Monthly Archives: March 2012

POWER TO SPARE!

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

(I’ve dropped anchor in the third Chapter of Paul’s letter to the young Church he’d begun at Philippi. (3:10).There’s so much here, and I feel awed, humbled, and challenged to come to a much better understanding of what so captured the Evangelist’s attention. If you’ve come to a “ho-hum” attitude about the Resurrection, I hope you’ll take a fresh look during this season. It is central to the Christian faith.  It is either the greatest event in human history, or the most hideous, cruel hoax ever to occupy the world’s attention. ~donkimrey)

In this chapter it seems to me that Paul is taking a personal inventory his life and establishing priorities.  There’s a pretty long list of impressive contributions and achievements. It seems they would be grounds for boasting, or at least some self-satisfaction.

Instead, he says: “while someone may think these are merely, or very, important, I’m focusing all my energy on what is MOST important.”  And, very tersely, wasting no words, he mentions these as his primary objective:

  • Know Christ
  • Know the Power of His Resurrection
  • Know the Fellowship of His Suffering
  • Become conformed to the image of Christ.

Consider the “power” of the Resurrection.  The word “power” or its equivalent is used a lot in Scripture. When Paul was writing his letters, he was writing and speaking the Greek language.  Before the KJV translated his letters to English, the word for “power” in that language is dunamis (of course, they used a different alphabet then, too.).  That’s the word which evolved into the English word “dynamite.”  Since Alfred Nobel invented that  highly volatile explosive, we sort of assumed that kind of “power” was highly explosive and very destructive, killing or maiming anything in it’s path.

But, considered in another way, “power” can be for constructive purposes. There is “power,” for instance, in the quiet, unnoticed growth beneath the surface makes the flowers bursts fort in glory with the coming of spring.

Christianity is a very muscular faith.  Very virile. While recognizing  (in our humanity) we may be weak, we gain strength and power through admission of our weakness. For instance, one New Testament writer said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  He provides power. The ability to do what is required of us.  The same word (dunamis, or power) is used when Jesus promised Hs followers “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”(Ref. ).   In that instance, the blessing of power is bestowed specifically upon the Christ followers. And this kind of power isn’t given so we can strut before others or admire ourselves in the mirror and just “flex” ourpowerful mew spiritual muscle.  Jesus made the purpose clear: It is the ability and authority to become faithful witnesses to the Gospel He introduced.

The same power which brought Jesus from the land of the dead is the same power which enables a “sinner” to become a “saint.”

Years ago there was a famous Baptist minister, Dr. R. G. Lee, who each year would preach a sermon by the title “Pay Day Someday.” It became an annual event and Dr. Lee delivered that same messages on numerous occasions at conventions, conferences, and other assemblies..  It was recorded and sold widely. From his pulpit in the Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, he achieved international recognition and preached that sermon 1300 times over the course of his ministry.

Needless to say, he had his imitators.  On one occasion, he happened to be in a Church when one young wannabe Lee delivered his  own version of “Payday Some day” only to learn that Dr. Lee himself was in the audience.

The young fella felt he had no choice but to continue, but afterwards he spoke with Dr. Lee, expressing his embarrassment and apologizing profusely.

Dr. Lee reassured the young minister, observing wryly that “most folks can tell the difference between a cannon and a cap pistol.”

While considering such great concepts (especially the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Christ) I feel so far beneath the subjects. I sense that I’m “on Holy Ground,” and don’t want to diminish your view of these tremendous events. I want badly not to become “as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

I’ll save “That I may know Him, the fellowship of His suffering, & that I may be conformed to his image” for other days. Other studies perhaps.

But right now I’m concentrating on the “power of the resurrection.” When I wrote about the Incarnation I was amazed at how so much Divine energy and personality could be compressed into such a small space.  Deity becoming an infant!  Eternity being compressed into a mere moment of time. It is just too much to be taken with a grain of salt.  Too much infinity for a finite mind to comprehend!

Honestly, there is no ranting of an idiot here.  Certainly no drooling like a religious fanatic or a fool.  These questions arise in my mind: First what IS the Power of His Resurrection?” and Second:  How may I achieve it?

What is the POWER OF THE RESURRECTION? I believe it is the authority or the privilege to become children of God. It is the ability to face and overcome all life’s challenges, including the last and greatest challenge..Death.  If Jesus really conquered the ultimate enemy, He can do anything. That’s the kind of righteousness and power that Jesus spoke about in His famous Sermon on the Mount. We should “Hunger and thirst for it.
“As the hart pants for water” is the word picture the Psalmist used to explain how we should seek God’s presence and His power. That sounds like devoted desperation.  I must have it or I perish.  As inadequate as my attempts are, perhaps you can take it even further. Take this seriously.  Paul made it his top priority.  Other things may be important.  But this is most important.  Ask for it.  Keep on seeking and you shall find.  It contains the possibility of continuous devotion. Devoted adoration.  The ability to live sanely in the midst of insanity.  To be kind, calm, confident, joyful, loving, peaceful, gentle, while exercising goodness, temperance, and self control.  It is the kind of peace that you can claim in all  circumstances.

In my life I’ve probably read, heard,written, and spoken millions of words. Hopefully, some were helpful.  Honestly, though, I have to admit the use of worthless words at times.  Some hurtful, irritating, or boring.

That question, “How may I know the Power of the Resurrection?” intrigues me. Sometimes the answer to such a question is so obvious we overlook it.   The way you “know” anything is that you accept it as fact.  Believe it is true. You spend time meditating.  In this case, you’d spend time considering the words, deeds, and influence of the only One who ever exercised that power.

This idea has captured my thinking and continues to occupy it. That powerful phrase: “The Power of His Resurrection!”  I could never compare myself to brilliant, imaginative scientists, philosophers, and can not imagine what prompted Albert Einstein to launch his quest which became the basis for his famous theory, E=MC2  which led to an atomic bomb and ushered in the nuclear age? When Ben Franklin went flying a kite in a thunderstorm, who ever suggested that he go chasing lightning and bottling it?

You already knew that without my telling you, but just so you know I have no grandiose ideas about my capabilities, I accept the fact that I have no special abilities to probe the depth of the Resurrection. Much less do I claim to be able to understand or explain its significance.   I do, however, believe the importance of the resurrection by far exceeds the importance of these, or any, or all scientific discoveries of all time.

This is another example of God acting suddenly, unexpectedly, in mysterious, marvelous ways, His wonders to perform.

“Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: “a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb.’ Jesus entered our world through a door marked, No Entrance’  and left through a door marked No Exit.”–Peter Larson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE APOSTLE PAUL’S PRIORITY

“That I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to His death.” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

Here’s where I’d like to drop anchor and just think a bit.  In the context surrounding that statement, the Apostle Paul is thinking about things which matter to him most.  He’s “prioritizing,” and in my opinion he has his priorities straight. This single simple sentence gives you his opinion of what matters most to him.  And they are as profound as they are simple.

I admire Paul greatly.  He’s one of the greatest figures in Christian history, perhaps in world history.  When Jesus was here, his closest friends (the Disciples) and perhaps some others wrote down the things Jesus said and did.  They just recorded things as they happened and recorded them for us in what we call “The Gospels.”  It was Paul, above all others, who interpreted the meaning of those acts and deeds and helped formulate a cohesive Christian theology.  He’s the one person who tried to show what Jesus words and deeds meant.  His courageous faith and preaching were vital in the spread of Jesus’ Gospel.  His writing and teaching were perhaps more influential than any Christian thinker who has ever lived. Not just in those exciting early days following the resurrection and the birth of the Church, but even to this very day.  The existence of the Church, it’s contribution in the fields of art, music, educational institutions and missions, are immeasurable and continuing. The Apostle Paul played a very crucial role in Church history.

Stated as succinctly as possible, his was a massive mind and a great spirit.  No one who is objective could dispute or deny the great contributions he made and the continuing impact those contributions have.

One thing which impresses me about the man is his singular, focused statement of his burning obsession, his supreme priority:  ‘That I may know Him, and the Power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformed to His death . . .” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

That laser focused desire and determination was what drove him and served as his compass.  It was the key to his power.

As we enter the season when we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice and his resurrection, what a great, great objective for us to have as our own compass!  That I may KNOW HIM. . . “

Would I be imposing on our friendship if I asked you to to ponder that thought? Knowing Christ  was Paul’s magnificent obsession.  His driving ambition.  His top priority.

In considering Paul’s desire, I’ve decided that is what I’d like to have as my own goal.

What is yours?

God’s servant, your friend and fellow student,  ~donkimrey   ><>

WHO DID IT?

  • (As Easter approaches, we must first deal with the cruel reality of the Crucifixion.   Once before, I raised the question:  Who’s responsible?  Ultimately, don’t all of us have a share of blame?)

  “When Pontius Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said: ‘I am innocent of the blood of this Just person.  You see to it.’  And all the people answered and said: ‘His  blood be upon us and on our children.’”  (Matthew 27:24-25)

         Let’s think for a while about the personalities and the forces driving the events leading to the mock trial and  illegal crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

From the very beginning, it was the “Establishment” which drove the events.  The well-established RELIGIOUS establishment which first viewed Jesus as a nuisance, then a threat. As their suspicion and fear grew it developed into hatred and when hatred is full grown it frequently leads to murder. The sadness and travesty in this case was horribly multiplied because it was sanctioned and propelled by the “best” civilized society had to offer at that time.

If you see similarities between that “system” and any other ever devised by man, your powers of observation are acute and accurate.  The self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, self-preserving  never have real “good” as their objective.  Whether they are religious, political, or any other kind.   And who’s to say that, given similar circumstances in our power hungry and power-polluted system we would not have arrived at the same conclusions?  The same outcome. Who among us can honestly say we’d not have been driven along by the same tidal wave of hatred and evil?

If something big. . . really big. . . were happening downtown right now, would you stay home?  Really?  If you just ambled in and everyone was screaming something at the top of their voices, would you bravely step forward, calm them down and suggest a more reasoned approach?  Even if that same angry crowd turned on you and told you to “Shut up, or Else?”

Don’t kid yourself.  If any of us get caught up in the “herd mentality,” any one of us. . . and every one of us . . .can easily become subject to mass hysteria.  I read a book some years ago entitled Rumour, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds.  The central thesis was that, under the right circumstances, with the “right leader” any crowd is subjected to being manipulated.  Whipped into a hysterical, insane frenzy.  You don’t have to go far back into history to encounter Adolph Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich.  Somehow, I cannot believe every single person who got swept along by that tsunami sized tide of evil was actually evil.  Bit by tiny bit, they bought into a huge lie.  They fell hook line and sinker for a line vomited from the mouth and mind of maniacal madman.

As you read the stories about Jesus’ life, you will recognize that early on he aroused the suspicion, jealousy, and ire of the religious leaders.  “The Common People heard Jesus gladly.”  Some of them said: “No (mere) man ever spoke like this Man.”  He performed miracles, in addition to being a compelling speaker.  He intimidated the “powers that be.”  Then, He started saying things pretty clearly that people interpreted as Him saying He was the Son of God.  Or even God (“He that has seen me has seen the Father.”).  And he messed up one of their “profit centers,” turning over their tables, sending the synagogue profiteers scrambling for cover.  The common people must have loved it!  And I have to confess I’d have been impressed seeing Jesus snortin’ fire and chasing religious thugs from the temple.

Admittedly, the ringleaders in this plot to do Jesus to death were the Jewish religious leaders.  Admittedly, from their standpoint at least, they had reason to be upset.  He was “messing” with their way of living.  Encroaching on their “turf” (Believe it or not, ministers can become very territorial!).  Upsetting the people in general, and maybe attracting too much attention from the Romans garrisoned there.  Israel was, you may recall, an occupied country at the time.  An unruly, almost ungovernable country but dominated, nevertheless, by an invading foreign power. They hated being under the boot of Roman authority, and also feared that any uprising on their part would be cause for the iron fisted, full fury of Roman wrath to fall upon them.  (In 70 A.D., their worst fears were realized.).

As you follow the career of Jesus, you can see these guys (or their spies) stalking Him constantly.  Taking notes.  Gathering false testimony. Exchanging knowing glances.  Looking for, and finally finding, the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.”  Behind the scenes, under cover, they conceived and hatched an evil scheme which would find culmination on Golgotha’s brow.

In light of this, it is no wonder that Annias and Caiaphas were the architects and engineers of the farce of a trial, under cover of night, and before “normal office hours” on the Friday  morning of the day Jesus was  murdered at the instigation of religious leaders and with the co-operation of an established government which violated their own laws..   They were the jeer leaders.  They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting frantically, feverishly frothing  angrily

“Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!     “We will not have this                      Man rule over us!”“Barrabbas!    Release unto us Barrabbas!” 

         If you’re inclined toward prejudice, and if your reasoning powers are limited, you might be able to psych yourself into believing this was a “Jewish thing,”  Before you seek to place blame, perhaps you should take an honest look in the mirror at the person whose face you wear.  When I view the cross, I see very little occasion for pointing an accusing finger.

In fact, in answer to one of Pilate’s proposals, trying to wriggle himself off the hook the Jewish crowd seemed to have been led in a self-incriminating shout  “His blood be upon us. . .and upon our children.” This is one of those statements some people use to judge and condemn Jews.  That is not a rational conclusion.  Prejudice of any sort is emotional. It is wrong to hate anyone whom God created.  Do you remember that later that same day Jesus prayed and said:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Now this raises a question.  Not simply a rhetorical question.  It deserves a carefully considered answer:  “If the Person against whom the sin is committed asks forgiveness for the offenders. . . what room is left for anyone else to pass judgment?”  Even if we think our claim is valid, what gives us any right to judge and condemn when the injured party says: “I forgive the offenders.  They did not realize the gravity of their offense.”

Another unreasonable reason some people offer in attempting to justify anti-Semitism is the way they (the Jews.  The entire nation of Israel)  “hang together” so tightly.  Even a casual observer of history can discover this.  My personal opinion is they’ve had to do that for self-preservation.  Through millenia  no other nation  has ever been able to erase their identity.  Not the snide, cutting remarks we make.  Nor the holocaust.  Other peoples migrate and assimilate into almost any and every culture.  We’ve prided ourselves in calling America the “Great Melting Pot.”  While there are pockets of people here from every place on the planet, and while it may take generations for assimilation to fully take place, most are eventually absorbed in our culture and adapt to it or adopt our ways of thinking.  The lone exception is the Jews who cling tenaciously to their faith, their distinctive, unmistakable Jewish identity.

Once I worked with the parents of Autistic Children.  One of the things which impressed me early about them was that they were their own best and only friends in lots of instances.  The enigmatic disorder their children had was so demanding, so cruel, no one really understood what caused it.  Much less could others understand the difficulties the families of autistic children had to face.  In addition, a nearly Neanderthal German pseudo-scientist had concluded the problem of autism was caused and promoted by what he called “Refrigerator mothers.” He was a “scholar.”  And he stated his “findings and theories” so emphatically that they were accepted by many as absolute fact.  So, in addition to the incredible demands placed upon the families by the children, they were now faced with the added burden of feeling the problem was of their own making.

And every consideration they gained required that they fight.  Hard. Together. Can you wonder why they drew so closely together, held tightly to that, and seldom allowed “outsiders” to see their pain.

Other minorities have endured  isolation and ignorant prejudice.  Often shut out of mainstream society, they had to find ways to preserve their way of life, as well as their very lives.  What we view as arrogance or isolation may, in fact, be their means of self~defense or self-preservation.

If you think the Jews in this scenario are evil, take a long, good, honest look in the mirror.  The “sins” of which they were guilty are the same kinds of things we do every day.  Every one of usEvery day.  The Bible teaches that sin is what made Jesus’ death necessary.  Not Jewish sin.  Not White sin, or Black, or American sin.  Sin. The same kinds of “sin” which we commit routinely.

Just as Christ died so all may be forgiven, so all of us…and each of us…is culpable in His crucifixion.  Why would anyone and everyone need to be “forgiven” if, in fact, they’d committed no offenses?  The truth is it was the sinful human nature (Jew,Greek, Presbyterian, Baptist, Agnostic, etc., etc.) which did the Son of God to Death.

I believe it’s important to think about that.  The Jews were no more the reason for Jesus’ death than I am.  No more than you are.  Their “sins” were no more, and no less, sinful than mine.  Or yours.  The truth of the matter is that He died for all of us because all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”*

Think about the kinds of sins they committed.  They were “religious” people.  Not a murderer among them probably.  Certainly none who’d committed financial thuggery of the AIG and Madoff proportions!  They were the very best that their society had to offer.   They were preserving their jobs.  Their religion, their thought.  Their traditions. Their way of life.   And they fought the only way they knew how to fight.

If a light shines too brightly and hurts your eyes, you either adjust to it, or put it out.  In this case, the Light of the World was simply so bright they had to adjust to the Truth.  Or kill it.  Being Jewish had little, if anything, to do with it.  Being human, and therefore sinful, had everything to do with it.

Would you and I have handled the situtation differently?

Do we handle challenges differently today?

Really?

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,     ~donkimrey