Sunday, April 16, 2017

GREAT PROOF, A GREAT EVENT, A GREAT DAY

Christianity as a faith is determined, differentiated, and declared by the empty tomb. The tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, on the day of Jesus crucifixion.

Jesus didn't own much beyond His robe and gown ... if you ignore the fact that the whole earth and, everything in it, belonged to Him ... so His followers had to borrow a tomb in which to lay Him.

One might suppose that they knew He wouldn't be gone for long, but were that the case, I doubt they'd have prepared Him for burial in accordance to Jewish traditions. Spices, burial cloths etc.

Interestingly, the person who brought the spices with which to wrap Him, was Nicodemus, the Pharisee to whom Jesus said "You must be born again" ... in the first recorded use of that term.

We're all familiar with the story of what happened on "the first day of the week...". After just a couple of encounters, word got to the followers that Jesus was, indeed, no longer in the tomb. And, after a few hiccups along the way, things got back on track for Jesus' continuation of the building of His church.

There have been a number of things offered, as proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead. First, of course, is that the Bible says so. And that really ought to be enough. But there are folks who tend to want to explain away what Scripture says, by saying it really means something else. Well, I don't buy that.

One evidence is the persistence of the church to this very day. That in itself is pretty strong evidence that something supernatural has been going on. There's no reason why a supernatural resurrection wasn't part of that. Add to that the persistence of Scripture, coupled with the miraculous way it all came together, and we just know that clever men could never accomplish something like that.

I've also heard that contemporary historical accounts also tell of the prophet who came back from the grave.

There's also the fact that most of His Apostles died an early death at the hands of the enemy. One does not do that for even the biggest of lies. So we know the Apostles were convinced of the truth of the resurrection. But, to me, the greatest proof of all is contained in Scripture itself, and not just what it says about the resurrection.

Matthew's Gospel, 28th chapter, beginning at verse 11, reports "While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, the gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them "You are to say His disciples came during the night and stole Him away, while we were asleep."

I am convinced that you do not bribe someone to tell the truth. This leads me to believe the elders and chief priests we convinced, as were the guards, that Jesus had been resurrected.

Wow.

It's been said that, when the devil tries to intervene, he invariably shoots himself in the foot. For instance, the sign Pilate painted, stating "The King of the Jews", and which hung over Jesus' head, told the thief on the cross that Jesus was a King. I don't think Pilate intended that, when he painted the sign, and even refused to change it when one of his soldiers challenged what he wrote.

Then, of course, there's Joseph, and what eventually came from his brothers' jealousy and hatred.

Of course, the ultimate example is the Crucifixion itself. What the devil surely meant for evil, God intended for our good!

Maybe that's what happened with a certain lie concocted by the elders, chief priests and a few guards on a certain Sunday. They proved that which they would not admit, even to themselves.

For me, that's the checkered flag at the finish line. The "amen" after the prayer. The gavel at the close of the court case.

Case closed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You think YOU Have Experienced Tension?

I have little doubt that the day after The Crucifixion was the most tension-filled day, ever.

Consider:

Jesus had been with them for a little over 3 years. He had performed many miracles in their sight, so they knew something was extremely special about Him. More special than anyone they'd ever seen, I'd guess.

They also saw Him as a Human Man. He ate with them, slept within their sight, prayed to His Father ... albeit differently from what they did.

He always prayed a little way away from them ... far enough that they could not hear His prayers. That's why, IMHO, they had to ask Him to teach them to pray like He did.

They knew there was something special going on there, and they wanted some of it.

But they did not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they could not have understood the Spiritual truth that Jesus and His Father were, in fact, One. I doubt they could have understood the truth that Jesus had the authority to lay His life down, and to pick it up again.

They knew He had authority over death, but now He was dead. He wasn't there, so they could never have understood that He ... His Father ... could bring Jesus back to life.

If you think about it, the Disciples weren't just biding their time on the day after the Crucifixion. They were huddled in fear, Leaderless. And when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, it wasn't to greet a Living Savior, it was to anoint a dead body. They had so consigned Him to death that they did not ever recognize Him when they first saw Him.

If they'd have realized ... connected the dots ... that Jesus said He was going to be killed one day, and would come back to life 2 days later (as we celebrate it), they would have seen that the entirety of their faith was on the line, that day. Either....

  • He doesn't rise from the tomb, meaning their faith was in vain, what Jesus said was all untrue and hence He was either a liar or a lunatic, And certainly not a Savior... or ... 
  • He rises to life, meaning He was what He said He was, He really did make the atonement for all the sin of His followers, And God was putting His seal of approval on everything Jesus did and said. 
So there it all was. Pass/Fail. Go/NoGo. Life/Death. Win/Lose.

It was ALL on the line. What a day it would have been to be there, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just waiting in anticipation of the greatest event the world will ever know.

I think that's why we're reminded, in Hebrews 9:27, that it is appointed to us to die. There will be a day in our life when it'll be Pass/Fail ... Go/NoGo ... Life/Death ... Win/Lose.

I am thankful I'm on the winning side. 



Friday, April 14, 2017

WELL, IT WAS A GOOD FRIDAY

I recall the day I had my first knee replacement surgery.

As I recall, it was a Monday. Now, surgery is surgery. This one was preceded by Versed, which always eases the ride into the O.R. Then Propofol took over, and I didn't even dream

Just slept.

Woke up for the usual groggy amusement of the Recovery Room, and then back to the private room and the family.

The really unpleasant part of it all was the pain. I got to the room in mid-day, and the knee hurt a lot, when the anesthetic wore off. Sure, the nurses tried the usual meds, but morphine and acetaminophen have no effect whatsoever on pain, in me. The nurses didn't believe me, and didn't want to give me anything else after they gave me that stuff.

I was in extreme pain all night. I slept not one wink, all night.

Next day, they finally gave me a pain-killer that worked, and I finally got some sleep.

Four years later, I had the other knee replaced.

Now, many years later, the knees are fine and I am sure glad I had the surgery. Despite the absolute agony and the disruption of the surgeries, everything came out just fine.

So's my family! I can recall when walking was painful and stairs were out of the question, that I wasn't a lot of use to anybody around the house.

NOW:

There's little doubt that Jesus' pain during the scourging and the crucifixion were excruciating. Much much worse than you or I have or will ever experience. I get that it was monumental. Considering God's economy, I would also guess that, as much worse as Jesus' experience was, than any we'll ever endure here, that the beauty and the wonder and the profit from the experience would be much greater than anything we'll ever do, or endure.

I look back on the surgery date ... for both of my knees ... and recall the pain that went with both experiences. But that's not the overriding thought; that's assigned to the fact that I'm 78, had knees that were totally worn out, and today, they're absolutely no problem.

My hips, neck, back and shoulders are all complaining loudly every day about the arthritis they contain, but not my knees!

Such, it is, with the Crucifixion. As terrible as it was, it became wonderful on the following Sunday. And it still is, yet today.

I believe Jesus would say the same thing about that first occurrence of the Friday that was Good, even when nobody else on earth knew it.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

So Long, Stereotype!

The church is sort of full of stereotypes. In the New Testament context, I suppose they start with the story of Jesus' birth.

We picture an evil innkeeper who wouldn't find a room for Mary and Joseph.  Except it probably didn't happen that way.

Or maybe the crowd gathered around the newborn Jesus, in a manger in a barn out back of the nonexistent "inn". More likely it was downstairs of the house where they couldn't find anywhere else to stay.

Houses back then were not an acre with a lawn and a 3BR/2BA bungalow, you know. Or a stable, for that matter.

Perhaps the time honored painting of that crowd around the manger, which includes the 3 Wise Men from the East. Well .. they wouldn't have been there, either. They were a LONG way away from Bethlehem, and it's doubtful Mary and Joseph would have kept Jesus in a manger until the Magi could get there.

They probably weren't even expecting them....

But hey, nothing in the scripture says there were 3 of them, anyway. Only that however many of them there were, they brought 3 gifts.

Those may be common stereotypes, but they're not the ones I am thinking of. I am thinking specifically of the commonly-held views about Jesus, Himself.

If you want a cute little exercise some time, just replay in your mind, Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery. But put a smile on Jesus' face.

No judgment for an extensive divorce history, or a scandalous sex life. Just love, showing on Someone's face. Can you just imagine the grin when He said "Go get your husband .... ", knowing full well her situation? Or maybe Him grinning, first, before He said "Where are those who accuse you?"

Before I get back to The Shack, a side trip. Have you ever done anything to help someone,where it made a huge difference in their life? I recall a "F.A.I.T.H" visit once, in which I was asked to share a "FAITH testimony" But my train of thought was interrupted when I noticed the daughter of the person we went to see. She was quietly crying in a corner of the living room, which caused me to stop the "presentation" and ask her to come sit on the couch. So I just talked to her.

She ended up getting big-time, down-front, saved. Repentingly, rejoicingly, resoundingly SAVED!

That's been 10 or 15 years now, and I've only seen her once or twice, in that time. But I have to tell you, those really were times of rejoicing.

So I think it is, with Jesus and the redeemed. Yet I do not see many representations of the Savior, that reflect that. Those are normally the "Sallman head", Jesus standing at the door and knocking or maybe on a cross, or an ethereal picture featuring a halo or aurora.

Those are OK, I guess, but how do you think Jesus reacts when He sees one of His redeemed? Yes, He suffered sore for us, but ... news flash:

IT WORKED!!

When you see a grown child of yours ... one that makes you proud ... is the first thing you think of, the grief they brought? The pain of childbirth? The sacrifices you made to raise them? The things you did without?

I doubt it. I think you get blessed to the max with how they turned out. And I think the same thing goes through Jesus' mind when He sees one of us.

That's a picture of the actor who played Jesus in the movie, up yonder. Wearing just about his default expression in the film. And that was my big takeaway from the movie, The Shack.

When I read the book, I was percolating along fine until I got to the passage in which Mack tells Papa that he felt abandoned by God, much as Jesus said He was, on the cross. Papa corrected Mack and said "I know what He felt ... but I never left Him".

Wow.

Well, this time, the "AHA" moment came when I saw Jesus as a winsome, happy Man Who loves to engage with His people, and is "tickled pink" that His suffering worked.

I think He's just that, and more, And what a privilege to look forward to seeing that smile again, one day.

He won't be the only One smiling, if I'm right....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Somewhat Surprising Admission

Peg and I went to see THE SHACK yesterday. We enjoyed it to the max.

No, that's not the admission.

All I can say is that is that it was the best $16.90 I've spent watching a film, since I don't remember when. The admission, on the other hand comes (perhaps inadvertently) from those criticizing the film. Most particularly those of the same branch of the faith as me. Namely, Southern Baptists.

The admission, to me, is that the film's critics ... particularly pastoral or professorial types ... seem to feel that those within the sound of their voice (or circle of their reading/writing) are theologically unable to discern Spiritual truth when they see it. And conversely unable to see something which might mislead the clueless, about things theological. And, since most of what I read is in SBC circles, I'm thinking that the higher-ups opinion of the quality of discipleship is that it's pretty low. That discernment of theological things is severely limited, perhaps most particularly amongst SBC folks..

Well, that's not surprising. Especially considering that around 2/3 of those who consider themselves Baptist aren't in church on Sunday morning.

Consider, for a minute, the film FIELD OF DREAMS. Watch it and you will be told about mysterious audible voices whispering to people, telling them what to do. Mysterious letters appearing on baseball scoreboards, for the same reason. People coming back from their long-ago death to play baseball in Iowa. People appearing from, and disappearing into, a cornfield. Young baseball players becoming old doctors when they step across the baseline.

I'm not critical of FIELD OF DREAMS. In fact, I loved the film and I believe we have the DVD in the living room. But my point is this: I never heard anyone voice a protest that it was spiritually misleading. But my, oh my, the protests about THE SHACK!

For a denomination ... and the SBC's own website used to use that term ... which seems proud of what all it does, of how many churches it has and how many people it baptizes and how many members belong ... it's surprising that they'd be upset about members going to see the film.

When you see it, you will come away with the impression that:

  • God loves you. In a very real sense. Intensely. consistently.
  • Despite what He went through, Jesus is a happy, winsome man. One who loves to engage with His people.
  • The Holy Spirit is sort of ever-present, always willing to gently nudge us in the right direction.
  • When we see a mess in our life, something that makes no sense, seeing it from God's viewpoint is a whole 'nuther matter...
  • When things inexplicably come into our life, they'll serve a purpose in God's plan. Hang in there and you'll understand it some day.
  • God comes to us as what we need to see at the time. 
  • Living as ones loved by God, and sharing that love with those around us, really is best for us.

If you don't know the backstory of THE SHACK. learn it. You'll discover it wasn't written to be a theological display, any more than FIELD OF DREAMS is a story about the afterlife, heaven, or even baseball.

In the meantime, a message for the theologians and professors who might stumble across this: 

Thanks for admitting what we already knew out here. Now maybe somebody will get to work on the real problem. Which is not found in motion picture theaters. 







Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Quick Example: The REALLY Temporary Nature of Stuff

The picture there is the Riverchase Galleria, a huge enclosed mall shopping center just a few miles from our home. The tall building is the Office Tower, and the Hotel .. a few stories less than the Office ... is at the far right.

This was developed by a gent from Montgomery by the name of Jim Wilson. Jim was an acquaintance of a lady who worked for me at Riverchase Business Brokers, and she got us an invitation to the topping-out ceremony. And we went.

The party was held late morning in mid-1985, in the dirt immediately in front of where the Office Tower stands, It was a lot of fun .... I even got interviewed by a local talk radio host, asking what my view of the business climate, and the prospects for the Galleria's 100+ stores might be. (As if I might know something....)

When it came time to lift the highest steel I-beam into place, Jim Wilson had all of us sign the beam with a black marking pen. Needless to say, we all felt pretty good about having done that.

We all went back to work and carried on as usual. But a couple days later, our younger son called my office and told me to look out the North-facing windows. I did, and saw a HUGE plume of smoke in the distance. He worked for an LP gas company at the time, and Brad told me a tar kettle with one of their tanks attached had caught fire. It was quite a sight.

It singed and thoroughly smoked up the beam we'd all signed. So. they cleaned it up, sanded it down, and re-painted it.

So much for having signed the topping-out beam

2 years after that, the signature on the beam was gone, I'd closed my company and moved to the next career stage, my son went into computer programming, and the developer had died.

SOOO ... While the memories of the events are good, they really do need to be. Everything else is gone, including the signed beam, the developer, the talk show host, and my company.

The good news is that I am still saved and a beloved child of God. And that has only gotten better.

You can guess what I'm focusing on these days.....

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Something Like Automatic Pilot

Here's a picture of a portion of the dashboard on our 2015 Ford Fusion. The part that shows, to the right, is a programmable section which can can show one of several information screens ... Phone, Entertainment, Climate Control, or Navigation.

When I took the Picture, Navigation is what showed.

That particular screen shows several things, most notably a compass to show where we're going, as well as a little Speed Limit sign, telling us how fast we can get there.

Somehow, the programmers of the GPS system accessed all the numbered routes in the nation, and programmed them in. As you can see, when I snapped the picture ... at a stoplight ... I was on a road with a 45 mph speed limit.

I usually run with that screen showing, for no particular reason, and I can change to another screen with a few flicks of my thumb anyway, thanks to steering-wheel-mounted controls.

I noticed something a few days ago that I thought I'd pass along. Namely that, most of the time, I don't pay a lot of attention to my speed, but when I do, I'm traveling about the speed shown on the dashboard. That's true on 2-lane Helena Road, 4-lane highway 31, Interstate 65, or congested Cahaba Valley Parkway. I'm guessing that I've gotten so used to driving there that I just naturally drive at the right speed without really consciously doing so.

That's the part that got me to thinking. Isn't that how the Christian life should be? If it's true that God remakes us from the inside out, shouldn't we eventually settle into "Automatic Pilot Mode" in how we live? Shouldn't we simply, by default, turn the other cheek when insulted, give the sort of soft answer that deflects wrath, pray for leaders we don't like, love those who hate us, show love for one another, and live our lives in a manner which reflects our relationship with the risen Christ?

Shouldn't that be our automatic reaction, our default mindset?

I think so.