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Can a Skeptic be Convinced?

The website, Museumofhoaxes.com, maintains a list of the Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes of all time. Among the more humorous ones are: (8) Burger King’s Left-Handed Whopper Sandwich where all the ingredients were shifted 180 degrees to better accommodate left-handed people (1998) ; (4) The Taco Bell Corporation announced it has purchased the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell in an attempt to help lower the national debt (1996); (2) The April 1985 edition of Sports Illustrated contained a story about a new rookie pitcher for the NY Mets who could throw a baseball 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy; (1) On 1 April 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.

While countless people were taken in by these pranks, there are others who are reluctant to believe that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. If we are so gullible to believe a compelling lie, why are we so skeptical of the truth?

If you find yourself among those who have a hard time believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are in good company. Luke 24:1-12 explains that even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time believing. But the passage also demonstrates that the truth of the resurrection transforms skeptics into passionate witnesses.

empty tomb of JesusThe passage opens on Easter morning with several female disciples heading for the tomb where Jesus was buried (1). Rather than checking to see if the resurrection had taken place, they were there to properly bury the body. When they found the stone covering the entrance absent (2) and the body missing (3), they didn’t know what to make of the situation (4a).

To their surprise, two angelic messengers (4b) roused their attention with the shocking question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen!” (5). They went on to remind the women of what Jesus had taught them during the past three years (6). He would suffer and die and come back to life three days later (7). You could see the light bulbs go on in their heads as they recalled Jesus’ teaching (8).

Easter morningThe women left the tomb and raced back into Jerusalem to tell the other disciples (9-10). Jesus’ closest friends and followers were not convinced. In fact, they concluded that the women were delusion and out of their minds (11).

The fact that women were the first witnesses of the resurrection demonstrates the uniqueness of the gospel. In the culture of the day, women were considered unreliable. You would never build a case on the testimony of women. And yet, the gospel records that they were the first ones to believe the message that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Peter, at least, goes to investigate the report firsthand (12). Rather than be convinced by the empty grave clothes, he goes home even more perplexed.

He is risenDr. Luke’s account of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-12) can be summarized in six words—“Come and see … Go and tell!”

  • Read the Scriptures. 14 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled on Good Friday alone.
  • Examine the evidence. Read the source material firsthand. Study the proofs of the resurrection.
  • Believe the testimony. Read the stories of those whose lives were transformed by the gospel.
  • Tell the story. Once you are convinced the story is true, share the message of hope with another person.

Christ is not dead; He is risen indeed!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on April 20, 2014. It is part of a collection of messages on Easter & Palm Sunday. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

 

The Jelly Bean Express 2014

The Jelly Bean Express roared into the parking lot of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, this morning. We enjoyed beautiful weather, face painting, hog dogs, popcorn, drinks, guess the number of jelly bean contest, good conversations, and of course, fun rides on the Roaming Railroad.

 
 

Good Friday worship

Good Friday worship service at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA.

 

14 Prophecies fulfilled on Good Friday

When trying to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” one has to consider the prophecies of the Old Testament. The New Testament explains that the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah found their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Here are 14 prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled on Good Friday. Click on the link if you want to download a pdf copy of the chart.

Old Testament Prophecy

New Testament Fulfillment

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. [1] Psalm 41:9 Mark 14:10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; Zechariah 13:7 Mark 14:50 And they all left him and fled.
And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Zechariah 11:12 Matthew 26:15 “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 27:26, 30 … and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified … And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.
they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:18 John 19:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7 Matthew 27:13, 14 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 John 19:17, 18 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
… when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced … Zechariah 12:10 John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
… they have pierced my hands and feet Psalm 22:16 Luke 24:39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22:1 Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
and was numbered with the transgressors; Isaiah 53:12 Luke 23:33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
It is finished. (In the Hebrew.) Psalm 22:31 John 19:30 … he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, Isaiah 53:9 Matthew 27:57-60 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

 

[1]  All Scripture taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Bible Study, Easter & Good Friday, Scripture

 

Can you get to heaven the old fashioned way?

Actor John Houseman was known for his catchphrase in commercials for the brokerage firm, Smith Barney. In his distinctive Mid-Atlantic English accent, he stated, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We earned it.”

Apparently, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes one can get into heaven through the same way–by earning it. In an interview with the NY Times, Bloomberg predicted his crusades against guns, smoking, and obesity would serve him well in the afterlife.

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close,” Bloomberg said.

What a contrast to the thief on the cross who was crucified with Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Recognizing the desperation of his situation, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).

Praise God for grace that saves us from having to earn our way into heaven. His grace is enough!

Ephesians 2:8–9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Good Friday, Heaven, News stories, Scripture

 

What’s holding you back from spiritual growth?

Sometimes I am astounded by the blackness of my own heart. And yet, I am often oblivious of its condition at the same time.

I am in the midst of remodeling a bathroom in our home. On one of my weekly visits to Home Depot to purchase supplies for the project, my wife asked me to pick up some 60 watt light bulbs. I grabbed them first and moved through the store to get my other items. Going down one aisle, one package of bulbs fell off my cart and onto the floor. Not wanting to buy a package of damaged bulbs, I put them back on the shelf and selected a new package. “It was the store’s fault for not putting sides on my cart,” was one of my many rationalizations.

After paying for my supplies and loading them into the car, I headed for home. As I drove along, I was deeply convicted by the thought, “Are you going to sell your integrity for $1.98 (the cost of the light bulbs)?” After wrestling for three blocks, I turned around, went back to the store, grabbed the offending package and paid for it. How could I minister to others if I was going to cheat Home Depot out of $1.98? (As it turned out, all the “broken” bulbs worked properly. It still doesn’t justify my actions, but it was nice to discover.)

After arriving home, I confessed my sin to my wife. But I still pondered at how black my own heart can be and where the deceitfulness came from.

Klaus Issler addresses my struggle in chapter 2 of his book, Living into the Life of Jesus: The Formation of Christian Character. The chapter is entitled, “Wake up to five formation gaps.” It takes its theme from Jesus’ question in Matthew 7:3-5. Each one of us has gaps or blind spots that we are not even aware of.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Klaus explains that three of the gaps are taken from the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-18). The fourth comes from John 15, and the final gap is seen in Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37-39; Mark 14:33-36; Luke 22:42-44). He includes the following chart to summarize his thoughts.

Gap Biblical Basis Key Question Possible Practice
1. Disconnected Gap

 

No/little intentional dependence on God

No fruitfulness without abiding in Jesus

John 15:4-5

Am I regularly, consciously connecting with God? Develop cues as reminder (e.g., 30-second Pause Button, hourly clock chime, object in nature like a cloud).

(Revelation 3:20; James 4:8)

2. Distressed Gap

 

A disturbing moment of distress arises within

Jesus’ temptation in Gethsemane

Matthew 26:37-39; Mark 14:33-36; Luke 22:42-44

Attend to distress; ask, Lord, what is this distress/turbulence in my soul about? Cultivate receptivity when the Spirit awakens us to distress gaps; do “glad, sad, mad, dreads, dreams” exercise.

(John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7)

3. Dismissive Gap

 

No/little receptivity to explore ideas further; Satan persuades us to remain in the dark

Four Soils Parable

Seed on the road: No fruitfulness

Matthew 13:15, 19; Mark 4:11-12, 15; Luke 8:12

Am I open to consider this new-to-me idea? Why do I hesitate to consider this new-to-me idea, Lord? Study other viewpoints within orthodox Christianity. Look to “credible witnesses” who are seeking to know God more deeply.

(Luke 8:18; Philippians 4:8)

4. Discrepancy Gap

 

False self; a professed belief without yet being rooted in character

Rocky soil; No fruitfulness

Matthew 13:20-21; Mark 4:16-17; Luke 8;13

Following a confession to god, ask, How can I cooperate with you, Lord, in forming my heart? Cultivate receptivity when the Spirit awakens us to character gaps; also cultivate receptivity to feedback from others. Be engaged in at least one formation project. (Matthew 5:20-48; 1 Timothy 4:7-8)
5. Distracted Gap

 

Slowly drifting away from Jesus’ priorities

Thorny soil; No fruitfulness

Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18-19; Luke 8:14

Review a list of Jesus’ priorities and life goals; ask, Where am I off course and now needing realignment, Lord? Study Scripture; examine Jesus’ priorities and life goals regularly. Ask for feedback from trusted mentors and friends. (Luke 21:34-36; Revelation 2:1-7)

As I learned this week, both from the hard way and through reading, I still have gaps in my character and behavior that need attending to.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Books, Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Think about the cross

This week, the attention of Christ followers is turned towards the cross. On Good Friday, we remember and reflect that Jesus died for our sins on the cross. Throughout the centuries, numerous songs have been written and sung on this theme. Among them are

  • At the cross
  • When I survey the wondrous cross
  • The wonderful cross
  • Lead me to the cross
  • Thank you for the cross

When you think about the cross, what comes to mind? What does the cross mean to you?

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Easter & Good Friday, Music

 
 
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