The Resurrection in Your Life: a book review.

When Jesus hung on the cross and died for our sins, that was not the end of the story. Jesus rose from the  dead and that changed everything. Author Mike McKinley presents the case that because Jesus’ resurecction was a historical event, The Resurrection in Your Life walks through the Easter events to Pentecost in Luke-Acts. In ten short chapters, McKinley walks through ten passages which explore the meaning of Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the gift of the Spirit.

Mckinely is the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Virgina. This book grew out of a sermon series he did (143). Each chapter includes a passage from Luke or Acts, a written sermon on the passage, reflection questions and hymn lyrics which explore the theme. McKinley’s theology is traditional Baptist and Reformed leaning.

McKinley is a good communicator and I think I would enjoy listening to these as sermons. He makes judicious conclusions based on his text and relates his theme(s) to life. However, I had hoped that he would be more theological reflective on the meaning of the resurrection and its impact on our life, something similar to Eugene Peterson’s Living the Resurrection or Practicing the Resurrection. Instead these are pithy sermons based on resurrection (and ascension and Pentecost) accounts. Fine as far as they go, but  I wished for something a little more focused and a little deeper. I love that McKinley sees the integral place that the resurrection has for our salvation, I just wish he unfolded it a little more.

This is a three star book for me, but I don’t have any real criticism. I think anyone who reads this book will find points where you are challenged. I underlined several sentences in my copy. I appreciate how passionate McKinley is about how we don’t have a dead Jesus but a risen Savior. ★ ★ ★

Notice of material connection, I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews and the Good Book Company in exchange for my honest review.

The Ascent of God

This coming Thursday is Ascension Day–the day in the church year when we celebrate Jesus’ post-resurrection-trip-to-heaven. While this is a significant event in Christ’s life and the life of the church, it doesn’t get much play in today’s churches. Growing up in church I remember 2D disciples and flannelgraph feet, but I don’t remember much else said about Jesus’ Ascension. If your church recites the Creeds  then it  is affirmed: “he ascended into heaven.” However it is little emphasized in worship, in readings, or preaching. Only Luke records the event (though he does it twice) and we may wonder what the big deal is.

In another age the Ascension was celebrated as the crowning  glory of  the Incarnation. Listen to St. Augustine:

The Ascension is the festival which confirms the grace of all other festivals put together–without which the profitableness of every other festival would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, His nativity would have come to nothing . . . and His passion would have borne no fruit for us . . . and His most holy resurrection would have been useless. -St. Augustine, quoted in Tim Perry & Aaron Perry, He Ascended into Heaven ( Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2010) 3.

The following observations are my musings on the significance of the Ascension. I affirm the event as a historic reality. Jesus stood with his disciples somewhere near Bethany where they witnessed him taken to heaven. While the events of Jesus’ Ascension are only described by Luke in Luke 24 and Acts 1, there are a number of passages  assume its reality.

So why does it matter? Here are three observations:

  1. The Ascension means Jesus is absent.  In another sense, us post-Pentecost believers know Christ’s presence with us through the ministry of the Spirit. We cling to Jesus’ promise to be with us, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). But let’s not gloss  over Jesus absence. One moment Jesus was with his disciples, the next moment he was taken up into heaven and they were told that in the same way he departed, he would one day return.  Because  of the Ascension we are people between times: Jesus is no longer with us bodily, Jesus will one day return. We pray and work toward the Kingdom of God but as post-Ascension people we live in the ‘already but not yet’ tension of the Kingdom of God. 
  2. The Ascension means that Christ’s Incarnate work is finished. We love Christmas with all its fanfare and we walk with Jesus on the road to Calvary through Lent and Holy Week. On Easter we proclaim Christ’s resurrection with shouts, songs and chocolate bunnies. As significant as Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are, they lose their meaning unless they are sealed by his Ascension.  If Jesus the incarnate one does not return to the Father, than we are left with a fractured deity. If the words of dereliction on the cross resulted in Christ’s eternal separation from God, then there is no hope for humanity.  The Ascension is Christ’s vindication and proof that God’s favor rests on Him. Philippians 2:5-11 describe how the Ascension is the telos of Christ’s Incarnation:

    In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

    rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

    And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

    even death on a cross!

    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the name that is above every name,

    10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

    11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

  3. The Ascension means that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God.  Jesus is exalted and that means Jesus reigns! This is good news, especially in a world with marathon bombings, political and social unrest, bloodshed.  Things on earth are not all as they should be (or will be!), but we can be confident that the risen and ascended Christ, sits with God and intercedes on our behalf.

So Thursday night  celebrate the Ascendant one and give thanks that the Christ who is absent will one day return, that his salvific, incarnational work is completed, that he reigns in glory and holds you in his hands.

Prayer for Ascension/Easter 7

Liturgically, this is the last Sunday of Easter before Pentecost. This past Thursday was the feast of the Ascension which commemorates the event described in Luke 24 and Acts 1 when Jesus was taken up into Heaven. The disciples were commanded to wait for the Holy Spirit, but the Ascension itself describes one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith. We proclaim that  God’s Kingdom is near, that it is at hand, that it is here. But are King is absent from the scene (present by the Spirit). We declare a kingdom but the nations see no King. This is the now-but-not-yet-ness of the Kingdom of God. To our risen and ascended Lord we pray:

 

Jesus we know that you drank the dregs of our humanity,

that you suffered heartbreak and loss,

You were rejected and abandoned by those you called your own,

We know that you know betrayal and that you bore

all the abuse we could throw at you.

We  trust in your resurrection and the power of new life you offer.

 

But when we look at our world and wonder. . .

Where are you when the single mom is evicted because she can’t make ends meet?

Where are you as warfare, abuse and sexual immorality destroys families?

Where are when we ourselves struggle? Feel abandoned? Feel alone?

 

We know your kingdom is here and we trust that you are at work–

interceding for us, preparing our place, reconciling the world to yourself.

But sometimes we still feel the dull ache of your absence on the earth.

Come Lord Jesus and restore all things!

 

 

Make us mindful of your presence with us by your Holy Spirit and let us rejoice at the hope of your coming again.

 

Come Lord Jesus!

 

Amen.