Archive for March, 2013

Modern Science Shows the Resurreciton of Christ is Possible

March 19, 2013

Title: Modern Science Shows the Resurrection of Christ is Possible

Text: Jeremiah 32:26-27, Matthew 6:9-10; 28:5-7

Time: March 14th, 2013

 

 

We’re into the Easter season for 2013, we’ve just seen the election of a new Roman Catholic pope, and there’s even more news from the scientific world that confirms the existence of the Higgs-Boson or so-called “God Particle.”  I just watched an interview between a scientists and a reporter for NBC, and the claim was made that it’s now possible for science to go back before the beginning, before the Big Bang, or even before Genesis 1:1. In fact, that’s what the scientist said, that we’re now able to roll the tape back even before the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. According to this scientist, the so-called “God Particle” demonstrates how the universe came into existence, how there are parallel universes, how something can seemingly come from nothing in the Big Bang billions of years ago. Wow, that’s a big claim. Of course, contemporary scientists also have a reputation of making outlandish statements to the press, only to later clarify what they’ve said in more moderate terms. I think this scientist, Michio Kaku, will probably have to back off of some of his more grandiose claims as time goes by. That’s not to say that what science is discovering isn’t important – it is, but not as important as scientists like Kaku claim. But there certainly has been a shift in scientific thinking in the last few decades, from one of reserve to one of full-blown speculation and imagination. In other words, in the past scientists have tried to be somewhat reserved in their claims or discoveries, but today scientists trumpet their latest findings as if they are confirmed and tested facts. In the interview I mention before with Michio Kau, who by the way is a popularizer of science who appears on television and is heard on radio explaining the latest scientific findings for the popular audience, concepts such as parallel universes, black holes, speeding up and slowing down time, and so forth, are spoken of casually, as if all of these are confirmed truths. To many scientists, they are. Well, I’d like to take the popular concepts of science, the ones that are bandied about so much today, and apply them to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and see where they lead us.  It’s my belief that if we apply some of the concepts of modern science to the resurrection of Christ, we’ll find that nothing that the Bible says about Jesus rising from the dead is impossible. In answer to the question, “Knowing all that we now know about quantum physics today, could science categorically rule out the possibility of resurrection from the dead?” – we’d have to say, “No.” Let me explain. (more…)

Zombies in the Bible? Part 1

March 18, 2013

Title: Zombies In the Bible?

Text: Matthew 27:50-53, 28:5-7, John 11:38-44, 28:5-7, 1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Time: March 11th, 2013

It seems like today in popular culture so-called zombies are all the rage, especially among the young, but also in the general adult population. What is a zombie? Basically a creature that has died and come back to life as a cross between the living and the dead – or as it’s popular to call them, the un-dead. Why are zombies so popular? Well, they’ve been somewhat popular in science fiction movies for at least the last thirty years, but they’ve really become popular with hit television shows such as The Walking Dead.  I remember watching a classic zombie movie at least thirty years ago as a youngster called Night Of The Living Dead, which was really my first exposure to the zombie motif. I never really got into the horror movie genre, but I’ve been aware of it for decades. Now with the popularity of zombies increasing, I thought I’d talk about them in respect to the Bible. Does the Bible describe zombies? For some people, even the question is ridiculous, but if we review certain passages in the Bible we’ll find that it isn’t a silly question. In fact, there’s one passage in particular in the New Testament gospel accounts that raises the possibility of zombies that I’d like to look at today. It’s a passage related to the Easter theme I’ve been dealing with; it describes what happened shortly after Christ died on the cross. “And when Jesus had cried out (on the cross) again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people,” Matthew 27:50-53. Now certainly this is a very strange passage; most people have never heard of it. Today, I’ll talk about this verse and also take a look at some others that are related to it. The question of zombies might seem far-fetched, even preposterous. But when you think about it, it’s not that outrageous. Consider the fact that in the African-Caribbean religion of Voodoo it’s widely known that there exists such a thing as a zombie trance, where a person enters a state of being whereby he or she is mentally and emotionally absent all the while the body is active. Voodoo claims that zombies are real. Are they? It’s hard to say off hand. Who knows what the mind and body are capable of. Modern science, especially medical knowledge, has increased exponentially over the last century, but we don’t know everything about their workings. Let’s look at what the Bible says about zombies. (more…)

Why Didn’t the Disciples Believe Jesus Would Rise From the Dead?

March 18, 2013

Title: Why Didn’t the Disciples Believe Jesus Would Rise From the Dead?

Text: Mark 8:31-32, John 11:38-44, Matthew 27:40-43, 62-66

Time: March 8th, 2013

 

 

“He (Jesus) said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,” Luke 24:25-27.  This is Jesus rebuking his followers for not believing that he would or could come back from the dead after his crucifixion. And so starting from this passage we ask again the question, “Why didn’t the disciples and followers of Jesus believe that he would rise from the dead after his execution?” He rebukes them for being so hard of heart and so unbelieving about his resurrection. Yes, eventually, they all believed, but it certainly took a lot of convincing to get them to that point. So why were they so slow to believe? Why did it take Jesus demonstrating to them that he did rise from the grave before they would believe that he would or could rise from the dead? In other words, why didn’t they believe he would or could before he showed them? Now maybe for some people it seems I’m being too hard on the disciples and other followers of Christ. Some people might ask, “Well, why would we assume that Jesus’ original followers should have believed that he’d rise again to life?” And the answer to that question is that he told them he’d rise to life after death, and also he demonstrated the power to overcome death by raising to life a dead person, Lazarus, during his ministry. So then Christ’s rebuke of his followers for not expecting his resurrection – or being surprised or shocked when he appeared again to them – is warranted. He had repeatedly told them that he’d die and return from the dead. And he demonstrated the possibility of resurrection power when he raised Lazarus from the dead. So in light of these things he had every right to suppose they’d expect his resurrection. So why didn’t they? Now someone else might respond, “But how do we know they didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead? Maybe they did expect it – or at least maybe some of the disciples or followers of Jesus did expect, even if they all didn’t.” The problem with this is that there is no evidence, not one shred of evidence, that shows any of Christ’s followers expected him to raise from dead after his crucifixion. Now we might have expected that somebody, somewhere in the gospel accounts would have shown some faith or confidence in Christ’s resurrection power; but we don’t see anyone. Why was everybody so unbelieving? I’d like to try to answer that question today. (more…)

Ironic Easter Passages in the New Testament Gospels

March 18, 2013

Title: Ironic Easter Passages in the Gospels

Text: John 11:49-52, Matthew 27:22-25, John 19:19-22

Time: March 7th, 2013

 

 

Some pastors say they don’t like the holiday seasons because it’s hard to come up with fresh material from the Bible for Sunday messages; everyone has heard it all before. But I don’t agree. I’ve never found a shortage of topics to teach during the holidays of Christmas and Easter. There’s always something new to teach, or a new twist to put on an old theme. It’s more lack of inspiration and imagination on the part of these pastors than anything to do with the Bible or the holidays. Well, because we’re in the middle of the Easter season for 2013, I’d like to continue teaching from passages in the New Testament that are related to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Today, I’d like to teach on three very ironic passages found in the different gospel accounts. What does it mean that they are “ironic?” Here’s a definition of “ironic” – “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.” So what I mean to say when I describe these passages as “ironic” is this: they all say one thing, but they are meant to mean something else. This will become apparent when I begin to explain each one of them. The first ironic passage I’ll talk about is from John 11:49, where Caiaphas the Jewish high priest says that it’s better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish. I’ll explain the irony in this. The second ironic passage is Matthew 27:25, where the crowd at Jesus’ sentencing cries out to Pilate, “May his blood be on our heads and our children’s.” This too is ironic, as I’ll explain. Finally, a third ironic passage is found in John 19:19, where Pilate supposes he’s being sarcastic and insulting by putting up a sign on Christ’s cross reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” I’ll explain why this too is ironic. Now some of these passages are different kinds of irony; some are ironic from the standpoint of the speaker, some from the standpoint of the listeners, and some from the standpoint of history. But they all reveal something more than what they state at the time they are given. Caiaphas’ statement, we now know, means more than what he thought it did. So too did the crowd’s call for the blood of Christ mean more than what they were calling for. And finally, Pilate’s own statement by placing a sign on the cross meant more than he or the Jews thought it meant. By examining these examples we can get a better appreciation for the celebration of Easter this year, because we can learn something profound about God’s activity in history – it usually operates on two levels – there’s the obvious level, and then there’s the profound level. We see these two levels in God’s activity in these three examples from the gospels. Let’s explore further. (more…)

Important Easter Passages in the New Testament

March 18, 2013

Title: Important Easter Passages in the New Testament

Text: Mark 10:32-34

Time: March 6th, 2013

 

 

Well, we’re into the Easter season for the year 2013; there are only four more Sundays to go until the day. I love teaching on the Easter theme every year because there’s always so much to say. For example, the gospel accounts in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – all give disproportionate amounts of time to describing the events leading up to, during, and immediately after Easter Sunday. Yes, there’s a lot of accounts of the miracles of Jesus, and of course his teachings also, but most of the gospel material revolves around Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  This is as it should be because after all this is the main purpose of Christ’s mission on earth – to die for the sins of the world in order to bring salvation to everyone who believes. It makes sense that the gospels would emphasize this particular time in the life of Christ. This is the essence of the gospel or “good news.” And there’s a verse that perfectly summarizes the Easter theme that I’d like to explain today. Have you ever wondered for yourself what is the core or essence of the Easter celebration? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who asked you to explain from the Bible the main points of the Easter holiday? If you were to quote one passage in the whole Bible to summarize Easter, which verse would it be? Well, I’ve got just the verse for you to summarize Easter – Mark 10:32-34, “They were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Main will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’” That pretty much sums up the whole Easter scene, before, during and after. It talks about what happens immediately before – the betrayal by Judas and the trial by the Jewish leaders; it talks about what happens during – the torture and crucifixion by the Romans; and it talks about what happens afterwards – the glorious resurrection. So in this one verse we have a complete summary of the entire Easter account in the gospels. Why is it important to return to a simple summary from time to time in our Christian faith? Because if we don’t summarize things once in a while we might run the risk of losing perspective in our Christian faith. The Bible contains a lot of teachings; even just the New Testament alone includes so many things to learn that we can spend a lifetime learning them. But the one thing we don’t want to miss is the main point or essence of the gospel. That’s why we need summaries like Mark 10:32-34. So let me attempt to explain this Easter summary briefly. (more…)

Issues Facing the Catholic Church 2

March 18, 2013

Title: Issues Facing the Catholic Church 2

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Romans 14:13, 16, 19, 22; Matthew 5:31-32; Exodus 20:13

Time: March 15th, 2013

 

 

Well Roman Catholics have elected a new pope, Francis, to lead and guide them into the future, at least for a few more years. He’s older, 76, so we don’t know how long he’ll be leading them, but if his health holds up it might for a long time. Benedict XVI, if you remember, stepped down as pope for health reasons and also because he’s 86 years old without much energy to do the job. We’ll see if in ten years Francis follows Benedict XVI’s precedent and retires also.  But we certainly with Catholics well in the future with their new pope. A few weeks ago I spoke on the contemporary issues facing the Roman Catholic church, and today I’d like to follow up that teaching with a continuation of some other issues, three more, that they face going forward. Why worry about Catholics? Why bother to follow or analyze what’s happening in other branches of Christianity, say, Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox? Why not just mind our own business as Protestants? Because like I mentioned last time, there’s 1 Corinthians 12:25-26, which says, “So that there should be no divisions in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” We should care about what’s happening in the different branches of the Christian church. We should wish our brothers and sisters in the Catholic and Orthodox churches well. The great spiritual divide today is not between Protestants and Catholics, but between all Christians and the forces of godless secularism. Militant Islam is also posing a threat to global Christianity as well. So Christians have enough opposition without perpetuating age old grudges between the different major branches of the church. Yes, there are real theological differences, and we shouldn’t sweep them under the rug; they should be faced with openness and honesty on both sides. But, as the old saying goes, “We’d better stick together, or we’ll probably hang separately.” Secularism is seeking to destroy all of Christianity, and that’s why Christians of all strips need to stick together in these days. And besides, the attacks by secularism upon Catholics can soon turn to attacks on Protestants, because it’s not any one branch of Christianity that secularists dislike; it’s all branches, all forms of the Christian faith. So when we examine issues facing the Catholic church we’re really trying to help all of Christianity, because, like the verse says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” So let’s look at three more issues facing the Catholic church today. (more…)

Issues Facing the Catholic Church 1

March 18, 2013

Title: Issues Facing the Catholic Church 1

Text: Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Timothy 2:12, Romans 1:26-27

Time: March 5th, 2013

 

 

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard that the Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI has resigned or retired or abdicated – or whatever you call it. He’s left the office. Now the Catholic cardinals are meeting in Rome to select a new Pope. It’s on all the television news broadcasts, it’s on radio, and it’s in the newspapers every day. It’s a worldwide event. Now you are probably asking yourself, “I’m a Protestant Christian, why am I concerned about what happens in Rome among Catholics?” Well, while I’m a Protestant and not a Roman Catholic, I do care deeply about the body of Christ and what happens generally speaking in the Christian world. I do consider Roman Catholics Christians — at least all those who have found salvation in Jesus Christ through faith alone, not placing confidence in their own good works to save them. There are plenty of Catholics who do believe in salvation by faith alone, just as there are many Protestants who do so also. Unfortunately, there are also many Catholics who are erroneously trusting in their own self-righteousness to save them, just as there are sadly many Protestants who believe this also. But we should all care greatly what happens to our brothers and sisters in other branches of Christianity, in other denominations and other churches. What does the Bible say? “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it,” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.  Today, the Roman Catholic church is suffering terribly, partly because of being treated unfairly by the media and press; and partly because of its own fault in failing to address its own problems. For example, while the Catholic leaders are in Rome picking a new pope, the world press is focusing on the priestly sex scandal rocking the church. It seems that news reports can’t cover anything concerning Catholics without also linking everything to the sex scandal. While the scandal is deplorable and needs to be dealt with, why must Catholics have it thrown in their face every time the church is mentioned? That’s not fair. So this is unfair treatment, and we should pray that it ceases for them. But on the other hand, Catholic leadership is partly to blame, which is obviously clear also. So some of the trouble in the Catholic church is brought upon it from outside, but some of it is brought about by the church itself. Today, I’d like to address three questions that the Catholic church is facing at this time, and try to answer them from a biblical Protestant perspective. These are all issues that concern all Christians. (more…)

Questions and Answers About Prayer 3

March 18, 2013

Title: Questions and Answers About Prayer 3

Text: Romans 8:26

Time: March 12th, 2013

 

 

During the Easter season this year I’m throwing in another message on prayer because we’re continuing on with Lent, and one of the emphases of returning to the Lord is a return to prayer. I’ve already taught a couple of messages recently on prayer, but today I’d like to talk about it further, and in particular, using a prayer journal or notebook to accomplish more praying. The New Testament teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.  But the question remains, “How do we pray?” When you think about it, there are many ways to pray – there are many ways to communicate to God. We can pray out loud, verbally, alone or with a group. We can pray silently in our thoughts, also, alone or in a group. We can pray spontaneous prayers that arise from within, within our heart and mind. We can pray written prayers composed by others and set to print in a prayer book or hymnal. We can “pray in tongues,” or as the New Testament describes it, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express,” Romans 8:26. I’ll talk more about that in another message on prayer. But today, I’d like to teach on the helpful practice of recording our prayers in a written journal or notebook – first, writing down specific prayer items or lists of prayer topics; second, praying these specific written prayer items; and third, reviewing our written prayers in order to either continue to pray them, or to rejoice in their answer from God. I’ve been writing down prayers for at least fifteen years now, in big journal books that usually last around four to six months before I have to start a new prayer journal because the old one is filled. I probably average three or four new entries a day, not long written prayers, but short paragraph-length prayer items or prayers. I’ve found this extremely helpful in praying and encouraging me in prayer. We all need to find ways that not only help us pray, but help us continue to pray. Prayer journaling is one way I’ve found helpful in praying and staying in prayer. Now I do most of my praying without a prayer journal, because the bulk of my prayers are said as I’m walking for my daily prayer walk for one hour. I start out in one direction from my house and walk for one half hour praying, then turn around and walk back to the house praying for the last half hour. This is my main prayer for the day. But I use prayer journaling inside my house during different times of the day. Let me explain how I do it. (more…)

Questions and Answers About Prayer 2

March 2, 2013

Title: Questions and Answers About Prayer 2

Text: Mark 1:35, Acts 1:13-14, Psalm 23:1-2, Romans 8:26-27

Time: February 21st, 2013

 

I’ll be continuing in a message series on prayer, the practical nuts and bolts of actually praying, not so much the theological or theoretical aspects of prayer, although these are important and also interesting as well. What can actually get us into praying, and what can keep us in prayer? I’ve been answering some very basic questions about prayer based on the Bible and my own personal experience in prayer. I pray every day, usually around one hour or so. How often do I actually keep my daily prayer time? Probably about ninety-five percent of the time.  That’s pretty good considering all the modern day distractions of twenty-first century living. It’s not good enough, of course, because my aim is to keep to my prayer schedule one hundred percent. But I’m thankful, by the grace of God, I’m able to pray as often as I do. I’d like to pass along anything and everything I’ve learned through the many years I’ve followed Jesus. How long has it been now that I’ve been following Jesus – I mean, seriously following Jesus? It’s been over thirty-five years. I can hardly believe it, but it’s been that long. And along the way I’ve picked up some knowledge and experience in respect to praying. I’ve got a long way to go and lots to learn still, but I think I have a few things that I know and can pass on to anyone interested in learning. Today, I’d like to cover three more aspects of praying. First, what is the best place to pray? Once we decide we are going to get serious about prayer, we have to figure out where we’re going to do it. I hope I can offer some suggestions. Second, is group prayer important? A lot of times when people think of prayer they think almost exclusively of individual prayer. While that’s the primary way of praying, it’s not the only way of praying. Group prayer is an important, biblical way to pray. Third, should there be any place for written prayers, or should prayer be solely spontaneous verbal or mental? These are very interesting and practical questions that every believer will face at some point in their journey through prayer. Of course, there are a lot more questions we could ask and answer; at some point I hope to answer more questions concerning prayer. But for now, I’d like to focus on the three questions I’ve stated here. My suggested answers won’t make or break your own prayer time – actually nothing will impact your prayer habits for good, unless you yourself decide to apply them. You may already be doing some of things I suggest for prayer; no doubt you won’t be doing all of them, nor is it important that you feel you must do everything I describe. In the end, we all must decide how we will pray, or what’s the best way for us as individuals. But hopefully something I say will inspire and motivate you to pray better than you did before. That’s my goal today. So let me jump right in and get to it. (more…)

More About God — Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence

March 2, 2013

Title: More About God – Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence

Text: Psalm 147:5, Jeremiah 32:26-27, Psalm 139:7-8

Time: February 20th, 2013

 

A few weeks ago I taught about the three most popular understandings of the One God – Jewish monotheism, Christian monotheism, and the monotheism of Islam. I tried to show that only Christian monotheism explains God adequately. Today, I’d like to go into a further explanation of God in his three most basic aspects – omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all powerful), and omnipresence (all presence). Now the problem with talking about these three aspects of God is that it’s hard to do so without getting abstract and philosophical. I’d like to try to avoid that today, and explain these three things in as down-to-earth way as I can; so I’ll be coming at it from the angle of human advancement and human progress on the planet earth. Hopefully, this angle will help us all understand the infinite God better. What I mean is, over the course of years, decades, centuries and millennia mankind has progress in these basic aspects – in knowledge, in power, and in presence. And if we look at how mankind has progressed in these areas and simply multiply man’s progress many, many times, we’ll get a little glimpse of the kind of God we worship as Christians. I realize that this is not the typical way theologians explain God, but I’m trying to do more than simply explain a theological concept, I’m trying to make God more understandable to our normal way of thinking. Of course, I’ll fall short of truly explaining God because if God is who the Bible describes him, he can’t be fully explained. But I believe that even though we can’t fully understand God, we can understand him more fully as we explore more deeply our understanding of him. For example, if we think about how far human progress and development has advanced in the last few thousand years, and then if we imagine humanity making similar progress in the years, decades, centuries, or even millennia ahead in the future, we’ll begin to get a small glimpse of the enormity of God. Take for instance, knowledge. If you were to place an average person today next to the average person alive, say, two or three thousand years ago, the knowledge of just a typical person today would far outstrip the knowledge of even the smartest person thousands of years ago. Scientists tell us that the basic brain and mental ability hasn’t changed much over the last few thousand years, so it’s just the knowledge base of mankind that’s changed. A high school or college-educated person today would come across as almost a genius compared with the brightest person of many years ago. Well, to get a little glimpse of God’s knowledge, multiply mankind’s knowledge progress over the last three thousand years by, say, one billion years. It’s staggering how much God knows, just as it’s amazing how much we know today, compared to just a few millennia ago. You get the picture. Hopefully, by applying this method, I’ll be able to explain a little about the character of God. Let’s see. (more…)