Been thinking a lot about this wonderful and picturesque phrase from Bishop NT Wright describing what the meaning of the Resurrection is: “Jesus has risen, is in charge, and the energy of Heaven has been set loose.”
The purpose of these next few posts is to ask the question, “If the energy of Heaven has been set loose, how do we know the signs?” In the last post we looked at the words of Jesus, who said the Spirit of God is like the wind. You can’t see the wind, you don’t know where its coming from, and you don’t know where it’s going, yet you can always see the effects of the wind. The same is true of the energy of Heaven – we should be able to see the effects as the Spirit of God unleashes the forces of Heaven to bring God’s kingdom to earth here and now.
So where do we look for these signs?
In the New Testament Jesus was the quintessence of God’s life giving force. Everywhere Jesus came and went left a trail of transformed scenes: blind people that could see, sick people that had been restored to health, fishermen no longer at their nets, skeptics confounded, the dead raised to life, lost people coming to faith.
But the Resurrection represented something incredibly important. No longer would Jesus be the primary gateway for the power of Heaven to flow through – the people of God would be. The Spirit would be released and those who were connected to God through Jesus Christ would now carry the capacity to be the ones that the energy of Heaven flowed through.
As Dr. John Perkins says so eloquently, “The Christian Church is a continuation of the life of Jesus. As He was, so are we on the world. We are to be the ones that Jesus now ministers to the world through.”
If this is true (and I most certainly believe it is), then the place to observe where the energy of Heaven was first set loose is the book of Acts. ‘Acts’ is actually shorthand for the ‘Acts of the Apostles.’ The Apostles who had known and lived with Jesus were changed forever by the Resurrection, and they believed we should be too.
The book of Acts opens by saying the Spirit of God came upon them like a mighty wind, and the book then proceeds to showcase what some of the premier signs of the Energy of Heaven were.
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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