Experiencing the Kingdom through Environmental Stewardship

Experiencing the Kingdom through Environmental Stewardship

It is a sad but true reality that many of the followers of Jesus do not take care of the creation the Creator King made. Instead, they quote selected Bible verses, chosen to support their view that what they do to the environment (biological and geological) does not matter. After all, it is all going to burn anyway. Or so goes the standard view of a lot of Christianity today. In stark opposition to this view is the concept of Kingdom Theology which declares that the rule and reign of the King over every area of life and everything, created or uncreated, invisible or visible. Time itself began with the Creator King declaring that everything was good. The dirt was good; the animals of the land, sea and sky were good; the trees, grass, and plants that covered earth was good. Everything that was made or would be made was good. This declaration of the King of Kings has never been revoked. It is a fact that God made this planet and all other planets across the galaxies of the vast skies, simply because he wanted to. He found joy in creating things that no eye, animal or human, would ever see. And he declared it all good. Things did change when Adam and Eve decided to try to rule things themselves, as we have seen. Despite the entrance of sin, evil and death into the creation, the essence of creation remained good. Sadly, as the years rolled by, the creation was ground down by sin and evil. Things that were beautiful became deadly; elements that were to bring...
“Being” King

“Being” King

It is interesting to me to see the actions of God shortly after Adam and Eve left the garden. In Genesis 4, the Bible records the first murder, that of Abel by the hands of his brother Cain. Murder in and of itself is not that interesting as it is actually kind of common in this crazy, messed-up world. What is interesting is how Cain was treated. Three things could have happened after the murder. First, the people in the area (Cain’s family – Adam, Eve, siblings, or their descendants) could have gathered together and punished Cain for his deeds. In modern terms, this would be a type of democratic society in which the people decide what is right and wrong according to popular vote or what is best for society. In other words, society as a whole becomes the king who determines what is right and wrong. Second, they could have ignored the killing and continued living out their lives as if nothing happened. This would be a similar concept to the first choice – namely promoting society to the role of king. Granted, there may have been some folks who would disagree with society and try to enact judgment on Cain themselves. But, then again, this would still be humanity deciding what is right and wrong – and if we learned anything from the Genesis 1–3, it is that God alone determines what is right and wrong. This brings us to the third choice people had after Cain killed Abel: they could let the Creator King judge the deeds of Cain. This may sound self-evident, considering that...
Why should we trust Jesus?

Why should we trust Jesus?

I think it is very important to stop for a moment and ask the question that the early church had to ask itself: “With all the different versions of the kingdom of God, why believe Jesus’ version? What was it that made his claims different than all the other claims out there?” The New Testaments gives us two answers as to why the first-century followers of Jesus took his word over and above the words of all the other voices of their time. These answers are also the ones that we, in the twenty-first century, must hold on to, as they are what set us apart, not only from other definitions of the kingdom of God, but from all other religions. In 1 Corinthians 15:1a, 3b–8, Paul gives us the first answer to the question of why we should believe Jesus’ version of the kingdom: “Let me remind you, brother and sisters, about the good news which I announced to you…The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Bible; he was buried; he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Bible; he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve; then he was seen by over five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still with us, though some fell asleep; then he was seen by James, then by all the apostles, and last of all as to one ripped from the womb, he appeared to even to me.” (TKNT) It was the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth after three days in the grave that marked him as someone different. If...
Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Christianity in Protestant America is, as a whole, very skeptical of anything coming out of the monasteries of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox tradition. While a lot of this skepticism was inherited from our Reformation fathers (which, oddly enough, was started by a monk), most of it has to do with our tendency to want to have our cake and eat it too. What I mean is that we, if I might be a bit stereotypical for a moment, tend to want to live in the modern world while also hanging onto our Christianity faith. As such, the idea that someone would voluntarily walk away from society and modern conveniences (not to mention sex!) to join a monastery…well, that person must not be right in the head… or so we think to ourselves. The reality is something far different – as is usually the case. The monasteries of our older brothers (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) are full of wisdom and life. And we, the younger, more rowdy, sibling would be wise to pay attention to the lessons and traditions of these monks. A good place to start is with Kyriacos Markides’ book Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality. In this book, which is essentially a follow up to his early book The Mountain of Silence, Markides explores the spiritual traditions and practices of the Eastern Orthodox monks who draw from the elders of Mount Athos. Written as a journey of discovery, Markides leads the reader by the hand into the monastic world of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Starting first with a monastery...
Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis

Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis

When I think about mystics I have to admit that C.S. Lewis isn’t the first person that comes to me. Rather I think about St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and, on some days, the Apostle John. C.S. Lewis, however, seems to have been a mystic even if he didn’t quite enjoy the term. In his book, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis, David C. Downing shifted through the books, essays, and letters of C.S. Lewis to reveal his mystical underpinnings. This, of course, begs the question of what is mysticism. The term “mystic” has fallen out of favor within American Christianity due to the rise of New Age religious beliefs and practices that swept across the USA in the 1970’s. Things were different in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with folks within the Christian faith having a strong interest in mysticism. Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) defined mysticism as “the direct intuition or experience of God” while William R. Inge (1860-1954) described it as “the experience of coming into immediate relation with higher Powers.” C.S. Lewis, who knew both Underhill and Inge, defined mysticism as a “direct experience of God, immediate as a taste or color.” Downing further unpacks the question of what is Christian mysticism in the first three chapters of his book. The first chapter looks at Christian mysticism in general before shifting to C.S. Lewis personal life in chapter two. The third chapter goes a bit deeper into defining mysticism by looking at the writings of the different Christian mystics Lewis read and loved. After laying the foundation about what Lewis...
Character & Gifting: Lessons From Our Eastern Brethren

Character & Gifting: Lessons From Our Eastern Brethren

Born into an Eastern Orthodox family on Cyprus, Kyriacos C. Markides adopted an agnostic view of God and spirituality in the 1970’s while at college in the USA. After years of scientific materialism, he begin a journey that took him through Hindu spirituality and transcendental meditation before returning to Eastern Orthodoxy. Being a professor of sociology (University of Maine), Markides documented and published various segments of his spiritual journey including his chats with various healers and mystics on the edges of Eastern Orthodoxy. The focus on this book, The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality, is Markides discovery of Eastern Orthodox spirituality as seen through a monastic lens. The book starts off with Markides seeking to visit the monks living on Mount Athos in Greece. Christian monks and hermits have lived on this mountain for over 1,800 years with the single focus of pursuing God. The importance of this mountain in Eastern Orthodoxy can be seen through the  nickname the “Holy Mountain.” Sadly, Markides was unable to visit Mount Athos at the beginning of the book. Rather his journey took him back to Cyprus where a former monk of the mountain recently became the abbot of a monastery. Throughout the rest of the book, Markides and his monastic guide, Father Maximos, constantly refer back to Mount Athos and the traditions of the mountain. The book ends with Markides finally reaching Mount Athos only to find that the monks had taken a vow of silence during the time period he had chosen to visit. Hence the name of the book. The concepts recorded within the pages of the book...