Friday, April 29, 2011

Whats So Great About the Resurrection?

Romans 4:25 proclaims that Jesus was "raised for our justification." For years I read this little clause with consternation. What does it mean?” What is the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our justification?

To understand the answer we must remember that Jesus died a criminal’s death. In fact, he experienced one of the most heinous forms of capital punishment ever devised by man. His crime? He was a liar. He claimed to be king of the Jews, and the Jews and Romans were convinced he wasn’t. The plaque on his cross read “King of the Jews.” In other words, his crime was this: He claimed to be King of the Jews.

Three times he claimed that he would raise himself from the dead. His contemporaries knew this was impossible.

He talked more about hell than anyone in the Bible, and said those that tried hardest to please God by being good, the Pharisees, were most apt to go there. His first century contemporaries believed that God would never send a sincere person to hell. In that assumption they are just like us today.

Last, he claimed to be God. He said he was one with YHWH. “I and the Father are one.” “Before Abraham was I AM!” Men worshipped him, and he did not stop them. He commanded the winds. and they stopped. His disciples prostrated themselves in worship.

He commanded demons and they fled.

From birth every Jew learned that death was the penalty for sin. When Jesus died on the cross their assumptions were confirmed. He was a liar and imposter. Had he been sinless death could not have taken him. He was the sinner they assumed he was. He was certainly not God. He was not the Messiah. His statements about Hell, judgment, and the futility of performance based acceptance were obvious exaggerations. Now they could dismiss him.

In other words, the Jews and the Romans crucified Jesus because they thought he was unrighteous. His death confirmed their suspicions.

That is one crucial reason why God raised Christ from the dead. God raised Jesus to justify him, to declare his righteousness. This ideeas was behind Paul's words to his disciple, Timothy, (1 Tim. 3:16) “He was vindicated by the Spirit” (1 Tim 3:16). It is also what Paul meant when he opened the letter to the Romans saying that Jesus " was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).

In other words, Christ’s resurrection was his justification. It vindicated his claims. Because Jesus did not sin, the grave could not hold him. “God raised him up,” declared Peter, “loosening the pangs of death, because it is not possible for him to be held by it” (Act 2:24). Jesus resurrection was the Father's declaration, “This man is innocent! He is righteous. He obeyed me perfectly. All of his claims are true. All of his statements are absolutely true. Believe in him! Submit to him! Worship him!”

If God raised Christ his claim to be King of the Jews was true. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings!

If God raised Christ his claim to Messiahship is true. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies.

If God raised Christ his claim to deity was true.

If God raised Christ then all of his words were true. His threats about final judgment were true. His warnings about Hell were true. His offer of salvation was and is completely reliable. His declaration of love for the common man is true and trustworthy. We can bank our life on it. His statements about the exclusivity of the Christian religion were true. “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through by me” (Jn.14:6).

Most importantly, Christ’s resurrection was also our justification. Faith not only unites us with Christ in his death, it also unites us Christ in his resurrection.

This is Good News indeed! It means that Christ’s justification is our justification. It means that when God raised his Son to justify him, we get justified also. Despite our sins and failings, God declares us “not guilty” because we are raised with Christ in his justification. His righteousness becomes ours. His justification becomes our justification.

This is what Paul meant when he said, Jesus “was raised for our justification.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Greatest Threat to U.S. Sovereignty: The National Debt

A recent article in Time Magazine (of all places) sheds considerable light on our looming National Debt Crisis. Our federal, State, and local debt poses a greater threat to United States sovereignty than all the external threats, such as communisn, Islam, etc., combined.

Take a moment to read this essay. The title, "You are what you owe," pretty much says it all. If every American citizen read these words and took them to heart, willing to make the necessary sacrifices, the current problem could be dealt with. Whether we have the national will to do this will become apparent.

Check out the New Jane Eyre Movie!

Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre, 2006)
Director Cary Fukunaga took a risk when he tackled Charlotte Bronte’s classic masterpiece “Jane Eyre” (rated PG-13). Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Michael Fassbender (Jonah Hex), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Judi Dench (Quantum of Solace) “Jane Eyre” has been done and redone time and time again. The actors change but the characters and story remains the same.

Mia Wasikowska stars as the title character. An orphan cast off by her Guardian and Aunt, Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins), Jane Eyre grows up in Lowood School for Girls. Here she is treated with cruelty and contempt but receives an excellent education thus providing her with a way of escape. After eight years at Lowood Jane advertises for a governess position receiving a reply from Alice Fairfax (Dench), the housekeeper of Thornfield Hall. Jane accepts the position and moves into Thornfield where she spends her days teaching Adele Varens a young French girl who is the ward of Edward Fairfax Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Hall.

Mr. Rochester (Fassbender) is rarely at home and Jane lives at Thornfield for many months before meeting him. Over the course of time Mr. Rochester comes to enjoy Jane’s company finding her to be his intellectual equal and that he can easily converse with her. It is during these times together that Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester and experiences deep jealousy with the introduction of competition in the form of Blanche Ingram (Imogen Poots). This jealousy, however, is not what eventually drives Jane from Thornfield and into the home of St. John, Diana and Mary Rivers, three siblings living together on the Moors. Jane eventually makes a life for herself with the Rivers family and even finds a job teaching at the local girls school. This is not where the story ends but I cannot tell you more without completely ruining it.

I have never claimed to be a book to movie purist, however, when it comes to “Jane Eyre” I am fiercely loyal to Charlotte Bronte’s original story. While the basic premise is still intact Fukunaga, and screen writer Moira Buffini, took some creative liberties. For instance, we meet St. John Rivers before we meet Mr. Rochester. By starting in the middle of the story the director is forced to create flashbacks in order to tell us Jane’s history. There were also multiple important details left out in order to adhere to the two hour time limit. Details I feel are needed in order to give the viewer the complete picture. I have concluded that if I had not already read the book multiple times and viewed other versions of “Jane Eyre” I would have been sorely confused about easily explainable details.

If you know the story of “Jane Eyre”, have read the book and seen the movies, I suggest you wait until this version is on DVD. I feel that it is not worth the high price of admission. However, if you do not know the story, or am indifferent about liberties taken, then by all means watch it. I personally prefer Masterpiece Theatre’s 2006 version starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephanie Spurgetis

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Power of a Good Book

As any avid reader will testify, there are books and then there are books. Some contain information but little else. Others lift us into the very presence of God exerting a gravitational pull on our thought life, bringing us back to key ideas for days, sometimes weeks, and in small cases even years. For these I search, sifting through the many to find one of these rare pearls.

I think this is what Ian Murray had in mind when he wrote, “The best Christian literature is not written for the mind and intellect alone; it appeals also to the heart, the conscience, and the will. A good book does something to us, something that God put first in the spirit of the author. A book should not simply convey knowledge; it should uplift us, it should make us want to pray, and we should rise from it with an ambition to live nearer to Christ and to serve  him better. Books of lasting value are books that feed the soul, and there is a ‘taste’ about them that lives on from one generation to another.”[1]

Have you encountered a book like this lately? If so, please respond with a few of your favorites. It would be a blessing to myself and anyone else reading this blog.  

[1] Murray, Iain, Banner of Truth Magazine, Issue 487, pg 5

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mark Driscoll preaches to 20,000 at Qwest Field

See the attached link with video of the Mars Hill Easter service. We are deeply thankful for God's grace.

To the Golden Shore

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
Just finished To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, a deeply moving biography. The last time a biography impacted me this much was twenty years ago when I read the biography of Girolamo Savonarola, A Crown of Fire, by Pierre Van Passen.

Judson and his wife, Nancy, were some of the first foreign missionaries from American soil. They left New England for Burma in 1812. Over the next 40 years thousands followed  to remote locations like India, Pakistan, Africa, and South America.

Several aspects of Judson's life impacted me. First, his dedication, his perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles, and his willingness to suffer. Judson and his wife modeled what it meant when Jesus told us that a grain of  wheat must fall into the ground and die before it can bear much fruit. They died and much fruit followed. Jesus modeled this principle. Paul did also. If we live, it is because someone else has died.

Judson and Nancy arrived in Burma in 1813. It was a superstitiouis nation, completely isolated from the outside world. Only a handful of foreigners lived there, and they were persecuted. The government was despotic. It methodically oppressed the native people, who enjoyed no civil rights. Anyone could be imprisoned at any time for any or no reason. Torture was routine, life expectancy was short, disease was rampant, and the people were illiterate.

Progress for the Judsons was slow. It was six years before Adoniram and Nancy gained their first convert. That is because the Burmese were deeply enslaved by a rigid form of Buddhism. However, soon after the first convert a slow trickle of other baptisms began to occur. All the while, Judson gave himself relentlessly to translating the Bible into the Burmese language.

In the meantime death stalked his little family. Their first child was still born. The second lived 6 months. The third died at 24 months. In 1822-24 Adoniram was incarcerated in the Burmese Death Prison for 17 months. This prison was a literal Hell on earth. Nancy kept him alive by bringing food and provision. The effort exhausted her to such an extent that she died a few months after Judson's release. At her death he descended into a deep depression that lasted for three years.

Slowly he began to recover. He married his second wife, Sarah. the widow of a fellow missionary whose who had died of Tuberculosis. She proved to be a delightful companion and help-mate. She gave Adoniram eight children of which five survived.

To find out how God used his suffering, his impact on the missonary movement, and the triumph of his last years, you will need to buy and read this book. I couldn't put it down. One night I laid in bed reading until 12:30. I haven't done that since reading the Tolkien's Trilogy in the 1980s. To the Golden Shores both humbled and encouraged me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parenting Conference

Judy and I just returned from a parenting conference at Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas. New Braunfels is a suburb of San Antonio. Austin lies 45 minutes in the opposite direction. The bumper stickers from Austin read, "Keep Austin Weird." That pretty much says it all. Austin is the San Francisco of Texas.

With the exception of Austin, the South is a different place. People are respectful, courteous, well dressed, deferential. It was Hawaii hot. Ninety five during the day dropping to 65 at night. All in all, we had a wonderful time, relaxed, and made some new friends.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Piper and R.C. Sproul: A moving Tribute!

Justin Taylor has written a moving tribute to two elderly, influential evangelical statesman, John Piper and R. C. Sproul. Many of you reading have been deeply impacted by their books. Take a moment to reflect on their  legacy. They will not be with us long.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy!

Driving Miss Daisy (Keepcase)Winner of four 1989 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress,  Driving Miss Daisy has stood the test of time continuing to bring laughter, joy and tears. Adapted from Alfred Uhry’s play of the same name, this beloved movie, staring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Ackroyd, still strikes a chord as it skillfully navigates the subjects of racism, friendship and growing older.

Jessica Tandy stars as Mrs. Daisy Werthan. An elderly Jewish widow living alone in Atlanta, Georgia in 1948. Our first encounter of Miss Daisy comes as she accidentally drives her car in the opposite direction then intended leaving it totaled. Miss Daisy’s son Boolie (Aykroyd) steps in before she has a chance to try it again. Booley hires Hoke Colburn (Freeman) as Miss Daisy’s African American chauffeur. Hoke’s presence at Miss Daisy’s house is met with meager hospitality. Despite Miss Daisy’s insistence that she does not need a chauffeur Hoke refuses to back down namely because he is Boolie’s employee, not hers.

Over the course of twenty years we watch as Miss Daisy and Hoke grow older, forming an unbreakable bond. We watch as Miss Daisy teaches Hoke to read and has him drive her to her brother’s ninetieth birthday party taking him out of Georgia for the first time. Together they endure the racism permeating the South, but not just against African Americans. When Miss Daisy’s synagogue is bombed she comes to realize they have more in common then she thought. Miss Daisy and Hoke come to depend on one another remaining lasting friends until the bitter end.

Having not seen “Driving Miss Daisy” since childhood, I was looking forward to taking a two hour trip down memory lane. With surprise I realized I had gotten so wrapped up in the lives of Miss Daisy and Hoke that I cried at the tenderness found in their relationship. Race, religion and age had melted away leaving only a deep friendship with a bond tighter then a lot of people ever experience.

I heartily recommend this film. Having no sexual content, violence or foul language I find it to be appropriate for the whole family. However, warn your kids that this is no Pixar film and allow them to opt out until they are old enough to rent it for themselves thus truly appreciating the story for what it is....Stephanie Spurgetis