J is for Jesus

Christmas is a good time to be prepared to answer the skeptics who gladly point out the celebration of the birth of Christ lacks significance if the facts about Him are not true.  The faith of many would be futile “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished” 1 Corinthians 15:17

If Christ had not concluded His earthly ministry dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, this celebration would have no foundational substance and no consequence.  Skeptics through the ages have tried to disprove the reality of Jesus Christ and many have come away with a more confident faith than most believers.

In the recent film “The Case For Christ” Lee Strobel’s journey from skeptic to believer is skillfully portrayed. His story affirms that Christians have a reasonable faith. The film is based on Strobel’s book about his investigative journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Setting out to save his wife from what he saw as a cult, Strobel found himself confronted with a reality that changed his life forever.

His training and success as an investigative journalist allowed him to pursue evidence in support of the objections raised for the resurrection of Jesus. An associate reminded him that the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds it all together.

With that in mind, Lee Strobel set out to find evidence to bolster these objections.

  • The Gospel accounts are not reliable.
  • Jesus did not die on the cross.
  • Jesus did not appear to people after His death.

What he discovered moved him to confront the truth and respond with a decision.

Are the Gospel accounts reliable?

The closer the account is to the actual event the more reliable it is.

 https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel account date to within 25 to 40 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest copies of Homer’s Illiad are 500 years from the original. There is no doubt among scholars as to the integrity of the Illiad as well as many other works of antiquity.

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

The apostles and countless others have died for their beliefs. It is courageous and noble to die for one’s belief, however, it would seem foolish for anyone to die for something they know to be a lie.

Sean McDowell writes “there is the highest possible probability that Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) died as martyrs.”

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

In 2014 Christian History Institute published an article summarizing the total number of believers who have died for the Christian faith.

“Church statistician David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” He estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the church began.”

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

Did Jesus die on the cross?

In an article by “The American Journal of Medicine”,  medical experts reviewed what Jesus had suffered during His crucifixion and have determined that the  “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” According to the evidence, Jesus suffered severe blood loss and hypovolemic shock from the scourging He received from the Romans. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He suffered exhaustion and asphyxia. No one is likely to survive this type of execution. The spear to the side which released blood and water ensured Jesus death.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

Did Jesus really appear to many people after His death?

The first eyewitnesses to testify of the empty tomb were women. It would be foolish for the apostles to use the testimony of women in their fabrication of an incredible story. The testimony of women held no value in the courts at this time in history. Being the first to hear the women’s story, Peter and John raced towards the tomb to confirm the fact that Jesus was not there.

Shortly after this Jesus appeared to the Apostles and many others and by over 500 hundred believers at once.

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

Skeptics claim these appearances were the product of hallucinations and or hypnotic suggestion.

According to phycologists, group dreams or visions are not possible.

J. Warner Wallace speaks of the numbers of individuals who have seen the risen Christ and concludes that a great number of people seeing the same vision is not likely or reasonable.

Some argue that this was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection. The Gospel accounts point clearly to the fact that Jesus appeared in a physical body.

Matthew 28:9 states the Apostles “took hold of His feet and worshipped Him”

John 20: 24-28  says that Thomas placed his finger in the nail marks of Jesus’ hand and the wound mark at His side. Thomas then declares “My Lord and my God”

Luke 24:42-43 details the breakfast they had with Jesus “and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate before them.”

John 20:29 describes how Thomas rejoiced when seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh and Jesus responds “Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

A reasonable faith will strengthen your belief

The evidence is abundant, the experiences of witnesses and followers through the ages is overwhelming. The blood of confessors, saints, and martyrs cries out to this day. The resurrection of Christ proves there is a loving God who reaches out to us to redeem us to Himself to become the children of God. He is a God of justice and mercy and grace.

Our sin and rebellion have separated us from God. God came to us in the flesh as Jesus. He laid down His life for us.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18 

“It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

At one point Lee Strobel is advised that blind faith works both ways. Some will refuse to believe because of a prejudice or bias to one belief system regardless of the evidence presented. In order to believe in the Gospel accounts and have faith in their validity, you must choose to believe the facts presented as a reasonable account of the reality of Christ. Some refuse to believe because it means being accountable to a higher authority. Many have yet to learn that the promise of Christ is a new life of liberty from the emptiness of sin and His spirit is a source of peace, strength, grace, and joy.

Lee Strobel was overwhelmed by the evidence answering his objections to belief. He realized he had to make a decision.

The Lord calls us to examine the evidence, and to engage our reason.

Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The child we celebrate at Christmas is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

He laid down His life and is now risen alive in power to show us the way to a life eternal with Him.

I pray that you will receive the gift of Christmas, open it and believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life?

https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

H is for Hope

Millions of people across the nation observed the recent American Solar Eclipse. For Christian believers, several biblical verses came to mind.  These verses have to do with the signs of the times and the coming fulfillment of the believers hope in Christ. Sharing scripture on Twitter, Franklin Graham tweeted

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28

The tumultuous events in the US and worldwide punctuated by the eclipse draw us to reflect on prophecy as reminders of the hope we share as believers. Although there are great debates among Christian scholars as to the real meaning of many of these prophecies, this does not dilute or distort the reality of our hope built upon the word of God and established in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism

In this post, we want to invite you to explore hope, what it is and where it is found. This is not a comprehensive journey through the concept of hope. However, the links below will guide you to sources where hope and its implications are examined in detail and perhaps you will choose to make your life a journey of hope!

In his article “Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III, Th.M. graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary defines hope as a feeling, an expectation, a desire for something to happen or to be true.

“Hope may refer to the activity of hoping, or to the object hoped for—the content of one’s hope. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both. It is a confident expectation of something we cannot see or that we have not received yet.”

The Christian believers hope is built on trust in God and His word. The humanist/naturalist hope is built on trust in reason and matter alone.

In the article “What About Hope?” at The Humanist.com, Lawrence Rifkin writes about his inability to provide an answer to a middle-aged woman when she asked the question “What about hope?” The answers Lawrence presented her with were bright and clear and positive but left the woman unconvinced. After another attempt at answering the question, Lawrence came to the conclusion that he could convincingly present humanism as a source of hope.

Here are a few of his answers to the question.

The humanist worldview is filled with hope. We may be made of matter, but we decide what matters.” 

“Humanism is about possibilities. Without some grand supernatural plan or destiny, the future is open. Possibility means the door for hope and change and goodness is open.”

“The fact that we can try to change ourselves, other people, and the world—and make it a better place through reason and compassion—is a fundamental wonder of being human, and can be celebrated. It is a cause for hope and wisdom.”

“So let’s admit straight out: humanism is not about hope. It’s about facing the world as it actually exists and making the best of it.”

The clue to humanists/naturalists inability to give any human hope is clear, it is all about the human. It denies the reality of God and our relationship to Him. These beliefs set us adrift in the cosmos of human confusion and delusion, by abandoning the very anchor of our souls, in fact denying that we are souls.

The confusion rest in the fact that without a comprehensive objective guide to understanding life, meaning and morality we are left to create our own. The delusion is the fact that many believe we are capable of deciding “what matters” and what is good and have no need of looking outside the box for answers.

The track record of humans living inside the box without any help is tragic. One only has to look at the Holocaust to realize that in the absence of God, morality is but a human convention, morality is subjective and non- binding. There is no hope in the foundational principles of humanism because it denies the source of hope and that is the supernatural reality of God. God is not contained within our box of reason and nature. He is the creator of reason and nature and beyond Him there is nothing else.

Hope for the humanists is not a reality because by definition hope is invisible and they will not allow themselves to hope in something unseen.

Romans 8:24

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance” NET

It is like two captains wives watching from the cliffs over the sea. One sees her husband’s ship and declares “there he is” her hope has been fulfilled. The other waits in hope that her husband’s ship is close behind yet cannot see it but her daughter who is at higher vantage point behind her yells out “ I see him, he is coming! ”. Will this wife deny what her daughter saw and leave the cliffs without hope?

This is what the Word of God does for us – it yells out to us “I see him, he is coming”.

Rev 1:7

“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! ”

Without a belief in the Creator and His Word, we are left with an empty hope in human wisdom. Humanist believe that humans are capable of doing good without God. Their hope is misplaced because of the fact humans who do not acknowledge God are without hope.

Can we be good without God?

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

“No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”

J.Hampton Keathley writes

 “There are a number of warnings in Scripture against putting our hope in anything other than the Lord because these things will leave us ashamed, frustrated, disappointed, and in ruin.”

Job 8:11-15

“Can the papyrus grow up without marsh? Can the rushes grow without water? While it is still green and not cut down, Yet it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God, And the hope of the godless will perish, Whose confidence is fragile, And whose trust a spider’s web. He trusts in his house, but it does not stand; He holds fast to it, but it does not endure.”

The first of several points that Keathley makes is that “hope depends on knowing the Word of God”

Romans 15:4

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Colossians 1:5-6

“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;”

Proverbs 30:5 tells us that

“Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”

New Living Translation

2 Tim 3:14-17

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”    New Living Translation

https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Key Summary Points

The humanist/naturalist has no hope because he:

  • Has no belief in the supernatural
  • Does not acknowledge God
  • Has no belief in the afterlife
  • Will not recognize the fallen nature of man
  • Will not recognize the promises of God
  • Will not recognize the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good without God
  • Denies the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Denies eternal life with or without Christ

https://bible.org/article/hope

The believer has hope because he

  • Believes in the supernatural
  • Acknowledges God
  • Believes in the afterlife
  • Recognizes the fallen nature of man
  • Recognizes the promises of God
  • Recognizes the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good with the power of the Holy Spirit of God
  • Affirms the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Affirms eternal life with or without Christ

Where is your hope?

 

Luke 21:28

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse                                     http://www.unsealed.org/2017/06/the-divine-message-of-august-eclipse.html

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism by Jeffrey T. McCormack Delivered 05/28/17 http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/sun-will-be-darkened-apocalyptic-symbolism.htm

“Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III,

“What About Hope” by Lawrence Rifkin                               https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Romans 8:24

Rev 1:7

“Can We Be Good Without God?”  by William Lane Craig                                               http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

Job 8:11-15

Romans 15:4

Colossians 1:5-6

Proverbs 30:5

2 Tim 3:14-17