Category Archives: Resurrection

Knowledge of God in Suffering

running morning2I’ve mentioned before how I seem to get the keenest spiritual insights while I am running. (See All Sufficient Grace, Refreshing Water, and Jesus: Redeemer and Judge).  Today I think I found out a large reason why.

While listening to Kari Jobe’s “Forever” I came across the line that said “The weight of every curse upon him.” That line made me think of the immense suffering the man, Jesus, endured. He had a body like mine, with all the pains, aches, hungers, emotions.  The mockery, scourging, insults, beatings were enough to break the strongest heroes of lore. Yet, Jesus carried his cross further.  He had to endure the humiliation of needing help to carry his cross.  Yet, his pain wasn’t done.  Arriving at the Place of the Skull (Golgotha), Forever CrossJesus had to endure the excruciating pain of being hung on a cross by nails, with open wounds on his back and a beaten body.  Yet, through the mocking of the Pharisees (“He saved others but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” Matthew 27:42), and from the thief next to him (“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Luke 23:39) Jesus persevered.

Jesus endured that suffering because he knew of the glory on the other side of it, not that he would be raised to the right hand of the Father (and he was), not that his fame would be spread throughout all the earth (and it is), but that we might be brought back into a right relationship with God.

“It is finished!”

That was not an expression of a man resigned to his fate.  It was a shout of victory!  It was an announcement the He had fulfilled all of the work his Father gave him.  The work of our salvation was complete, and now he rests, seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 10:9-13), his fame throughout the earth (Habakkuk 2:14; Philippians 2:10).

I do not like running. It is strenuous.  It takes a lot out of me.  I don’t want to diminish the suffering of Jesus by comparing it to my running, but when I run, I identify in a very small way what Jesus endured on the cross. (I know some of you may love running.  It is not a painful chore you have to endure.  I wish I were there with you.)  But, as I endure the suffering of running, and I feel like quitting, I remember how Jesus did not quit until He had finished what He set out to do.  As I suffer in running it reminds me that there is knowledge in the power of His resurrection AND in  the fellowship of His suffering. (Philippians 3:10).  By being made conformable unto His death, I will partake in His resurrection.

Perhaps enduring the suffering of running has cleared my mind to hear His voice.  Suffering has a unique way of giving us another glimpse of who God is.  In the midst of your suffering, purpose to know God in a deeper way.  He endured the greatest suffering simply to restore a relationship with you.  He suffered to know you.  In your suffering He wants you to know Him.

 

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The “Jesus Myth” Is a Myth

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Christian holidays like Christmas and Resurrection Sunday bring the crazies out of the woodwork.  A few years ago the Freedom From Religion Foundation boasted that it put up a banner in an Illinois park declaring “Nobody died for our ‘sins’ Jesus Christ is a myth.”  There is something about Jesus that makes certain people want to poke Christians in the eye.

The historicity of Jesus is not disputed by serious scholars in academia. So Jesus was a real historical figure and not a mythical one.  To question the existence of Jesus exposes the claimant to be a silly, intellectual lightweight.

Jesusmyth3The most significant historical event in human history is the resurrection of Jesus.  The facts of the resurrection of Jesus are well attested.  Here are the facts that nearly all historians agree upon:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.  He didn’t swoon and then revive in the tomb.  Think how silly the theory is that after his brutal scourging, his horrific agony on the cross, and the piercing of his side that Jesus only fainted.  His fainting would have had to have fooled the Romans who were experts at killing.  His embalmers would have had to have been fooled as well.  Then, a badly beaten Jesus would have had to have the super-human strength to move the large stone from the tomb entrance.  And then, he would have had do it so quietly so the Romans guards would not have found out about it.  Now, that would have been miraculous.  The facts lead to the conclusion that Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus’ disciples believed that Jesus resurrected and appeared to them.  Something happened to this band of cowards who huddled in an upper room days after the crucifixion.  They were transformed into courageous evangelists.  They believed in the resurrection so much that they refused to deny it even in the face of death.  The disciples could not have manufactured the resurrection.  Many people are willing to give up their lives for something they believe to be the truth.  Who would face torture and death for something they know to be a lie?  The only explanation for their transformation is that disciples saw the risen Jesus.
3. Paul, who formerly persecuted Christians, became one himself because he believed Jesusmyth2Christ appeared to him.  Paul, himself, was changed from a staunch hater of Christianity to it’s most ardent defender.  He claimed this transformation was because the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.  After his conversion he was beaten, imprisoned, stoned several times for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.  He finally was beheaded after he refused to deny the resurrection of Jesus.  Paul must have seen the resurrected Jesus.
4. James, the brother of Jesus, who was a Jewish religious leader and a former antagonist to Jesus, became a Christian because he claimed Jesus appeared to him.  During the time of Jesus on earth, Jesus’ younger brother, James, did not believe his older brother was the Messiah.  Jesus later appeared to James and he became a believer. (I Corinthians 15:7).  He later was killed because he refused to stop preaching the resurrection.  James’ conversion can only be explained by seeing Jesus alive again.
5. The tomb was empty (and still is).  The one thing the Jewish leaders could have done to quiet the reports of Jesus’ resurrection was to produce the dead body of Jesus.  They could not because they didn’t know where his body was.  That fact is amazing because the Jews took all precautions because they knew Jesus predicted his resurrection.  Pilate gave them a Roman guard which put the seal of Rome on the tomb.  In order for the cowardly disciples to steal the body they would have had to fight off the Roman guard and survive the retaliation for having done so.

The only explanation that reconciles all those facts is that Jesus resurrected from the dead.  To simply reject the facts above, that nearly all of academic historians agree are true, is to be a believer in fairy tales.

Are you a believer in fairy tales?

A Celebration of Life

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Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the homecoming of my father-in-law, Timothy Stanton.  His body succumbed to cancer in the early morning hours of November 18, 2013.  Though he left his body behind, he most assuredly lives in the presence of God.

2013 had been a horrible year for my wife and me.  We suffered two miscarriages and faced the likelihood of our prayers for healing being answered with “No.”

On a Saturday in early November last year, we got a phone call informing us that my father-in-law’s end was near.  Sunday, we packed and traveled the six-hour drive to his Florida home.  When we arrived, I was surprised to see him alert, sitting up on his couch.  I had seen my great-grandfather suffer the same type of cancer.  He had been bed-ridden for months before his death.  My father-in-law did not appear at all close to death.

Throughout the week family members arrived to say their “Good-byes.”  After Thursday, his health quickly deteriorated.  He survived the weekend, and with his wife, and two daughters at his side, early Monday morning Timothy Stanton slipped the bonds of this imperfect life and found himself face to face with Jesus.

He left a godly legacy to his wife, his daughters, and his grandchildren.

In the weeks following my father-in-law’s death, I struggled with my understanding of God.  I never had a crisis of faith, but I had to come to grips with who God really is.  I had some frank discussions with God:

 

“God you say in your Word ‘Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’  You said ‘Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?’  Well, God, I asked for healing for my father-in-law, and guess what? You didn’t do it.  I asked for ‘bread’ and was given a ‘stone.’  You say you are good, and you give good gifts, but my experience says to me that you are a liar.”

For several weeks I struggled with what my experience was telling me.  I kept praying, seeking for some understanding.  Then one day I had a Job-like moment with God. Job had questioned God at length. When he finally fell silent, God answered Job with questions of his own. “Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth?”  After all my questions of God, he had some for me.  He asked “Are you an infinite being with all knowledge of every situation throughout all of history in the entire universe?”

“No,” I sheepishly replied.

“Then how can you possibly know my plans or understand my ways?”

At that moment I understood what “faith” really is about. Faith is not some belief in something despite the evidence. Too many Christians think faith and reason are enemies. People think faith is “believing hard enough,” or “believing in something despite the evidence.” Belief, however, does not create truth.

Too many Christians treat faith like this: Someone walks into an empty room and believes with all his might that a chair is there. When he goes to sit down he falls to the floor because that wishful thinking cannot create a chair.

Faith is walking into a room, seeing a chair, and trusting that it will hold you up when you sit down. Why do you have faith in the chair? Because of the evidence: it has four legs, it looks sturdy, it is made of wood, it has held you up when you sat in it before. You then take the risk and sit down in safety. That is faith: trusting in something/Someone that is trustworthy.

I knew that I needed to exercise faith in God. Not in a mere opinion about him, or in some wishful, positive thinking. But in a complete trust.  I looked to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus rose from the dead just like he said he would.  I then understood what it means to put my trust in God. I said “I will trust you, God. My experience says you’re a liar. But I believe you are true and my experience is the lie.”

Through my struggles with my father-in-law’s death God has given me a new understanding of death.DSC_0988 Because I trust God, I have embraced what he says about death. “O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55. “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” II Corinthians 5:8.

For those of us who have yielded ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, death is nothing to fear.  The sting of death is gone. Death is not the end. The finality of death is a lie. Because of the resurrection, death is merely a portal to the presence of Jesus.

So, today we celebrate my father-in-law’s homecoming to the presence of Jesus. His life isn’t over. His perfection has only just begun. We mourn his parting, but not as those who have no hope. We weep at his departure, but not as if his absence is final. We will see him again because of the resurrection power of Jesus.

Timothy Stanton was a loving husband, a devoted father, and is now called “Good and Faithful Servant” by his heavenly Father. On this anniversary of a his passing, we trust Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, will reunite us with him in our own glorious homecoming.