Thursday, October 10, 2013

Question and Answer #2: Hairy Pits

I decided it might be fun to break up the latest posts with a new video blog. So, without further ado or to do or something like that...

Hairy Pits from Corey Nelson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ghosts, the Living Dead, and Craving the Taste of Death Pt. III



“If we acted like we truly believed all the stuff that we spout, not only would the Church be different, but the world as well.”—Pastor Corey

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For this part, I’m going to take things in a different direction; I want to begin setting the table for where I’m going with this.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the “dead” and perhaps some of you have thought that I’ve flat lost my mind…wait!  Does anyone even question that anymore? (lol)  I promise that this is going somewhere :)  So with this piece, I want to talk about new life; or more to the point, life where there was previously death.

We have a faith for which the resurrection of Jesus Christ plays a central, foundational point.  Paul is pretty succinct to this point, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1Corinthians 15:14-17)

Another central point?  We have been made “alive”/“risen” with Christ.  Once again, I’ll turn it over to Paul, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15)  Secondly, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)  The obvious implication being that new life has been imparted through and by Jesus.

Keeping with this theme, once again I’ll defer to my good buddy Paul, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17)

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I generally shy away from simply listing scripture to make a point lest we hear screams of, “Proof texting!!!”  I list these (contextually relevant by the way) simply to get us in the right frame of mind.  Scripture is very clear on two points that I’d like to emphasize, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have experienced a “resurrection” in this life, moving from death to life; and by having experienced this resurrection, we are a new creation with new life.  Is this not what we preach and teach?  Simple logic dictates that we ought to be different the day after resurrection from what we were the day before and that with the passage of time, we ought to continue to put more distance between old and new (sanctification...alright, my Wesleyan theology is showing itself a little bit).

As we consider such things, allow me also to offer Galatians 5:19-26, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

This passage in Galatians offers a nice dichotomy between crucifixion/resurrection and death/life; what lives looked like prior to a new life with Christ and what life is supposed to look like after.  For Paul, he is declaring that to have the Spirit of God frees us to have “new moral ability” and that we are “able to reflect God’s own character”[i]  This is not something optional or theoretical for the Christ follower; this is to be our reality.  A higher moral standard that reflects the character of God, not for our benefit I would argue, but rather for that of the world.  In us, the world ought to see this God of mercy, grace, and holy love reflected and modeled.  In us, the world ought to see by our example that there is not only a more excellent way, but also a more preferable way.  Paul is also clear that we cannot have the Spirit of God and continue to live lives defined by the dead.

Speaking of reflecting “God’s own character”, this scripture contains the classic “fruits of the Spirit” passage and this is where I would really like us to focus.  These are supposed to be the hallmarks of Christians and as such, we can surmise that these ought to be the defining traits of Church, where those who have received new life gather…if we really believe, you know, the “stuff” that our book says…and the “stuff” that we spout…. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I look at the fruits of the Spirit, in light of the concept of resurrection/new life, and I see nothing that could be attributed to the aforementioned dead (parts I and II), spectral or living.  The fruits of the Spirit are not only life affirming, but they are life giving.  These are the very kinds of things that shine in the darkness.  These are the things that not only encourage this new life in action, they demand it and propel it.

The temptation is to say that the dead do not concern themselves with such things, but the temptation would be wrong.  Death hates life; death consumes life.

Stay tuned for Part IV:  Pulling the String. 



[i] Keener, Craig S. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament. Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, pg. 534

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ghosts, the Living Dead, and Craving the Taste of Death Pt. II

Pt. II...Setting the Stage

Assuming the folks on television are correct, which is a pretty tough assumption to make, but assuming they are correct, how tough must it be to convince a ghost that they are dead and that they must move on?  I mean, how do you make that case?  Obviously, all the evidence is in your favor, but how do you convince someone or some “thing” of something that they are unwilling to see, believe, or to otherwise acknowledge?

You are dead.”

“Boo.”

As the lore, television, and the movies go, to attempt to convince a spectral interloper of their deceased nature is to invite their wrath and all sorts of shenanigans.

No, seriously, you are dead.”

BOO!”  A light bulb shatters in the background.

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Zombies, as fun as they are, suffer from numerous logical breakdowns.  I mean there is the big metaphysical question, how are they animated?  Obviously there is some base form of drive or intelligence because they are able to walk, to moan, in some cases even to cry out “Brains!”, they know to devour the living, and they display rudimentary pack behaviors.  So there’s something going on in there, but they’re dead.  It is one of the great mysteries of pop culture and zombies will drive you flat nuts if you think about it too long.  There’s just so many questions that are never adequately addressed.

Why are they so bent on eating the living?  In 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” an explanation is given by a talking zombie (I would’ve included the clip, but there is some salty language) that they eat not people per se, but rather brains, because by implication (though it is never explained) something about living brains soothes the pain of being dead.

With the primary motivation of consuming the living, one also has to wonder, “Do zombies poop?”  I mean, all that flesh has to go somewhere and if they are truly dead, then there is no need for nourishment and therefore no need for digestion, which is good because dead tissue cannot digest anything.  Does what they consume just sit in the gut until they explode?  Does it just slide right on out since all the plumbing ought to go slack since they’re dead, which in turn causes one to have to question again, “Why are you eating the living?”  While fun, it’s all pretty illogical.

However, without getting too deep in “dissecting” zombies, what is standard is that they have an insatiable, irrational hunger for the living.  The animated, living dead have a one track mind and a singular purpose, to eat living flesh thereby destroying life.  Zombies don’t eat other zombies, but they will eat the recently dead.  Aside from the relatively intelligent zombies of “Return of the Living Dead”, they know not why; they only know that they must eat the living.

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The dead (living, apparitional, and otherwise) are irrational.

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One of the most perplexing, heartbreaking, and maddening things I’ve run into as a pastor/chaplain are those that simply want to die even when help is available.  I feel I must clarify at this point, that I am not talking about the suicidal, but rather the interesting phenomenon of significantly ill patients who should have a reasonable hope of some sort of recovery, with a decent quality of life, who refuse treatment or life saving measures.

I’ve seen this on a handful of occasions; people become so resolved to the idea of death, that they reject the possibility of life.  However, they not only reject the possibility of life, but they cling desperately to death.  And not only do they cling desperately to death, it often times seems that they want to pull everyone around them along for the ride.  Death for all of its darkness, fear, and unknown becomes a security blanket.  It’s almost as if they crave the taste of death.  Folks in this situation will kick, claw, bite and lash out should you attempt to come between them and death.  Sometimes death is safer than life.

Obviously in most of these cases there are deeper issues at play; depression, no basis of hope, and frankly, sometimes we just get tired of hurting or suffering.  Through my own experience, I can relate.  I mean after a decade of feeling like my arms were quite literally on a fire twenty four hours a day, I was ready to be done and was exhausted from suffering.  But in the majority of the cases that I’m thinking of as I am writing this, there was a reasonable expectation of the extension of life with an increase of quality.  I can remember thinking in all of these situations, with no shortage of empathy, “Getting better is sometimes scary and even painful; coming back to life can be terrifying.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to die.

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I know death well in its many guises.  I know how it craves and fears the living all at once.  I know death; I know there are fates far worse and far more terrifying than ghosts and shambling zombies…the living dead already amongst us.  Stay tuned for Pt. 3.