Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Insights

John 20

There is no greater celebration for the Christian community than Easter.  Theologians have often characterized the resurrection as the pivotal miracle of the Bible.  Paul writes of the importance of the event, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty (vain) and your faith is also empty (vain).” 1 Cor 15:14 NKJV

The first Easter is a testament to the historical truth of the resurrection.  The ones who should have been first to proclaim the miracle and its powerful impact upon our faith were struggling even to believe.  John and Peter and the women who went to the tomb early on Sunday morning had no expectations of Jesus’ rising from the dead.  Mary Magdalene came early to the garden and was astounded that the stone had been taken away.  (Jn 20:1)  She ran to tell John and Peter, but they too had no explanation.  Isn’t it ironic that Jesus had told them plainly that he would rise in three days, but they never connected the dots!  So truth, as it always is, was self-revealing.

Consider the fact that while all of them were scrambling around, the resurrection had already occurred a few hours earlier.  We are never told the specific time when Jesus rose, we only know that it was after the Sabbath was past.  This was not a situation of hoping that God would act, He already had.  How often we are stewing about the things in our life, or in the world, and God has already performed a miracle to which we are not tuned in! 

Jesus in the early days of His ministry had told the disciples concerning His death and resurrection.  “Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. ……. He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.  John 2:19-22 NKJV  Just because someone has been told doesn’t mean they understand.  “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”  John 20:9 NKJV  We are so slow to understand spiritual truths.  Many pastors and teachers assume that because people have been told truth that they all “get it.”

Truth is not learned by being taught.  Truth is revealed and until the Spirit has awakened our spiritual senses, all the truth in the world doesn’t sink in.  For too many in our society, Easter is a historical event, memorialized on the calendar and accompanied by holiday trappings and spiritual symbols.  But to those who have experienced their own resurrection from spiritual death, their life continually speaks of the power of God. 

Easter is about resurrected life.  Our society has succumbed to Satan’s lies that a transformed life is not possible.  So people live in defeat, discouragement, or the doldrums.  I hope that this Easter you experience the thrill of that first one and that it is the beginning of an abundant life!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Doing the Sabbath

A review :  Sabbath, by Dan B . Allender

As a part of “The Ancient Practices” Series, Allender writes on the subject of the Sabbath.  As a core belief based on the fourth commandment, he attempts to redefine and challenge the fundamental approaches that religious groups have taken on Sabbath observance.  It is difficult assignment indeed.  Some literalists and legalists choose to mold their practices into a sundown to sundown seventh day that is defined by many do not’s and a few expected acts such as public worship.  Other groups have gone to the opposite extreme and ignored any attempt to govern their daily practices.

Allender does not attempt to enter that debate but focuses on a different assumption:  the Sabbath is a day of delight for humankind, animals, and the earth.  He directs us to a leisure day that includes feasts and play time.  In all of this, he frequently refers to God being glorified by our delight.

This book evoked diametrically opposed thoughts.  At times, I was giving him a hearty amen for opening up a new realm in which to view the Sabbath.  Having entertained those whose Sabbath observance was duty-bound, uncomfortable, and limited to a few ritual practices, I could see a whole new dimension for those unhappy souls.  They were resigned to Sabbath observance because it was a law and obedience was accomplished without joy.

On the other spectrum, I was left with a feeling that anything that made me delighted could fulfill the expectations of Sabbath.  In the Epicurean world that we find ourselves in, we must resist activity which feeds the unholy desire of pleasure for pleasures sake.  I whole heartedly agree that we should approach all our spiritual activity with the delight of the soul.  But our lives cannot be permanently delighted unless our wills and activities are aligned with the holiness of God.

Thanks, Dan, for opening a needed dimension in thought regarding the Sabbath.  But “delighting in the Lord” is essential for experiencing delight in our lives.  We can thoroughly enjoy our Sabbath and have it move us toward holiness, compassion, mercy, love and all the other attributes of God.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mandino Revisited

Andy Andrews, in his latest book, The Final Summit, weaves a story in both the spirit and general style of Og Mandino.  While both the content and storytelling are decidedly Andrews, this book conjured up visions of some of Mandino’s greatest writings.
I cannot predict whether this series of David Ponder stories will reach classic status such “The Greatest Gift in the World” but it is certain to capture the expectations of a new generation who is eagerly looking for an answer to society’s ills.
Bringing the cast of “visitors” as a means to share the wisdom of the ages is certainly a great ploy.  Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, King David of Israel and many others make their appearance and their contribution.  It is interesting as Andrews creates the interaction between these greats.
As each conclusion is reached, and subsequently scuttled, hope seems to be fading.  And the intermediate answers appear to be quite good as they continue guessing what the conclusion of the final summit is to be.
While I was hoping for some select wisdom to be the conclusion, it was hard not to be disappointed by the end.  It’s definitely worth the read, but it’s hard for me to accept that he discovered “the one principle that will save humanity.”