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Deeper Into The Tomb

Today is Easter and hopefully most of you will spend some time today pondering, meditating and even celebrating the resurrection this weekend! As you do that I would like to throw out something to add to your musings.

One mistake that most Christians make in reading scripture is that we read it with our “post” glasses on. Meaning we read scripture through the lenses of our post-modern, post –enlightenment, post-industrial understanding. The reality is Scripture was just not written to people reading with those lenses on!

If we read scripture through those lenses we are sure to at the least miss some of the richness of the Bible and at the worst completely miss the point the authors intended for us to understand.

One such portion of scripture we may have been looking through the wrong lenses with is this ever-important story of Jesus death, burial and resurrection! I am not going to throw out that we have missed anything in this story that is central to our faith or theology but maybe something that caused us to miss the richness of what happened that day.

The gospels give account of Jesus being prepared for burial and placed in a tomb. They also give account of the day of resurrection when Mary discovered Jesus body missing at the tomb with some of the disciples coming to investigate this mystery as well.

This graveside scene seems to hold more in it than just the angelic visit and rolled away tombstone and folded clothes and it does!

It is important to realize that for Israelites (and many other ancient cultures) death was a lengthy process that only just began with someone’s actual passing. After the initial funeral, family and relatives would take great care to wrap and prepare the body for its next journey.

It was believed that the year after death while the flesh literally rotted off the bones of the deceased was a time for the dead to atone for and be cleansed of ones evil deeds. After this year long process of atonement, ones family would come into the tomb, reclaim the bones, prepare them again and have a second burial. The burial represented the end of a families mourning and a turn towards the hope of being reunited with them again in resurrection.

This practice was so entrenched in the culture that even the bones of executed criminals were to be returned to family for a burial. For when the flesh was gone, the sentence was complete, the debt was paid and the criminal’s bones were now eligible for resurrection. This process was so important that there have been written decrees found, from Caesar’s predating Jesus, that make any contamination of a gravesite illegal and punishable as a capital offense. This fact also makes it highly unlikely that Jesus’ hiding, fearful; less-than-courageous followers stole or did anything with his body.

These cultural trademarks provide us with the scandalous understanding of the resurrection that the first generation Christians would have operated with… Jesus was condemned by the Judean’s (leaders and crowd) He was legally tried and declared guilty. He was executed as a criminal by the Romans then taken by a Judean (Joseph), prepared for burial and placed in a tomb where he would begin to serve his sentence of decay to atone for his sins!

The resurrection flies in the face of all the worlds authorities and leaders and their judgments and decrees they had made! God had taken Jesus from last breath to resurrection with no rot because there was no guilt in his flesh! God had overturned the death sentence of the most powerful people on earth. Jesus resurrection was a statement the world would have understood…  The world was wrong about Him and He was who He said He was!

Bruce Malina, one of the leading experts in ancient cultures, says this in his commentary, “The claim that Jesus is raised by God is a claim of divine vindication for the deeds and words of Jesus. His life has been that of the Word made flesh in Israel, and God preserves its fleshly record intact.”

What does all this mean? Taken in a cultural context the resurrection of Jesus means… His death was wrong and had been overturned by the Highest Judge! God’s Son was innocent and the fact that He resurrected before his flesh could even begin to rot was glaring proof for the world to see!

Some of you may already have drawn the line between this understanding of the resurrection and most modern day theology that says: Jesus’ death was right and necessary and even required by God “to take away the sins of the world”.  This cultural interpretation would be sure to raise some debate in many theological circles.

Today however, I would like to use it not for debate but for a greater personal reflection on the resurrection. It appears at least for 1st generation Christians, the resurrection was a national and historic declaration that God had vindicated His Son because he was in fact the mediator of life!

All of this is great reason to dig a little deeper into the tomb this Easter.

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Rock and Worship Roadshow

Last Sunday a bunch of us met up and went to the Rock and Worship at the Spokane Arena. For many of our kids it was their first concert! It was a great night of awesome music and good worship! Here are a few pics from the evening.

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The Courtship Conundrum by: Aaron Tilbury

Our pastor recently held a talk-through, group circle style to discuss the subject of courtship, dating and relationship ect.  It was free form, it was open ended, it was welcoming…it was awesome.  The next time our church holds a meeting like this, I encourage you to drop what you’re doing and attend.  At a minimum you’ll get a real feel for where people are at in the church, as well as be bolstered by the love and spirit of Jesus in our church family.  You might also find you’re not alone in your struggles and joys associated with either current or past personal history, or your hopes for your children’s future.

One awesome aspect of our meeting was the like-mindedness with which this topic was discussed.  Every single participant was emphatic and together on this issue:  Jesus must be the core of everything we do, and everything we are.  And we want that for our kids.

So I want to address my take from that meeting a few Fridays ago.  It’s led me to so much prayer and pondering.  But first I want to address those like me, that didn’t come because they felt they had nothing to offer, or nothing to receive.

I sat in a circle of adults, of which I would trust with my own children.  It was grace to find myself at home in this church family, though admittedly I didn’t feel I brought much of value to the table.

Adult oversight in my “dating” life was non-existent, and certainly no church or family meetings were held to discuss my welfare in regards to how I dealt with the opposite sex.  My teachers were Miami Vice, Ice Cube, Motley Crue and the streets of the East Bay.  Pop culture and the ghetto, with a sprinkle of my parents doing the best they could, fixed as they were in a reactionary state – alienated in ways from their own walks with God.

My mom battled massive depressions and a history of all sorts of abuse I won’t discuss here from the people that raised her…and my father was a victim of disrespect and sometimes disregard by his family.  The fact is they married young; their first date was a drive-in movie/proposal that my father recently admitted was for all the wrong reasons.  For one, I was already about 2 years old, biologically fathered by an older man my mother had an affair with.  My new dad felt he’d be redeeming my mother and me, and my mom looked an awful lot like his former fiancée.  There simply was no courtship and my parents didn’t teach out of The Bible.  In fact, anything but The Gospel, their marriage swung between power struggles and giving up entirely.  I never sensed my mom and dad were on the same team…and this isn’t to cast them in a horrible light at all.  Jesus simply wasn’t the core of our family.  Church sometimes…ya know, holidays and when we’d move to a new area…but never Jesus.

I didn’t have a huge influence from classmates because I barely attended school.  My school was like so many other kids today.  The school of hard knocks.  I was a sociopath waiting to happen – stalking women like the walking dead – ready to suck the life out of whatever daughter or sister was empty enough to be turned on by the fact that I just didn’t care if I lived or died.  Women were like money and respect – you went after them because you could never have enough and because they gave you identity.  Sure, I wasn’t the only one – this was the environment – peacocks and rhinos rutting. Real relationship was a liability.  We were emotional vampires asking to be let in the door…and make no mistake…this isn’t a melodramatic episode in one poor kids life.  This is The World apart from Christ.

Then God INFUSED love into my life.  In the form of my wife and her family.  That’s how it works.  It isn’t what you will bring to the table, it is what He will do with and through you.  Do not miss out on being a part of that.

And so here is this man (I won’t name drop even though I want to badly because I truly respect this guy sitting across the circle from me on that Friday night) telling the group emphatically that my revelation experience is valuable.  My mistakes and errors and running from God can be used to teach lessons one day to his kids maybe, and that he sees me as an important part of this exchange.

So there it is.  There is simply no one that wouldn’t either be able to give or receive in this.  This is The Gospel playing out in our lives, right now.  With our most prized blessings – our children, our spouses, our friends.

And this is gut check time for me….and maybe some of you?

How I relate interpersonally will define to a large extent, how my kids relate interpersonally.  But although that may sound obvious and like-minded and our “norm” and all that, how obvious is it to my kids?  Aren’t they the ones I am trying to reach?

For me a question I often have to ask myself is “How much prayer time am I devoting to this issue?”  Am I ready to acknowledge that without talking to The Father about my children, any decisions I make will be reactionary at best?  Can I fathom that Jesus called us to direct communal relationship with God by the power of The Spirit and that supersedes ANY man-made system…no matter how well intentioned?

Another question I have had to ask myself is this:  Do I have so many arbitrary rules for my marriage that when I profess a desire for my kids to have real Gospel freedom in their relationships, it is a paradox?  Do my kids see mommy and daddy playing nice at home-making?  Or do they see mommy and daddy wrestling with their faith, serving people with their hearts, and efforting to bring about the image of Christ in others?

I am both a victim and a perpetrator.  I get it.  We tend to want to control our relationships, want them to be safe, want them to be healthy and before we know it….we sometimes suffocate love.  Or we aid the world in stomping out truth in our kids, or worse – we simply prevent them from seeing it in the first place.  Many of us can rationally see and express that we want our kids to be free to experience bumps and bruises, believing that with Jesus, they will prevail and be stronger for it.  But when it comes to our own relationships, we sometimes clutch and grab and manipulate so that we can feel whole or safe or bring about a desired outcome.  This can demonstrate to our kids, lack of trust in Our Father and over-reliance on ourselves.  For some, might have a “great relationship” with our spouse but act this way towards our friends or neighbors or co-workers who can’t control us or hold us accountable.  Its about how we treat those we don’t HAVE to be nice to sometimes that shows our children our beliefs.  Do we preach The Gospel with our rational minds and mouths to our children but continue to drink from dry, empty wells?

What about The Bible?  True, there is no list of 10 things our kids should do when dating…so doesn’t that tell us something?  Is our desire not to enter in to legalism just our great thinking and pure hearts, or is our church truly led by The Spirit of Truth?  If so, we musr recognize this!  And be thankful for it!  And worship Him in our understanding that WE would and will mess this up without Him.  The Bible can be a tough one because for some of us, it seems like just opening it can smack of overly zealous discipline.  But are we just so confused by past teachings that we may have thrown our hands up?  Do I no longer believe God can speak TO ME directly through The Bible?  Because if I don’t believe that – if I don’t believe that The Word of God supersedes whatever “logical” or “freedom loving” or “hip” or “trendy” philosophy I want to individually apply to my kids – I am drinking from a dry well again.

By the way – about those wells….do you know what they were dug for?  It wasn’t water.  I’ll give you a hint.  When you’re out in the woods, what do you bring the shovel for?

If we don’t buy into the FACT that The Bible has a lot to say about who Jesus is and what bringing about His image in others is all about – if we believe we can do it on our own – then He isn’t our Lord.  We are fumbling in the dark believing that it is freedom, alienated because we are so fearful of anything that smells like discipline…of buying into a set of rules…that we wind up buying into The World’s agenda again – that everything should be gray area and the world is our personal playground.  That everything is about ME and how I process.

The World breeds sociopaths this way.  With every message, story, commercial or movie that sells us on the lie that it is all about us, that it is our world and everyone else is just a guest.  That our “rights” come before service to others.  And not just service…THE service.  To LOVE.  To effort, at cost to oneself, to bring about the unique image of Jesus Christ in another human being…one who was dead before!  This must be purely foundational in nature for us as Christians, and for our Christian kids! Who is to say that the person our child falls in love with will be already saved?  And even if they are, what stronger bond will our kids have with their spouses than efforting together to share The Gospel with their own kids?

The Gospel IS true freedom.  But our fleshly desires to be able to do whatever we want, accountable to no one and nothing, loving in whatever way we want to and with no resemblance to the love Christ laid out as an example for us – that’s not freedom.  It’s death.

How can we expect our kids to entertain healthy relationships with other kids that are just as valuable to their parents and to God, as our kids are…if they are taught that anything goes because we have the “right” to an experience?

Have you ever watched a seal or a penguin swim right into the jaws of a shark?  If we run blindly, and without confidence toward anything based on our own best thinking and reason, we are neglecting basic truths God has revealed to us about Him, His love in the form of His son Jesus, and His wishes for our fulfillment through the Holy Spirit.

So for me, the foundational thing is: Do I subscribe to “The World” magazine to such an extent that to hope my kids will rely on The Holy Spirit, would take a miracle?

Our desire for our youth to hold on to a real relationship with Christ while engaging in healthy relationships with others is center.  For them to have a heart for that while firmly reject the seduction of legalism AND avoiding engagement in destructive behaviors is directly related to our example as parents to do likewise.  It is our children’s relationship with Jesus that will save them; it is OUR relationship with Jesus that will influence how they approach that relationship.

Their courtship experience will be ONE aspect of their walk with God, but the way it plays out is influenced as much as any other aspect of their walk by their relationship with Jesus.  It is all interconnected.

Are our kids already stressed about money?  About college?  About peer pressure?  About identity?  They no doubt will encounter some of this at some point, and our attitudes NOW toward how we have decided to disciple them in Christ Jesus, will affect every aspect of these real life scenarios

In courtship and dating, their relationship with Jesus will be strengthened and challenged, exposed and vulnerable, perhaps as much as any other time in their life.

But let that not drive us from delving into this as a church family!  To the contrary!  At what time is the body of Christ more blessed with growth than when our kids establish healthy relationship, built on Jesus, with their friends and future spouses!  This is part of how we, how the bride of Christ prepares itself for His coming…

Yet.  We should make no mistake about this.  While we may be unsure where the dating process will take our kids as a church or as families…God is not.  This was laid out before time began…He loves us, and our kids, that much.  And it has always been about His glory and His love for His children.

If our intent is to walk our kids through this with a goal of having a great marriage, or a great friendship, or a prosperous life, or even just healthy “normal kid” life experiences…we are short sighted.  That all sounds great.  I will admit it is everything I have, in the past, wanted for my kids!  But if that is what our aim is – then we are still that younger of the two brothers who wanted his father’s stuff, but not a relationship.  We want Jesus’ love offerings but not his lordship in our lives.

Seek ye first the kingdom?  Yes.  Even in this.

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