The First Fruits of Another World


I did a previous blog article on the radical nature of the Gospel Paul preached, a Gospel he received directly from Jesus, that was confirmed by the closest disciples of Jesus. I ended the article by noting that this Gospel was not primarily about cultural and societal change. Jesus didn’t come merely to transform culture and society, as the Zealots of the First Century supposed the Messiah would.

Jesus came preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom into which we can be born again by receiving Jesus, by believing in his name. The paradigm shift begins here and now, in this world, giving us “the right to become children of God, … born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Though the reality of the kingdom of God begins here and now, the ultimate fruition of that new birth, that adoption as children of God, still awaits us. The Zealots didn’t understand that in the First Century. They wanted to overtake the Roman government by force and establish the reign of the Messiah then and there in the First Century. When Jesus died on the cross, not even the disciples understood what was going on. Paul understood, however, we he said:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

Paul expanded on these thoughts in his letter to the Corinthians when he spoke about death coming into the world through the first Adam, while resurrection from the dead came into the world through Jesus (1 Cor. 15:20-28-42-55) First is the perishable, followed by the imperishable. What is perishable doesn’t beget the imperishable. We must be born again (the ultimate paradigm shift), from natural people into spiritual people.

This paradigm shift begins in this natural life when we are born again, but the seed of that new birth is spiritual, imperishable. When the last trumpet” will sound, “the dead will be raised imperishable”. (1 Cor. 15:52) We await in this life the fruition of the ultimate paradigm shift (from the perishable to the imperishable) in which those who have been adopted as children of God are ushered into the kingdom of God with “the whole creation” following behind in the transformation from natural world to an imperishable world where there are no tears, no pain, no sorrow – only the ultimate fulfillment of all that we could possible hope for.

We won’t see the fruition of these things in this life; rather we look forward to the resurrection from the dead and our inheritance of the imperishable life that swallows death up in victory. This is where I left off in the previous blog post: Paul… the Radical Countercultural? Picking it up from there, I want to begin here with second half of the passage quoted from the letter to the Galatians in that first article.

Paul spoke to the Galatians about the”adoption as sons” for all people who believe in Jesus. He alludes to the centuries old Greco-Roman tradition of adoption of men by men – the passing on of inheritance and legacy through the male line, which was the entrenched cultural structure of a long patriarchal society. But then, Paul did the ultimate mic drop when he said:

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3:27-29)

In one sentence, Paul eliminated the disparity between genders. And not only that, the differences between religious, philosophical, cultural, societal and all other things that divide people from each other.

But this was no cultural revolution. The rest of the story is found in the verses that follow in Chapter 2 of the letter to the Galatians.

Continue reading “The First Fruits of Another World”

Lamentations of a Recovering Christian Patriot

The views of Christians around the world provide a counterbalance to unique bent of American Christianity.


I became a Christian in college, despite the progressive, skeptical atmosphere in the Iowa liberal arts school I attended. I learned to put into perspective the tensions I saw between what I read in Scripture and what I was learning in college. I didn’t exactly compartmentalize the differences. I was able to synthesize many of them, but some of the tensions I learned to “shelve” for later consideration.

I wasn’t very career minded when I graduated from college. I only wanted to follow and serve Jesus. I ended up packing my bags to go to Alton Bay, NH for a summer job, believing that I was going, like Abraham, to a place God was calling me. I didn’t know exactly what I was in for. I only had a summer job, but I didn’t think I was coming back to the Midwest.

I got deeply involved in the local church in Laconia, NH after the summer job ran its course. It was a dynamic church, growing out of the Jesus People movement in the 60’s, and still going strong. I was more focused on following Jesus than pursuing a career. I worked a number of different jobs over the six years I spent in NH, and got married and had two children there.

This was the time of the rise of the Moral Majority. Pat Robertson ran for President while I lived in the Granite State. Live Free or Die was the motto, and people were proud of it. Politics crept into my faith. I even rubbed shoulders with churchgoers who were members of the John Birch Society.

Then I felt called to go in a different and went to law school. That brought my back to the Midwest where I have remained ever since. Not that the change of scenery was overly influential, but law school challenged my thinking to the core. It’s designed to do that.

I compartmentalized my faith once again, as I had done in college. I set things “on the shelf” as I devoted myself to learning the law. It turns out I was pretty adept at understanding the law, leaving law school with a diploma and a standing of 2nd in my graduating class.

I was not as adept at reconciling the political and cultural influences that crept into my faith under the scrutiny of the jealous mistress of the law. They exposed and challenged under the harsh light of scrutiny, as was my biblical faith.

Years would go by before I reached a point of resolution.  My faith survived, but the political and cultural baggage did not. The dynamic church I went to long ago disintegrated into myriad pieces of broken relationships, broken dreams and broken promises. The way was difficult, but I think I am a better Christian because of it, and this is what I believe I have learned.

Continue reading “Lamentations of a Recovering Christian Patriot”

Here Today and Gone Tomorrow

What gain is there to the person who toils for the wind?


“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15‭-‬16 ESV)

This was “the verse of the day” today, and it’s a timely one. It’s easy to get caught up in this world, what is happening day to day and thinking about the future… in this life… and forget about or gloss over the importance of the kingdom of God.

Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus came looking for followers. He challenged people to leave behind the things that anchored them to this world. To the rich young ruler, he said, “Give everything to the poor and come follow me.” When Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew, “Come follow me,” they left their nets to follow him.

But, it isn’t just about leaving things behind. The reason John urges us not to love the world is that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17) Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians: “[T]his world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) Why would we want to hold onto it?

Continue reading “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow”

Taking Our Politics Back to Jesus

Our efforts built on a different foundation other than Jesus will not stand.

Casual interracial couple having an argument in a terrace
depositphotos Image ID: 125978174 Copyright: klublub

I am torn with mixed emotions as I watch my social media news feeds well up with agitating statements from pole to pole. The inauguration and the women’s marches have set my social media world on edge – or rather edges. Polarization is the structure and substance of our modern discourse.

In the middle of it all are my brothers and sisters in Christ, dividing over the same issues that divide the country. We feel compelled to take sides, to hold up our own partisan signs, to signal where we stand and to look around to see who is standing with us.

That we seem to be lining up in the same fashion as the rest of our world has me feeling uneasy. Are we no different for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than the world around us who finds no need of a Savior and no palate for a Lord?

Have we been born again, born of the Spirit, born from above? Or have we simply adopted a layer of adornment that we have put over the worldviews we already have?

I ask these questions for myself as I put them on paper. I am asking these questions for all of us who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Continue reading “Taking Our Politics Back to Jesus”

Voting As Sojourners and Exhiles

canstockphoto14916221
(c) Can Stock Photo

How much of our political motivation is rooted in our desire for an easy life, for familiar things, for things that are friendly to our faith? We need to search our hearts on a regular basis to be sure that we are not following after our own, human purposes and not God’s purposes.

What if God doesn’t see things the way we do?

What if God can be most effective and make the most change in the world and in people’s lives when circumstances are not favorable to the motivations and desires of Christians? What if God light shines most where darkness is greatest?

These are rhetorical questions, of course, and the answers are not often what we want them to be. Continue reading “Voting As Sojourners and Exhiles”

Catholics, Pentecostals and the Body of Christ

God’s sheep hear His voice. God knows His own. They sit in the whole spectrum of churches on any given Sunday morning or Saturday night, and some of them do not visit churches very often at all.

A Sheperd by Lauri Heikkinen
A Sheperd by Lauri Heikkinen

The article, A Classic Pentecostal Encounters Charismatic Catholics, takes me back to the early days of my Christian walk. I was raised Catholic, but I found little attraction to church as a child. We went to church religiously, a practice I later came to appreciate about my parents, but there seemed to be nothing in it for me. I even felt uncomfortable in church.

I went through some very rebellious teen years, wandering lost through the haze and fog induced by alcohol and drugs, drifting to the edge of the precipice, before I woke to the emptiness that I had inexplicably been embracing. That was not my conversion, but just the beginning of walking in a new direction.

Fast forward just a short while to college  where I entered like a kid in a candy store with a new found passion for knowledge and truth. I thought I had left religion behind. Actually I did (and have never returned). What I did not realize is that I would discover the life that religion (for me) enshrouded like an empty tomb. Continue reading “Catholics, Pentecostals and the Body of Christ”

Treasures in Heaven

Goonies Treasure Map by Scott Howard

Do not store up[i] for yourselves treasures[ii] on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

I have been saying this a lot lately, and I have been trying to be more heavenly minded.

When you think about it, our lives are not only fragile but momentary. My life could end at virtually any time, and if I live to be 100, it will be over when it is over. Continue reading “Treasures in Heaven”