The Easter season is a joyous celebration of hope and new life that unites Christians all around the globe, and has had a profound effect on the world we live in. Although our reflections on Jesus' death and Resurrection may be dismissed by some as simply being trite religious devotion, they point to events that are firmly rooted in human history.
Think for a moment about the objections raised by skeptics: "Churches are full of hypocrites." "Religion has caused wars and atrocities." "If that's what Christianity is all about, I want no part of it." But that is not what Christianity is all about. I certainly do not deny that some heinous things have been done in Christ's name, but that is totally irrelevant to the ultimate truth of Christianity, as none of these things can undo the historical reality of the Resurrection.
On numerous occasions, prominent scholars have researched this topic, and to the surprise of many, have strongly verified the historicity of the Gospel accounts. For example, Dr. Simon Greenleaf, who was the Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University, was considered one of the world's top authorities on legal evidences. After applying this expertise to the Resurrection, he concluded that it was, in fact, an historical fact. His research is available in a book called "The Testimony of the Evangelists." Furthermore, British lawyer Frank Morrison set out to write a book repudiating the Resurrection and instead found the evidence so overwhelming he became a believer himself! His findings can be read in his book, "Who Moved The Stone?" Similarly, journalist Lee Strobel began his quest as a skeptic attempting to discredit the Christian faith, but wound up having his own life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus. His story is told in the popular book "The Case For Christ."
One of the most striking evidences for the Resurrection is its immediate impact on the religious world of the day. With the founding of the church in 32 AD, we see a sudden change in the day of worship. This is significant because all of the early Christians were Jews coming from a strict background of observing the seventh day Sabbath. Once they became Christians, however, they made their day of worship Sunday, the first day of the week, to commemorate Christ's Resurrection on that day. It would have taken a very significant event to altar such a deeply seated tradition.
In addition, we see new ordinances (baptism and communion) practiced from the very beginning of church history as reminders of His death and Resurrection. The First Century Church has also left numerous other monuments, such as hymns, art and church readings done in honor of the Resurrected Christ.
This brings us to the strongest evidence of all: The fact that the risen Jesus was seen alive by over 500 eye witnesses! Jesus' post-Resurrection appearances are verified not only by the Bible, but by secular history as well. Josephus writes: "...he appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him." If these appearances were a delusion, how could this many people testify to the exact same thing? This is especially significant when we consider that many of them were tortured and killed for bearing witness to it. Would people endure this for something they knew to be false? We also see the dramatic conversions of two previous skeptics: James, brother of Jesus and a brilliant scholar named Saul of Tarsus, who we now know as the mighty apostle Paul.
Furthermore, Paul also states that most of these 500 witnesses were still alive at the time (1 Corinthians 15:6). In other words, the reader could easily ask them about the things they had seen.
The Resurrection narratives strike at the very core of who we are as human beings. We gaze into a loved one's coffin knowing full well that one day we are destined to be there ourselves. Until the fear of death is dealt with, we will never truly learn to live. May the hope and beauty of the Easter message be a reality in your life this season, and always.
Published in The Daily Beacon
, Monday, March 26, 2007
In two weeks, we will reach the culmination of the Lenten/Easter season. As we take this time to reflect on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, I would like to present a two-part series about what makes the Easter holiday so important. Regardless of your own religious beliefs, I hope that these articles will at least give you a deeper appreciation of these events, which have literally split history in half.
Historians estimate the date of Jesus' crucifixion as being around Friday, April 7th, A.D. 30. The religious leaders of the day, jealous of His influence and popularity, had turned Him over to the Roman government to be tried for false charges of sedition. Although the occupying Roman Empire gave the Jews a great deal of freedom in conducting their legal affairs, Roman approval was required for an execution. In order to avoid a riot, and thus preserve his standing with the Emperor, Governor Pontius Pilate reluctantly consented to the crowd's demands to have Jesus crucified.
The first step in this horrible process was a brutal beating with a leather whip, which was called scourging. While Jewish civil law limited the beating to forty lashes, the Romans recognized no such law, and thus were at liberty to beat the person as viciously as they pleased. The beating itself was often fatal. Geikie's "Life of Christ" tells us that:
“Victims condemned to the cross first underwent the hideous torture of the scourge...(Jesus) was beaten at the pleasure of the soldiers, with knots of rope, or plaited leather thongs, armed at the ends with acorn shaped drops of lead, or small sharp pointed bones...Under the fury of the countless stripes, the victims sometimes sank-amidst screams, convulsive leaps, and distortions-into a senseless heap; sometimes died on the spot; sometimes were taken away… to find deliverance in death.”
After the scourging, it was off to the hill known as "The Skull," ("Golgotha" in Aramaic, "Calverius" in Latin). This was the designated place where local executions took place, some by stoning, others by crucifixion. According to Unger's Bible Dictionary, crucifixion was used by a number of ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians and the Persians. It was used by the Romans from the very beginning of their history, until it was eventually abolished by Emperor Constantine. In any scenario, it was reserved for slaves and for the worst kind of criminals.
Large, rusty spikes were driven into the wrists and feet. The cross was then erected, with the person's body suspended about four feet above the ground. What followed was a long, excruciating death so horrible that mere words cannot begin to do it justice. Medical Doctor Gerald H. Bradley gives us a look:
“This was the most agonizing death man could face...He had to support Himself in order to breathe...the flaming pain caused by the spikes hitting the median nerve in the wrists explodes up His arms, into His brain and down His spine. The spike burning through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet jerks His body erect, then the leg muscles convulse and drive His body downward...beating Him against the cross. Air is sucked in, but cannot be exhaled until the buildup carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood stream stimulates breathing to relieve the cramps. Exhaustion, shock, dehydration and paralysis destroy the victim. The heart is barely able to pump the thick blood as each of His billions of cells die one at a time. Prior to His death in all His agony, Jesus is in full control of His mind. He asks the heavenly Father to "Forgive them; for they know not what they do."
If the story ended here, we would have a beautiful account of a man dying as a martyr for His cause, but nothing more. What makes Jesus' death stand out is what occurred three days later: The verifiable, historical reality of His Resurrection! Next week, we will look at a few of the evidences for this remarkable event.
Hi, everyone. I had an anatomy scan done on Bella today. Good news/Bad news.
Good news - still a good heartbeat, she is normal size for a bean of her gestational age (she's growing right on time), and her kidneys look great.
Bad news - she has a fluid buildup on the back of her neck and head (I can't remember what it's called), fluid pockets in her abdomen, general edema (swelling) of the whole body, and fluid on her lungs. They couldn't get a good look at her fingers and toes, nor her heart. The fluid retention is the scariest part - everyone there at the doctors office tells me that most Patau Syndrome (aka Trisomy 13) babies with swelling like that are not long for this world. At this point we are taking things in two week increments (which is how often I have to go to the doc), and see how things go.
If Bella stays where she is past 26 weeks, I can have a c-section when it's time for her to be born. If sooner, they will probably make me go through regular childbirth, since she won't be able to live outside the womb. So they say. I thought they could live if born sooner than that, but that may not apply to a Patau baby.
I'm so . . . torn. Part of me refuses to believe that this is happening, that even if it is happening, it will reverse, or be totally untrue upon birth. The other part of me . . well, she's not so optimistic. It's very, very hard to go through each day, feeling this child moving inside me, knowing there's a possibility that she may never see the light of day. Sometimes, like right now, my hope runs dry. Then I run on faith, and even that seems sparse some days.
I'm sorry, guys, to get so maudlin. I can't always be Miss Perky Optimist, although I sure wish I could be. You all be strong for me, okay? Because sometimes I can't do it on my own.
James, Neely, Zoe, and our Bella
For those of you who read my blog regularly, you have no doubt noticed that I have not written anything about the baby lately. Sadly, there has been a reason for that, which up until now, we have not shared with anyone other than our close friends.
Recently, the baby (who is a girl, Faith Isabella) tested positive for a rare chromosomal condition known as trisomy 13. The doctors say that the chances of her carrying the child to term are slim, and even if she does, that the baby will likely be stillborn or only live for a few days.
However, there is good news. Sandi's latest exams show that Bella has a good, strong heartbeat and is growing at the rate she should be. Plus, Sandi is now into her second trimester. This is really a huge goal, because a lot of Trisomy 13 babies miscarry in the first trimester.
Friends, God is a God of miracles, and we covet your fervent prayers during this time. Please pray for our family, for strength and knowledge for Sandi and me, for wisdom for the doctors, and for a healthy life for Bella. Please also share this with your churches and any prayer chains you may be involved in. Thank you so much for helping us through this time. Never were people more appreciated than each of you.
Published in The Daily Beacon
,Monday, March 5, 2007
For many years, I received this cheerful greeting every time I entered the home of my sister, Sandy Adcox. Although she was nearly eighteen years my senior, the love and closeness we shared only grew stronger as we got older. Sadly, she is no longer with us. As we approach the third anniversary of her passing, I would like to use this column to both share some memories and to somehow offer a small tribute to this wonderful lady.
We often read books and hear stories about great people of the past and the great legacies they left behind. In this case, however, I watched a legacy being built every day right before my eyes, a legacy of kindness, unselfishness and laughter. I could always count on Sandy being a constant in my life, through good times and bad. She was a true role model to me in every sense of the word.
Nowhere was Sandy’s heart seen more vividly than in her work with children and teens. This was especially clear in her devotion to her own children, Jennifer, Stephanie and Jordan, as well as the countless others she touched as a school teacher and guidance counselor. Her soothing voice, gentle demeanor and bubbly sense of humor led children to bond with her instantly. As the nursery coordinator at her church, “Ms. Sandy” was well known for her ability to take a crying baby in her arms and watch it calm down almost immediately.
In December, 2000, we received the devastating news that Sandy had been diagnosed with leukemia. The next four years, we saw her fight like a lion. Although she was in and out of remission several times, eventually the battle ended. Sandy died on April 13, 2004.
The amazing thing was that, even when she knew the end was near, she was more concerned about the rest of us than she was about herself. She was always there to reassure us. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our everyday lives that we “don’t have time” for others. However, Sandy always had time for anyone who needed her. That still amazes me. Anytime I went to her needing a kind word or some “big sisterly” advice, she always seemed to know just what to say. Sandy touched countless lives in so many ways. When my time here is over, I hope I have impacted as many people as she has.
I’ll never forget the last day I spent with Sandy. It was the day she left for Houston in a last-ditch effort to save her life. To look at Sandy was heartbreaking. The leukemia, combined with the chemotherapy, had ravaged her body. She had lost her hair and was unable to get around without the aid of a walker. Since her immune system was very weak, I tried to avoid standing too close so that I wouldn’t pass any germs to her. But suddenly, as I walked by her chair, she threw her arms around me and gave me a huge hug, saying, “Brother, I love you very much.” Although it was a very sad day, that is still a memory I’ll cherish forever.
Sandy’s memorial service, which drew over five hundred people, was billed as a “Celebration of Life” rather than a funeral. She had emphatically stated that she did not want it to be a sad occasion and had requested that no one in attendance wear black. Of course, we could not honor the former request, but through all the tears, sharing and memories, I believe she was still looking down with a smile.
It is easy for me to be sad now that she is gone, but although it seems to have passed so quickly, I am so thankful that God allowed this wonderful lady to be a part of my life. The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon summed it up well: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”
Heaven only knows how many hearts carry Sandy’s inscription today.
|» Rare books about Bible in the Internet|
I want invite you to our site with rare books about the Bible - http://bible.zoxt.net . It has several faximile yet:
English Hexapla 1841. Greek New Testament according to Scholtz with 6 ancient English translations: Wiclif 1380, Tyndale 1534, Cranmer 1539, Geneva 1557, Rheims 1582, Authorised 1611
Alfred W. Pollard "Records of the English Bible. The Documents Relating to the Translation and Publication of the Bible in English, 1525-1611". Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press, London, 1911
William Jennings, M.A. Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament (Peshitta), The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1926
Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita, being an exposition of the massoretic notes on the Hebrew Bible, or the ancient critical apparatus of the Old Testament in Hebrew, with an English translation, and critical and explanatory notes, by Christian D. Ginsburg, LL. D.
|» James & Dave's Bible Page: June Updates and New Article|
Click Here to see whats new and improved, and be sure to check out our new article, A Real Place Called Hell while you're there! As always, comments and feedback are welcome.|
|» Powerful Spurgeon Devotional|
I got this from the "Faith's Checkbook" e-mail list, and it moved me so much I wanted to pass it along :-)|
"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25).
Yes, those wasted years over which we sigh shall be restored to us. God can give us such plentiful grace that we shall crowd into the remainder of our days as much of service as will be some recompense for those years of unregeneracy over which we mourn in humble penitence. The locusts of backsliding, worldliness, lukewarmness, are now viewed by us as a terrible plague. Oh, that they had never come near us! The LORD in mercy has now taken them away, and we are full of zeal to serve Him. Blessed be His name, we can raise such harvests of spiritual graces as shall make our former barrenness to disappear. Through rich grace we can turn to account our bitter experience and use it to warn others. We can become the more rooted in humility, child-like dependence, and penitent spirituality by reason of our former shortcomings. If we are the more watchful, zealous, and tender, we shall gain by our lamentable losses. The wasted years, by a miracle of love, can be restored. Does it seem too great a boon? Let us believe for it and live for it, and we may yet realize it, even as Peter became all the more useful a man after his presumption was cured by his discovered weakness. LORD, aid us by Thy grace.
|» Looking at a Charismatic Controversy|
"Slain in the Spirit" is a modern term for being overcome by the presence of God in such an intense manner that a person falls to the ground. Although it is generally associated with the Charismatic movement, being slain in the Spirit is by no means an exclusively Charismatic phenomenon. For example, Catholic contemplative prayer literature contains references to "swoon states." In addition, many great preachers of the past, such as John Wesley, Charles Finney, and George Whitefield all testified to people falling under the Spirit's power in their meetings, often in large numbers! From what I've read, some of their services make modern Pentecostal meetings look pretty tame! |
Many Christians have reservations about this phenomenon, and that is certainly understandable as it has sometimes been used in an exploitive and manipulative manner. However, we must keep in mind that just because something is unusual, doesn't necessarliy mean that it is not of God.Throughout the Bible, whenever the Holy Spirit's presence shows up in a tangible manner, unusual physical manifestations are not uncommon. These include shaking (Genesis 42:48; Exodus 16:16 Psalms 2:11; Isaiah 66:5; Matthew 28:4; Acts 7:32; Hebrews 12:21) exuberant joy and drunken-like behavior (1 Samuel 1:12-17; Acts 2:13-15), and spontaneous outbursts of praise to God (Luke 1:46-55, 5:25, 17:15; Acts 3:8-10).
In the Old Testament, it is interesting to note that the Word "Glory" in the Hebrew, can also be translated "heavy," or "heaviness." When God's glory manifests, it is often sensed as a heaviness (in a wonderful, holy sense.) Sometimes people are simply overcome by this heaviness, and fall to the floor as a result. One of the most graphic Biblical examples of this is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 5, which tells the beautiful story of the dedication of Solomon's Temple. When construction of the Temple was completed, King Solomon led the Israelites in an incredibly joyful worship service, climaxing with the bringing in of the Ark of God's Covenant (verse 7.) Innumerable offerings were given (verse 6 ) exuberant music filled the air (verses 12-13,) and the Glory (heaviness) of God filled the building so intensely that the priests couldn't stand to minister! (verse 14)
The Bible contains many other examples of people who were, in one way or another, overcome by the power and glory of God, sometimes resulting in them falling down, or having some other related effect. Each of these cases was unique, and happened for different reasons, and with different results. When Jesus identified Himself to the mob that had come to arrest Him, the impact of that proclamation knocked them all to the ground (John 18:6). When Saul of Tarsus had his dramatic encounter with Jesus on Damascus road, the brilliance of the vision knocked him off of his horse (Acts 9:4). Similarly, when Jesus appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, John "fell at His feet as one dead (Revelation 1:17)."
Why does this happen? I don't claim to know all of the ins and outs, and I'm not sure that there is a "pat" answer that would apply to every case. Our encounters with the Holy Spirit are a very personal thing. Sure, it works on our pride a little, but maybe that's another thing God wants to work on! The late Kathryn Kuhlman sums it up well: "All I can believe is our spiritual beings are not wired for God's full power, and when we plug into that power, we just cannot survive it. We are wired for low voltage; God is high voltage through the Holy Spirit. (2)"
Kuhlman quote from the book Slain In the Spirit: Fact or Fiction? by Ezra Coppin.