Living While Dead

To strive is human, but give up the ambitions and worries of this world, seeking only God, is to have life as He intends.

Our church regularly performs Infant Dedication, a ceremony in which the parents dedicate themselves publicly to raise their child as a Christian and the congregation dedicates itself to supporting the parents in this holy work. Parents choose a special verse for their child, one intended to guide them in the ways of Christ through their lives. Psalm 23:1, Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16, and Philippians 4:13 are popular.

Continue reading “Living While Dead”

Singular Events and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Science requires that we repeat events. History doesn’t allow it. Does science prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Last Easter I was reading an article in the Washington Post about the Resurrection of Jesus, a popular topic at that time of year. Considering the source, I knew that the author’s conclusion would be something other than affirming the physical, bodily resurrection that is the cornerstone of authentic Christianity. As Paul wrote, “if Christ is not raised then our preaching is vain and your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).” Genuine Christians may disagree on many things, but to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ is to deny Christianity; no real Christian can do it. The article met my expectations, stating that the sightings of Jesus after the crucifixion had a “dreamy sense” and suggesting that His resurrection was either spiritual or illusory altogether. This is a standard line of secularists and others seeking to discredit Christianity. Unfortunately, such people never provide reasons for their arguments except that “people can’t rise from the dead.” This apriori assumption makes it impossible for those who hold it to ever believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

On the face of it no other reason is necessary because in all of human history, as far as many people know, everyone has died. There have been many stories of people physically rising from the dead, but most are rendered suspect by the circumstances. Was the person really dead? Did they merely resuscitate? Is the whole story a myth? In most cases, it is impossible to verify the medical diagnosis of death, which is typically brain death. In other cases, the story bears all of the traits of myth, such as the Egyptian story of the “resurrection” of Osiris. Considering the purported resurrections commonly noted in history, it is easy to conclude that since everyone else died and stayed dead, Jesus must have also. If this is true, there must be some other explanation for the story in the Gospels, and Biblical Christianity must be false.

Continue reading “Singular Events and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”

Christian Apology in the Second Century

Contrary to the modern Western usage of the word, apology as first defined by Webster is “a formal spoken or written defense of some idea, religion, philosophy, etc.” By end of the second century AD, Christianity had grown dramatically in the Roman Empire and was clearly differentiated from Judaism, which had lost its place in the Empire as a result of the Great Revolt (66-70 AD), the Kitos War (115-117 AD), and the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-135 AD). No longer identified with Judaism which shielded Christianity from close Roman scrutiny in the earliest days (Acts 18:12-17), Christianity in the second century was a focus of great attention by non-Christians.

Christians lived differently than their pagan neighbors. They kept to themselves in entertainment, worship, and even some commercial transactions such as purchasing meat sacrificed to idols. They avoided politics. Believers in Christ observed neither the traditional religious practices of the Greek and Roman gods nor the worship of the Emperor. The former made them different, but the later made them potentially treasonous in the eyes of others.

Continue reading “Christian Apology in the Second Century”

Jesus, an Example of Mentoring Leadership

How did Jesus mentor His disciples? How did He mentor others? How should we mentor those who look to us for leadership?

One of the greatest strengths of mentoring leaders is the ability to teach.  To reproduce himself, a man must teach, by words and by actions, those who are learning from him.  Jesus taught large groups and the people marveled at the wisdom and authority of His words.  He was doing His most important work, however, when He was teaching small groups of His disciples and other followers (Luke 24:32).

Mentoring leaders also use gifts of exhortation to mentor those entrusted to them.  Exhortation includes encouragement and instruction to do the right and wise thing.  After Peter’s proclamation of faith in Matthew 16:16, Jesus encouraged him.  After Peter denied Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75, Jesus encouraged him again (John 21:15-17).  Many times in the gospels Jesus exhorted His disciples.  Such gifts as exhortation and teaching are evidence of excellent communication, in this case sharing leadership principles and examples to the next generation of leaders.

Continue reading “Jesus, an Example of Mentoring Leadership”

We the Rebels, the Traitors, the Despised and the Beloved

Jesus said that the world will hate those we follow Him. He said that Christians are in the world but not of the world. What does that mean?

Our class had an interesting discussion during Sunday School yesterday. We begin in a large assembly and share announcements and prayer requests. The department includes young and middle aged adults, and one prayer request was a delight; a recently married couple will be having their first child in the spring. Many of the other requests were sad; women with breast cancer, aging and dying parents, and trouble with marriages and children. No one is immune to the disappointments and tragedies of life.

Continue reading “We the Rebels, the Traitors, the Despised and the Beloved”

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

We abide in Christ like a branch abides in a tree, but how do we do that in day to day life?

Paul Brand, the hand surgeon renowned for his discoveries in leprosy and his vibrant Christian faith, wrote often about the parallels between the church as the Body of Christ and the human body.   The metaphor Jesus used in John 15 about the relationship between Him and His people, that of a vine, is another powerful illustration of the intimate, dependent, and fruitful relationship we have with Christ our Creator and Sustainer.

As each organ, liver, brain, kidneys, and heart, is an integral part of the human body, so the branch is an integral part of the vine and each man an integral part of the body of Christ.  More precisely, as each human cell is vital to the life of man so each plant cell is to the life of the vine and each believer is to the body of our Lord.  To abide in Christ is, therefore, analogous to the relationship between a cell and the body and a branch and its vine.

Continue reading “What does it mean to abide in Christ?”

The Old Testament Prophets – What Did They Do?

Prophets seem strange to us, but they also seemed strange to their contemporaries. Who were they, and what did they do?

Some Christians believe that the Old Testament (OT) prophets were men who predicted a distant future revealed to them by God.  Either the coming of Christ or the book of Revelation and the end times (or both) are seen as the main message of the Old Testament prophet.  Some critical scholars in the past have seen OT prophecy as unique or even fictitious; their messages brand new without any connection to Israel’s past and with no relevance for the future.  In reality, the primary mission of the prophets was to proclaim God’s truth to the people of their time and place, just like pastors and teachers today are called to do.

Were the prophets primarily ‘foretellers’ or ‘forthtellers’ or both?

Continue reading “The Old Testament Prophets – What Did They Do?”

What about Those Who Have Never Heard?

Skeptics sometimes say “If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then God is unjust, because some people have never heard of Him.” Between the Scriptures, the oral message, creation, dreams, visions, and the myriad of other ways that God speaks to man, there is probably no one who actually has never heard.

The discussion last Sunday, centered around how someone can be sure of his salvation and focused on Luke 23:32-43, the story of the thief on the cross, engendered some lively discussion. One issue which came up, which always comes up in lessons about salvation, was the question about what God is going to do with people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus.

The Bible teaches that everyone is a child of God, in the sense that we are all created by Him (Genesis 2:7), but some people are His children in the sense that they live in good relationship with Him (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:10). It also teaches that every person will live forever, some people with God and some people without Him (Matthew 13:40-43, Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 20:11-12). In that sense, all religions and even non-religion lead to God because every person will stand before Him in judgment. To use a human analogy, every person is a child of their parents because they were “created” by them but not every person lives in good relations with their parents. Bible believing Christians hold that Jesus is the only way to eternal life; defined as everlasting life in good relations with our Heavenly Father.

Continue reading “What about Those Who Have Never Heard?”

Why not God?

Atheists and skeptics ask believers “Why God?” A better question might be “Why not God?” The choice determines eternity. 

Man believes that his existence and importance are self-evident and that God’s existence and importance are not. He therefore questions God, and in history billions of words have been deployed arguing for and against Him. Christians have used arguments based on moral law, causation, design in the universe, and the beauty of creation to support their belief in God’s existence. Non-Christians have attacked these arguments and deployed their own, primarily the problem of pain and suffering in the universe, to support their disbelief in God. On 24 March 2012, about 20,000 people at the Reason Rally in Washington DC celebrated “irreligion, nontheism and secularity”, and the event was billed as a “coming out” party for atheists in America.

If it is true that God is the foundational reality, not man, and “Why man?” is a far more reasonable question than “Why God?”, why is there such controversy about Him? If God is so dominant in the universe, why do so many people disbelieve? Why is so much venom and bile directed towards the One who is revealed in the Bible as being so loving and so good? We could ask, “Why not God?”

Continue reading “Why not God?”

Passion Week – The Intractable Conflicts that Sent Jesus to Calvary

Political tension, jealously, misunderstanding, fear, laziness, and all of the natural human sins and frailties led Jesus to Calvary. 

Jerusalem in the 1st century AD was an uneasy place.  A thin veneer of calm covered a seething cauldron of oppression, resistance, hatred, racial and religious conflict, and murder.  Palestine, known to all conquerors since antiquity as a hot bed of revolution, had by 30 AD been under Roman domination for nearly 100 years since Pompey conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the temple in 63 BC.

The political arrangement was simple.  The Roman conquerors wanted peace and taxes, the first to limit the expense in blood and treasure of holding Palestine, and the second to get as much as possible out of the province to finance their Imperial tastes and adventures.  Lacking a natural port like Greece, resources like Asia Minor, or major wheat harvests like Egypt, Palestine had little to offer their conquerors except for being an eastern outpost against the Parthians and a land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa.  Many troops and lots of money were necessary to hold the land, so the Romans wanted the Jews to be quiet.

Continue reading “Passion Week – The Intractable Conflicts that Sent Jesus to Calvary”

%d bloggers like this: