Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who do you relate to in the Easter story?

Each person in the story reacts to the story in a different way and we often relate to one or more of these people and the way they respond to the circumstances they faced 2000 years ago. The cast is large and the responses are varied.

The disciples as usual don’t represent a single unified front to the situation. Nine of them when push came to shove simply melted away in fear and concern for themselves rather for their teacher and his teachings.

The youngest disciple had connections and was able to get into the court to follow the events as they unfolded. Ultimately he was there at the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ; the only one of his 12 apostles who remained true to the end of his master’s earthly life.

The leader of the disciples tried to defend Jesus but had poor defensive skills and ended up denying out of fear for his own life, not just once but three times before he realized what he had done and fled in disgrace

One chose to betray his leader. Perhaps he became disillusioned by the Jesus because he expected a different kind of leader then Jesus ended up being. Many people were looking for someone who would answer all of their political problems and Jesus didn’t fit into any know political party of his time. Some looked of a military leader who would solve their problems by force but Jesus spoke and taught spiritual peace. Perhaps Judas was just an opportunist and got a better offer from the priests.

The priests were enemies of Jesus for he threatened not only their political power but just as important they spiritual authority. While these alone were reason enough to cause their hatred of Jesus it was the fact that he challenged their very core religious beliefs and understanding of who they were (the chosen people of God) pushed them over the edge.

Mayhap it is the crowd who you relate to. Crowds are unique and can take on characteristics all their own. People in a crowd will do and say things that they will never dream of doing individually. It has been pointed out that the crowd in Jerusalem was rather fickle; first by trying to declare him King and a week later being swayed to demand his death by crucifixion. They accept the guilt of innocent blood not only on themselves but also their descendants.

For political expediency Pilate tries to placate the popular political agenda. And he believes that he can wash his hands of innocent blood, as though by wishing it so he can free himself of his responsibility and guilt.

Now the Roman soldiers were considered the best soldiers in the world. They also were skilled practitioners of torture. For them crucifixion was a normal punishment for anyone who rebelled against Rome. As for the beating of Jesus, well first century punishments were brutal. After all these men were “just obeying orders” even if it was an unfair verdict and false justice.

The Centurion was a man who followed his orders and yet in the end recognized who Jesus was and proclaimed him the Son of God.

The thieves on the cross also reacted to Jesus that day. One thief rejected him and cursed him while on the cross. The other recognized who Jesus was and chose to believe in him and his kingdom. That very day the repentant thief experienced the Kingdom in the presence of the King.

The women at the cross followed their King all the way to his death. Faithful from the start until the end these women not only believed in Jesus and his message they supported this itinerant teacher regardless of his popularity and poverty.

A final person in this drama is that of Jesus, himself. He experienced betrayal at the hand of a close friend, forsaken by his closest friends. He didn’t like his immediate future but chose to be obedient even though it meant separation from His Father, death. He chose to die for your sins, failures and mistakes as well as mine even when we were enemies in rebellion to him and His Father. He chose to express His love in the most incredible way by dying in our stead.

So who are you like? What person best portrays your personal response to Jesus this Easter? Unfortunately I find that at times I find a mixture of all of these characters in my response to Jesus and his death.

But thank God, He raised Jesus on the third day! And by trusting in him and his finished work we are raised with him!

He is risen – He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Pastor Val

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Correctly Handling the Word of Truth

I was disappointed today by a favorite author. I have enjoyed this man’s writing and teaching for years. Perhaps I identified with him because he has challenged the old guard in some of their outdated ideas of what constitutes appropriate Christian behavior. Perhaps because he brought a fresh understanding to Scripture passages.

But to day I found a glaring flaw in his writing and I have to say that it pointed out several important truths that I have learned over the years. The most important is that all leaders are flawed and are sinners. As such they all have weaknesses and sins that they struggle with. Being tempted to ignore these flaws has been the ruin of many leaders and their flocks.

As a leader of God’s flock we are commanded to correctly explain God’s word to those who have been entrusted in our care. Woe to the pastor who wrongly teaches their flock incorrectly.

It is tempting to interpret passages through the lenses of our own pet system or our hobby horse. But our job is to correctly handle the Word of Truth.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

This means that we can’t take verses out of context, neither can we chose to misrepresent the original language words to suit to “prove” a point. We need to carefully look at the text and correctly exegete the passage. At times this will mean that we will have to change our views on a particular subject rather then do harm to the text or the context.

I’ve had to do that over the years – change my views on a particular subject (or even two). You see that is correctly handling the Bible. It’s called being conformed to His image and transformed by the renewing of our minds. To put it more simply it is living in obedience.

I’m sure that you are wondering what I was reading and what did I find wrong with it. Well let’s just say that isn’t the issue of this blog. There have been plenty of people banging on this guy over his book, some for good reasons and some for wrong reasons.

The more important issue is that we need to be careful with choosing teachers who are honest with the Word of God and for those of us who teach we must be honest with our flock, with ourselves, our study and our God.

With fear and trembling

Pastor Val

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who’s Your Donkey?

We have all heard of how easy misunderstanding can happen in cross cultural events. Sometimes gestures can mean one thing in one country and entirely different in another (sometimes very embarrassing differences!)

This past fall I got to experience a new culture as I traveled to India to teach in a pastor’s training school. I got to experience what I can best be describe as the “Indian head wobble.” Now in America a head wobble means either uncertainty or a response of “so-so” but in India it means OK, yes or I understand.

While I had heard of it prior to the trip I experienced it first hand while going through a variety of security check points. Imagine my uncertainty as an Indian solider looked over my visa and passport and gave me a non verbal response of a “wobble.” I stood petrified like a Medusian statue uncertain if I should move to the next line or not.

During the class session imagine my concerns when asking if they understood a concept and received dozens of “wobbles!”

Now imagine my further chagrin when following a Q&A session I learned that I had blown off a question because I misunderstood the significance of the implications in the Indian culture!

I was asked the meaning of the donkey in the triumphal entry story in Luke and had answered that sometimes a donkey was just a donkey. (How Freudian of me!) You see in India animals are held in different esteem then in the United States. During a break my translator explained some of the significance to me and I insisted that at the beginning of the next session I apology to the class and ask my translator & good friend Naveem (pictured with me) to address the question.

You see even thought the caste situation in India is changing many people groups still feel the effects of being considered inferior. The donkey was a beast of burden that needed to be released and brought to Jesus. In India there are many people who are considered little more than beasts of burden that need to be released by someone and brought to Jesus. These believers were being challenged to seek out those who were still in bondage to the old ways and release them from their burdens and bring them to Jesus.

That day in class Naveem asked them “who is your donkey?” Who is it that Jesus needs you to go and in Jesus’ name release from their bondage and bring them to Jesus?

This Palm Sunday that’s my question to each of us – “Who’s your donkey?”

Have a great and awesome Triumphal Sunday!

Pastor Val