Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why I Believe in the Resurrection

Recent news about a film regarding the tomb of Jesus and his family have ignited quite a discussion.  Some hope to discredit the claims of Christianity that Jesus was resurrected.  Others hope to use the film as a springboard into a discussion about the validity of the resurrection.  Still others simply take a condescending approach toward those who believe differently – on both sides!

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Here’s why.

The Empty Tomb
The Bible speaks repeatedly of an empty tomb.  And the Bible is reliable evidence because there are more copies of the New Testament from dates very close to when the events happened than of any other writings regarding that period.  We have no trouble accepting Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, yet we have hundreds more copies of the Bible than of Homer’s works.  A rational person cannot reject the validity of the Bible – and the Bible tells of an empty tomb.

The Post-Resurrection Appearances
Although many, including the Jewish officials of that day, claim the disciples stole the body from the tomb, Jesus appeared to many people after the resurrection.  He appeared to the women, to the disciples multiple times, to a group of 500, to the two on the Emmaus Road, and to Saul of Tarsus.  This many witnesses in a court of law is overwhelming evidence that nobody would dare contradict.

The Thorough Transformation of the Disciples
This is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence supporting the resurrection.  If the resurrection is a hoax, how could the disciples stand up to the authorities like they did?  They either scattered or denied knowing Jesus just a few weeks earlier but beginning on Pentecost they were bold.  Christian historical tradition tells us that all the disciples except John were put to death for their beliefs; many of them died a tortuous death.  Why were they bold?  Why were they engaging the culture?  Why were they able to do things they had never done before?  When you embrace the truth of the resurrection of Jesus you change.

The Conversion and Testimony of Saul of Tarsus
We are first introduced to the great missionary Paul before his conversion as Saul of Tarsus – a Jewish religious zealot.  Instead of going down in history as the biggest persecutor of Christians, we know him as the greatest missionary ever.  Why did he forsake his former way of life and embrace Christianity?  He met a living Jesus.

The Absence of a Valid Contemporary Denial
The authorities had many opportunities to deny the resurrection: Peter and John stood before them accused of preaching in the name of Jesus and all the authorities said was to stop preaching in his name.  One would think that Jewish historians would have depicted Jesus in a negative light – if they mentioned him at all.  Yet hear what Flavius Josephus, who lived 37-97 AD wrote about Jesus in Antiquities.  “He was the Christ…He appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold.”

The Immediate Growth of the Christian Church
The immediate and sustained growth of the Christian church can only be explained in light of a resurrected Lord.  If this is a hoax then the disciples would not have preached as they did, the converts would have been fewer, the story would have lost enthusiasm from generation to generation, the story would have grown as legends do, and the millions of lives changed over the years would have felt no lasting affect.  But the story is the same today as 2000 years ago, it has gained momentum, and lives are truly changed as believers continue to aggressively proclaim the gospel.

The Lord’s Day
Do you know why we worship as a believing community on Sundays?  It’s because of the resurrection.  It happened on the morning after the Sabbath, which was from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.  The women found the empty tomb on Sunday morning.  The church began meeting on Sunday in honor of the resurrection of the Savior.  Just one more piece of evidence pointing to the truth of the resurrection.

I believe in the resurrection and my life is different because of it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Wonder of it All

Do you still have the sense of wonder that you had as a child?

Here’s a silly example: We purchased our first color TV when I was about 8 years old.  In over-dramatic fashion, I fell to my knees then prone on the floor as if overcome by the terrific sight of the 19” set on the roll-around cart.

Here’s a better example: One line of the Oak Ridge Boys’ song Thank God for Kids says, “Daddy, how does this thing fly?  And a hundred other ‘where’s and ‘why’s.  I really don’t know, but I try; Thank God for kids.”  A child looks at all things with a sense of wonder.  They wonder how it works.  They wonder how it is made.  They wonder where it came from and whose idea it was.  Sometimes we are irritated with the barrage of “Why?” questions.  It’s the wonder of it all.

Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon, the Grand Cayman Islands, or the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria?  Remember the first time you sat on the airplane as it accelerated down the runway?  Have you stood at Ground Zero or in a Presidential Library or on foreign soil?  Remember the wonder of it all?

But the wonder of wonders is that Jesus would take a place in our world as one of us so that we might spend eternity in his world with him.  Have you lost the sense of wonder?  Isaiah 9:6 says Jesus will be called “Wonderful” (wonder full).  Begin looking intently at Jesus and regain the wonder of it all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

God Always Cares

I just completed reading the book of Exodus this morning.  In 1:8 we are told that the king of Egypt did not know Joseph – or his fathers or God’s promises to them.  In 2:24 we are told that God heard the Hebrews’ cries from oppression – and that God remembered (not that he had ever forgotten) his promises to the Hebrew people.

Then God called Moses to go to Pharaoh, the Hebrews finally make a run for the border, God dries a path through the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, periods of rebellion, the details of the tabernacle.

Fast forward to chapter 40.  God filled the tabernacle with his presence as a cloud and led them.

I’m encouraged in my daily walk with Christ to know that God is with me from beginning to end just like he was with the Hebrews on every page of the book of Exodus.  He is ever-present and cares enough to guide me, too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Pop Culture

I don’t know when our judgment began to wane.  It used to be that “news” was about politics, schools, the economy, and such.  Then our judgment went sour and the death of a “model” dominates the news websites and cable networks.  Obviously, I don’t agree with her lifestyle and I get just as irritated at the news media with the clamor surrounding the death of entertainment icons I do admire.  This is not a commentary on Anna Nicole Smith; rather a question regarding why we call “news” the things we now call “news.”

The bombing of the World Trade Centers deserved wall-to-wall coverage.  The initial invasion of Iraq deserved “above the fold” space – although the around-the-clock stuff probably hurts the cause much more than it is a benefit to the public.  National elections deserve much attention.  Health epidemics should be “broad”-cast.

I think I just answered my “Why?” question.  A broadcast is a term indicating that the information is presented to a large audience.  The programs or news items are broadcast because there is a great demand for them.  The audience is “broad” as opposed to “narrow” or “small.”  In a culture not known in America for many years once was greatly interested in a different kinds of news.

Our culture today is different.  There is a segment of the culture known as “pop culture” (popular culture).  I’m not normal and I hope you aren’t, either.  Pop culture is the stuff consisting of the goings-on of models, movie stars, sports figures.  So a model (please understand that there is a difference between a model and a Playboy model) dies an untimely death and it is the headline.  Another example: murders happen everyday but the sports figure is involved so it makes the headlines.  Need more proof?  OJ Simpson.  His celebrity drew the attention to the case; not the crime.

But keeping up with the stars is America’s favorite pastime.  That’s why we have Dancing with the Stars.  Aren’t all the reality shows really only about regular people wanting to be a star?  Pop culture!

This changes how churches do church.  If we continue to try to reach those lost in the culture (actually, lost in their sin) like we did decades ago, we will miss the mark (which is sin, too).  Christians have to understand the people within the context of the current culture in order to reach them.  Please note that I do not say we should adapt the message to the culture; but the messenger must adapt his method to the culture.

For me, this is a work in process.  I first must get past the irritation for such lifestyles that is deep within me.  The irritation is healthy if it motivates me to introduce them to Jesus so that they can begin to live to glorify him.  Otherwise, the irritation is simply a stumbling block (which is a sin).

Once I get past the irritation issue I must then find ways to become all things to all people.  I think that means using a method that communicates in the pop culture while leaving the message as it is.  Who said ministry was easy?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super Bowl Reflection

I watched the Super Bowl in fast motion; It took about an 90 minutes – and only because I watched the commercials in regular speed. I recorded the game on DVR and sped through it to see what happened. Caleb, my 20 year old son, had called earlier in the afternoon and left a message for me to call him so I did with about 4 minutes to go in the first half – according to MY version of the game. I wouldn’t let him tell me who won the game!

I rarely watch NFL football anymore because my Sundays are workdays for me. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched the Super Bowl as it was played. I’ve listened to many, many Super Bowls on the radio as I would take my boys back to Bentonville; seems my weekend always fell on Super Bowl Sunday. At least on the radio you don’t have to watch the commercials!

My favorite commercial was the Taco Bell commercial with the lions watching the campers eat some new burrito or something. The lions talked with each other with one trying to teach the other to roll his “R”s.

You may know that the head coaches in the Super Bowl are Christians and openly apply Christian principles to both life and coaching. Tony Dungy, of the winning Colts, said this to CBS’s Jim Nance as he received the Lombardi trophy for winning the game:
“Lovie Smith (
Chicago’s coach) and I are not only the first two African-Americans (to coach in the Super Bowl), but Christian coaches, showing that you can win doing it the Lord’s way. And we’re more proud of that.”

Here’s a guy at the top of the game. There is opportunity awaiting him that few people ever realize. His audience was larger than all but two television audiences EVER! The final episode of M*A*S*H and the Pittsburg/Dallas Super Bowl in the ‘70s are the only television programs to draw a larger audience. The Baptist Press headline put is this way: “Tony Dungy, at NFL’s pinnacle, points still higher to God.”

He didn’t have to do that. Or did he? Something inside true believers compels them to point toward God. That “something” is the Holy Spirit. It’s been said that the Holy Spirit’s primary role is to point to Christ – and this is true. The Holy Spirit is within true believers and he compels us to point to Christ. Tony Dungy did something many believers would not do. Tony Dungy did something many Christians would be ashamed to do. Tony Dungy did something many Christ-followers shy away from.

Tony Dungy did NOT quench the Holy Spirit as the Spirit compelled Dungy to point to Christ. My stage may never be as large as Dungy’s. My accomplishments may never draw the excitement from the sports world as his. My opportunities to point to Christ may never be as public as Dungy’s. But I must still never quench the Spirit as he compels me to point to Christ.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We're Pretty Competitive Here

We registered Riley for Spring baseball at Bryant today.  He played in Maumelle last year on a T-ball team and would again this year there.  But we feel he’s ready for pitching machines and Bryant offers that for 6 year olds.  The guy who helped us register asked a few questions and answered a few.  Deana asked about the try-outs that are scheduled for Feb 17; she wanted to know if there was a possibility Riley would be passed over.  That would be terrible.  It’s one thing to be the last kid picked for kickball at recess but another thing to be completely left out!  Fortunately, everyone gets drafted; everyone plays.

In his response, he said, “We’re pretty competitive here.”  What does that mean?  Bryant is more competitive that Maumelle?  Riley better be good if he wants to play?  You better come early for a good parking space?  I bet your kid can’t outsell my kid in the fundraiser?  We like to pitch pennies under the bleachers between innings?  My SUV is more expensive than your SUV?

I’ve grown weary of those who claim their kid is so far advanced beyond the ability of the other kids on the team that it’s not fair to their kid to have to play with them.  I just heard a sports updated on TV about the University of Memphis.  Apparently, they play basketball in a weak league: so weak that the announcers said the lack of competition was actually hurting Memphis’ preparation for the NCAA tournament.  IT’S A GAME!

I think this may sum up the competitiveness of the Bryant baseball leagues: parents have to sign an agreement to be nice.  Who actually enforces this?  That person wouldn’t be displaying “nice,” would they?