Martin Luther King Jr. in 2017

January 16, 2017

martin-luter-king-jr_5003Over 53 years after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream speech…”  and we are celebrating another Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the third Monday in January.  Although this year it does not seem as celebratory amidst the circumstances that our great nation faces.  The peaceful and loving leadership the Rev. King seems a little soured this year by the political unrest with John Lewis and over twenty democratic senators refusing to go the Trump inauguration this Friday as well as the shootings that have occurred this year in the name of racism.  There are some on both sides.

Who’s fault is it? That is a “loaded” question (yes that’s a gun pun).  I dare not even attempt to answer that question but I will say there is likely enough blame to go around for all of us. No judgment here, only God can judge a man’s heart and decided if there is room for improvement in that category.  Instead of placing blame and attempting to answer my own question I would like to pose a solution by someone that this student pastor admires and is a fan of all people, JESUS.

  1. Jesus interacted with and befriended all types of people.  He made friends and often ate with the “sinners and tax collectors” (R.I.P. IRS, you got your own level of “low” back in Jesus day). He saw many people that society rejected; Gentles, an adulterous woman, and a Samaritan woman who was working on husband number six.  Even those mixed up religious leaders who thought that they had all the answered and were very judgmental in some cases.  Even though he knew all about them, he still gave them the time of day.
  2. Jesus “turned the other cheek” when others said and did things to him.  Don’t miss this, this is big. Jesus taught and lived that when someone does you wrong, you don’t get revenge, you don’t return the favor back to them, you “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-42). A slap in the face to a Jewish person was the ultimate insult because mankind is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  “Love your enemies,” “pray for those who persecute you,” and his other teachings could really change the way we respond to others, if we would only follow Jesus’s teaching.

    Sadly, many would rather reply back to a blog post with anger, join a twitter war, or even worse shot and kill someone on the other side. As I drove home today from the store I heard about a shooting that took place in Miami at a celebration for Rev. King. Not to mention the police officers that have been targeted by revenge seeking individuals as well.  Sadly, this is a two-way street.

  3. Jesus died for one human race. All colors, ages, economic status, nationalities, and any other ways we may choose to divide ourselves. Reminder, we are all created in the image of God and we all bare the responsibility to value the life of all people. The very first words we have recorded from Jesus on the cross are “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Goals!  If Jesus can forgive the people who are killing, maybe we can muster up the same words to someone who calls us a name, misjudges us, or just outright doesn’t get it.

This doesn’t mean we have to all agree on everything and recognize other people’s opinions as correct, but we can act and speak responsibility toward one another in love and have good discussions in the way the Rev. King did following his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are not responsible for what others do or say, but we can control what we say and do and we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. Refuse to play the childish games and pick up the mud to toss back at someone else.  Think about what you post on social media and if their might be a better way to phrase your thoughts.  Pause, and wait until you calm down before you respond.  Be proactive instead of reactive.

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below on how we can pull this human race back together.  We’ll give everyone a pass through today, January 16, but for the rest of the year work on what you will do and say to honor the One that Rev. King did.

 


It’s Resurrection Day, Forget the Bunny!

April 7, 2012

Since, it’s Resurrection Day, I figure I would make an easy post and spend time with the family.   The following is a collection of objections and answers to the resurrection of Jesus.  It has been a slowly growing as I read more  and add things to the Pile.   I will cite the authors and books at the end.  Many books have the similar information.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”  As a Christian, EVERYTHING hangs on the resurrection.  Everything.  IT has turned many skeptics into followers.  I hope this will add to your faith and make it stronger.

OBJECTION 1: IT IS UNREASONABLE TO BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION

Because of the beliefs of many atheists and skeptics it is the last option that they would accept because of their presuppositions about the Bible, miracles, or belief in the existence of God.

ANSWER:

1. Because the resurrection was a physical resurrection and not just a spiritual one, there are many difficulties to faking the resurrection by stealing the body or some other means of trickery.  You have the following points.  Wrapped in a linen cloth and about 100 pounds of spices.  (Mixed together they form a gummy substance) Placed in tomb with a large stone weighing anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.  There were Roman guards placed at the tomb to guard against any chance of trickery.  A Roman seal was placed on the tomb that if broken, would call for an investigation and death by crucifixion of the one responsible.   If a Roman Guard left his post he would face strict punishment.    There must have been a good reason for the guards to flee.

2. The Biblical account of the resurrection has the women to be the first ones appearing at the tomb.  This seems to be issue if you believe that the claims of the resurrection were made up.  During the Biblical times women had no right to much anything, they were not given the ability to testify in court except in a few cases.  If someone wanted people to believe a lie that Jesus really was alive, then why weaken the argument with women.  The reason the women were the first to the tomb and to witness Jesus is perhaps, because it actually happened that way.

3. Another issue is the reaction of the disciples.  The disciples had scattered after the arrest of Jesus for fear of their own lives.  Annas the high priest had been asking questions about Jesus followers also.  They had locked themselves in a room in fear of persecution that Jesus had warned them about.  (John 15)  Jesus had appeared to them and shown them his hands and side.  (Proof)  What followed then was the transformation of their lives.  They went from hiding to boldly proclaiming the news of his resurrection.   They were also willing to face opposition, cynicism, ridicule, hardship, prison, death, and death.

4. After the resurrection, the Christian faith exploded and many Jews had become followers of Jesus.  In doing so they left several key tenants of their faith behind.  Below are a list of some of the major ones.

  • The animal sacrifice system.
  • The binding supremacy of the laws of Moses.
  • Strict monotheism to a belief in the Trinity.
  • The Holiness of the Sabbath.
  • Belief in a conquering messiah to a humble, servant in Jesus.

5. The conversion of “hardcore” skeptics in NT times.   There are 3 mentioned in the section.  The apostle Paul, James the half-brother of Jesus, and Thomas who was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them in the room.    Each of the 3 are listed with the scripture references  within the Bible that show their conversion.  Paul is of course the strongest example because he was a well-known figure and his letter to the Corinthians is dated the earliest written and  he is well-known outside to the Bible  many with his writings.

6. Only the resurrection would explain the growth and survival of the church.  It is well documented about the persecution of the Christians in the first century.  Nero was well-known for his hatred for the Christians and Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians.  So, if the resurrection was fake and made up why would all the Jews and Gentiles have placed their lives in so much danger and trouble in less it was true?

7. There were too many appearances of Jesus to have the resurrection easily dismissed.   The 1 Corinthian letter from Paul lists the great number of people whom Jesus revealed himself too.  (Chapter 15 , also Acts 1:3)  At the time of Paul’s letter which is about 55-57 A.D.  Paul included that many of those witnesses were still alive.  This was most likely 20  years or so after the death and resurrection.  There would have been plenty of voices of opposition to Paul’s claim that Jesus had resurrected.

This proof reminds me of the Elvis or now, Michael Jackson example I have used for many years.  Imagine today that people started claiming that Elvis or Michael Jackson was not dead but had come back to life.  What if the number of people started growing and more and more people joined the band wagon.  All the families or government would have to do is open the casket or dig up the body to silence the critics.  One objection might be, “well the families wouldn’t want to do that.”  Maybe, but keep in mind that the government in Jesus day was not like that of today.  If they wanted to put an end to the Christian movement, all they had to do was produce the body.  They didn’t because they could not produce the body, it was gone.

OBJECTION 2: JESUS WAS NOT REALLY PHYSICALLY RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD, BUT RATHER IT WAS HIS ESSENCE – SOME PART OF HIM THAT LIVED AMONG THEM.

Many times critics will claim that the disciples did not see a real physically resurrected Jesus but rather a spiritual one or something to the equivalent.

ANSWER:

This would imply that the disciples went on and on about the resurrection of Jesus dishonestly and new it was a lie.  Or at the least ALL had hallucinations of Jesus resurrection to believe it was real.    I will look at the second part of the last sentence in another Objection next.  In Paul’s letters to the churches he specifically uses the word “Soma” which is translated body.  His repeated use of the term implies very much that Jesus had a physical resurrection.   Rhodes lists the scriptures that show us Jesus had a special glorified resurrected body, in which I will list for reference.

  •    Luke 24:39 – See my hands and feet, touch me to see.
  • John 2:19-21 – Jesus told about destroying the temple in 3 days and building it back up again.
  • Luke 24:30, 24:42-43, John 21:12-13, Acts 1:4  – Jesus ate food  4 different times.
  • John 20:17, Matthew 28:9, Luke 24:39 – He was touched and handled by many different people.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 – Paul talks of the body that goes down into the grave, and the body that comes up.

OBJECTION 3: JESUS WAS NOT PHYSICALLY RESURRECTED BUT SEEN BY HIS FOLLOWERS IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE.

This objection comes from the objection of skeptic Keith Parson, where he notes that the famous scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 uses the word “ophthe” which has the meaning of either “seeing” with the literal eye or “seeing” with mind or spirit.  In other words because we do not know the clear meaning of that word, we can assume that it was a spiritual vision they saw and not a physical one.

ANSWER:

This objection does not fit well with the rest of the Bible and the use of others who saw the resurrected body of Jesus.    The numerous passages in the gospels as well as the other Pauline epistles.    It also does not work within the context of the same letter of Corinthians.  Paul also uses the phrase heaven vision to make a vision of a different type.

You can also look at the same answer above for more of the same evidence of Jesus having a physical resurrection and not just a spiritual one.

OBJECTION 4: THE DISCIPLES OR OTHER PEOPLE STOLE THE BODY OF JESUS, AND THE DISCIPLES ASSUMED HE HAD RISEN FROM THE DEAD.  Because we have tons of evidence that bodies don’t just rise from the dead or disappear into nothing or Heaven.  The only two options that we are left with is that someone stole the body or the tomb was not empty.

ANSWER:

There are several issues that make the likelihood of the disciples taking the body of Jesus.  Below are some listed from the first objection above.

Wrapped in a linen cloth and about 100 pounds of spices.  (Mixed together they form a gummy substance) Placed in tomb with a large stone weighing anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.  There were Roman guards  placed at the tomb to guard against any chance of trickery.  A Roman seal was placed on the tomb that if broken, would call for an investigation and death by crucifixion of the one responsible.   If a Roman Guard left his post he would face strict punishment.    There must have been a good reason for the guards to flee.

It also is worth pointing out that the disciples were in no shape to steal His body.  There were hiding and on the run from the Jewish rulers.  It also goes back to the basic principle that “no sane person” would die for something they knew was a lie.  It was not worth all the trouble or persecution they received.

OBJECTION 5: THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS HALLUCINATED THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD.

ANSWER:

Hallucinations generally happen to individuals and not large groups or multiple people.  The 1 Corinthians 15 passage says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time.  Did all these people have a hallucination at one time?  The answer is not likely.

Books Referenced:

McDowell, Josh; Evidence That Demands a Verdict, second edition.

Zacharias, Ravi; Can Man Live Without God

Sherrod, Chris; Faith, Fact, and Reason Study #4 Jesus is ALIVE

Rhodes, Ron; Answering Objections of Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics


Kentucky Wildcats, Mega Millions, and Jesus

April 2, 2012

I’m pulling out an old posting today from a few years back, but just changed the information to fit with this years winner, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Well congratulations to Kentucky for winning their 8th national championship in basketball.  How did you do, our your brackets this year? Did you enter into any contests or competitions with friends? A few of the other youth pastors and I had a group and had a good time talking smack to each other. This year I picked 41 out of 63 possible games, had 3 of the final 4 teams in my bracket and picked Kentucky to win it all.  Pretty stupid considering that I didn’t watch a single college basketball came all season.

Every time March Madness rolls around I can’t help but to think about Jesus and the prophecies in the Bible. There is a lesson to be learned in the odds and mathematics of both the NCAA tournament and with Jesus fulfilling prophecy Here’s what I mean:

According to BookofOdds.com the odds of picking every single game in the tournament correctly are 1 to 35,360,000,000.  This is why some of the companies, like Dr Pepper and Yahoo.com, can afford to create excitement by offering a 1 Million Dollar prize if you enter and pick every single game correctly. It’s all about the odds for them and the money involved.  Playing the lottery has better odds in most cases.  Recently the MegaMillions Lottery had reached the highest it had ever been at an estimated 640 million dollars.   According to the official odds you had a better chance at winning the Mega Millions lottery because the odds at picking it were 1 to 175,000,000.  Much less than the NCAA brackets.

Well now that brings us to Jesus and the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. There are over 60 prophecies about this promised Messiah and details of His birth, birthplace, life, death, teachings, His nature, His resurrection, and events after burial, just to name a few. All these are documented in Josh McDowell’s foundational book called “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” or His updated version “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” (chapter 8, pages 164-202) Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but as he searched for answers he found out through his discoveries that indeed there was one true living God.

In McDowell’s reasearch he brings into the light the work of Peter Stoner in his book Science Speaks. Stoner does a great job at the probability and statistical mathematics of Jesus and fulfilled prophecy. Stoner took just 8 of the probabilities of the Jewish Messiah and figured out the odds at which Jesus or anyone would fulfill them. He came up with a rather large number. The odds were 1 in 10 to the 17 power. That would be a 1 with 17 zero’s after it. [1,00,000,000,000,000,000 ] Stoner gives a great visual example of that number, because it is so big and hard for us to wrap our minds around. Imagine that you fill the entire state of Texas with Silver Dollars 2 feet high. You mark one Dollar with an “X” and then blindfold a man and have him take one guess and find the one dollar with a “X” on it. Keep in mind that this is only 8 of the prophecies and not the entire lot. Stoner’s research has been examined for years now and the mathematics in his work has been found to be solid.

Well, where do we go from here? Let me just encourage you whether you are a believer or not, to take a closer look at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I am quiet sure you will see something different with Him than with any other religious leader in the world. There is a difference with Jesus because He was who He claimed to be, God.

As always your comments, questions, snide remarks are welcome.


Why I believe

September 28, 2011

Why I BelieveStarting off from the gate I want to summarize why I believe, what I believe about the existence of God and my faith in the Christian God of the Bible, and His incarnate name given in the New Testament, Jesus.  This blog is meant to be a general one and I will spend the next months and years breaking it out piece by piece so that it can be swallowed and enjoyed bit by bit.

After studying many of the worldviews through books, articles, talking with people in person, I have concluded that my Christian world view is the most comprehensive, complete, and logical worldview of all the many different worldviews including atheism.  While it still holds some difficulties and challenges, it stands tall over all the other worldviews.  In no particular order, here is Why I Believe…

1. Faith.  Yes Faith, there is a dual definition of faith floating out in the sea of apologetics, in short a blind faith and a Biblical faith.  I will explain this in greater detail in a soon coming post, but in short I believe Christianity takes and uses both those types of faith. I am convinced that most people do not understand the true definition of Faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

2. Creation.  When I examine the world in which I live, I see evidence for a beginning of the universe, I see intelligence, and a mind behind the matter.  I have not found any answer in the material world that points to other trustworthy conclusions.

3. The Human Mind and Soul.  Why are we conscience? Why are we special?  Why do we have the ability to reason and think?  Why do we have  moral absolutes?  How do we judge what good and evil is?    In a world without God, these things are not possible.   The Bible describes the human condition perfectly.

4. The Bible.  The Bible makes the bold claim to be written  inspired word of God, but should we just except the Bible as God’s Word, because the Bible tells us so?  The Bible is a reliable book that is written in many different styles, by more than 40 authors, on 3 continents, over a period of about 1,500 years.  It is the most unique book ever written and for centuries it has stood the test of time and scrutiny by many.  When you compare the Bible to all other religious books, the Bible stands tall.

5. Historical Jesus.  Jesus was a real person, despite the constant attempts to blur the evidence.  But, Jesus made some bold claims about who He was and what His mission was about.  There are many sources, outside of the Bible that confirm the existence of Jesus and record some of the claims He made that are in the Bible.  Christians can even exclude even the evidence of the Bible and some of the other questionable secular documents and still make a case for Jesus existence, that is solid.

6. The Church. Yes, the church.  I realize that sometimes the church (people) can look pretty bad and can be rather disappointing, but the church (the people) has also made some great strides and impacts in the world in where we live.  Christians have been of the forefront leading the charge in several advancements for good in our world.  Slavery, Women’s rights, and even Science.

7. Religion.  Religion is mans attempt to come to God.  Religion shows how we have a yearning to get to God, just like we have a desire for food or procreation.  God gives us a desire that can be met by Him just like finding food and companionship.  Even though many people have wrongly been lead into believing in something that they haven’t researched, the desire for God is there.    I have always preferred the phrase, relationship over religion.

8.  The Empty Tomb.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for my belief.  The resurrection is key to Christianity.  Without it, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 , my faith is in dead.  When you examine the evidence for the resurrection you are not left with any other choices that make any sense at all.  Jesus made claims that would rise from the dead, something that  charlatan would not dare to do.

9. Personal Experience.   I realize that my own personal experience is not as strong a proof as some of the other items listed above.  For example, I could say that God answered a prayer request of mine, a Mormon could say the same thing.  Some personal experiences are subjective.  But, this doesn’t mean I should throw out the personal experience all together.

Let me stop you before you start to pick apart these individual items by saying that no single one of these proves anything.  No, I cannot in a denotative way point to God and say “see, there He is” like I might point out Bob who fixed my car or Larry who made me a sandwich.  (I will address why I think that this is perfectly how God designed it to be in a later post.)  Let me point out that each of these individual areas lead or point to a particular conclusion that God does exist, and that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is the sum of the conclusions that add up far better than any other worldview.  Biblical Christianity uses all the different methods of science, philosophy, reason, and reality to build a strong case for a Christian worldview.  No other worldview can claim that which Christianity does, they either fail in arguments in one or more areas by contradicting themselves or by not being able to produce the evidence that Christianity does.

If you are searching for answers, and want to start looking at different worldview, that is great, can I offer a suggestion?  Start with Christianity.  There is something about Jesus that most of the other major worldviews want to include him in their teaching.  To Muslims, Jesus was one of 28 prophets, In Hinduism Jesus is a good moral teacher, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons view Him as the Son of God, by which we can earn our salvation.  Jesus is the central feature in Christianity, not only because of his teachings but because of who He is, and claimed to be, God.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.  I am looking forward to the breakdown of these items that I have listed above.  In my next few posts I will give some basic information about apologetics and lay a foundation and order down for looking at the evidence piece by piece.


My Story

September 28, 2011
Amy and me

Amy and me

A few weeks ago our pastor challenged the church congregation to “Be Courageous and Share Your Story”.  A few days later it hit me that one way, not the only way, I could do that would be online through my blog or on Facebook.  So here it is, Here is my story and I welcome any questions, comments, or snide remarks.

I grew up in a great home, a happy home, and while  I felt very sheltered from a lot of crazy things in life, I knew that  I was blessed because of the environment I was raised in.  My parents were both involved in church and so consequently, so was I, but again I didn’t mind.  I loved church, I love the people in the church.  My friends in church were different from most of the other students at school.  I had a few good friends at school, but most of my close friends were in the church with me.  Because I had a long history of being in church I knew a lot about the Bible, facts about God, and felt like I had a grasp on why things were the way they were.  As an early teen I began to notice that my brother and some other friends were making a choice to trust Jesus as their savior and they were baptized later on.  After a few months, it hit me that I knew a bunch of facts about the Bible and God, but I had not yet taken those facts to heart.  I had not really placed my faith, my trust in Jesus in my own personal way.    One night, while at a youth ministry event I really felt convicted within me to stop putting off what I already knew I needed to do and go talk to someone about making my faith personal.   I still get reminders today, because of my job,  of how scary that can be for a teen, to walk out of a pew or crowd and go talk to someone.  I knew what I had to do, grab the closest person near me and make them go with me!  I grabbed a great friend named Susanne and stepped out to find someone to talk to.

That night, April 30, 1988 I sat down with a man who went over the gospel of Jesus with me quickly to make sure I understood what I believed and what my need was.  For the first time I placed my trust in Jesus, that His death on the cross was payment for my sins and even though I didn’t understand it all, I knew that I was far from perfect and that I needed Jesus not only for an eternal life, but for a great life now.  I said a short prayer and asked God to forgive me of my past sins, I placed my belief in Jesus, for who He said he was, and I turned my life over to God to be my Lord, or boss for a lack of a better term.  A few months later I was baptized by my grandfather, who also was a pastor, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Since I have placed my faith in God I have had some interesting times, some great times, some challenging times, but they have all helped me grow in my relationship to God.  During my college years, I struggled with the idea that, perhaps I was a Christian only because I was raised in a Christian home.  I didn’t want the faith of my parents, I wanted to own my own faith.  I began to look at all the other worldviews and examine then for myself.  I knew after all, that not all the different worldviews could be correct.  I begin reading books on other religions and studying them to get a better understanding of them.  I admit at first I kept a close grip on my faith and didn’t want to be pulled from my own faith.  Some might say I was studying with a presupposition.   I was lucky enough to be taught though by my pastor and other teachers that I should do the research and examine things for myself and not just except the way things are because someone tells me so.  Trust is earned.  What I read was backed up by what I read for myself and what I found to be true in life.  My faith was becoming my own.

Right before finishing college, I began to question my career and what God really wanted me to do after I graduated.  I had always felt that God wanted me to be a teacher, but the last few months before graduation, I believe that God used a few different people to speak to me about being a pastor/minister.  After a few months of pushing the idea aside I finally quit telling God “no”, and I told God that if He wanted me to do something different with my life I would do it and trust Him for the things I didn’t know.  It was amazing what happened immediately after I had that conversation with God in my prayer time.  I felt this peace just fall over me like a heavy blanket.  I knew right then and there that I was not going to be an orchestra teacher anymore.

Right about this time, God opened a door for me to work in a church as an intern for the youth ministry.  Six months later the church came back and offered me the job permanently.   That was in 1997.  Fourteen years later I have had the joy of serving 3 churches as their student pastor  and have loved every minute of it.  I don’t feel like it is a job, but rather a calling.   Over the past 14 years I have grown in my passion for teaching the Bible and have also found a love for apologetics.  Apologetics is the study of “why you believe what you believe” or backing up your faith with reason and evidence.  Apologetics has allowed me to get a better grasp in what I believe and made my faith stronger.  Over the last few years I have opened up my reading and began to read books from both sides of the debate between atheists/agnostics and believers.  I try to read both sides to get an honest view-point from both sides of the aisle.  I have yet to find anything that worries me or that might cause my faith to stumble.  My passion today still lies with both the teens in this generation and teaching them apologetics that will prepare them for the vastly different world in which they live today.  It is a different world in which I lived in 20 years ago as a teen.

If you have any questions for me I would be glad to try to answer them for you.  I don’t know all the answers, not even close, but I would be glad to share what I have found to be solid ground to stand upon in my life.

God Bless,

John