Archive for the Moltmann Category

Belief In The Resurrection

Posted in Book, Moltmann on September 20, 2011 by nmpreach

Been to a bookstore lately?  Visited a “Christian” bookstore?  Have you found yourself within the section labeled “Spirituality”, “Religion”, or “Christianity”?  If so, you’ve been close enough to observe some statements regarding the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Most Christians still believe that Christ rose again after three days in a tomb.  However, more and more everyday, liberal scholarship is offering another view.  There’s a thought now that Jesus didn’t actually raise from the dead.  His spirit may have.  But to claim a physical resurrection is too much.  Or there are those who claim the entire story is simply fantasy.  Jesus was a good man – perhaps a good teacher.  But the Son of God?  No.  And history has recorded too many audacious claims about this man.

So what say you?  What about a physical resurrection?  What does the resurrection mean to followers of Christ?

Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14 ESV).  It seems that Paul thought the resurrection to be crucial to what one believed.  By the way, for early Christians, the phrase “raising from the dead” would literally mean raising from the dead.  In other words, spiritual resurrection wasn’t in their minds.  They believed in a physical resurrection.  Witnesses record Jesus appearing to the women, to the disciples, and then to hundreds of others (including Paul).

These visions of the risen Christ wasn’t just a cool show.  It was much more than that.  Moltmann writes of three different dimensions of the resurrection in Jesus Christ: for today’s world:

1.  They were prospective visions of hope: the men and women saw the crucified Jesus as the living Christ in the splendour cast ahead by God’s coming glory;

2.  They were retrospective visions of remembrance: the disciples recognized Jesus from the marks of the nails and from the way he broke the bread.  The One who will come is the One crucified on Golgotha; and

3.  They were personal call visions: the men and women concerned perceived in this ‘seeing’ their own call to apostleship: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

You see, what you believe about the resurrection is what faith you have in God.  The faith you have in God is based upon the physical resurrection of Jesus.  For followers of Christ, separating the two isn’t possible.

What say you?

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Torture and Jesus

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 24, 2011 by nmpreach

Methods of punishment and/or torture have changed much over the last few centuries.  But in some ways, they’ve stayed the same.  Whether one believes in water boarding or not, it’s been in the news the last several years.  Is this particular practice torture?  Is it simply data gathering?  What about obtaining information from the enemy?  Isn’t anything “fair game”?  What exactly is torture?  What does the Geneva Convention have to say about these things?  And what does this have to do with Moltmann’s Christ for today?

Moltmann points out that there have been many motives for torture.  Judicial motives are used to punish for a deterrent.  Secular motives of punishment worry more about the end justifying the means.  Personal motives point to the selfish core of each and every man.

So what about the torture of Christ?  Does this in any way mean Christians should condone torture?  Should they be willing to accept torture simply because they follow Christ?

Pilate had Jesus flogged (Mt 27:26; Is 53:5).  Other translations record “scourged”.  Historians tell us torture by scourging was a brutal beating.  The purpose was to break one’s will and motive to live before they were crucified.  Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God…”  Paul writes that “he (Jesus) emptied himself” (Phil 2:7).  Can you imagine?  God in the flesh.  Jesus Christ.  Allowing Himself to experience torture.  But why?

Of course, the first that comes to mind is the martyrs – those who died for their faith and beliefs.  “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10)  Scripture also tells us that Jesus faced every temptation (including those that come with torture) and yet never sinned (Heb 2:14, 4:15).  Therefore, in torture or persecution, Jesus is our brother.  He has been there and done that.

Often, we in the Western world, forget there are Christian martyrs even today.  What of those who profess Christianity in the Sudan, in China, Indonesia, etc.?  And Christ stands with them as well.  Christ is their brother.

Secondly, torture/persecution once took place in public view.  People were burned at the stake (in the center of town).  Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to sew the “Star of David” on their clothing.  Witches in Salem were hanged in public.  But times have now changed.  Executions take place behind closed doors.  Edicts or orders are simply carried out.  Names disappear from the rolls of the living.  And everyone goes about their business.

Moltmann quips that one part of judgment will be the time that those murdered/persecuted/tortured return and have the opportunity to face their tormenters.  “Victims…have a long memory, for they still carry the unforgettable scars of their suffering.  Those who caused that suffering have short memories.”  That is, until judgment day.  Christ will return and restore all things.  Those tortured or persecuted for the sake of Christ will be honored as victors.  After all, Christ is our brother!

 

 

Suffering = Fear or Hope?

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 9, 2011 by nmpreach

The last week or so, we’ve been looking at Jurgen Moltmann’s Jesus Christ For Today’s World and looking specifically at “pictures” of Jesus.  Today’s picture is found in the phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Psalm 22:1 NIV)  What exactly does this mean?  For years, scholars have debated the meaning of what Jesus has to say.  Was it the sin of mankind?  Was it the torment and pain of the cross?  Was it something else?

Could it be that Jesus voiced those words from the cross, knowing of the impending separation from the Father?  Moltmann maintains, “All human anxiety and fear is fundamentally – which means from birth onwards – fear of separation.”  However, circumstances that cause anxiety can also be seen as opportunities for hope – hope for victory, for peace, for deliverance.  Again, I refer to Moltmann.  “If we believe in Christ, fear does not isolate us from God.  On the contrary, it leads us deeper into community with him… In our anxiety we participate in Christ’s anxiety; for in his suffering Christ went through the very fears and anxieties which men and women encounter too.”

Too often, when trouble comes our way, we’re tempted to turn our focus inward.  We convince ourselves no one knows our pain, grief, or suffering.  We cry out to God, “Why me?  How could you?  It’s just not fair?”  Although we know the Word says, God/Jesus would “never leave us or forsake us,” (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6), there are times we feel alone.  And anxiety and fear causes us to become immobile.  We get stuck.

This, you may realize, is a picture that has to do with perspective.  Depending on which angle you view the picture from, you see fear or you see hope.  You see torment, suffering, and despair.  Or you see an opportunity to grow, a place of victory, and God’s perfect love.

I would offer (as Moltmann does) that Christ chose the latter.  Although He knew the cross was not easy, He perceived the final outcome.  Let me encourage you to see conflict as Christ did.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:8-11 NIV)

Why God Why?

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 6, 2011 by nmpreach

Perhaps you’ve asked this question about something in your life.  Maybe you’ve heard others around you ask this question or something similar.  It seems to come up during trouble, turmoil, and need I say the “S” word suffering?  Maybe our problem is not the trouble itself.  Maybe our biggest issue is the question(s) we ask.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to lead a group through a study on grief.  Together, we read Philip Yancey’s Disappointment With God and looked at what God’s Word had to say of suffering.  Most of the group knew what James wrote.  Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  But no one in the group could honestly say they were grateful for trouble in their lives, even if it was supposed to bring about spiritual growth.  What’s a Christian to do?

Would you consider another picture of Jesus today?  In our suffering, pain, and trouble, Moltmann reminds us to look back at the suffering of Christ on the cross.  This picture begins in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Mark records Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and asked them to pray.  He was “greatly distressed and troubled” (14:33).  In fact, Jesus said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Remain here and watch (14:34 ESV).  It’s obvious that Jesus is suffering.  He asked His friends to pray and then began to pray Himself.  Abba, Father…Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will (14:36 ESV).  The Father remains silent.  And Jesus moves closer to the cross.  His suffering must include His humanity – the pain He would endure, the separation from the Father, and the relying on mankind to affect change in the world.  Secondly, it shouldn’t be overlooked that after asking His friends to pray, Jesus finds them sleeping.  Most likely, this added to His suffering.  Have you ever felt alone in your trouble?  Sometimes the silence of God is deafening.

The picture continues at a place called “The Skull” or Golgotha.  Jesus is on the cross and speaks again to The Father.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1)  And then He died.  Notice, at the beginning the picture, Jesus addresses His Father in an intimate way.  At the end, it is simply, My God, my God.

This picture is called “The Passion”.  From beginning to end, it is clear that Jesus had one thing in mind – to fulfill the will of the Father.  Paul tells us that Christ just didn’t bear sin.  He became sin (2 Cor 5:21)!  And because of sin, He suffered.  God loved us so much that He sent His son (Jn 3:16).  Christ loved us so much that He humbled Himself and became a servant, even to the point of dying on the cross (Phil 2:8).  That’s the picture of The Passion.  That’s the love that God has for all of mankind.  This is a picture that we must all see and embrace.

 

 

Jesus as…

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 4, 2011 by nmpreach

Today, we’ll take a look at three more “pictures” that Moltmann points out regarding Jesus and the Gospels.  Again, we’ll look at what Jesus meant by “kingdom” in Matthew 6:10.

1.  Perhaps you picture Jesus primarily as a healer.

Later in the New Testament, Paul describes those who need God as being “sinners”.  However, in the Gospels, Jesus deals with the “sick”.  Mark 1:32 reads, That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  Moltmann argues, Jesus heals, giving a preview of what God has in mind for the future.   The healings were not just realized in the physical sense.  The bigger healing took place in people’s spirit.  This is the kingdom in the flesh.

The tendency for those of us far removed (at least by time) from Jesus is to begin to see the healing accounts in the Gospels as fairy tales.  People who live with chronic pain or disease would surely love for Jesus to show up in the physical, say a few words or touch them, and heal their bodies.  But what if that doesn’t happen?  And isn’t the bigger issue more than physical healing?  In other words, the purpose that Jesus healed was not just for the physical.  The bigger issue was ushering in the kingdom of God in the spiritual.

Let me give an example.  A young boy is brought to the disciples of Jesus.  He needs healing but Jesus is being transfigured before Peter, James, and John.  Upon their return, the four see a commotion and inquire as to what it’s about.  The disciples were unable to heal the boy.  Hear what Jesus had to say.  O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you?  Bring him to me.  Mark 9:19 (ESV)  The account ends with Jesus healing the boy and the father pleading for increased faith.  Jesus encourages his followers to be people of prayer.

While reading that account, often I’m reminded of John 15:1-5.  I won’t take space to record it here with the exception of …apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing.  In summary, Jesus healed for a much greater issue than a physical aspect.  And faith has a tremendous role in healing.  The kingdom of God is found in the restoration of Jesus.

2.  Option #2 today is picturing Jesus primarily as a friend.

Jesus spoke against injustice.  He lobbied for those at the proverbial bottom of society.  He said Himself, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matt 5:3 (ESV)  He ate with sinners and tax collectors, while being chastised by the religious.  When one has been cast out of society, the last thing he expects is love and acceptance.  And yet that is exactly what Jesus provided.  Moltmann summarizes this way:  “When Jesus receives sinners and eats with them, for the good people he is either a sinner himself, or a revolutionary who is disrupting society’s system of values.  But by ‘justifying’ sinners he saves the good and the just too, because he liberates them from their self-righteousness.”  Maybe this is your picture of Jesus.  Or maybe you’d go with choice #3.

3.   Jesus is pictured as being specifically for those who can’t help themselves.

This picture of Jesus shows him interacting throughout the Gospels with the poor and children – those who can’t help themselves.  They must rely on society for their basic needs.  In the Ancient Near East, the poor would have nothing.  Old widows would find it hard to survive in a society built upon judging one another based on usefulness.  A widow has had her children.  Children are not yet able to work and make a living.  Therefore, this class of people are degraded, abused, and unloved.

Then Jesus shows up!  Jesus offers hope, love, and restoration.  “The poor are no longer the suffering objects of oppression and humiliation.  They are their own determining subjects, with the dignity of God’s first children.”   When people get their dignity back, great things can happen.  They no longer believe what society has said in the past.  But they know who they are, based upon what Jesus says.  Maybe you resonate with the poor and those unable.   Is this your primary picture of Jesus?

Can you relate to any of these?  Maybe your picture of Jesus changes as you face different challenges in life.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Moltmann has to say.  And more importantly, how do you perceive Jesus today?

Pictures Through The Parables

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 3, 2011 by nmpreach

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Matt 6:10 (ESV)

Jesus was teaching His followers what they should pray for and speaks of the “kingdom” of God.  Most people think of kingdom being synonymous with reign or rule.  In fact, Webster’s College Dictionary defines kingdom as “a state or government having a king or queen as its head.”  Today, we might think of the United Kingdom.  But what did Jesus have in mind?

Moltmann looks first of all at the parables in Mark 4.  The parables of a sower and that of a mustard seed seem to focus on germination, growth, and fruit.  Moltmann maintains, “Because the kingdom of God is nothing other than the new creation of all things for eternal life.”  It’s important to note that life is restored in the spring when something happens inside.  That something grows throughout the following season(s) and blooms – sometimes several times – producing beauty.  The kingdom of God must have something to do with beauty.

We then turn our attention to Luke 15.  Luke records Jesus’ teachings on sheep, a coin, and a wayward son.  More importantly, though, these things were once lost and are now found.  We notice that only upon finding what was lost can rejoicing take place.  A shepherd leaves 99 sheep behind to find the 1.  A woman forgets about her other coins for a time to find the one lost.  And a Father considers his son not only lost but dead.  Upon his return, the Father declares, “He was lost, and is found.”  And they began to celebrate.

The kingdom is about new beginnings, new growth, new opportunities.  Moltmann offers, “When we experience God’s kingdom in this way, we discover afresh the wealth of our potentialities for living.”  Thoughts?  Does this affect your picture of Jesus?

What do you see?

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 2, 2011 by nmpreach

Several years ago, I was asked to read Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew and complete a book review. Several times, I was blown away by how my view of Jesus had become obscured by my environment, education, biases, etc. Yancey’s book is one of those on the shelf that I review from time to time. It was truly an eye-opener for me.

So what’s your picture of Jesus look like? What comes to mind when you hear the name Jesus? receive Communion? cry out to Him in prayer?  Is your Jesus the white guy with long hair and perfect skin portrayed in many churches?

The next several posts are dedicated to looking at what we see in Jesus.  We’re going to use Jurgen Moltmann’s Jesus Christ For Today’s World and define Jesus as Scripture does.  Perhaps you see Jesus as the suffering servant that provides hope for what you’re going through.  Maybe the first picture of Jesus for you is one of Him hanging on the cross.  You see him as redeemer.  Or what if you close your eyes and picture Jesus coming again in victory to gather His bride?

These are all valid “pictures” of Jesus.  They all carry an immense amount of peace for us at various times in our lives.  In other words, my picture is no better than yours – as long as we picture Jesus the way the Scriptures provide for us.  I hope you’ll join the discussion, be honest with yourself, and let God do a work with you.  Here we go!