Easter 2016- What Do you Say To That

Easter 2016: Anything but Jesus

Easter was actually last week, but I’m just now getting around to wrapping up this series. I could give you all sorts of excuses as to why this post is late, but you don’t really exist, so I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say I was waiting for the right thoughts and the right words to wrap up this theme.

The theme of this season’s series is ‘Responding to a society that openly mocks our God.’ So far, meditating on this issue, I have determined that I am too quick to fight about it. Fighting about it is not what God wants, nor is it useful. I’ve also contemplated on the fact that if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit, I’d be just like all of the visitors that fill the pews on Easter Sunday, praising a God they don’t know and saying things they don’t understand. I’m thankful for that Spirit, even though it’s the same Spirit that makes me think I need to be cranked to 11 all the time.

The last thing I really want to focus on isn’t really about me at all, but rather the mocking world.

What you gotta be so rude, world?

I live in America where our culture is vaguely Christian. We all grew up with some basic familiarity with Christianity, even if we weren’t dragged to church every Sunday. Self-proclaimed atheists who grew up in a distinctly non-religious household can likely still name all 4 gospel writers and know just enough of the Bible to pretend their opinions are informed. Perhaps familiarity really does breed contempt because so many of these people who absolutely despise Christianity and openly mock it are also quick to defend Islam as a religion of peace. These secular-progressive atheists will defend your ‘right to believe’ as long as you don’t believe in Jesus. Christianity is somehow held up as the single culprit in some imagined centuries-old conspiracy to destroy science and rational thought.

They’ll believe in anything except the truth. They’ll defend anything except Christ. They try to rewrite history to try and remove God from the lives of people they otherwise admire. Just yesterday I saw a meme about how Martin Luther King Jr wasn’t really a Christian. You know, REVEREND King?

The world suffers from a sin-addled brain that inhibits clear thinking. I think we underestimate just exactly what it means to be LOST. If lost people knew how to find their way back, they wouldn’t be lost. Being lost in this sense is being totally helpless- so far from ‘found’ that it’s hard to even conceptualize. We have to turn no further than the Gospels to see this in action.

John 20:15-16
“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.”

Mary is Jesus’ #1 fangirl of all time, and she didn’t recognize Him. It wasn’t until He said her name that she had any clue what was going on. It’s not that she didn’t believe He was the Messiah, she just had a sin-addled brain. She couldn’t see Him for what He was. Something in her mind told her that Jesus being alive again was IMPOSSIBLE, and that thought was at the front of her mind rather than the truth He had been teaching them all for so long.

Fast forward a bit, Jesus goes to visit His disciples who are full on scared and hiding out. From their perspective, they’re all about to be murdered just like Jesus was. And while they will eventually be martyred for their faith, that’s a long way off. As a believer, this scene in the Bible is foreign to me. The greatest weapon in Satan’s utility belt is the fear of death- something that has no hold on me whatsoever. But that was not the case for these followers of Christ, who loved Him and believed in Him, but they didn’t possess the Holy Spirit.

John 20:19-23
19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The entire time they’re following Jesus, they’re constantly asking stupid questions. I mean they just didn’t get it. It’s no fault of theirs. They wanted to believe and it struck them as the truth and they couldn’t deny what their eyes had witnessed, but at the end of the day, they couldn’t understand any of it. Let’s look at this scene when Jesus appears to them after He has died and been resurrected. In this account, He tells them twice “Peace be with you.” Take that to mean they weren’t feeling especially peaceful. Finally, He gives them this amazing gift- the gift that allows a bunch of freaked out fanboys to become the heroes of faith they were always meant to be- the gift of the Holy Spirit. Until this moment, they didn’t understand. They had no chance to become more than what they were. Until this moment, they were still slaves. Now they’re free. Now it’s all clicking.

Someone wasn’t there. Thomas was away when this happened. When he comes back everyone is trying to explain to him this amazing thing that happened. What luck, right? Jesus comes to visit and you’re down at the shop or something and miss the whole thing. Rather than kicking himself for missing such an incredible experience, he bows up. He doesn’t think it even happened- he doesn’t believe a word of it, despite the insistence of these people he has traveled with and loved as brothers. Their testimony means nothing to him. He wants to not only see Jesus with his own eyes, but stick his fingers into the wounds. Until then, he’s gonna sulk and be a brat (I assume).

John 20: 24-25  But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”

A week later, Jesus shows up and says-

John 20:27  Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”

How does Thomas respond?

Jn20:28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Congratulations, Thomas, you now possess the Holy Spirit. And don’t you feel like a butthole for doubting?

Nah. I mean pride is a massive hurdle. One of my favorite scientific studies to roll out is the one that says when you listen to cheesy pop music, your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. But despite what the brain-scan says, if asked whether or not you like what you just heard, you might say ‘no.’ That’s pride. There is social pressure from within and without that can outweigh what your body is telling you. If all your friends hate Justin Bieber, or you talk on and on about how terrible he is without every having listened, that pressure will outweigh the fact that you actually kinda like it, according to your body’s chemistry. I think that happens when it comes to God. Someone might feel a stir in their heart or feel conviction about their lives or know that it’s true, but at the end of the day they just can’t make the commitment. They don’t WANT Jesus to be Lord of their lives because it has implications they don’t want to face.

But Christ is King whether they bend the knee or not. His glory is not diminished by a person’s failure to believe in Him. There is no such thing as a worthy challenger to His rule, and so He sits atop His throne in glory, exacting perfect judgement in perfect time.

Finally recognizing it and bending the knee, making Jesus Lord of your life is not a small thing and one shouldn’t feel like a butthole for doubting. Without possession of the Holy Spirit, even His best friends on this planet didn’t understand what the heck was going on. They watched Him perform like 50 full on miracles and they still doubted. This is how it should be. It’s not something to laugh at. It’s what we should expect.

So what do we say to a society that openly mocks our God? How do we respond when someone who is ‘spiritual but not religious’ talks about the peaceful nature of Islam and calls our God a hateful moral monster? How do we react when someone who gets the entirety of their information from internet memes thinks they’re an authority on the “true origins” of our holy days?

I don’t have an easy answer. As frustrating and sometimes as offensive as it is, this is how it’s supposed to be. The world HATES God. It HATES the truth of Christ. The lost people are so lost they really have no idea what they’re doing or saying. Being mad at them or lashing out at them won’t do any good. Our hearts shouldn’t be oriented to those kinds of reactions anyway.

Trying to force them to be like us and tell them that we know what is best for them isn’t going to do any good either. It’ll just shore up their defenses and turn a general dislike into a personal grudge and that is quite counterproductive.

In my opinion, I really do think we should be putting ourselves in positions where we simply unleash the lion rather than arguing. What do you think?

Easter 2016- What Do you Say To That

Easter 2016: Such A Peter

Before His death, the very last miracle that Jesus performed was healing the servant’s ear after Peter sliced him. This was Jesus’ last PAY ATTENTION lesson before He died.

Comparing the different accounts in the different gospels, we get an interesting picture of the events that transpired.

So the disciples fall asleep. Jesus admonishes them and says they should be praying SO THEY ARE NOT TEMPTED. A few minutes later, it all goes down. What happens? Peter is tempted. He harms this man.

In harming the man, he didn’t just react with violence to protect Jesus. It was more than that. He gets in the way of his own salvation. Jesus tells him that He doesn’t need Peter’s protection. He can call down angels and squash this if He wants to. But it must happen. If it doesn’t happen, if Peter DID somehow stop it from happening, the entire world would still be condemned. God has a plan and lashing out doesn’t accomplish anything but gumming up the works.

Jesus simply answers the guard’s questions about who He is and they fall to their knees. The truth of that statement was more effective than Peter’s sword.

When we perceive Jesus as being ‘attacked’ do we fall into temptation by rushing to His defense? In doing so, aren’t we just getting in the way? We are making it harder for the attackers to HEAR…. and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

“Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” -C H Spurgeon

When we’re in the good times…the peaceful times… we need to be praying and stay vigilant so when the bad times come we are not tempted. When we are attacked or face accusers, we are not tempted. God is fully capable of defending Himself. Our role is to unchain the Word- speak it, share it, in love.

Easier said than done.Easter 2016: Such A Peter

When someone says something against my God, my jimmies are full on rustled and I feel like I HAVE TO say something.

But I think I feel that way because I don’t pray in the peaceful times for strength to resist that temptation…as if I have completely forgotten those confrontations are inevitable.

God can do His own dirty work. He hasn’t called me to argue with people, He’s called me to love them and uphold the truth. It should never surprise me that the world hates Him, and yet it does.

I’m such a Peter sometimes, you guys.

Now, Peter does see a great transformation throughout his life and serves the Lord well. I’m so glad we have his example in the Bible because I think a lot of people can probably relate to him. I know I certainly can. He was so very human.

Easter 2016- What Do you Say To That

Easter 2016: Gird Your Loins

I grew up on stand-up comedy, so I know a thing or two about Judaism. I also learned quite a bit from that one episode of Rugrats. Still, new things catch my attention all the time when I study the Bible. That’s how it’s supposed to be, by the way. You change and grow as a person, so you should be learning new things constantly, even reading the same text. That’s why it’s important to make study a regular part of your life. You’ll never have it all figured out.

Anyhoodle, every now and again I find a silly little so-and-so who asks me a goofy question like “Why don’t you celebrate Jewish holidays?” It’s usually followed up with more pointed questions about why I eat shellfish and do I think women should be forced to marry their rapists, etc etc.

Offensive as those questions are probably intended to be, they do get me thinking sometimes. Yeah, I don’t celebrate Passover, in the traditional sense. But I DO celebrate Passover. Allow me to explain-

John 8:32-36
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

The slave does not remain in the house forever.

So, let’s rewind. Like all the way back.

Easter 2016: Gird Your Loins

Exodus 5 (super condensed version)
Moses goes to the Pharaoh and asks if everyone can have a couple days off to worship God. Pharaoh says no (cause he thinks he’s god) and starts cracking down hard on the Jews as punishment for their insolence. He tells them they have to make bricks while intentionally withholding what they need to make bricks, beating those who fail to produce. Not good. Also he’s standing in the way of them worshipping God and seeking atonement. Stupid move, Pharaoh.

*fast-forward sound*

Exodus 12:3-14
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.  Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.
11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.

That was a lot of detail, right? Like a shocking amount of detail and specificity. There are all sorts of reasons for each of the things listed out in there, but there’s one section that doesn’t get much attention, so that’s the bit I want to talk about.

Eat it with your loins girded, shoes on your feet, staff in your hand…and eat it fast.

I honestly don’t think I ever really noticed that section before, but this year it’s jumping off the page at me and not just because I made it bold.

IT’S TIME TO GO.

Go where?

The Promised Land.

The slave does not remain in the house forever, and when God says you’re free, you can take that to the bank. You can be so completely assured that it’s as good as done, that you better put your shoes on. God claims His people.

Slow fade back to present day- where are we going? If we are free, no longer slaves to sin, then where are we going?Easter 2016: Gird Your Loins

The Promised Land. Sure, in the big Heaven afterlife sense, but in the more immediate sense, as well. It’s being in that sweet spot of God’s providence, when you’re fully in the game and doing the work He has set aside just for you. There’s nothing to wait for. Your eternal life begins the moment you possess the Holy Spirit. Gird your loins and get to it.

I don’t celebrate passover, as in the Jewish traditions and feast that commemorate an historic event of God freeing Jewish slaves from Egypt.  But I do celebrate passover by remembering an important promise of God- He claims his people, and in Him we are free. And as a free person, I’ve got stuff to do.

 

Easter 2016- What Do you Say To That

Easter 2016: What Do You Say To That?

Even without a calendar, I would know what time of year it is. The weather has been pretty nice, there are flowers in my house, we suffered through the daylight savings fiasco without anyone having a stroke, my Christian forum groups are arguing over the pagan origins of Easter and debating whether or not it’s appropriate to celebrate, and my facebook feed is filling up with offensive Jesus/Easter memes. Also, there are jellybeans.

Since becoming a Christian, every Easter has been different. Some of them have been very much focused on celebrating and having fun, while others have been more solemn and thoughtful. That’s nothing intentional, it just seems to work out this way. Leading up to Resurrection Sunday this year, the topic of evangelism keeps coming up. Afterall, we are celebrating the most pivotal event in human history. This single event is the entire linchpin of my belief system. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. It’s the kind of thing you talk about.

1 Corinthians 15: 17-19 “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

This is not a small deal. This isn’t just another food and candy holiday- a good opportunity to get together with loved ones and do whatever family tradition you grew up with. This is a major time for reflection and purely religious celebration. This is when every Christian should become slightly obnoxious to their non-believing friends as they shove the gospel down everyone’s throat, right?

Ok, maybe that’s a bit much. But we SHOULD be talking about it. I did a quick google search for Easter memes. Let me share a few of those with you here.

Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That  Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That

Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That   Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That

Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That    Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That

Easter 2016 - What Do You Say To That

Some of them were far too filthy or offensive to post up here. I’ll admit, there were a handful of funny ones that weren’t so blasphemous. Maybe I’ll include them in my posts throughout the week. But these, and others like these, are what the majority of society think of Resurrection Sunday. This is how they see Easter. Not just atheist internet trolls, but otherwise reasonable and caring people don’t seem to bat an eye at ‘Zombie Jesus’ and being so offensive on the most important day on the Christian calendar. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to bother some Christians as much as it probably should. As a truly peaceful religion, Christianity doesn’t vow to murder those who create offensive pictures of God or the prophets. We are believers in cosmic justice- offending me shouldn’t concern you quite like offending God should. But do I have an obligation to argue with you?? Shouldn’t I say SOMETHING to express my disapproval in some way?

As we make our way toward Resurrection Sunday, I’m going to try and post daily. This event we’re celebrating is a call to action… but are we hearing that call correctly? Evangelism and apologetics and the more interactive intellectual exercises are things I enjoy, and that’s what’s on my mind this Easter season. There’s a lot of ground to cover. I hope you post your thoughts as we go.