Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter is Resonable to Believe

Easter was yesterday. What a celebration we had at church. It was awe-inspiring. We were reminded about the veracity of the resurrection of Christ, along with creative presentations and worship. It is wonderful to be a part of church that celebrates the arts along with strong biblical theology.

The preacher, David Frye, spoke about six reasons the evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming:
  1. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses to his fleshly resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:6; Acts 10:40-41; Luke 24:39; John 20:27)

  2. The enemies of Jesus didn't dispute his resurrection. Instead of producing the body of Christ to end all argument, they could only invent excuses. (Matthew 27:62-66; Acts 2:23-24)

  3. Jesus' brothers became believers. As family they found it hard to accept Jesus as the Messiah. It was only the resurrection that could explain their conversion. (Mark 6:3; John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-7; Acts 1:14)

  4. Numerous Jewish priests became Christians. The reason this is significant is that it would take something radical like a physical resurrection to convince these men to give up their livelihood, family, and standing in the community. (Acts 6:7)

  5. The disciples of Jesus were transformed from understandable cowards to men willing to become martyrs for Christ's sake. It is true that many people die for a lie. But no one dies for what they know to be a lie. They were so convinced that Jesus indeed rose from the dead that they all willingly suffered for this fact. And all but one were martyred, while some were martyred through excruciating torture. (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 12:1-3)

  6. The church grew rapidly in a short amount of time. When we see the effects, even today, of the expansion of the church, we must ask what was the cause and was the cause sufficient for the results. The resurrection makes the most sense, especially when you consider that many of the early followers were Jewish people and priests who became Christians — abandoning many of their Jewish practices. And conversions spread rapidly throughout the Roman world — many were formerly Jewish converts, people who believed in the God of the Jews, and people who came from a pagan background. And, I would add, the conversion of Paul, who was an enemy of this Christian movement. (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 6:7; Acts 9:1-19; Acts 9:31)

These may not be enough reasons (nor will there ever be enough reasons) for someone who refuses to believe the resurrection actually happened. But for any person willing to examine the facts and come to a reasonable conclusion these facts are compelling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unholy Agreement

The Bible teaches that there is a Lie that Satan promotes, and there is a Truth that Jesus promotes and died for. When we say we preach the gospel it isn't in a vacuum. It isn't dependent on what culture we live in either. However, we must influence culture in this manner: take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

When the apostles preached the gospel it was bracketed within information the culture could understand. Namely that God is real (He exists), He is sovereign (owns it all, including us), and we are culpable to him. Satan says that God is not sovereign (in various forms) and we are the masters of ourselves. All over the world, not just in America, this is the tension that exists — and what the world wants us to value.

The world wants us to make an unholy covenant with it. This covenant is basically, "Don't tell me I am doing anything wrong and I won't accuse you of doing anything wrong." In other words, it's okay for us to spread peace, love, and approving messages, pray in our churches, and be friendly people as long as we keep our mouths shut about the culture. "We will do our thing, and we will leave you alone to do your thing, as long as it doesn't interfere in the affairs of real life."

A dutiful Christian is suppose to accept this covenant and have approved conversations with others about Christ to fulfill his religious duties. The Christian's message is heard as a personal preference of religion. Our hearers are free to accept or reject the religious message because it either serves a utilitarian purpose or not. If someone accepts it, it is kept on a level of personal preference, not universal truth.

Many people become Christians now to simply fulfill some personal desire. I wouldn't say it is necessarily a problem in the beginning, but sometimes people baptize their already held beliefs in the process rather than repent. Thus the statement, "Christianity is a private matter." or "Christians should not get involved in politics," is the sentiment that Christianity is a personal religious choice rather than the truth (the way things really are).

It is true that there are some Christians who believe that our involvement in politics will save America, or recapture the ideal of a Christian nation. Some see our involvement in government as a directive to be saved by our government (create Utopia on earth either through socialism or totalitarianism). Still others just want to leave the business of government to unbelievers, while they just, "Preach the gospel." (This idea about preaching the gospel isn't seen as terribly courageous in hindsight. Just see how history paints the silence of the church during American slavery or during the civil rights era a hundred years later.)

The gospel without engagement is incomplete. The world must understand that it is evil, and needs a gospel. The gospel must be taught in the context of culture. We do this in current day America by using American English rather than Latin or Greek; disobeying the worldly covenant of silence; changing unjust laws whenever we can; trusting God by not fretting over the things we cannot change; giving to the needy without force; and giving God the glory even when others refuse. And for God's sake let's not lose our saltiness!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Christians Abdicating The Culture

The University of Maryland recently decided to end prayer during commencements. At the same time they argue that showing porn is a free-speech issue.

Porn is not a free-speech issue. However, prayer is. People have the right to express their religious views without fear of reprisal. That is the original intent of the First Amendment — religious and ideological freedom. Porn, on the other hand, is not an expression of a viewpoint for the common good, but a vice like gambling or excessive drinking. These things are not for the common good. President Lincoln said, “There is no right to do wrong.” The problem here is not free speech, but that the common good is being defined by those without a moral center. It’s funny that First Amendment law currently doesn’t protect child pornography, libel, or indecency over the public airwaves.

I wonder how long Christians will allow moral law to be redefined by those who believe there is no foundation for moral law. Christians are distancing themselves from Jesus more and more so that they will not be ridiculed by the culture — an adulterous and wicked generation. They make the excuse that Christians should not be involved in political debates, discussions, or in politics at all. But what are politics except those things that are defined, by the force of law, as good or bad moral behavior?

Many Christians would rather go around telling people “Jesus loves you,” (and in some cases just that "God loves you") as the culture creates the environment to render those words meaningless. Some Christians abdicate their responsibility to engage the culture on every issue that bears upon the truth because they either are too afraid, or they don’t believe it themselves. They make themselves believe that the message of grace will penetrate the heart, even if the heart cannot understand it.

How foolish! It is true that morality, laws, and convictions about reality cannot change the heart. But moral law, if done on a solid foundation, has the power to prepare the heart for the message of grace. Why would a man be sorry for what he has done, if he knows he has done nothing wrong?

Most parents understand this principle. In order to instruct and train our children we set up rules for them to abide by. We set up consequences for our children when they transgress those rules. Most parents do this because they are trying to shape the character of their children. And Christian parents understand that character development is crucial in the ability to understand and accept the gospel of Christ. We don't lay down rules because they will cause children to love Jesus. We give our children structure to lead them to Christ. (Galatians 3:15-4:7)

Wake up Church!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Simple Truths II

I shared in a previous article how there are those moments of clarity. We sometimes call those moments epiphanies. Those times when deep truths, once hidden from us, are suddenly revealed. They can be quite simple, yet quite profound. Well, here are some more I've come to understand.

  • Our time is short. What I mean is that life goes by quicker than we sometimes realize. Wisdom is indeed found in the house of mourning. (Ecclesiastes 7:2) When my mother died a few years ago, I witnessed an end of an era. Now I watch my girls growing up and visit my high school reunion, and suddenly I realize time not only marches unapologetically on, it does so far too quickly. Time is short. Better use it wisely.

  • A man with very little, has no worries. I have a beat-up car I drive. It's fully paid for, it runs well, and I use it all the time. It gets me to work. I can pick up the kids. I can run errands. Yet, I am not worried about it getting scratched. Sometimes I worry about it being stolen, but that is less likely than a brand new car or van. Really, it holds no real concerns except upkeep.

  • Very few people consider where they are going and why. I was driving in the rain this morning and a vehicle came up behind me flashing his lights and beeping his horn as he went around me. Then he was caught behind a big truck. I then went past him. And he was angry. I wondered what the point of all that was. There was nothing gained. If anything it was just dangerous. If he had died in a fiery crash, what would he say to God? Was it really worth his life or the life of others to get where he was going faster? I doubt it.