated together. During this special meal there is often an extra place setting at the table for a potential guest to come. Wondering who? This time the answer is not Jesus. In fact, the extra place setting is for the prophet Elijah.

Elijah is held in high honour within the Jewish faith as a man who operated in God’s power to deliver Israel from their enemies. Elijah is also believed to physically return near the end of time to usher in God’s eternal Kingdom. During the Jewish Passover meal these aspects are celebrated. Here’s how.

When the meal is over, the host will pour wine into ‘Elijah’s cup’ and opens the door of the house for the prophet to come in. There are various reasons for doing this, and depending on the host, a selection of Scriptures can be read pertaining to a certain theme. One such emphasis is that when the ‘Cup of Elijah’ is poured, the host would recite verses from the Psalms where God is beseeched to pour His wrath upon those who persecute and oppress His people (Psalm 60, 69, 79). In this light, the cup of Elijah is linked with God’s wrath to be poured onto those who oppose God. God’s wrath is generally understood as something that would impact His own people.

Another emphasis (I like this one) links the ‘Cup of Elijah’ with the God’s coming Kingdom and ultimate redemption for God’s people. Again, various Psalms are read along those lines (Psalm 93-100) which focus on God’s Messiah and the coming eternal Kingdom. This time, the ‘Cup of Elijah’ is linked with hope for a future renewed world and participation in God’s divine glory for eternity. Did I mention that I like this one better?

Now, I am not Jewish and I do not celebrate a Passover meal. However, let me ask you this question: When you think about what God is doing in the world, which lens do you naturally gravitate towards? Is it a lens of ‘wrath’ or a lens of ‘hope’? Now consider and apply the same thing to what God did through Jesus. Which lens do you use? In other words, when attempting to explain what God is up to in the world, and especially what was happening through the death and resurrection of Jesus do you lean towards the ‘wrath’ end, or towards the ‘hope’ side?

One of the things that I often say is that when it comes to the death and resurrection of Jesus, we need to be consistent with the ‘Big Picture’ of God’s Story, as well as be Trinitarian (Father, Son and Spirit) in our worldview and theology. In other words, we need to make sure that everything fits with God’s Personhood and His Mission.

I am personally very thankful for the gospel writers who tell us much about Jesus. One conversation is particularly important to keep in mind. It is with a prominent Pharisee named Nicodemus. Essentially Nicodemus is having a tough time working out just who this ‘Jesus’ guy is and what God is doing through Him. Cutting right to the heart of the matter, Jesus keys in on Nicodemus’ worldview and what that meant God was doing.

In this conversation Jesus utters the following words which we have come to embrace:

“And just as Moses in the desert lifted up the brass replica of a snake on a pole for all the people to see and be healed, so the Son of Man is ready to be lifted up, so that those who truly believe in him will not perish but be given eternal life. For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it! So now there is no longer any condemnation for those who believe in him, but the unbeliever already lives under condemnation because they do not believe in the name of God’s beloved Son. (John 3:14-18 TPT)

Did you notice Jesus’ emphasis on the love of God and His plan for eternity? It almost makes you think that God (Yahweh) is love, and He desires to live with His creation forever. In fact that is exactly who He is.

At the church where I pastor, we are committed to being a people who act this way and model this understanding of who God is. We believe that God is love, and that He has a great eternal plan for humanity and the world. The entrance is to believe and have faith in His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only Way to God, the divine Truth about God and the abundant Life of God.

As you prepare for the Easter weekend, I encourage you to consider reflecting upon the God of The Bible and what you think He is up to in the world. If you are in the Lindsay area, consider yourself invited to our Good Friday service (10 am) and Sunday morning (10 am) services where we will specifically be talking about ‘Finding your place in the world’. We are also doing an Easter Adventure on the Saturday featuring an animal farm, arts and crafts, and an Easter egg hunt. It’s going to be a great week-end here at Calvary.

Regardless of where you live, consider attending a Christian church were the Resurrected Jesus is celebrated. It is an important event. In fact, it totally changed the world forever.

Stay tuned for more …

Maranatha!

Hitting the flow

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6

This past Sunday my second oldest daughter was involved in a regional free-throw competition for girls in her age group.  She had won the local and district competitions respectively leading up to this one.  Standing at the free-throw line she successfully scored fourteen of twenty-five shots to win the regional competition.  In essence, she had hit the target more consecutively than the others.

One of the self-proclaimed titles that Jesus made about Himself was ‘the way’ (John 14:6).  Jesus was responding to Thomas’ inquiry about finding the way to the place that Jesus was going.  When Jesus announced that He was leaving it literally shook the disciples.  However, Jesus responds with a statement that many are familiar with.  But how exactly is Jesus the way?

As the embodiment of God Himself, Jesus shows us not only how to live, but how we are able to be with The Father forever.  Jesus is the only access to the Father because He is the only One from the Father.  Therefore, Jesus is the only One who can re-unite creation with its Creator.  In other words, the ‘Way’ to God is to believe that Jesus is ‘Truth’ and ‘Life’.  But what does this look like in everyday life?  Allow me to borrow a basketball analogy. 

If a young basketball player desires to shoot the basketball properly into the basket, they need to learn the art of taking a shot.  I am not a basketball expert, but having been involved with skilled basketball clinicians, there is definitely an art to taking the shot. 

In the Ancient World there weren’t basketball courts to take shots on, but there were targets to hit nonetheless.  Archery was a skill to be learned and developed at a young age.  Young archers would benefit from seasoned shooters who would come alongside the young apprentices and literally help them shoot the arrow properly.  By doing so, the young archer was able to ‘flow’ the arrow to the target successfully.  This Biblical word picture is associated with the Hebrew concept of Torah.  Literally Torah means ‘to flow’ and the Torah was given to us by God in order to help us get into His flow.

As ‘the Way’, Jesus literally fulfills all aspects of the Torah for us.  As the Way, Jesus literally helps us get into the flow of God.  Jesus was literally flowing from the Father back to the Father.  From the Father He came, and to the Father He was moving towards.  Jesus did so not only for His own sake, but for ours.  As God’s Messiah, Jesus provides this flow freely to anyone who believes.  Period. 

I find it very refreshing to believe in a God who sent His Son into our world in order to provide humanity and creation a ‘Way’ back to Him.  In fact, I believe that this is exactly who the God of The Bible is.  He is a merciful, compassionate and loving God who took it upon Himself to redeem the world He loved.  That’s who He is.  Jesus is the very meeting place for us where we can experience the God of Truth and Life.  A heavenly party erupts when individuals accept Jesus into their lives and declare their faith and trust in Him.  It’s almost like a divine swish.  There’s nothing more rewarding to a basketball shooter than to hear the swish of the basketball net when a shot is made.  There is perhaps nothing more exciting in heaven than one of God’s children coming home and accepting Jesus as the Way.

I pray that you will consider getting into God’s flow by accepting Jesus as your Way. 

If you are in the Lindsay area, you are invited to come and join us at Calvary Church.  We are a group of people who are rediscovering the simple joys of loving God and loving each other.  We are a church that is committed to acts of kindness and showing mercy to those around us.  We believe that this is the flow of God that our community needs. 

Maranatha!

Remembering Jim

Today I travelled back to the Kaladar area in order to do a funeral service for my ninety-seven year old friend who recently passed into eternity.  Jim was my neighbour when I first went to Kaladar to pastor the church.  I first visited Jim because his wife was very sick.  Upon her death, I was asked to do the service because I was their new pastor.  After she passed, I took it upon myself to visit with him weekly.  My visits with Jim were always positive and filled with stories of his family, the area and its residents.  As the weeks and years progressed my visits to Jim’s became more frequent and I was now going as a friend.  Jim had become my bud. 

One of Jim’s passions was cutting wood.  Everyone knew Jim’s house because of the many long wood piles on his property.  He annually ordered a load of logs which he cut, split and piled for himself and a few others who he supplied wood for.  On occasion I would accompany him on one of his wood deliveries.  We were quite a pair.  Although he was still driving and delivering wood at ninety, I think he enjoyed my company and often asked for me to join him.  I always felt privileged to be with Jim who always introduced me as his pastor and friend. 

Jim was never a church goer, but our times together were indeed divine. In our many times together, I can only count a handful of times that I actually prayed and talked eternal things with Jim.  When we did, I knew that we were connecting spiritually not only with each other, but also with God.  I will never forget those moments when, with tears in his eyes, he would affirm his faith in God and belief in Jesus and his desire to see his beloved wife again.  It was a simple faith that I believe touched the heart of God. 

After seven years of pastoring in Kaladar it was time to move on.  Leaving Jim was tough.  Other than my wife, Jim was perhaps the person I spent the most time with.  However, I know that our time spent together is just beginning.

One of the fundamentals to the Christian faith is the belief in eternal life after death, or as NT Wright says, ‘life after life after death’.  The future hope for believers in Jesus is the promise of eternal life.  This hope believes in heaven to be life after death, while resurrection is life after life after death.  Essentially, the Bible teaches that human beings will be raised to life with a ‘transformed’ physical body powered by The Spirit of God (Romans 8:18-25).  Along with creation, humanity will experience full redemption and new life in the new heavens and new earth for eternity where God dwells as all in all.  This means that my visiting days with Jim are only on a temporary hold. 

Before Jim passed into the spirit realm, he trusted in the One Way to get him there.  Jim placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ, The Son of God.  Knowing this gives me tremendous peace and joy along with pleasure to know that we will indeed share many more times together.  Perhaps it won’t be delivering wood, but it may involve transporting to other places in the Cosmos.  Either way, we will catch up and share more stories about life. 

Until then my friend,

Maranatha!

P.S. Keep your chainsaw away from the Tree of Life … it’s fairly important!

A Change of Heart

Change of Heart was a reality-dating show that aired back in 1998.  The show featured unmarried couples who were each sent on a date with a new woman/man.  After the new date, the unmarried couple decided (on TV) if he/she wanted to break up or stay with this person.  The show ran for about five years before ending.

In the Gospels Jesus talks about our need for a change of heart.  He warns that anger and adultery reside in our heart as well as defiling words.  Uh oh.  In other words, Jesus tells us that our hearts can lead us into trouble and can also become hard.  Thankfully, that was not the case at our beginnings and will not be the case at our end.  Here’s how.

One day Jesus was being baited into giving His view on the lawfulness of divorce.  The Pharisees were up to their religious shenanigans once again trying to test Jesus.  This time they were comparing Jesus with Moses.  In a brilliant move, Jesus completely moves past the question and brings things back to the picture of perfection within Eden.  He says, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures about creation?  The Creator made us male and female from the very beginning”.  He continues, “Moses permitted you to divorce because your hearts were so hard and stubborn, but originally there was no such thing.” (Matthew 19:4,8 TPT).

Did you catch that?  Jesus said that ‘originally there was no such thing’!  Sometimes this verse is taken to emphasize that there was no ‘divorce’ in the beginning.  However, in this context I believe Jesus is referring to the hardness and stubbornness of the heart not existing in the beginning!  In other words, our beginnings did not include broken relationships.

It is my belief that God is intentionally bringing us back to that perfect state once again.  Along with creation, we are being made new and will ultimately be restored to Eden once again.  Jesus is the maker of all things new (Rev. 21:5), and He continues in this process until the end of time as we know it.  The eternal Kingdom will be just like Eden.

This gives me wonderful hope, purpose and passion in my everyday life.  Knowing that He and Eden will be my eternal destiny impacts my heart and outlook on life.  Knowing that one day I will be made new brings divine assurance and peace within.  It also makes me realize that I can push for that reality here on earth.

As a follower of Jesus I believe in the reality of His Kingdom.  I believe that we can experience the Lordship and power of Jesus here on earth as in heaven.  Even though Jesus is fully glorified and sitting with The Father, His Spirit has been poured out on earth to accomplish the task of Kingdom building.  The Holy Spirit enables the reality of The Kingdom. 

Paul says that righteousness, peace and joy is available in the realm of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14;17).  This means that our lives can be filled with the very Spirit who manifests these divine qualities of God’s Kingdom.  That sure sounds like paradise to me!  How about you?

If you have never accepted the reality of this Kingdom before, I encourage you to reach out and ask Jesus to be the King and Lord or your life.  When you do, His Spirit will begin to live inside of you.  Continue to feed your spirit by focusing on His Kingdom and the life that He has for you. 

If you are in the Lindsay area, please feel free to come to Calvary church.  We’d love to have you journey with Jesus here.  You can visit our web-site here:

www.calvarypentecostal.com

If you live elsewhere, be encouraged to find a group of believers and journey with Jesus in your community.  Either way, please dialogue with The Spirit and journey toward Jesus each and every day.  A wonderful change awaits!  

One day we will be with Him and each other in the new Eden for eternity. 

Until then,

Maranatha! 

Hero Fulfillment

As a father there are moments when I feel like a heel and moments when I feel like a hero.  A number of years back my oldest daughter lost a tooth at our trailer.  Very traumatized that the ‘Tooth Fairy’ would not be able to come, she burst into tears which also sent her younger sister into sobbing fits.  In that moment I sprang into ‘hero mode’.  With both my young girls now crying, I immediately pulled out my cell phone and carried on a conversation with the Tooth Fairy herself.  Needless to say, both my girls were wide-eyed and overjoyed.  Their Dad not only knew the Tooth Fairy, but she also knew where the missing tooth was and would come nonetheless, as long as they were sleeping!  That was a good moment. 

The Bible tells us that when Jesus took his buddies to the top of a steep hill, he was ‘transformed’ in front of them.  Everything not only changed for Peter, James and John, but also for us.  Here’s how. 

I believe that in this moment God’s Presence was manifested here on earth as in heaven.  This means that through Jesus, God’s very presence is now abiding. 

The Gospels tells us plainly that God is present in Jesus.  This may not seem like a radical claim since the Jewish people believed God to be present through men like Moses and David in their past.  However, Matthew seems to suggest that Jesus is ‘God with us’ (1:23).  Also, Jesus is present in His followers.  Whenever believers come together in His Name, Jesus is there (18:20).  As His followers go into the world to make other followers, Jesus will be with them (28:20).  Finally, Jesus is present in the world.  Followers of Jesus will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (5:13-14). 

As followers of Jesus, you and I can launch into ‘hero mode’ with God’s help to build His Kingdom and advance His Mission.  The Church that Jesus is building is one that will overcome the gates of hell and move triumphantly against the forces of death, evil and darkness (16:18).  How is this being done?  Here are three ways that I see Jesus working according to the Gospels: He fed the hungry, He healed the sick, and He rescued the lost. 

We can see God’s abiding Presence operate today just like back then.  By asking His Spirit and power to operate through our lives, we can see His Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.  The world may not always appreciate us, but it will be a better place because of us.  So go for it.  Jump into ‘hero mode’ and help someone who is hurting.  Bring God’s Presence into the earth by praying for a need in His Name.  Grow His Kingdom by telling someone about the Man from Galilee.  He is better than the Tooth Fairy by a country mile, and you have a direct line to Him. 

Maranatha! 

A Fulfilled Life

This past week I had lunch with my oldest daughter. It’s not too often that we get the opportunity to do so. During our lunch together I asked her about this “Christianity” thing and what it meant to her. Now in high school, I realize that there will be competing worldview’s that she will need to perceive and navigate. Following Christ means seeing the world as He did.

Popular theologian Steven Tyler sang the following words:

There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today I don’t know what it is Something’s wrong with our eyes We’re seein’ things in a different way And God knows it ain’t his It sure ain’t no surprise

Another theologian said: ‘A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.’ These words of Jesus have been ringing in my spirit that last number of days. Here’s why.

At the end of list of Beatitudes Jesus states that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus has come to carry them into fullness. In the OT, the Law was given to Moses in order to essentially lead the Israelites back to their Creator God. It was never meant to accomplish anything else. It was given to help them walk in His ways and worship Him correctly. The Prophets were people who continually contextualized God’s Word and spoke it to those around them. They acted as heralds proclaiming God’s truth in situations as well as championing His Mission and coming Kingdom. However, the Law and the Prophets could only accomplish so much. They were not meant to be an end unto themselves. They needed fulfillment.

One day Jesus takes His closest friends to the top of high mountain. The Bible says that ‘He was transformed in front of them’. His appearance changed. Jesus was being covered in the very Presence and Glory of God. All of a sudden Moses and Elijah are there talking with Jesus. Why those two? In my opinion this is Jesus showing us what fulfilling the Law and the Prophets looks like. Moses (Law) and Elijah (Prophets) show up in the Presence of God with Jesus who manifests the very Glory of God on His body here on earth. Jesus is not only God, but God is now establishing His Divine Presence here on earth through Him. This is what the Law and the Prophets could never do. They could not bring the Presence of God here on earth as it is in heaven; they could never be the Temple.

I will come back to this concept as we journey together throughout the year. It is a concept that we desperately need to recapture in our Western Christianity tradition. Here in the West we have been taught that Jesus came in order to forgive our sins so that we can go to heaven when we die. In other words, Jesus came and died so that humanity could get off the hook. This is not what Jesus teaches, nor is it the main thrust or lens of the NT.

In the NT you can make a strong case that ‘kingdom of God, salvation, and eternal life’ are all synonyms for the life altering reality that happens when we become a disciple of Jesus. In other words, following Jesus brings the Divine Life of God into me, so that it can grow and flow out of me. This is what I hunger and thirst for more of. This is what I desire to see manifest in those I love. This is what I long to see in my children. This is the faith of Jesus living in me. This is what it means to be His followers.

Maranatha!