Monthly Archives: March 2016

“If Christ Has Not Been Raised . . .”

 

IMG_1519

Easter, like Christmas, is not just a day; it is a season.

A day is probably enough if you’re just talking about bunnies and eggs. But I like them, too—particularly the chocolate ones—and I hope your bunch enjoyed an Easter egg hunt. We had a good one! (Not, I trust, like the year one Easter egg hidden indoors behind our couch stayed hidden until well after Pentecost when its smell betrayed its presence.)

But if our spirits also rise higher, and Easter for us centers on the risen Lord, a full season of reflection is sweet and good and important. The Apostle Paul warns, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:14). But if Easter really happened, that changes everything. With all of my heart, I believe that Christ was indeed raised from the dead. But I admit . . .

Believing anything with complete sincerity proves precisely nothing except that you are seriously sincere. You may also be seriously mistaken. We all know folks who always believe each of their feelings extremely sincerely, even religiously. But their feelings, sadly untrustworthy, betray them and lead to wreck after wreck.

Notice also the necessary word here: “believe.” I believe that the Resurrection happened. Not just as a metaphor for new birth and hope and life; though it is that, it is much more. I don’t adopt a “belief” in the Resurrection that is largely symbolic and sentimental, a tip of the hat to ancient folks who just didn’t know any better, but now we do, and we’d still like the comfort of religion, shorn of much that is embarrassingly supernatural. No. I believe John looked into an empty tomb and that Jesus, after his real death later showed up genuinely alive.

But a belief, even bolstered by all sorts of good and real evidence, is still a belief. No one can prove 100% that it happened or that it didn’t. We consider the evidence and choose.

For me, that leads way back to this question: “Does God exist?” I’ve rarely been able to imagine having enough “faith” to believe that all we see around us is accidental. I know we moderns, “chronological snobs,” like to assume that, with the advent of science and technology, we’ve arrived, and that the incredible masses of folks before us were just so primitive and foolish that they worshiped rocks and statues rather than facing hard facts.

Well, idolatry was and is foolish. But I’m not convinced pagans were more foolish than modern humans who adopt a supercilious, supposedly tragic pose, claiming “courageously” to stare darkness in the face and to worship nothing at all—even as we worship ourselves as gods and bow to science as our religion.

If all we see around us is not a cosmic accident, we soon must get back to some idea of a Creator. Once we do, why should a God who can create a universe out of nothing be unable to reverse death and create new life? It’s a dead serious question.

I like the way Danish priest and martyr Kaj Munk framed this: “If [Christian faith and ministry] is, after all, a mistake, then it is a beautiful mistake. If Christianity should turn out, after all, to be true, then unbelief will have been a very ugly mistake.”

My faith is in a risen Lord.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

  

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


The Resurrection: New Life Brings Present Hope

 

emmaus 01

Three words say a lot.

“We had hoped . . .”

And they point to three more.

“But not now.”

Cleopas and his companion were walking on the road to Emmaus, a little village seven miles from Jerusalem, when they were joined by another traveler.

“What are you talking about?” he’d asked.

With heads still spinning, filled with thoughts of crucifixion, reports of empty tombs and missing bodies, and mind-boggling confusion about what it all meant, they’d responded (this is paraphrased a bit), too tired to be particularly polite, “Are you kidding? Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened there during these crazy days? That Jesus of Nazareth was a great and powerful prophet, that he was put to death by our leaders, and now our friends are telling us about empty tombs and missing bodies and angels and . . .”

“We had hoped that he was the one sent by God to redeem Israel, but . . .”

Their words point to a death. A terrible death.

It’s worthwhile to ponder the horrors of crucifixion. But as horrible as it surely was, the physical pain paled in comparison to the literally unimaginable horror of the weight of all of the sin of humanity that our Savior carried to the grave. Only God knows how utterly terrible that was.

Cleopas and his companion did not. But they’d lived through days difficult enough. Days focused on loss and death. The death of their Lord—and the death of their dreams.

“We had hoped . . .”

Like Cleopas and his friend, we also are incapable of any but the most rudimentary understanding of the real suffering Jesus underwent for us. But the death of dreams? That we do understand.

We’d worked so hard for the business to be a “success,” and we had hoped . . .

We’d poured our hopes and dreams into human vessels, and realized many sweet dreams, some better than we’d dared to dream. But human vessels are, at best, human. For this spouse, for this child, for this dear friend, we had hoped . . . Who knows what God may yet do, but that particular dream is dead.

Sometimes we stop in the midst of the whirlwind and try to make some sense of it all. We are not blind to the joys we’ve received, God’s gifts indeed. But sometimes when we stop, and think, we realize what we’re feeling at times has a name: grief.

It’s all wrapped up in those words: “We had hoped . . .”

Read Luke 24 and you’ll find that the traveler who joined Cleopas and his companion was the risen Lord. He is the One who listens to them talk about the death of their hopes, their dreams.

And it’s the risen Lord who on Easter imparts to them new hopes, new dreams, new life.

“We had hoped . . .”

Yes, but now in the light of Easter, we find that our hopes, our dreams, are alive again. New. Bigger. Stronger. More genuine than ever before.

We had hoped. And now, our hope is new!

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Too Much Political TV Leads to Soul Heartburn

 

TVRemote2

Confession is “good for the soul.” So I confess: I’ve been watching too much political TV. And that leads to soul heartburn.

It’s one thing to want some information. We do, after all, have a big election coming up. Yea, verily, presidential. Surely is looking like I’ll be holding my nose with one hand, voting with the other, and then washing with soap. But I’d like to be a voter who is as informed as he is nauseated.

Enough’s enough, though. Sins of excess often carry their own punishment. A political overdose tends to make me surly, cynical, snippy, and generally depressed. The dog starts avoiding me. I become one of those people who can bring light and joy and laughter into any room just by leaving it.

I need to remember that no election will change who my King is—and that it’s great exercise to punch the power button on the TV remote. OFF more than ON will help my home, my mind, my soul, and my disposition, whether the shows are political or not.

But here’s another confession. While I’ve been writing this, the TV has been on. Sound down, but on. Can you spell “addiction”?

In a pathetic defense, I will say that it’s been an interesting few days politically. Stuff happening fast. Candidates calling it quits. Then endorsing . . . “Are you kidding?! Two days ago, you said, . . .” Really?!

Anyway, I left the TV on, sound down, when I fired up my computer . . . and noticed something. When they’re mute (it takes a button for that) these candidates may reveal more about themselves than when they’re prattling on aloud. I’m not much of a lip-reader, but, sound down, I began to note with new interest what their faces and body language may be saying more loudly than their words. Eyes really are a window into the soul. Body language is a real language.

Some of these folks point a lot. Some scowl a lot. Some seem habitually angry. Some smile seemingly genuinely, easily. Some smile “plastically,” on cue; the smile-time message from their mouths was hijacked before it got to their eyes. Some tilt their heads back and look down their noses. All of them just look tired. The most interesting body language I’ve seen was telegraphed from a former candidate standing behind the guy he’d just endorsed. The endorser looked like he desperately needed a strong antidepressant or a big gin and tonic.

If I’m reading the body language right, I’ve seen a candidate or two I’d like to invite into my home for a talk. Some others? Not hardly.

In any case, I recommend the sound down approach for a change. The proverb-writer is on to something when he warns that a “troublemaker” not only “goes about with a corrupt mouth,” he “winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers” while he is plotting “evil with deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 6).

I wonder what my own body language says about my heart, my soul. More than I suspect, I suspect.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering


A Grandfather’s Voice Points to Many Fathers

 

George B Shelburne-01

It’s been an interesting Monday morning.

The dog and I were sitting in the recliner. My laptop computer was living up to its name. My column/blog deadline was looming. Waiting for words to start showing up on the blank computer screen, I was really waiting for the adrenaline rush that my sadly undisciplined brain seems to require. Coffee is an aid, but no sure cure. The deadline usually does it.

In the meantime, as I found myself piddling around, procrastinating, perusing some files on the computer, I somehow wandered into the “Family Audio” section and clicked on an old file labeled, “Big George 1972.”

And that’s when I heard the voice of my paternal grandfather, G. B. Shelburne—we called him “Big George”—who died in 1975, recorded by my oldest brother in 1972 at the old house in Stanton, Texas.

In the fourteen-minute recording, Big George, a longtime lay preacher and church elder who over the course of 40 years held pretty much every non-elected position available in the City of Stanton, Texas—city secretary, water commissioner, city judge, etc.—shared a little family history.

He partially solved the family “mystery” of “G. B.” as he said that “George” was the name of his mother’s oldest brother and that “Beatty” (spelling?) was the name of the doctor who “presided” (his word) at his birth.

Oddly enough, what I found most interesting was the story he told of a spanking administered to my great-grandfather by my great-great-grandfather sometime in 1870.

Great-great-grandfather Shelburne had come home to Alabama in 1865 after his service in the Civil War. His son, Tom, my great-grandfather, was born that same year. Tom’s father died when the boy was only five years old. That would be 1870. The incident Big George told about, that his father Tom had told him about, took place that same year and was one of the only memories Tom Shelburne had of his father.

As the story goes, my great-great-grandfather had just finished filing a hand saw in the blacksmith shop he had on his Alabama farm. Five-year-old Great-grandfather Tom had been playing in the shop. His dad laid the saw up on top of his workbench and said, “Now, Tom, don’t you bother that saw. I’m goin’ out.” Tom told his son, my grandfather, later, “I had such a curiosity to try that saw that when Father came back in, I was tryin’ it over a plow beam, and he give me a paddlin’ fur it.”

Funny. That old story of my great-great-grandfather’s warming Tom’s tail section actually seemed to warm my great-grandfather Tom’s heart, too. He lost his father way too early, but he never lost the sure knowledge that he was loved by him.

It’s a great blessing to me to hear my grandfather remind me that I stand in a long line of fathers who dearly loved their sons (and daughters). The best blessing of all is to know that all of God’s children are loved by the best Father of all.

Yes, and the Bible reminds us (Hebrews 12:6, etc.) that some discipline is involved in love!

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


%d bloggers like this: