Category Archives: Religion

Why the Resurrection Matters

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, (Luke 24:6)

Christmas and Easter (I prefer “Resurrection Day”) are the two most important days on the Christian calendar with Resurrection Day being, arguably, the most important of the two. One might argue that we could not have the Resurrection without the Birth, but the Birth without the Resurrection would render both insignificant.

Jesus’ birth came like the birth of any other baby. The Gospel writer Luke records the event taking place in a humble animal shelter visited only by lowly shepherds. However, Luke points out an important fact that is summarily overlooked by most readers. Luke says that, “while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). So, apparently, Joseph and Mary had been in Bethlehem a few days before the time of her delivery. Luke does not say, but it seems reasonable that in Bethlehem there were ladies who, seeing a young woman ready to give birth, would have offered their services as midwives. That is the way they did it in those days. Regardless, the birth was no different than any other. The conception nine months prior was the “miracle.” At that time, God planted His seed in Mary’s womb without human aid.

So Jesus came into the world and “dwelt among us”[1] and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He grew up like any other Jewish boy and probably learned carpentry from His earthly father, Joseph. At the age of 30,[2] the age at which priests enter service,[3] Jesus started His three-year earthly ministry. We know from the four Gospel accounts that His ministry ended with His death on the cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and rose on the third day.

But what if the resurrection never happened? Paul put it quite succinctly when he said, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). If Jesus did not rise from the grave, His death for our sins is of no avail. We have no hope of eternal life, and, worse, our destiny is in hell. That explains why unbelievers live for this life alone because, for them, this life is all there is. They reject the concept of hell and prefer the idea that death ends it all, or that it begins a new cycle through reincarnation.

Many arguments against the resurrection of Jesus exist that have a long history from the very beginning. Some say that Jesus did not die on the cross but only “swooned” and revived in the cool dampness of the tomb, rolled the two-ton stone away and walked out. That is a silly theory when one considers the beating, torture, and flogging Jesus received before being nailed to the cross. Also the Roman soldiers who crucified Him were expert executioners and were familiar with death. Had they suspected that He “swooned,” they would have broken His legs like they did with the other two victims.[4] These were professionals; they knew death. Then, to ensure His death, one of the soldiers ran his spear into his side and punctured the pericardium.[5]  

Let us say, for argument’s sake, that this one they failed to recognize and Jesus did indeed pass out. Even if He did revive in the cool tomb, the loss of blood from the beatings and flogging, not to mention the puncturing of his heart sac, would have left Him too weak roll away the heavy stone – one that took several men to move – by Himself.

Another argument suggests that Jesus’ disciples overpowered the Roman guard posted at the tomb.[6] This too is a silly argument. All four Gospels record how the disciples went into hiding at Jesus’ arrest. They feared for their lives. It seems unlikely that these frightened men, most of them fishermen and at least one un-calloused tax collector, would dare to take on battle-hardened professional Roman soldiers. However, this fabrication spread from the very beginning. Matthew records that an angel came to roll back the stone and the soldiers on watch were scared stiff.[7] The soldiers, knowing the consequence (death) for failing in their responsibility to keep the tomb secure, went to the chief priests, rather than their leaders, hoping to get a sympathetic hearing about the empty tomb. They made a good choice as the Jewish religious leaders paid them off and covered for them as long as they would spread the lie that the disciples had stolen the body.[8]

Still another argument insists that the women that went to the tomb on Sunday morning were so grief-stricken that they failed to recognize Jesus’ tomb and went to the wrong sepulcher which was empty. This argument simply rejects what Scripture clearly reports. Three of the four Gospels record that the women witnessed the tomb where Jesus was laid.[9] John, who was present at the crucifixion along with Jesus’ mother and the other women, does not say, but it stands to reason that he would have accompanied them to the tomb.

Jesus rose from the dead. If that were not true, the Jews, because of their hatred for Him, only needed to exhume the body and present it to the world, but they had no body. Men have tried and failed to show Jesus’ remains, but they cannot.

Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death, and because He conquered death, we have the assurance that our sins are covered and we have eternal life with him. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [died]. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22, emphasis mine). “For if by one man’s [Adam] offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s [Adam] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus] shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:17-19, emphasis mine).

Because Jesus conquered death, we can have the assurance of eternal life with Him. That is why the resurrection matters. If you are not sure where you stand before Jesus, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John 1:14

[2]  Luke 3:23

[3]  Numbers 4:3

[4]  John 19:32-33

[5]  John 19:34

[6]  Matthew 27:65-66

[7]  Matthew 28:2-4

[8]  Matthew 28:11-15

[9]  Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55

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Peace

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

What images enter your mind’s eye when you hear the word “peace”? Do you picture cloudless blue skies over a quiet deserted palm-lined tropical beach disturbed only by the lapping of the rising tide, the whisper of the ocean breeze, and the occasional caw of a soaring seagull? Or, do you imagine a silent stony perch atop a tall Rocky Mountain overlooking a thick pine and aspen forest below alternately lighted and shaded by passing puffy clouds? Is your idea of peace a serene humble home on five or ten acres of land far, far away from the rush and bustle of urban life? Do you think of a world without crime, without war, without pestilence and hunger, and without hate?

All those visions of peace exist only in the imagination, and if by experience, they are only temporary. The quiet beach will soon fill with noisy sunbathers. The silent mountain scene gets interrupted by an unpredicted thunderstorm. The endless chores disturb the serene little farm house. As for peace in the world, you can forget that.

As Jesus faced the cross, He tried to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He offered His peace, unlike the peace that the world can give. We personally enjoy quiet peaceful moments in this life, but they are temporary and fleeting. The world knows no peace. The interval between World War I, “the war to end all wars,” lasted less than 21 years before World War II flared up. Since then the United States prosecuted wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, along with several “peace-keeping” skirmishes here and there. Meanwhile, the Middle East experiences fighting periodically and consistently throughout the Muslim world. If that were not enough, rioting breaks out in almost every country all the time. Now the entire world lives in fear of a man-made global pandemic. The world knows no peace.

Yet Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you.” To whom was this gift directed? Jesus addressed a very specific audience, His disciples. His peace is not for the world. It is for His disciples only. On that night, He spoke only to the twelve, but He intends all of His disciples to have the gift, that means you and me if we are truly His disciples – believers, followers of Jesus. In His high-priestly prayer He said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9, emphasis mine). Then, so as not to exclude those that would follow, He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20, emphasis mine).

The peace Jesus gives silences the most tempestuous storms of life, allays the deepest fear, and quiets the troubled mind. His supernatural peace confounds any false peace the world can offer. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). His peace does not exempt us from the affliction, pressure, persecution, tribulation, or trouble that comes as part and parcel with life in this world. Indeed, He requested, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one]” (John 17:15, emphasis mine). Our peace comes from knowing that “[We] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

The world labors in vain for peace. The world alters language to stifle hate. The world blames the weather for rioting in the streets, so it implements draconian measures to curtail carbon emissions. The world cries, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). The world knows no peace, but the believer in Jesus can know peace. As the axiom makes clear, “No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace.” One day soon, the world will know peace, but not now.

Every true believer, every Christian should know peace. If not, there can only be two reasons that a Christian does not have peace. Either they have not been “born again” and do not know Jesus personally, or they have momentarily taken their eyes off of Him like Peter did when he tried to walk on the water (Matthew 14:22-32). If you do not know Jesus, but you want to know peace, see my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Hate Speech

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

The Left have gone completely Orwellian. Romans 1:28 explains their mental decline. Their problem would not be so bad if it were confined to them individually. However, the Left are so fully entrenched in the seat of power that their insanity permeates all of our society. Of course, I speak of the U.S.S.A (United Socialist States of America), formerly known as the United States of America (U.S.A.), but this perverted way of thinking infests the globe. Somewhere or somehow they reached the conclusion that they possess the power to dictate thought and speech to the lower caste. They are the elite that possess superior intellect and greater moral virtue than all others, so they assume the right to control the inferior masses.

Some very recent examples of their high-minded acts include disdain for anyone who supported President Trump. Trump supporters have been degraded to the level of “deplorables” and “Neanderthals.” The Left have elevated themselves to social autocrats whose status permits them to determine right and wrong in all areas of life. All of society must conform to the utopia of their imagination, so their objective is to cancel, do away with, all former vestiges of social and historical norms. The Left are everywhere, in government, in medicine, and in business. Recently, Mike Lindell, the My Pillow ™ guy, was “cancelled” by a large number of retailers[1] simply for voicing his support for President Trump. Facebook and Twitter also cancelled his accounts. The Left have determined that some of Dr. Seuss’ books are not suitable for children,[2] so the books have been pulled off the shelves. Amazon, which started out as a bookseller, quickly removed the books from its inventory; meanwhile, it still carries Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, and Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky. Can you say “hypocrisy”? Disney has also joined the cancel-culture bandwagon by removing many of its animated children’s films.

That is just in the secular world. The Left are coming after Christians[3] who take the Bible literally because the Bible opposes most of what they favor. The Bible opposes evolution which the Left favor.[4] The Left say that everything either originated from a cosmic accident or as a result of the “seeding” of the planet by aliens from other worlds; therefore, the survival of the fittest is the law of nature, and they, of course, are the fittest. The Bible claims that God created one original pair of humans, male and female.[5] The Left denies genetics, basic biology, and favors gender diversity based on individual preferences-as if one can will away one’s biological gender. The Bible says that God created ALL life, therefore only He has the right to give or take life. Human life is of great value to God.[6] The Left maintains a low regard for life; therefore any human life that does not contribute to society is worthy of elimination. Abortion of a baby, even up to term, is acceptable if the birth inconveniences the mother. Euthanasia is permissible for ridding society of “useless eaters.”  The Bible calls homosexuality an abomination to God.[7] The Left promote all forms of depravity as “normal” and acceptable. The Bible emphatically states that only one way leads to eternal life.[8] The Left are all over the place on that question, and whatever one believes in that regard is valid.

Anyone who professes what the Bible teaches in opposition to the Left is guilty of “hate speech” and subject to cancellation. Are you up to it, Christian?

Notes:


[1]  https://welovetrump.com/2021/02/11/heres-the-full-list-of-all-retailers-who-have-cut-ties-with-mike-lindells-mypillow/

[2]  https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/us/dr-seuss-books-cease-publication-trnd/index.html

[3]  “Is Cancel Culture Canceling God? – https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/is-cancel-culture-canceling-god.html

[4]  Genesis 1

[5]  Genesis 1:26-27

[6]  Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5

[7]  Leviticus 18:22-23; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:8-11;

[8]  John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30-31; Romans 1:16; 3:20; 10:9-10; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 3:5-7; Hebrews 7:25; 9:12-14; James 2:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 3:18; 1 John 1:9; 4:9-10

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It’s the Word!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

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Secret Believers

Image Credit: Sheri Johnson, “the Jesus Chick” Website: https://thejesuschick.com/

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

A cursory reading of the Gospels can give one the impression that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day unanimously rejected the teachings of Jesus, but like all generalizations, that is not altogether true. Actually, many accepted His claims as true.

Take Nicodemus, for example. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). By this introduction, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. “The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism. The name, ‘Pharisee,’ likely comes from the Hebrew word prushim, meaning ‘separated ones,’ but it’s unclear what exactly this label signified. Some of the Pharisees’ biggest contributions to Judaism were: (1) Emphasizing the “oral tradition” (which they argued was equal to the written tradition of the Torah), (2) Extending Jewish practices into life outside the temple, (3) Instilling greater piety in “the common people,” (4) Promoting belief in the afterlife. Despite their influence on rabbinic Judaism and their prominence in the New Testament, the Pharisees are a notoriously difficult group to define. No ancient Jewish group referred to themselves as Pharisees. The label originated with people who didn’t belong to this group … Modern Christians tend to see the Pharisees in a negative light—mostly because the New Testament authors portray the Pharisees as legalistic and hypocritical. While that might describe their confrontations with Jesus and early Christians, it hardly tells the whole story of this important Jewish group.”[1]

That John identifies Nicodemus as a “ruler of the Jews” suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. This is further confirmed when this group issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest.[2] After listening to Jesus’ teachings, the officers could not bring themselves to arrest Him. When questioned why they had returned empty-handed, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Nicodemus was in that group of the Sanhedrin, and he questioned their motives. “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51).

Jesus further identified Nicodemus as “a master of Israel.”[3] The Greek word translated as “master” is didaskalos meaning “an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.” Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, therefore he came to Jesus (by night)[4] to hear directly from the source.

Nicodemus along with another named Pharisee came to believe in Jesus. The other was Joseph of Arimathaea who requested Jesus’ body for burial.[5] John notes that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” [6] That he was a “disciple” indicates that he was a “student” of Jesus. He followed Jesus (secretly) for His teaching and Joseph, like Nicodemus, believed.

They were not the only ones. John records, in our verse above, that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” “Many” suggests more than just Nicodemus and Joseph. However, they kept their discipleship to themselves for fear, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Earlier in his Gospel, John records Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind.[7] When the religious rulers questioned the man’s parents about their son’s healing, they responded, “we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:21-22, emphasis mine). The fear of excommunication held powerful sway in keeping the religious in line, but perhaps it went deeper than that. John’s assessment makes it clear, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, more of these secret disciples came out of the closet. After Pentecost, Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, emphasis mine). No matter how the elites tried to spin it, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection could not be denied except for the willfully ignorant.

Are you a secret believer, an undercover disciple, an incognito follower of Christ? Do you fear being cast out of the “synagogue” of your social or peer group? Do you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? If so, Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). If Jesus lived in an “adulterous and sinful generation” think how much truer that is for our generation! Jesus’ return is very near. You do not want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes? Don’t be a secret believer. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude. He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Notes:


[1] “Who Were the Pharisees? The Beginner’s Guide” — https://overviewbible.com/pharisees/

[2]  John 7:32

[3]  John 3:10

[4]  John 3:1

[5]  John 19:38

[6]  ibid

[7]  John 9

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