Archive for February, 2009

February 22, 2009

1 Corinthians 15: The Historical Issue

First, and foremost, is the fact that 1 Corinthians 15 is an apologetic. Miss this fact and you miss its importance. The reason for this is multi-faceted. In this blog I will attempt to outline some reasons this is the case. Overarchingly, the biggest reason this aspect of 1 Corinthians 15 being an apologetic is important is because it defends the historical reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

Paul writes: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ESV).

While the next blog will dive into the specifics of its historicity we must recognize that for Paul the historical fact of the resurrection was absolutely everything. One of the current common ploys utilized to call into question the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is New Testament scholars claiming that Paul had a spiritual view of resurrection as opposed to it being an actual, concrete[1] event. Paul’s statement here counters this claim in two ways. First, he clearly is intent on sighting historically investigatible events to his contemporaries in his efforts to prove Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Second, there is an inference that would have been caught by Paul’s contemporaries, as it should be for us as well. The New Testament church had to deal with Gnosticism, much as we do in its deviant forms today. They knew that some special spiritual knowledge that wasn’t girded in historical, concrete reality was just another attempt at popularizing Gnosticism. This is something Paul ardently argued against! C. F. Moule noted this when he wrote:

“A Gospel which cares only for the apostolic proclamation and denies that it either can or should be tested for its historical antecedents, is really only a thinly veiled Gnosticism or Docetism and, however much it may continue to move by a borrowed momentum, will prove ultimately to be no Gospel.”[2]

Another reason 1 Corinthians 15 as apologetic is so important is because of some very basic questions (and answers) that must be considered concerning Christianity. To fully understand the situation we need to clearly understand that there has never in the history of the world been a phenomenon like the Christian church. It is unique. Christianity was born out of Judaism, but was not just another sect of Judaism. It had explosive growth in a short amount of time, with clear and consistent teachings at the onset. This historical truth demands an explanation. N.T. Wright has done a good job summarizing these questions. They are:

  1. What happened with Jesus?
  2. What did the first Christians believe about the god they gave testimony to?
  3. How did these Christians account for their reason to continue to exist after the death of Jesus?
  4. Why did Christianity begin?
  5. Why did it take the specific shape it did, with the specific distinctions and characteristics – so unique it was accused of being atheistic in the Roman Empire?

Of course all the answers point to Jesus’ Resurrection, which means we must also ask:

  1. What did the early Christians mean by the resurrection?
  2. Give the evidence is there any other explanation that could be probable other than the early Christian testimony?
  3. Were they right?[3]

1 Corinthians 15 provides us with the answers to these questions in part or in whole, directly or inferred. It is nice to know that 1 Corinthians 15.3-8 provides us one of the earliest, if not the earliest Christian tradition. Paul holds no punches in this knock-out fight. He goes to the core essence of Christianity, as it was testified to from the very beginning. This is not something that was developed over the years, but was evident immediately within Christian life. Chew on that for a second and think about its incredible implications. This is why I’m so sentimental with this text and actually love to trace over it with my fingers (as alluded in the last blog). It is so precious to me.

Outside of the very rare exception, scholars, Christian and non, acknowledge the antiquity of this text. Jon Meacham wrote an article in March 2005 alluding to this truth. He wrote, “As a matter of history, however, scholars agree that the two oldest pieces of New Testament tradition speak to Jesus’ rising from the dead. First, the tomb in which Jesus’ corpse was placed after his execution was empty; ….The second tradition is that the apostles, including Paul, believed the risen Jesus had appeared to them….”[4] And then later he wrote, “Without the Resurrection, it is virtually impossible to imagine that the Jesus movement of the first decades of the first century would have long endured.”[5] And by resurrection he means the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This text, then, is in your face and demands a verdict at the end of the day. Like the rest of the Gospel message, it is offensive to most, but the essence of life to others, but none can remain neutral at the end of the day.

[1] I utilize the term “concrete” from N.T. Wright’s discussion in The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press: Minneapolis, xix (RSG). His distinction is concrete and abstract instead of literal and metaphorical.
[2] C.F. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament: An Inquiry Into the Implications of Certain Features of the New Testament. SBT 2nd Series, vol. 1. London: SCM Press, 80-81. as quoted in Wright, RSG, 23.
[3] Wright, RSG, 6,28.
[4] Jon Meacham, “From Jesus to Christ” in Newsweek March 28, 2005 edition, 45.
[5] Jon Meacham, 43-44.

February 21, 2009

Saturdays are for Stories

Class Action Lawsuit

After much deliberation I have come to the conclusion that I need to seek some restitution from McDonald’s. I have tried to ignore the issues for some time now, figuring that McDonald’s would wise up eventually. After the multi-million dollar lawsuit against them for not putting a warning on their coffee cups I was sure they were going to take a step back and reevaluate their entire operation and make all necessary changes. This has not been the case.

This lawsuit is more for others than me. I plan on bringing a lawsuit for all people across the globe who have purchased a happy meal from McDonald’s but have not received what was promised. Its false advertisement. More than once – one a dreary day when I was in a sour mood I have pulled up in the drive-thru looking for a little dose of happiness for my life. I eat the meal, play with the toy and still no happiness. What’s going on here!

Its not just me – I’ve tried it on the kids too, especially when they’re really cranky. It’s been mixed results. All this brings me back to the lawsuit – it is time that McDonald’s quits claiming they have a market on happiness, when it is clear that they certainly do not. Now this lawsuit is going to cost me a pretty penny up front, but I’m willing to take the hit for all the unnamed searching souls who were lured into McDonald’s with promises of untold joy only to be sucked into the mires of misery while money was siphoned out of their pocket.

Feel free to contact me to support this cause – in order to help offset the costs. Recommended donation – the cost of a happy meal.

February 20, 2009

National Review’s Top 25 Conservative Movies

National Review came out with the top 25 best conservatives movies made in the last 25 years. I have been scratching my head since reading the article. What in the world consititutes conservative? I guess the only critieria is that it cannot be directed by Michael Moore.

Check it out yourself.

February 19, 2009

1 Corinthians 15 and Jesus Illiteracy

Scripture is tied up in our personal experiences. What I mean is that I can read specific texts and remember the situation surrounding the first time the Holy Spirit taught me from that text in a cognizant way. In this way, I can’t help but associate with how God has grown me as I reflect while I return to continue to be pruned, nurtured and grown. The first time I started study 1 Corinthians 15 a few years back I had just finished some intensive personal study in the Synoptic Gospels and was lamenting how “we” (meaning God’s church in America) have become Jesus illiterate.

Basically Jesus illiteracy means that we are clueless on some very basic aspects of our Christian walk. The words in Hebrews 5:12-14 are a good summation “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We struggle with concepts like justification, sanctification and glorification – which are way too important and liberating for us to be putting these things on the shelf. Since we don’t use these words in our everyday dialogue we act as if we really can’t come to a foundational understanding of what they mean or their implications. Very scary.

It is an extension of the condemnation Paul shares with Timothy concerning those who refuse to major on the vitals of the Christian faith, and then chase fruitless studies that have no real impact on a Christian’s faith. 1 Timothy 1:6-7 “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

Let’s try a little test. What makes Christianity different from other religions? Answer: Jesus – right? What about Jesus? After mumbling something about his dying for our sins you would also answer the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection. What exactly is so special about the resurrection? Answer: – gotta, not yet. Are you stumped? Would you like to say the answer is on the tip of your tongue, but its just not there. If this is you then, sadly, you have succumbed to Jesus illiteracy.

Here is what Jesus illiteracy has to do with 1 Corinthians 15 and why it is my favorite Easter passage. As Christians we should be about having a great Kingdom impact. But we don’t know how to do this because, in part, we have become Jesus illiterate. Unfortunately there seems to be a trend that wants us to consider a variety of routes to present the gospel while being intent on not dealing with what the Gospel is – Scripturally. In war, you have to make some decisions. Generals do all kinds of calculating. They will determine how many lives are worth losing in order to maintain a position or gain a position. For example, the allies clearly believed that Omaha Beach was worth the cost in WWII even though they lost 2,200 men. We have failed to calculate the cost and instead of where we should be standing – even to death, we are falling back and surrendering precious ground. The reality is that the foundation of Christianity rises and falls with the resurrection of Jesus.

Why is the resurrection important?
1. Because it is the foundation of Christian teaching. 1 Corinthians 15:17 “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
2. Because we must have confidence in it if we are to be saved. Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”
3. Because the possibility of the resurrection has always been viewed with skepticism, both in Jesus’ day and our own.
4. The apostles’ preaching of the resurrection, their willingness to suffer and die for it and the rise of the church due to it are historical facts that no serious historian denies – regardless of worldview. Even though we have become used to hearing and reading that Jesus was raised from the dead we fail to recognize what an outrageous claim it is. We owe it to ourselves to recognize the resurrection for what it is and to reevaluate its meaning in our lives.

And this is why I find 1 Corinthians 15 so redeeming, especially at Easter. Finally, please note that over the years I have accrued the help of many godly scholars as I have dug deep into this text and have not always been faithful in referencing them in my notes. Anything redeeming in my dialogue is certainly not original with me. This note applies to the entire discussion on 1 Corinthians 15.

February 17, 2009

Preparing for Easter

I have a confession to make. I am a biblical sentimentalist. That’s right. I think about the Bible and I get emotional. Here in my palm is God speaking directly to me. These words of life written two millennium ago (and more) are just as vibrant and alive today as they were then. They give me just as much life and light as they have to any other person at any other age.

Of course my sentimentalism runs different for different texts. I have my favorite text on justification, another one on hope and another on God’s glory. And I have my favorite Easter text – 1 Corinthians 15. Every Easter I revisit this text. This apologetic entrenched in historicity as overwhelming proof of Jesus’ resurrection is exciting. Its simplicity along with specific results is encouraging. 1 Corinthians 15 is vitally necessary in the current atmosphere of theological novelty that sweeps through historical Jesus research via the broom of historical revisionism.

This is where my sentimentality takes over. I readily admit that I love to trace over this passage with my fingertips as I consider the fact that one of the oldest Christian traditions evidences itself right before me. Here, with stark clarity, God proclaims His Gospel and the overflowing dividends that come with Jesus’ resurrection. All this to say that this year I want to take you along with me as I revisit this text as I prepare for my worship and celebrating of the most important event in history.

February 14, 2009

Saturdays are for Stories

Valentine’s Day Love Letter

February 14, 2009

To my dearest lovely Lady,

It may take a while for you to remember who I am, but let me reintroduce myself. I’m the guy who sleeps next to you. Just close your eyes and think of the peculiar smells that fragrance your life at odd hours of the day. Do you remember me now? Good.

Well it is Valentine’s Day and I’m required to tell you how much I love you. This is an easy task for me but not sure you will appreciate it. After all, I was showing you my love when I hid in your yard and watched you at night. I thought you would appreciate having your own private bodyguard watching over you while you sleep. That restraining order was an odd way to show your gratitude.

I’m so glad we got passed that mix-up when you gave me another chance. What choice did you have? Car broke down in the middle of the night with the nearest town thirty miles away. Love had us in its sights. How else can you explain our chance encounter despite the restraining order. I can still hear the first friendly words you spoke to me as if it were today. “I’m out of gas.” Just my luck! I quickly grabbed a quart of gasoline from my trunk and put it in your tank. I still can’t believe that gas doesn’t really come in a quart. Those companies should make their labels glow in the dark for such an occasion. Come on – they are both petroleum products. Count it a lesson learned – cars don’t run on oil.

Just like everyone else we’ve had our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our blacks and whites and our own fist fights (wink, wink). Remember the first meal I ever cooked for you? It was Valentine’s Day. We were out for a…sniff…wonderful day of shopping. First we stopped by the grocery store and picked up the pork tenderloin, as well as a few other choice items. Then we did what you wanted – went to the mall. It was my honor to spend such a lovely 80 degree, sun shining, birds singing, flowers blooming, butterflies fluttering, children running and laughing, sounds of life exploding all around us, not a cloud in the sky February day with you indoors…in tight spaces….with an over capacity crowd…who, no doubt, don’t wash their hands after using a public restroom. Yup, I was honored as if it was a once in a lifetime event – and believe me – It was a once in a lifetime event. I still feel the same sense of joy (panic) whenever we drive by that glorious (dreadful) site. I’m so glad we have clear channels of communication. On a side note: I’m still embarrassed over the whole lost and found fiasco. Who knew you had to be the kid’s parent in order to claim them.

After a full day’s events we went back to my place where I cooked you dinner. My nostrils are still filled with the delightful sickly sweet smell of our undercooked pork. You would think they would put a warning label on pork not to leave it in your car trunk all day. I mean, really, don’t tell me you knew, like its some unspoken rule everyone knows. You can’t know common sense until someone tells you. I do feel badly even though I know no one is to blame here. The bright side is your noxiousness at the mere mention of pork has made our shopping and weekly menu easier to make. How simple things are if you don’t have to worry about pork. Another benefit is now we’re kosher. L’chayim!

The good thing is while you were in the hospital I remodeled the house. What doesn’t tell your lady you love her like fixin’ up the ol’ castle? You would laugh now if you were there. It was a blaze of glory. I still get chills thinking about it – or maybe its the electricity searing through my body. Again, you would think they put some kind of label on positive and negative wires warning against the dangers of bringing them in contact. It seems obvious now, but you weren’t there. All those wires in the wall were a mess. It just made sense to braid them. Well, you did get a new house from it.

Yeah (deep sigh) – that was how I ended up in the hospital bed next to you. That was a great Valentine’s Day, our first, so many years ago now. For Valentine’s Day this year I’ve decided to show you my love by doing absolutely nothing – and I know you’ll love me for it.


The Stud of a Man in Your Life

February 10, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With Easter barely two months out I am excited! Despite my love for Christmas and all the romanticism our society throws at it there can be no doubt that Easter is the most significant, stupendous, important day in all of history (I can’t help but think I’m still understating it). Since most people like to get ready for Christmas a month out bare minimum, I say let’s start prepping up for Easter now. So, here is my grand entrance to get you in the mood – oh and you might try singling along!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
With God’s children telling,
A story compelling and true,
“God’s kingdom is here!”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Grace will stop humans boasting,
Mercy stops us from roasting
cause we’re white as snow.
There’ll be wonderful stories and
Tales of God’s glories of that Easter
long, long ago.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Jesus’ gift causes us to sing
With his blood overflowing
To clean those he holds dear.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

February 7, 2009

Saturdays Are For Stories

An Addiction

I have an addiction. Hold your “tsk, tsk, tsk” and listen. I’ve earned that much. It is a little embarrassing, but I’m trying to be strong. Patience on your end would help. So, I’m…uh….I’m….addicted to….cheeks – specifically my daughters’ cheeks. Those adorable rosy cushions of flesh framed in dimples and delight are so inviting I just can’t help it. I need to pinch.

And here is my (our) problem. I’m compulsive about this. I’ve tried soft pinches, thumb less pinches, long-distant pinches, fishy pinches, violin pinches, 1/2 pinch, pointer/middle finger pinch, pinkie pinch, tootsie twist, holesey pinch, butterfly pinch, sweet-n-sour pinch, touch of love pinch, snaggle pinch, two-4-one pinch, pinch around the world, sit up and pinch me, texture pinch (velvet, satin or silk mostly), roll the cheek like dough pinch, cuddle pinch, and many others. Sadly, I found that none of these softer methods satisfies like an old fashioned, jaws of life, clamp down, twist until it brands, demarcations that scar for life pinch. This one pinch soothes the inner being of my soul.

I need, at minimum, five pinches per child per day. If nothing else, I need one round right out of bed, another to top of breakfast, the third to keep me going at midday, a dinner delight and finally, a bedtime tuck-in. Sadly, other people started complaining about the “welts” on their face. “Welts!?!” I would exclaim looking to see where they were pointing. “Oh – that. That’s…..” tapering off into indiscernible mumbling.

Recently I’ve noticed a strange change in their behavior. The first time Charis went to the dentist she cried, screamed, and threw a tantrum almost to the point of being accused of having a seizure. Now she begs to go to the dentist. “Oh please Daddy – its so much fun having my teeth drilled!” Not sure what that means. Whenever I get home and assume the cheek pinching posture the girls climb up on chairs and assume the dentist position – hands white-knuckling the arms tearing into the fabric, tears silently streaming down their cheeks; I even heard Naomi humming taps as I slowly approached her while Rebekah was harmonizing with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’m no math genius, but there may be a connection.

Of course it can’t be me. It must be Aunt Edna’s pinches that are causing all this torment. At least that was what I thought until last night when I awoke to torrid screams of terror. Rebekah had a nightmare. “What is it baby?” I asked. I never got an answer. One sight of me and Rebekah covered her cheeks with her hands ducking under her blankets. “I right daddy. No pinchy cheeks – I a’right.” Sigh – I hate it when they grow up.

February 5, 2009

Friends – A Prize Part II

This initial perusal through friendship ends with this chapter. We know intuitively that friendship means having a common bond, but it can be a common bond caused by almost anything. It can come from shared worldviews, being of the same blood, common hobby, favorite color or preferred coffee house. This randomness of friendship is part of its uniqueness. In truth, the only common bond that is required for friendship is our humanity. The fact that we discover and develop valuable relationships with anyone at anytime anywhere is a proclamation of the inherent value of human life.

It is this nugget of truth that provides the backdrop for the positive aspects of friendship being a prize. Remember that a negative view of prizing friendship thinks that everyone needs to value you more, but a positive view thinks that you need to value everyone else more. A right orientation of friendship gets that friendships are more valuable than gold, stocks or retirement funds. A right orientation of friendship gets that the value the friendship brings is in direct correlation to the value the other person holds. This value is not found in the other person’s skills, appearance or personality traits nor is it arbitrary. It just does not correlate to you or your appreciation for your friend. The reason friendships can occur with anyone at anytime anywhere is because it recognizes our value as God’s creation.

It is not surprising that we find our value in God and determine how to value each other based on God’s perspective. While the intent of this is not directly to argue against abortion or racism (which we’ve already touched upon) you cannot help but see the correlation between the devaluing of life in general and a topsy-turvy turning upside down view of friendship. Every time we make friends and build friendships, whether we like it or not, we declare and give testimony to God’s design and his constant, absolute stand on the value of human life. The reason we find joy in friendship is because it raises our voices in harmony to give glory to God because of the wonder of his creation. We are driven by this.

There are many examples in my life when others recognized the prize of friendship with me. Acts of kindness that involve hugs, kisses, shoulders to cry on, an ear to hear and even a seat to rest. These physical manifestations had as their backdrop a spiritual reality that includes encouragement, empathy, edification, and exhortation. I can’t even imagine how many warriors have come to my aid on the battleground of prayer. The same is true for you. However, the truth is that the greatest acts of friendship done to/for me are things I will never know about. The sacrifices many have made to pave the way for my maturity is sweet song in my heart. It is a salve for my being when I want to be stubborn, hard hearted and selfish because it tears down the walls of rebellion with utter and complete disregard for the sin that seeks to dwell within. God’s ways are wonderful and mysterious indeed.

While Scripture is saturated with examples of friendship being prized the way God intendeds the ultimate example is found with Jesus. He teaches in John 15:13-16 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”You are My friends if you do what I command you. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

Jesus, being the perfect leader, not only tells us what the real love for friends looks like, but he lived it as well. And that is why he died for us. There are almost innumerable reasons given in the Bible as to why Jesus died. One of these reasons was because he had his own love for his friends that carried him forward on his path to Golgotha. What was the condition of this friendship? Nothing other than his choosing of you. It is not based on your personality, work ethic or talents (Romans 9.11). No – he chose you as a friend because he could.

So here we are looking at the epicenter of friendship and we find the issue of life and death. Maybe you will be called to give your life in a similar manner as Jesus though I doubt it. But I have no doubt that you will have ample opportunities in relationships where you will be faced with the opportunity of extreme selflessness for the well being of the other person. This is when the line is drawn. Are they your friend?