A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a
stable in the peaceful night, and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah.
The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible that described “The Star
of Bethlehem” occurrence.
asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his
star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was
it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled
astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large
astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But
why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they
were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?
Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean,
and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based
on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our
astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer
or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered,
and you may come to your own conclusion.
I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not
move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar
system. Based on this, how did the sacred star move, leading the magi to
Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus
lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught
up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far
enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just
before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6
BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and
earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one
described by the magi.
A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the
most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s
Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in
the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from
Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with
the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described
the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent
visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi
tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused
A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a
nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese
historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of
Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the
star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This
explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not
move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it
have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.
Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope.
What do you think?
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This world still evolves in the past tense. I quoted a proverb in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and I’ll be darned if it isn’t true. Solomon wrote this statement, 500 years before Jesus’ birth, to emphasize the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the “rat race.” It’s a life separated from God. But, our gracious God continues to rain down His love on us… even amidst the turmoil.
I’m not a great biblical scholar, but it’s obvious we, as
God’s children have not learned a thing. It’s clear the hardships of Jesus are
repeating themselves in the modern-day. How odd to read the trials of Jesus and
then observe Christianity today.
The Pharisees and Jews took it upon themselves to
discredit the Son of man. Jesus came to save the world and to give us salvation,
but we’ve still not learned our lesson. He was a man so brutally beat,
chastised and ridiculed because no one believed him. It was easier to side with
the laws of the land, then to be uprooted to another religion.
But, a few knew the truth about Him in biblical days. They
did not fear the religious upheaval, but embraced the faith, which led them to
Him. In all His splendor and integrity, Jesus ultimately proved His identity
when He died for our sins.
Today, our system finds it easier to ruin and destroy His
direction than to believe in our Savior, who came to deliver us, two thousand
years ago. The evil brews to the point of boiling, for unbelievers are
monumentally winning over the world. The fact remains, if not for the faith of believers
who held on to their principles, the rampant corruption would go wild. This is
a prophecy in the Bible that our world is quickly fulfilling today.
My Dad, God love him, always said it’s easy to find fault
in a person. I believe goodness lies beneath hatred when the truth slowly emerges
from the layers. I can’t help but think back when Jesus walked on this earth.
His ministry was short, for evildoers who had little faith and didn’t believe
in His integrity blemished it. Doesn’t this sound familiar today as many allow
the media’s march to undermine the truth of God’s word? I cannot imagine the
inner turmoil of those who do not have faith in anything for they relish in
I energize my faith in the name of God’s glory, for the
great master and overseer of all evil, brings to light the doers of animosity.
Just as in biblical times, the proof takes a while to expose, but eventually, the
truth will be revealed for it is God’s will!
Pray for those who live in doubt and fear faith because
they find it easier to condemn than to compliment. The fact remains, God’s love
will intervene in their destructive behavior.
My dad’s words ring out once more!
“A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don’t believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.”
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What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a
political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes
may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent
examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will
review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years
later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool
in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.
The last point I want to express is “behind every
successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful
women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.
Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many
Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to
scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven
demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times,
certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy
were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation
was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.
At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the
many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an
immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and
helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so
brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.
Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a
group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary
Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be
seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I
wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect
to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned
special attention from Jesus.
On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along
with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His
last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable! In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew
27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the
linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary
visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?
In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited
the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away
from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was
empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They
have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are
you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you
have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him
away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.
She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.
Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”
It is interesting that in a society where women were held
in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and
she was His truest, faithful follower.
What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?
She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.
What happened to Mary Magdalene
after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory
suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews
and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where
she lived in solitude in a cave.
Another theory claims she
accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she
evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.
A recent book titled The Lost
Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children,
but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.
Today, in the Russian Orthodox
church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of
the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East
Hannah is an inspiring and
wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character
in the story of their own life.
Elkanah lived in the Ephraim
hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced
polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and
loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family
name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah
was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to
tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.
One day, Hannah traveled to the
sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children.
Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to
her knees before the altar and prayed.
if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and
go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely,
unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”
Before the year was out, Hannah
conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God
for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would
present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her
The day arrived when Samuel was
no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with
a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I
prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have
dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”
Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.
Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a
prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story
of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.
What made Hannah a powerful
Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.
Thank you, Hannah, for teaching
us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a
bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen.
Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you
blessings beyond your wildest imagination.
Hannah is buried in the Tomb of
Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north
of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.
We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.
I am on my way; My journey is long And short; I know exactly Where I am going; I know not Where I am going; How contradictory! That is life; I am not afraid; And I am afraid; I am not worried; And I am worried; I could miss my way, I cannot miss my way; Because, I am not alone; I have an able companion, Who is my guide, And my helper as well; He knows the way, To his finger tips; As no other one does; Who knows this guide? Jesus, the Master; The king; The king of glory; The king of kings; Jesus of Nazareth Who died on the cross For you and I. He holds my hand, As captain of my ship, No matter the storms He will sail me To safety shores! I am, indeed, not afraid.
The short, balding
man with crooked legs leaned against the stone pillar of the Christian church
and sneered at the attendees. As believers left the service, he picked up
stones and threw them yelling, “Blasphemy! You mock my Messiah with your false
religion! Run, or I’ll stone you to death too!” Saul of Tarsus never regretted watching
Stephen get stoned to death. “Jesus the Savior”, he exclaimed, “only God is our
Savior!” Stephen was a wicked and disgusting Christian, just as the people in
this church, he thought to himself. It was Saul’s job to serve and protect God
and the Jewish religion. All the talk of Jesus living on earth was lies so he
would see to it Christians were imprisoned and killed for their false
It was 33 AD, and
Saul decided to leave his regular tent making job behind, and head to Damascus
with three friends on a 136-mile trip. He was on a mission to arrest all
Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution by the Romans. Saul
limped down the dusty road, when suddenly, a great light shone directly in his
eyes. He stumbled onto the ground. As he glanced up, he witnessed a vision of the
art thou, Lord?”
am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you
will be told what you must do.”
speechless, Saul’s friends backed up and looked away with their hands over
their eyes. Saul trembled and staggered to his feet, but when he opened his
eyes, he was blind! The men took Saul by his hands and led him the rest of the
way to Damascus. Saul refused to drink or eat for the three-day trip. He could
only stay in deep prayer with every step he took on the road. The Lord had revealed
himself to Saul so what else could he do but praise God’s name? Everything he
believed until now was wrong – the Mosaic Law. Jesus was the name he should
arrival in Damascus, God ordered him to visit Ananias, a disciple (or prophet) of
Jesus. As Ananias entered the room, he spoke to Saul, “Brother Saul,
the LORD-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has
sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ananias laid his
hand over Saul’s eyes and the “scales” of dead tissue on the surface
of his eyes fell to the floor; Saul’s vision was restored again. The next event
was even more profound for Saul was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and
filled with the Holy Ghost. It washed away his sins and he later adopted a new
Christian name – Paul.
Now baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul (Saul of Tarsus) quietly headed for Arabia. It was a spiritual retreat where he could learn about himself and the reality of his true Savior. He was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence as he studied the scriptures of the Old Testament. It is here Paul met his confidante, a Christian leader called Barnabas, who put God before his physical possessions. It intrigued Paul that Barnabas sold a field and laid the money before the feet of the apostles. The mentoring relationship between the two men laid the groundwork for Paul’s future superb ministry. He also met with Jesus’ brother, James. God was preparing Paul’s way for the ministry for the next three years. (Galatians 1:18)
Saul of Tarsus
(modern-day Turkey), better known as Paul, was born into a devout Jewish family
in 5AD. Most Jews, in biblical days, were not Roman citizens, but Rome gave him
and his family the honor. It is an educated guess they were of moderate wealth,
which made significant contributions to the Roman Empire. Citizenship outside
of Italy was only granted to people of substantial influence.
At fourteen Paul went
to Jerusalem and trained to be a Rabbi, an occupation he could fall back on if
tent-making proved unsuccessful. It was during this time he became a man of
firm convictions for the Jewish faith. His fiery temperament caused the death
of many early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity.
Paul went from house to house, dragged out men and women believers, and threw
them into jail.
If we revisit
history, Paul was born in the era of Jesus’ birth and entire life. Christianity
was the newest religion established in the Middle East and very much frowned on
by the Jews. They do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus for he was a mere
prophet and son of God. Also, this new Messianic movement (as they called
Christianity) denied Roman rule and antagonized much chaos throughout the land.
Therefore, Paul’s anger triggered towards the blasphemy which Christians spoke
– Jesus was “King of the Jews” and “Jesus the Messiah.”
What can we learn
from Saul’s conversion? A person who persecutes a Christian is persecuting
Jesus and this sin is mighty. The same fall-from-grace stands true today. The
Lord will seek revenge on those who attempt to destroy His children. But like
Saul, if we admit our sins and seek God, we will be forgiven.
fact about Paul, he was NOT one of the original twelve disciples. As he turned
his love of God into mission work, many believers assumed God assigned him to
be a disciple, but this was not true. Paul began using his name, “Paul the
Apostle” in his later writings. He became a prolific writer for of the twenty-seven
books in the New Testament, Paul wrote thirteen of them in his lifetime – 1st
Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.
I began this blog
just before Paul converted to Christianity. We can read his conversion story in
Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:8-9. As I researched
Paul, I realized his marvelous story spread over many books of the Bible; thus
the motivation to condense all the chapters and tell of his life in one dynamic
Next Sunday, we
will cover Paul’s tracks just after his conversion. We will examine the
profound impact he established on Christianity during his first missionary
trip. His life is nothing short of miraculous – he witnessed and lived through
God’s blessings and love. Isn’t this something every Christian should strive to
It’s a day to thank God for all the mothers we know on this Mother’s Day. Our moms are like great trees standing proudly amongst the forest. They bear fruit and give shade to protect us from evil elements. This is a day of remembrance for not just my own mother but to all the others who gave us a life worth living in an unknown existence we call earth.
Where would we be without the beautiful ladies who gave us life? Let me begin with all the pioneers and name worthies in history. What strength and endurance their mothers experienced as they stood on the dock waving goodbye to their child! Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Jacques Cartier, and other explorer’s mothers must have been devastated to think it would be the last time they saw their sons. Yet, others stand so proud in the light of their children’s accomplishments such as the Steve Jobs, Alexander Bell, and even the great entertainers and athletes of our times. Where would we be without those mothers who created a life that richly blesses our lives today?
One mother, in particular, stands out in my mind and is of biblical proportion. A very young girl, Mary, gave birth to a son who still tries to change the world by His ministry. Jesus, God’s immaculate conception, was like no other child and His mother, too, was like no other woman. The anguish, fear, and heartaches she withstood, and all in the name of love for God. To me, she is the “mom” of all mothers for without her, what would our life be? This is a perfect day to give thanks to the mother who gave us her beloved son.
I also reflect, this day, on the mothers of my childhood days in Severna Park, Maryland. In this small town, the women worked at church and gave the community a special meaning. Some helped in the educational field, turning kids into men and women of great knowledge. Those were the days when moms sat for hours helping with homework, starting showers, and tucking us in bed. It didn’t matter if we were their natural children, adopted, or just a good friend. There’s a lot to be said for the love of a mother, a sobering reminder we’d be lost without them. Happy Mother’s Day, Mother Mary in heaven, for we owe you everything as your precious son died for us so we may be a better servant. Thank you.
Finally, a moment
of peace! After another torrential storm, I adjusted the patio furniture to
find comfort again. My mind was disheveled from life’s stresses, but
nonetheless, the sun returned as promised. Land lovers watched the sailors set
sail from a forbidden shore. The harbor bustled once again with joy, as finally,
a quiet time for wayward voyagers to relax was on their horizon.
In the green, lush
woods, God protected His wildlife which took refuge in the limbs of the trees
and fallen trunks. Their domestic search was long and hard to find a place they
I wonder, is your place of peace?
Thinking back, my
mother found her peace in gardening, and my dad was quick to hit the deck and
launch his thoughts sailing the waters of Maryland. My beloved brother dropped
the convertible top of his Austin Healey, filled the tank, and left for hours traveling
to find his peace. I have close friends who wade out to their waist in streams and
cast their spinners to find their catch of the day. Others find peace in
hobbies or maybe an overstuffed recliner with their nose buried between pages. My
wife and many others discover harmony with sand between their toes. Jesus found
peace in His long walks through the desert sands.
find a place of peace in our Father’s house. It might be in a pew or listening
to the steeple bells as the choir sings a beautiful hymn. Tranquility and
contentment exude God’s presence in a church. Bible verses also bring us peace
such as in Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The place of peace
in my personal life is with Christ. Just as another brother, He’s never far from
reach be it on my porch, in my home, or even my heart. When I stroll along the
shores holding my wife’s hand, I know He is taking her other. If we focus on
God, peace is never far behind in our life.
The Lord created a wonderful world, both on land and at sea, but I believe heaven is in your heart and soul. The true route to peace is through Jesus Christ. So, unclutter your world and unclutter your mind by surrounding yourself in His love, mercy, and forgiveness. I promise you – there will be no greater reward! Find a quiet place today and pray for your place of peace.
As the sun glistened
in the sky, so shall God’s love and mercy radiate below the heavens. The waters
receded reflecting the beginning of life. The elegance of the ocean’s beauty permeated
in every ripple and sparkled like diamonds. Marine life emerged, slowly
inhabiting the pristine bodies of the sea. The earth turned green from the growth
of new sprouts. Creatures with feathers perched atop cliffs and took their first
flight in the morning breeze. Beasts of the earth moved along the ground
frolicking and seeking food. God was pleased He created a perfect balance to the
sea and land.
It is here the three will meet…
decided it was time to create His own image and let him enjoy the fruits of His
imagination. Man, the most sophisticated species, roamed the land and learned
to hunt above and below the earth’s surface. But, our Creator realized man
needed a complement, so he didn’t have to live alone. He made a correction to
the plan and gave the man a submissive woman to love, adore, and honor. She was
a goddess from heaven, where all human life evolved, and a rib created her.
They cultivated the earth with the enjoyment of love, bringing gifts to God.
What a masterfully crafted world designed by an architect far beyond our scope
It is here the three will meet…
Then suddenly, out
of the blue, cumulus clouds mounted, and storms roared destruction to His
creation. Evil evolved, and lightning tried to conquer the earth. God was
furious Satan, a fallen angel of all people, found pleasure in the flames of
wickedness. So, Noah built an ark to help Him wash away the sin of the world, but
to no avail. Evil came back with a vengeance. This time, God sent Moses with
scripted laws in stone which gave guidelines for mankind to live by, but still,
immorality existed. Now distraught, God insisted on filling the world with love,
so He divinely created an offspring in His own image. This child would attempt
to right the wrong in people.
There the three will meet…
now lies upon the edges of the origin of the earth. God vowed His son shall
return and destroy all persisting evil. If you lay claim to worldly idols, be
prepared… you won’t have them much longer. Death and destruction are in the
forecast. God will eliminate sin with the same scorching flames evil derived from
when Satan arrived on earth.
So, I shall run to
meet Him, at His point of origin – the beginning of life. Like all sinners, I too
will bear the heartaches of hell on the incoming tide. God will scold for poor
choices, yet many will still choose the path of least resistance. Behold your
breath, for the undertaking of God words, shall not be minced in heaven. I will
stand with all of humanity, when the firestorm commences, praying our Father will
save those who asked for forgiveness.
I beacon all
believers to join me. Let us gather, in good faith, and bring love to the beach
where Christ will come calling once again.
For there the three will meet – the Father, the Son, and… will you be joining me too in the celebration? ~~www.danabicksauthor.com~~
Happy Resurrection Day! Of course, it is more popularly known as ‘Easter,’ but I believe the name ‘Resurrection Day’ is more fitting to the biblical record.
Sunday, April 21, is the date in 2019 that Christians recognize and recall the truth of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead some two millennia ago.
However, also each year at this time skeptics rear their critical heads to attempt discrediting this event. Sadly, many of those same critics claim the mantle of teachers within Christianity.
One example of such was reported at a conference sponsored by the Episcopalian and Methodist denominations. One of the speakers, Robert J. Miller of Juniata College, lectured at the conference and said this,
“I don’t believe the dead body of Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb,” Miller, a Roman Catholic, similarly declared. …”We don’t find evidence that his [Jesus’] body left the tomb, that Jesus considered himself messiah or that his death would be a sort of human sacrifice to atone for sin.” Instead, Miller proposed that Jesus was to be understood as a sage.
The efforts of these critics to disparage Christian faith are morally deficient and wrong about the facts. Moreover, the goal of such people is to turn Christianity into a useful myth.
These critics also misunderstand, deliberately or otherwise, the vital nature and truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection Is Vital to the Existence of Christianity
The biblical record reveals the necessity of the resurrection of Christ to the faith. There is nothing more vital to the very existence of Christianity than the actual resurrection of Jesus from real death on the cross.
The apostle Paul puts it plainly in 1 Corinthians 15.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. I Corinthians 15:17-20
There is no faith in a Christ who did not rise from the dead. If Jesus did not rise as He testified that He would, and as the biblical witness records, then Paul says you have a useless faith and no hope for escaping sin or its penalty.
Hope in Christ is based on His assurance of life eternal for those who follow Him, but it is an empty promise if He Himself did not rise from the grave. If that is the case, every person from the time of Jesus’ disciples until the present, dead or alive followed a false witness.
The fascinating thing about the critics of the resurrection, like Dr. Miller above, is that they inevitably try to deny what Jesus claimed and did, especially miraculously, while also claiming He was a great and good teacher or prophet. Miller himself claims that Jesus was really a “sage,” meaning a wise and good teacher and example.
These so-called “teachers” of the Word are trying to desperately hold onto the symbolism of Christ without any of the substance. That way, they can justify sinful actions and teaching by filling in their own version of ‘substance’ and claiming it aligns with the symbolic teachings of a wise sage.
Plainly put, you can’t have it both ways skeptics. One of my favorite quotes from author C.S. Lewis of “Narnia” fame comes from another work about the reality of Christianity where he makes this very salient point.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Thus the absolute necessity of a true, actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from death cannot be overstated. Unless that monumental, unprecedented event really happened, every Christian should abandon the faith and look elsewhere or nowhere for God in this life.
However, we are blessed that the resurrection did happen and Jesus is truly alive today as our Savior and LORD. The evidence for this is abundant and we begin with the words of Paul in the same chapter of 1 Corinthians.
The Resurrection Is the Historic Truth, and More
The historical case for the resurrection is extremely strong and easily refutes the nonsensical blatherings of ‘academic’ doubters. Paul himself begins chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians with multiple eyewitness testimony of the risen LORD Jesus.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 [ESV]
The key to the veracity of Paul’s writing is that Jesus appeared in person after He had died on the cross to hundreds of eyewitnesses who were alive at the time! Paul was also not the only evangelist preaching about the risen Christ at that time.
Peter [Cephas in the text] and the other apostles were preaching and teaching the resurrection as miraculous fact. The events at the cross on Friday before were well-known and Jesus’ enemies would have decimated this account if it were not true.
In the verses that follow Paul puts his and the other apostles’ character on the line. He basically says that if you find out this is a false account, then we are all false witnesses under Jewish law.
As a Pharisee, Paul would know that the penalty for committing false witness could go as high as death, [Deuteronomy 19:18-21]. In fact, all those who preached the resurrection as fact risked death from the religious and political authorities of the day.
This is the second point that gives evidence for the resurrection as a true event. The early martyrs for Christ all died believing the resurrection was real, and many of them actually saw Jesus alive after they had watched Him die on the cross!
No one risks death for something they don’t believe is true. Granted, people can and do risk life and limb for things they believe to be true but are in fact false, but that doesn’t answer the matter of the eyewitnesses.
The skeptics’ objection to this is that the witnesses saw an illusion that was really a ‘spiritual’ resurrection and not a bodily one. This means that hundreds of people all saw the identical mass illusion, which is basically an impossibility.
Furthermore, Jesus Himself rebukes this fantasy with His actions and words after He rose from the dead.
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Luke 24:38-43 [ESV]
In other pieces, I have covered more evidence for the resurrection, such as the lack of a body in the tomb and refuted the so-called “swoon theory,” which claims Jesus didn’t really die but revived in the tomb and somehow moved the stone and escaped the notice of the Roman guards.
There are numerous excellent volumes which do a more thorough job of giving proof of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. A couple of these that I recommend are Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” and a small but powerful book with the title, “Faith Founded on Fact,” by John Warwick Montgomery.
If one is not particularly enamored of reading detailed books, I would recommend looking up two places I use on YouTube. One is known as Inspiring Philosophy and another is the ministry of apologist Ravi Zacharias. They have been a great aid to me in my continuing study.
The conclusion is this, followers of Jesus Christ can be sure that He has risen and overcome death and the grave, and we can all rejoice in that fact! Hallelujah, He is risen indeed!
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001