Monday, April 25, 2011

Post-resurrection transformations

Imagine the reaction.

It’s still early in the day. Already at least four of your closest friends have seen with your own eyes proof that you are alive. After seeing it for themselves they went back to the rest of their friends, who were hiding in fear, and told them what they saw and heard.

“I saw an angel roll the stone away. He said He was not there and I peeked in to see for myself. And it was true!”

“When I arrived the tomb was opened, just like Mary had said. I was too scared to look inside, but then Peter got there and went inside. He was gone!”

“When the earth quaked and the angel rolled away the stone the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb passed out with fear!”

“I went inside to see for myself. There was the burial cloth still lying there. And, get this – the cloth that had covered His head was neatly folded and in another place!”

“I lingered after the men left. While I wept, believing His body had been stolen, He spoke my name. I turned and it was Him!”

The first eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection did not initially believe, even though Jesus had predicted exactly what would happen. "Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days." - Mark 10:33-34

You do just exactly what you said you would do. It’s proven to eyewitnesses who are also your friends. They say they believe you are who you say you are. But when it comes to actually believing? They hide in fear and doubt.

As the disciples were in seclusion, fearful they would be next on the most wanted list for crucifixion, Jesus met with them post-resurrection for the first time. There He was, standing in the same room – a room they had secured by locking the doors. Yet locked doors, like tombstones, were no match for the supernatural. Still, some doubted.

You know his story. Poor Thomas. He’s infamous for one blunder. He doubted and expressed his disbelief. Likely more were thinking, “Yeah. What Thomas said”. Then Jesus held out his hands and challenged him to touch the crucifixion wounds in His hands, feet and side. That challenge changed Thomas from doubter to worshipper. “My Lord and my God”, he said.

None of them emerged those post-resurrection days the same. The fears and doubts were erased by the fact that Christ had risen from the dead. How can that not fill you with confidence? They walked and talked with Him – even ate with Him – again as they had done before His death.
Then He commissioned them to not only be changed themselves, but to tell everyone they met that they, too, could be changed forever.

I wonder how many who gave something up for Lent in preparation for the resurrection were glad to see those forty days finally pass so they could go back to whatever it was they had temporarily surrendered.

Easter isn’t just a once a year reason to go to church then be free to go back to life the same as you were before. It’s about celebrating new life, not a return to the old. Don’t let another just come and go with nothing to show for it but some Peeps to eat.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

1 Who has believed what we have heard?
And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to?

2 He grew up before Him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no form or splendor that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like one people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn't value Him.

4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

6 We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the LORD has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers,
He did not open His mouth.

8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered His fate?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
He was struck because of My people's rebellion.

9 They made His grave with the wicked,
and with a rich man at His death,
although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

10 Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him,
and He made Him sick.
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see [His] seed, He will prolong His days,
and the will of the LORD will succeed by His hand.

11 He will see [it] out of His anguish,
and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.
My righteous servant will justify many,
and He will carry their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion,
and He will receive the mighty as spoil,
because He submitted Himself to death,
and was counted among the rebels;
yet He bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels.

- Isaiah 53 ca. 700BC

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Mill

A good rule of thumb is whenever you hear something and your initial reaction is "I can't believe that!", you probably shouldn't.

Not long ago I was told a friend of mine had made some bad life-changing decisions that pretty much ruined his career and his marriage. I was shocked and in disbelief. But until I heard it from the horse's mouth I refused to believe it. So I asked him.

With the proliferation of email forwards (many that have been floating around for over a decade) about soft drink cans and efforts to remove religious broadcasting from television (a lot of it should be removed) I have learned to do one of two things: (1) Hit the delete key; (2) check it out on

Same thing is true on Facebook. What was it a couple of weeks ago...Adam Sandler died in a skiing accident in Austria or something. Did I "pass it on"? No, I simply went to a couple of news outlets (legitimate ones) and saw nothing about Sandler. It's not that hard to find the truth.

Problem is, we seem to live in a culture that prefers to believe lies. Some are harmless. Others bring pain. It's like we want to see someone brought down.

Yesterday I was told of a rumor about my church that had no factual basis, but was created from false assumptions. Fortunately, the guy who told me is one of our partners, and he told the guy who shared the rumor with him the truth. I wonder whether he was believed.

But the fact that something false was being said about us that was concocted to hurt our reputation bothered me. Yet, I know those things happen.

Stay out of the mill. Be a truth-seeker, not a rumor spreader. And please don't send me any forwards.

Friday, April 1, 2011

From my perspective

Anyone who knows me well knows that possibly my favorite place in all the world is the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The Parkway that meanders along the peaks gives views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east that are at times breathtaking. I love it. From high on the mountain you can see for miles and miles. At the same time you can see what's right in front of you.

But I've also been down in the Valley - a beautiful place as well. Yet at the lower elevation my vision doesn't allow me to see as much or things as distant as when I'm higher up. And if I'm in the forest, surrounded by trees, or in the fog my vision only allows me to see feet away.

Perspective makes all the difference in the world. Our opinions, judgments and conclusions are shaped by our view. And our view is shaped by our life experiences and that which has influence over me. That would include books I read, sermons I hear, internet blogs and sites I visit, conversations, and just plain things that happen in life.

God, we're told, has ways that are "higher" than our own. I take that to mean those ways are clearly seen by Him, but because of my perspective they may be mysterious or oblivious to me. I don't have and will never have His vantage point. So I accept Him and His ways by faith - the evidence of things hoped for and the substance of things unseen. That I can (usually) handle. I'm not God.

But what about my fellow humans? Could it be that there are some, who because of their perspective and position - higher than mine - see far more than I? We sometimes refer to being able to see the "Big Picture", referring to vision that requires a higher elevation. The CEO of a corporation sees more and what is farther away business-wise than the entry level employee.

This is true in every area of life, not just business. It's true spiritually, relationally, corporately, morally. Some, because of their relative immaturity, like the entry-level mail clerk can only see the mail room. The chairman of the board sits on the top floor in a corner office with windows looking out. Someone who has walked with God for years or decades can "see" a bigger picture than a new believer or one whose life is cluttered with "fog" or "trees", which can be other people, emotions, schedule, "baggage" and so on.

I have leaders in my life that I should respect because they have proven character and a greater perspective than me. If their character is questionable they shouldn't qualify to be my leaders. Maybe I don't understand why they do what they do, but that they occupy a "higher" place should cause me to consider their perspective before questioning their judgment or decisions.

What's the old proverb about not criticizing someone until I've walked in his shoes?