PJ

PJ

Friday, April 30, 2010

Take Some Time for This Rhyme!

Someone sent me the following youtube video. In just 1 minute and 42 seconds, this follower of Christ cuts to the quick and gets to the bottom line! You talk about giving the gospel in a creative way - wow! Please take a moment to view the video ... you won't be disappointed!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alternate Routes to God?


"Do people of other faiths have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven?" This is a question that I have been asked on more than one occasion. In fact, it's a question that all pastors face. Yesterday, I ran across a solid, biblical and down-to-earth answer that I thought would be good to pass along to you. The answer is given by Kevin DeYoung, a pastor from Michigan and an author of several books.


"Do people of other faiths have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven?"

“That’s a huge question. On one level it’s hard to answer because it feels like a trap. ‘Will he or won’t he condemn everyone to hell?’ Well, it’s not my place to give the final evaluation for anyone. And I don’t want to sit here and say that I deserve to go to heaven more than someone else.

“Because the fact of the matter is none of us can merit heaven. God is holy and we are not. No matter how sincere we are or how many good things we do, we can’t begin to approach the purity and perfection of God. So we need a Mediator, a go-between."

“The Bible teaches that God sent his Son to be our Mediator. He lived the life we couldn’t and died the death meant for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says he was counted as sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. This great exchange is only possible by faith. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him stand condemned already."

“And not because they don’t believe. God doesn’t punish people for not hearing about Jesus. He punishes us for being sinful sinners, for twisting what he has revealed to us in creation and what our own consciences tell us we should do. Without Christ, there’s no bridge between God and man, there’s no hope for a personal relationship with God, there’s no chance of being forgiven."

“Look, I realize that’s offensive to many people. But our desire is not to exclude anyone. That’s why Christians believe in sharing their faith and starting new churches. We want everyone to put their faith in Christ and be his disciples. That’s what Jesus told us to do before he ascended into heaven. But I can’t accept that good Buddhists or sincere Hindus are doing just fine, because I don’t believe Jesus is someone’s personal God. I believe he is God. He is more than a personal Lord. He is the Lord over everyone and everything whether they recognize it or not. I can’t fully honor Christ if I pretend he is just one option among many. To say what I think your viewers want me to say would be to deny all that I believe is glorious, precious, and unique about Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him."

“See, the good news is Jesus is not just my personal Savior. He is the Savior of the world. That means he’s not my possession that I try to monopolize. No, he possesses everything and will gladly forgive all who turn to him in faith and repentance. Apart from Christ, no one can be right with God, no Hindus, no Buddhists, no Muslims, least of all this sinful pastor. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved. But in Christ, there is salvation, joy, and new life for all who believe."

DeYoung is right on.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Ain't Mayberry Anymore!

I have spent the past two days in Carlisle, PA for police chaplain's training sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains. One of the points the instructor wanted to impress upon us was just how much police work has changed from a generation or so ago. He did so by showing us a couple of segments of the Andy Griffith Show (which aired from 1960-1968). The show features Andy Griffith as the sheriff of the small fictional town of Mayberry, NC. Sheriff Andy is assisted by his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (played by the natural comedian, Don Knotts). In contrast to the work of law enforcement in this tranquil town (where the worst crime is shoplifting and the sheriff does not even wear a firearm) is the violence that police officers face today. To drive this contrast home, the instructor showed a video (shot from the dash cam of a police cruiser) in which the driver of a pickup truck that was stopped, pulled out a rifle and shot the officer 27 times. It was a disturbing video to watch ... to say the least! Ultimately the killer was apprehended, tried and sentenced. But he left behind many grief stricken people!

It ain't Mayberry anymore! Times have indeed changed ... for the worse! But this should not surprise us ... if we know our Bibles, that is. Please take a moment and read the following verses:

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

So what should our response be as followers of Jesus? Entrench in fear crying out, "Woe is me. For I live among a violent, sinful people?" Hardly! Rather, we need to become more bold in proclaiming the good news of the gospel. We need to move forward into the darkness around us with the attitude of the Apostle Paul when he stated, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Solid Reminder of One Solitary Life

I ran across the following Youtube video about Jesus Christ. Take a moment (1:46 to be exact) to watch and worship our Lord!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Teen Texting on the Rise ... and the Impact on Relationships Will Be???

A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals that cell phones have become the preferred means of communication among American teens. According to the poll's findings, 75% of U.S. teens now have a cell phone ... and for 54% of them, texting is the preferred way of communicating with friends. And this trend will probably only grow.

This leads me to this question: In the long term, will all the communicating we do via technology hinder or help the quality of our relationships? I wonder. If so much of interpersonal communication involves body language and tone of voice --- how does these come across via a text message (or an email)? Hey, I am one who is quick to fire off a text or email to communicate with a friend or family member. But if I want to really communicate with someone concerning an important matter, I will do my best to do so face-to-face. So all this to say ... go ahead - use your cell phones to text and your computers to email. But PLEASE don't forgo the face-to-face communication that will really build depth in your key relationships!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why?

"Why?" is a question we learn to ask from "the get go!" "Daddy, why is the sky blue?"  "Mommy, why do fish live in water?" "Grandma, why do birds eat worms?" And on and on and on it goes. When we reach adulthood, we are still asking our Heavenly Father the "Why?" question. But now it is a bit more sophisticated. "Father, why did uncle Joe die of cancer?"  "God, why did that drunk driver crash into my friends Kyle and Sue, killing them both?" "Why did my husband lose his job?" And on and on and on it goes.

Now unlike the "Why" questions of childhood, we often cannot answer the "Why" questions of adulthood. Of course, we can point at some contributing factors behind what happens (like the danger of driving while intoxicated or the need of a company to downsize in order to survive). But these don't totally answer our "Why's." As followers of Jesus, we need to learn to be OK with that. For even though we believe that God is at work behind the scenes of life ... and has a plan and is working that plan (the theological term for this is "providence" - see Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:28), there are times we must simply "embrace the mystery." Consider the following two verses (and if you were here at Grace this past Sunday - this will be review for you):

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33) 

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

So the next time you want to ask God the "Why?" question, instead pause and simply by faith embrace the mystery. God knows the answer and he's not telling. But he is most certainly worthy of our trust!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Judgment's Coming!

It was a cold January morning when police informant Mary Johnson was found lying outsider her home having been shot multiple times in the back. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital. But before dying, she was able to identify her killer to investigators. Now a judge must rule if that confession will be admissible in the case against the defendant, "Squeeze" Williams (who had threatened Johnson's life the day before her killing). More specifically, the judge must determine if Johnson's words can be considered a "dying declaration." If so, her fingering of Williams will be allowed, as the courts have ruled in the past that statements by a person who knows he or she is dying can be admitted as evidence in court, based on the contention that most people do not lie when they are facing their own death.

Now that's interesting! People are more prone to tell the truth if they know they are about to die. Why is that? Is it perhaps because they are thinking that maybe, just maybe they will face some sort of judgment on the "other side" and so they don't want their last act be the telling of a lie? I am not sure what the answer is ... but I would offer that my guess may not be far from the truth. And speaking of the truth - there is a judgment that is coming. And it is coming for ALL of us. Now for those of us who have embraced the gospel and are now followers of Jesus, our judgment will not end in condemnation, for as Paul says, "There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). But we will still face judgment at the bema seat of Christ (please see 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). SOOOOO ... given our future date to stand before Christ's judgment seat, how do you think YOU will measure up? The standard will be God's Word. Are you in it? Are you living it?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jesus Our Advocate

When Jesus returned to heaven some 2000 years ago, he did not go to just sit around the halls of glory. No - he is our advocate. And as such, He is ACTIVE on our behalf. Yesterday I ran across the following prayer about Jesus Christ and his advocacy on our behalf. It was written by a pastor from Tennessee named Scotty Smith (what a great last name, don't you think?). It is a powerful prayer!

"Most loving Lord Jesus, this scene in Stephen's costly discipleship profoundly underscores what a wonderful, merciful and engaged Savior you really are. At the climax of his stoning he sees you standing at the right hand of the Father--rising for the very occasion of his greatest challenge, and soon to be realized death. Oh indeed, you are the Good Shepherd who cares, not the wicked hireling who disregards the plight of your lambs...


May this image supplant every wrong notion I've ever had about you "sitting at the right hand of the Father." Your "sitting" doesn't speak of passivity or inactivity. On the contrary, you are "sitting" as one in session--as the One already enthroned as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. When you completed your work of redemption for us on the cross, then and only then, did you take your seat at the right hand of God the Father, celebrating the victory of your cry, "It is finished!" And since that time all of your enemies are becoming your footstool, as your kingdom advances in time and space (Hebrews 10:12-13, John 19:30).


Jesus, forgive me for ever thinking that you've forgotten about me... don't really care about me... or have even abandoned me. I confess that sometimes, especially when life seems the hardest... most unfair... most alone... most broken, in those times I entertain these foolish, unfounded, disbelieving notions.


So, God the Holy Spirit, continue to work in my life as you did in Stephen's. Open the eyes of my heart to see more and more of the glory and grace of Jesus. Let me always be seeing "heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God," no matter if the sky is filled with the most foreboding, dark, threatening clouds imaginable, or if the sky is totally cloudless and is as Carolina blue as it is capable of being... just let me see Jesus, and it is enough.


And as I pray this for myself, I also include friends and family who are in the midst of very hard providences or Glancing at Jesus will never be enough for us... ever keep us gazing. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus' most glorious and grace-full name. the seductions of ease and prosperity."


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 16, 2010

Delays

On my journey back from Indiana the other day, I hit a potential problem when "signing in" at the self-serve Delta computer kiosk at the Fort Wayne airport. After entering all my info, viewing my itinerary and confirming that I was not checking any luggage, the computer screen issued the message, "Please see agent."  "OK," I wondered, "What's up?" So I walked up to the counter and gave my info to the agent. She worked on her computer and then informed me that there was a problem with my flight from Detroit to Harrisburg. My first thought was "Oh no, it's canceled!" But before the anxiety of spending an unwanted night in Detroit could really fill my heart - she added. "Your flight is delayed." Now that is not what I wanted to hear at that point. I was tired and I was still not feeling well (I eventually went to see my doctor yesterday - diagnosis: sinus infection). I just wanted to get home. And given that I had a 45-50 minute drive home from the airport - "delay" is not the word I wanted to hear (yet it was sure better than the word "cancel!").  The agent went on to tell me the delay was about 30 minutes (again - it could have been a lot worse!).  Well .... as it turned out, by the time I reached Detroit the flight was "on time" and we actually landed in Harrisburg ten minutes early!  Yahoo! 

All this to say -- I am a person who does not like delays (and I am guessing that is true of most of you, too!). Whether its when I traveling by plane (or car) ... or going to a doctor's appointment ... I hate delays. And what is true of my everyday life ... is also true of my prayer life. When I ask God for something .... I want to see him act NOW ... not tomorrow ... not next week .... and certainly no longer than that! I want a "God-on-demand!"  But our God does not work like that. Yes, he will always answer our prayers. Very often that answer is "Yes, but not now!"  The Bible is full of commands for us to WAIT on God (eg: Psalm 5:3 - "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.") As we learn to wait on God ... our love for Him and faith in Him will only grow (see Isaiah 40:31). So the next time you face a delay in answers to your prayers - wait on Him. He will answer in HIS time (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-11).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Prayers of the Purtians

The Puritans were an influential group of English protestants who lived during the 16th and 17th centuries. They have left behind a body of literature that impacts Christianity to this day. One of my favorite books is a book titled, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I like to read a prayer each day .... and use the prayer to focus my heart, soul and mind upon God. And these prayers do just that because these Puritans knew their God! (just reading a few prayers will show the reader that these Puritans had none of the silly thoughts about God that some modern writers today do). The other day, as I prayed through one of the prayers of this book, I came to the following lines that really spoke to my soul. I therefore, share them with you in the hopes they will also encourage your heart. 

"Let me not be at my own disposal, but rejoice that I am under the care of one who is too wise to err, too kind to injure, too tender to crush.
Help me to guide my affections with discretion, to owe no man anything, to be able to give to him that needs, to feel it my duty and pleasure to be merciful and forgiving, and to show to the world the likeness of Jesus."

Now that's a prayer of someone who knows God. I encourage you today ... make this prayer YOUR prayer!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Being Responsible

Last week I received a phone call from the Dean of Grace Seminary. After exchanging a few "Hello's" and "How are you's?" he then said, "John can I ask you for a HUGE favor?" (and he really emphasized the word "huge").  He then proceeded to ask me if I could "if at all possible" (I heard this as "please say "Yes" to what I am about to ask you because I am DESPERATE!") if I could travel to Grace this week for an important meeting with a team from the Association of Theological Schools. The team is on campus this week for an accreditation visit. He needed me as a member of the board to be present at that meeting. So I checked my date book and saw that there was nothing that would keep me from saying "yes" to his request. So today I am in lovely Winona Lake, Indiana, fulfilling my responsibility as a Grace College and Seminary Board member. God willing, I will be back home tonight.

Responsibilities. Not always convenient. Not always fun. But when they call we must step "up to the plate" and "just do it!" That's what being a faithful steward is all about (see 1 Corinthians 4:2). So whatever responsibility is before you (whether it's that of a dad or mom, an employer or an employee, a teacher or a student), be responsible - and "step up to the plate" and "just do it!" (all, of course, by God's grace and for HIS glory!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life is Short! Don't Waste It in Trivial Pursuits!

How short is our life? The Scripture tells us that our life is like "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). Wow! That's brief!!  Just today I ran across another metaphor that helps us get a grip on just how short are lives really are ... especially against the backdrop of eternity. This metaphor involves the Mayfly. If we were Mayflies, our lives would look something like this:

- Born, 7 AM
- Reach our teens, 8:57 AM
- Have kids, between 10 AM and Noon
- Reach 50th birthday, 2:30 PM
- Retire - 4:30 PM
- Die at age 80, 7 PM

Friends, talk about a "here today and gone tomorrow" sort of existence - that is you and me! In light of this, let's get intentional about the exhortation given to us by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16a when he writes, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Prayer to Be Prayed!

Yesterday, I attended a stewardship of leadership meeting. As part of that meeting, we prayed a prayer that I needed to pray ... not just yesterday, but I believe I could benefit from praying this prayer EVERY day! We live in such a fast moving world - and I am in definite need of God's help to SLOW DOWN! Here is the prayer:

Prayer for a Peaceful Spirit

Please, Lord, slow me down, ease my pounding heart, quiet my racing mind, steady my hurried steps. 
Amidst the confusion of my days, grant me the calmness of Your peace. 
Help me to know the truly restoring gift of sleep. 
Teach me the art of taking time off, to slow down to see the beauty of Your creation, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book ... or from THE GOOD BOOK. 
Remind me each day, that there is more to life than increasing its speed, it is living, each moment, with You and for You. 
Let me look upwards into the branches of a towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well. 
Please Lord, slow me down. Teach me to be gentle and humble of heart, fearing nothing of this world as you are my Lord. 
Grant me rest for my soul, now and eternally with You.

Amen.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Getting Rid of Extra Baggage!

Spirit Airlines is a small airline based in Florida (Spirit has less than two dozen planes and its 150 daily flights are about one-twentieth the flights offered by American Airlines). Given its size, I am guessing many of you have never heard of it ... let alone flown on it. But Spirit Airlines will begin doing something no other airline has yet to attempt. Starting August 1st, Spirit will begin charging for carry-on luggage. So if your carry-on must be stowed in the overhead bins, you will be charged $45 (if paid at the gate, $30 if paid in advance). If your carry-on can be stowed under the seat it will fly free! In defending this move, Spirit claims it will be dropping most base fares an average of about $40. Therefore, most passengers will not have to pay any more to fly even when paying for their carry-on.

If you have done any flying recently, you know that when the airlines began charging for checked baggage (anywhere from $20 on up per bag per way), passengers made changes in how they packed. Many began to forgo checking luggage and instead, began packing as large a carry-on AND as large a "personal item" as allowed by the airlines. This has made flying a real hassle. Trying to find space to store one's carry-on as become at best difficult and at worst impossible. This all makes me wonder: If the major airlines follow Spirit's lead, how will passengers change their packing habits? Will they stuff all they can in a small duffel bag or knapsack and squeeze it under the seat? Will they just decide to wear the same outer clothing during their travels and only pack underwear and socks (gotta have clean socks!). I guess we will just have to watch and see. . .

In the mean time, let me encourage you to take a look at any extra "baggage" you may be carrying in your life. It may be financial, emotional, physical, relational or spiritual in nature. But you may be carrying a heavy load that you need to get rid of. Are you willing to take the steps to do so? Perhaps you need to talk to a trusted and mature (in the faith) friend about your struggles. Or maybe you need to contact a counselor or pastor. Whatever the case ... don't keep breaking your back under the weight of unnecessary baggage. Determine today to take the needed steps to get rid of it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sex is Holy!

A young British couple were arrested and sentenced to one month in jail for kissing in a restaurant. It all happened in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Even though much of the very conservative social codes in cosmopolitan Dubai have been relaxed, officials there still enforce a strict decency code. And kissing in public there is considered indecent!

What a difference from here in our country where far more than just kissing is seen (or suggested) openly on prime time television and in films on the silver screen. Our society is a sex-saturated society! For those of us who are followers of Christ, we are called to a very high standard when it comes to sexuality. Given the pressure of our sex-crazed culture, we need to be reminded of this standard on a regular basis. One of the clearest statements of this standard comes to us from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 where the Apostle Paul writes,

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God."

May all of us strive to uphold this high standard and in doing so make a statement to the world around us that sex is sacred and should be treated as such! This will not be easy to do ... but we can do so ... all by God's grace and for His glory! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Truth SADDER than Fiction?

During our family lunch together on Easter Sunday, my son related to me a story he had heard about a couple in South Korea who neglected their baby while playing a video game. Their neglect was to such an extent that their infant died of malnutrition. Wanting to learn more of the details of this case, I found an article on the BBC News site that was posted in early March. According to the BBC report, "The pair fed their own premature baby just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at an internet cafe." The BBC article goes on to say that an investigating officer reported that the couple "lost their will to live a normal life after losing their jobs and they indulged themselves online to escape from reality." Unbelievable? But wait, I am not done yet. The BBC also reported that the video game they were playing was all about nurturing a virtual girl called Anima. Ouch! Here was a couple raising a virtual daughter online while their living baby in the real world starved to death!

Truth stranger than fiction? Truth SADDER than fiction might be a better summation of this case! I do not know how people can get so distorted in their view of reality that the online world becomes more real than the real world! But all of us can learn something from this. Technology is great. But it is not to be used as a replacement for the real world. Yet for many (like this couple) it has become just that. Why? In the virtual online world, a person is basically in control. But not so the real world! The real world often makes demands on us that we would rather not have to face. So ... we escape to our virtual world which is much easier to deal with. So for all the good computer technology offers - there is a down side. So be careful! Do NOT allow your real world suffer because of too much time spent in your virtual world!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - Fact or Fraud? (part 2)

Yesterday I posted the first two of four lines of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fatal torment: Jesus really did die.
Empty tomb: His tomb was and is still - empty!

Today I will offer two more: 

Appearances:  Jesus appeared to dozens of people after his resurrection. In fact, on one occasion he appeared to 500 individuals. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 the apostle Paul states concerning the resurrected Jesus that "he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living..."  This is significant for two reasons. First, if the experiences of the eye witnesses to the resurrected Jesus could be attributed to hallucinations, isn't it striking that 500 people all had the same hallucination at the same time? Also, Paul makes it quite clear that some of these eye witnesses were still living at the time he wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians. What Paul was saying to his readers was this, "If you don't believe me, contact one of these witnesses." You see, it is one thing for me to make an incredible claim about someone who lived so long in the past that any eye witnesses to his life are long gone. It is quite another to make the claim while eye witnesses still live who could affirm or discredit my claim. The gospel record is quite clear. Jesus lives and his many appearances confirm that claim.

Transformed lives:  One of the most arresting aspects of the resurrection account is the transformed lives of the disciples. Peter for example, went from denying that he even knew Jesus (and this denial to a little servant girl) to proclaiming Jesus to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem just a few weeks later. The only explanation that I can find for this abrupt and radical turnaround is the fact that Peter met the risen Jesus. Therefore, he knew that Jesus was indeed alive and ALL that Jesus taught concerning who he was and why he came was true. And this dramatically transformed his life! 

Close to 2000 years have come and gone since Jesus rose from the dead. But he is still in the business of transforming lives. I know. He transformed mine!  He wants to do the same for you! Come to him. Confess your sin and rebellion against God. Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin. Commit your life to Christ. And he will begin his work of transformation. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Thanks for stopping by .... and may you be blessed this Easter season!

pj

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - Fact or Fraud?

As I mentioned in yesterday's posting, I want to briefly overview the evidence for the resurrection with you. For either the resurrection of Christ is a terrible FRAUD ... or it is a life-changing FACT. It cannot be both. And as I have considered the evidence, I believe it powerfully points toward the latter ... that it is a FACT of time-space history which speaks to the power of God to accomplish such a feat! Today I will examine the first two of four lines of evidence for the resurrection. To help you remember these, I will use the acrostic "F.E.A.T." (which was developed by Hank Hanegraff of the Christian Research Institute).

Fatal torment: It is vital to prove that Jesus Christ actually suffered to such an extent that he died, for the obvious reason that one must be dead before one can be resurrected. But this is vitally important for another reason. One line of argument that has been leveled against the resurrection down through the centuries is the belief that Jesus did not really die on the cross. Oh, he might have come close, but he did not die. Rather he experienced a semi-comatose state that mimicked death. Those who laid his body in the tomb thought he was dead. But he was not. And during the time he was in the tomb, he slowly came back to consciousness and eventually gained enough strength to leave the tomb and reappear to his disciples. This, my friend is quite the absurd argument for these reasons: For starters, the gospel record is quite clear: Jesus was dead! When the legs of the two criminals crucified with Jesus were broken to hasten their death, Jesus' legs were not broken. Why? Because when they came to Jesus he was already dead, making the breaking of his legs unnecessary (see John 19:31-37). In addition, even IF Jesus had survived the brutality of the flogging, beatings, and crucifixion - would he have had the strength to move the stone which lay across the opening of the tomb, fight off the Roman guard posted outside the tomb and then go on to appear to his disciples in such a way that they would be convinced that he had indeed risen from the dead? I think not!  I believe there is no doubting that Jesus suffered fatal torment.

Empty Tomb: This is important for if Jesus' body were still in the tomb in which it was laid - then all discussion on whether or not the resurrection ever occurred could be forever put to rest. But the tomb was and is to this day EMPTY! Where's the evidence? Consider the following: First, there is the the story (Matthew 28) of the Roman guard as they reported back to the Jewish leaders concerning their experience of Jesus' resurrection in the predawn hours of that first Easter. The Jewish leaders had a problem on their hands - an empty tomb. To explain it, they bribed the Roman soldiers to spread the lie that the disciples had come while they were sleeping and stole the body of Jesus. That was why the tomb was empty. (Note: this is a ridiculous story, for several reasons. The Roman army's penalty for falling asleep on watch duty was death. So to think a whole contingent of soldiers would have fallen asleep is HIGHLY unlikely. In addition, to think that the disciples of Jesus would have risked a confrontation with a group of battle tested Roman soldiers is not credible. In the days following Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples spent their time behind locked doors (See John 20:19). They were afraid they were next on the execution list. Hardly in any state of mind or heart to take on the Roman guard. And lastly, if the soldiers were truly asleep - how would they know what happened to Jesus' body?). So all that to say - the Jewish leaders had an empty tomb on their hands that they had to explain. Their attempt to do so was lame at best and down right laughable at worst. In addition to this story consider also Acts 2. This is the account of the Day of Pentecost when Peter stood up IN JERUSALEM and proclaimed to a crowd of thousands the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, given that this was a mere 50 days after the crucifixion of Christ, if Jesus' body was still in the tomb just outside the walls of JERUSALEM - why didn't someone point out that fact? They didn't because the tomb where Jesus' body was laid to rest was EMPTY!

Tomorrow I will look at two additional lines of evidence for Jesus' resurrection.  Until then let me ask you ... was this event a fraud or a fact of history?

Thanks for stopping by  . . .

pj

Friday, April 30, 2010

Take Some Time for This Rhyme!

Someone sent me the following youtube video. In just 1 minute and 42 seconds, this follower of Christ cuts to the quick and gets to the bottom line! You talk about giving the gospel in a creative way - wow! Please take a moment to view the video ... you won't be disappointed!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alternate Routes to God?


"Do people of other faiths have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven?" This is a question that I have been asked on more than one occasion. In fact, it's a question that all pastors face. Yesterday, I ran across a solid, biblical and down-to-earth answer that I thought would be good to pass along to you. The answer is given by Kevin DeYoung, a pastor from Michigan and an author of several books.


"Do people of other faiths have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven?"

“That’s a huge question. On one level it’s hard to answer because it feels like a trap. ‘Will he or won’t he condemn everyone to hell?’ Well, it’s not my place to give the final evaluation for anyone. And I don’t want to sit here and say that I deserve to go to heaven more than someone else.

“Because the fact of the matter is none of us can merit heaven. God is holy and we are not. No matter how sincere we are or how many good things we do, we can’t begin to approach the purity and perfection of God. So we need a Mediator, a go-between."

“The Bible teaches that God sent his Son to be our Mediator. He lived the life we couldn’t and died the death meant for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says he was counted as sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. This great exchange is only possible by faith. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him stand condemned already."

“And not because they don’t believe. God doesn’t punish people for not hearing about Jesus. He punishes us for being sinful sinners, for twisting what he has revealed to us in creation and what our own consciences tell us we should do. Without Christ, there’s no bridge between God and man, there’s no hope for a personal relationship with God, there’s no chance of being forgiven."

“Look, I realize that’s offensive to many people. But our desire is not to exclude anyone. That’s why Christians believe in sharing their faith and starting new churches. We want everyone to put their faith in Christ and be his disciples. That’s what Jesus told us to do before he ascended into heaven. But I can’t accept that good Buddhists or sincere Hindus are doing just fine, because I don’t believe Jesus is someone’s personal God. I believe he is God. He is more than a personal Lord. He is the Lord over everyone and everything whether they recognize it or not. I can’t fully honor Christ if I pretend he is just one option among many. To say what I think your viewers want me to say would be to deny all that I believe is glorious, precious, and unique about Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him."

“See, the good news is Jesus is not just my personal Savior. He is the Savior of the world. That means he’s not my possession that I try to monopolize. No, he possesses everything and will gladly forgive all who turn to him in faith and repentance. Apart from Christ, no one can be right with God, no Hindus, no Buddhists, no Muslims, least of all this sinful pastor. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved. But in Christ, there is salvation, joy, and new life for all who believe."

DeYoung is right on.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Ain't Mayberry Anymore!

I have spent the past two days in Carlisle, PA for police chaplain's training sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains. One of the points the instructor wanted to impress upon us was just how much police work has changed from a generation or so ago. He did so by showing us a couple of segments of the Andy Griffith Show (which aired from 1960-1968). The show features Andy Griffith as the sheriff of the small fictional town of Mayberry, NC. Sheriff Andy is assisted by his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (played by the natural comedian, Don Knotts). In contrast to the work of law enforcement in this tranquil town (where the worst crime is shoplifting and the sheriff does not even wear a firearm) is the violence that police officers face today. To drive this contrast home, the instructor showed a video (shot from the dash cam of a police cruiser) in which the driver of a pickup truck that was stopped, pulled out a rifle and shot the officer 27 times. It was a disturbing video to watch ... to say the least! Ultimately the killer was apprehended, tried and sentenced. But he left behind many grief stricken people!

It ain't Mayberry anymore! Times have indeed changed ... for the worse! But this should not surprise us ... if we know our Bibles, that is. Please take a moment and read the following verses:

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

So what should our response be as followers of Jesus? Entrench in fear crying out, "Woe is me. For I live among a violent, sinful people?" Hardly! Rather, we need to become more bold in proclaiming the good news of the gospel. We need to move forward into the darkness around us with the attitude of the Apostle Paul when he stated, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Solid Reminder of One Solitary Life

I ran across the following Youtube video about Jesus Christ. Take a moment (1:46 to be exact) to watch and worship our Lord!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Teen Texting on the Rise ... and the Impact on Relationships Will Be???

A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals that cell phones have become the preferred means of communication among American teens. According to the poll's findings, 75% of U.S. teens now have a cell phone ... and for 54% of them, texting is the preferred way of communicating with friends. And this trend will probably only grow.

This leads me to this question: In the long term, will all the communicating we do via technology hinder or help the quality of our relationships? I wonder. If so much of interpersonal communication involves body language and tone of voice --- how does these come across via a text message (or an email)? Hey, I am one who is quick to fire off a text or email to communicate with a friend or family member. But if I want to really communicate with someone concerning an important matter, I will do my best to do so face-to-face. So all this to say ... go ahead - use your cell phones to text and your computers to email. But PLEASE don't forgo the face-to-face communication that will really build depth in your key relationships!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why?

"Why?" is a question we learn to ask from "the get go!" "Daddy, why is the sky blue?"  "Mommy, why do fish live in water?" "Grandma, why do birds eat worms?" And on and on and on it goes. When we reach adulthood, we are still asking our Heavenly Father the "Why?" question. But now it is a bit more sophisticated. "Father, why did uncle Joe die of cancer?"  "God, why did that drunk driver crash into my friends Kyle and Sue, killing them both?" "Why did my husband lose his job?" And on and on and on it goes.

Now unlike the "Why" questions of childhood, we often cannot answer the "Why" questions of adulthood. Of course, we can point at some contributing factors behind what happens (like the danger of driving while intoxicated or the need of a company to downsize in order to survive). But these don't totally answer our "Why's." As followers of Jesus, we need to learn to be OK with that. For even though we believe that God is at work behind the scenes of life ... and has a plan and is working that plan (the theological term for this is "providence" - see Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:28), there are times we must simply "embrace the mystery." Consider the following two verses (and if you were here at Grace this past Sunday - this will be review for you):

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33) 

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

So the next time you want to ask God the "Why?" question, instead pause and simply by faith embrace the mystery. God knows the answer and he's not telling. But he is most certainly worthy of our trust!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Judgment's Coming!

It was a cold January morning when police informant Mary Johnson was found lying outsider her home having been shot multiple times in the back. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital. But before dying, she was able to identify her killer to investigators. Now a judge must rule if that confession will be admissible in the case against the defendant, "Squeeze" Williams (who had threatened Johnson's life the day before her killing). More specifically, the judge must determine if Johnson's words can be considered a "dying declaration." If so, her fingering of Williams will be allowed, as the courts have ruled in the past that statements by a person who knows he or she is dying can be admitted as evidence in court, based on the contention that most people do not lie when they are facing their own death.

Now that's interesting! People are more prone to tell the truth if they know they are about to die. Why is that? Is it perhaps because they are thinking that maybe, just maybe they will face some sort of judgment on the "other side" and so they don't want their last act be the telling of a lie? I am not sure what the answer is ... but I would offer that my guess may not be far from the truth. And speaking of the truth - there is a judgment that is coming. And it is coming for ALL of us. Now for those of us who have embraced the gospel and are now followers of Jesus, our judgment will not end in condemnation, for as Paul says, "There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). But we will still face judgment at the bema seat of Christ (please see 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). SOOOOO ... given our future date to stand before Christ's judgment seat, how do you think YOU will measure up? The standard will be God's Word. Are you in it? Are you living it?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jesus Our Advocate

When Jesus returned to heaven some 2000 years ago, he did not go to just sit around the halls of glory. No - he is our advocate. And as such, He is ACTIVE on our behalf. Yesterday I ran across the following prayer about Jesus Christ and his advocacy on our behalf. It was written by a pastor from Tennessee named Scotty Smith (what a great last name, don't you think?). It is a powerful prayer!

"Most loving Lord Jesus, this scene in Stephen's costly discipleship profoundly underscores what a wonderful, merciful and engaged Savior you really are. At the climax of his stoning he sees you standing at the right hand of the Father--rising for the very occasion of his greatest challenge, and soon to be realized death. Oh indeed, you are the Good Shepherd who cares, not the wicked hireling who disregards the plight of your lambs...


May this image supplant every wrong notion I've ever had about you "sitting at the right hand of the Father." Your "sitting" doesn't speak of passivity or inactivity. On the contrary, you are "sitting" as one in session--as the One already enthroned as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. When you completed your work of redemption for us on the cross, then and only then, did you take your seat at the right hand of God the Father, celebrating the victory of your cry, "It is finished!" And since that time all of your enemies are becoming your footstool, as your kingdom advances in time and space (Hebrews 10:12-13, John 19:30).


Jesus, forgive me for ever thinking that you've forgotten about me... don't really care about me... or have even abandoned me. I confess that sometimes, especially when life seems the hardest... most unfair... most alone... most broken, in those times I entertain these foolish, unfounded, disbelieving notions.


So, God the Holy Spirit, continue to work in my life as you did in Stephen's. Open the eyes of my heart to see more and more of the glory and grace of Jesus. Let me always be seeing "heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God," no matter if the sky is filled with the most foreboding, dark, threatening clouds imaginable, or if the sky is totally cloudless and is as Carolina blue as it is capable of being... just let me see Jesus, and it is enough.


And as I pray this for myself, I also include friends and family who are in the midst of very hard providences or Glancing at Jesus will never be enough for us... ever keep us gazing. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus' most glorious and grace-full name. the seductions of ease and prosperity."


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 16, 2010

Delays

On my journey back from Indiana the other day, I hit a potential problem when "signing in" at the self-serve Delta computer kiosk at the Fort Wayne airport. After entering all my info, viewing my itinerary and confirming that I was not checking any luggage, the computer screen issued the message, "Please see agent."  "OK," I wondered, "What's up?" So I walked up to the counter and gave my info to the agent. She worked on her computer and then informed me that there was a problem with my flight from Detroit to Harrisburg. My first thought was "Oh no, it's canceled!" But before the anxiety of spending an unwanted night in Detroit could really fill my heart - she added. "Your flight is delayed." Now that is not what I wanted to hear at that point. I was tired and I was still not feeling well (I eventually went to see my doctor yesterday - diagnosis: sinus infection). I just wanted to get home. And given that I had a 45-50 minute drive home from the airport - "delay" is not the word I wanted to hear (yet it was sure better than the word "cancel!").  The agent went on to tell me the delay was about 30 minutes (again - it could have been a lot worse!).  Well .... as it turned out, by the time I reached Detroit the flight was "on time" and we actually landed in Harrisburg ten minutes early!  Yahoo! 

All this to say -- I am a person who does not like delays (and I am guessing that is true of most of you, too!). Whether its when I traveling by plane (or car) ... or going to a doctor's appointment ... I hate delays. And what is true of my everyday life ... is also true of my prayer life. When I ask God for something .... I want to see him act NOW ... not tomorrow ... not next week .... and certainly no longer than that! I want a "God-on-demand!"  But our God does not work like that. Yes, he will always answer our prayers. Very often that answer is "Yes, but not now!"  The Bible is full of commands for us to WAIT on God (eg: Psalm 5:3 - "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.") As we learn to wait on God ... our love for Him and faith in Him will only grow (see Isaiah 40:31). So the next time you face a delay in answers to your prayers - wait on Him. He will answer in HIS time (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-11).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Prayers of the Purtians

The Puritans were an influential group of English protestants who lived during the 16th and 17th centuries. They have left behind a body of literature that impacts Christianity to this day. One of my favorite books is a book titled, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I like to read a prayer each day .... and use the prayer to focus my heart, soul and mind upon God. And these prayers do just that because these Puritans knew their God! (just reading a few prayers will show the reader that these Puritans had none of the silly thoughts about God that some modern writers today do). The other day, as I prayed through one of the prayers of this book, I came to the following lines that really spoke to my soul. I therefore, share them with you in the hopes they will also encourage your heart. 

"Let me not be at my own disposal, but rejoice that I am under the care of one who is too wise to err, too kind to injure, too tender to crush.
Help me to guide my affections with discretion, to owe no man anything, to be able to give to him that needs, to feel it my duty and pleasure to be merciful and forgiving, and to show to the world the likeness of Jesus."

Now that's a prayer of someone who knows God. I encourage you today ... make this prayer YOUR prayer!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Being Responsible

Last week I received a phone call from the Dean of Grace Seminary. After exchanging a few "Hello's" and "How are you's?" he then said, "John can I ask you for a HUGE favor?" (and he really emphasized the word "huge").  He then proceeded to ask me if I could "if at all possible" (I heard this as "please say "Yes" to what I am about to ask you because I am DESPERATE!") if I could travel to Grace this week for an important meeting with a team from the Association of Theological Schools. The team is on campus this week for an accreditation visit. He needed me as a member of the board to be present at that meeting. So I checked my date book and saw that there was nothing that would keep me from saying "yes" to his request. So today I am in lovely Winona Lake, Indiana, fulfilling my responsibility as a Grace College and Seminary Board member. God willing, I will be back home tonight.

Responsibilities. Not always convenient. Not always fun. But when they call we must step "up to the plate" and "just do it!" That's what being a faithful steward is all about (see 1 Corinthians 4:2). So whatever responsibility is before you (whether it's that of a dad or mom, an employer or an employee, a teacher or a student), be responsible - and "step up to the plate" and "just do it!" (all, of course, by God's grace and for HIS glory!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life is Short! Don't Waste It in Trivial Pursuits!

How short is our life? The Scripture tells us that our life is like "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). Wow! That's brief!!  Just today I ran across another metaphor that helps us get a grip on just how short are lives really are ... especially against the backdrop of eternity. This metaphor involves the Mayfly. If we were Mayflies, our lives would look something like this:

- Born, 7 AM
- Reach our teens, 8:57 AM
- Have kids, between 10 AM and Noon
- Reach 50th birthday, 2:30 PM
- Retire - 4:30 PM
- Die at age 80, 7 PM

Friends, talk about a "here today and gone tomorrow" sort of existence - that is you and me! In light of this, let's get intentional about the exhortation given to us by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16a when he writes, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Prayer to Be Prayed!

Yesterday, I attended a stewardship of leadership meeting. As part of that meeting, we prayed a prayer that I needed to pray ... not just yesterday, but I believe I could benefit from praying this prayer EVERY day! We live in such a fast moving world - and I am in definite need of God's help to SLOW DOWN! Here is the prayer:

Prayer for a Peaceful Spirit

Please, Lord, slow me down, ease my pounding heart, quiet my racing mind, steady my hurried steps. 
Amidst the confusion of my days, grant me the calmness of Your peace. 
Help me to know the truly restoring gift of sleep. 
Teach me the art of taking time off, to slow down to see the beauty of Your creation, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book ... or from THE GOOD BOOK. 
Remind me each day, that there is more to life than increasing its speed, it is living, each moment, with You and for You. 
Let me look upwards into the branches of a towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well. 
Please Lord, slow me down. Teach me to be gentle and humble of heart, fearing nothing of this world as you are my Lord. 
Grant me rest for my soul, now and eternally with You.

Amen.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Getting Rid of Extra Baggage!

Spirit Airlines is a small airline based in Florida (Spirit has less than two dozen planes and its 150 daily flights are about one-twentieth the flights offered by American Airlines). Given its size, I am guessing many of you have never heard of it ... let alone flown on it. But Spirit Airlines will begin doing something no other airline has yet to attempt. Starting August 1st, Spirit will begin charging for carry-on luggage. So if your carry-on must be stowed in the overhead bins, you will be charged $45 (if paid at the gate, $30 if paid in advance). If your carry-on can be stowed under the seat it will fly free! In defending this move, Spirit claims it will be dropping most base fares an average of about $40. Therefore, most passengers will not have to pay any more to fly even when paying for their carry-on.

If you have done any flying recently, you know that when the airlines began charging for checked baggage (anywhere from $20 on up per bag per way), passengers made changes in how they packed. Many began to forgo checking luggage and instead, began packing as large a carry-on AND as large a "personal item" as allowed by the airlines. This has made flying a real hassle. Trying to find space to store one's carry-on as become at best difficult and at worst impossible. This all makes me wonder: If the major airlines follow Spirit's lead, how will passengers change their packing habits? Will they stuff all they can in a small duffel bag or knapsack and squeeze it under the seat? Will they just decide to wear the same outer clothing during their travels and only pack underwear and socks (gotta have clean socks!). I guess we will just have to watch and see. . .

In the mean time, let me encourage you to take a look at any extra "baggage" you may be carrying in your life. It may be financial, emotional, physical, relational or spiritual in nature. But you may be carrying a heavy load that you need to get rid of. Are you willing to take the steps to do so? Perhaps you need to talk to a trusted and mature (in the faith) friend about your struggles. Or maybe you need to contact a counselor or pastor. Whatever the case ... don't keep breaking your back under the weight of unnecessary baggage. Determine today to take the needed steps to get rid of it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sex is Holy!

A young British couple were arrested and sentenced to one month in jail for kissing in a restaurant. It all happened in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Even though much of the very conservative social codes in cosmopolitan Dubai have been relaxed, officials there still enforce a strict decency code. And kissing in public there is considered indecent!

What a difference from here in our country where far more than just kissing is seen (or suggested) openly on prime time television and in films on the silver screen. Our society is a sex-saturated society! For those of us who are followers of Christ, we are called to a very high standard when it comes to sexuality. Given the pressure of our sex-crazed culture, we need to be reminded of this standard on a regular basis. One of the clearest statements of this standard comes to us from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 where the Apostle Paul writes,

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God."

May all of us strive to uphold this high standard and in doing so make a statement to the world around us that sex is sacred and should be treated as such! This will not be easy to do ... but we can do so ... all by God's grace and for His glory! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Truth SADDER than Fiction?

During our family lunch together on Easter Sunday, my son related to me a story he had heard about a couple in South Korea who neglected their baby while playing a video game. Their neglect was to such an extent that their infant died of malnutrition. Wanting to learn more of the details of this case, I found an article on the BBC News site that was posted in early March. According to the BBC report, "The pair fed their own premature baby just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at an internet cafe." The BBC article goes on to say that an investigating officer reported that the couple "lost their will to live a normal life after losing their jobs and they indulged themselves online to escape from reality." Unbelievable? But wait, I am not done yet. The BBC also reported that the video game they were playing was all about nurturing a virtual girl called Anima. Ouch! Here was a couple raising a virtual daughter online while their living baby in the real world starved to death!

Truth stranger than fiction? Truth SADDER than fiction might be a better summation of this case! I do not know how people can get so distorted in their view of reality that the online world becomes more real than the real world! But all of us can learn something from this. Technology is great. But it is not to be used as a replacement for the real world. Yet for many (like this couple) it has become just that. Why? In the virtual online world, a person is basically in control. But not so the real world! The real world often makes demands on us that we would rather not have to face. So ... we escape to our virtual world which is much easier to deal with. So for all the good computer technology offers - there is a down side. So be careful! Do NOT allow your real world suffer because of too much time spent in your virtual world!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - Fact or Fraud? (part 2)

Yesterday I posted the first two of four lines of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fatal torment: Jesus really did die.
Empty tomb: His tomb was and is still - empty!

Today I will offer two more: 

Appearances:  Jesus appeared to dozens of people after his resurrection. In fact, on one occasion he appeared to 500 individuals. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 the apostle Paul states concerning the resurrected Jesus that "he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living..."  This is significant for two reasons. First, if the experiences of the eye witnesses to the resurrected Jesus could be attributed to hallucinations, isn't it striking that 500 people all had the same hallucination at the same time? Also, Paul makes it quite clear that some of these eye witnesses were still living at the time he wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians. What Paul was saying to his readers was this, "If you don't believe me, contact one of these witnesses." You see, it is one thing for me to make an incredible claim about someone who lived so long in the past that any eye witnesses to his life are long gone. It is quite another to make the claim while eye witnesses still live who could affirm or discredit my claim. The gospel record is quite clear. Jesus lives and his many appearances confirm that claim.

Transformed lives:  One of the most arresting aspects of the resurrection account is the transformed lives of the disciples. Peter for example, went from denying that he even knew Jesus (and this denial to a little servant girl) to proclaiming Jesus to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem just a few weeks later. The only explanation that I can find for this abrupt and radical turnaround is the fact that Peter met the risen Jesus. Therefore, he knew that Jesus was indeed alive and ALL that Jesus taught concerning who he was and why he came was true. And this dramatically transformed his life! 

Close to 2000 years have come and gone since Jesus rose from the dead. But he is still in the business of transforming lives. I know. He transformed mine!  He wants to do the same for you! Come to him. Confess your sin and rebellion against God. Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin. Commit your life to Christ. And he will begin his work of transformation. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Thanks for stopping by .... and may you be blessed this Easter season!

pj

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - Fact or Fraud?

As I mentioned in yesterday's posting, I want to briefly overview the evidence for the resurrection with you. For either the resurrection of Christ is a terrible FRAUD ... or it is a life-changing FACT. It cannot be both. And as I have considered the evidence, I believe it powerfully points toward the latter ... that it is a FACT of time-space history which speaks to the power of God to accomplish such a feat! Today I will examine the first two of four lines of evidence for the resurrection. To help you remember these, I will use the acrostic "F.E.A.T." (which was developed by Hank Hanegraff of the Christian Research Institute).

Fatal torment: It is vital to prove that Jesus Christ actually suffered to such an extent that he died, for the obvious reason that one must be dead before one can be resurrected. But this is vitally important for another reason. One line of argument that has been leveled against the resurrection down through the centuries is the belief that Jesus did not really die on the cross. Oh, he might have come close, but he did not die. Rather he experienced a semi-comatose state that mimicked death. Those who laid his body in the tomb thought he was dead. But he was not. And during the time he was in the tomb, he slowly came back to consciousness and eventually gained enough strength to leave the tomb and reappear to his disciples. This, my friend is quite the absurd argument for these reasons: For starters, the gospel record is quite clear: Jesus was dead! When the legs of the two criminals crucified with Jesus were broken to hasten their death, Jesus' legs were not broken. Why? Because when they came to Jesus he was already dead, making the breaking of his legs unnecessary (see John 19:31-37). In addition, even IF Jesus had survived the brutality of the flogging, beatings, and crucifixion - would he have had the strength to move the stone which lay across the opening of the tomb, fight off the Roman guard posted outside the tomb and then go on to appear to his disciples in such a way that they would be convinced that he had indeed risen from the dead? I think not!  I believe there is no doubting that Jesus suffered fatal torment.

Empty Tomb: This is important for if Jesus' body were still in the tomb in which it was laid - then all discussion on whether or not the resurrection ever occurred could be forever put to rest. But the tomb was and is to this day EMPTY! Where's the evidence? Consider the following: First, there is the the story (Matthew 28) of the Roman guard as they reported back to the Jewish leaders concerning their experience of Jesus' resurrection in the predawn hours of that first Easter. The Jewish leaders had a problem on their hands - an empty tomb. To explain it, they bribed the Roman soldiers to spread the lie that the disciples had come while they were sleeping and stole the body of Jesus. That was why the tomb was empty. (Note: this is a ridiculous story, for several reasons. The Roman army's penalty for falling asleep on watch duty was death. So to think a whole contingent of soldiers would have fallen asleep is HIGHLY unlikely. In addition, to think that the disciples of Jesus would have risked a confrontation with a group of battle tested Roman soldiers is not credible. In the days following Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples spent their time behind locked doors (See John 20:19). They were afraid they were next on the execution list. Hardly in any state of mind or heart to take on the Roman guard. And lastly, if the soldiers were truly asleep - how would they know what happened to Jesus' body?). So all that to say - the Jewish leaders had an empty tomb on their hands that they had to explain. Their attempt to do so was lame at best and down right laughable at worst. In addition to this story consider also Acts 2. This is the account of the Day of Pentecost when Peter stood up IN JERUSALEM and proclaimed to a crowd of thousands the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, given that this was a mere 50 days after the crucifixion of Christ, if Jesus' body was still in the tomb just outside the walls of JERUSALEM - why didn't someone point out that fact? They didn't because the tomb where Jesus' body was laid to rest was EMPTY!

Tomorrow I will look at two additional lines of evidence for Jesus' resurrection.  Until then let me ask you ... was this event a fraud or a fact of history?

Thanks for stopping by  . . .

pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.