Resurrection of Jesus: What Is It All About?

Resurrection of Jesus: What Is It All About?

Was Jesus truly resurrected from the dead, and does it really matter?

The case for

Christ’s

resurrection is not based merely on an empty tomb.

Does Jesus’ resurrection—real or hoax—really matter?

“If Jesus has not been raised, then our faith is worthless; and we are to be pitied above all men (1 Corinthians 15:14).”

Some people really don’t think it matters whether or not Jesus was actually raised from the dead. They think that whatever actually happened back then, Jesus showed us a moral way to walk our lives out and we ought to follow Him as a teacher, if not as the Messiah.

The problem with that thinking is that if Jesus said He would rise from the grave after three days and then He did not do it, you can’t really call Him a “good teacher.” That’s because people who lie are called liars, not “good.” He made no pretense about who He was and what He came to do. He also made it very clear what is expected of His followers.

Either you believe all of what He said or you believe none of what He said. You can’t pick and choose. This is the One who claimed to BE GOD.

Christianity requires faith—but not blind faith.

blind faith

Photo courtesy of Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

There are those who have tried (unsuccessfully) to argue that although there is more than enough historical evidence to verify Jesus’ claim to have been resurrected from the dead, that He never really died. They subscribe to the “Swoon Theory” that says He never actually died, but swooned due to blood loss and shock. Incredible as it seems, they theorize thus:

 

Jesus never really died; He only appeared to die. In fact—they claim—He merely fainted from loss of blood and shock. When He was then removed from the cross, He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, one of the leading Jews.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting (and totally unbelievable).

Jesus revived due to the coolness of the tomb. (Current medical advice for someone suffering from shock is to keep them warm, not cool.) Despite the fact that He had lost enormous amounts of blood from the scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nails themselves, and despite the fact that He had no medical help (today, fluids and oxygen are given to the patient), He nonetheless revived on His own. Then He unwrapped the cloths that tightly bound Him (and which weighed in the area of 100 pounds due to spices in the burial cloth), neatly folded the cloth that covered His face, got up in total darkness and walked on nail-pierced feet to the tomb entrance. (Medical science tells us to loosen restrictive clothing on someone in shock to enable them to recover. Jesus’ burial clothes were tightly wrapped around His body, pinning His arms to His sides.)

There, even though He had collapsed on the way to the cross and someone else had to carry His cross for Him, He had revived enough to roll away a stone—from the inside!—and walk unnoticed past the guards. After that, He continued on those maimed feet to where His disciples were, appeared in a locked room, and announced to them that He had risen!

To roll the stone away would have not been possible for one man inside the tomb, anyway (unless he was God, which makes everything else moot anyway). The round stone would have been 4′ to 6′ in diameter to cover the entrance. It would have weighed between 2,000 lbs and 4,000 lbs. It took two men to roll it into place. Not only did they have the stone itself to grip, but tombs were hewn out of the rock with a groove that would slant downward as the stone was rolled into place. To remove the stone would require rolling it uphill. This, they posit, was accomplished by a severely dehydrated, severely wounded man with nothing to grip onto inside the tomb. And He did it with hands that had been pierced with 5″ nails. Even if you go with the theory that the nails pierced His wrists, how would that make it more likely?

And that was only the beginning of His post-resurrection appearances.

One thing that flies in the face of that theory is that medical science can show that those who are crucified die from a combination of hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and even acute heart failure. The soldiers stuck a spear in His side, and what came out was blood and water. Medical professionals today say that in most probability, what John saw was blood and the clear fluid that surrounded Jesus’ heart. The spear would have pierced both the lungs and the heart. Without modern medicine, no one would have survived this final assault on His body. (For a look at a documented case of survival after crucifixion, see Josephus’ description. It is not clear to exactly what he was referring when he cited crucifixion.)

Here are just a few of the scriptures that prophesy Jesus’ death and resurrection.

One thing that is irrefutable: neither Jesus nor His disciples could orchestrate the fulfillment of the over 100 prophecies that He did, indeed, fulfill, including the one that hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented said His hands and feet would be pierced !

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PROPHECY:

Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

FULFILLMENT:

John 1:10-11 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

FULFILLMENT:

Mark 14:10 says, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.” 

PROPHECY:

Zechariah 11:12 says, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.”

 

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 26:14-16 says, “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.” 

PROPHECY:

Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

FULFILLMENT:

Mark 15:5 says, “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:1-2 says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”

FULFILLMENT:

 Matthew 27:46 says, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:7-8 says, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'”

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 27:41-44 says, “In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, I am the Son of God.’ In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:15 says, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 27:48 says, “Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:17-18 says, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

FULFILLMENT:

John 19:23 says, “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.”

Want more evidences in prophecy?

Here’s a more extensive list of prophecies that Jesus has already fulfilled. With the historical verity of these, you can rely on the rest of the Word of God to continue being true.

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Do You Suffer From Spiritual Light Sensitivity?

Do You Suffer From Spiritual Light Sensitivity?

For weeks now, I have been struggling with light sensitivity.

Yes, I have very blue eyes and a bad habit of squinting against the light instead of putting on my sunglasses. Some days, I feel like I need them even indoors!

My doctor tells me that most people in Texas—where I live—have vitamin D3 deficiency. That’s crazy, when we know that only sunlight produces that vitamin in our bodies. You can get small amounts from eating things like mushrooms, but not nearly as much as your body needs. With the abundance of sunlight in Texas, you’d think we’d be the least likely people to develop this deficiency.

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A study at Stanford

In a recent study at Stanford University, researchers found that women who spend at least 30-45 minutes in the sun everyday live longer and have less frequent breast cancers. Yet we’ve been told over and again to avoid the sun! And so we ask, what are we to do? (I’ll come back to that in a minute.)

Of even graver concern is the lack of spiritual light.

If avoiding the sun can cause physical problems in our bodies, imagine how avoiding God’s light can affect our spirits!

Consider the case of the New Testament Apostle Paul. Even though he wrote most of the New Testament, he had not always been a champion of the faith. Indeed, he had letters from the religious authorities to put in jail those who were following the Way. He was on the road to Damascus to do just that when something startling happened.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do (Acts9:3-6).”

Blinded by the light, his whole sense of who he was and who God was, was challenged. He had to be led into the city because he was totally blind.

But blind to what?

Saul was the young Pharisee who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was passionate for what he saw as the only way to worship God. But the Pharisees had put so many stumbling blocks in the way of the faithful that no one could be assured of not offending them.

However, God was offended by the Pharisees!

He knew that no one could follow the law perfectly. Not even pious Saul. So He enacted the solution He had prepared even before the beginning of time itself. He sent Jesus into the world, to live the life we should have lived. He did that perfectly. Then, He took on himself the penalty for every sin ever committed, past, present and even future. He paid the penalty and bought our freedom and forgiveness.

 

He became the light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).

 

When Jesus showed people the way, those who believed Him still struggled with believing. At one point, the boldest Apostle in the group, Simon Peter, denied he even knew Jesus.

Much later, when the beloved apostle, John, wrote in his letters, he made it abundantly clear who the light is.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:5-9).

This may be my favorite verse in the whole Bible. I love the light, because that’s where Jesus is.

But it is definitely not always easy.

I suffer from chronic depression. If you think Christians shouldn’t have depression, then you must also think they shouldn’t have diabetes, or heart disease, or any of a plethora of illnesses that are a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, until Jesus returns and make all things new, we live in a fallen and decaying world. One day soon, He will return and restore everything to the way He made it in the beginning, before the fall. (For more information on being a Christian with mental illness, see Amy Simpson’s Blog. You can also read my testimony about depression here.)

We have a worthy adversary—the devil. The word tells us that

he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8.).”

Do you know what that means? It means he is LOUD! He is ROARING his message of lies to us. But he is also a liar from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The enemy roars his lies.

In our ears, in the mirror, in our jobs and our families and even in our churches. That is why it is crucial that we stay in the light. When the light is shining, nothing is hidden. If we believe the lies the enemy roars at us (I’m unloveable; I’m a failure; I’m not pretty; I can’t do anything right.) then we are committing Peter’s sin.

We’re denying that we know Jesus Christ.

I’ve just come through one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve ever experienced. I tried walking backwards in the light, but all I saw were the shadows that I, myself, was casting. I heard the enemy’s lies, and I listened. Fortunately, I have people around me who saw what was happening and rushed to my aid.

Now I’m wearing an elastic band around my wrist. It says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Even though it’s a good reminder, that’s not why I’m wearing it. Every time I hear the enemy’s lies in my mind, I snap that plastic band. Then I counter the lie with the truth of Jesus. I am loved. I am succeeding in my adventure with God. I’m beautiful because God says I am. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

One day soon I’m going to publish my testimony on this website. It’s kind of long, so it will be on a page of its own and you’ll never have to look there if you don’t want to. It isn’t a pretty story, but it is a story of victory!

So how do we balance our need for light?

In the physical, we need 30-45 minutes in the sun every day to produce enough vitamin D3. But NEVER without sunscreen! And I know it’s hot and we would rather sit in the air-conditioned room than walk around the block in the heat of the day. But doing something good for yourself means you’re doing something good for the people you love, too.

And what about spiritually?

Fully live your Life in the Light!

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If God is REALLY Good, Why Does He Allow Evil?

If God is REALLY Good, Why Does He Allow Evil?

Photo courtesy of Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Defining “good” and “evil”

Many people have given up on God because of the evil in the world. If God were really a loving, good God, He’d stop all the evil. He wouldn’t allow evil to exist at all. In fact, if God created everything, isn’t He actually the creator of evil? To tackle this ticklish issue, we need some good, working definitions. But we can’t just hop to the nearest dictionary to find them.

 

Did God create everything?

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:31 that not only did He create everything, but that it was all good.

“”And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31, KJV).”

(If you are not comfortable that God created everything, I’ll cover that in another post.) So we can go from here with putting the credit on God for absolutely every single thing that was created.

Then doesn’t that mean that He created evil?

The problem here is why we need definitions. What is good? What is evil? Good is the quality of a thing that conforms to the character of God. Evil is the corruption of good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself. It does not exist as an independent entity. Have you ever walked into a room and seen an evil in it? Think of evil as a weeping wound on a person’s body. The body—the thing that God created that conforms to the quality of good in God—is there. But you cannot have the weeping wound without the body. It is the body that exists. The wound cannot exist without the body. It is the corruption of the good that constitutes evil.

Photo courtesy of Hailey Kean on Unsplash

So why does God allow evil?

The answer to this question is two-fold. I’ll start with the most commonly spoken answer: because of free will. God made us in His image, which makes us free agents of will. We can will to do good or we can will to do bad. We are given great freedom from God to choose His ways or to choose our own, even when those choices lead us into evil. Every person ever born is given the gift of free will. God desires us to choose good because He can stand at the beginning and see the end. He knows what the outcomes and consequences of our choices will be, but He will not stop us from making wrong choices if that is what we have determined in our hearts to do.

You may not be aware of how often God actually intervenes in your life to prevent something that would take your life or even worse, steal your faith. But He doesn’t violate your free will.

Yes, it’s true that He could have simply made us love him. But then is that really, truly love? Do you want your kids to love you because you make them? Is it even possible to make someone love you? You can see the difficulty here.

 

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

(Matthew 13:24-30) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

If you are a believer in Christ, you are the wheat in this story. Those who do not follow the Lord are the tares. The field is the world and the sower is God. Although there are tares (weeds) in the field, the Sower decides not to remove them before the harvest, lest the wheat gets damaged in the process. So as contradictory as it seems, it is for our own sake that He does not simply remove evil right now. When the harvest time comes at the end of the age, everything will be harvested, but the tares will be burned and the wheat will be saved.

“Isaiah 46:10 (KJV) tells us plainly: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

 

God is good all the time

There is never a day that God is not good. He cannot not be good because that is His character and nature. And when we choose evil (the corruption of what He created to be good), it grieves His heart.

Next time we’ll talk about natural evil. Stay tuned.

Finding the Safe Space Within

Finding the Safe Space Within

Our world is in turmoil, and the United States is no exception. One response to this turbulence is to retreat to a safe space, which is defined as “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.” In other words, a place to withdraw from the world.

Our universities, which should be preparing students to thrive on this bumpy journey we call life, are fragmenting. They are becoming ideological ghettos that have been carved out of what one writer said should be a vibrant academic community. 

I couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, these safe spaces are dividing our college and university students by race, religion, creed, political affiliation, or coveted cause. America was designed to unify people with these diverse characteristics, to build strength from our differences. Yet, there is a safe space where you are not affected by hatred, bigotry, or irrational thought. That place is within you. You carry it with you to every meeting, job, and human interaction you face throughout the day. Here’s how to find it and live within its protected boundaries.

Realize that you are loved.

Yes, loved. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).”

Those quoting this scripture usually emphasize the commandment to love one another. But before you can do that, you must receive the love that Christ gives to those who follow Him. When you are filled with the love of God—and you know it—then and only then are you able to love others.

Working from a position of being loved removes your anxiety about being discriminated against, treated unfairly, or hated.  It becomes your strength to work from your internal safe space.

Abide in love.

Jesus further tells us to abide in His love.

Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. So abide in my love (John 15:9).

 

Receive His peace.

 

It isn’t enough to feel His love; you must remain in it, regardless of what is happening around you. Only when you truly know you are loved can you obey this precept. If you don’t really believe you are loved, you won’t have anything to give anyone else. You will find yourself constantly at odds with the violent world in which we live. No wonder, then, that people seek a safe place.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Jesus knew that His own would experience trials and tribulations, but He encouraged them to remain true to His call on them to love one another. His commandment that they not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by fear was the key to finding peace in the midst of the storm.

The Bible provides a year-long devotional on fear, saying more than 365 times, “Do not be afraid.” It also reminds us that

“perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).

 Those who have discovered the power of love are not afraid.

Released from insecurity.

Author and minister Joyce Meyer says on her website, “We have an epidemic of insecure people in our society today. Many people have an identity crisis because they don’t really know who they are. They base their worth and value on all the wrong things – what they do, what they look like, who they know, what they know or what they own.”

Security and safety are in the Christian’s DNA.  

Photo courtesy of Norman Toth on Unsplash

Isaiah 54:17 assures us,  “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong.

This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord….” With this promise from God, should we still seek safe spaces that insulate us from the “weapons formed against us”? There is no reason to be insecure in God’s economy.

So what’s the secret to an internal safe place?

The secret to being secure in Christ is knowing that you are in Christ. He has promised never to leave or forsake you. Therefore, in the midst of the turmoil that defines your day, your life will be a reflection of your position in Christ.

Where is your refuge?

In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretells that a King will come who will be a refuge for His people.

And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land (Isaiah 32:3).

This “man” will be the safe place for those who put their trust in Him.
Jesus has already come. He has fulfilled most of the prophecies about Him already. Those who have believed in Him shall find their hiding place in Him.

Are you being persecuted?

If the world around you has frightened you and you feel like you need someplace safe to avoid the persecution you feel, remember this.  Jesus has overcome the world. He takes up residence in you, and you can retreat into Him at any time. But if you seclude yourself in physical safe places, how then will you shine His light? 

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).”

Faithbooking: Scrapbooking My Spiritual Journey

Find joy

Have you ever tried Faithbooking?

It’s taking your spiritual journey and making scrapbooking or journaling pages about it. My only resolution this year is to let go and let God. So embarking on this new way (for me) of documenting how God is moving in my life is intriguing, to say the least.
This first page shows a picture of my grandchildren (and the boyfriend of my oldest granddaughter) sitting in front of a museum at Christmas time. It’s not all of my grandchildren (I have eleven!), but it’s the ones who were there that day. The picture was taken by my daughter-in-law, who is a fantastic photographer. (We have two photographers in our family, and they are both stupendous. I’m sure I’ll have pictures from my son-in-law during the year, too.)
Matthew 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” That sounds like a great goal for the new year, and I want to embrace it fully.
Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
That’s a mandate from God, and faithbooking is a great way to obey the commandment. Keeping my faith journey alive for my grandkids is very important to me, and I am looking forward to really getting down with the whole idea.
Sometimes I’ll do it digitally, as I’ve done with this first page. Then I’ll print it out and put it in a scrapbook. And then sometimes I’ll do it traditionally, with paper, embellishments and ink. Perhaps some of the layouts will be “tradigital,” a combination of the two.
I’d love for you to come along on my journey, and for you to share yours with me!

How do you document your faith?

What is the Gospel?

Photograph courtesy of James LW on Unsplash

You’ve probably met people who have told you about Jesus Christ, haven’t you? They may have said that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. They may have told you that you can have that relationship by saying a simple prayer. But that’s not the Gospel.

People have received many benefits of Christian life in this country, including peace and the ability to gather freely at places of worship, whether that is in a church building, a storefront, or a home. But that’s not the Gospel, either.

Christian fellowship may include teaching, praying, and eating together. Sharing the Lord’s Supper together is a wonderful way to fellowship. But it’s not the Gospel.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden at Unsplash

Here’s the Gospel.

God is holy and righteous. I am not (neither are you). One day you will die and face the Lord God Himself. You will be judged, either on your own righteousness or that of someone else. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, says the Bible.

Photo courtesy of Milada Vigerova at Unsplash

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).”

Now when I stand before God, I will be able to claim Jesus’ righteousness as my own (you can, too) and because of what He’s already done, I will be welcomed into God’s kingdom.

If you understand and believe that, then a simple prayer will, indeed, make you a Christian and guarantee your entrance into heaven. That’s called faith. The Bible says we must come to Him in faith, and His grace will do the rest.

So God caused His Son to walk through this world and live a sinless, righteous life. Then, to pay for all the sins I’ve committed (and you, too), He allowed His Son to be crucified and become the sacrificial lamb to pay for those sins. Then He raised Him from the dead. His death has purchased my freedom and given me His righteousness in place of my own (yours, too).

Photo courtesy of Debby Hudson at Unsplash

Are you ready to believe? Jesus will save you. And that’s the Gospel truth.

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