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Monday, September 15, 2014

I Am Labeled


Luke 19
Jesus and Zacchaeus
(Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Labels. We are obsessed with them. Life makes more sense when everything and everyone is placed into an easy-to-define category. Because of that, we tend to believe that one’s label is also their identity. In the story, Zacchaeus is called a chief tax collector, rich, small, a sinner, saved, and a son of Abraham. Whew!! See…the problem is that there are so many labels being thrown around that it becomes easy to lose track of who we are. Parents and teachers try to tell you who you should be. Friends try to tell you who they want you to be. Peers and social media try to tell you who they think you are………but who do you think you are? And is who you are different from who you want to be?


Who are you?


Do you see yourself as you believe others see you – or perhaps tell you? These tend to be the labels we fixate on the most, aren’t they? Probably because these are the labels that either hit on our insecurities or we feel are not accurate. These are the labels that are judging us by our outside covers. I feel that to the world, I am sarcastic. I am funny. I am outgoing. I am mean. I am angry. I am self-centered.


Whether or not that’s how people actually see me is irrelevant. It’s how I believe they see me…and I don’t like it. I feel these labels are not true. I feel that I am more than that. The question is – do I allow these labels to define me? To identify me? I think many of us do.


Who are you?


Are you the labeler? Watch this familiar scene. See if you notice what’s going on.


I know the focus of this movie is on the mean girls. That’s the title of the movie. Naturally, they’re the bad guys, right? But in this scene, where were the labels coming from? Not the mean girls. They were coming from the good guys in the story. Even the mean girls had a label. It happened in our story of Zacchaeus too. The Jews were the victims of Zacchaeus’s crookedness. While collecting taxes for the Romans, Zacchaeus would tell the Jews that the taxes were higher than they actually were—then keep the difference. So when Jesus said that He was going to eat dinner with Zacchaeus, the people were stunned. “This guy?! But he’s a sinner!! He’s a thief!! A traitor!!” The victims were judging Zacchaeus by his outward appearance, not the change he had made internally. We’re all guilty of this, and to say otherwise is a lie. In junior high and high school, I loathed the preps and the jocks. Notice the labels? I felt that they looked down on the rest of us, judging us in their superior way…yet I was no different. I didn’t know them – and there I was, judging their outward appearance.


Isn’t it ironic how much we hate being labeled by others, yet are so quick to do it ourselves? Perhaps if we spent less time trying to place identities on others, we would have a better understanding of who we are.


Who are you?


How do you see yourself? When I look in the mirror, I see a husband. A son. A brother. Uncle. Friend. I am loyal. I am humble. Shy. Busy. Intelligent. Overweight. Lonely. Caring. Loving. Insecure.  Is this who I am? Is this my identity or am I also merely judging my autobiography from its cover? What is my true identity? Who am I?


Who are you?


This obsession we have with our identity is not only unhealthy, it’s unnecessary. We waste so much time trying to figure out who we are, when we’re told in the Bible who we are. We worship the labels, not the God who has given us our true identity.


Who are you?


You are not the logo on your shirt. You are not the car in the garage. You are not your possessions. You are not your lunchroom clique. You are not your job title. You are not your race. You are not your gender. You are not your sexual preference. You are not your country. You are not your favorite celebrity. You are not your parents. You are not your siblings. You are not a political party. You are not your disease or disorder. You are not your school’s mascot. You are not your hair color. You are not your favorite band.


These things may explain you, but they don’t define you. I want you to hear that. Your sufferings may explain you. Your income might explain you. Your health, your beauty, your age, your relationship status, your IQ, your GPA, your extra-curriculars, your car, the clothes you wear—those things might explain you, but they don’t define you. They don’t define youMark Driscoll.


God defines you.


Who does God say you are? You are His child (John 1:12)…You are His friend (John 15:15)…You are accepted (Romans 15:7)…You are set free (Galatians 5:1)…You are blessed (Ephesians 1:3)…You are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)…You are a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)…You are loved and chosen (1 Thessalonians 1:4).


These labels are given, not earned. God gives them to you. There is no class or social order. I am no more and no less valuable than you. You are no more and no less valuable than the person next to you. You cannot work harder to receive these labels. You cannot pray harder to receive them. You cannot be perfect. God loves you. He has chosen…you. All you have to do, is accept that.


Before Zacchaeus met Jesus, he struggled with his identity. He was a crooked man internally, and that was reflected through his outward actions. Consequently, the world saw him as a crook. When he met Jesus, he immediately changed on the inside. His identity became clear. This change was reflected in his outward actions as he gave back to those he had stolen from more than he took from them.


We place labels on things and on people. Labels are external. Identity is who you are. It’s internal. Like Zacchaeus, without Jesus, we struggle to know who we are. We allow our labels to define us. To become our identity. When we meet and accept Jesus, however, our one true identity becomes clear. That clarity allows us to address our labels through our outward actions.


I’m a sarcastic person, but recently, I realized that I had become so sarcastic, that I was starting to come across as grumpy, unfriendly, and mean…so I decided to make a change. I’m not those things on the inside, but my outward actions were not showing that. This year, I am outwardly trying to better display my heart. I’m still a sarcastic person, but instead of allowing that label to define me, I am attempting to show my true identity through Christ.



What is that one identity given to me by God? Who am I? I am…Josh


Who are you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Am...


It’s difficult to decide whether growing pains are something teenagers have – or are – unknown.

 

Like that? How about this one:

Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years – unknown.

 

Or this:

The teenager seems to have replaced the Communist as the appropriate target for public controversy and foreboding – Edgar Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent.

 

It’s easy and common for adults to simultaneously make fun of and fear teenagers. Why not? One minute they’re giggling uncontrollably for no reason at all…the next, they’re sobbing uncontrollably for no reason at all. Psychologically, teenagers carry nearly the exact same characteristics of someone suffering from bi-polarism. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time we begin looking at teenagers like this:

 

Don’t laugh at a youth for his affections; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own – Logan Pearsall Smith, “Age and Death,” Afterthoughts.

 

Or even this:

Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves – Virginia Satir, The New Peoplemaking.

 

In our society, we obsess over labels and identity. Jesus never had that problem. In John 8, when the Jews asked Him who He was, Jesus responded, “I am.” Jesus knows precisely who He is; consequently, we know precisely who He is.

 

But who am I? Where do I fit into this chaos called life? These are questions adults ask themselves from time-to-time, but they are also questions that teenagers are asking for the first time.

 

In classic psychology, there are eight stages of life. As one exits a stage and enters another, a kind of life-crisis happens. It’s like in weather – when a new front passes through, a storm occurs. Well, pre-teen and early teenagers are at the beginning of the stage known as adolescence, so right now, that life-crisis…that storm…is taking place. They are looking for their identity in this world. A direction into adulthood.

 

Our children grow up looking up to us. Our truths are their truths. What they see in us is what they believe the world to be. We are infallible. Then these children become adolescents, and their eyes begin to open. They see the world beyond the walls of their home. They see our faults and failures. We may try to hide them or explain them away as something to be understood when these teens are older, but the fact of the matter is that our teens are trying to make sense of it now. They’re confused because what they’re witnessing goes against everything they’ve known their whole life. They’re searching for truth. They’re searching for understanding. They’re searching for identity. Meanwhile…they’re watching.

 

Teenagers are some of the most observant humans on the planet. Sure, they’ll forget to do their chores or space out when we’re talking, but they’re watching us. Where do we fit in? How do we handle the truths of the world that they are now awakening to? Teenagers don’t want to do their homework, but they are craving to learn. We cannot continue to shield them from the world that’s awaiting them, but we can help ease the transition by humbling ourselves and opening up.

 

I am faulted. I am confused. Angry. Stressed. The thing is…I have a Savior who accepts these issues from me. Now, just because Jesus is in my life does not mean I don’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated. However, because Jesus is in my life, I know that I have Someone that I can take these issues to. Someone who gives me the strength and ability to persevere through the truths of this world. And because of that, I also know that I am blessed. Happy. Loved. These are the truths we will be speaking on this year at Wyldlife and I will be writing on here. The goal is to embrace this teenaged road of identity-seeking and provide the GPS coordinates to their next destination in order to help them better weather this storm.

 

Perhaps then, our adolescents can understand this:

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them – when in fact that is the only time it is for them – Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jesus IS Alive (Jesus Is Resurrected: What It Means)

The Bible is a history book.  Even non-believing historians acknowledge that the Bible is the most historically accurate book ever written.  With that in mind, this historically accurate book says that Jesus—this real human being—died and rose again.

Skeptics accept that Jesus died.  They accept that the tomb was empty.  They accept that He was seen alive again.  They accept all of this as fact.  Skeptics try to explain away these facts, but they do not question the authenticity of them.  They have yet to present a single shred of proof that it did not happen.  All evidence says that it did.

I’m through trying to prove Jesus.  Christianity isn’t about following some entity blindly.  The proof is there for all see.  In his book The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel writes that “Christianity can stand up to rational analysis and rugged scrutiny…(as)…no discovery has ever disproved a biblical reference.”  The burden of proof now lies with the skeptic who insists on fighting the resurrection.  We move on to a much larger issue: What does it all mean?

The resurrection is the centerpiece of the Christian faith.  It is impossible to not believe the resurrection and be a Christian.  There is no maybe.  There is no middle ground.  If you don’t believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, you’re not a ChristianPerry Noble.

If Jesus does not return to life on the third day, Christianity ceases to exist.  The disciples were scattered.  Hiding.  Afraid for their lives.  There was no intention to continue Jesus’s mission.  Even if there was, who would listen?  Everyone would point to the tomb and say, “Your leader is dead!!  What makes your message so special?”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that “if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.”  If Jesus stays dead, the New Testament is never written.  Christianity doesn’t become the most-followed religion in the world two thousand years later.  Jesus doesn’t become the most famous man in history.

If Jesus only died, a few billion people today would not worship him.  Two men were crucified with Jesus, and people aren’t trying to figure out more about their life.  We know nothing of those men.  We don’t even know their names.  Why?  They died.  Jesus rose.  That made him distinct and uniqueMark Driscoll.

Jesus did rise, and His resurrection is arguably the greatest proof we have that He is who He said He is: God.  Man can kill man.  Man cannot kill God.  Matt Perman writes, “If He is God, He speaks with absolute certainty and final authority.  Therefore, what Jesus said about the Bible must be true.  Surely you are going to accept the testimony of one who rose from the dead over the testimony of a skeptical scholar who will one day die himself—without being able to raise himself on the third day.”

Why is Christ’s resurrection so important?  Because it validates everything He told us, including, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  Jesus promises us life.  A gift we don’t deserve.  Adam and Eve were never intended to die.  Sin brought death into the world.

The price of sin is death.  Since we are all sinners, we have a debt to pay.  However, Jesus—the only human to never sin—gave His life for us.  He paid that debt for us.  The flogging across His back?  The nails in His wrists and feet?  The spear in His side?  That is the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins.  That is how much God detests sin.

But as much as God loathes sin, He loves us infinitely more.  He loves you and me so much that He was willing to put His Son through all of that pain and anguish so that we didn’t have to (1 John 4:10).  Jesus loves you and me so much that He willingly suffered to that extent.

His death was in our place, solely for our benefit, and without benefit for himself.  He took the penalty for our sins so that we don’t have to suffer that penalty.  The wrath of God that should’ve fallen on us and the death that our sins merit instead fell on JesusDriscoll.

Jesus rose again to show us that death is not the end (Revelation 21:4).  Christians follow Christ.  We follow Him to the cross.  We follow Him into death.  And through Him, we follow into eternal life (1 Thessalonians 4:14).  We celebrate the resurrection because it is a celebration of our promised resurrection.  Perry Noble writes, “The end of our lives on Earth is the end of a chapter, not the end of everything.”

Imagine a life without fear.  We do not need to fear death.  You have life because of Jesus.  This is a gift He has given to you for no other reason than He loves you.  It’s not because you did something that impressed Him.  It’s not because you’re a better person than the guy or girl next to you.  It’s not because you avoid rated R movies and violent video games.  It is simply because Christ loves you this much.  All you have to do is accept that gift.  Accept His sacrifice.  Accept His love.

If you have never done so, and you want to know more—or you’re ready to do so now—please contact me.  Message me here or on Facebook.  We’ll talk it out.  We can meet somewhere and do it that way if you prefer, but don’t let another second go by without knowing this love.  This peace.  This joy.

I know that John 3:16 is an overused, cliché verse, but read it again with fresh eyes and a new heart.  Let the words—the meaning of the words—truly sink in for the first time.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus Is NOT a Ghost (Jesus Is Resurrected: He Rose)

Dr. Gary Habermas: “Science is all about causes and effects.  We don’t see dinosaurs; we study the fossils.  We may not know how a disease originates, but we study its symptoms.  Maybe nobody witnesses a crime, but police piece together the evidence after the fact.  So here’s how I look at the evidence for the Resurrection: First, did Jesus die on the cross?  And second, did he appear later to people?  If you can establish those two things, you’ve made your case, because dead people don’t normally do that” (The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).


“(Jesus) was seen by Peter, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brothers and sisters at once…After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).  Here, Paul lists the names of the witnesses—most of whom were still alive.  If the resurrection had not occurred, why would he give specific names?  He would immediately lose all credibility with such an obvious lie.  Understand that at that time, if you could produce two witnesses to an event, it was accepted as true.  There were over five hundred who witnessed Jesus alive.  Not one of them claimed that Paul was lying.

Jesus appeared to them, alive and well and in bodily form.  He was not a zombie.  He was not a mummy.  He was not a ghost.  He ate with them (Luke 24:41-43).  They touched Him (John 20:24-28).  The biggest question in history is…How is this possible?

Hallucinated:
Believe it or not, one of the popular beliefs today is that Jesus was a hallucination.  Some people claim that the disciples were so saddened over the crucifixion that their desire to see Jesus again caused a mass hallucination.

This theory is adamantly dismissed by psychologists, who point out that hallucinations are individual occurrences.  One person may have hallucinated Jesus, but not over five hundred at the same time.  Furthermore, the person would need to be in a frame of mind where they wanted to see that person.  Paul had no desire to see Jesus.  In fact, until he saw Jesus alive, it was his job to catch Christians, arrest, and sometimes kill them.  Seeing the physical body of Christ alive changed him.

Legend:
legend (n): A story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true.

Some skeptics claim the resurrection story is nothing more than a legend.  Basically, they’re saying that over time, the story would have grown and been embellished as it was passed on.  There are two major problems with this theory: 

First, you can historically fact-check the events of Christ’s resurrection.  You cannot do that with a legend.

Second, legends simply do not develop while multiple eyewitnesses are alive to refute them.  Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi: “The scriptures of Buddha, who lived in the sixth century B.C., were not put into writing until after the Christian era, and the first biography of Buddha was in the first century A.D.  Muhammad lived from A.D. 570 to 632, yet his biography was not written until 767” (The Case for Christ).  Within weeks of it happening, the disciples were preaching the resurrection.  Within 2-8 years, the story was written down.  Historians say that it takes 100-200 years for a legend to develop…not 2-8.  The resurrection news spread too soon and too quickly for it to have been a legend.

A German theologian named Julius Muller issued a challenge in 1844.  He dared anyone to find a single example of a legend developing this fast anywhere else in history.  In the 170 years that have followed, not one person has provided a response (The Case for Christ). 

Lie:
One weak argument is that the disciples were flat-out lying.  First, the disciples shared this story in the very city Jesus was murdered and buried.  It would have been impossible for them to preach this message for a single hour if people knew and could prove that it was a lie (John Piper).

Also, no one has ever explained why the disciples would have been willing to die for a known lie.  The Jewish and Roman leaders did not want this story told, so they arrested, tortured, and executed those who did.  To be a willing martyr for a known lie is insanity.  Men will die for what they believe to be true.  They do not, however, die for what they know is a lie (Matt Perman).

Conversion of Skeptics:
This change in the disciple’s behavior is arguably the biggest proof of the resurrection.  Remember…at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, these guys ran and hid.  Within a short time, however, we see a dramatic change.  They begin speaking to large crowds and openly declaring that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They defied orders threatening them with imprisonment if they continued to speak about Jesus.  They courageously faced beatings and death threats because they preached that Jesus was alive and was the Messiah (Jesus Christ: The Real Story by The United Church of God).  This change has stumped historians, psychologists, and skeptics alike: How these eleven former cowards were suddenly willing to suffer humiliation, torture, and death (Perman). 

It wasn’t just the transformation in the disciples either.  Those who screamed for Christ to be crucified began worshipping Him as God.  Jesus’s own brothers (James and Jude)—who previously believed Him to be a fraud His whole life—began worshipping Him as God.  Again—Paul was arresting and murdering Christians until he saw the resurrected Jesus—and he went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament.

No one has ever been able to explain these sudden changes.

Unless…

They saw Jesus Christ alive after they knew He was dead.  They spoke with Him.  They touched Him.  They ate with Him.

Bottom Line:
Experts say that the theory that best explains the evidence is the most likely to be true.  Christ rising from the dead is the only theory that has ever been offered that explains all of the evidence.  If one denies the resurrection, they must come up with three independent natural explanations with documented evidence to support all three, not just one (Perman).  Due to that, biblical and skeptical scholars agree: The resurrection of Jesus was a real event in history, not some myth or story.  Christ’s risen appearances are as well authenticated—proven as fact—as anything in history.
 

Next post: What it all means.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jesus Is NOT a Mummy (Jesus Is Resurrected: The Empty Tomb)

We know that Jesus died on the cross.  All evidence supports this.  He was then wrapped in linen and placed in the tomb.  When the women arrived at dawn on Sunday, Christ was gone.  Some skeptics try to pick apart the Bible here: Was there one angel or two?  Did the women witness the stone rolled away or was it already moved?  One can focus on the inconsistencies all they want, but one major fact remains consistent: Jesus was no longer there.  The question is…What happened?

The Bible tells us that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb that Joseph had reserved for himself.  Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish nation.  He would have been a TMZ-quality celebrity, as everyone knew members of the Sanhedrin.  Because Joseph was so well-known, it also would have been well-known where this tomb was…meaning most people would know where Christ was buried.  If this story was a lie, it would have been extremely easy for Jewish leaders to point that out and those writing the Bible would have been discredited as frauds.

Some remembered that Jesus claimed that He would return from death, so to make sure nothing happened, precautions were put in place.  First: There was a slanted groove that led down to a low entrance, and a large disk-shaped stone was rolled down this groove and into place across the door.  Although it would have been easy to roll the stone into the groove, it would have taken several men to roll it back up in order to reopen the tomb (The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).  Furthermore, they sealed the stone and the opening with a type of clay or wax.



Finally, the Romans assigned a 24-hour watch at the tomb with a trained guard unit of four-to-sixteen soldiers.  Josh McDowell notes that these were not ordinary soldiers.  “When that guard unit failed in any way—falling asleep or leaving their position, for example—(they would be) stripped of their own clothes (and) burned alive in a fire started with their own garments or they (would be) crucified upside down.”  It simply would have been impossible for anyone to have slipped by the guards and moved a two-ton stone.

The fact that women were the ones to discover the empty tomb is incredibly important as well.  Understand that at that time, the testimony of women was considered so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to be called as witnesses in court.  If the writers of the Bible were just making up a story (as some believe they were), they would have made well-known males like Peter or John the discoverers of the empty tomb.  The fact that the Bible says women did it actually makes the story more believable.

However, one of the most telling reasons that this story is true is the fact that no shrine for Jesus was created.  It was customary in Judaism for the tomb of a prophet or holy man to be preserved as a shrine.  The Jews follow Abraham, and to this day, they travel to Hebron (where he is buried) to remember their dead leader.



Same with Buddhism.  They know that Buddha is buried in India, and his followers travel there regularly.



Those who follow Islam know that Muhammad is buried in Medina.  They go to his burial site every year (Mark Driscoll).



There were at least fifty such cites in Jesus’s day (Matt Perman).  Yet once the tomb was found empty, no one visited Jesus’s grave.  It did not become a holy place of worship because Jesus is not dead.

(not much of a shrine)


Keep in mind, the disciples did not go to some obscure place where no one had heard of Jesus to begin preaching about the resurrection.  They went straight to Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus had died and been buried.  They could not have done this if Jesus was still in His tomb—no one would have believed them.  No one would be stupid enough to believe a man had risen from the dead when His body lay dead in the tomb for all to see (Perman).

Did the Jewish leaders respond that these stories were lies?  No.  Did they ever point to Jesus’s body and say, “He’s right here!!”  No.  Instead, they bribed the soldiers to say that they had fallen asleep and the disciples stole the body—an explanation few believed then and no serious scholar believes today.  If the Jews or Romans were ever able to produce Jesus’s body, His story is never told.  With an event so well publicized, don’t you think that one eyewitness, one historian, one public figure, anyone would record for all time that he had seen Christ’s body?  The fact that the Jewish and Roman leaders admit that the tomb was empty is called by experts as “positive evidence from a hostile source.”  Basically, if a source admits a fact that makes said source look bad, the fact is genuine (Perman).

Because of the strong evidence for the empty tomb, most recent scholars do not deny it.  D.H. Van Daalen says, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions” (Perman).

It would have been impossible for the disciples to steal Jesus’s body, but more importantly…they didn’t want to!!  Remember, at this point, they were hiding—terrified that they were going to be killed for following what turned out to be (in their minds) just a regular guy who pulled off some neat tricks.  The Jews and Romans obviously had no desire to steal (or hide) the body…they wanted everyone to know exactly where it was.  So if no one wanted it…where did it go?


Next post—Step 3: Jesus rose.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jesus Is NOT a Zombie (Jesus Is Resurrected: Death)

The first step in proving the resurrection of Christ is to prove that Jesus, in fact, died.  Believe it or not, some critics have argued that Jesus was not completely dead when He was entombed.  Some wonder if perhaps they removed Him from the cross too soon.  The following is why that is impossible.  WARNING: This post is extremely graphic in the nature of Christ’s death.  It depicts precisely what pain was inflicted upon Him.  I feel this is important because too often, we overlook the specifics of what Jesus went through.


Jesus had already suffered numerous beatings before they whipped Him.  When the Jewish leaders turned Him over to the Roman soldiers, they continued, pounding Him with their fists.  THEN they flogged Him.  However, this was no ordinary rope that struck His back.

First, they shackled His hands above His head and tied Him to a post.  This would expose His neck, shoulders, back, butt, and legs.  They stripped Him nearly naked, and then two executioners stood on either side of Him.  They then whipped Jesus was something called a flagrum or cat o’ nine tails.  This was a handle, usually made of wood, that had protruding from it long straps of leather.  Attached at the end of each strap was a ball made out of either metal or stone, and that would tenderize the human flesh as you would a piece of meat for a barbecue.  There were also hooks at the end, also made of metal or bone (Mark Driscoll).

 
So the flagrum scourged Jesus across the back, and all the leather straps spread, and the flesh was tenderized, and then the hooks would sink in deeply.  The executioner then gave a tug on the handle to ensure that all of the hooks were deep into Christ’s body…then he literally ripped the flesh off.  Over and over and over and over.  The law limited the number of lashes to 39 (as they believed 40 would kill a man), but they often went over…as it is assumed they did with Jesus.  As the whipping continued, skin would fly off.  Muscle would be shredded (Driscoll).

While Jesus survived the beatings and the scourging, we are told that His form, disfigured, lost all human likeness.  Understand this: Jesus Christ—God in human form—was so badly beaten, bloodied, and maimed that He was scarcely recognizable as a human being (Jesus Christ: The Real Story by The United Church of God).

The flogging over, Jesus was forced to carry the beam of His own cross to His crucifixion.  This piece of wood likely weight between 100 and 200 pounds.  The extreme pain and blood loss from the beatings and whipping caused Jesus to collapse under the weight of the cross.  Medical experts who have examined this say that this would have been the equivalent of a head-on, high-speed car wreck with no air bag, leading to massive internal hemorrhaging and bleeding (Driscoll).

Now we’ve reached the crucifixion itself—an act so horrific that decent Roman citizens did not even speak of it (Driscoll).  An act so painful that they literally had to invent a word to describe it: excruciating.  Excruciating means “out of the cross” (The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).

Iron nails, five-to-seven inches long, were driven into Jesus’s wrists and feet to fasten Him to the cross.  Nails were driven into the wrists, between the arm bones, because the hands themselves could not support the weight of the body (The Case for Christ).

The nails pounded through the wrists would have crushed the median nerve, the largest nerve going to the hand.  When you hit your funny bone, that pain you feel is from a different nerve called the ulna nerve.  Imagine taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve.  That effect would be similar to what Jesus expected (The Case for Christ).

Once Jesus was hanging on the cross, he essentially died from asphyxiation.  The reason is that His position on the cross put His chest into the inhaled position.  Basically, in order to exhale, He had to push up on His feet.  In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking against the tarsal bones (The Case for Christ).

In Strobel’s book, Dr. Alexander Metherell continues: “After managing to exhale, Christ would then be able to relax down and take another breath in.  Again He’d have to push Himself up to exhale, scraping His bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross.  This went on and on until complete exhaustion took over, and Jesus wasn’t able to push up and breathe anymore.”

The Romans didn’t mess around, either.  They were professional killers.  It was a soldier’s job to make sure the person died.  So…just in case Jesus had merely passed out, a soldier took a broad, clean-cutting, two-edged spear and thrust it upwards under Jesus’s left ribs.  The wound would have been large enough to put an open hand into, and the spear would have sliced open the stomach, lung, and ultimately punctured Christ’s heart (Jesus Christ: The Real Story).

 
The American Medical Association explains: “Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicated that Jesus was dead.”

Even if we assume Jesus could have physically survived the crucifixion, how could He then have lived for three days and nights in a tomb, sealed away from any kind of medical care or treatment?  If He somehow managed to survive that, He would’ve been a severely broken, wounded man—psychologically traumatized, physically crippled and maimed for life.  He would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed Him as a victorious conqueror of death  (Jesus Christ: The Real Story).  Remember…His appearance no longer resembled a human being…I don’t think the disciples would have celebrated a zombie Jesus.

So…Point 1: Did Jesus die?  Yes.  Even non-believers who have done their research acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross.  In fact, there is no historical account from Christians, Romans, or Jews that disputes either Jesus’s death or His burial.  Now we move to Point 2: Was the tomb empty?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jesus Is Resurrected: Intro

It’s one thing to say the words, “I know that Jesus died on the cross for me.”  It’s another to fully understand what that means.  When you fully understand it, your life is forever changed.  Over the next few posts, I am going to be writing (sometimes in very graphic detail) about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Before you read them, I ask you to say a quick prayer.  Ask God to open your mind, to open your heart.  Ask Him to change you.  Even if you think that you understand what all of this is about, ask God to blow your mind during these posts.

The story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection is so long and complicated that I wouldn’t have the time to cover it all thoroughly even if I wrote about it every week.  Hundreds of books have been written about every day of this event.  Today’s post is dedicated to giving the short version of that week, followed by previewing the upcoming posts. 

Tuesday

Jesus ate The Last Supper with His disciples (Mark14:12-26).  I can’t help but laugh when I read Luke’s version of this, as it’s one of the best moments of the disciples just not getting it.  Jesus reminds them that He’s going to die.  He conducts the first communion.  This amazing, emotional scene is taking place where Jesus is demonstrating just how much He loves them (and us), and they interrupt Him by asking who among them is the greatest (Luke22:24-30).  I just see Jesus releasing a massive sigh and rubbing His temples here.

Jesus then went to Gethsemane to pray (Mark14:32-42) before Judas betrayed Him for a mere couple hundred bucks.  Jesus was arrested and brought before the high priest (Matthew 26:47-68). 

Wednesday

The Jewish leaders were tired of Jesus and His followers.  They wanted this new “movement” to go away, so they figured the best way to do that was to humiliate and destroy the head of this movement—Jesus.  These leaders wanted everyone to see that Jesus couldn’t save Himself, much less all mankind.  They wanted to expose Him as a fraud.  A phony.  They wanted to publicly shame Him so that no one was tempted to follow His teachings (Mark 15:16-20).

Jesus was beaten (Mark 15:19), flogged (John 19:1), and crucified (Luke 23:26-43).  He officially died around 3 p.m. (Mark 15:34).  Jesus was then buried in Joseph’s tomb (Luke 23:50-53). 

Thursday

The Jewish leaders’ plan worked.  When Jesus died, His disciples went into hiding.  They were shocked and devastated and confused and scared.  J.P. Moreland writes, “They no longer had confidence that Jesus had been sent by God…The Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks."

The women gathered the needed spices to anoint Jesus’s body (Luke 23:56). 

Friday

Roman soldiers were placed outside the tomb in case Jesus’s followers tried to steal the body (Matthew 27:62-66). 

Saturday
Jesus rose near sunset, exactly three days after He was buried. 

Sunday
The women brought the spices at dawn, only to find the stone rolled away and an angel telling them that Jesus wasn’t there.  That He had risen (Mark 16:1-8).

The women left and told the cowards—er—disciples what they had witnessed.  Naturally, the disciples (except Peter and John) didn’t believe them (Luke 24:11).  Here’s what I love: These are men who watched Jesus touch the eyes of someone who was blind since birth, and give him sight.  These are men who watched Jesus feed thousands of people with only a few loaves of bread and fish.  These are men who watched Jesus control the weather with just His voice.  These are men who watched Jesus walk on water.  These are men who watched Jesus bring a man back to life who had been dead for three days.  Yet when they were told that Jesus did exactly what He said He was going to do—rise from the dead—their reaction?

Naaaaaaaaaah.

Yet I’m supposed to sit here and convince you that it happened? 

This story is amazing.  It defies common sense.  It defies science.  However, whenever something in history defies logic, experts investigate the evidence available, and if the evidence provides the best explanation for what happened, then the event is accepted as true.


What I will be sharing over these next three posts are irrefutable facts.  No one disputes (with evidence) what I’m offering here.  Historians, archaeologists, theologians, psychologists, even atheists…anyone who has done their research acknowledges that this information is truth.  They may not be able to explain it, but they accept it as fact.

With that, there are three items that must be investigated in order to prove the resurrection: 1) Jesus died.  2) His tomb was discovered empty.  3) He rose from the dead.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did putting it all together.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blind Faith

The term “blind faith” comes up a lot when it comes to Christianity.  We often use it to explain to non-believers how we can follow a deity that cannot be seen or heard.  We frequently use this terminology with pride.  This is how much I love God.  I believe in Him blindly.  What we fail to realize is that our faith is not supposed to be blind.

Contrary to what many…think, the Bible does not teach blind faith.  In fact, the Bible actually tells believers to test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  No other “holy” book tells its readers to actually put what it says to the test – Rich Deem.

Believing in God is not like a five-year-old believing in Santa, not unless that five-year-old goes on a hunt to prove Santa’s existence.  As we age, as true knowledge sinks in, such childish beliefs dissipate.  If we follow God blindly our whole lives, that’s exactly what happens to our faith—it slowly fades away.

For nearly all of my life, I followed blindly.  I believed God existed.  I believed Jesus existed.  I believed Christ died for me and rose again.  I believed because that’s what I was told my whole life.  I had been in church as long as I had been alive.  My parents told me these things.  My Sunday school teachers told me these things.  My pastor told me these things.  So I believed them.

The problem with this form of belief is that my eyes were closed.  I was blind to Christ.  Consequently, I did not know Him.  Jud Wilhite says, “God doesn’t want us to go through religious acts of devotion.  It’s more than just being good, church-going people.  It’s about knowing and loving and serving Him.”

The song Amazing Grace famously gives us the line, “…was blind, but now I see.”  Of all the healing Jesus does, notice how often we’re told of Him healing the blind.  This is not just a physical healing, it’s a spiritual one.  We are meant to see.  We are meant to see Him.

When my eyes were opened a couple of years ago, I began searching for God.  Hunting for knowledge.  If I had a question, I sought answers.  If I had doubts, I pursued proof.  I prayed.  I read the Bible.  I spoke with strong, intelligent Christians whom I respected.  I bought and read highly touted books by reputable Christian writers.  I read blogs by renown pastors.  I watched hundreds of online sermons.  One of the coolest things for me was earlier this year when I set about the task of proving that Jesus Christ walked the earth using non-Christian sources.  Just like Luke wrote (1:3-4), I investigated for knowledge.  I investigated for truth.

What I found, was Truth.

At school a couple of weeks ago, I put a sign on my board that said, “Do Not Look” (I was conducting an experiment for something totally different).  Underneath the sign, I wrote the word boo.  During the class discussion, I told them what was under the sign.  Did that satisfy them?  Of course not!!  They couldn’t let it go until they had proof.  Until they had investigated for themselves.

That is exactly what God wants us to do.  Investigate.  Seek answers.  Search for proof.  Why is He so willing to let us put forth this challenge?  Because He knows where all searches will end.  Barnes & Noble bookshelves are lined with books written by people who went searching to disprove God…only to find Him.  Searching to disprove the resurrection…only to find Proof.  Searching for some cosmic answer to the whys and hows of the universe…only to find The Answer. 

God. 

Deuteronomy 4:29 = But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Lamentations 3:25 = The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
1 Chronicles 16:11 = Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Proverbs 8:17 = I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
Psalm 119:2 = Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 = You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Matthew 7:7-8 = “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Hebrews 11:6 = And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.


Countless other verses could be included here, but the message is clear: If you seek answers, you will find God.  This cannot be a passive pursuit, however.  It requires persistent action.  That is my challenge to you today.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”  Stop behaving like a child and believing in some gift-giving entity simply because you are told he exists and start searching for proof.  Stop quoting memorized scripture to all of life’s issues and start investigating what those verses, chapters, and books are completely saying.  Stop blindly following and start actively seeking.

 

When I’m searching, here are the sites I usually hit first:
Francis Chan’s old church (still has plenty of his past sermons there…plus, the guys who run it now are pretty solid too)
Perry Noble’s blog (you can find many of his sermons here as well)