Music, Beer and Christian Apologetics

chicken

 

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

 

Kurt Vonnegut and Benjamin Franklin (above) had different criteria for acknowledging the existence and character of God. Both of their well-known statements are tongue-in-cheek, and neither falls into the category of intellectual apologetics. Good thing because it seems people are giving up on Christian apologetics. I can’t blame them.

Donald Miller rightly complains about current apologetics and concludes “. . . the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”   Blogger T E Hanna follows up with 3 Reasons Why I Gave Up Christian Apologetics. The reasons are: 1. It is Rarely about Evangelism; 2. It justifies our Pride; and 3. It Fuels Negativity.

Before we drown the baby in the bathwater, I want to look at it from a different perspective. The idea of apologetics, of course, comes from the ancient Greek meaning “to speak in defense; give an answer.” Many interpret this as a confident recitation of the various arguments supporting Theism and Christianity and a refutation of arguments from opponents. Simple.

My Crash Course in Apologetics

I spent a number of years speaking in the former Soviet Union to educators, most of them life-long atheists. I would speak for an hour and then answer questions for another hour. Those trips remain a highlight of my life. However, they did not start off so well. On my first trip (Moscow) I thought I was smart enough and clever enough to convince the 750 educators attending the conference that God exists and Christianity is true. I knew the evidence well and all they had to do was listen and they would be convinced.

I was mistaken.  I was not smart enough and too clever by half. The educators were on the edge of their seat the entire time; not mesmerized by my speaking but challenging every point I made. I felt physically beaten up after every exchange.

It took me a while to recognize that it wasn’t the content but the approach. I realized that I made the educators see me as an adversary. I made them defend themselves and their non-belief. I made them think of ways to counter and ridicule theistic arguments.

I looked at how the Apostle Paul confronted his multicultural world and came across his charge to the Christians in Colossae: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:5-6).

A New Approach

After that first trip, I took a different approach and found myself in the thick of it but in a different way. I opened the conference inviting the educators (in Yaroslavl) to join me in a quest for understanding. I said to them, “I know that most of you wonder why so many thinking and well-educated people in the West believe in God and embrace Christianity.” I saw heads nodding. “This has not been your experience here in Russia so I was hoping you would allow me to explain to you why they believe. I think it is important for all of us to understand these important issues because they are not only at the heart of a person’s life but form the very soul of a society.”  More heads nodded all over the auditorium. “After I explain we will have lots of time for you to ask any questions that you wish.”

I could see the people relax and sit back in their seats. Ready to listen, evaluate, and seek to understand.

The exchanges were lively, honest, and engaging. The conversations continued in the hallways, the dining halls and hotel rooms. One of my favorite stories is from Kiev. On the last day of the conference, a group of 13 teachers gave me a coin commemorating the independence of Ukraine from Russia. “We want to give this you to remember us,” they said. “Last night we changed our worldview.” They told me they had come to the conference as confirmed atheists and found themselves discussing and arguing about the topics of God and Christianity every evening. On their last night, they all found that they had come to embrace Christ. They all agreed to present the coin to me as a gift of appreciation.

If apologetics is merely dueling arguments about Christian beliefs then I agree it is usually fruitless in an evangelistic sense. The evidence for God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible, the confirmation of Christ’s deity and so on have greater value for Christians to shore up their commitment and understand their faith.

Building Bridges

However, as I learned from my experience, there is value in the give and take of philosophical apologetics. Some people need to cross an intellectual bridge before they can consider the possibility that God exists and that Christ has uniquely revealed him to the world. I let the Russian educators help me build that bridge.

Another good example is C. S. Lewis. While Lewis had left his atheism and acknowledged that God possibly existed, he questioned how Christianity alone could be true. It was a long conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien on September 19, 1931 until 3 am that helped him see how the question was resolved. (You can read about it in Alistair McGrath’s wonderful biography of Lewis; C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, chapter six).

Many people have an emotional bridge to cross as well. The number one cry of the heart is, “Why does an all-good and all-powerful God allow such widespread and indiscriminate suffering throughout the world?” Responding to this is apologetics at its most important and sensitive focus. Of course, every worldview struggles to explain this problem of evil but it festers in the wounded souls of those trying to make sense of a good God in a world wracked with suffering. [I will address this in my next post.]

Apologetics follows Peter’s direction to: “Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The implication is clear: we are to be living in such a way that our lives scream “there is hope!” We give, serve, love, sacrifice, and even die for others because we know the One who died for us and what He has next for us. Then people will ask why we live this way. And we must be prepared to explain.

And they will probably need something other than music and beer.

God shows up in your brain . . . and vegetables.

GodBrain

Scientists are claiming that humans are hard-wired for belief in a Supreme Being. The natural inclination of the human brain, they say, is to explain the existence and functions of the universe as the work of some sort of cosmic, divine being.

Matthew Alper, author of The God Part of the Brain, explains it this way: “For every physical characteristic that is universal to a species, there must exist specific genes responsible for the emergence of that particular trait. The fact, for instance, that all cats have whiskers means that somewhere within a cat’s DNA, there must exist what we can informally refer to as ‘whisker’ genes.

What if we were to now apply this same principle to the fact that every known culture from the dawn of our species has believed in some form of a spiritual reality? Wouldn’t this suggest that spirituality must represent an inherent characteristic of our species, that is, a genetically inherited trait? Furthermore, wouldn’t this then also suggest that our ‘spiritual’ instincts, just like our linguistic ones, must be generated from some very specific region within the human brain? I informally refer to this site as the ‘God’ part of the brain, a series of neural connections from which our spiritual beliefs are generated.”

The answer to all of his questions is “no.” Applying the same formula of physical inheritance to “metaphysical beliefs” is not obvious and it is not science.

We know why they are so excited about this conclusion. It makes no concessions about the actual existence of God. It is a simple attempt by naturalists to explain an overwhelming truth: most people believe in God. To avoid making a statement that appears to give credence to the actual existence of God, scientists relegate the pervasiveness of “God-belief” to the subjective experience of people whose brain makes them believe without the benefit of any external evidence.

This is a good try by cognitive scientists but it is a swing and a miss. For metaphysical thinking to emerge from the physical world is nonsense. But for a physical universe to emerge from a metaphysical Being, as the Scriptures describe, makes perfect sense. The Scriptures do not try to prove God’s existence, they assume that as beings created in his image, we inherently know he exists.

Cognitive scientists seem to hope that this “scientific conclusion” not only explains the pervasiveness of belief in God but also the nagging thoughts professed atheists have about the possibility of God’s existence. Even the most celebrated public atheist, Richard Dawkins, has changed his motto from “There is no God” to “There probably is no God.” That “probably” says a lot.

If God on our brain doesn’t convince you that he is real, then how about God in an eggplant? Yep, an eggplant.

godeggplant

Louisiana chef, Jermarcus Brady came across this remarkable divine message while he was sautéing vegetables at a Gino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge. Brady is a man of faith and he claims the organic memo was God’s way of letting him know, “Hey, I’m real.”

There may be skeptics, but we already know that God speaks through vegetables.veggietales

Expect a renewed and growing appreciation for Veggie Tales (although God may not speak through Silly Songs with Larry).

Finally! What’s Next for us

Finally!

We had to wait for LeBron James to decide where he was going before we could make our decision. Now that he is coming back to Ohio we are free and clear to move on.

I took a sabbatical from most social media for the past 6 weeks. Not only have Lynne and I been praying and talking through our options but I have been speaking and mentoring almost non-stop. From University commencements to international pastor coaching to high school leadership conferences; it has all be a blast for both of us.

Deciding what is next provided a lot of time to think about how God will use us to continue to make a difference. Lynne and I are weary of agendas. We want to be involved in works that have a vision. As we mentioned before, our request to God was (and is), “Where are you working and how can we help?” The many opportunities that came our way were fascinating.

And they came immediately. After I announced my intention to resign as the President of Cedarville, I had not even gotten to my car in the parking lot when Continue reading

God shows up at the airport

When you look for God’s hand in life, it is amazing how often you see him at work. The Scriptures tell us that our lives should be dripping with good works as we encounter people who need a touch from God (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12) Sometimes it is a small act of kindness. Sometimes it is a major investment of time, effort and even money. But we are in it all the way. We are grateful stewards of all that he has given to us.

The past weekend I spoke at a university commencement in Kansas. In the airports, I ran into an actor (a star of Arrested Development) and a college basketball star (projected to go number one in the NBA draft). It’s always fun to see “celebrities” but it’s also sobering to realize again they are just normal people thrust into abnormal lifestyles.

But my favorite people during the trip were not the celebrities, but this little girl and her brother. photo (1)photo

I encountered them and their parents at the Wichita airport. They are Vietnamese and for one reason or another missed their flight out of Wichita to Ho Chi Min City. No, it wasn’t a direct flight. They were flying from Wichita to Minneapolis to San Francisco to Taipei to Singapore and finally to Ho Chi Min. Missing this flight meant they couldn’t travel that day. The young father was angry and his wife was in tears. Unfortunately, they couldn’t speak English and the airline agent was dismissive (“It’s their fault; they should have been here earlier”) and unhelpful (“They will just have to buy tickets for the flights tomorrow”). She walked away, leaving them standing at the gate alone.

I spoke with them since I am fluent in Vietnamese. Just kidding, I don’t know even one word. But I did know that I was supposed to help somehow. Through miming and interpretive dance, I found out they did have a place to stay for the night. I corralled the gate agent and got her to call and see what could be done. After a while – and a few more slick dance moves – I identified the Asian travel agent who had scheduled their travel. I asked the agent to work with the travel service to get them rescheduled for the next day.

While they were engaged on the phone, I looked and saw their two children sitting despondently all alone in the gate area. The boy was five and his sister almost two. The boy knew a little English. So do I. I pulled out my iPad and he immediately knew what to do with it. We played chess, he and I, for the next hour. The little girl climbed up on my lap and watched. I told her all my funny jokes (both of them) and showed her how to play a puzzle game on my phone. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves for quite a while. Several people stopped by and said, “Your children are beautiful!” I wasn’t sure how to respond. To say, “They are not my children” sounded a little creepy.

When time came for my flight to board, I looked over at their parents and they were sitting patiently across the gate area (you can see them in the back of the photo of the little girl). Their mom came over and asked if I was leaving, at least I think that’s what she asked. When I said, “yes,” she smiled and said “Thank you” and took the children and the four of them left the airport. The agent said everything had been arranged for the next day. They would be OK.

It was then I realized that they had calmed down and completed their travel arrangements with the agent about fifteen minutes before. Then they sat quietly as the children and I played and laughed.
I think it was more for me than for them.

I thought about the many times I am too busy to be of any help to anyone. Let me rephrase that: “I think I am too busy. . .” Being busy is a pathetic excuse; it is never even an acceptable reason.

After Jesus told the memorable story about the Good Samaritan, he said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

I pray that whatever kindness we can show others is a step in their journey to know that there is One who loves and cares for them.

He speaks their language.

Slam Dunk Moments

thA couple of years ago, Lynne and I attended the playoff basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game was played at Wells-Fargo Arena in Philadelphia and, if you know anything about sports fans in Philadelphia, the intensity and volume were at high levels. In particular, the animosity expressed toward the Miami Heat stars was passionate, constant and (at least on this blog) unrepeatable.

The game was a close one which only raised the temperature and the volume to a fever pitch. Near the end of the game, with the score tied, Chris Bosh of the Heat took a long jump shot from the left side. The ball hit the back of the rim and caromed out. The roar of the crowd had just begun when Dwayne Wade of the Heat, flying down the lane, grabbed the ball in the air and ferociously slammed into the basket.

For about two seconds, the arena went silent. Moments before, these Sixers’ fans had been hurling vile insults at Wade. Now, there was a sense of “Wow!,” awe, admiration for his incredible athletic play.

I think about this as a good model for the Christian life. We should live in a way that has “slam dunk moments;” moments when we rise about the crowd. The people around stop, take notice, and wonder what it is we believe that makes us do what we do.  Even those who are critical of Christianity should find in us a life that commends its truth. “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (1 Peter 2:15-16).

History is filled with examples of slam dunk moments.

For example, in the eighteenth century, the Clapham Group changed the world. With people such as politician William Wilberforce, playwright Hannah Moore, mathematician William Dealtry, India governor John Shore, and others, the Group put their Christian priorities into practice working tirelessly to provide education for needy and abandoned children and clean up the abusive prison system in England. The most well-known efforts were directed against the slave trade. Wilberforce devoted his life fighting against wealthy and powerful businesses to end the slave trade and free those in bondage.

The passion and compassion of these followers of Christ took the non-believers by surprise. Their criticism of Christianity sounded ill-informed and petty. Those who worked so hard for so long for no personal gain except to do the right thing in God’s eyes changed English society and ultimately, the world.

Slam dunk!

The 1958 movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, recorded the true story of Englishwoman Gladys Aylward. Aylward traveled from Liverpool to a remote area of China to serve as a missionary in the 1930’s. She and another woman ran an inn for merchant travelers where they provided food and a place to sleep. Aylward would read stories from the Scriptures to the Chinese merchants as they ate.

The local leadership belittled and even humiliated her. The made her perform demeaning tasks or difficult jobs that no one else would do. Yet her steadfastness and integrity won out. The Mandrian himself, moved by her life of faith, humility and service, proclaimed his faith in Christ. This little lady went on and saved an entire orphanage from the invading Japanese army.

Slam dunk!

Thousands of Christian organizations, schools and churches invested hundreds of millions of dollars in supplies and human hours of labor after hurricane Katrina. Cedarville was a part of that number, our students raising over $150,000 and more than 600 of them traveling to the gulf coast to work.

Roy Hattersley is an atheist and a journalist for the U.K. Guardian in London. He came to Louisiana to report on the efforts to clean up, restore and provide relief for the gulf coast communities devastated by the storm. He was overwhelmed by the Christian organizations sacrificially serving, giving, and working for the benefit of people they did not even know.

In his Guardian article, he noted the absence of “teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs, and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity.” Hattersley admitted that it is an unavoidable conclusion that Christians “are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others.”

Slam dunk!

Slam dunk moments are not always before an arena full of fans or impact national policies. Slam dunk moments come from slam dunk lives. When everyone around us is looking for an easy path, our commitment to excellence and quality stands above the rest. When human needs arise, large or small, our lives are marked by deep caring and sacrificial giving.

When people around us buy into our culture’s ethic of absolute personal choice, we maintain our moral commitments with humility and joy. When we see prejudice towards those who are different, our lives shine with acceptance and grace towards everyone.

So why do we do it? We are not motivated by reward or applause. But there will be moments when people stop in wonder and want to know what it is that we believe and we can tell them that we belong to Christ who gave himself for us. When He said, “Follow me;” we believe He really means it.

So I want to live a slam dunk life. We have both the ability and the opportunity to rise above the common, the norm; to rise even above the celebrated, yet empty. Ask God if we can help him – and watch he will do with our lives.

Looking for Loopholes

w-c-fields

W. C. Fields, the great comic actor, was on his death bed. Some friends came to visit him and were surprised to find him reading the Bible. Fields was a well-known cynic and to find him reading the Bible was puzzling. When they asked him “Why?” he answered, “I’m looking for a loop hole.” 

Fields is like most people who live their lives without much thought of ultimate issues until they have no other choice. 

Like cramming for a final exam, they hope they stumble on the right answers for whatever questions are asked and what might be required.

 Several years ago, USA Today published a survey in which they asked, “If you could ask God one question, what would you ask”? The runaway number one question was, “Why am I here?” 

Today’s culture tells you that you should decide for yourself, Find a reason to live and live it passionately. It’s your choice; it’s your life. 

Before you start singing, “It’s my life! And it’s now or never . . . ,” let me quote some lines delivered by the same Jon Bon Jovi to the graduating class of Monmouth College: “Nothing is more important as [sic] passion. No matter what you do in life, be passionate.”                            

In some ways that is true. But this approach assumes that everyone has a free choice and no choices are wrong. Some choose wisely, work hard and opportunities come their way for worldly success. We see it in the corporate world, on the playing fields and courts; from Bill Gates to Oprah to LeBron James. 

Passion is important, but it can be destructive. Passion that is untethered from truth often destroys. On a big scale, we can think of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. We have learned again and again that some choices made by just a few people can lead to lives of emptiness, despair and destruction. Think 9/11, Sandy Hook, Boston Marathon – at one time innocuous descriptive words that now elicit images of violence, death and evil. 

We are the sum total of all the choices we have made. Much has happened to us that you did not ask for but how we have chosen to respond has made us who we are today. So, take responsibility for our choices; don’t blame others, esp. God, – that is an emotional and spiritual black hole. There is no guarantee you will be successful in the worldly sense but you will choose who you become. No one can make you unethical, unkind, or uncaring. You will choose this path. You will not become a good wife, husband, dad, mom by default. You will choose. 

When Joshua stood with the nation after all the great victories in Canaan, his one challenge was for them to choose whom they would serve. He even gave them options. If you don’t want to serve the Lord, he said, fine, here are some alternatives. If they needed any help with their decision, he went on record and told them that he and his family were going to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15). 

But he made them choose. Because not to choose, is to choose. 

All of us, every day, are choosing what we are becoming. Every day we affirm or deny the commitments we say we have made. 

There are no loopholes.

 

The Most Important Person

Who was the most important person in the ministry of Jesus?

Whoever was in front of him at the moment.

A Roman Prefect in his mansion or an adulterous woman at her well; a Pharisee in the dark of night or a mother in the throes of grief. A child, a soldier, a leper. Unknown to them, the one who captivated them was the one who created them and would soon die for them.

woman-at-the-well

Most are familiar with C. S. Lewis’s thoughts in Mere Christianity about our frequent daily encounters: “There are no ordinary people,” he reminds us. “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Just the past few days I have spoken with . . .

. . . a young Filipino woman who was the desk clerk at my hotel in Mississippi. She told me she was a Catholic and then apologized because she believed in ghosts.

. . . the man next to me on the plane judges dog shows. He isn’t very religious and his wife started reading Heaven in for Real and he is interested in what happens after we die.

. . . a Muslim woman works in the restaurant I stopped in. She is desperate to make friends for herself and her son.

Most people are willing to open up their lives if they know there is someone who will really listen and care. Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NIV).

My absolute favorite thought on this truth comes from Walter Wangerin’s book, Ragman and Other Cries of Faith. Every time we meet someone, he says, we have a unique opportunity. He writes:

“It’s a chance at holiness. For you will do one of two things, then. Either you will build him up, or you will tear him down. Either you will acknowledge that he is or you will make him sorry that he is–sorry, at least, that he is there, in front of you. You will create, or you will destroy. And the things you dignify or deny are God’s own property. They are made, each one of them in his own image…There are no useless, minor meetings. There are no dead-end jobs. There are no pointless lives. Swallow your sorrows, forget your grievances and all the hurt your poor life has sustained. Turn your face truly to the human before you and let her, for one pure moment, shine. Think her important, and then she will suspect that she is fashioned of God.”

We get to do this.

Every day.

Heaven is For Sale

“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”

C. S. Lewis

Heaven is for Sale

Everybody is buying into heaven, so it seems.

The number two book on the New York Times bestseller list is Proof of Heaven (Simon & Schuster) by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander who recounts his own near death experience. During his week-long coma, Dr. Alexander claims he took a guided tour of the universe that transformed him into a believer in God and life after death.

But that’s nothing compared to Heaven Is For Real, the just released film based on the 2010 book (Thomas Nelson Publishers) written by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. The book sits atop the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list and has been there for over three years.

The success of the book brought out some heavyweights in Hollywood to craft a movie version.  Directed by Randall Wallace (who directed Braveheart) and starring Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly and Thomas Haden Church, Tri-Star spent $12 million to make the film. Sony and Universal have joined in the distribution. After just one weekend in theaters, the film has grossed almost $30 million.

heaven

The title of the book/movie seems daring for the simple retelling of a child’s experience. Here’s how Sony Pictures Publicity summarizes the story:

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. The film stars Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® award winning actor Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo, the real-life couple whose son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum) claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth … things he couldn’t possibly know. Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event.

PWB’s (Preachers-with-blogs) complain that Colton Burpo’s account of heaven conflicts with biblical descriptions of heaven. I am not certain what biblical descriptions they are thinking about. Theologian John Denver described West Virginia as “almost heaven” but he was not specific about which parts.

Other than that, actual descriptions of heaven are incomplete and rare in the Bible. Some Christians default to the apocalyptic views in Revelation where, in the words of a non-Christian friend, “It sounds like a concert of indeterminable length. No thanks.”

This scant biblical information makes it difficult to describe life in heaven as appealing to those outside the faith (here’s where the seventy virgins of Islamic paradise is marketing genius – at least for guys).

The best that some Christians can do is, “Avoid hell. Go to heaven.”

Writer Isaac Asimov complained, “I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”

George Bernard Shaw was more succinct: “Nobody could stand an eternity of Heaven.”

 

Hollywood, Heaven and Hell

This has not kept Hollywood from conjuring up cinematic images of the afterlife.  There are at least 150 movies about heaven and just as many television programs. Continue reading

Death as a Comma

At the age of 22, Benjamin Franklin composed his epitaph:

The Body of
B. Franklin
Printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work itself shall not be lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Died 17-

Whatever happened to this early version is unknown, for when he died 62 years later his gravestone simply read:

Benjamin and Deborah Franklin – 1790

It may be that humility set in as he grew older. He had made his point with his earlier epitaph and after a life of world-changing achievements; he simply identified the place of rest for “The Body of B. Franklin, Printer.”

He knew that death is not a period, it is a comma.

God has shown us that this life is not all there is. We know that there is nothing in this world satisfies our deepest longings. Christ’s death and resurrection gives us the reality of forgiveness and the certainty of eternal life.

In the decades after Christ, the early Christians did not separate His resurrection from our own.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33).

As Paul spoke in Athens, many of the people thought he was crazy, advocating what they called “foreign gods.” Why? “They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). Not just the resurrection of Jesus, but the resurrection of everyone (Acts 24:15).

So we have hope in a world of despair.

The longer we live in this life, the more we look forward to our own “new and more perfect edition,” fortunately corrected and amended by the Author. Until then, we serve as ambassadors for Him. What a life!

Have a Blessed Easter!

Ripping a Hole in History

I read somewhere that Jesus rips a hole in history about the size of the resurrection.

Christianity is Christ. Christ risen. Alive. He took on human flesh and still wears it – now forever glorified. He is the first-fruits of all of us who will be raised.

The next few days of Holy Week are the two axes on which the universe balances and spins: crucifixion and resurrection; death and life; sacrifice and victory.

What is historical will become personal – for all of us.

Below are some of my favorite thoughts about these days from people across the spectrum. Add to them if you have thoughts, quotes or ideas that are favorites of yours.

 

“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 and 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 they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

― Charles Colson

 

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

 

“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.”

“The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”

― N.T. Wright

 

“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,

And field, and forest, as they were

Reflected in a single mind)

Like cast off clothes was left behind

In ashes, yet with hopes that she,

Re-born from holy poverty,

In lenten lands, hereafter may

Resume them on her Easter Day.”

~C. S. Lewis;  Epitaph for his wife Joy Gresham.

 

“Indeed taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.”

― Brooke Foss Westcott

 

“A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.”

― Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself

 

“In a world where the dead have returned to life, the word ‘trouble’ loses much of its meaning.”

― Dennis Hopper, actor

 

“Perhaps [the critics are right and] the drama is played out now and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in the world’s history those words might have been said with complete conviction, and that was on the eve of the Resurrection.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, The Whimsical Christian: 18 Essays

 

“The resurrection is the revelation to chosen witnesses of the fact that Jesus who died on the cross is indeed king – conqueror of death and sin, Lord and Savior of all. The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the proclamation of a victory. The King reigns from the tree. The reign of God has indeed come upon us, and its sign is not a golden throne but a wooden cross.”

― Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture

 

“Christianity, unlike any other religion in the world, begins with catastrophe and defeat. Sunshine religions and psychological inspirations collapse in calamity and wither in adversity. But the Life of the Founder of Christianity, having begun with the Cross, ends with the empty tomb and victory.”

― Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ

 

“The cross of Christ only triumphs in the breast of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of His Resurrection.”

― John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

 

“I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”

- Lee Strobel

 

“Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The Angel of Life winds them up once for all, then closes the case, and gives the key into the hand of the Angel of the Resurrection.”

-      Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 

“It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”

― Thomas Merton

 

Blessings to you this Easter season.  He is risen!