Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Empty Tomb: Explain THAT!

Two days ago, Christians around the world commemorated the event that stands as the keystone of their faith. It also stands, according to non-believers, as the most ridiculous fairy tale ever told. I mean, people dead for over 36 hours simply do NOT come back to life, right?

It will come as no surprise to anyone who's been reading this blog for more than a month that I'm one of those crazy Christians who, yes, actually believes Jesus was dead but didn't stay that way.

There are who-knows-how-many books on the subject of the resurrection of Jesus, and this space is not the place for an exhaustive discussion of every single thread of thought about it, but let me just briefly review one aspect of the subject that leads me toward belief.

Having been killed Friday afternoon, the tomb of Jesus was empty on Sunday morning...what's up with that?

Some suggested answers:

The Disciples Stole the Body

This is the official story circulated by the Jewish ruling council (See Matthew 28:11-15). The only problem is that if it were true:
     1)  The guards would be killed for dereliction of duty. Hence verse 14: "If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."
     2)  The disciples lost their lives because of their unwavering declaration of Jesus' resurrection. A person might be willing to die in defense of a lie they thought was true, but not for something they know to be a lie.

They Went to the Wrong Tomb

The idea here is that the women who went to the tomb to complete what had been a hurried burial process, and found the tomb to be empty, went to the wrong tomb and mistakenly assumed that Jesus had risen from the dead. This is fairly unlikely because:
     1)  This would require not only the women to forget where Jesus was buried, but Joseph of Arimathea (who had provided the tomb; see Mark 15:42-47), and all the other disciples.
     2)  When the story of Jesus' resurrection started to circulate, and the authorities wanted to squelch it, all they would have had to do was take people to the correct tomb and say, "Hey! His body is right here. Stop all this crazy talk."

Jesus Didn't Really Die

This theory says that the tomb was empty because Jesus wasn't really dead...he only "swooned" on the cross and later regained consciousness in the tomb. There are a lot of holes in this line of thought:
     1)  The Roman executioners were very, very good at their job. Once someone was nailed to a cross, they never came down alive. In fact, according to the Mark passage referenced earlier, Pilate made sure to double-check that Jesus was actually dead before releasing the body for burial.
     2)  Because of the blood loss and extreme physical duress Jesus endured though his flogging and crucifixion, the coolness of the tomb would not have revived him...it would have killed him.
     3)  A tortured, beaten, barely-alive Jesus would not have been able to roll away the heavy stone that sealed the tomb and overpower the guards to make an escape.
     4)  This bloody, disfigured shell of a man could never pass himself off as the all-powerful conqueror of death the disciples declared him to be.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...as with most things in the realm of apologetics, this isn't enough to change the mind of a hard-core atheist, but it is noteworthy that there just is no satisfactory explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus other than the Biblical one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Managers vs Leaders

Just like a Mini Tootsie Roll, this is going to be short and sweet. And let it serve as a challenge for each person reading this who finds themselves in a position of having some kind of authority over other people.

Truth is...It should come as no surprise to hear that I find myself being far more motivated when working with a leader, rather than toiling under a manager. And may we all carry that realization with us when and if we are the one leading/managing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hold Me, Jesus

It was the summer of 1994. I had spent the school year as a substitute teacher, having taken my family of six from a bad situation at the church I had been serving (as Youth & Worship Minister) back home to Northeast Indiana.

I was driving to the 4-season porch factory where I was working, listening to a tape of Rich Mullins' album, A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band.

There I was, wondering if my best days were behind me...wondering if the great moments of spiritual victory and meaningful fellowship were forever in my past and never to be repeated...wondering if God would ever choose to use me in His Kingdom again. And then, in the song Hold Me, Jesus, Rich sang the words, "You have been King of my Glory; won't you be my Prince of Peace", and I had to pull off the road. I couldn't see where I was going because of my flowing tears.

Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all 
When the mountains look so big 
And my faith just seems so small 

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf 

You have been King of my glory 
Won't You be my Prince of Peace 

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark 

It's so hot inside my soul 
I swear there must be blisters on my heart 

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf 

You have been King of my glory 
Won't You be my Prince of Peace 

Surrender don't come natural to me 

I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want 
Than to take what You give that I need 
And I've beat my head against so many walls 
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees 

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn 

And Your grace rings out so deep 
It makes my resistance seem so thin 

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf 

You have been King of my glory 
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

I'm singing hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf 

You have been King of my glory 
Won't You be my Prince of Peace 

You have been King of my glory 

Won't You be my Prince of Peace
Words & Music by Rich Mullins
c.1993 Edward Grant, Inc. (ASCAP)

Truth is...I've had more than one moment in my life when God's closeness and provision and wise direction all seemed to be in the rear-view mirror...and He has always...always...provided peace and provision in the present, and a powerful reminder of His love for me that will never end.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How "How I Was Raised" Changed to "Who I Am"

When you "grow up" in church...when a pervasive part of your upbringing is the Christian faith and morality and "Jesus loves me, this I know," there comes a time when you need to get beyond "This is how I was raised," travel through "this is what I believe," and arrive in the land of "This is who I am."

Josh McDowell's book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, was the tool God used to get me moving along that road of turning my family's faith into MY faith.

Within that book, McDowell quotes C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity (another tool that got me acclimated to "This is who I am" territory).

It's an often-shared bit of brilliance, but for me, it spells the difference between just going along with how I was raised and seeing that there are firm facts that form the foundation of my faith.

Having established that the New Testament is a reliable account of history, and that Jesus was crucified because he claimed to be God-on-earth, the following bit of logic blew me away...

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic  -  on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg  -  or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Truth is...No bit of human cleverness will ever be beyond argumentation, but this gets pretty close.

P.S. The Truth is Facebook page is currently a little over a month into its year of daily quotes from C. S. Lewis. You can Like and Follow the page by clicking here or pasting this link into your browser's address bar: https://www.facebook.com/DeweyTruth/

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

But I Don't FEEL Like Writing!

It's said that Thomas Edison came up with the formula, "Success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration."

According to a story in Mason Currey's book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, George Gershwin may have disagreed with the percentages, but certainly lived in accordance with the sentiment.

'To me George was a little sad all the time because he had this compulsion to work,' Ira Gershwin said of his brother. 'He never relaxed.' Indeed, Gershwin typically worked for twelve hours or more a day, beginning in the late morning and going until past midnight. He started the day with a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and orange juice, then immediately began composing, sitting at the piano in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. He would take breaks for a mid-afternoon lunch, a late-afternoon walk, and supper at about 8:00. If Gershwin had a party to attend in the evening, it was not unusual for him to return home after midnight and plunge back into work until dawn. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. 'Like the pugilist,' Gershwin said, 'the songwriter must always keep in training.'

Truth is...If I waited until I FELT like writing for this blog, I would publish maybe three pieces a year. While that wouldn't be any great loss to the world at large, the sad corollary is that if I waited until I felt like being the hands and feet of Jesus  -  acting in love and sacrificing for the needs of others  -  the little corner of the cosmos in which I've been placed really WOULD be worse for wear.

Andrae Crouch said it in the song This Is Another Day: "Stop depending on your feelings and start trusting God's word."