WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Death, Burial, & Resurrection - 04/24/2016


The Christian message is not about the many social concerns that we attach it to in our culture today.

·         It's not about Right to Life
·         it's not about equality in marriage
·         it's not about saving the planet from global warming
·         And it's certainly not about who we elect as President, and send to Washington D.C.

The Christian message is simply about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The Death of Jesus…

We call this “Good Friday”.  It seems as though the unfair execution of a man should be called anything but good.  But the death of Jesus is good when we realize why he died.  He died to pay the price of sin brought about because of the fall of Adam.  More generally, He died for us sinners.

Someone may argue he isn’t a sinner because, they may say, “It is not as though I am as bad as some other people, like my brother, or even Hitler.”  However, at the cross all people are on completely equal standing because there we must compare ourselves to the goodness of Jesus, and not the badness of people.  At the cross, we learn that compared to the goodness of Jesus, no human is righteous.  Jesus went to the cross, in our place, to die the death that we could not – and that is good news.

The Burial of Jesus…

The Burial brought great confusion upon the disciples, just like the death of one of our own loved ones does us. 

I can guess what the disciples were thinking when their friend was buried.  They were likely thinking that ‘Jesus was not supposed to die’ and wondered what they were going to do now? 

Isn’t this what we all say (or think) to ourselves when one of our loved ones is buried?  “Why did God let my loved one die?” 

When Jesus was in the tomb, his disciples were pained and confused.  They locked themselves in a house, keeping the outside world out, and even when the women came to tell them that all was well, because Jesus had risen back to life, the men refused to believe them.  I think they were just too distraught by the emotion and pain of it all.  Many of us have felt distraught by the death of a loved one having felt this hopelessness, and even rejecting the words of comfort given to us by our closest friends and loved ones.

The Resurrection of Jesus…

The resurrection of Jesus is the Gospel.  This is the “Good News!”  It was unbelievable, miraculous, and completely unexpected.  And it gives us great hope.

Jesus was brought back to life by God.  This made everything He said true, everything He promised to be trusted, and it meant that all their fears and doubts were not the end of the story.  Because Jesus, who died, and who was buried, was alive again, and in His resurrected life there was Hope.

Have you ever seen the light at the end of the dark tunnel of your soul?  Usually we don’t.  Usually we don’t recognize it until after we have emerged out into the light, and taken a deep cleansing breath.  However, even if we don’t see it at first, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

The resurrection of Jesus is the lighted-hope in our dark days.  In the hard times, when we recognize our self-focus, when we only feel the pain of loss, or the weight of our separation from God, we have a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it be only a pin-prick of light like the faintest star in the midnight sky.  In the resurrection of Jesus, we must have faith, for only in this faith may we have the grace of hope that we have been forgiven and our eternities secured with God.  It is this hope in the resurrection of Jesus which ultimately makes the cross good.

1 Corinthians 15:13-20

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Too often we experience loss and feel pain but as we hold firmly to faith in the resurrected Jesus, we see the light at the end of the tunnel and trust for a bright tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Very Heart of God? - 04/17/2016


The Christian world has had 2000 plus years developing its doctrines and theologies, and when I went to school to learn them I recognized one thing -- the waters of theological study are muddy and impossible to see through.  This realization almost caused me to lose hope: but for my faith in the resurrection of Jesus and the following passage of ancient Scripture.

Exodus 22:18-24[1]

18 “Do not allow a sorceress to live.
19 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

In the above passage God gives four commands,

1.       Don’t allow a sorcerers to live
2.       Don’t allow a person who has sex with an animal to live
3.       Destroy the person who worships another god.
4.       Don’t oppress the foreigner or take advantage of the widow and the orphan.

What strikes me here is the ones doing the executing.  In the first three cases, it is the community who does the executing of the guilty, but in the fourth case it is God.

1.       A sorceress, who delves into the occult and necromancy, who creates a bridge between the devil’s domain and God’s children, who thumbs her nose at the very first Commandment is not to be allowed to exist in Israel, the Israelites are to cast her out and stone her to death
2.       A pervert who delves into bestiality is likewise to be cast out and stoned to death by the people,
3.       Lastly, if there is one who worships another god, that person is to be put out of Israel and stoned to death by the assembly. 

Each execution is fully justified for a people who are God’s Chosen.

But the fourth…

The fourth command is to not oppress the foreigner, nor take advantage of the widow and the fatherless.  The consequence of death is the same, execution, but this time, the executor is different.  This time, the one doing the executing is God himself.

The first three offenses are terrible offenses, and if the perpetrators were allowed to remain among the people their sin would spread like wildfire among the Israelite People.  So the people must act to keep the community safe.  But the fourth offense, though seemingly less offensive to my sensibilities, is in fact the most heinous of crimes because of who will do the executing.  When the foreigner, the widow, and the fatherless are oppressed by the community of God’s people, He picks up His own sword and He executes the community which has committed such an atrocity.

It is telling, I think, that God allows the community of His people to manage the day-to-day stuff (deacons, elders, & pastors) but when the community is corrupted, and if it takes advantage of the most hopeless and helpless; when this happens, God Himself comes to their aide.

·         He considers us orphans without a father - and He adopts us
·         You and I are the widows without husband who provides for us
·         We are the foreigners who need to be brought in and given a place to call home. 

The Cross of our Jesus indicates that God is all of these things and He is not just simply in the muddy waters of our doctrinal and theological concerns, but in the very people that He died on the Cross to save.

Today we may take comfort because God’s very heart is for us – if we are among the widows, orphans, and foreigners.

Once we are counted among the neediest of people then we can call out and claim the blood of our savior for our salvation, for the blood redeems each of us, but only those who kneel at the foot of the cross will be saved (Jude 1:5).   (If that statement seems too exclusive we need only ask the religious folks of Jesus day what the savior thought of them.) 

The question now is this, are we concerned for the most hopeless and helpless among us as Jesus was?  Are we more concerned for them or for our religious observations such as the Sabbath was to the religious people of His day?

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I’m taken by the theme of God’s heart which is seen in the Old Testament.  And Jesus continued his Father’s theme seamlessly as he ministers to us today.

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+22%3A18-24&version=NIV

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Street Cred - 04/10/2016


I had the privilege of attending a conference with a man named Nadim Nassar[1].  Nadim is an Anglican Priest in London who founded the Awareness Foundation[2], and he works to bring peace to Syria through open honest dialogue.  Syria is his homeland so he is personally vested in trying to see peace come to the land as well as the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ.

During one of Nadim’s talks, he told how he met with a big group of Christian young people (I assumed college aged) to work with them and bring them hope that despite the many years of war that God was still at work and presently with them.  He opened the session with just allowing the young people to vent and share their raw and unfiltered frustrations about everything.  He reported that they did too.  They were angry; they felt alone, they were frustrated that their prayers were not answered (if they were even heard) and they felt abandoned by God and the world-wide “body of Christ” as a whole.

Nadim began a talk to the young people there and he reports that they wanted to know what gave him the nerve to speak to them about their situation; a Londoner who lived in luxury by comparison. 

It was a fair question you know?  If I had been in their shoes I would be a little offended thinking that this man from London came into the war-zone of my life acting like a savior on his White Horse in order to try and comfort me..

But Nadim had lived through the years of Beirut in the early 1980’s.  He explained to the young people he was not some Don Quixote who just imagined he could relate to them, but he had lived what they were now living through, and could relate to them in a very real way.  When the youth heard this Nadim reports that he had instant credibility in their eyes and the discussions of comfort could commence.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14a

The Bible teaches us that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ and lived among us to show us the way to God, He did miracles, bucked the religious system, and died an excruciating death for us.  Now, we live our lives following and immolating Him.  However, at this my humanity balks.

What gives God the right to tell me how to live?  It’s not as though I have God-like super powers.  He did amazing things, but still he is deity while I am not.  He could tell storms to hush -- and they did, he could touch a cripple -- and he walked, He was asked tricky questions -- and answered them with eternal profoundness.  Me?  I’m smart enough to think of what I should have said a day later – sometimes.  The issue for me is that Jesus, in my mind, is often just the Londoner who is coming to comfort me, but never having lived through the very real struggles of a pure human life -- not really -- because he had a God suit to put on as he needed.  And I do not.

But then the scriptures tell me this about Jesus.

“[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!”  Philippians 2:6-8

And I get it, through all of the Christological discussions about Jesus being God AND Man -- and how much of each -- and when, the Bible presents to me a human Jesus who did not live as God of the universe but like me as a human being.  Jesus had street clothes, not a God suit.  The life he lived he lived by human strength faith, not by super deity powers. 

Jesus did not live His life as a supernatural man doing supernatural things, but rather He was totally human living completely by human style faith, and by faith alone, He did supernatural things.  Jesus Christ didn’t live his earthly life as the God of faith, but He lived as a man with great faith in God.

As I consider the humanity of Jesus, I am encouraged to live the life of faith, just as He did.  Will I ever do all those miraculous things that He did as a man of faith?  I doubt it, but what I do know is that I can maneuver tough times with faith as He did, I can handle temptations by faith, as He did, and I can live my life with the knowledge of the Father’s ever-present grace, just as He did.  In other words, I can live the life of faith that Jesus did.

Why?  Because Jesus lived the human life I now live, but He does it with a great faith in God.  In knowing this, I realize that Jesus has a great amount of credibility with me because He has actually lived through the life of faith that I am encouraged to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/nadim.nassar.1?fref=ts
[2] http://www.awareness-foundation.co.uk/