Friday, April 10, 2015
In the account of the Early Church there are several accounts of Paul standing in front of his accusers. In one of these accounts, Paul is defending himself before the religious leaders of his day. Here is one of Paul’s defenses:
"I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6).
This defense created quite a stir because his accusers were divided about their view of the possibility of any resurrection. There were two sects of Judaism: one did not believe in any resurrection (Sadducees) and one sect that believed in a resurrection (Pharisees).
While Paul was a member of the Pharisees he was also a follower of Jesus and believed in the resurrection of Jesus. Paul preached a message of resurrection and declared that Christian hope was based on the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
The debate over the resurrection of Jesus continues as strongly today as it did 2,000 years ago. Several theories about the resurrection have been proposed. There are numerous books that have been written to defend the historicity of he resurrection. Biblical scholar, N. T. Wright wrote one of the most recent. An older classical study was written by Frank Morison.
I believe that one of the significant points by the writer of the Acts of the Holy Spirit is to focus on the hope of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus points us the immortality of human existence. Some day there will be a new heaven and earth that we will occupy.
Are you focused on your hope?
Ron Friesen © 2015
Thursday, April 9, 2015
What is your life worth?
A few years ago emails were circulated discussing the value of a person’s life. Many of these emails pointed out the discrepancy between the salary of a schoolteacher and the salary of leading sports figures. It was noted that a schoolteacher contributed more to our society than a player on a basketball team yet the salary of the basketball player was thousand times that of a schoolteacher.
Followers of Jesus may be tempted to ask what value their lives have. In a society that values life based on fame, success, material possession, attractiveness, we may feel that our lives have little value. Well, we may actually be onto something. Read what St. Paul thought about the value of his life:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:29).
The context of these words is Paul discussing how his life will likely end at the hands of a murderous crowd or magistrate. He finds that fighting for his life is not something he wants to do. The only value he finds in his life is doing what God has asked him to do and that is to talk about the good news of God’s graciousness to all.
What value is your life?
Ron Friesen © 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
Yesterday was Easter Sunday in the Christian Calendar. As I was on Facebook yesterday, I saw various expressions of the meaning of Easter. For some people, Easter was celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For others, Easter was a time of puppies, rabbits, and dyed eggs.
St. Paul went to Athens to bring the Gospel. He preached a sermon to the leaders of the community. Here is part of his sermon,
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:29-31).
If St. Paul were on Facebook yesterday and evaluating the spirituality of our world in the 21st Century, I wonder if he would rewrite this part of his message to: Therefore since we are God’s creation, we should not think that the divine being is like a bunny, or a colored egg or a puppy – an image created out of human imagination. In the past God overlooked such foolishness, but now he command all people everywhere to change their thinking.”
Why should we tell God we are sorry about our misguided view of him? God is going to bring all of us before the Christ to judge us. How do we know that Christ be the final arbiter of right and wrong? Jesus the Christ was appointed God by the resurrection. The early Church believed that the resurrection proved that Jesus of Nazareth was the Lord of life and death. As the Lord of life and death, Jesus was supreme ruler of the world.
Remember the original audience for Paul’s speech is the people who thought they ruled their world: they believed they were supreme in their universe. The resurrected Lord is challenging their idea of who runs the world.
Do you think you run your world? Be careful how you answer. Remember we all have a powerful imagination: have you and I created a god in our imagination? Some day you and I will have to stand before the risen Lord to be judged for our thoughts on God.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Two disciples are walking along a dusty Palestinian road discussing the events of the last few days. They are unaware of the excitement in Jerusalem. About seven miles from Jerusalem, they are joined by a stranger who explains to them how what they have experienced the last few days regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus is a fulfillment of their Hebrew Scriptures.
As they enter destined village, the two disciples ask the stranger to be their guest in their home and to share a meal with them. Jesus, as he always does with such invitations, accepts. While they are “at table with them, he (Jesus) took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30-31).
Jesus is still accepting invitations into the homes of people, especially disciples, who forget they are sinners saved by divine goodness. Jesus is still breaking bread and blessing it for those who are tired of the meal served by this world filled with greed, power, and false promises of prosperity.
Jesus says, “Take eat.”
Ronald Friesen © 2015