Monthly Archives: April 2009

Congratulations Susan Boyle, But Watch Out for the Celebrity Complex

Watch the Susan Boyle video. I, along with so many others, thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Susan Boyle video as did many of my fellow Americans. What a powerful performance! She had the perfect song (a smooth melody), coming from the perfect circumstances (unemployed and nearly 48 years of age), with lyrics that connect with a majority of Americans and people around the world – “I Dream a Dream.” Who can’t relate to these lyrics?

There was a time when men were kind,
And their voices were soft,
And their words inviting.
There was a time when love was blind,
And the world was a song,
And the song was exciting.
There was a time when it all went wrong…

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life, worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die,
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.
Then I was young and unafraid,
And dreams were made and used and wasted.
There was no ransom to be paid,
No song unsung, no wine, untasted.

But the tigers come at night,
With their voices soft as thunder,
As they tear your hope apart,
And they turn your dream to shame.

He slept a summer by my side,
He filled my days with endless wonder…
He took my childhood in his stride,
But he was gone when autumn came!

And still I dream he’ll come to me,
That we will live the years together,
But there are dreams that cannot be,
And there are storms we cannot weather!

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living,
So different now from what it seemed…
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…

Despite the initial spirit of skepticism, Susan Boyle offered to all of us a gift. She embodied so many of our hopes and dreams in such simplicity and grace. Thank you Susan and enjoy these moments. They have been a long time in coming. But I would also offer this. Don’t allow our culture to impose on you the celebrity complex. Your simplicity, your commonness, is your appeal.

And that’s what I would offer to Susan and to all those who reach out for celebrity status, for pedestal living. Our culture is fascinated by the celebrity. We read about them in People magazine. We listen to their interviews as famous talk show hosts bombard them with questions, some of which are very personal. We try to get their endorsement so as to draw people to our event or product. We get them judge our contests when they have no idea about what they’re judging. We buy their pictures, seek their autographs, and collect their memorabilia. We wait in hotel lobbies until the wee hours of the morning, hoping to get a glimpse. We buy their books and patronage their movies or events, somehow hoping that we can live out some of our life fantasy through them. Celebrity-worship is a multibillion-dollar industry. There are some dead celebrities who will make more in one year while in the grave than you or I will make in a lifetime. Entire newspapers, magazines, and television shows are devoted to photos and film clips of celebrities caught with their cloth’s off, with other people’s spouses, at rehab, at the plastic surgeons. We study the minutiae of their lives. We worship them but yet strangely enough, we like to find the dirt on them too – a strange paradox. We want them to be good, but not too good.

Let’s not do this to Susan Boyle. Allow her to remain beautiful in who she is, as she is. Let’s not heave on to her shoulders the celebrity complex burden. Cheer for her. Listen to her sing. But allow her to be Susan, for therein lies the beauty of what we’ve all experienced. Let’s not insist that she “top” the “I Dream a Dream” performance. Rather, let’s enjoy the moment and allow Susan Boyle to make her journey, unimpeded by our expectations.

You can be sure that life was filled with many “anonymous” places and times in Susan’s life. Like Susan, we’re all submerged into the unseen years of anonymity, tucked away from the public eye. Obscure places. But it’s in the undocumented life chapters, where a true servant is shaped. Don’t rush through those uncelebrated times, unphotographed times. We may even question: Why are the people in my life wasting my potential? Why can’t I be a Susan Boyle? Our purpose can only be clearly seen when the clapping of the crowds aren’t there to distract. And when your moment comes, to whatever degree you have notoriety, watch out for the celebrity complex. Just be you.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrity, Music, Popular Culture, Susan Boyle

Circumstantial Resurrection Evidence Even An Atheist Cannot Refute

The resurrection marked the beginning of a new era. It’s an announcement of a new age. It declares that the cross was a victory, not a defeat. This is based on some compelling circumstantial facts. Peter said: Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Consider the facts.

It’s a fact that there are at least 13 different post resurrection accounts in the Bible. And even though there are some differences in the resurrection accounts (they don’t fit snugly together), these surface discrepancies do not mean that someone has it wrong; rather, they mean that the witnesses have not been in collusion. The Gospel writers did not get together and try to ensure that they were all saying the same thing. They did not modify their stories for agreement, which lends itself to the authenticity of the accounts.

It’s a fact that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion / resurrection, many of whom could still be interviewed (1 Cor. 15).These were people beyond the Biblical writers who could be consulted and interviewed. Not just one person saw him, but evidently groups of people saw Him. Paul squelches individual hallucination theories; Christ appeared to groups of people.

It’s a fact that even skeptics saw him and acknowledged him. Thomas, a disciple, actually doubted and refused to believe it, unless he saw with his own eyes. He did, and ascribed deity to Jesus in his exclamatory remark when He actually saw him alive. “My Lord, and my God…” And for those who are still skeptical, how do you explain the conversion of Paul, who was passionate about persecuting Christians, but who was transformed into a church planter – outside of something cataclysmic like the resurrection?

It’s a fact that the women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Why did they have the women as first witnesses? Because it’s exactly what happened. At first, even the disciples had some doubt and the women were like, “Guys, just go down the street and look for your selves.” They did and we have never been the same. You would never include women as your primary first witnesses in the first century. In fact, Paul quietly drops the women as primary witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15, probably because of this cultural taboo. Including women as primary witnesses is literary suicide if you want your account believed. Yet, they still stuck with it, took the hit on their book sales so to speak, and told the story as it actually happened.

It’s a fact that there are secular Jewish sources admitting Jesus’ existence, that place him where he’s supposed to have been during the time frame of the first century.

It’s a fact that the timid apostles, now turned bold after the resurrection, even died for this belief. The changed lives of Jesus’ followers, despite extensive suffering, are a fact. It was after all of these personal encounters with Jesus that their lives were changed. Peter, the frightened deserter became Peter, the evangelist, only a few weeks after the resurrection. James the traditional Jew became James the welcomer of the marginalized Gentiles. Saul the church-destroyer became Paul the church-planter. These men maintained down to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and He’s Lord and that we must know Him.

It’s a fact that Christianity had a gigantic rise in growth (it went from Jerusalem to Rome in about 20 years), an almost unexplainable phenomenon, without some momentous event that fueled its growth. And there were key social structure changes in the lives of those who affirmed the resurrection of Christ. Many former Jews, now Christians, ceased to offer sacrifices, even though this was something they had done in their culture for generations. They stopped keeping the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. The day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday for many of them. Distinct Trinitarian beliefs began to be talked about as they realized the deity of Christ and how that impacted one’s view of God. They stopped looking for a Messiah; he had already come. They no longer felt at home in their synagogues, so they began to meet in people’s homes.

The resurrection is a well substantiated historic fact, with much circumstantial evidence to support it. And if this happened, as I believe it did, then Christ is who he said He was and his picture of God is accurate.

3 Comments

Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Resurrection, Theism, Worldview

Good Friday – “It is Finished” Not “I am Finished”

“It is finished.”
– Jesus Christ on the Cross at about 3 PM Friday afternoon 34 AD.

In John 19:20 Jesus said “It is finished” while on the cross, a phrase that means “paid in full (tetelestai).” The Greek word translated “It is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. What does this mean?

Your sin debt has been paid in full. Christ’s righteousness replaces our guilt and is credited to our account. A death sentence will never come to rest on those who are “in Christ.” All sacrifices were fulfilled. The Scriptures about Him were accomplished. The veil in the temple was split down the middle, indicating that man had free access to God. Satan’s reign was over and evils’ power conquered. Life had won. Man has been liberated and set free.

Christ didn’t say, “I am finished” because He wasn’t. He’s still alive today. God raised Him on Easter. He said, “It is finished.” What’s the “it”? Your salvation. The plan to provide grace for every person. It’s finished. The gospel is an announcement of an objective state of affairs informing the world of what God has done for them in Christ. “You are forgiven. You’ve been set free. Grace has happened for you. The party has begun. Personally believe and receive it, and sit down and enjoy it!” You don’t need to win His love; you already have it!

On that first Good Friday, it was dark. It was lonely. He was thirsty. He was naked. He was in terrible pain and distress. His friends scattered. His lifeblood ebbed away. He called out in the darkness and there was no rescue for Him. Everyone had forsaken Him. Even His Father. Men jeered. His enemies laughed. Demons danced and rejoiced. Death came slowly. He did it for you to pay a debt He didn’t owe.

“It is finished.” You and I and even the atheist is declared “Debt-free.” Now, the only thing left to do is to live in light of what happened on Good Friday and life will be truly good.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Worldview, Christianity, Crucifixion, Forgiveness, Good Friday, Gospel, Jesus Christ, Justice, Theism

Material Proofs that the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happened

Exhibit A: The displaced stone at the tomb. The door of Christ’s tomb was a large, circular stone set on its edge and fitted into an inclined groove. It was not uncommon for such a stone to weigh a ton. It sometimes took up to 20 men to displace a stone like that. Something very powerful or a group of people had to have moved it. How could this be done with a Roman guard at the ready?

Exhibit B: The emptiness of the tomb. Some say that the coolness of the tomb revived Christ. A view like that begs the question. How could someone who was beaten, flogged, crucified, speared in the side, and even pronounced dead by His executioners, suddenly revive, push a one-ton stone aside, overcome an entire Roman guard, and leave?

Exhibit C: The grave clothes. Some suggest that Joseph of Arimathea and his servants stole the body of Jesus, took him home, and revived him. There’s another problem with that… the grave clothes. One writer helps us to understand this with the following description: “The grave clothes were left undisturbed in the place where the body was laid. The body of Jesus was wrapped from the armpits to the ankles with strips of linen twelve inches wide. The linen wraps were then wound around the body placing spices, aloes, and other fine ointments between the wraps. It is believed that a minimum of seventy pounds of spices were used in the process and as much as a hundred pounds were used for someone of Jesus’ position. The grave clothes constituted quite a mass encasing the body. If we are to assume, for example, that Joseph and several of his servants took the body, we would expect that they were concerned about being detected. Therefore, they would have likely been in a great hurry, and we should expect that the grave clothes would have been left in great disarray with spices trailing out the doorway, not to mention that it would have been difficult to have placed the grave clothes neatly back on the resting place in the dark while being in a great hurry to do so. However, the observers did not find spices and wrappings trailing out of the doorway. The grave clothes were intact, undisturbed with the exception of the head napkin that was placed slightly above where it should have been found.” Grave robbers would not have unwrapped the corpse.

Exhibit D. The resurrection appearances to the disciples. The empty tomb of Jesus coupled with the resurrection appearances to the disciples makes for a very compelling resurrection case. “If the empty tomb was a fact but there were no resurrection appearances, Jesus’ body would appear to have been stolen, and His crucifixion and empty tomb would have been a puzzle and a tragedy. If the resurrection appearances had occurred without the empty tomb, the would have been construed as visions or hallucinations (Moreland, God Question).” But we have both an empty tomb and at least 13 post-resurrection appearances.

These four material proofs or exhibits make for a very compelling case for the actual resurrection of Christ from the dead. If the Gospel writers were fabricating these details, many others could have called them on it because Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their Gospels within 30 years of the actual occurrence of Jesus’ resurrection. They could have said, “Wait a second; that’s not how it happened.” Instead, you have the early followers of Jesus dying for this story as well as living for it.

5 Comments

Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Easter, Resurrection, Uncategorized