Wednesday, April 19, 2017

That's Jesus for You

"So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”" (John 20:19 NIV)
To the men who had abandoned him prior to his crucifixion and to the one who had disowned him, Jesus said, "Peace be with you."  That's Jesus for you.  He did not come in vengeance but in forgiveness.

Reflections on this coming Sunday's gospel reading,  John 20:19-31.

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Believe in the Resurrection, Part 2

The first reason I gave for my belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reality of Christ, that is, the reality called Christ expressed in the lives of the early Christians and in the portrait of the man they say embodied what it is to be Christ, namely the historical Jesus.  By itself this appearance of a profound expression of self-giving love and the embodiment of what the Old Testament calls shalom (peace) does not prove the resurrection but it is a necessary element for my belief.

As I said in my first post, my belief in the resurrection is not based on one bit of evidence but instead on many lines of evidence coming together.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another of those strands of evidence is how the history of Jesus recorded in the New Testament unlocks the meaning of the Old Testament—from direct prophecies, to indirect types and shadows, to the story of Israel taken as a whole.  The story of Jesus, his coming and coming again, fittingly fulfills the Old Testament.

These two things, the reality of Christ (the embodiment of shalom and agape) and the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, are key because when we examine the direct evidence for the resurrection of Jesus we realize we’re not dealing with some strange isolated event.  This event has a context and the context makes all the difference.  We’re not talking about just any person being raised; we’re talking about this person.  That this person would be raised from the dead makes sense, given the context.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I Believe in the Resurrection, Part 1

I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  My belief is based on many lines of evidence which come together.  Even as many strands of rope or cable come together to form one large rope or cable thereby anchoring a great ship, so these many lines of evidence serve to anchor my confidence in the fact of the resurrection.

My first strand of evidence:

I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the reality the early Christians called Christ.

They said everything they were saying and doing was being motivated by something called Christ in them.  The shared way of being which suddenly appeared in them, a way which may be summarized as self-giving love, they attributed to the presence of this Christ in their lives.

This Christ they said first appeared as a man who embodied this way perfectly. Some have suggested they made this person up, but it makes much more sense to me to say that some shared influence caused them to act this way.  It’s far simpler to say they all encountered a powerful personality who so impacted them they were forever changed. (Also, as I will share in future posts, the early nature of the spread of Christian beliefs speaks against a complete fabrication.  Jesus had to be basically the kind of person they said he was.)

Because I believe a singular person is the cause of this new way called Christ and am convinced that this way of being reveals a life fully aligned with what is good and beautiful and true I'm made much more open to the claim that this man was raised from the dead, especially if there is good evidence, and as I will show in future posts, I believe there is.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Strong Evidence For Our Faith

Faith is a gift, born of God's Spirit. Yet faith is not without strong external evidence.  In this video Dr. Peter Williams gives a clear and engaging presentation of some of the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Maundy What?

The Other Holy Day | Christian History:
"Maundy" comes, possibly by way of one or more European languages, from the Latin "mandatum," meaning "command." The reference is John 13:34: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Jesus spoke those words at the Last Supper, which took place the Thursday before Easter.
On Thursday of next week many churches, including the one I pastor, will observe Maundy Thursday.  The day is little understood in the wider culture and among many Christians.  It's a day for remembering the command Jesus gave at the last supper, to love as he loved.

How did Jesus love?  From the beginning the Jesus of the gospels is portrayed as identifying with people in their need.  He embodies his own command, do unto others as you would have them do. He didn't say don't do harm.  He said do positive good.

Christian love is active love.  It does for others, seeking the best for others.  Much more could be said about this but the main idea of Maundy Thursday is recognizing once more that we're to be the community in which this love is being manifest.  (And the basis of this love, the source of our ability, is the new reality which Christ has brought into the world.)

We Are Responsible!

On the one hand YOU DID NOT CHOOSE to believe.  Faith is not a human achievement.  It is the gift of God brought about by the Spirit who works through God’s ordained means.
Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Ro. 10.17 ESV).
On the other hand YOU CHOOSE each day whether you will live by the faith you’ve been given. "Where is your faith?", Jesus asked his disciples (Luke 8.25).  He constantly held them accountable for their lack of faith, meaning their lack of living by faith.

Faith must be fed and protected.  It is portrayed by Jesus as a tender plant, susceptible to birds and weeds and scorching heat (Matthew 13).

We feed our faith by staying under the ministry of the word.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts (Colossians 3.16 NIV).
We protect our faith by being deliberate about what influences us.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy (Colossians 2.8 NIV).
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5 NIV).
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12.15 NIV).
Again, we cannot take credit for our coming to faith.  It’s a gift of God, a miracle.  We are, however, responsible for the gift we’ve been given. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Personality-Driven Church and/or Ministry

Developing Christlike Character:
"People respond to charisma because a person with charisma is able to communicate to people the fact that they are worth something. People with charisma nourish hope. But character has to accompany charisma. A person needs not only affirmation but also discipline of mind and spirit."
I have long been suspicious of charismatic personalities.  I guess I'm afraid of being manipulated.  I've seen people use their personal charisma to bypass reason and argument and then impose their opinions on others.  People readily soak up whatever that person is saying, never questioning whether what they're being sold is true or not.

Some time ago I stumbled upon this interview with Jack Hayford (linked above).  He seems to me to hit the nail on the head.  Charismatic personalities touch deeply felt needs. People are drawn to them because of how they make them feel (and for many if it feels so good it must be right).

I was struck by Hayford's affirmation of the power of personal charisma, that it has its place, when it's accompanied by character.  The temptation for people with charisma is their easy success.  In the church world this means drawing a crowd.  We all know of churches built around a personality.

Key, then, for the charismatic person is cultivating self-awareness.  The charismatic personality in ministry must work extra hard at pointing people away from themselves to Christ.  They must fight the temptation to rely on their charisma alone.  They must study to show themselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and make sure they're reasoning from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2), rightly dividing the word (2 Timothy 2:15).  This means an openness to being corrected and challenged.

One of the advantages of reading widely is the challenge and correction it brings.  Today we also have the advantage of multimedia avenues for learning.  Podcasts and videos provide great opportunities for continuing education and online forums allow for discussion with those of other viewpoints.  Of course, there are in-person learning opportunities such as conferences and courses taught in local colleges and seminaries and there are in-person pastors' groups for discussion and feedback.

Of course, all those in ministry should be diligent in their efforts, and all should be growing spiritually.  It's just that the person with great charisma is often a much more powerful influence, and, as we know, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).