If Jesus Arose from the Dead, Why Didn’t He Stick Around?

Why would Jesus have to go away and send the Comforter, also called the Holy Ghost?
Why could He not stay on earth and daily “prove” that He was the resurrected Christ or Messiah (Anointed One) sent from God to redeem the world from sin?
Could He not hold news conferences to show that He was alive from the dead?
Could He not show His wounds in His hands, feet and side in a continual world tour?  Although He would have a lot of ground to cover!

Consider in history when God DID show up in unmistakable experiences.  He revealed Himself through Moses and Aaron in spectacular fashion to both Pharoah and the Egyptians as well as the Israelite community living in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt.  He led them for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (they were not wandering; they followed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night).  (See Exodus 13:17-22; and chapters 1416.)

And look how often they grumbled against Moses and God who had delivered them!  So much so that an entire generation was forced to die in the desert before their children could inherit the Land of Promise.  Apparently even God’s obvious Presence was not enough to discourage sin in the camp!

In Craig Keener’s book, Miracles Today, he perceptively asks “How much evidence does it take to convince someone [a miracle occurred]?… If I am adamant that miracles are impossible, in principle I might reject any amount of evidence. If I already trust God, I will thank God for even the smallest details of life… God doesn’t do miracles for our entertainment.”

Likely a true anecdote, in the story of Poor Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man is in anguish having gone to hell while Lazarus is comforted at Abraham’s side (a ‘pre-Heaven,’ so to speak).  The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue.  When Abraham said this was impossible, the rich man asked if Lazarus could go back from the righteous dead and warn his five brothers, so they could avoid winding up where the rich man was.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (verses 29-31)

On another occasion (Matthew 12:38-40), Jesus was asked for a “sign” to prove His divine credentials.  “But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  I.e., He was announcing that He would rise from the dead!  This was a frequent claim of Jesus, so clear that His opponents even asked for the sealing of His tomb to prevent a fraudulent claim that He had done so.  (Matthew 27:62-66)

These were people who knew Jesus could heal the blind, restore shriveled arms, open deaf ears and even raise the dead (John 11:38-53)!  Yet, their hearts would not believe, no matter what evidence they saw.  Think logically, and how do you kill someone who can raise the dead!?  Yet that is what they proposed to do.  In John 12:8-11, they even plotted to murder Lazarus because he had been raised from the dead!!  Couldn’t any of them spell “irony” in Hebrew?  How do you kill someone if Someone else can just raise him from the dead!?

“Faith” in the Bible is more than just mental assent.  In the Complete Jewish Bible, the words both from the Hebrew and Greek are most often translated as “trust.”

A little boy was asked to define “faith,” and he said “It’s believing something you know just ain’t true.” 😁  But obviously, that is not the case in the Bible.  Faith is trust; it is accepting the evidence with an open mind and relying on God to do what only He can do – save lost people from hell and give us eternal life.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Jesus DID stay here on earth in His resurrected body.

  1. First, how would He prove that He was really 2000+ years old?  Maybe the history books, all obviously written with His approval, are like claims of Roman Emporers being gods.
  2. Second, how would He prove to ME that He had really died.  If I only live 70-90 years, how do I know that He is not just longer-lived and will not die after me?
  3. Third, how do I know the wounds in His hands, feet and side were not inflicted just before I was born?

In order for ME to believe that He could come back from the dead, I WOULD HAVE TO SEE HIM DIE ALL OVER AGAIN! … unless I trust Him and His followers.  And if I do not trust them, why would I trust Him even if He arose from the dead in MY presence again?

Abraham’s words ring true: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  We know this is true because He arose from the dead, and the Pharisees of His time still tried to quash the rumor that He was alive.  Yet they could not produce a body nor show where He was laid, because He IS RISEN!

Jesus knows what is in our hearts, and how we resist the truth as the unbelievers of the first century did.  So He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to woo us, to persuade us, to open our blind eyes and allow us to see the Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  Jesus promised Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29)

Who will you believe today?  Jesus?  His disciples who died rather than admit to a lie?  Or the Pharisees who said, “They stole the body,” but could produce no proof?  (Matthew 28:11-15)

The Only “Proof” of the Resurrection

For those who do not remember “Watergate,” this is the name of an office building complex, The Watergate Office Buildings and Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the Democratic National Convention housed its headquarters in 1972.  A break-in, most likely authorized by then President Nixon, set the stage for most of the distrust of government currently rampant, resulted in the only resignation of a sitting president of the US and brings me to “The Only ‘Proof’ of the Resurrection” of Jesus.  The metonym Watergate came to encompass any associated activities surrounding the scandal.  The use of the suffix “-gate” after an identifying term has since become synonymous with political or public scandal, including irangate, travelgate, Reagangate and slapgate just to name a few.

One of Nixon’s “henchmen,” Charles Colson, sometimes called “Nixon’s hatchet man,” was one of the “Watergate Seven,” chief architects of the crimes associated to Watergate and its subsequent cover-up.  He was also one of 48 convictions that served prison time as a consequence and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior while in prison, penning Born Again from this experience.

Mr. Colson, as he began to minister to others in the US prison system, said regarding his conversion, “I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me.  How?  Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead; then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned or put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and we couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?  Absolutely impossible.”  Born Again by Charles Colson.

Following is a brief overview of how each of the twelve original apostles died as well as other martyrs of the first century.  May this remind us that our sufferings in the US (so far) are minor to compare to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles and disciples during their time for the sake Jesus.  Our troubles are also significantly less than many Christ-followers in other nations where simply owning or reading a Bible can result in arrest and death.  Many Chinese Christ-followers do not expect to live 70-80 years, anticipating that perhaps they will be able to lead some of their prison guards to the Lord after they are arrested and before they die for their faith!

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25-26)
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)

Why do we feel sleepy in prayer, but stay awake through a three-hour movie?  Why are we so bored when we read the Bible, but find it easy to read novels?  Why is it so easy to ignore a Tweet about God, yet forward the latest Kardashian news?  Why is it so easy to praise a celebrity, but so difficult to engage with our Creator?

Next week, I will discuss why Jesus left earth and did not stay to show off His crucifixion wounds to curiosity-seekers to prove His Resurrection.

_____________________________
Besides the original twelve, this list includes Matthias (elected to replace Judas, the Betrayer), Stephen, the first to die for his faith in Jesus, the apostle Paul (“as one born out of due time”-1 Corinthians 15:8), Mark, the author of The Gospel of Mark, Luke, the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, and James, the brother of Jesus.  These are recorded in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs (except for Judas Iscariot, recorded in Matthew 25 and Acts 1).

  1. Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus):  He hanged himself in suicide over the guilt of having betrayed “innocent blood.”
  2. Peter: Under Nero’s persecution, he was crucified upside-down (~A.D. 64-68).  He requested the inverted crucifixion because he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
  3. Andrew the brother of Peter: He was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece, hence the name “St. Andrew’s Cross.”  After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords rather than nails, to prolong his agony.  His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.”  He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.
  4. James the son of Zebedee: As a strong leader of the church, James was beheaded at Jerusalem in A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12:2).  The Roman officer who guarded James was amazed at James’ calm as he defended his faith at his trial.  Later, as the officer walked beside James to the place of execution, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James and was also beheaded as a Christian.
  5. John the son of Zebedee: Facing martyrdom, he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome.  However, he was miraculously delivered from death.  John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Isle of Patmos.  The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as the pastor of Edessa in modern Turkey.  He died as an old man (~A.D. 100-105), the only apostle to die peacefully.
  6. Phillip: In Hieropolis, Turkey, he was scourged, imprisoned and eventually crucified in A.D. 54.
  7. Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel, he was a missionary to Asia (modern Turkey). Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death with knives.
  8. Matthew: He suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia for preaching about Jesus; killed by a sword in A.D. 60.
  9. Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish another church in the subcontinent (~A.D. 70).
  10. James the son of Alphaeus: He was crucified in Lower Egypt and then sawed in pieces in A.D. 62.
  11. Simon the Zealot: He was crucified in Britain in A.D. 74 for preaching “foreign gods.”
  12. Judas, also called Thaddeus: He was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
  13. Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, he was stoned and then beheaded.
  14. Stephen, a deacon of Acts 6: The first martyr was stoned to death, recorded in Acts 7:54-60.
  15. Paul: He was tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.  Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write many of his letters to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire.  These epistles, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
  16. Mark the author of The Gospel of Mark: He was dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until he was dead.
  17. Luke: He was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
  18. James the brother of Jesus: As the respected leader of the church in Jerusalem, he was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.  When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies stoned and beat James to death with a fuller’s club, crushing his skull until his brains spilled out.

“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: ‘It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.’ Praise God, it does not say ‘successful’.”  Amy Wilson-Carmichael, Things as they Are (1 Corinthians 4:2)

‘Watch’ with Me one hour? What can you pray about for ONE HOUR!?

2022-08-20 Watch With Me One Hour“So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Matthew 26:40)

Having heard of people who spend lots of time in prayer, I used to wonder about what do they pray?  I could list my family and closest friends in a prayer in about 10 minutes unless something bad had happened to one of them, and then it might stretch out to 15.  So Jesus’ question to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane always left me wondering, if your prayer is simply, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will,” . . . I mean, saying the line only takes a few seconds; how often would He have to repeat that to pray for one hour?

However, as I grew in my understanding I realized this “line” was just a summary, like a book report of War and Peace: A novel covering 1805-1820 that tells the story of five Russian families and their marriages, participation in military campaigns fighting Napoleon (suspected of being the anti-Christ), and how they triumph with devotion for each other.  There, now you don’t need to read 1,225 pages! 😁

In the same way, Jesus’ conversation with His Father involved much more than the “book report” version Matthew presents.  But how does one pray for an hour if a crucifixion is not on the venue for the next morning?

Let me make a few suggestions to help you get started. 
The first thing is to recognize that prayer is a conversation . . . two-way communication, not just us presenting grocery lists for a celestial errand boy to run!  Perhaps the most difficult thing about prayer is learning to listen and not just filling the room with our own voices.  “Remind me Lord, that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.” (Elisabeth Elliot)   We can use Mrs. Elliot’s prayer here to point out that even in prayer, our words do not need to be all that fills the time.  Recall that Jesus would often leave His disciples and spend long hours, even entire nights, in prayer.

Then there are catalogs of prayer (one of which is linked here).  This is vital that we realize that even our words in prayers need to be more than just, “Dear God, take care of so-and-so and do this for you-know-who.” Certainly requests and intercession may occupy a lot of time in prayer, but it is often valuable to begin with other forms of prayer, particularly praise and thanxgiving.  It is still true that He “inhabits the praises of” His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV) and to draw near to Him is to begin to experience a Presence that is more astounding than standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  This can be precursory to learning to “Pray without ceasing.”  

My “catalog” is not comprehensive and there are many others available either in print or online, and many prayerers’ prayers can lead you into a life of prayer if you make time to read some of theirs.  One could even start with prayers within the Bible.  Note how many of Psalms’ prayers are a mixture of praise and requests.

I began a series on January 18, 2015 with the instruction, A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Prayer.”  This is as true now as it was in the days of Seth and Enoch in Genesis 4 and as it was in King David’s day, on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, in Martin Luther’s time and in Billy Graham’s crusades.  John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

I concluded a blog from September 20, 2015 with this caveat: I still feel like a beginner in learning to pray, and my pattern for intercessory prayer may not work for others, but think about how much time you spend in prayer.  While prayer cannot be measured in terms of volume or quantity, if we do not pray, it is pretty safe to say it is worthless. And while you are learning to pray, please, please, please, pray for me. I really need it!”

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Guest Vlog: Joni Eareckson Tada Sings Songs of Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from her neck down when she dove into Chesapeake Bat on July 30, 1967 at 17 years old.  While she regained some small usage of her arms, her hand and legs are limp; her pain is constant.  And the accident happened 55 YEARS ago!

This is a recent video of her story as she looks forward to the end of her life on earth, now 72 years old.  She is one of the people with whom I will want to shake hands when I arrive in Heaven (after Noah, Moses, David and John the Baptist 😉).

A friend who will probably watch this vlog is Caz of Invisibly Me.  She, too, is a jewel that deals with chronic pain.  I do not understand why Father has not healed either of these women (among many other nonhealings I don’t understand; and among many, many things I do not understand).

But I trust His heart that He loves these as much as He loves Jesus, His Only Born Son.  And someday, maybe on the other side of the veil that hides the unseen world from our mortal eyes, He will make it all clear.  For now we see in a mirror dimly (a blurred reflection), but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amp)

The 13 minute, 15 second video is well worth a quarter hour of your time today.  At about 7:15 she discusses her pain.  “It makes my quadriplegia seem like a walk in the park; I can do quadriplegia, but, whooo, it’s hard to do pain.”

Songs of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Suffering will teach you who you are. It’s a textbook that will show you the stuff of which you are made. And sometimes it’s not very pretty. Suffering will squeeze that out of you. We say we know Christ. The next time you suffer hard, find out what comes out of your mouth. That will show you how much you know Jesus. And in that sense, it’s good, in a strange way.”  Joni

For more on Joni Eareckson Tada see: https://www.amazon.com/Joni-Unforgettable-Story-Eareckson-Tada/dp/0310364191/

Guest Blog: Dr. David Gibbs: Listen to the Voice. A Modern Parable.

Told as a real story, this is a modern parable:

I was in Alaska doing a lawsuit.  We were way out in the Aleutian Islands, getting ready to leave and go back to Anchorage and then home.  And I had a ticket in my pocket to get on an airplane.
A pastor came up and he said, “Listen, I can save you money.”
I said, “How’s that?”
He said, “I flew a small airplane up here and I fly a small airplane, and I can take you in my little airplane, and you can save your ticket.”
And this did not sound – I said, “Gee, thank you so very, very much, but I’ve got this ticket.  We’ll just make our way on home, me and this other lawyer with me.”
He said, “No, no, no.  You gotta do it, you gotta do it.”
And against every better judgement I had, I said, “Okay.”
Well, we went out to the airport.  He took us by this little plane and I looked at it, and I thought, “Well, one good thing, it’s shiny.”

Then he walked around it.  We got in.  He’s on the left front; I’m on the right front; the other lawyer is sitting right behind me, and he started it up.  And it started up just fine.  Well, we taxied out and I said, “Should we pray?”
He said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.  We normally don’t ”
I said, “Well, this time we’re gonna.”  And I’m telling you I prayed five, eight minutes.  I prayed a long time.  We went and got on the runway.  He starts down the runway.  The plane lifted off ever so gently, and we started climbing, and it’s wonderful; not a problem in the world.  We started climbing and we flew probably three, four minutes, and something happened that will never leave my mind!

The pilot turned to me and he said, “We’re going in the clouds, and I can’t fly in clouds!  They make me pass out.”  I said, “Clouds make you do WHAT!?”  Now, it’s been cloudy all day!  And we go right up into the clouds and you can’t see anything.  And he looks at me, and his eyes roll back in his head, and he starts mumbling and he passes out!  Passed out cold!! 
Now I grabbed him and shook him and I said, “Come on, you got to wake up!… so I can kill you!”
Now we’re in the clouds flying along with no pilot, and my friend in the back seat said, “We’re dead, aren’t we?”
I said, “There’s a very good chance of that, yes.”
He said, “What are we gonna do?”
I said, “I don’t know.”  But there was a radio right there, and I handed him the microphone and I said, “Start asking for help!”

2022-07-09 Into the Clouds

So he’s in the back seat reaching up and he said, “Hello, hello?”  We didn’t know any proper radio etiquette.  All we were saying was, “Hello?”
And somebody answered back, “ ‘Hello, hello?’  Don’t you guys know proper radio etiquette?”
I said, “Give it to me!”  I said, “Tell — We don’t know nothin’!  Tell them, we’re in an airplane with a passed out pilot, and we don’t know how to fly this plane!”
The guy said, “I’m a freighter flying out of Anchorage on the way to Tokyo.”  And he said, “You’re telling me you have nobody who can fly that plane with you!?”
I said, “Tell him, that’s correct.”
Now you gotta understand I was sweating bullets!  He said, “First thing I’m gonna do is start circling so I don’t lose you, because I’ll fly out of range of your radio, and you won’t have me anymore.”  And he said, “I’m gonna get Anchorage Emergency for you, and Anchorage Emergency will be the people that can maybe help you; try to save your lives.”

After about five minutes Anchorage came on and said, “We understand you have a passed out pilot and those of you do not know how to fly that plane.”
And we said, “That’s right.”
They said, “Well, the first thing we gotta do is find you.”
I’ll never forget what this man at Anchorage said.  He said, “My job is to get you home safe.”  He said, “That’s my job.  But,“ he said, “here’s the deal.  If you want me to get you home safe, you gotta promise me you’ll obey my voice.”  He said, “You can’t see me, but I can see you.”  And he said, “If you’re not going to obey my voice, you’re gonna die.”
When you can’t see anything, you have no idea how disoriented you become.
Finally, he said, “Okay, I found you.  Now hear me clear.”  He said, “You’re four minutes from a mountain.”  He said, “You’re gonna crash in that mountain and die.  Follow my voice.”
I never said, “I have to follow your voice?  Is that reasonable?”  You see, I understood without his voice, I had nothing!  And do you understand without God’s voice, you have nothingNOTHING!? 

Finally, he got us turned and he said, “I’m freezing all the traffic in the area.”  He said, “It’s going to take me an hour and a half to get you to Anchorage, and there’s a lot of weather between you and Anchorage.  You’re in for a rough ride.”  And he said, “I want you to hear me.  I don’t want you to look at what’s going on outside.  I don’t want you to pay attention to the storm.  Just MY Voice!”  He said, “If you start watching the storm, you will die!  But I’ll take you through it.”
Now, because they cleared all the traffic, several pilots, those nighttime freighters, those 747s, started talking to us.  They said, “We’re praying or you men.  You’re gonna make it!  But listen to the Voice!  That’s the key.”  They said, “Trust the VOICE.”
Do you realize your head is full of voices?  And everybody in this world wants to talk to you.  And everybody wants to be the controlling voice.  And God says, ”I want you to be a living sacrifice.  I want you to put yourself on the altar and let My VOICE be [the voice you listen to].
Finally we went through the worst of the weather, but there was still more.  And then the Voice came back, and he said, “Now, I’m gonna line you up.”  He said, “I’m gonna bring you in right down the runway, and at the foot of the runway are some lights, and they’re in the form of a cross.”  He said, “Don’t you forget this, The Cross Is The Way Home!”
Finally, he’s bringing us down.  We still can’t see anything, and all he kept saying is, “Stay with me.”

“My sheep,” the Bible says, “hear My VOICE and they follow Me.”

2022-07-09 The Cross Is The Way Home
Finally, just a couple hundred feet off the ground, we saw the cross.  I landed the plane.  In fact, I landed it seven times!  Finally, it all came to a stop, and the minute we stopped the pilot woke up.
The voice said, “Thanx for listening.  I watch them crash and burn all the time because they won’t follow my Voice.  They don’t understand I’m the one who can see them even though they can’t see me.  But they get the voices in their head and they kill themselves.  They self-destruct.  Thanx for listening to the Voice.”

Then they put us in a motel room, and about four in the morning, Knock, knock, knock, knock.  A knock at my door, and I opened the door and a man was standing there.  He said, ”Hello, David.”
I said, You’re the Voice!  You’re the one who got me home!”
He said, “I am.”
Do you understand one day you’re going to stand before Him and say, “YOU were the VOICE!  You’re the VOICE that brought…me…Home!”
If you’re not on that altar as a living sacrifice, your head’s full of voices.  And then we wonder why kids crash and burn?  We wonder why marriages are shattered?
And the Lord is saying, “ I AM the One who [is] the VOICE.”

All I can remember is that Voice saying, “Stay with me… Stay with me… Don’t listen to what’s going on in your head and don’t watch the storm.  Stay…with…Me, and I’ll take you through.”
Tonight you have a God who has promised to take you through.  A living sacrifice.  Holy.

My closing thought: Consider what you are listening for; what noises crowd out the Voice that you need to hear?  https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/what-are-you-listening-for/

Before the Resurrection

“As many were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”  Isaiah 52:14

2022-04-16 Jesus On The Cross

Resurrection Sunday came, but not before THIS happened.  Is it any wonder that as a man, Jesus was so strained in the Garden of Gethsemene, that being in agony He prayed more earnestly; His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)  Hematidrosis is a rare medical condition in which one oozes or “sweats” blood from the skin even thought there is no cut or injury.  Though usually not fatal of itself, it has most often occurred in people as they died or in prisoners facing execution.  He knew what was about to happen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=125baeLbGvU

Not just the physical torture He was about to endure, but He knew the spiritual battle that we will never see – the acceptance of sin for which He was not guilty, sin that was none of His doing; all the pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth that you and I have committed; all the hatred, lies, murder, abuse and wickedness that men and women have perpetrated since the beginning of the earth until its end!  He was looking forward to bearing ALL that in a matter of hours.

2022-04-16 Jesus In The TombAnd should we expect God will deliver us from all troubles?  Yet, “God did not keep bad things from happening to God Himself and there is no darkness into which He has not descended.  He knows the texture and taste of everything [we] most fear.”  (Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night)

Western Christians have become so soft and comfortable that the idea of suffering for Christ seems completely foreign.  Anticipating Sunday’s Resurrection, we glide through the pleasant days before with nothing to mark us but a little ash on our foreheads. 

So many “prosperity gospel” preachers have pounded out verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” that we have come to believe any time we have a problem, we can just go to Jesus and He will fix it in a matter of minutes.  They ignore the context of Jeremiah’s encouragement that was in a letter to EXILES“To the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  Note, to the surviving elders!  Many had died; many more were taken into captivity in chains or herded like cattle between soldiers on horses.

Yes, it is a nice plan, but the prophet warned it would be 70 years❗, an average person’s lifetime, before God would start working out His plans for their welfare.  And so Jeremiah warned, Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.”

Friend, if you want an easy life; if you want to avoid controversy; if you want to skate along with the culture, do not become a follower of Jesus!  If you are looking for prosperity and the “wonderful plan for your life” that some gospel peddlers offer, just take up their pitch and rest easy.  Go with the flow when government orders you to do something; obey every rule and do not make trouble.   Remember that the Nazis loved to quote the Bible in Romans 13:1, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”   But they avoided Peter’s assertion in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”  And after beating the apostles, they let them go.

Stay with me here: the apostles did not go back to their little prayer group or life-affirming friends and say, “Oh, it was so terrible!  Those guys were so mean to us.  Please pray that Jesus will protect us from them and we will never encounter that again!”  On the contrary, they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.”  Then they kept on boldly teaching in the religious government’s headquarters (their Temple) and from house to house.

Are you willing to suffer loss for the sake of following our Lord?  Are you willing to be ostracized as a narrow-minded, anti-science freak?  Are you willing to “Count it all joy,… when you meet trials of various kinds?” (James 1:2) Have you read the Bible, the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  This “cross” is not some illness or natural difficulty you may encounter.  “There is something frustrating that occurs on earth, namely, that there are righteous people to whom things happen as if they were doing wicked deeds; and, again, there are wicked people to whom things happen as if they were doing righteous deeds.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14 CJB)

The cross to which Jesus calls us is a choice to obey Him against what your family will call “common sense.”  Your friends will wag their heads and say, “Well, they went off the deep end!”  Even some religious advisers will warn you not to get too radical.  But for many of us, to follow Jesus will mean just that – a radical commitment to a God who was willing to suffer to redeem us.

Oh, and there is a reward, but we may not see it in this life!  Do not be so hasty for Sunday morning that you miss what happens before the Resurrection.  Are you willing to believe in a God who is willing to die for you?  Are you willing to die for a God who will save you?

Bible Literacy – Explore the Ocean

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

2022-04-02 Flight RecorderMost jets are outfitted with an orange “black box” flight recorder that can help investigators figure out what when wrong after an airline crash.  The bottom line on most crashes is “miscommunication.”  The pilot or navigator failed to get important information, either about the weather, another aircraft, the runway or some other factor that resulted in the deaths of most or all of those on the jet.

There is much about eternity and the nature of God that is like that black box; we do not understand on this side of the grave.  And there is much about God we will never understand, even after we begin to live in Heaven.  After all, HE is the Uncreated God and we are not.

But there is much about eternity and God that we CAN understand, as He loves us and wants to share our lives for all of time, and He has revealed to us what we need to know.  What He has revealed is so simple a toddler can understand, yet so profound that the greatest philosophers and scientists can still miss it.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

However, to get to know Him well we need more than the simple experience a child can fathom.  As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.” (in Mere Christianity)

2022-04-02 Bible ContentsSuch is the Bible: a map for those wanting to know The God Who Is.  Like “cartography,” the study of maps, there will be much in this map of God that we will not understand at first, just as the novice explorer will not understand all the details of topographical or nautical instruction on his maps.  But to fully understand the terrain or ocean on which the explorer roams, he must learn to use his maps.

In the same way, to fully understand The God Who Is, as much as we can understand him from this tiny blue ball we call earth, we must learn to use the Bible, with care, accuracy and precision.  Biblical literacy is vitally important to fulfill all that Father intends for us to be and do while on earth.  Jesus warned, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

Some complain there are so many translations, which one is best?  My “best” recommendation is to explore multiple translations any time you embark on Bible study, as various ones bring different innuendo to the text.  See https://www.biblegateway.com/ for some excellent tools, including side-by-side translations, devotionals, blogs and other resources for Bible study.

There are three basic methods of translation: word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrases.
Word-for-word can be very awkward as languages have different syntax and structure.  However, you can find “interlinear” Greek and Hebrew texts online if that is what you wish to explore.  You will quickly see why translators for common folk such as us do not use word-for-word translation, but more thought-for-thought.

Of course, thought-for-thought can get dangerous if the underlying philosophy or theology of the translator is aberrant.  Fortunately, there are so many translations available, these will usually be easy to ferret out; e.g., if a translator discards masculine or feminine pronouns or dismisses the miraculous power of God to overrule His laws of physics or biology.

Paraphrases are the most subject to the translator’s personal opinions, but often can provide insight into cultural phrasing and attitudes that straighter translations will miss.  An example of this is The Cotton Patch Version’s treatment of John 1:5: “The light shined in the darkness and the darkness couldn’t do a blessed thing about it!”  This captures somewhat the idea, but puts it in a particular vernacular of southern US culture.

The following is a graphic illustrating the degree of “accuracy” of several English language translations, listing some translations as word-for-word, although they are not interlinears.  Note, for those who prefer King James English of 1611, the KJV remains one of the best translations for accuracy of the words.  My only concern with KJV is that the Old English employed can leave one feeling like you are reading a foreign language if you are not schooled in Shakespeare.  The poetry and beauty of it is unmatched by the NASB or ESV, but remember, when it was translated, THIS was the way common people talked!

2022-04-02 Biblical Literacy

The NIV is one of the most popular because of the excellent marketing the publishers did when it first came out in 1978 by one of the most prominent Bible translation groups around at the time, and its list of scholars were some of the greatest minds in evangelical circles.  The ESV came out in 2001 and utilized updated research and linguistic scholarship in an attempt to render as literally as possible what was in the original autographs (which have long been lost to antiquity), including recognizing different writing styles of each different author of the various books.

As you read and study the Bible, expect there will be things that are difficult to accept or understand, but the Scripture is the proven Word of God just as surely as Jesus is the Living Word.  It is not anti-science; it is not fantasy or myth; it is not racist or misogynistic or patriarchal.  When understood it will reveal a God who is holy and loving, gracious and truthful, and transcends cultures and ages of the world.

As I have noted in previous blogs, There is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible.  There is no book in history that has more power to change the human condition than the Bible.  There is no book in history that is more important for knowing the God Who Is than the Bible.

See https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-reliability-of-the-bible-part-1/ for the beginning of a series on The Reliability of the Bible.  Remember always that the Bible is the map, however, not the Atlantic Ocean!  Use it wisely, but do not get caught in the trap so many theologians fall into of studying the map in their offices in such detail that they never get in a boat to go sailing.

2022-04-02 Sailing With Jesus“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  (John Shedd)

NOW is the day…

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

In Kentucky, people still go to the grocers, take their kids to school or get them ready for a school-bus; they attend church meetings and school assemblies for their kids; city councils still meet and debate whether to widen a road or how to change the construction code; my neighbors hired guys to put in a new fence and I am going to the garden center to discuss what to plant in front of my house to replace the yews I may remove tomorrow.

In fact, life in these United States and most of the world still plods on for most of us without houses crumbling in from missiles nor energy plants being shelled.  No convoys of invading tanks, only a peaceful bunch of truckers who want to protest vaccines and masks that are about to be ended so the politicians will face less voter wrath next year.  (I was told that state legislatures are considering bills to order men in city subdivisions to pair up with each other and go get a coffee or beer together once a week; but they are not going to call them laws… they’re going to call them man-dates. 🙄)

See, we even make lame jokes here, while an entire country is evacuating except for those willing to put their lives at risk and kill invaders from the neighboring nation.  Some are kneeling in public squares to fast and pray for safety.  Reports of deaths range from a couple hundred to a few thousand when you include invaders that have been crushed.  Nuclear arms stand ready for a diabolical finger to push a button and blow an entire city off the map in a nation that does not have nuclear weapons.

Digression: On July 28, 1914, Serbian puppets of Russia assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo.  Exactly one month later, August 28, with German support the Austrian emperor declared war, followed by Russian retaliation and World War 1 began, eventually leading to over 100 countries from every continent becoming involved. 
“The War to End All Wars?”
Only in 21 years, in August of 1939, Hitler’s Germany amassed troops on the border of Poland and demanded a meeting in Berlin with the Polish ambassador (a plenipotentiary).  His feet were hardly warmed at a fireplace when Germany invaded Poland on September 1 with a “blitzkrieg” to begin World War 2.  This time 191 nations entered the war!  (There are only 195-199 in the world, depending on who is counting.)
In the meantime, WW2 resulted in changes in China that culminated in Mao Zedong claiming the founding of the PRC, chasing his opponents (about 3 million) to Taiwan.
And the world has been at war ever since, whether in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kashmir, “Kurdistan,” Iraq, Iran and much of Africa and the Mideast.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  (Matthew 24:6-8)

Back To The Point: All this is to say the end is still to come!”  And the question on everyone’s mind is, WHEN?  With a conflict that could easily erupt into World War 3, which a Russian spokesman says will be nuclear, this is not a time to play games with life and with The God Who Is.  Such an event would happen so suddenly, that while diplomats try to lie and say it is unlikely, most of the world will be shocked and caught off-guard. 

So the question that should be on everyone’s mind is not when the end will come, but “Will I be ready if it happens tomorrow?”  You can know that you are ready, and such knowledge removes the fear that is motivating so many political debates and military discussions.  Knowing Jesus is not just knowing about Him, like reading a biography (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and getting the facts together.

Knowing Jesus is to meet Him.  Granted, most of us will not have visions or dreams in which we actually shake His hand or see His face.  But by praying and inviting Him to come into your life, if you ask with belief that He will answer, He will come into your heart.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

This invitation is to you.  No matter where you have been, what you have done; there is no ethnicity, color, language group or nationality that is excluded.  You can come to Jesus just as you are.  Simply repent (i.e. turn away from your selfish choices and anything opposed to godliness) and ask Jesus to come and live in you by His Holy Spirit.  And HE WILL!   Invite Him to lead your life from this day forward and be submissive to what He tells you.

He will usually speak first through the Bible.  Read it!  It is not a single book, but a collection and there are tons of helps for reading and studying it, to understand the basics of what it means to become a disciple of Jesus.

He also speaks through your conscience, if you have not seared it with persistent sin or disobedience to what the Bible teaches.

Be open to instruction by followers of Jesus who have been following Him longer than you.  They are not “the last word” on how you should live for Jesus, but rely on their wisdom to begin to consider how you should live.

Even if a world war is not imminent, no one gets a guarantee of tomorrow. “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isaiah 46:10, New Living Translation) And He is not telling most of us how many days we have left on earth.  And even if you are younger than 70 years old, no one here gets out alive!

So do not wait.  Do not hesitate.  Do not say, “l’ll do it tomorrow.”  Do not put it off for “a more convenient time.”  Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT)  Do not let anything stop you.  Trust in Jesus today.

Email me (capost3k@gmail.com) if you want to connect to Christ-followers in your city or discuss anything else about this decision. 

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Law vs. Grace – An Artificial Dichotomy? A Guest Blog by John Leonard

With minor edits this is an excellent balancing article about accurately assessing law versus grace.
by humble Theology | January 5, 2022

2022-02-05 Law vs GraceWhen reading the Bible most Christ-followers hear the word “law” and immediately have a negative connotation form in their mind as being conditioned on the premise that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The argument goes something like this: Christians, being under grace, no longer need to obey God’s law. This is a false conclusion for a few reasons, but to get started, we need a bit deeper understanding of what the law even is, and how many ways it can be taken to mean.

First is the law as the moral character of God. When we talk about God being a God of love, we are also saying that He is therefore necessarily a God of law (Matthew 5:48). Love and law are predicated upon one another in any covenant relationship (John 14:15). We see this as the summary of the law is to love God and neighbor, and in the marriage/bride illustrations within Scripture. A bride both loves the groom, and as such willingly submits to laws that typify the exclusivities of marriage. For example, a bride does not seek other lovers any more than someone who loves God goes after idols. This perfection of character is both of the nature of God, and perfectly displayed in the person and life of Christ.

As we are to be a reflection of God’s glory to the world, and take Christ as our example, we are no less expected to love than to follow the laws that God expresses (John 6:38). Some may say that the Christian law is to love, and yet we see what that law looks and acts like in the Ten Commandments (as well as some of other laws of Exodus and Leviticus) (1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:2). There are three uses of this moral law. Within many Presbyterian, Calvinist, and/or Reformed circles the moral law is found to have three main uses.

  1. The first is that the law shows us our sin, and thus the need for grace. Because the law is the perfect reflection of God’s righteousness, we see (as in a mirror) that we do not meet that standard.
  2. The second use is that of a civic standard for law and order. The law cannot change the heart, but its threats can have a restraining effect upon all who are subject to it.
  3. Third, the law is a guide for the Christian (as already mentioned) that shows us the perfect will of our Father. These laws, commands and such direct us as His kids, as to what pleases Him, and what we can do to glorify Him. We do not and cannot do so for any merit, but we submit to them in gratitude.

Second, the law is also seen as civil code. Throughout scripture there are laws by which civic order is established and wrongs can be righted. These are not salvific in nature, that is they do not earn salvation, but are meant to preserve the common peace of the community so far as sinners can submit to them. These are the rules of the land and can be as simple as the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). Christians, so far as they are a dual citizen of Heaven and their land, are to observe the national rules/laws, so far as they do not conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:29).

Third, law in Scripture is understood as ceremonial practice. There were many ceremonial laws prescribed to Israel as a theocracy and under the rule of kings. These have passed with time, and yet the things they foreshadowed in practice are still shown with greater clarity in the New Testament practices (like Communion and Baptism). Although fewer in number, and salvation is by grace through faith, these practices extend and show salvation visually, as expressly confirmed by the Word. Ceremonies do not save, but they are the sign and seal of God upon His people to show that they have been called according to His Word and such ceremonies are the outward exhibits of faith (Colossians 2:11-12).

Law is not salvific, that is, effective for our salvation. The law does not and cannot save. Even under the covenant of works, the main premise was not law keeping, but for Adam to love God to such a degree that to obey would be a daily joyful act of gratitude, not a chore. Think of a marriage where the two do not reflect on their legal obligations to each other nor the prohibitions against seeking love in another. They simply love one another and seek each other’s happiness and welfare.

Scripture proposes that the law is opposed to grace when it is incorrectly taken from its moral sense and used or interpreted to suggest that following the law is effective for man’s salvation before a Holy God. In these instances, as in Romans 6:14, Paul can say, as should we, that we are not under the law as a system of salvation, but under the covenant of grace, as our rest for salvation. This does not free us to be disobedient children, as we still have our Father’s rules to follow, but we are not following them, as if some sense of merit accompanied them.

The law is always a good thing, when used lawfully (Romans 7:7-12). Paul, as well as Jesus, criticized many of the religious leaders of their time because they missed grace and had made the law into something it is not. So, we have to understand that condemnation of the wrongful use of the law, is not the same as condemning the Law as given by God. When Jesus says that He has come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), then it can hardly be said that there is anything wrong with it (as Jesus becomes its fulfillment). Yet if taken from that context and used as any type of merit system, even if combined with grace (penance), it is to be condemned as not a true and accurate use of the law.

Law was part of the Covenant of Works. Certainly, there are commands within the Covenant of Works, under which Adam was directly told to be fruitful and multiply, and was commanded not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. The law was to be followed, not for the sake of earning something, but out of love, reverence, and awe of God, he was to keep the relationship going. Adam was already created good, and so enjoyed a harmonious relationship with God. Yet with the option to sin, Adam fell from this original estate by not only breaking the law, but also refuting his love for God. Those not “in Christ” by His grace, die and go to an eternal hell based upon the results of this covenant breach of Adam, imputed to all. It is this breach and all other actual sins of believers only, that are atoned for on the cross. Jesus took the penalty they must exact upon Himself.

2022-02-05 Law And GraceLaw remains in the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant). Since the fall, and now, man is only ever saved by grace, whereas our performance to keep the law is not a factor. But law keeping is a factor of our salvation (James 1:22). Jesus kept the law on our behalf in two senses. First in a passive sense, Jesus kept the law to prove He was the spotless lamb of God, able to bear the sins of sinners on the cross. Actively Jesus kept the law throughout His life so to have accomplished what Adam did not do, thus earning the righteousness which He gives freely to us. If Jesus just forgave sins, we would be back at square one like Adam, and we would have to maintain our relationship with God, by our love and works. But because Jesus imputes to us His righteousness, there are no other works that can be added to His own to earn any other higher standard of relationship with the Father.

So, the Law is not a merit system for getting into heaven; it cannot and does not function that way. Those that try to make it salvific (effective for salvation) are condemned in the Bible for their abuses of the law, and forsaking grace. Yet, the Christian (in grace) should always strive to keep the commands of God, in gratitude, as those actions we know please our Father and bring Him glory. 

Boring Christianity? – Wordless Wednesday

2021-09-15 WW - Is It Boring Being a Christian

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)