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Allow Me to Explain (39 of 439) – Jesus Has Left the Planet

October 15, 2011

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39. When did Jesus ascend into heaven? Luke 24:1-51, Mark 16:9-19 vs. John 20:26 vs. Acts 13:31 vs. Acts 1:2-3, 9

I’m not going to quote all of Luke 24 and Mark 16:9-19, because they’re long passages. I’m pulling out what is pertinent. If you think it’s because I’m hiding something, you’re more than welcome to read it for yourself. Luke 24 is here. Mark 16:9-19 is here.

Luke 24:13, 29, 33a, 36, 51
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. … 29 But tthey constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. … 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem … 36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them … 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.

Mark 16:19
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, … 12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. … 14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; … 19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

John 20:26
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Acts 13:31
and he was seen for many days of them that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses unto the people.

Acts 1:2-3, 9
until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God: … And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

First of all, I’m eliminating Mark 16 and Acts 13 from the discussion because neither of them provides any numbers. “After that,” “Later,” and “many days” don’t make anyone’s point.

I’m also going to eliminate John 20:26 and accuse it of being another proof that the creators of this poster didn’t actually expect anyone to read it. All that we learn from John 20:26 is that when Jesus came back to meet His eleven, it was eight days later than the first time.

That leaves Luke 24 and Acts 1. Luke 24 could seem to say that Jesus was only around for a day or two. Acts 1 clearly tells us He appeared to His disciples for forty days.

The problem with the “contradiction” is that Luke 24 doesn’t tell us that Jesus was only around for a day or two.

Two evidences:

  1. Verse 45, “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”
    I don’t think He zapped them into perfect understanding. I think He taught them, like He wanted them to go and teach others. In the rest of the book of Acts, we never see an apostle try to lay hands on someone for the comprehension of the Scriptures. It’s absurd. But if Jesus had done it to me, and then told me to go do the works that He did, I’d try it. They didn’t. Because Jesus didn’t do it to them.
    I think they had an epic, crash course in the Old Testament, and we don’t know how long it took.
  2. Luke 24 doesn’t mention the beach breakfast we read about in John 21. (Remember, it’s two different people telling the same story. It’s not a contradiction, it’s a compliment.)

How long was Jesus on the earth between resurrection and ascension? Forty days. It’s the only number scripture gives us.

Is it all too conveniently vague? If you’re hell-bent on finding fault, maybe, but remember: It’s a story. It’s not an accounting log, or an instruction manual. God’s word is not about providing a squeaky-clean, water-tight, indisputable proof of His existence. He doesn’t need to prove His existence. His word is a revelation of His character and His nature. It’s a glimpse of heaven on earth, and inspiration to holiness among the corrupt.

So maybe the timeline is vague in some aspects, but what does it matter to the One who is outside of time?

The point is that Jesus did rise from the dead three days later, that dozens of people witnessed it, that He spent a little time here preparing the future of His Church, and that He ascended to heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the throne of glory.

The point is that to rise from the dead, you have to first be dead. And that the perfect One – whom death had no right to – died just the same because the one He loves does deserve it. His ascension is a function of his resurrection. His resurrection only happened because He died, and His death was all for you. Don’t miss the forrest for the trees.

The only real contradiction is between our understanding of truth and our response to it.


Allow Me to Explain (38 of 439) – Babylon Role Call

October 12, 2011

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38. How many of Asaph’s offspring returned from Babylon? Ezra 2:41 vs. Nehemiah 7:44

Over 30 families, not to mention the Levites, are accounted for and numbered by Ezra and Nehemiah. Most of the numbers are exactly the same. A few are different, so we’ve pulled each of the differences out as a unique “contradiction,” because it adds more sensational redlines to the pretty picture. *eye roll*

Not to mention it’s weak. We discussed it here regarding Adin’s family, and linked to it again when Adonikam’s family came up … and again when Arah’s family came up. It’s the same story.

Allow Me to Explain (37 of 439) – High Places

October 6, 2011

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37. Did Asa remove the high places? 2 Chron 14:3-5 vs. 1 Kings 15:14, 2 Chron 15:17

Only pastors don’t need this one explained.

2 Chronicles 14:3-5
He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. 5 He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him.

1 Kings 15:14
Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.

2 Chronicles 15:17
But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.

1 Kings 15 is a more abridged version of Asa’s story than 2 Chronicles 14-15. A casual read through the two accounts of Asa’s time as king points out that 2 Chronicles tells a more detailed story. In fact, a casual read through 1 and 2 Kings will repeat the phrase, “And the rest of the works of _____, are they not recorded in the books of the chronicles of the kings?” more times than anyone probably cares to count.

A casual read through 1 and 2 Kings will also repeat the phase, “But the high places were not removed,” more times than anyone reasonably cares to count.

The end of Asa’s story, in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, is that the high places were still around. 2 Chronicles 14 tells us that Asa removed them, initially, when he became king and instituted his religious reform. Stubbornness and free will being an eternally difficult combination, however, the high places were obviously rebuilt. It wouldn’t have been the first time that the rebellious in Israel and Judah built up the high places, and it wouldn’t be the last.

If it sounds too far-fetched, ask a pastor about it. He’ll probably sigh deeply and throw up in his hands in agreement.

People, including you and I, are easily inspired and moved to action. (I know, not you … but yes, you.) But inspiration fades, enthusiasm wanes, and so revolutions lose steam and revivals end and reformation becomes institutionalized.

God’s people in the Old Testament are a foreshadow of His people in the New, and an honest evaluation of human nature. So if we’re going to mine it, on the one hand, for devastating contradictions in the details, we have to also dig for meaning in the big picture when the former fails.

Asa was a good king. He reigned for a long time. He instituted reformation in Judah and pointed the people back to God. His heart was for the Lord, but he couldn’t control the people all of the time. It’s a lesson to leaders that God judges the heart, and He knows perfectly well that no matter what you do, some people will refuse Him. It’s not your fault. You’re not a bad pastor.

It’s also a lesson to the rest of us. We all have a part in this. The high places were places of idol worship. God knows who built up those high places after Asa tore them down, and it wasn’t Asa who was held accountable for it. What you place on a higher level than God, when your pastor isn’t around – money, sex, entertainment, yourself – doesn’t go unnoticed.

Did Asa tear down the high places? Yes, initially. Were they rebuilt against his wishes? Yes.

The real question: Have you torn down your high places?

Review: John Mark McMillan’s “Economy”

September 29, 2011

John Mark McMillan’s much-anticipated album, Economy, soars above the lofty expectations I was almost afraid to hold for it.

I met John Mark in August 2007, with tens of thousands of others. The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down was almost life-changing for me. Later, The Medicine was a religious experience in itself; it took worship music to a whole new place – beautiful, simple melodies and stunning lyrics. When he signed with Integrity and they re-released The Medicine without changing anything, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When I started hearing about a new album coming out this fall, I admit I was more nervous that excited. We’ve all been in love with some independent musician or band who finally got discovered, signed, and then pushed to put out a new album … which then, of course, sucked. Or the band that gets signed and decides (or is told by the producer) to change their sound … which then, of course, sucks.

Label-signing aside, everybody reaches a peak at some point, right? It was hard to imagine anyone keeping up with The Medicine, much last surpassing it. Even John Mark.

But he did it. No kidding. Whatever your expectations for Economy, I assure you, he (and his team) exceeded them.

If you love his music, you’ll still love it. It’s still the folk-infused indie experiment you already adore. (Yes, I just made that up, you like it? “folk-infused indie experiment”)

And the lyrics? Come on. If John Mark can do one thing, it’s write poetry that also perfectly fills in a melody that you can’t not sing. Some of my favorites:
From “Daylight”:

The boardwalk is painted red with the blood
Of a thousand prospective heroes but one
Still cries out beyond all the grave and the flood
Where the blackest abysses cannot overcome

Cause we live on the edge
On the edge of a darkness oh
We live on the edge
On the edge of a darkness oh
But daylight is coming on

From “Murdered Son”:

Glory to One
God’s murdered Son
Who paid for my resurrection
Once from the dust, once from the grave
Daughters and sons from the ashes you’ve raised
And hidden our faults even from your own face
And scattered our debt upon the waves

From “Chemicals”:

But I want to love you
When the blood of my veins
Don’t know how to call out your name

And at the same time, “Sins are Stones” is three or four simple lines over and over again, but it will move you to tears like the rest.

A friend of mine once commented, “I think John Mark McMillan understands Jesus in a way I just don’t.” I think that’s a great way to describe his work. I’m just humbled and grateful that he shares it with the rest of us.

November 1 it can be yours. (The single, “Sheet of Night” can be yours now.) Mark your calendars.

Book Review: Where Has Oprah Taken Us?

September 28, 2011

Have a blog? Like free books? Check this out. 

Stephen Mansfield has written a book that every Christian in America should read.

It is nothing if not thorough. It is remarkably insightful. It is generous, but it is exact – open-minded, but wise; decisive, but humble. It is a genuine search to understand the faith of “the worlds most famous woman,” and its impact on our culture.

But, to my surprise and delight, it is also about so much more than Oprah.

Mansfield’s search begins with Oprah’s story, and it’s a fascinating one. He gives an insightful account of her childhood, adolescence, and rise to fame. He goes deeper into the early-adulthood years that became the turning point in her religious beliefs, and in all of it Mansfield is kind.

Then, he steps back and reviews the past sixty years in America’s religious history. Instead of, “Where has Oprah taken us,” Mansfield seems to ask, “Where has our society taken Oprah?” It’s a fair question. He explains – neatly and insightfully – the spiritual path that the baby boomer generation has walked: the rise and mutilation of Eastern religions, the gradual acceptance of Satanism and the occult, and the blending of it all.

The next chapter turns to Oprah’s spiritual mentors and teachers. As Oprah herself has yet to write a manuscript, or clearly outline her spiritual beliefs, Mansfield suggests that just as revealing is to analyze the writings and clear positions of the people whom Oprah identifies as her inspirations, teachers, mentors, etc. Marianne Williamson, Eckart Tolle, Gary Zukav, and Deepak Chopra are all explored.

Finally, Mansfield does his best, based on Oprah’s own statements, to outline her fundamental spiritual beliefs. He draws no unreasonable conclusions.

In all of it, the author strives to write as unbiased a text as possible. He admits, however, that a completely unbiased writing is probably not possible by any author, and so reserves his opinions for occasional interruptions – set aside by wider margins and italics. I appreciated his efforts.

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? is about so much more than Oprah and her spiritual beliefs. It is a brief history of modern American spirituality, and it is a resourceful overview of the New Age movement and the spirit of our age. It draws together important subplots in our recent religious history, asks bold questions, and provides remarkable insight.

For the believer serious about sharing his faith and living in the world to fulfill the great commission in America, this book is a priceless asset.

I Don’t Know Why I Pray

September 26, 2011

Do you love God? Why?

Is it really because He is good, or is it because He does good for you?

Is it because He is merciful, or because He is merciful to you?

I was praying for a friend one morning last week, a friend whose family is in a bad season. The kind that pushes mortality and eternity right up to your face, the kind that asks hard questions about healing and hell.

So I prayed for healing. I stood on the authority of the Name, and asked that God would intervene for His glory. I prayed every way I knew how, but He interrupted me,

“If I wasn’t going to get the glory, would you still ask for healing?”

Probably. No one wants a loved one, or the loved one of a loved one, sick and suffering. But then, am I really asking because my heart’s desire is to see the name of Jesus lifted up … or because I dislike suffering?

I pushed the question aside and moved on.

More importantly, I prefaced, and set into whatever angle I knew to pray for someone’s salvation.

“What is more important than Me being glorified?”

That is difficult.

That is not the Rich Grandpa God that I pray to. That’s not the voice of the Slot Machine God that I worship, or the Eager To Please God that I love.

God is love, and He did pay for sin and sickness on the cross, and He does give us power over our enemy, and He does want every last person to come to salvation. Our God loves to answer prayer, and bless His people, and forgive.

But He also asks, in Romans 9,

Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction …

Same God.

Do I love all of Him?

Because, really, this whole thing is about Him. This is His creation, designed to bring Him glory. I was created so that I could, if I chose to, experience Him; there’s nothing greater or higher for me to do. The Law demonstrates His holiness. The Cross demonstrates His mercy and love, and allows us to experience Him. When His mercy is complete, He’ll end creation as we know it and we’ll all be given what we chose – Him, or not Him.

There’s nothing else.

Jesus glorified the Father in everything He did. Is my ambition to glorify my God, or to make myself – and others – happy, by His power? Am I asking for what I want, what I think is right, and trying to convince Him to do it by arguing that He’ll be glorified in the process? Or am I looking around me for situations that will glorify Him, and praying them through?

Because He isn’t always glorified through my requests. Sometimes people get healed, and they don’t thank Him. Sometimes they get delivered, and they don’t surrender to him. Sometimes situations turn around for our comfort, or our pleasure, and we just give Him a wink and move on.

If He wasn’t going to be glorified in the end, would I still make that request? What if His glory caused me pain, would I still seek it?

How much do I love Him? How much do I trust Him? How loyal is my heart?

Allow Me to Explain (36 of 439) – Asa’s Imperfect Love

September 23, 2011

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36. Was Asa perfect? 1Kings 15:14, 2 Chron 15:17 vs. 2 Chron 16:7, 10, 12

This one doesn’t hardly even bear explaining, buuut I’m gonna!

1 Kings 15:14
But the high places were not removed. Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the Lord all his days.

2 Chronicles 15:17
But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.

2 Chronicles 16:7
And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.”

2 Chronicles 16:10
Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.

2 Chronicles 16:12
And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he tdid not seek the Lord, but the physicians.

You see what I mean. None of the above says Asa was perfect.

I get the implication, but the first two verses should squash it in themselves anyway. In 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 15, Asa is encouraged by a prophet, and destroys or removes all of the idols in Judah. He is turning the nation back to their God.

Both verses start with, “But …” Asa’s purging is not complete, and his error is dually noted. In the same verse, however, we’re told that his heart was loyal all his days. It can’t, therefore, be a contradiction to say that Asa both (1) made a mistake, and (2) had a heart loyal to God.

2 Chronicles 16 records more mistakes.

  • Verse 7 – Should have turned to God for help, but didn’t.
  • Verse 10 – Should have listend to the prophet, but didn’t.
  • Verse 12 – Should have turned to God for help, but didn’t.

Who hasn’t?

The beauty of the story, and the gospel of Jesus Christ that is foreshadows, is that the statements, “But [insert mistake here],” and, “[his] heart was loyal to God,” are not in contradiction.

Asa was a good king. He loved the Lord. He did a bold thing when he removed the idols from Judah as a young king. He wanted to do well, and his heart was loyal the God all the days of his life.

He made mistakes, but despite his mistakes and his stubbornness, scripture still records his boldness and his undying loyalty. And in that, the rest of us can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

That means that you can love God and mess up. You don’t forfeit your salvation, or your relationship with God, every time you mess up. You can have loyal heart, even if you sometimes do things you shouldn’t do. You can still call Him, “Father,” still show your face in church, still pray, still expect to hear from Him through His Word, still come before Him in worship.

He accepts your imperfect love. It’s not a contradiction. It’s grace.