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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Exposing the myth of The Resurrection

Mythbusters is a TV show on the Discovery Channel. Over the years, they have tested the veracity of many different legends and special effects shown on TV and in the movies. A few years back they tested whether or not MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) really could have blasted a hole in a wall with one gram of pure sodium or built an ultralight airplane out of bamboo and duct tape. Last year, they tested the scene in Titanic where Jack and Rose tried to share the board before Jack drowned.

What if Mythbusters attempted to prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ didn’t happen? What if they were successful? Is the resurrection really that important to faith? In 1 Corinthians 15:1-19, the apostle Paul asks the question, “What if the resurrection isn’t true? What have we lost?”

cross - empty tombThe first part of verse 3 tells us we are not dealing with minor or secondary matters. These are matters of “first importance.” Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body, so the truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of the good news about salvation.

Even if they miss everything else, Paul wants his readers to understand that there are two key facts about Jesus. Jesus died for our sins and he came back to life.

The first fact is that Christ died (3). The proof of his death is that he was buried (4). The second fact is that Christ came back to life. He rose (4). The proof of his resurrection is that he appeared (5-8). Notice the connection: “Christ died (how do I know?) . . . He was buried.” “He was raised (how do I know?) . . . He appeared.”

But suppose for a moment, as the apostle Paul does, that the critics of the resurrection are right. According to verse 12, some false teachers in Corinth taught that Jesus did not really rise from the dead. The resurrection was just a hoax.

If that is true, then what happened to Jesus? Down through the years, four primary theories have been advanced as to what happened.

The first one is the “Swoon theory.” This theory states that Christ was indeed nailed to the cross. He suffered from shock, loss of blood, and pain, and he swooned away; but he didn’t actually die. In the coolness of the tomb, he revived sufficiently to roll away a two-ton boulder covering the entrance of the tomb and walk out. Not knowing any better, the disciples insisted it was a resurrection from the dead.

Look at the facts. Christ was beaten with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes. He was nailed to a cross and hung in the sun for 6 hours. A Roman soldier ran a spear through his heart. He was wrapped in yards of graveclothes weighted with pounds of spices. He was placed in an airless tomb for 36 hours. With no medical attention, he revived, undid the graveclothes, rolled away a stone that three women felt incapable of tackling, and walked miles on wounded feet.

Another prominent theory is that the disciples stole the body on Sunday morning. The religious authorities at the time paid the Roman soldiers to tell this lie. Once again, consider the facts. To steal the body, the disciples would have had to get past a guard of probably 16 heavily armed soldiers, who could have been executed if they had been caught asleep on duty.

The other possible explanation is that the disciples went to the wrong tomb. It has been claimed that Jesus’ female disciples went to the ‘wrong’ tomb and mistook it for the actual sepulcher in which Jesus had been placed. Even if this were possible, Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the tomb, would have known where it was.

In each of these theories, the authorities could simply have gone to the proper tomb and produced the body of Jesus if it had still been available.

All of these theories break down at some point. But suppose for the sake of argument that one of them was true. Suppose that the resurrection did not happen. Would that be so bad? We would still have Jesus’ ethical example and moral teachings, his miracles and parables, his good deeds, and his model of sacrifice. If the resurrection is false, what have we really lost?

Empty Tomb 2That is the question that Paul asks in verses 13-19. He bases his argument on the logical consequences of the belief the resurrection is false. He pushes the argument to its logical extreme.

Our Faith is Lost (14, 17). If the Christian message does not include a risen Christ, and we have put our confident trust in Him, then we are leaning on something that will ultimately collapse.

Our Forgiveness is Lost (17). Without a substitute who died in our place, there is no satisfaction for a holy God who demands that sin’s price be paid. If Christ is not risen, forgiveness for sin is an impossibility.

Our Future is Lost (19). If Jesus is not raised from the dead, we only have hope in this life. All the promises of heaven are false. Death should terrify us for there is no hope beyond the grave. If there is nothing beyond today, why bother enduring persecution, suffering, and trials? Why bother trying to live a moral life?

Our Family & Friends who Embraced the Christian Message and then Died are Lost (18). If all of this is a hoax, we still have time to find another way, another hope, another Savior. But our loved ones and friends who have died believing the Christian message about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are hopelessly lost. They do not have a second chance.

Our Integrity is Lost (15). If the apostles, the prophets, and the New Testament writers lied about the heart of the gospel why should they be believed about anything else?

In a court of law, “Exhibit A” of the evidence for the resurrection would be the empty tomb. It was in the interest of both the Roman and Jewish authorities to produce Jesus’ dead body and thus squelch the rumors that he had risen from the tomb. Their failure to do so increases the likelihood that the resurrection actually did take place as described in the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15.

The second evidence of the resurrection was the post-resurrection appearances by Christ (4-8). In a Jewish court of law, the presence of two or three witnesses was mandatory to prove the veracity of an event. By appearing to five hundred believers at one time, Jesus provided overwhelming proof of being alive. In addition, by appealing to the witnesses still alive, Paul was inviting his readers to check his facts if they had doubt about his words.

The third prominent piece of evidence for the resurrection was the changed lives of the early followers of Christ. Following His death, the disciples ran for their lives. But something happened after the resurrection. Peter boldly proclaimed Jesus alive, even on threat of death. Thomas the doubter affirmed the risen Jesus as “my Lord and my God.” James became a leader of the Jerusalem church. Paul went from persecuting the church to preaching the gospel.

Easter_morningIf you honestly consider the evidence, you must conclude that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . . that He was buried . . . and that He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures . . . and that He appeared.

Our faith is not futile, but well-placed. Our forgiveness is not lost, but complete. Our future is not hopeless, but hope-filled. Our family and friends who have died in Christ are safe in the arms of Jesus. Our integrity is not compromised, but maintained.

We can only conclude one thing, HE IS NOT DEAD. HE IS RISEN INDEED!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Easter Extravanza

First Central Baptist Church  of Chicopee, MA, hosted an Easter Extravanza this morning in our parking lot. The main attraction was the Roaming Railroad. We also had face painting, coloring pages, a craft, the Easter story, and of course, food–popcorn, hotdogs,  and cookies. As you can see from the pictures, a number of families attended and had a great time of fun.

 
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Good Friday

good-friday-cartoon-bc

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Easter & Good Friday

 

What’s so good about Good Friday?

crossIs Good Friday a holiday or a Holy Day? Is this a day to weep over our sins or to celebrate our forgiveness? Is this a day for mourning or a day for celebration? What’s so good about Good Friday?

For some, Good Friday is a day to be somber. It is a time to read the penitential psalms and examine one’s sins. It is a time to confess all your sins and clean out all your mental closets. It is a time to look around the bare cell of your heart for some forgotten fault, yet at the same time being careful to avoid the danger of manufacturing contrition for its own sake. It is a time to mourn that our sins sent Jesus to the cross.

Jesus was . . . betrayed . . . tried . . . denied . . . deserted . . . beaten . . . humiliated . . . crucified . . . for you and me. Good Friday is certainly a day to mourn.

For others, Good Friday is a day for celebration. Bewailing and lamenting your manifold sins does not in itself make up for them. Scouring your soul in a frenzy of spring cleaning only sterilizes it; it does not give it life. While Good Friday is the day we can do nothing at all, it is a time to rejoice because someone else did the terrible work that gave life to the world.

1 Peter 2:24 illustrates both aspects of mourning and celebration.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin . . .

. . . and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

We mourn because Christ died for our sins. He gave us an example that we should die to sin as well. We celebrate because we live to righteousness. We have been healed through his death.

It was June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.

Late in the day it flashed the signal: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N—D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -.” Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N- – -D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- – -T-H-E- – -E-N-E-M-Y!” It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!

So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus’ most loyal friends. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had “read” only part of the divine message. “Christ defeated” was all that they knew. But then on the third day—Easter Sunday—the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message: “Christ defeated death!” Defeat was turned into victory; death was turned to life!

Good Friday is not a day for mourning. We should be sobered because of what Jesus did for us. But he took our place on the cross because he loved us. Good Friday is a day to celebrate the grace of God.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Easter & Good Friday, Scripture

 

The importance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Wordle is a very fun toy that creates “word clouds.” You paste some text into the form, push the button to create and voila, beautiful word clouds. You can even change the fonts and color schemes.

This week, I have been immersed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-19 preparing to preach on the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Below are four different wordles of that passage.

Java Printing

Java Printing

Java Printing

Java Printing

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Easter & Good Friday, Scripture

 

Disturb me, O Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrive safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

With the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, the famous sixteenth-century adventurer

Cited in Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own, by Ryan & Josh Shook

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Personal growth, Prayer

 

A faith to call your own

FirsthandBook Review: Firsthand: Ditching secondhand religion for a faith of your own, by Ryan & Josh Shook

What do you do when you’ve seemingly outgrown your faith? How do you move from something your parents believe to a faith that you own? What do you do when nothing at church satisfies the inner spiritual hunger that gnaws at you? How do you develop a relationship with Christ when it seems like all you do is go through the motions, check off the list, and keep up religious appearances?

These are the questions posed by brothers Ryan and Josh Shook in their new book, Firsthand. Their goal is to help people form a faith that is unique and every bit a person’s own; a relationship that is alive and growing rather than a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to religion.

The authors suggest several helpful principles in developing this kind of faith.

  • Acknowledge your emptiness and ask God to fill you with himself.
  • Stop hiding secret sins and find a friend you can open up to about your struggles.
  • Allow your faith to transform your life.
  • Get rid of your religious checklist and focus on developing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Use your doubts to fuel a search for the truth.
  • Step outside your comfort zone and allow God to stretch your faith.
  • Join a community where you can find encouragement and accountability.

The authors are open and honest about their own struggles in pursuing a firsthand faith. This helps make their principles and suggestions real instead of someone else’s theories. They include interviews from a wide range of people which helps to illustrate both the real-life struggles as well as the solutions. Each chapter ends with several quotes from individuals on the topic, questions to ask in going deeper, and helpful suggestions as to what to do next.

The book would be a helpful volume for those serving in youth ministry, as it will help them better understand how to prepare their students for moving into adulthood. It would also be a helpful gift for a college student wrestling with their own questions and about faith.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Books, Ministry, Passion, Personal growth

 

Palm Sunday is a day of clashing expectations

Triumphal entryOn Palm Sunday, churches around the country hand palm branches to children and stage their own version of the triumphal entry. We celebrate the fact that Jesus is the king. We want a feel good moment.

The term, “Triumphal entry,” however, does not describe the apostle John’s recollection of those events. As he describes the event in John 12:12-26, it was a day where expectations clashed head on. Amidst conflicting expectations, Jesus is the king who confronts us with a choice as to who he is.

In verses 12-15, Jesus is presented as the King of Israel, the one who fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. As John explains, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem occurred the day after Mary had anointed him in Bethany (John 12:1-11). She understood he was going to die and was anointing him beforehand for burial.

As he began his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus was accompanied by people who were present at the raising of Lazarus (John 11). There were those in Jerusalem who heard about the miracle and came out to meet Jesus. There were others who were in the city for the Passover feast. Estimates of the crowd range from 120,000 to Josephus’ estimate of 2.5 million. Whatever the number, the people started crying, “Hosanna!” or “Save now!” The words, “Hosanna” and “Blessed,” were taken from Psalm 118:25-26. They were part of the Hallel, sung during the Passover Feast. The people hoped Jesus was coming as a conquering general to drive out the Romans.

Rather than enter as a conquering king, Jesus entered as a humble servant. He chose a young donkey rather than a chariot and horses. In so doing, he fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

John describes the reaction of several groups of people. The disciples were confused (16) and did not understand what it all meant. It would be after the resurrection before the light bulb of understanding would turn on.

The crowds (17-18) wanted another miracle. They were curious to see what Jesus might do next.

The religious leaders (19) were jealous of Jesus’ growing popularity. As other verses explain, they were upset that Jesus did not perform religion according to their rules.

There were some god-fearing Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (20-22). They approached Philip and then Andrew about getting an audience with Jesus. The fact that Greeks were coming to Jesus demonstrated it was time for him to die for the sins of the world. He no longer belonged only to the Jews.

Jesus responded to the request from the Greeks by revealing his impending death (23-26). Rather than speaking of tragedy, Jesus saw his hour as one of triumph. Instead of being dishonored, he was going to be glorified. Using an agricultural metaphor, Jesus explained that the way of fruitfulness lies through death.

Jesus also explained the ultimate cost of discipleship or being his follower involved the death of the disciple. Rather than physical death, Jesus was referring to dying to one’s selfish and self-centered interests. He promised eternal life and heaven to those who made that choice.

As you consider the events of Palm Sunday, which group are you in?

  • Are you Confused—not understanding what it all means?
  • Are you a Consumer—wanting something from God; waiting for the next big thing?
  • Are you a Legalist—opposed to Jesus because he does not follow your rules or meet your expectations?
  • Are you a Seeker—wanting to see Jesus and know him better?
  • Are you a Follower—have you died to self and are serving the King?

All Hail, King Jesus!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 24, 2013. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Winter Angst

The news headlines that winter is continuing is causing many to show their angst.

“More snow coming with much of the US set to shiver through March.”

“How a messy match unfolded, a real ‘snow battle’” describes how the US Men’s Soccer team played a World Cup Qualifying Match in a snow globe in Denver.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in News stories, Photos, Winter

 

A thing worth doing

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

I always found this quote by G. K. Chesterton puzzling. Was he saying it is ok to be slipshod in our work? Was he justifying mediocrity?

Author Ross Lawhead gives a succinct explanation by stating,

So says G K Chesterton, who did many things but rarely did them badly. He isn’t saying that we should not strive to do things well, but only that if something worth doing, then it should be done regardless of our capacity to do it well or not.

The American Chesterton Society adds a longer and fuller explanation. The author of that website gives three reasons or explanations for the statement. The first is that Chesterton was defending the amateur against the professional, or the generalist against the specialist, especially when it came to things worth doing.

There are things like playing the organ or discovering the North Pole, or being Astronomer Royal, which we do not want a person to do at all unless he does them well. But those are not the most important things in life. When it comes to writing one’s own love letters and blowing one’s own nose, “these things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly.”

The second explanation is not an excuse for poor efforts, but possibly for poor results.

. . . our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.

The third explanation is that the phrase is a defense of hobbies.

. . . the phrase is a defense of hobbies. This was confirmed by Chesterton himself. The phrase became famously attached to Chesterton in his own life. And it was perhaps Chesterton’s only line which he actually quoted in something else he wrote. From his mystery “When Doctors Agree” published in the collection, The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond (1937):

Paradox has been defined as “Truth standing on her head to get attention.” Paradox has been defended; on the ground that so many fashionable fallacies still stand firmly on their feet, because they have no heads to stand on. But it must be admitted that writers, like other mendicants and mountebanks, frequently do try to attract attention. They set out conspicuously, in a single line in a play , or at the head or tail of a paragraph, remarks of this challenging kind; as when Mr. Bernard Shaw wrote: “The Golden Rule is that there is no Golden Rule”; or Oscar Wilde observed: “I can resist everything except temptation”; or a duller scribe (not to be named with these and now doing penance for his earlier vices in the nobler toil of celebrating the virtues of Mr. Pond) said in defence of hobbies and amateurs and general duffers like himself: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” To these things do writers sink; and then the critics tell them that they “talk for effect”; and then the writers answer: “What the devil else should we talk for? Ineffectualness?”

I still think Ross Lawhead’s explanation is the best. If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing, regardless of our capacity for excellence.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Quotes, Work

 
 
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