3 Compelling Reasons for Hope

inside_empty_tomb

Jesus’ tomb is empty; it’s an established historical fact. All the attacks on Jesus’ resurrection come in the form of trying to explain the vacant grave. They do this because they cannot deny the reality that His body was missing from His tomb.

However, no one has ever been able to come up with a credible explanation for Christ’s empty grave. Jesus is indeed alive!

The resurrection matters so much to our faith because if Jesus did not walk bodily out of His grave, if His body was buried somewhere else in ancient Israel, then humanity has absolutely no hope.

The reality of Jesus’ resurrection matters to our hope in so many ways!

Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. . . .  If in Christ we have hope in this life only we are of all people most to be pitied.” Do you understand what the apostle is saying here? If Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith in Him is totally worthless and we are more to be pitied than anyone else in the world. Wow!

The reality of Jesus’ resurrection matters to our hope in so many ways!

1. The Resurrection Verifies Jesus’ Claims

I hear so many people say Jesus was a good moral teacher, but they deny most, if not all, the claims Christ made about Himself.

What would happen if I were to go through the area where I live making these claims?

  • That I was equal with God the Father
  • That I was the only way to God the Father and eternal life
  • That those who reject me will perish; they will end up in hell
  • That as God I had the ability to forgive sins
  • That after three days I would rise from the dead
  • That someday I would return to the earth in great glory with all the world watching

Would I be hailed as a great teacher after making such claims? Something inside me says, “No!” I would more than likely end up in the psych ward at the local university hospital under lock and key.

You cannot make the assertions Christ did without backing them up in a convincing and overwhelming way. Jesus’ resurrection did exactly that!

No one can make the claims listed above (all of which Jesus made during His ministry) and later be regarded as a fantastic teacher. It’s impossible.

You cannot make the assertions Christ did without backing them up in a convincing and overwhelming way. Jesus’ resurrection did exactly that!

2. The Resurrection Establishes Jesus’ Credibility

So many people say they worship and trust Jesus, but then state they do not believe so many of the things He said.

Suppose you are selecting a guide to take you on a three-day hike deep into a dense and dangerous wilderness territory. You have read Surviving in the Backwoods written by candidate A and although he said many things in his book that you like, you believe he got almost everything wrong about what it takes to survive in the wild. And on top of that, he has never ever hiked in the area you want to explore.

Would you hire him? Unless you feel a tad suicidal at the moment, probably not.

Is this not what so many do with Jesus? They believe He was wrong about the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, the Genesis flood, and the credibility of the Old Testament but claim to worship Him. I do not understand such logic. Why would anyone revere someone who in their mind was flat out wrong about so many basic aspects of their faith?

The resurrection verifies that Jesus is trustworthy not only in His claims about Himself, but in everything else He said. It also proves He is able to do the impossible.

3. Jesus Alone Is Able to Take Us Home

Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope because it demonstrates He is able to give us eternal life.

If I am alive when Jesus returns, He will change my earthly body into an immortal and imperishable one and take me to His Father’s house, to a place He has specially prepared for me. The same is true if I die before His appearing. It should be beyond obvious I cannot do any of this for myself once I am dead.

So, how can I trust Jesus to do the impossible in raising me from the dead and at the same time say his beliefs about the purpose of marriage, God’s creation of each of us as either male or female, and His views on morality and the sanctity of life are not only totally wrong but highly offensive? I absolutely cannot do that. Either Jesus is right about marriage and life or He is a fraud incapable of giving me eternal life or providing any hope in this life or in eternity. There is no middle ground.

If Jesus got these basic things totally wrong then He is still in a grave somewhere, is either a lunatic or a liar (if not both), and my faith is utterly in vain (at best). The tens of millions of people throughout history who died refusing to denounce Christ gave their lives totally in vain failing to denounce some liar who lived long ago.

Are you beginning to see why I cannot say Jesus was wrong about these controversial issues and still have an ounce of faith in Him?

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul again, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all those who have fall asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). This is where our hope rests!

Jesus is alive; He rose from the dead; His words are true regardless of what anyone says about them.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that all His words are true regardless of how unpopular they are at the moment. Popularity does not establish credibility or truth; Hitler was incredibly popular in Germany during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Now his name is an anathema everywhere on earth.

Jesus was the most unpopular person of His day. But today, two thousand years later, hundreds of millions of people trust Him to give them everlasting life because His tomb is empty. Jesus’ resurrection forever establishes his words as true and gives us an unfailing foundation for our hope. He is alive; He is coming again!!!

The resurrection is why we treasure the words of Jesus and trust Him. It’s why we possess an unfailing hope of spending eternity with Him.

It’s why we can have supreme confidence in His claims, words, and supernatural power.

He’s alive! He’s alive indeed!

Shipwrecked! – Book Review by Terry James

Shipwrecked front cover final

Shipwrecked! Learning from the Bible Bad Guys: A Book Review written by Terry James

Have you ever thought, If I could just do that over again? Or thought, Wish I had made a different decision way back then…

I have done so many times over my many decades of life. It’s a common human trait to lament some of the mistakes we’ve made. But, of course, wishing makes no difference. It changes nothing. If is for children, as the lyrics to Roger Whittaker’s song goes.

To avoid having to constantly look back at our lives and say, “If only…” the avoidance must be accomplished through preventative action. We must prepare in some fashion so that we make wise decisions as they come in order to avoid looking back and having to say “If only…”.

Jonathan Brentner has given us a book that offers such wisdom—how to avoid the pitfalls of life that cause us to look back and have to say “If only…”.

The author has pulled the points of wisdom from the greatest of all works authored by the Greatest of all Authors. I’m referring, of course, to the Holy Bible, dictated to human writers by the Lord, Himself. One simply cannot go wrong under such direction.

Thus, Jonathan’s is a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

But I also think it is one of the truly unique concepts I’ve come across for helping us avoid the pitfalls of life as described above.

Shipwrecked!: Learning from the Bible Bad Guys is a title perfectly describing that unique concept. The author uses the mistakes made by some of biblical history’s most notorious rebels against God’s prescription for living.

He expertly weaves the narrative to present us with a colorful tapestry of how we shouldn’t conduct our lives. The reverse way of life to that conducted by the Bible’s “bad guys”—the correct way—as we proceed through our given years, thus is almost supernaturally, I think, etched into the reader’s realization.

As I say, Jonathan Brentner, a former pastor, has composed a unique and effective volume for how to avoid many pitfalls into which we are prone to plunge and, of course, later regret.

The emphasis is different in each case the author presents. A key theme of the book, however, always involves encouraging the reader to learn from the mistakes of the characters. Exhortation is geared toward encouraging us to apply Bible precepts rather than give into negative emotions and sinful desires.

A few examples of Brentner’s Bible “bad guys” and their choosing the wrong way are demonstrated in the following.   

  • With Saul, we learn the importance of trusting God rather than religious behavior. In the second chapter, the author contrasts Saul’s behavior with that of Saul’s son Jonathan to show differing results that come from seeking to glorify God rather than self.
  • Absalom was truly a ticking time bomb. His anger and bitterness toward his dad after Amnon raped Absalon’s sister, Tamar, festered inside him for many years. With Absalom, Brentner stresses the importance of dealing with anger quickly before it turns into a root of bitterness and affects those around us.
  • With King Asa, Brentner explores the danger of forgetfulness in the matter of the importance of remembering all that God has done for us. As Christians who have been believers from an early age, it’s so easy to forget the wonder of the cross and all the answered prayers over the years.
  • Cain shows us how one can be close to the Lord and not really know Him. In this chapter, Jonathan Brentner emphasizes the Gospel. Cain was not an atheist; he could never deny God’s existence. He even had arguments with him. But still, he never came to truly know the Lord or trust Him.
  • John Mark shows us that failure does not have to be the final chapter in our lives. The author says he loved writing this chapter because of how it illustrates that God gives us chances after our failures. Despite the young man’s initial failure that led Paul to reject him, John Mark later became someone useful to the apostle and was used mightily by the Lord later in life.

These and many, many more illustrations make this a book that will enhance anyone’s life who applies these Bible truths to his or her spiritual heart.

The author says his desire in the book is to draw people away from merely relying upon worldly principles and religious behavior. He wishes to, instead, point them toward a true and vital walk with the Lord.

Jonathan writes, “Although I was truly a believer at the time, as a young pastor I treated God as though He was a vending machine. If I behaved a certain way, the Lord, I thought, would respond accordingly. Such was a recipe for disaster when my life went far off the tracks.”

He writes further, “My hope is that my book will help believers deal with emotions and desires when their lives turn out differently than how they imagined. Rather than give in to the negative emotions and desires, I prayerfully hope to draw them to the Gospel, God’s love for them, and their hope for eternity.”

In summary, he writes,” I also pray that many will come to know the Lord as their Savior as a result of reading Shipwrecked!”

Shipwrecked! Learning from the Bible Bad Guys

Author: Jonathan C. Brentner

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

ISBN: 0978946708-20-5

To order: Go to Amazon.com


 

Is it Idolatry or Passion?

Bible and hands

A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted what the writer, Michael Gerson, believed was commonplace among Christians, that of bowing to the golden calf of the extreme political right. He made this claim in his article entitled, “The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles.’

Because this accusation that Christians worship conservative politicians is common on the left, I have decided to respond to Gerson’s article. I do this both with the purpose of helping you defend your faith against such an allegation as well as a reminder of the importance of keeping your passion centered on Jesus and His Word.

Although I am not saying that Christians are immune to carrying their political support too far, I believe what Gerson regards as idolatry from his vantage point within the confines of Washington, D.C. is nothing more than passion for what we hold dear out here in the heartland. Let me explain.

The Danger of Identifying with a Political Movement

Although I disagree with almost all of what Michael Gerson wrote, he is correct about the dangers of Christians identifying too strongly with any political movement. This can lead to unwelcome results for us and if anything of what Gerson writes is true, he is correct in regard to this warning.

However, the believers I know do not fall into Gerson’s characterization as being “foot soldiers of Bannon;” the majority do not even know anything about him. In fact, many of these so called “foot soldiers” strongly dislike both Bannon and President Trump (although they could never have voted for Hilary Clinton because of her pro-abortion stand). The sharpest criticism I faced for my support of President Trump last year came from fellow believers, not from supporters of Hillary.

I do not see the idolatry that Gerson referenced, although I concede that a tiny minority of what he refers to as the “religious right’ might sadly be in that camp.

The numbers simply do not support Christians blindly adapting “Fox News values” (whatever that means) as Gerson claims. If one assumes that everyone who watches Fox News is a Christian (and such is definitely not the case), this would amount to about 3 percent of everyone who claims to be an evangelical. How can he claim we all receive our values from a source so very few of us even watch?

I do not see the idolatry that Gerson referenced, although I concede that a tiny minority of what he refers to as the “religious right’ might sadly be in that camp.

Instead, I see a passion to core beliefs, to Scripture, rather than any idolatry to a person or political movement.

Core Beliefs

We are not “panting and begging” to be part of someone else’s political movement as the writer asserts. That is patently absurd. For the vast majority us, we do “confidently and persistently” represent a core set of “distinctive beliefs” but not those Gerson describes. It’s Scripture; this is the basis for what we passionately believe and seek to uphold.

First in order of importance, for both those of us believers who like President Trump and for most of those who despise him, is the sanctity of life. Many of us turned against the Republican establishment when they refused to remove funding for Planned Parenthood from the budget after they gained a majority in the Senate. In spite of the proven allegations that Planned Parenthood actively harvested and sold body parts from the precious babies they murdered, the Republican leadership refused to take a stand against this organization and continued to fund them with our money.

If you want to know why so many people applauded when Bannon said “it’s a season for war against a GOP establishment,” that is it. This in no way signifies any blind allegiance to Bannon as the writer suggests, but rather a rejection of an establishment that blatantly betrayed the prolife values of those who voted for them. Because of this, I would have also cheered loudly when he said that.

The truths of God’s word were and are the basis for this overriding passion to protect helpless babies, not any political movement or leader such as Bannon.

Scripture teaches that life begins at conception and biblically based Christians have actively opposed abortion since the inception of the church. Followers of Christ rescued babies that were being aborted in the Roman Empire in the early centuries of the church. The truths of God’s word were and are the basis for this overriding passion to protect helpless babies, not any political movement or leader such as Bannon.

Human Dignity Does Not Equal the New World Order

I am confused by why Gerson believes that “economic nationalism” is contrary to our vision of “human dignity” and “social justice.” We strongly believe in legal immigration and in giving people an equal opportunity to come to America and prosper. Our views on immigration are totally consistent with what President Clinton repeatedly advocated when he was president. It’s the left that has changed their opinion of what “social justice” signifies in regard to immigration, not us. Is it a crime against “human dignity” to want to ensure that those coming to our nation do not drive trucks into large groups of pedestrians and bikers or attack people with a knife in a mall?

Gerson also appears to believe “social justice” can only be accomplished through a New World Order. Why else would he contrast “economic nationalism” with supporting “human dignity?”

Gerson fails to establish why this assertion is true. History has repeatedly shown that Socialism, the darling of the New World Order advocates, inflicts the most damage on “human dignity.” Venezuela provides a prime example of the tremendous suffering that results when Socialism is fully implemented.

Regardless of what any group may claim, as followers of Christ we oppose racism in any form!!

Gerson’s claim that the “religious right” has ties to “alt-right leaders” and flirts “with white identity politics” could not be further from the truth. The pastor of my church, on the Sunday after the violence in Charlottesville, angrily denounced and condemned white supremacy along with all forms of racism. Regardless of what any group may claim, as followers of Christ we oppose racism in any form!!

Gerson’s remarks here constitute a cheap shot at the Christian community and one for which he should be ashamed. His comments represent a blatantly false and worn out claim that no longer has any merit. He should be ashamed of himself for making this claim against us.

The believers I know value human dignity and strongly uphold the Judeo-Christian belief in the “inherent value and dignity of every life.” This is the reason we so passionately oppose abortion, which constitutes nothing less than murder of the innocent.

The fact that we pursue a different approach to protecting the “dignity of every life” does not mean this goal is any less important to us. Gerson condemns us without understanding our point of view.

The Common Good

Gerson upholds the “common good” as the ultimate standard. What does his use of this phrase signify? Is it not another way of saying that right and wrong are determined by the needs of the moment or by common consensus? But who determines the “common good?”

The Nazis convinced millions of Germans in the last century that the “common good” signified the elimination of all Jews. Can we trust any system of ethics that relies on the “common good?” The determination of what is “good” changes with every culture and society and even with every decade for that matter. Should others condemn Christians because we rely on the changeless Judeo-Christian values of Scripture rather than ever-changing standards put forward as the “common good?”

The determination of what is “good” changes with every culture and society and even with every decade for that matter.

Gerson claimed that the Republican efforts to overturn Obamacare failed because the party could not show why it was in the interest of the “common good” to do so. Really? Is it in the public interest to impose penalties on people who cannot afford to pay ridiculously high premiums for their health insurance, which in some cases have doubled in spite of sky high deductibles?

I also question Gerson’s reference to Jesus as a “globalist.” Why did he say that? Is he suggesting that Jesus would somehow support the New World Order he seems to advocate?

Yes, Jesus commanded His followers to take the Gospel to all nations. He did this on the basis of His authority as God so that all people would hear the good news of salvation. He sent out His disciples to proclaim the Gospel to a world perishing in its sins and subject to God’s wrath unless they repent. I believe it is a huge leap to go from that to claiming that Jesus is a globalist in the modern usage of this term.

Gerson’s identification of Christians as the foot soldiers of Steve Bannon could not be further from the truth. It’s a faulty attempt to identify all followers of Jesus based on the actions and beliefs of a tiny group at a conference who may or may not even represent true believers of Jesus. And, who says that applauding for a speaker equals idolatry to him?

Yes, there is a danger in believers identifying themselves closely with any political movement and we must be wary of this. Loving and serving Jesus while upholding the truths of Scripture is our first priority as we take the Gospel to a perishing world.

As followers of Christ, we seek to provide relief to the suffering and persecuted throughout the world through such organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse that spends $800 million each year in this regard. The believers I know also contribute much personally to help those around them as well as to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse. We care very much about the hurting in this world and seek to uphold human dignity whenever we can.

We will not escape criticism for our beliefs; this is a given. All we can do is uphold the timeless truths of Scripture, express our enduring beliefs in the most loving way possible, and reach out to those in need around us with the good news that a far better day that is coming in which justice and righteousness will reign supreme as Jesus rules over the nations of the world.

Jesus and His words must always be the basis for our passion. If this is mistaken for idolatry then so be it. We will follow Jesus.

 

A Trust that Cannot Be Broken

Unbreakable_words_we_can_trust

 

What causes you to trust the words of another person? Your answer no doubt includes the previous trustworthiness of that individual. Has he or she told the truth in the past? Does he or she have experience or expertise in what they are saying to you? Many considerations go into believing the assertions of someone you know even if you are not conscious of them.

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in His words. We know His claims are true because of His resurrection. It follows that what He says about Scripture is of utmost importance and of necessity must be true. If Jesus is God as He claimed, how could He possibly be wrong in His opinion of the Old Testament?

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in all His claims.

Previously, we looked at Jesus assertions regarding the validity of Genesis. Now we will expand that assessment to the entire Old Testament.

“If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me”

Jesus always spoke with the utmost reverence for Scripture, which in His day consisted of what we know today as the Old Testament. He frequently quoted from it and repeatedly referred to its words as something that must be fulfilled (Matt. 22:29; 26:54; Luke 33:37; John 13:18). He criticized the religious people of His day for not knowing it, “But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matt. 22:29).

Jesus confirmed the authority of Scripture. In John 5:39-40 He said this to the Jews who by this time were seeking to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” A little later he added this, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46).

The tremendous respect of the Jewish religious leaders for Scripture was correct, but they did not fully believe what they read. If they had, they would have recognized Jesus as their long awaited Messiah.

 “Scripture Cannot be Broken”

In John 10:35 Jesus said this, “. . . and Scripture cannot be broken.” With these words, Jesus asserts that the words of the Old Testament are absolutely reliable and accurate. They cannot be found lacking in any way. They stand firm; they cannot be twisted to mean something else or neglected as having no value for us.

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus made this strong statement about the Law, which in His day could refer to the entire Old Testament as well as well as just to its first five books, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Scripture will more than pass the test of time; it will endure forever. Everything written on its pages must be fulfilled. Jesus regarded the Law as unbreakable truth that would stand forever.

This is bad news for us. If we cannot be loosed from the demands of the Law, we are in deep trouble. The good news, however, is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). He lived the morally perfect life we could never live and fulfilled all the other demands of the Law as well. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins to which all the sacrifices in the Law pointed. He took our place on the cross bearing the punishment of the Law for our sins.

No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

Because the Old Testament is God’s Word and as such “cannot be broken,” Jesus needed to fulfill its demands in our place, which He did. This is why Christ is the only way to eternal life as He claimed in John 14:6. Only He fulfilled all the demands of the Law in our place. No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

“Everything Written about Me . . . Must Be fulfilled”

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Jesus talking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. I would love to know all the details of that conversation, but we are left with just a summary, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

It’s no wonder the hearts of the two listening burned within them as He spoke (24:32). What an amazing time it must have been to listen to Jesus spend perhaps an hour or two explaining how all of the Old Testament looked forward to His coming.

That evening, as He appeared to the rest of His disciples, He spoke these words, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Now we understand a little bit more about His respect for the Old Testament; it all spoke of Him. As such it tells us much about both His first and second coming!

To Sum Up

Just as with the book of Genesis, Jesus regarded the entire Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God. As such, it’s accuracy in its original manuscripts cannot be broken; it stands forever as the inerrant Word of God. Why am I so confident in Jesus’ evaluation of the Old Testament, you might ask?

First, I know the character and trustworthiness of my Savior. If He as the most loving and self-sacrificing person who had ever lived verifies the integrity and accuracy of the Old Testament, whom am I to question it? Secondly, Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus did not come as an opposing view to the God of the Old Testament. He came to fully reveal Him to us. He is the Word of the everlasting God made flesh.  Thirdly, Jesus accurately predicted the timing of His resurrection from the dead. Has anyone else ever done that? I can trust His words.

Lastly, Jesus is my Savior. What does it say about my future hope if He as someone who claimed to be God was wrong about something as critical as Scripture or about anything for that matter? I trust his ability to take me from this life to forever.

Do you trust Jesus enough to agree with Him regarding the words of Scripture?

“My Jesus” vs. the Biblical Jesus

I thought this was an excellent post from the “One Hired Late in The Day” blog. It fits so well with many of my recent posts.

One Hired Late In The Day

Trends are part of the human experience.  Some are good, like a renewed interest in fitness and healthy eating habits.  Some are not so good: mullets and bell bottoms.  We see trends come and go in the Church as well, because the Church is made up of people.  I’m sorry to say that more often than not, trends in the Church tend to be in the not so good category, encompassing worldly influence and extra-biblical practices.  If it’s new, it’s probably not true. 

For today’s essay, I would like to bring attention to a troubling trend I have observed with increasing frequency: professing Christians qualifying statements of who Jesus is with “Well, My Jesus…”, followed by an often ill-founded opinion rather than Biblical fact.  

When I am offering a critique, I like to make sure that I am extending grace and giving the benefit of the doubt.  With…

View original post 868 more words

Jesus and The Book of Genesis

pexels-photo-25996-large

Ever since I can remember, I have always thought that if God existed He would surely be able to effectively communicate with us. It never made sense to think of an almighty God that was incapable of conveying His message to us in a clear, accurate, and meaningful way.

Perhaps that is why I was particularly drawn to a book that Francis A. Schaeffer wrote in 1972 entitled He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In it, Schaeffer goes into all of the philosophical and theological arguments pointing to the necessity of both God’s existence and His revelation to us.

I am going to approach the matter in a much simpler way, that of starting with Jesus’ resurrection and His claim to be God. One of the many implications of these two fundamental truths of our faith is the reliability of Scripture.

If Jesus rose from the dead as He predicted, then His claim to be God must of necessity also be true. Since He is God, His view of Scripture is of utmost importance. Since Jesus rose from the dead, it means He could not be mistaken about His views of Scripture. How could God possibly be wrong about His Word and still be God?

Let’s begin with what Jesus said about the book of Genesis.

Jesus Validated Many of the Events in Genesis

Many people may not realize this, but Jesus validated many of the events recorded in the book of Genesis.  Let’s start with creation. In Matthew 19:4 Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” With these words, Jesus verified the creation of Adam and Eve and in doing so verified the entire creation account.

Since Jesus spoke of God’s creation of the two genders in this way, it logically follows that He regarded all of Genesis 1 and 2 as fact. As the wording of Mark 10:6 confirms, Jesus accepted the whole creation account as fact, not just the story of Adam and Eve.

Jesus established the existence of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the fact that the waters killed everyone in the known world except for Noah and some of his family members.

In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus not only confirmed the historicity of the Genesis flood, but many of the details contained in the Genesis account of it. Jesus established the existence of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the fact that the waters killed everyone in the known world except for Noah and some of his family members. Jesus spoke of all these things as though they were established facts.

Then there is the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah. Did Jesus really believe that happened? Yes! At least two times during His ministry, Jesus referred to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an historical fact. In Matthew 10:14-15 we find these words of the Savior, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

Not only did Jesus confirm God’s destruction of these two cities, He also confirmed the story whereby the angels led Lot and his family out of Sodom before “fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all” (see Luke: 17:28-29). The Lord even mentioned Lot’s wife confirming that story as well (Luke 17:31-32). She did turn into a pillar of salt; it’s not a myth or a fable. According to the affirming testimony of Jesus; it actually happened.

Jesus Validated the Existence of the Key People in Genesis

Besides events, Jesus validated the existence of many of the key people in the book of Genesis. As noted above, Jesus spoke of the creation of the man and woman, undoubtedly referring to Adam and Eve. They existed just as Jesus said. In mentioning the details of the flood, he verified the existence of Noah and his sons. Jesus spoke of all these as historical figures.

In John 8:31-59, Jesus engaged the Jews in a lengthy discussion regarding Abraham. At one point Jesus told them this, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John  8:56). The Lord not only confirmed his existence, but the reference here may have been to the offering of Isaac, where God provided an animal for the sacrifice in place of his only son, a clear picture of God the Father sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

In addition to Abraham, Jesus also established the existence of Isaac and Jacob as well. In confirming the resurrection of the dead to the Sadducees, who did not believe that, Jesus spoke these words, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matt. 22:31-32).

Of course, as we saw under the discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus also confirmed the existence of Lot and his wife.

If Jesus, who claimed to be God, was wrong about the first book of the Bible, what does that say about our faith?

Do you see the implications of believing in the resurrection? If He rose from the dead and is God in the flesh as He claimed, then we know the events in Genesis happened exactly as recorded and the people are real as well. Jesus’ own words verify Genesis as accurately recorded history. If Jesus, who claimed to be God, was wrong about the first book of the Bible, what does that say about our faith?

I have singled out Genesis for two reasons. First, it is perhaps the most maligned book in the Old Testament. Many dispute its authenticity or would like to be able to do so since if it is true, it means we are accountable to God. Secondly, Genesis is fundamental to all we believe. If you take away its historicity, the rest of the Bible does not make sense. Why does humanity need a Savior if Adam and Eve never existed or sinned? The book of Genesis provides the essential context for Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and resurrection.

My wife and I recently watch a documentary on Netflix called Is Genesis History? It is excellent! The show offered so many convincing evidences for the Genesis flood that by the end of the program I concluded it takes more faith to deny the reality of the flood than to believe it actually happened. Most of all, the documentary renewed my awe and wonder of the Creator and the greatness of the universe and world He created.  We have an amazing God! We have an awesome Creator. We have an awesome Savior!

 

Is Jesus an Islamophobe?

Processed with VSCOcam with 5 preset

Would Jesus’ teachings fall under the modern day usage of the term Islamophobic?

Let’s begin our examination of this by looking at how this term was recently used in a Senate confirmation hearing. On June 7, 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders accused Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, of being “Islamophobic” and because of that unfit for office.  He concluded his questioning with this remark, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

The cause of the Senator’s angst was an article Russell Vought wrote in defense of Wheaton College pertaining to their firing of a professor who claimed there was no difference between Allah and the God of the Bible. Here is what he wrote in a publication called Resurgent, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Sanders considered Vought to be Islamophobic based on this statement.

Would Jesus agree with Russell Vought or with Senator Sanders? Let’s put it to the test.

What Did Jesus Claim about Himself?

Jesus asserted that He is the only path of salvation. In John 14:6 he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Jesus’ claim here is unmistakable. He stated that no one can be saved; no one can come to the Father apart from Him. Jesus clearly claimed to be the only path of salvation available to all men and women.

So far, Jesus would agree with Vought’s statement. Since Muslims reject Him, they cannot know God or receive eternal life. According to the Quran, Jesus is a great prophet, but certainly not God nor the way of salvation. Muslims place Muhammed above Jesus and worship Allah, an ancient moon god, rather than the true and living God, whom Jesus revealed at His coming. They have a long history of opposing both Jesus and His followers, to say the least.

Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

In John 10:30 Jesus also said this, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard this immediately took up rocks to stone Him; they recognized His words as a claim to be God, one and the same with the Lord God of the Old Testament, the creator of all things. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

Russell Vought’s statement so far stands in agreement with Jesus.  Muslims do not know the only true and living God since they reject Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is one with God the Father, one cannot reject Jesus and at the same time claim to know God. That’s simply impossible. You cannot reject God and at the same time claim to know God.

Are Those Who Reject Jesus Condemned?

The other part of Vought’s statement, the one that perhaps caused Senator Sanders the most trouble, was that Muslims who reject Jesus “stand condemned.” Would Jesus agree with this assertion?

Yes. Look at what Jesus said as recorded in John 3:17-18, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Jesus here boldly asserts that those who do not believe in Him are already condemned by virtue of their rejection of Him.

Vought’s statements regarding Islam align perfectly with the teachings of Christ; those who reject the Savior are “condemned already” and we have already established that Muslims do indeed reject Him.

Does this make the teachings of Jesus Islamophobic? Perhaps in the modern day usage of the term but in reality, absolutely not!!

Jesus died a cruel death on the cross; He shed his very blood so that all people, including the followers of Islam, might have eternal life. Jesus gave His life so that all people could find life and salvation by believing in Him (see John 1:12).

In John 15:13 Jesus said this, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus does not fear or hate Muslims; he died so that they might find eternal life in Him. He loves Muslims so much that He shed His own blood for them.

Since 2001, millions of Muslims have turned to Jesus and become heirs of eternal life. Some estimate there may be as many as a million Christian converts in Iran alone. I recently read that Muslims in Indonesia are currently turning to Jesus in record numbers. The life and hope they could not find in Islam they now forever possess in Jesus. I rejoice that so many former Muslims are now brothers and sisters in Christ.

We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

In essence, this is not a matter regarding any one religion or race or any other grouping of people. Everyone, without exception, needs the life that only Jesus offers.  Apart from Him, no one can know God or find eternal life. We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

I truly pray that Senator Sanders someday turns to Jesus and finds the joy, peace, and eternal life that can only be found through putting one’s faith in the Savior. The senator has every right to reject Vought’s nomination, but sadly his words reflect more of a rejection of Jesus than of the nominee.

 

 

It’s the Resurrection Part 2: Jesus’ Claims

cross-sunset-sunrise-hill-70847

Since gravity is true, regardless of our ability to jump we always come back to the ground (I return a bit quicker than most since I can’t jump very high). If we drop something, it goes down rather than up. If we trip, we fall unless we regain our balance in time. Since gravity exists, certain things naturally flow from that.

If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself.

Likewise with Jesus’ resurrection, since He rose from the dead certain other things are necessarily true as well. If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself. It’s an unbreakable chain.

Think about it for a moment, if He indeed walked out of the tomb on the third day exactly as He predicted, and we know for certain He did, this adds an undeniable authority to everything else He said does it not? It validates beyond any doubt all His many other assertions. The empty grave establishes the credibility and supernatural character of Jesus; He is no ordinary man.

Let’s consider some of the key claims Jesus made about Himself in this light.

Jesus Claimed to Be God in the Flesh

I want to revisit Jesus’ claim to be God as this is crucial to building my case for why I believe what I do. In John 10:30 Jesus made this remarkable statement, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death because they recognized Jesus was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament. They regarded His claim as the height of blasphemy.

In John 14:8, Philip said this to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” In response, Jesus told his disciple he had already seen the Father, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus claimed to be the perfect revelation of His Father in heaven. He claimed to be God in the flesh.

When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

Can you see how Jesus’ resurrection plus His claim to be God in the flesh adds unmistakable value to all His other assertions?

Jesus Claimed to be the Only Way of Salvation

Jesus’ claim to be the only way of salvation is perhaps His most controversial one today. People recognize Jesus as someone great, but dismiss the necessity of putting their faith in Him alone for their salvation. They do not see Him as necessary for their lives.

Jesus made this claim about Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Perhaps the most recognized verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, echoes this exact same exclusivity, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus said it’s only those that believe in Him that do not experience God’s wrath, but receive eternal life

The brutality of Jesus’ death adds further weight to this truth. If we could save ourselves by keeping the Law, being moral, or by our good works, do you really think that the Father would have allowed His Son to endure such extreme agony on the cross? Of course not!

If there was any other way of salvation, do you not think the Father would have spared His only Son such a brutal and horrendous death? Absolutely!

Jesus suffered and died precisely because there was no way for the Father to provide eternal life apart from faith in Christ and His death in our place.

Jesus Claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life

In the next claim we will consider, Jesus again emphasizes that He alone is the way of salvation. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. . . .” In claiming to be “the resurrection and the life” Jesus promises that all who believe in Him will live, even if they die.

We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely to eternity.

Do you see the essential relationship between this claim and Jesus’ resurrection? If Jesus’ bones are buried somewhere in Israel, then our belief that we will rise again to new life someday is also buried with them. When Jesus physically walked out the grave, He demonstrated His ability to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.

This is why only He can offer salvation to a lost humanity. We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely from this life to eternity. That’s why it’s so necessary that we put our trust solely in Him.

Those who believe in Jesus will someday rise again to a glorious and wonderful life. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this for all who truly know Him as their Savior.

Jesus Claimed to be the Long Awaited Messiah

If I was a Jewish Christian living in the first century AD, this would likely have been the first claim of Jesus that I would have mentioned. Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah spoken of throughout the entire Old Testament. He is the Christ that the prophets, beginning with Moses, said would come to Israel one day.

The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

Interestingly, Jesus first claimed to be the long awaited Messiah while talking with a Samaritan woman, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

This sampling of Jesus’ key claims about Himself helps us understand why the resurrection is so foundational to all that we believe. The remarkable claims Jesus made about Himself are true because Jesus walked out of the grave on the third day, exactly as He predicted. If not for His resurrection, all of His claims would be meaningless because He could not be God. And if not God, then incapable of keeping the many wonderful promises He made to us.

However, because He rose from the dead, we have hope. He is our risen Savior.

These claims of Jesus are building blocks upon the sure foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. From here, we will keep on building. In the coming posts, we will take this a step further; we will start looking at some of the implications of Jesus claims. My next post will seem a bit off topic at first, but it will soon be clear how it relates.

 

It’s the Resurrection, Part 1

inside_empty_tomb

During the 1992 presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton posted a sign in his office that read, “It’s the economy, stupid!” The purpose of these words was to remind him to focus on the economy as he believed that to be the winning issue in his quest to be president.

Similarly, if someone were to ask me why I believe what I do, I would simply say, “It’s the resurrection!” This is the foundation of my faith. My hope stands or falls upon its validity. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19, followers of Christ “are of all people most to be pitied” if Jesus did not rise from the dead and as a result we only have hope in this life.

The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

Because Jesus physically walked out of the grave, I have hope for all eternity and it adds certainty to what I believe. The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Lee Strobel, an avowed atheist at the time, accurately recognized that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could discredit Christianity once and for all. When his wife became a believer in Jesus, he set out on a two year quest to prove that her faith rested upon a hoax. Strobel, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune at the time, employed all his skills and resources into disproving Jesus’ resurrection. After extensive research and countless hours examining the evidence he amassed, Strobel realized he could not dispute it. He ended up asserting his faith in the very thing he had worked so hard to disprove.

After giving his life to Jesus, he wrote the book Case for Christ and since then Strobel has become a world famous speaker as well as author verifying the claims of His Savior.

J. Warner Wallace is a highly recognized police detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Some of the cold cases he has solved have been featured on NBC’s Dateline. He became famous as a result of his ability to discern the validity of statements made by witnesses, which in many instances led to the solving of the crime.

One day Wallace began to wonder what would happen if he applied the same successful tests he used of witnesses in criminal cases to the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. What he discovered radically changed his life; he followed the path of Strobel in turning from atheism to saving faith in Jesus.

Wallace later wrote a book entitled Cold Case Christianity demonstrating why the Gospels are reliable witnesses, especially in regard to the resurrection of Jesus. He found that the Gospel writers passed all the tests he used to determine the validity of witnesses in all his other cases. We can trust these writers.

Why is the Resurrection so Crucial to Christianity?

Lee Strobel was correct in his initial assumption that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could debunk the Christian faith. Why is it so critical to our faith as believers?

During His ministry, Jesus made many radical claims. As recorded in John 10:30 He said, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death. They recognized He was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament and such outrageous blasphemy could not be tolerated.

Besides claiming to be God, Jesus also repeatedly predicted His death and the timing of His resurrection. In John 2:19 he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Although misunderstood at the time, it later became clear he was talking about his body as the temple that would be raised in three days. Matthew 17:22-23 records these words from Jesus, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” Jesus clearly predicted his death as well as the timing of His resurrection.

Do you see how all of His claims are tied into the validity of His resurrection? He claimed to be God. If His bones are still in a grave somewhere in Israel, it means He was a liar. Everything He claimed rests upon the validity of His promise to rise from the dead on the third day. If Jesus was wrong about that, how can we trust him regarding anything else?

However . . . since He indeed walked out of the grave on the third day, this changes everything. He can absolutely be trusted in all that He said.

The evidence is clear; Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. His grave is empty. Opponents of Christianity do not deny the historicity of the empty tomb, but instead seek to prove theories to explain it. Lee Strobel, as an atheist, sought in vain to explain away the empty tomb as he realized he could not dispel the fact that it was indeed empty when the women arrived early that morning.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead.

My purpose in writing these series of articles on the resurrection is not to prove the historicity of it, but to rather show why it matters in the foundation of my faith and why I believe what I do as the result of it. If you desire to read about the proofs for the resurrection, the books I previously mentioned in this article by Strobel and Wallace are great resources. The book Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison is an older but also great book in this regard. A blog site called “Reasoned Cases for Christ” is also an excellent resource.

Because I know with absolute certainty that Jesus walked out of the grave with a physical body, I not only have hope in His return for me, but also confidence in His words. This is at the heart of all I believe.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead. Because of this, He can be fully and absolutely trusted. We will examine this further in part 2 as we continue look, one step at a time, at how Jesus’ resurrection impacts our faith as well as our confidence in him.

Stay tuned . . . .

 

 

What is Truth?

inside_empty_tomb

As I sat in class the first day, I begin to realize it was not what I expected. I should have dropped the course and signed up for another one. But I delayed in deciding upon an alternative and ended up stuck in the class.

Rather than a course dealing with the various methods of accounting as I expected, it ended up being about the philosophy of accounting. Later it morphed into a discussion of truth itself.

The professor asked us to read an article he wrote in which he asserted there was no such thing as objective truth. All truth statements were thus in one sense equally valid and perhaps also equally invalid in the same the way. No one belief system was better than another; objective truth could not be known.

In the next class period, I pointed out that such a statement contradicted itself. Wasn’t he making an objective truth statement while denying the possibility of such a statement? His statement itself was an assertion of objective truth; the very thing he said was impossible.

The teacher showed respect for my beliefs and allowed me to voice my many objections to his atheistic worldview although I did not sway him in any way toward a biblical point of view. We had some interesting discussions regarding the subject of truth for the rest of the semester as I realized my purpose for being in the class.

My class was many years ago, but the questions remains today: What is truth?

It actually goes back at least two thousand years, to when Jesus stood trial before Pilate. In response to the Lord’s assertion that he had come into the world “to bear witness to the truth,” the governor responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

The ancient Roman governor mocked the whole idea of truth. Even if truth had any value, which he doubted, what did it matter at that moment? What good was bearing witness to the truth if one was going to be crucified that very day? In Pilate’s eyes, he had the power; Jesus did not, so what difference did the truth make anyway?

Jesus is the Truth

Just hours earlier, Jesus had told His disciples this, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus not only came to bear witness of the truth, He claimed to be “the truth.”

This is a remarkably bold statement in many ways. Jesus claims to be the embodiment of truth as well as the only way of salvation. In contrast to my professor’s assertion, Jesus said objective truth indeed existed and more than that, He was it. The Word had become flesh and dwelt among us as the apostle John later asserted in his Gospel.

His statement also refuted the mocking of Pilate. Truth mattered because He was the only path to the Father and to eternal life. All other belief systems lead to death; only Jesus has the words of life and is the way to eternal life. He soon demonstrated why He could make such a bold claim.

Who else through all history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection?

On the third day after being nailed to the cross, Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do. Has there ever been a greater confirmation of the truth of one’s own words? Who else through all of history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection? No one has ever risen from the dead for that matter, apart from our Lord, let alone predicted it!

This is what sets true Christianity above all other belief systems. The grave is empty. Jesus is alive. His words are truth and of supreme value.

Why Does It Matter?

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Our faith is of “infinite importance” because Jesus rose from the dead. His radical claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only path to eternal life is true because He is alive.

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If Jesus had remained in the tomb, our faith would be false and of absolutely no value. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be pitied.” The apostle told the believers in Corinth that their faith was worthless if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In the next verse, however, the apostle asserts, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, most of the 500 people who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection were still around and able to testify to its validity (15:6). The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

So not only does objective truth exist, as validated by Jesus’ resurrection, it has infinite value. We dismiss it to our peril because Jesus is not only truth, but also the only true source of life.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. We have become so familiar with the words of John 3:16 that they often lose their meaning when we read them. They do however, express the overwhelming value of the Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see the Case for Christ. The movie shows the response of Lee Strobel to his wife’s decision to trust Christ. He was not happy, to say the least. He decided to use his skills as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune to refute the claims of Christianity. He remained confident all the way through his intensive scrutiny of the facts that he could disprove the resurrection of Jesus and bring his wife back to his atheistic point of view.

For two years he dedicated himself to proving that the claims of Jesus were a sham and He was still in the grave. One morning, after remaining at work all night to review the evidence, he came home and uttered these simple words to his worried wife, “I believe.”

What makes the truth claims of Jesus stand far above those of my cynical professor? He rose from the dead just as He said He would do. He is alive.

And if He is alive, He is the only path of salvation. All the founders of all the world’s religions, philosophies, and belief systems are all dead. As such they offer no life, no hope . . . nothing at all, only death.

Speaking just weeks after Jesus’ resurrection the Apostle Peter uttered these words, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[i] He confirmed the words of Jesus, salvation is only found in Christ.

In the same way the early church began to look for His return. For if Jesus said He was returning for them, they knew He would do what He said.

We also look for His return because based on His track record of truth, if He says He is coming to take us to His Father’s house, He is certainly going to do it. Of this there can be no doubt.

Maranatha! Our Lord come!

 

[i] Acts 4:12