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Archive for March, 2007

It’s Time to Move On to the Greater Works


"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  13"Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  John 14:12-13 (NAS)

Where are they? Where are the greater works in the western church today? We see them happening in other areas of the world. The dead are raised, the blind see, the lame are made whole and most of all souls are rescued everyday in the thousands. Why not  here? Could it be we are missing it? Are we so centered on us as individuals that we have forgotten who we are truly meant to be as a church? We care too much on what is going on in the world and not enough time learning to be like Jesus. Instead the church in the west has become a political movement where we try to dictate to the world how they should live and yet our own lives and our churches are a mess. We have become in many ways the new Pharisees. Do as we say and not as we do. We try to dictate to the world how it should live when it is only God that can change a person’s heart. We are a very self-righteous lot and many of the names the church and Christians are called in the west we deserve. You cannot legislate righteousness.  

I have put all my music on my computer at home and there are literally thousands of songs on there which I play at random, but lately this one song from Hillsongs keeps coming up called Believe. It has caused me to think.

I say on Sunday
How much I want revival
But then by Monday
I can’t even find my Bible
Where’s the pow’r
The pow’r of the cross
In my life

I’m sick of playin’
The game of religion
I’m tired of losing
My reason for livin’
Where’s the pow’r
The pow’r of the cross
In my life

I’m not satisfied
Doin’ it my own way
I’m not satisfied
To do church and walk away
I’m not satisfied
There’s no love in my life but You
I’m not satisfied
Livin’ in yesterday’s hour
I’m not satisfied to have the form
But not the pow’r
I’m not satisfied
Oh Lord I am crucified in You
In You

We believe in You
We believe in the pow’r
Of Your word and its truth
We believe in You
So we lay down our cause
That our cross might be found in You

CCLI Song #2938550
© 1999 City Bible Music
Donna Lasit
For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use. All rights Reserved. http://www.ccli.com
CCLI License #2722256

It seems we come into church every Sunday, have our little service and walk away without even being changed. How many of you can even remember what your pastor’s sermon was about or what songs were sung in worship? It’s like playing house. When we were kids we would pretend, but it wasn’t the real thing and I’m afraid that is what is going on in the church today. We pretend. We have the form but no substance. No power. Many never even take up the bible to study and many spend less than 5 minutes a day in prayer, if even that. How can we stand in judgement or condemn others when we don’t even do the things Jesus asked of us? We hide sin in our hearts and yet we want to tell others how to live?

When Christ was here on earth, those who were politically minded tried to pull Jesus into the politics of the time and he refused. He had come to set men free, not to condemn them. He came to give the world hope and through His sacrifice on the cross He opened the way for all men to come to God. A homosexual is not going to come to Jesus because you tell Him he is condemned to hell for his lifestyle, but He may come to Jesus if He is shown Christ’s love and His power in setting someone free. Only God can change a sinner’s heart. We can’t and anytime we try, we risk losing that person.

The only way things will change is if we start getting serious.  The church in the west needs to repent. We have tried to play God and made ourselves the judge and jury of many and because of that have sent many to Hell. It is only the Word and the Spirit that convicts men’s souls. When you try to force things upon people they tend to go in the opposite direction and you will find that you have started a rebellion. We need to get on our faces and start asking God for the greater works. Revival in our nations will only happen in this way.

Peter and John one day were on the way to the temple when they saw a man who was lame begging at the gates. They had compassion on the man and healed him in front of the crowds. This opened the door for them to preach salvation to those who were there and many were saved. Acts chapter 3. It was the power the people saw that opened the way for the gospel to be presented. When is the last time you have seen that happen outside a church?

When will we start living like we are supposed to live and walk as we are to walk? The world needs the church, the bride of Christ with all the love and compassion of her risen Lord shining through her. We will have to let go of a lot to get there. Many of our traditions and prejudices will have to fall. We have to stop trying to build little kingdoms and start trying to add to the kingdom of heaven and that means crossing denominational barriers as well. It can happen but we must be willing vessels and then and only then will the power that we are lacking return to the church in the west.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2Chr 7:14 (NKJV)

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Who Is Jesus? – Part V


The Resurrection

When I first came back to Jesus, I read a book by Josh McDowell that helped understand many things about the Gospels. It is called Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Great book. Pick it up if you can. This is a condensed chapter from that book. – God bless – Gerry

Evidence for the Resurrection

by Josh McDowell

For centuries many of the world’s distinguished philosophers have assaulted Christianity as being irrational, superstitious and absurd. Many have chosen simply to ignore the central issue of the resurrection. Others have tried to explain it away through various theories. But the historical evidence just can’t be discounted.

A student at the University of Uruguay said to me. "Professor McDowell, why can’t you refute Christianity?"

"For a very simple reason," I answered. "I am not able to explain away an event in history–the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

How can we explain the empty tomb? Can it possibly be accounted for by any natural cause?

A QUESTION OF HISTORY
After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings–or it is the most remarkable fact of history.

Here are some of the facts relevant to the resurrection: Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, was arrested, was judged a political criminal, and was crucified. Three days after His death and burial, some women who went to His tomb found the body gone. In subsequent weeks, His disciples claimed that God had raised Him from the dead and that He appeared to them various times before ascending into heaven.

From that foundation, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and has continued to exert great influence down through the centuries.

LIVING WITNESSES


The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.

The writers of the four Gospels either had themselves been witnesses or else were relating the accounts of eyewitnesses of the actual events. In advocating their case for the gospel, a word that means "good news," the apostles appealed (even when confronting their most severe opponents) to common knowledge concerning the facts of the resurrection.

F. F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records as primary sources: "Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective."

IS THE NEW TESTAMENT RELIABLE?


Because the New Testament provides the primary historical source for information on the resurrection, many critics during the 19th century attacked the reliability of these biblical documents.

By the end of the 1 9th century, however, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of early papyri bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date.

Those findings increased scholarly confidence in the reliability of the Bible. William F. Albright, who in his day was the world’s foremost biblical archaeologist, said: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."

Coinciding with the papyri discoveries, an abundance of other manuscripts came to light (over 24,000 copies of early New Testament manuscripts are known to be in existence today). The historian Luke wrote of "authentic evidence" concerning the resurrection. Sir William Ramsay, who spent 15 years attempting to undermine Luke credentials as a historian, and to refute the reliability of the New Testament, finally concluded: "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. "

I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history . . .

E. M. Blaiklock
Professor of Classics
Auckland University

BACKGROUND


The New Testament witnesses were fully aware of the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance.

A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to "prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.

But three days later the tomb was empty. The followers of Jesus said He had risen from the dead. They reported that He appeared to them during a period of 40 days, showing Himself to them by many "infallible proofs." Paul the apostle recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive and who could confirm what Paul wrote. So many security precautions were taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing, and guarding of Christ’s tomb that it becomes very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead. Consider these facts:

    FACT #1: BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
    As we have said, the first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times.

    FACT #2: EMPTY TOMB


    As we have already discussed, another obvious fact after the resurrection was the empty tomb. The disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was "too notorious to be denied." Paul Althaus states that the resurrection "could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned."

    Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb. Those resources range from Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the "Toledoth Jeshu." Dr. Paul Maier calls this "positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favor, then that fact is genuine."

    Gamaliel, who was a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the rise of the Christian movement was God’s doing; he could not have done that if the tomb were still occupied, or if the Sanhedrin knew the whereabouts of Christ’s body.

    Paul Maier observes that " . . . if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."

    FACT #3: LARGE STONE MOVED


    On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it.

    There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies . . . Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias.

    Clark Pinnock
    Mcmaster University

    Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?

    FACT #4: ROMAN GUARD GOES AWOL


    The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one wand be punished with death for the guard unit’s failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment "produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches."

    FACT #5: GRAVECLOTHES TELL A TALE


    In a literal sense, against all statements to the contrary, the tomb was not totally empty–because of an amazing phenomenon. John, a disciple of Jesus, looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty–like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar’s cocoon. That’s enough to make a believer out of anybody. John never did get over it. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes–undisturbed in form and position.

    FACT #6: JESUS’ APPEARANCES CONFIRMED


    Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter . When studying an event in history, it is important to know whether enough people who were participants or eyewitnesses to the event were alive when the facts about the event were published. To know this is obviously helpful in ascertaining the accuracy of the published report. If the number of eyewitnesses is substantial, the event can he regarded as fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and a later police report turns out to he a fabrication of lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it.

OVER 500 WITNESSES


Several very important factors arc often overlooked when considering Christ’s post-resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning. One of the earliest records of Christ’s appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience’s knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned. Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, associate professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: "What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, ‘If you do not believe me, you can ask them.’ Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago." Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.

HOSTILE WITNESSES


Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ’s appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced.

Over and over again, I have read or heard people comment that Jesus was seen alive after His death and burial only by His friends and followers. Using that argument, they attempt to water down the overwhelming impact of the multiple eyewitness accounts. But that line of reasoning is so pathetic it hardly deserves comment. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ’s followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection.

If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.

F. F. Bruce
Manchester University

The argument that Christ’s appearances were only to followers is an argument for the most part from silence, and arguments from silence can be dangerous. It is equally possible that all to whom Jesus appeared became followers. No one acquainted with the facts can accurately say that Jesus appeared to just "an insignificant few."

Christians believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected in time and space by the supernatural power of God. The difficulties of belief may be great, but the problems inherent in unbelief present even greater difficulties.

The theories advanced to explain the resurrection by "natural causes" are weak; they actually help to build confidence in the truth of the resurrection.

THE WRONG TOMB?
A theory propounded by Kirsopp Lake assumes that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If so, then the disciples who went to check up on the women’s statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. We may be certain, however, that Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus’ body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there!

If the resurrection-claim was merely because of a geographical mistake, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor resurrection.

HALLUCINATIONS?


Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations, this theory also does not coincide with the historical situation. Again, where was the actual body, and why wasn’t it produced?

DID JESUS SWOON?


Another theory, popularized by Venturini several centuries ago, is often quoted today. This is the swoon theory, which says that Jesus didn’t die; he merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought Him dead, but later He resuscitated and the disciples thought it to be a resurrection. Skeptic David Friedrich Strauss–certainly no believer in the resurrection–gave the deathblow to any thought that Jesus revived from a swoon: "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life,

For the New Testament of Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.

A. N. Sherwin-White
Classical Roman Historian

an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship."

THE BODY STOLEN?


Then consider the theory that the body was stolen by the disciples while the guards slept. The depression and cowardice of the disciples provide a hard-hitting argument against their suddenly becoming so brave and daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body. They were in no mood to attempt anything like that.

The theory that the Jewish or Roman authorities moved Christ’s body is no more reasonable an explanation for the empty tomb than theft by the disciples. If the authorities had the body in their possession or knew where it was, why, when the disciples were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, didn’t they explain: "Wait! We moved the body, see, He didn’t rise from the grave"?

And if such a rebuttal failed, why didn’t they explain exactly where Jesus’ body lay? If this failed, why didn’t they recover the corpse, put it on a cart, and wheel it through the center of Jerusalem? Such an action would have destroyed Christianity–not in the cradle, but in the womb!

THE RESURRECTION IS A FACT
Professor Thomas Arnold, for 14 years a headmaster of Rugby, author of the famous, History of Rome, and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God bath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Brooke Foss Westcott, an English scholar, said: "raking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it."


REAL PROOF: THE DISCIPLES’ LIVES

But the most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ?

Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts–prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits–we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this "risen Christ ."

As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking.

Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.

WHERE DO YOU STAND?
How do you evaluate this overwhelming historical evidence? What is your decision about the fact of Christ’s empty tomb? What do you think of Christ?

When I was confronted with the overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection, I had to ask the logical question: "What difference does all this evidence make to me? What difference does it make whether or not I believe Christ rose again and died on the cross for my sins!’ The answer is put best by something Jesus said to a man who doubted–Thomas. Jesus told him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).

On the basis of all the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, and considering the fact that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God, who would be so foolhardy as to reject Him? Christ is alive! He is living today.

You can trust God right now by faith through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. If you have never trusted Christ, you can do so right now.

The prayer I prayed is: "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and trust You as my Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You that I can trust You."

Who I s Jesus? – Part IV


His Death

Parental Guidance Warning – Graphic description of Christ’s death.

The central story of the Gospels is the death and resurrection of Jesus. But what if He faked His death as many people say? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, "But tell me this–since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world." (NLT)

After stating the above Paul says the following in verse 20, "But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again"

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul said this; "Now let me remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is built on this wonderful message. And it is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it–unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me–that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, I saw him, too."

Did Jesus really die on the cross? Was His death faked? Let’s look at the medical evidence. In Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ he interviews Dr. Robert J. Stein and Alexander Metherell, M.D., PH.D. In these interviews some facts that only medical doctors could see surface.

The torture that would end on the cross actually began in the garden of Gethsemane. The Bible says in Luke 22:41-44; "And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

There is a medical condition called hematdrosis. It is a condition associated with a very high degree of psychological stress. What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down small blood vessels in the sweat glands. As a result there is a small amount of bleeding occurs and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. It also has the effect of making the person’s skin extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier His skin would have been very, very sensitive.

Roman flogging was very brutal and though the sentence given was usually 39 lashes, the prisoner frequently received more depending on the mood of the soldier giving out the punishment. They would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by very deep cuts.

One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, " As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh." A historian by the name Eusebius who lived in the third century described it saying. "The sufferer’s veins were laid bare and the insides of his body were laid open to exposure"

Many people were known to have died from a beating like this before they were crucified. At the very least the person would suffer a tremendous amount of pain and go into hypovolemic shock which is a condition brought on by loss of a large amount of blood.

Because of the terrible effects of the beating Jesus received there is no question that Jesus was already in a critical condition even before the nails were driven through His hands and feet.

After He arrived at Golgotha, they bound Him to a cross. They fastened him to it by driving spikes that were 5 to 7 inches long through His wrists just below the palms. This is where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going into the hand and it would have been crushed by the spike. The pain that this would have produced would be like someone taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve. Imagine the pain of a dentist accidently hitting a nerve in your mouth but instead of the pain leaving, it stays. He was then hoisted up and spikes were driven through His feet, producing the same pain He received in His hands. This is just the beginning of what He suffered. Next because of the weight of His body on the cross His arms would have stretched and His shoulders would have become dislocated.

Crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reasons for this is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into an inhaled position and to exhale the person must push up on his feet so that the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. Each breath was complete agony. Every time the person would struggle to breath their battered back and spine would rub against the rough wood of the cross and the spikes would tear deeper into their flesh. Eventually exhaustion would set in and they would go into a condition called respiratory acidosis. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat and to finally a heart attack. This is the manner in which Jesus died.

How do we know He actually died and didn’t faint? When a person dies their blood stops flowing and in Jesus case because of the hypovolemic shock which contributed to the rapid heartbeat and failure, there was a collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart and as well as the lungs. So when the Roman soldier thrust the spear into Jesus side blood and water flowed out. This can only occur if a person’s heart has stopped beating and is dead.

Jesus died in a way that exacted the most pain that a human being could endure and He did it all with you in mind. Jesus was not killed, He gave His life willingly and became the ultimate sacrifice bridging the gap that sin had made between us and God.

But He didn’t stay dead. Christ is risen! He is risen Indeed!

Who Is Jesus? – Part III


Is the Bible Reliable?

We have looked and seen that ancient historians and archaeology both support that Jesus did exist. We have seen that all the prophecies concerning His coming to earth the first time have come to pass as well. But how can we know that the Bible we have today is accurate? Many would say that the Bible we have today is not the same as the original and that many things have been added or taken away. Is this true? Let’s take a look.

When it comes to historical documents by ancient historians we find there are few. One of them was Tacitus, the Roman historian who wrote the Annals of Imperial Rome in about 116 A.D. Only 1 manuscript exists and it was copied about 850 A.D.

Josephus the first century Jewish historian’s work The Jewish War has only 9 copies all made between the 10th and 12th centuries.

Homar’s Iliad which was the bible of the ancient Greeks has fewer than 650 manuscripts. Some from the 2nd and 3rd century. When you think that he composed it about 800 B.C., it’s quite a gap.

How many manuscripts exist for the Bible? For the New testament alone they have found and cataloged over 5,000 Greek manuscripts. One of these is from around 3rd century called the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri number one contains portions of the four gospels and the book of Acts. Papyrus number 2 contains large portions of eight of Paul’s letters and a portion of Hebrews dating to the year 200. Papyrus number 3 has a large portion of the book of Revelation dating from the 3rd century.

The earliest portion of scripture ever found is a portion of John chapter 8. It was discovered in 1920 and in 1934 C.H. Roberts of Saint John’s Collage, in Oxford, England was able to place it as originating somewhere between the years of 100 and 150 A.D.

In addition to the Greek documents there are portions in other languages. There are 8,000 to 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts plus a total of 8,000 in Ethiopic, Slavic, and Armenian. In all there are about 24,000 manuscripts in existence.

The late F.F. Bruce, eminent professor at the University of Manchester, England and author of The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, said; "There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual witness as the New Testament."

Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum said; "In no other case is the interval of the time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as that of the New Testament."

Many people believe that because the Bible has been copied over and over again it is full of mistakes and inaccuracies therefore, today we don’t have what was originally written. Is this true? Let’s take a look. There are literally tens of thousands of variations between the different texts that have been found. Eye glasses were not invented until 1373 in Venice and many of the scribes had to work under conditions with poor lighting and from texts that were faded by age so yes error was bound to come in at some points. Sometimes the scribe’s mind would play tricks on him between reading the script and the actual copying to a new parchment and words would get shifted. So instead of the sentence reading dog bites man it would be copied as man bites dog. The words were right but they were placed in the wrong sequence. In English or French this might cause a problem but because they were copying in Greek it was not. In Greek sequence doesn’t matter. One word functions as the subject of the sentence no matter were it is placed in the sequence. The meaning of the sentence isn’t distorted even if the words are not in what we would consider the right order. Differences in the spelling of names and places would be another variant between the different manuscripts. Other variants are differences in punctuation.

So do the variants between manuscripts affect any of the major doctrines of the church? None at all. Even with the variant’s we have scholars Norman Geisler and William Nix concluded that, " The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book, a form that is 99.5% pure"

When it comes to the Bible, how can we know that some books haven’t been left out or were changed by the early church fathers? How did they arrive at what books were to be in the Bible and which were not?

Basically the books had to meet three different criteria. First they had to have apostolic authority, meaning they had to have been written by the apostles themselves, who were eyewitnesses to the events they wrote about or were followers of the apostles, as is the case of Mark and Luke. Mark was a helper to Peter, while Luke was an associate of Paul.

Second there they had to conform to what was called the rule of faith. The documents had to be in harmony with each other. And third it had to be accepted and already being used by the church. All the books we have now in the New Testament were accepted by the end of the second century.

Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, PH.D. of the Princeton Theological Seminary say’s, "We can be confident that no other ancient books can compare with the New Testament in terms of importance for Christian history or doctrine. When one studies the early history of the canon, you walk away convinced that the New Testament contains the best sources for the history of Jesus. Those who discerned the limits of the canon had a clear and balanced perspective of the gospel of Christ.

"Just read the other documents for yourself. They were written much later than the four gospels, some as late as the 6th century, long after Jesus was here. They carry names like the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Mary that are completely unrelated to their real authorship. On the other hand the four gospels were accepted with remarkable unanimity as being authentic in the story they told."

When it comes to the question of whether some of the books in the New Testament were changed to suit the beliefs of the early church fathers you have to realize that books were in wide circulation before the canon was accepted. If the leaders changed the words of Jesus, there would have been such an outcry by the early church that would have been documented and yet not one such protest has ever been found.

For further reading on this subject read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

Who Is Jesus? – Part II


What History Says

Many today will say that the Bible is a book of myths and fairytales and that Jesus and others never really existed. Historical documents and archeology dispute this in a big way. Here is what some ancient historians had to say about Jesus;

"Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a member of a priestly family and who became a Pharisee at the age of 19, became the court historian for Emperor Vespasian. In the Antiquities, he wrote about many persons and events of first century Palestine. He makes two references to Jesus. The first reference is believed associated with the Apostle James. "…he brother of Jesus, who was called Christ." He also wrote, "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive, accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recorded information pertaining to Jesus. He told of how Nero blamed a certain sect called Christians whom he said followed the teachings of Christus for the burning of Rome and decided to make an example of them buy torturing them in the Colosseum.

Thallus wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus. His writing date to circa 52 A.D. and the passage on Jesus was contained in Thallus’ work on the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to 52 A.D. Thallus noted that darkness fell on the land at the time of the crucifixion. He wrote that such a phenomenon was caused by an eclipse.

Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator who served as the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote in 112 A.D., two hundred years before the "deity" reaffirmation, that Christians in Bithynia worshipped Christ.

The Talmud, which consists of Jewish traditions handed down orally from generation to generation, was organized by Rabbi Akiba before his death in 135 A.D. The writings in the Talmud embrace the legal, ritual and exegetical commentaries that have developed right down to contemporary times. In Sanhedrin 43a, reference to Jesus is found. "On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf. But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of the Passover."If Jesus had been stoned, his death would have been at the hands of the Jews. The fact he was crucified shows that the Romans intervened. The Talmud also speaks of five of Jesus’ disciples.

The science of archaeology supports the existence of Jesus in that the names of people and places mentioned in the Gospels have been proven to be factual. Here are some of the discoveries made.;

The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are proven by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae ("Things Accomplished"), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.

That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.

As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35).

Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive. An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.

That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike.

Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.

In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.

So where do you stand? History and archeology support that Jesus existed. Will you believe today? Who do you say He is?

For further reading on these subjects, read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

Part III on Monday

Who Is Jesus? – Part I


This is a series I wrote about 2 years ago and because there has been such an attack in the media concerning who He is, I thought it would good to post it again.

Jesus. Just the mention of His name either offends or brings peace. Who is He, this one who lived a short 33 years on the earth and yet impacted this world more than any other? A recent Time Magazine poll asked, which person had the most impact person of the 20th century. Overwhelmingly the people voted for Jesus. It became so lopsided that Time had to exclude His name putting in the stipulation that the poll concerned only those who lived in the 20th century. He has affected this world so much that history is really His story. His name has become a curse on he lips of many and yet at the same time many speak blessings in His name. Some will do everything to stamp out His name and yet others are willing to die rather than renounce Him as their Savior. Some say He was a good man who wanted to bring peace. Others say he was a madman or meant to con people.

Today we have such a wide opinion about who He is. The Mormons say He and satan are brothers and were born on another world. The Jehovah’s witnesses say He is the Arch Angel Michael. The Muslims say He was a prophet of Allah. Some say he was a wise man like Buddha or Confucius. Some groups even say He was an alien from another world. Jesus Himself even asked the question of His disciples. In the Bible in Matthew 16:13-17 it says; "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."Then He asked them, "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being."

Whoever you are, you can’t take a middle ground on who He is. He is either a blessing to you or a curse. He is either your Savior or just another man. Who Jesus is, is spiritually discerned but there are certain truths and facts that we will investigate that will reveal That He was just who He said He was.

Prophecy

Prophecy is defined as a prediction of the future made under Devine inspiration. In the Old Testament of the Bible there are 456 prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. The probabilities of one person fulfilling every one of these prophecies is unbelievable. A few of those prophecies are as follows;

He would be born of a virgin. Isaiah14:7 – fulfilment – Matthew 1:8,

He would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 – fulfilment – Matthew 2:4-8,

King Herod’s attempt to kill Him, Jeremiah 31:15 – fulfilment – Matthew 2:16,

The ministry of John the Baptist, Isaiah 40:3 – fulfilment – John 1:23,

He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, Zechariah 9:9 – fulfilment – Luke 19:35-37,

He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, Zechariah 11:12 – fulfilment – Matthew 26:15,

He would be crucified on a cross, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53:12 – fulfilment – Matthew 27:38,

His resurrection from the dead, Psalm 16:10 – fulfilment – Acts 2:3.

In 1969, Professor Peter Stoner of Westmon College had 600 hundred students work on the probabilities of just 8 prophecies being fulfilled by one person. The students carefully weighed all the factors, discussed each prophecy at length, and examined the various circumstances which might indicate that men had conspired together to fulfill a particular prophecy. They made their estimates conservative enough so that there was finally unanimous agreement even among the most sceptical students. But then Professor Stoner took their estimates and made them even more conservative. He also encouraged other skeptics or scientists to make their own estimates to see if his conclusions were more fair.

Finally, he submitted his figures for review to a Committee of the American Scientific Affiliation. Upon examination, they verified that his calculations were dependable and accurate in regard to scientific material presented. After examining eight different prophecies, they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 10 to the 17th power or a figure with 17 zeros!

To illustrate this imagine the state of Texas being covered in dollar coins over 2 feet deep which is the amount of coins equalling the probability of the 8 prophecies being fulfilled and then asking a blindfolded man to go in and find the one coin that was different from all the others. The chances of him finding it on the first try are almost impossible.

But of course there are many more than eight prophecies. In another calculation Stoner used 48 prophecies and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 10 to 157th power.

How large is the number one in 10 to the 157th power? It contains 157 zeros!

The probability of one person fulfilling all 456 prophecies is a staggering, and yet Jesus fulfilled them all!

("The Case for Jesus the Messiah" (by John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon and Dr. Walter C. Kaiser), page 18-20: )

Who is Jesus? Prophecy proves that He was who He said he was. Only one being has the ability to bring about every prophecy, and that is God Himself. You must make the choice to believe or not.

Part II will be posted in a couple of days.

Are You a Genuine Worshipper?


Here is the question of the week. How many of you give your all in worship, not only on Sunday, but everyday of the week? I think that if we polled the church here in North America we would be shocked by how few of us actually live that way. A life of worship for our King flowing out from our very being, ignited by His Spirit. We would also find, if everyone of us is honest, that even in our Sunday worship we are not being who we should be. We have wandering hearts. Isaiah the prophet said concerning people like us in Isaiah 29:13;

Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
      And honor Me with their lips,
      But have removed their hearts far from Me,
      And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men

Oh how we want to look good in front of others. We put on our Sunday best, put a smile on and act holy when in reality our hearts are far from God. We have forget we are there to honor God and not man. Looking good and holy may fool some, but it never fools God. We forget that he is there in our midst. Mat 18:20. We sing the songs, but do we even pay attention to the lyrics. Are we truly singing from hearts of love and devotion for our Lord?

Here I am to worship,

Here I am to bow down,

Here I am to say that you’re my King,

You’re altogether lovely,

Altogether worthy,

Altogether wonderful to me.

I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.

Have songs like Here I am to Worship become more than songs to us or have they become just another song sung so many times that it has become ordinary. Does it provoke emotions in us or does it bring us to a place of genuine worship. We sang that song last night in both Russian and English at our joint prayer meeting, and I wanted to soar. My heart wanted to burst with praise for Jesus and all He has done for us. For me it’s a song that brings into focus His deep and powerful love for us. It has become not just song to me, but an anthem. But there are other times where even as a worship leader I am just singing the songs without the devotion and worship that are deserved by Christ. We get distracted from the reason why we gather together.

It speaks about the condition of our hearts when we don’t live the lives of worship that we should. We have let them drift and have lost our first love. Go back and remember when you first accepted Jesus into your heart. When all you do was think about Him. When reading His word and spending time in prayer with Him was the things that excited you most. Now many of us have to admit other things have crowded Him out. We get more excited over things. We need to get back to thatfirst love. He is always there waiting so patiently for us.  We need to have that love rekindled once more.  And this goes for all areas of our lives. Not just at Church, but at home, at work, and at play. It has to be all directed and devoted to Him.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Col. 3:16-17

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Col. 3:22-24

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1Cor. 10:31

When we try to please men, our rewards are from men and one day will perish, but when we try to please God and give Him that genuine worship, our reward is eternal.

Check your heart. Are you a man pleaser or a God pleaser? Which would describe you?