Friday, May 19, 2017

Hold On

by Tim Howe

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite stories. It tells the tale of Edmond Dantès, an innocent man wrongly accused and sentenced to imprisonment at Château d'If near Marseilles, France. As the story begins, Dantès finds himself in an enviable position - a good job, a happy life, and an impending marriage to the love of his life. In a stroke, he loses it all and then languishes fourteen years unjustly confined. It is during this time of suffering that his steely resolve and a reversal of fortune combine to lead to an improbable turn of events. The bulk of the story details his pursuit of revenge and justice.

Fictional vs. RealityIn the story of the Count of Monte Cristo justice is deliciously served. But this is a fictional novel. Things often turn out quite differently. Part of the novel's entertainment value is that what should happen eventually happens. In reality, however, injustice often goes unavenged. 1 Peter addresses when this happens.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. (1 Pet. 2:19 ESV)

Colliding Values
We live in a world that pursues an agenda apart from God. The world's pursuits simply don't line up with God's will, and sometimes are even openly hostile to it. As a result, those of us who follow Christ find ourselves on a collision course with people or events that bring suffering and pain. Frequently, this suffering comes unjustly.

1 Peter teaches us that our endurance of suffering can be a powerful thing as we remind ourselves of the One for whom we suffer. The verse above even indicates that it can be a thing full of grace. The NLT translation of this verse states, For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment.

Shared Experience

God's pleasure comes at our response to the suffering. Our focus on His purpose even in the midst of severe difficulty bring joy to our Father. We share this in common with Christ (1 Pet. 2:21) and with believers throughout all ages who have experienced difficulty on account of the faith.

Hold OnMaybe no one knows what you are going through, but hold on. You might be in the middle of your fiercest battle, but hold on. Take pleasure that even in the darkest hour, God's grace is sufficient.

Monday, April 17, 2017

He is Risen

by Tim Howe

The arrival of Spring once again provides an explosion of color as flowers are beginning to bloom. With Spring comes Easter, the Christian holiday that celebrates new life through the resurrection of Jesus. It is a time for baskets of chocolate and for families to attend church and spend the day together in an egg hunt or around a meal.  

He is Risen
He is Risen. Three words that initiated many worship services this Easter. It is a well-known refrain for those who often attend Easter service in the Christian tradition. The words are spoken by the minister and often repeated by the congregants punctuated by an "indeed!" so as to emphasize the pronouncement's celebratory spirit. 

Two Eyewitnesses
Twice over the weekend I was reminded of men who heard the phrase many years ago. These were two eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. The setting finds itself just after the events that encompass Passion week in which Jesus came to Jerusalem heralded as a deliverer, but was tried and executed as a blasphemer, and then disappeared from his grave. 

Luke 24 describes two men walking along a road leading out of the city discussing the events of the past week. They come across a fellow traveler who seems to be unaware of the tumultuous week's events. This lack of awareness surprises the two men who explained the happenings to their new companion.

Explained in Detail
The reader is in on the secret that it is Jesus who has inquired of these two men concerning the perplexing events. Once he allows them to set the stage, he turns the tables and explains to them what events have really transpired, but instead of going back over the course of the past week, he goes back some fifteen hundred years. Jesus describes Passion week against the backdrop of the entire Old Testament showing how things have occurred just as they were supposed to and just as they were foretold. 

Luke 24:27 tells us, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." The text doesn't tell the reader exactly what passages Jesus elucidates. Wouldn't it have been nice to have eavesdropped on that conversation? Though we don't have their precise conversation recorded, we do have the Scriptures that Jesus quoted. Many theologians and Bible scholars since that time have done the very same thing that Jesus did. Books and articles have been written showing just how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled many OT prophecies, some of which were declared a thousand years before his birth.  

My personal faith journey spent some time exploring the writings of scholars who investigated and demonstrated just how Jesus' life did indeed fulfill ancient prophecies. Yet, the greatest thing said about Jesus was written not in advance of his birth, but just after his death. When the two men realized that it was Jesus who had walked with them, they rushed back to Jerusalem to share the surprising good news with their friends. Upon arrival, they were greeted with a similar good report. The eleven had their own eyewitness account, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon" (Luke 24:34). Christ's resurrection was attested by many eyewitnesses. Men and women who went to their graves testifying to what they had seen by their own eyes. These eyewitness accounts are the backbone of the Christian faith.

He is Risen Indeed
He is Risen. If the testimonies are true of the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus resurrected after death there are no three more powerful words spoken.