Archives For Jesus

The Day Between

Joshua Walker —  April 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

Celtic CrossOn this day 1,982 years ago the men and women who had devoted their lives to following Jesus for the previous three years locked themselves in a room and brooded in despair and fear. Their Lord, the one they thought was the Messiah, was dead. Some of them had even been the ones to wrap His body and bury Him.

What transformed this group of fearful, despairing men and women into the group that would turn the world upside down? It was their witness of the risen Lord and the subsequent gift of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

The full scope of what Jesus had accomplished at the cross was brought to light through those events: He had made a way for all men to be reconciled to God; He had initiated New Creation in the resurrection; and He had initiated the New Covenant which includes the incredible gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Here we are, almost two thousand years later, and I want to ask you: Do you live in the Day Between, in fear and despair, or do you live in faith in the risen Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit given to us? Although today is the day that we remember the Day Between, we never have to live there again. He rose and is risen today! We can live in that reality each and every day: we don’t have to wait for tomorrow!

My prayer is that you would be encouraged in the reality that we serve a risen Lord! May we live in faith and power and not despair and fear. What is our King asking you to do today that requires faith and the power of His Spirit? Obey His calling with His power as you walk in the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

In John 11, Lazarus dies. It’s a story so common that no day in the history of the (post-Edenic) world has passed without this headline. Death is tragic, heart-wrenching, unbearable—but also entirely ordinary.

And yet there is something odd about the death story of John 11. Jesus, who had been making quite a stir with his healings, was given advance warning about Lazarus’ condition. Everyone knew Jesus could have done something about it. When Jesus arrives at the scene—four days late—he repeatedly hears the same greeting: “If you had been here he wouldn’t have died” (v. 21, 32, 37).

But Jesus made a conscious decision to show up after Lazarus’ death. Oddly, John even tells us that Jesus delayed because “he loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v. 5). Jesus loved this family and had every intention of exerting his inexhaustible power to resolve their situation in the best way possible. True to form, Jesus’ plan simply failed to align with what everyone was hoping and praying for.

As he relays the story, John keeps us in the know. There was a theological reason for this delay: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). In John 11, death is not presented as an ominous foe. It is almost tamed. Degraded to a mere plot device. A foil for the glory of God. Jesus even speaks of Lazarus having “fallen asleep” and of his own resurrecting power as simply “awakening him” (v.11), which evokes a humorous response from the disciples who basically say, “Well, if he fell asleep, he’ll probably be alright” (cf. v. 12).

And so it happened that Jesus peacefully strolled into town to minister to a man who had been four days in the tomb. Everyone seemed to be convinced of Jesus’ power to keep the living from death. But no one expected Jesus’ clever plot device, the simple words he would utter that would call death’s bluff—except maybe Mary, who wished Jesus had arrived earlier, but still acknowledged, “Even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v. 22).

And of course, it wasn’t too late. Jesus came for Lazarus. Even after death. He was gone, removed from the face of the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But Jesus came back for him. In response to a simple command to emerge, the decaying Lazarus reanimated and returned to his daily life.

If we could see beyond our Sunday school memories of this story, we would realize how shocking it is. And yet, like death itself, resurrection from the dead is also one of the most common things in the world. Or at least, it will be.

The Lazarus story stands out because he beat Jesus to the grave. What Jesus enacted with Lazarus foreshadows what Jesus himself would soon accomplish—not in obedience to the word of a stranger standing in the world of the living, but from the life-giving depths of his own being. Jesus entered the grave having already called death’s bluff (a few times). The world’s surprise at Jesus’ resurrection largely reveals humanity’s inability to understand what Jesus was up to.

Cemetary

Like Lazarus, we are all heading inexorably closer to the grave. But don’t worry, this illness does not lead to death. Yes, death is involved. But it doesn’t lead to death. Perhaps we should say it leads through death. Unlike Lazarus, who beat Jesus to the grave, Jesus has gone to the grave before us—and emerged on the other side. Jesus will come for us as well. Death does not get the last word. Resurrection—recreation—has always been God’s plan. Death is terrifying, yes. But when we view the world through the lens of Christ, we recognize it as a simple plot device. A mere foil to the glory of God.

We must be careful not to make light of what is serious. Even Jesus, who knew what he would do in a few moments’ time, saw the grief-inflicting impact of death on the people around him and wept (v. 35). There is a real place for grief in response to death, in response to a world gone berserk through the ravages of sin. But death does not get the last word. Jesus called Lazarus out of death. And he will call for us as well. “Behold, I am making all things new; I am coming soon” (Rev. 21:5 and 22:20).

When Christmas Is Lonely

Mark Beuving —  December 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

My pastor is good at reminding us that the Holidays can be a difficult time. We look forward to time off work to relax and catch up with our families. But what if you have no family? What if you’ve recently lost a loved one? What if your family gatherings are tense, argumentative, and discouraging?

Though we tend to speak about Christmas as a warm, happy time—the most wonderful time of the year—Christmas for many is a reminder of brokenness, loss, or loneliness.

If you find yourself in that position, Christmas is still for you. Perhaps Christmas is especially for you. Christmas is the celebration of God coming to earth as an infant. And that journey to earth where God took on baby-smooth flesh happened because this world is broken. We are lonely people. We are quarrelsome. We are hounded by illness and death. And for that very reason God entered our world.

Christmas

Jesus came because our world is broken. He came because we are broken. And he came as one of us so that he could lead us to healing, to wholeness, to reconciliation. The birth of Jesus was the rekindling of hope. It was God insisting that sin and death would not have the last world. All would be well. The angels appeared to the shepherds and announced peace on earth with the arrival of Jesus (Luke 2:14). And Paul reminds us that “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).

So if you find yourself alone this Christmas, or with an empty chair around the dinner table, remember that Jesus was born. Remember that because Jesus became a human child, sacrificed himself, and defeated death we will see our loved ones in Christ again. Remember that Jesus promised those who had chosen to follow him rather than clinging to family that they would be rewarded “a hundredfold” with family, “brothers and sisters and mothers and children” (Mark 10:30).

This does not make loss or loneliness enjoyable, nor should our goal be to keep a stiff upper lip. But you need to know that no matter how bitter your loss or persistent your loneliness, you have one and only one hope for wholeness, and we celebrate his birth at Christmas time. Strategies, platitudes, and self-help books are not enough to get you through. What you need is a Person, and he came as an infant in a feeding trough for your sake.

And if you find yourself in a tense family environment with irreconcilable differences and constant antagonism, or if you find yourself relatively alone on Christmas in an effort to avoid such a situation, remember that the baby you celebrate this Christmas season came to reconcile two groups who warred against one another:

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:14–17)

This does not make complex family dysfunction enjoyable. These situations are not easily reversed. But Christmas means that healing is possible. The only hope you have for restored relationships is the baby who would one day give his life to absorb the hostility of angry, selfish, sinful people.

I don’t write this in an effort to convince hurting people to cheer up. Grieving, hurting, and weeping may be the most appropriate thing you can do this Christmas season. But I do believe that we all need to see that the most important thing any of us can remember at Christmas time is the birth of Jesus. We need to remember him as we brave the shopping malls. We need to remember him as we happily unwrap presents around the Christmas tree. We need to remember him as we enjoy our families.

And we need to remember him as we feel the sting of loss. We need to remember him when once-comforting traditions turn into reminders of our pain. We need to remember him as we endure criticism or try to love the unlovable.

We all have only one hope, and at Christmas time we celebrate his humble arrival to earth, where he would grow into the Man who conquered every power, including death, and who will one day return to wipe our every tear and rid our world of evil once and for all.

“The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:10–14)

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the seriesHomosexuality, the Bible, and the Church

I wanted to say thanks to the 90+ students who attended my class, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church” this last semester at Eternity Bible College. I loved our interactions, discussions, and the very helpful feedback you’ve given me throughout the semester. As a brief recap, we spent most of our time in the text, working through direct and indirect passages relevant to the issue. We also listened to a few (former and current) LGBT people, who helped us put flesh on the topic. During the last few classes we discussed all the “what about…” questions that surround homosexuality. “Can I attend a gay wedding if I think homosexual behavior is a sin?” “What do I do when my child comes out?” “Should I vote against gay marriage?” and many others.

Silo Blog AdFor those who weren’t part of the class but wanted to be, I will soon release two online courses on homosexuality through The Silo Project, so stay tuned.

I often get asked, have you changed your views after studying the topic and teaching the class? Sometimes the question is genuine; other times the questioner has a sharpened pitch-fork ready to address the wrong answer. In any case, my answer is always the same: “yes and no.”

No, I have not changed my view about what the Bible says about homosexual behavior. The Bible says homosexual behavior is sin. I’ve tried to read the text from the affirming side—”monogamous, consensual homosexual behavior is blessed by God”—but I’ve found their arguments to be unconvincing. No doubt, there are several good points made by James Brownson, Matthew Vines, and others, and I may agree with some of their exegetical conclusions about some passages (e.g. Gen 19), but at the end of the day, there are too many interpretive problems with their view, so I can’t buy it.

So, I (still) believe homosexual behavior is sin. The difference, though, is that now I know why. I’ve worked through the passages, thought about the theological questions, and listened to countless testimonies from LGBT people. I’ve heard, weighed, and considered the main arguments for the affirming position and still remain traditional in my views not because I’m addicted to tradition, but because the traditional view rightly captures what the Bible says about homosexuality. Hopefully, now, my view is based on the Bible and not my upbringing or assumptions.

So I haven’t changed my view. However, I have changed my posture. I used to think that standing for the traditional view of marriage meant that I need to wear it on my sleeve and front my conclusion at the beginning of every conversation. But Jesus didn’t, and so neither will I. Jesus, of course, never mentioned homosexuality. However, he did take a conservative stance on various sins while dishing out grace quite liberally on those steeped in those sins.

Jesus stood against extortion, yet didn’t mention extortion when he encountered extortionists (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus stood against violence, but didn’t mention violence when he befriended a leader of a violent superpower (Matt 8:5-13).

Jesus opposed adultery and even took a hyper-conservative view on sexual ethics (Matt 5:27-32), but he didn’t front sexual sin when he encountered people engaged in it (Luke 7:36-50).

Jesus didn’t often lead with law; instead, he led with love and he loved people into holiness.

I often wonder what made Jesus so compelling to sinners. Why were they “drawn to him” as Luke 15:1-2 tells us? I think it’s because his cosmic love for people seeped deep down into the bones of people who were broken and battered by a sin-tarnished world. In a round about way, my traditional view of homosexual behavior compels me—if I want to be like Jesus—to love LGBT people even more. jesus and sinnersNot, love the sinner and hate the sin, but love the sinner and hate my own sin. Because we’re all sinners. I should have more LGBT friends, and not less, if I’m true to my non-affirming view. Jesus had few friends who were conservative religious people, but he had a whole slew friends who were thugs, fornicators, extortionists, gangsters—or people who were simply rejected and unloved by the religious elite.

Therefore, I want to be known for hanging out in the gay district in town, for donating time and money for people suffering from AIDS, and for attending parties that are filled with gays, lesbians, and transvestites. Why? Because Jesus was known for attending such parties (Matt 9:10-13), so much so that it tarnished His reputation (Matt 11:19). But Jesus didn’t care about His reputation. He cared about grace. He cared about love. He cared about fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by His Father and energized by the Spirit.

So have I changed? Ya, I guess I have. Hopefully I’ve changed toward, not away from, Jesus. Such a shift will always be dangerous and invite criticism from religious people.

My understanding of the issue of homosexuality has also changed. That is, I no longer can see same sex attraction and orientation as some abstract ethical debate that I banter around with among all my heterosexual friends. Homosexuality is not an issue. It’s people. It’s Matt and Leslie and Dan and Jeff and Jeremy and Maddie and many other beautiful souls trying to find hope and peace in a broken world. Loving people doesn’t mean affirming whatever behavior they desire; such an approach has never resonated with historic Christianity. But loving people the way Jesus did involves deep and radical commitment, sacrificial generosity, and a burning passion to discover and delight in the humanity of God’s image bearers. If we construct walls of conditions and prerequisites—“I’ll love greedy people, but not gay people…I can tolerate gluttons at my work on doughnut day but I despise my lesbian boss”—we fail to mediate the healing love of Christ. And we fail to uphold the biblical gospel we claim to promote.

In any case, I’ll be blogging less about homosexuality. Why? Because I need some space to reflect, read, and have non-social-media conversations about this vital topic. Plus, there are many other beautifully complex truths that I’m passionate about.

So, my next few blogs will be about grace (or charis): that ever so familiar and ever so watered down truth that binds us to our crucified King.

Laughing at Jesus

Mark Beuving —  June 9, 2014 — 1 Comment

The other day I was startled by this verse: “And they laughed at him” (Matthew 9:24b). One helpful tool for studying the Bible well is to be on the lookout for emotional language. Like noticing when Jesus wept (John 11:35) or when Paul pleads rather than simply asking (Rom. 12:1). It’s fun to hear laughter in the Bible, but this instance is curious for two reasons.

First of all, the people laughing here were in the midst of mourning for a dead girl. For the most part, laughing at a funeral is a no no. Unless you’re laughing at an endearing photo of the deceased or a great story from his past, you don’t usually hear laughter at a time like this. In this case, a ruler’s daughter had just died, and there were musicians playing and a crowd “making a commotion.” They were mourning the tragic loss of life. Yet a simple sentence broke through their wails and had them laughing in open mockery. For a moment.

The second reason this laughter is odd is that they were laughing at Jesus. Apparently, Jesus was funny. But what this crowd found laughable was actually a confirmation of Jesus’ true identity.

Llya Rypin, The Raising of Jarius’ Daughter (1871)

Llya Rypin, The Raising of Jarius’ Daughter (1871)

In this scenario, a ruler came to Jesus, telling him that his daughter had just died, and asking Jesus to come and lay his hand on her so that she would live again. That in itself is remarkable. It’s one thing to hope that the travelling miracle-worker may be able to curb your daughter’s failing health, but quite another to believe that he held power over death. What this ruler saw in Jesus was completely missed by the crowd of mourners.

Also interesting is the fact that this father, who had just lost his daughter, was not among the mourners, but was actively seeking a remedy to bring his daughter back to life. And the remedy he sought was Jesus.

So when Jesus stepped into this house full of mourners, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And really, can we blame them for laughing? They hadn’t seen, as the ruler did while he escorted Jesus to his home, a woman with 12 years of internal bleeding be healed simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ robe. To these mourners, the idea that death was no more permanent than a nap was absurd. Hilarious.

But when Jesus sent the mourners out of the house—what an inappropriate gathering they had become—he took the ruler’s daughter by the hand, and she got up. No incantation. No potions. No show. When touched by the hand that had formed her in her mother’s womb, the life that had temporarily left her came rushing back.

“The report of this went through all that district.” But there are still those who laugh. Even amongst those of us who claim to be his followers. His claims are absurd, his calling impossible, his promises far-fetched. Yet this simple story in Matthew’s Gospel gives us perspective. Who is the crazy one: the crowd of “realists” who laugh at the implication that death can be reversed, or the father who sees even death as subservient to the King of all?

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