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Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

So young people are leaving the church: a disastrous omen for the future of Christianity.  We must do something.  Something different than what we have been doing.  Because the church is failing this generation. 

 

It is common to point to the pizza and games youth-group-without-accountability-or-education program as the culprit for the apostasy of college students.  Church should not be about entertainment, say the pious parents who with the next breath criticize the musicians on the praise team and complain that the worship style at their congregation doesn’t suit their tastes.  Perhaps we are not sheltering youth enough.  Maybe they need more authority figures, a connection with the whole church, including their parents. 

 

Some on the conservative side of the question point to the content of what we teach young people.  Survey after survey reveals that teens don’t know the basics of Christian theology, and certainly aren’t decision-making from a Christian worldview.  These kids have no foundation to abandon, Christian leaders rightly argue.  They’re hungry for answers.  And when we don’t equip them in the realm of apologetics, high school and college professors have little difficulty refuting the shallow traditional faith of their students. 

 

Maybe the church is too legalistic, parents and pastors suffocating kids with expectations of holiness, that ever-imposing scale of good deeds versus bad deeds on which to measure God’s favor and wrath.  When at last free of the oppressive constraints, these young adults bust out with a liberal longing for pleasure, enjoying an affirming group of friends that encourages them to stop stifling their own feelings.  So we the church ought to offer more grace, somehow imparting to the up-and-coming generations the relationship aspect of Christianity.  Like so many who have been in the church for decades, these teenagers just want to know that God is love, and He wants to be your friend, to give you your best life now. 

 

“These are the leaders of the future,” is quoted, by some with hope, by others with dark foreboding.  But our model of ministry leaves a wide gap between involvement in youth ministry and being incorporated with the rest of the congregation.  Smaller churches have no college ministry.  Even those with college ministries have merely moved the disconnect to a later date.  Those in the club of grown ups are unwilling to speak to or invest in the younger individuals – let alone take their advice – trying to move into life and faith that is overwhelming without examples.  There is truth to the protest that kids are irreverent and disrespectful and self-absorbed.  But listen to what we’re saying.  Those are the kids.  What toddler have you met who knows anything different than irreverence and selfishness?  Yet the older people attempt to train them, not fight them.  Church has failed to welcome the post-education demographic; can we be surprised they leave?

 

Yet maybe that is exactly what the young adults ought to do: leave.  An institution so divided and impotent as the evangelical church, so lacking in love or substance, is more likely to inspire bitter memories of religious hypocrisy and to shore up doubt in the power of a God mostly ignored in the actual workings of the organization.  I will say more: perhaps the adults should leave, and the young parents who feel they ought to raise their children in Sunday school should never come back.  Christians should take on the personal responsibility of living a communal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: embracing grace as a gift both received and distributed; trust in the power and authority of the Creator God of the Resurrection; loving, serving, and discipling their fellow children of God; humbling themselves before the voice of God coming through Scripture, teachers, and youths; pursuing fellowship with God and with each other; and living out a life so different from the world that those exposed have no doubt that only the miracle of God could give such abundant life! 

 

And just maybe when we see such a symptom of desperate unwell in our churches, we should repent, falling on our faces before the Lord of Wisdom, desiring His healing and direction rather than the empty programs and various solutions proffered by man. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Yesterday a friend was sharing how puzzling it is to him that God despises child-sacrifice (such as the kind recorded in the Bible, to the idol Molech) but God still asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him, and even that God Himself practiced human sacrifice in the form of His Son, Jesus. 

 

Sacrifices to idols and to Molech are an effort for man to please god by giving him a thing most valuable.  Our most valuable offerings cannot appease God.  Only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the requirement that remission must come by the shedding of blood.  Only God Himself was good enough. 

 

God, even more than life, is the highest priority.  Faith in Him is more important than anyone’s life, and disobedience is not justified even in a situation where a life is at stake. 

 

The child sacrifices to Molech had more to do with bartering with god than with repentance for sins or faith.  Abraham, in contrast, was the patriarch of faith, and the Bible implicitly says that the command to sacrifice Isaac was about Abraham’s faith (interesting since Isaac was old enough to have resisted Abraham, but he didn’t). 

 

Abraham’s faith was tested when God asked Him to sacrifice Isaac.  But what does child sacrifice really have to do with faith? 

 

Hebrews 11 explains why he got so much credit for his faith in the story of sacrificing Isaac:

 

Hebrews 11:17-19, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,  Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

 

Abraham believed God would make his son live, no matter what.  God also knew when Jesus gave His life that there would be a resurrection.  Jesus knew about it, and told His disciples to expect Him to come back on the third day. 

 

Even if Abraham just believed Isaac would not stay dead, we might think that he was self-deluded and irrationally hopeful rather than a man of great faith, unless God gave Abraham a strong reason to believe this.  Did He? 

 

Abraham had some difficulties believing God’s plan for him.  Years into the covenant and promises, Abraham and Sarah still hadn’t born any children.  So Abraham tried things his own way, siring Ishmael through Hagar, his wife’s slavewoman.  God made it quite clear that He had promised a son through Sarah, and that Ishmael was not the heir. 

 

Then Abraham believed God, but Sarah doubted until she conceived Isaac.  God reiterated that the promise to make Abraham many nations, to bless the world through his Seed, (the Covenant) was through Isaac:

 

Genesis 17:15-16, 19, “And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

 

They gave birth to a son.  So Abraham had learned his lesson about doubts.  He knew that either God would intervene, or God would raise Isaac back to life. 

 

Abraham knew that God’s command (to sacrifice Isaac) could not supercede God’s promise (to make Isaac into many nations).  This point is made in Galatians:

 

Galatians 3:17, “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” 

 

The just always lived by faith. 

 

In Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, I see a vivid example of God’s plan for salvation depicted in the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac. 

  • The promise was from God, and He would keep it. 
  • The son was miraculously given by God. 
  • The command was God’s. 
  • The faith was in God. 
  • And the substitute sacrifice was God’s. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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So the Saturday before Easter, the Sabbath between Jesus’ death and resurrection, is one of the most fascinating periods in the Bible to me.  I wonder each year what Jesus’ disciples experienced.  Scattered, afraid, sad.  Peter denied him.  Judas committed suicide.  John was no doubt taking care of Mary.  But there were others: the rest of the twelve, the band of companions who had seen to the physical needs of the group, including women who saw Jesus crucified and made plans to go to His tomb on Sunday.  What did they all thing?  How did they cope?  Did they just sleep?  Were they self-centered, worried Judas would betray them next?  Did they think?  Did they think they’d been wrong, that Jesus wasn’t Messiah after all?  Did they remember what He said about dying and rising again?  Did they believe still that Jesus was the Messiah, but had been defeated? 

The last question is part of the subject of a little story I wrote several years ago, and which I published on When the Pen Flows in July: Nathanael’s Dark Night

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“It wasn’t a pony ride, it was a colt that was found tied. It wasn’t a snack bar, it was the Last Supper and the instruction to be remembered until He returns. It wasn’t a petting zoo, it was stripes and beatings. It wasn’t inflate-ables, it was a Cross. It wasn’t a carnival, it was a crucifixion. It wasn’t face-painting, it was vinegar and gall and parted garments. It wasn’t $100. — it was thirty pieces of silver. It wasn’t a party — it was payment – once for all for the penalty of death on all. It wasn’t a ‘gi-normous’ egg hunt, but an empty tomb. It wasn’t a cake-walk, but the Road to Emmaus and the revelation of the Saviour.” – by Pamela of The Welcome Home Blog

This is why I read her blog; she writes so beautifully! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In case you didn’t read the long (so sorry; I try to keep my posts at readable length, but I just couldn’t divide that one) post on dispensationalism, I want to share a shortened version at least of Hebrews 6. If you have other expositions on this tough passage that make sense biblically, feel free to comment.

I love Hebrews 6. My favorite part is where it exhorts Christians to move beyond the basics. To me this refutes the seeker-sensitive “conversion”-driven style of church. I need fed the meat of the word, not just milk. Several years ago my pastor taught on the second part of the chapter, the controversial part, which at first glance seems to have nothing to do with verses 1-3. But verse 4 begins, “For,” so obviously the author felt he supplying the reasoning behind those first verses as he continued.

I remember that my pastor was arguing that here in Hebrews 6 there is evidence that the author makes an aside, discussing non-Christians who have been among the Church and witnessed God’s saving power, but never actually accepted the gospel for themselves. His Bible interpretation for this passage seemed forced into the mold of his preconceived theology; he was proof-texting much like he did when justifying female leadership in the church. So even though I believe no one once saved can lose their salvation (you did not earn your way in; you cannot earn your way out), I went searching for a more solid exposition of Hebrews 6. What I found was a lot of controversy and stretched interpretations, and one explanation that made perfect sense to me.

It was provided by Charles Spurgeon (a genius preacher, and eloquent!). PLEASE read the whole thing. I’m including the following two quotations just to summarize. Truly. His sermon transcript ties the entire passage together.

“In order to make them persevere, if possible, he shows them that if they do not, they must, most certainly be lost; for there is no other salvation but that which God has already bestowed on them, and if that does not keep them, carry them forward, and present them spotless before God, there cannot be any other. For it is impossible, he says, if ye be once enlightened, and then fall away, that ye should ever be renewed again unto repentance…

“Well, there never has been a case of it yet, and therefore I cannot describe it from observation; but I will tell you what I suppose it is. To fall away, would be for the Holy Spirit entirely to go out of a man—for his grace entirely to cease; not to lie dormant, but to cease to be—for God, who has begun a good work, to leave off doing it entirely—to take his hand completely and entirely away, and say, ‘There, man! I have half saved thee; now I will damn thee.’ That is what falling away is.” – CH Spurgeon

Compare to the logic-based argument Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15, where he was not saying that Jesus did not rise, but for the sake of argument posed a “what if”: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

To God be all glory.

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I’m uncontainably delighted by God’s grace right now.  I thought I’d share some things that have been buzzing through my head tonight:

Psalms 70:4-5, “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified. But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.”

2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

Acts 23:11, “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer…”

Daniel 10:8-11, “Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.”

Revelation 1:17-18, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen;”

Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Corinthians 1:25, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Ezekiel 16:30, “How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD,”

Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works;”

Psalms 22:27, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.”

Lamentations 3:22-24, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.”

Isaiah 40:28-29, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”

Jeremiah 10:10, “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king:”

Revelation 4:8, “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 19:6, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

To God be all glory. 

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