Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Part 6: Also

"But if the Spirit 
of Him who raised Jesus 
from the dead 
dwells in you, 
He who raised Christ from the dead 
will also give life to your mortal bodies 
through His Spirit 
who dwells in you...
He who did not spare His own Son, 
but delivered Him up 
for us all, 
how shall He not with Him 
also freely give us 
all things?
~ Romans 8:11, 32

"If then you 
were raised with Christ, 
seek those things which are above, 
where Christ is
sitting at the right hand of God." 
~ Colossians 3:1

To God be all glory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jesus Gave Thanks

“Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen.”  - the prayer children have offered in my house before meals for as long as I can remember

We bless our food with a tiny word of thanks. 

Before we share in the Lord’s supper in most churches, thanks is made to the Father who gave Only Son. 

Thanks is in the story Paul tells of the Lord’s supper. 

The Lord Jesus
On the same night in which He was BETRAYED
Took bread and when He had
He broke it…

Was Jesus simply giving a token prayer before eating?  In the middle of the feast? 

I’m ashamed to confess that I never believed Jesus was sincere.  He said ‘thanks,’ because He couldn’t eat until He’d done so…  Except that I don’t actually believe that.  So what was He thankful for?  Was He only saying “thank you” for the next bite?  For a feast He had fervently desired to eat with His disciples before He suffered?  For the suffering? 

Again, I have doubted Jesus’ sincerity, when He said “Not My will, but Yours be done.”  He meant it, surely.  As a declaration of submission.  That’s what I thought.  But in truth, it’s a prayer, not a declaration.  He’s been begging His Father.  And the begging doesn’t stop when it changes.  He begs for God’s will to be done.  Wants it.  Receives the will of the Father with joy, maybe as joy. 

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)

Such were my thoughts when this morning, day after the traditional anniversary of the Last Supper, I picked up Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts after a long pause.  Half a chapter had been waiting for me to find solitude in which to hear it.  God saved it up for me for this day, I believe.  She writes… 

“Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire.  Leave the hand open and be.  Be at peace.  Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks…  I hadn’t known that joy meant dying.  What did I think hard eucharisteo and the table of the Last Supper meant?  …follow Christ to the table of eucharisteo, the table of surrender that gives thanks for what is given – this is joy!”

Who gave thanks?  Who was doing the giving?  What did the giving cost?  What did the Giver do?  He is the one who gave thanks. 

Not token.  Not insincere.  Grateful.  Trusting.  Joyful.  Sorrowful, too. 

To God be all glory. 

Resurrection Part 5: Think on These Things

I was looking for a CD to listen to last night, a sermon that, ironically, encourages Christians to turn the world upside down with the plan, “We’re going to go out there and DIE.”  He speaks from Galatians of dying to self.  But the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church (another reminder given me this week, from a Facebook friend).  On my way to finding that CD, I found another one.  This one is by Andrew Peterson who has been one of my new favorite artists the past 7 or 8 months.  Mom bought it for me for my birthday in December, and through circumstances didn’t give it to me until February, when I listened to it once or twice and wasn’t that interested.  The title?  “Resurrection Letters, Volume II”  I took that as a sign, and am listening to it at work today. 

Actually, I am eager to share more, so I’ll tell you.  I lost the CD, in my room, while preparing for work this morning.  I looked all over for it.  Where could I have set it down?  Desk? No.  Bed? No.  Stack of jackets?  No.  Dresser?  No.  Where did it go?  I sat down to pull on my boots and decided to ask God to help me find it.  I got about as far as “Lord,” when I looked up and, blending in among boxes and shelves and cubbies on the second tier of my dresser right at eye level, was the CD.  “Thanks.” 

Next, I got to work, put in the CD, and it wouldn’t play.  Well, it was playing, but I couldn’t hear it.  Our speakers at work have been fading for a while, and I haven’t even tried to play a CD in some time.  But some system sounds were working in the past month, at least on and off, so I figured I would try.  When it wasn’t producing sound, I was really disappointed.  This CD is something I need to hear, today.  So I started troubleshooting.  It turns out that the only problem was a loose cord connecting the speaker to the CPU. 

So I’m listening to the Andrew Peterson CD at work, the Michael Card CD in my car.  Pondering resurrection and hope.  And crying out for the Spirit to move, mightily, in my life.  Use me to turn this world upside down.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resurrection Part 4: The Spirit is Moving

I guess God wants me to be thinking about these things.  On Saturday I was at a prayer meeting for a friend headed off to Africa on a three month mission trip.  Another prayer warrior present told me afterwards that one of his pastors has been in Nigeria for a few days, where the gospel was preached.  The report is that 150,000 people came forward to be saved by the blood of Jesus.  Numbers like that blow my mind.  I’ll admit, however hopeful I am, I’m skeptical.  But what if God really is moving in places like India and Africa?  What if the people in closed Muslim nations really are dreaming dreams about Jesus and running across Bibles and meeting people who will quietly preach the truth to them? 

The man told me something else about Nigeria.  He said that in eight days, they witnessed two people raised from the dead.  The first was being carried, four days, by his father, to the evangelists.  By the time the child reached them, he was dead.  But the team of preachers prayed anyway, and the child came back to life.  Hearing that, another person attending the revival went and got his son from the morgue.  He’d died of a bullet wound in his chest.  They prayed for him, and he is alive now, too. 

What would have happened if there had been no hope in those evangelists for the impossible?  What if, believing death to be God’s final answer, everyone had behaved rationally and ignored the impossible?  How often do I fail to even consider asking God for a miracle?

These reports are third or fourth or even fifth hand.  But I think it’s hard to confuse whether someone was dead and is now alive.  And why would you lie about things like that?  Still, my American rationalism, my lack of experience with supernatural things, pushes hard against reports about miracles.  Should I believe it?  What does it mean for me anyway? 

My story isn’t over…  A few hours after that Saturday meeting (probably early on Sunday), a good friend was encouraging me that the Spirit of God is moving – an admonition to keep crying out to see Him move here, in the world around me.  My friend said that there is a group of church-planting pastors in India who prayed for someone and saw them brought back from the dead as well.  I hadn’t shared what I’d just heard from someone else.  So. 
Two sources. 
Two countries. 
Three resurrections I heard about,
in one day.

And the time is coming, in less than a week now, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  We remember that He has all authority, and has given power to us, through His Holy Spirit.  We have hope that even death that lasts for decades is not forever for those who believe. 

To God be all glory.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Resurrection Part 3: Praying

I’ll admit: I would be scared if I saw a resurrection.  Scared by such display of amazing power.  And then I don’t know what I would be.  Would I have unshakable faith?  Would I crave more?  Would I ever be able to not hope again? 

Personally, I’ve only prayed for a resurrection once.  I wasn’t present with the dead person.  I didn’t get called to go over.  I didn’t pray out loud, and I didn’t command anything.  It was this month, and it didn’t “work.”  I found out a friend of mine – who is no more charismatic than I am – was praying for the same thing.  Our hearts cried for it.  Our minds could not make sense of the grief of the situation, and so we found that we are wired for hope.  We’ve both been learning about hope – hard hope.  Perhaps we were both being obedient in asking for something impossible.  Whatever the case, we’re both left wondering what we’re supposed to learn from hopes dashed, delusions denied, death held. 

If we see a resurrection, we cannot help but hope from then on?  Or does it work the other way?  If we ask for a resurrection and don’t get it, can we ever hope again?  

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Resurrection Part 2: Greater Works than These

At the very end of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, He promised that those who believe in and follow Him will do miracles even greater than those He had been seen to do (John 14:12).  I’m having trouble imagining greater miracles.  But let’s at least agree that bringing dead people back to life should be included in the list of wonders accompanying the preaching of His gospel. 

Peter knew this.  So did the early followers of Jesus.  They believed in a God with unlimited power.  They counted on it, acted on it.  In Acts 9 we read about a disciple named Tabitha.  She got sick and died while Peter was nearby in Lydda.  A group of believers decided to send for Peter.  Two men made the journey.  Peter didn’t hesitate to go with them. 

But what was he thinking?  He’d seen people raised from the dead.  He knew it was possible.  He was filled with the Spirit of God and had just seen a whole city convert because Jesus Christ used him to heal a man named Aeneas.  What would you be thinking if someone came to you because their friend had died? 

When Peter arrived, there were some people mourning.  We probably shouldn’t rebuke them; no promise had been made that Tabitha would be returned to them – unlike Jesus who had plainly told His disciples what would happen.  Peter sent everyone else out of the room, knelt by Tabitha’s washed, lifeless body.  And he prayed.  Then he commanded.  She opened her eyes and got up and was presented to her friends alive.  Simple.  People had seen and touched a dead woman and now spoke with her, continuing to receive her charity. 

To God be all glory. 

Submission or Lording it Over - Greek Word Studies

Comparative Study
between Church/Elders and Wives/Husbands
from Greek New Testament

  1. The most common word for how women are to treat their husbands is the word hypotasso (“submit”).  The word is found in Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1, 5.  Women are also commanded to be submissive at church gatherings, in 1 Corinthians 14:34. 
There are several instances where hypotasso is used of the Church or applied to all Christians.  They are told to submit to each other, to submit to secular authorities, to God, and to Christ.  Find these references in Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:13, James 4:7, and Ephesians 5:24.  In one instance, 1 Corinthians 16:15-16, Paul encourages the believers in Corinth to submit to those who labor in ministry to the saints (like the household of Stephanas does).  And younger Christians are told in 1 Peter 5:5 to submit to elder Christians, followed by an admonition for all Christians to submit to each other. 

  1. Another word used of how wives should relate to their husbands is kephale (“head”).  The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23 that the man or husband is the head of his wife.  The first passage goes into detail about the significance of and reason for this hierarchy.
Kephale is used frequently for the Church as well.  In all instances, we are taught that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.  Look at Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, and 5:23.  Also see Colossians 1:18. 

  1. Women and men are each told to aresko (“please”) each other in marriage.  Paul contrasts this to the devotion available to single people for service to God in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. 
All Christians are told to seek how they may aresko one another, in Romans 15:1-3. 

  1. To spin this in the other direction, husbands are actually told in 1 Peter 3:7 to timé (“give honor to”) their wives [as to the weaker vessel]. 
The Church is instructed to count elders who rule well worthy of double timé.  1 Timothy 5:17 is part of an entire section on the treatment of elders. 

  1. Other words for wives’ reverence and obedience to husbands are: hypakouo (“hearken to command”) 1 Peter 3:6; phobeo (“reverence”) Ephesians 5:33; hypotage (“subjecting”) 2 Timothy 2:11.  Women are to philandros (“love”) their own husbands Titus 2:4  They are not to authenteo (“exercise dominion over”) at church 1 Timothy 2:12; nor do they [or husbands] have exousiazo (“power”) over their own bodies.  Paul says that he does not epitrepo (“permit”) women to speak or have authority over men at church in both 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12. 
None of these words are used of elders in the church with the possible exception of exousiazo in Luke 22:25, where the disciples are told not to behave that way towards other disciples. 

  1. Other words for how husbands are to treat their wives: synoikeo (“dwell with”); 1 Peter 3:7, sygkleronoimos (“heirs together”); 1 Peter 3:7, agapao (“love”); Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19.  They are not to pikraino (“embitter”) their wives; Colossians 3:19.  None of these instructions are given to elders or Church leaders. 

  1. On the other hand there are many words used for how believers should treat elders and pastors.  I’m giving single-word translations for clarification that are likely to be biased simplifications.  I encourage everyone to look up the words and passages for themselves.  We are to mimeomai (“imitate”) our elders; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9 and Hebrews 13:7.  We should peitho (“be persuaded”) by them; Hebrews 13:17.  They deserve our hypeiko (“yielding”); also Hebrews 13:17.  We should doubly timé (“honor”) those that do their job well; 1 Timothy 5:17.  Also the church is told to agape (“love”) their elders; 1 Thessalonians 5:13.  These terms are never used of wives towards husbands. 

  1. And let us observe two classes of instructions to Church leaders.  The first is how they are told to treat the congregation or “flock.”  Elders are described as hegeomai (“leaders”); Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24.  There is a spiritual gift of proistemi (“presiding, protecting”); Romans 12:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and 1 Timothy 5:17.  Closely related is the requirement that elders be able to epimeleomai (“care for”) the Church; 1 Timothy 3:5.  The Church should recognize their elders when they kopiao (“labor to weariness”) for them; Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 5:17.  Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to noutheteo (“warn”) against false teachers; Acts 20:31 – and the Thessalonian elders were described as those who noutheteo the church. 

  1. Our second class is that which Church leaders are NOT to do.  The first is interesting because in Hebrews, leaders are described as hegeomai (“commanding”) the Church, but Luke 22:26 tells the disciples not to behave like the Gentiles who lead in such ways.  In passages corresponding to that in Luke 22, the authors use a few other words for the methods of authority, used by the Gentiles, the disciples were to shun: kataexousiazo (“wield power”); Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42 and katakyrieno (“subdue”); Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42, and also 1 Peter 5:3.  Luke also employs the word exousiazo (“power”) in the same passage; Luke 22:25, as discussed in point 5 above. 

  1. Other interesting studies are the “appointing” of elders and ministers and messengers; “one another” verses; spiritual gifts and the body of Christ; Church unity; qualifications for bishops/elders and deacons; church discipline; the authority of parents; suits and judgment; and binding and loosing. 

Personal conclusion: Whoever translated these words in the New Testament did not do a very good job communicating the full idea into English, leading to confusion and perhaps reinforcing a misinterpretation of Church government.  Who did do the original translating into English?  Were they serving under the very hierarchical Church of England?  Or believers in the Papal system?  Whatever our understanding of the government of local congregations, isn’t it clear that the Bible does not teach such super-church hierarchies as involving bishops and archbishops, etc. as understood in both Anglican and Catholic traditions?  Can we not argue that those religions denied the priesthood and sainthood of all believers, excluding them in varying degrees from participation in speaking God’s word and in building up or restoring fellow believers and in worshiping God, which activities were biblically entrusted to the whole Body of Christ?  Was not Tyndale hated for translating Greek terms into words more literal than those employed by the reigning religions of the day, undermining their religious system?  (

To God be all glory.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Word of God Part 3

What if the Bible isn’t enough?  What if God desires us to have more of a relationship with Him than a hermeneutical understanding of morality and doctrine?  And isn’t that what the Bible teaches: walk in the Spirit, walk by faith, the Spirit will guide us into all truth, despise not prophesying? 

If you’re anything like me, first you rejected these speculations.  Then you couldn’t stop thinking about them, and started reading the Bible in a new light, considering the possibilities.  And now that you’re seriously tempted to believe in continuing revelation, you’re scared.  I’m not very good at explaining this fear.  I think about how I have relied on the Bible so much.  How do I appeal to fellow believers about their belief and practice except on a universally accepted standard?  How do I witness to nonbelievers except by demonstrating the inerrancy (internal consistency and outward truth) of the Bible?  Can I claim that internal consistency proves anything when that was a test for which books made it into the Canon or not?  Supposing God does speak to me, how will I know it’s Him?  What if He speaks to someone else?  Why should I submit to what He speaks through them?  How will believers be on the same page, with each one (or at least each congregation) receiving his own revelation? 

Maybe I’m scared because I never dreamed I would be here, believing these things.  And where else will it lead?  Maybe if I need to hear from God today, or in the future, I have to trust that He will speak; I can’t just sit comfortably holding in my hand all He was ever going to say.  I have to believe in a God who is able to communicate not just to me, but to people around me.  I have to believe in a God whose mercy is so great that even when I’m sinfully not listening, He’ll cushion me from making mistakes too terrible.  But I need His mercy every time, because whenever I’m not listening to Him, I’m doing my own thing.  So maybe I don’t like this belief because it puts me out of control.  I can’t force revelation from God by being smarter or studying longer or even by asking the right teacher. 

On the other hand, I like it.  The God of the universe is speaking to real live people today.  He has designed a community for His people that is interdependent.  We get to be a part of His ministry both to those who have believed and to those who have not.  God has not left us alone to make up our own decisions.  

To God be all glory.

Resurrection Part 1: Michael Card’s "Luke: A World Turned Upside Down"

Michael Card has a new album out, all from the Gospel of Luke.  The subtitle is “A World Turned Upside Down” and the corresponding book is “Gospel of Amazement.”  The two songs I like the best are “What Sort of Song?” and “A Breath of a Prayer.”  Another song, “Pain and Persistence of Doubt,” accuses the characters in the gospel, and those who hear the song, of clinging to doubt and rejecting hope.  Quoting the angels at the tomb, Michael Card sings: “Why search for the living here among the dead; can’t you see that He’s simply not here?”  I want to defend myself, defend them.  Jesus was dead.  Crucified.  Dead seems pretty hopeless.  And you’re condemning us for not hoping?  Hope is one thing when we’re wishing, when something is going wrong, when someone is just sick.  But shall we believe delusions and run and tell everyone and pray for things that are impossible? 

Hope hurts.  Resurrection is only amazing because death is real.  When you hope for another outcome, especially after death already
you’re setting yourself up for painful disappointment.  Who can be blamed for accepting reality?  Building a life on what happened before instead of on what might happen, on cryptic words and promises? 

In Jesus’ case, it didn’t matter that no one was hoping for His resurrection.  He had it taken care of, and would raise Himself from the dead because He had promised it;  because His resurrection proved He had conquered sin and death.  When Jesus raised Lazarus, and the few other people during His earthly ministry, He surprised believers with His choice to wait, to not grieve, to touch and command the dead.  None of the outcomes were dependent on human faith.  Whether the family or disciples hoped or not, Jesus was going to act. 

To God be all glory.