You mean you actually believe in the Bible and all that Jesus stuff?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Richard Dawkins wrote, “Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.” 1

Marcus Borg posted, “The gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles belong together. For about a century, the conventional wisdom of mainline scholarship has dated Luke and Acts to the late 80s or 90s. But in the last decade, a growing number of scholars have dated them significantly later, in the first decade or two of the second century.” 2

In the New York Times best seller, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “The best argument I know for the highly questionable existence of Jesus is this. His illiterate living disciples left us no record and in any event could not have been ‘Christians,’ since they were never to read those later books in which Christians must affirm belief, and in any case had no idea that anyone would ever found a church on their master’s announcements.”3

The claims that Jesus may not have existed are nothing new. Skeptics and atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, and others, commonly allude to the poor historical record, the late dating of the New Testament books, and other short comings within scripture that should keep any sensible person from considering the New Testament as any kind of credible or accurate ancient record.

So lets back up for a moment and compare apples to apples.

In 66 AD the Jews revolted against the Romans and destroyed a Roman cohort stationed in Jerusalem. A Roman cohort usually had six centurions, who lead about 80 men each giving a cohort about 480 men total. Not surprisingly, Rome was not too happy about this, so the Roman emperor sent General Vespasian to crush the rebellion. On his way to Jerusalem they parked around a rebel town named Jotapata in the region of Galilee. On the 47th day of that siege a Jewish rebel named Flavius Josephus surrendered and was one of the few survivors of that engagement.

What is significant about Flavius Josephus is he sweet talked his way into the inner circle of the Roman empire, and eventually became a historian for the Roman emperor. That is a long step from hiding out in a cave with his Jewish buddies with a Roman centurion out side, threatening them to give up or die. He had been Jewish, and was one of the rebels that fought against Rome. He was quite familiar with the culture and surrounding area and wrote about the Jewish history, which has survived to this day.

Josephus wrote in Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3, “No there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day…” 4

Josephus also mentioned James, the brother of Jesus and how he was stoned by the Sanhedrin. Some scholars believe James may have been head of the Jerusalem church and that was enough reason for the Jewish authorities to stone him. Acts 21:17-18

There are several non-Christians sources that mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. If we include Josephus above, there is a total of 10 non-Christian. In the same 150 year period, you will find 9 non-Christian sources that mention the Roman Emperor Tiberius, at the time of Christ. Now add in the Christian sources and we find Christ is documented in 43 sources and the Roman Emperor Tiberius only 10 times. 5

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek pieced together the non-Christian sources and came up with an impressive list. Keep in mind this list is from the non-Christian sources.

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. Jesus lived a virtuous life.
3. Jesus was a wonder worker.
4. Jesus had a brother named James.
5. Jesus was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earth quake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God. 6

To even suggest, or hint, that Jesus may not have existed is silly when you consider just the sources that would be hostile to Christianity. Then, when those sources confirm the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament you have what seems to an accurate account of the life of Christ and his followers from over 2000 years ago.

When researching this post I came across another blog that pointed out, “There is a fundamental difference between the claims of history and the claims of inspiration. The claims of history are simply speaking to what actually happened; the claims of inspiration speak to the character and ultimate origin of a work (i.e., is God ultimately behind it?). We are capable of studying the historical claims without first having to prove inspiration.” 7

Dating the New Testament letters centuries after the life of Christ is another common attempt of non-believers to discredit scriptures as the author of the Huffington Post alluded to up above. What I find amusing at times is the skeptics lack of explanation to the omission of the 70 AD event throughout scripture. James Wallace put it this way, “We begin with perhaps the most significant Jewish historical event of the first century, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70. Rome dispatched an army to Jerusalem in response to the Jewish rebellion of AD 66. The Roman army (under the leadership of Titus) ultimately destroyed the temple in 70 just as Jesus predicted in the Gospels, (Matthew 24:1-3)” 8

Here we have a culture that surrounds, and worships within the city of Jerusalem. The center of the Jewish culture, its economy, its religious practices, its traditions, were all housed within the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. The temple was considered to be the worldly dwelling place of God and was of vital importance to the Jews of that day.

When the revolt started in 66 AD, four years later in 70 AD, not only was Jerusalem leveled, but the temple also. To say the Jews defended the city and temple would be an understatement. In the final day when the city walls were breached many rallied and surrounded the temple, but it caught fire. Despite the efforts of the Jews, and some Roman commanders who were ordered to keep the temple intact, it burned to the ground and was destroyed.

The fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple would have been mentioned by the New Testament authors, but not a single one mentions this monumental event in Jewish history. The omission of this historical fact is just one strong argument that all the New Testament authors penned their letters before the fall of Jerusalem.

Dismissing the Bible viable historical evidence, questioning if Jesus actually lived, and claims of the New Testament written centuries after Christ can all be dismissed after some careful research on the part of any Christian apologist who wants to defend their faith. 1 Peter 3:15

 

Sources:

1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. Print.
2. Borg, Marcus. “A Chronological New Testament” Huffington Post. Huffingtonpost.com, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
3. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007. Print.
4. Josephus,Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
5. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
6. Ibid.
7. Moyer, Doy, “On Using the Bible to Prove the Bible” La Vista Church of Christ. Church of Christ, 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2015
8. Wallace, James J. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013. Print.

 

 

Creative Commons License
You mean you actually believe in the Bible and all that Jesus stuff? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Recognizing Greatness

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It was January 12th, 2007, on a cold winter morning in a Washington, D.C. Metro station. A man was actually playing a violin for the roughly 1000 people who walked by during rush hour. Hardly anyone noticed him. In fact, Gene Weingarten, who wrote the piece for the Washington Post said, “Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.” 1

For his efforts, this man received $32 after 45 minutes, and this, after he tossed in some ‘seed’ money to get things started. Those that did give, hardly slowed their step to listen to him play, and many just tossed a quarter. Who was this man and why is it significant?

The man was Joshua Bell, who just a few days before played at the Boston theater to a sold out crowd with tickets that averaged $100. Bell began playing when he was a young boy, and was clearly a musical prodigy. The instrument he used in the metro station was his personal Stradivarius, said to be worth 3.5 million.

What would people do if they walked by a man who was arguably one of best violinists in the world, playing, not popular tunes today’s culture would recognize, but classic master pieces that have endured throughout the ages? Couple that with his multimillion dollar Stradivarius, and you can’t help but wonder if people, even in a New York metro station at rush hour, would stop to listen, or even recognize the talent and beauty of the music and musician.

This experiment was caught on tape using several hidden cameras. Weingarten wrote, “There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch.” 2

Matthew 18:3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

We go through life thinking we have gained so much knowledge. Some of us become quite learned with masters and doctorates to post on our wall and impress those around us, but for all we gain, the older we get there is a sense of loss.

Many adults, those middle-aged and beyond, can relate to the lost childhood, missing the wonder, excitement, and certainly the lack of responsibility. Even young adults who are working for the first time in their life, going to college, having to pay bills, can sit for a moment and reflect on a childhood that is now gone forever. But, is it really just freedom or the lack of responsibility we miss, or could there be something more? Are we viewing the world in a different way than little children, who, if the article above is pointing out something significant, see things we can’t or don’t any more?

Every week I work with students who look at things differently than I do; who ask questions I never thought of. Who are still impressed with the world around them, and things some people are able to do in life. My students see things, hear things, smell things, touch things that amaze them, but I don’t give it a second thought. They see the miracle that is imbedded in the world and our very existence, though they may not express it in those terms. They still see the wonder as to why things are the way they are, innately seeing the miracle in ‘something rather than nothing’.

Edith Nesbit, and English author and poet who wrote children books in the 1800’s said, “It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most astonishing.” Over time, even the miraculous can become mundane to us, because we forget what life is about, and focus on what is about our life.

Life can and does get in the way of our seeing that every morning. Flu’s, colds, bills to pay, disagreeable co-workers, a car breaking down, illness or loss in the family. “Our destiny may be eternal life at home with God, but we aren’t there yet. ‘So be truly glad!’ the apostle Peter said. ‘There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while’ (1 Peter 1:6). And Peter made it clear why God is keeping us here. He has a mission for us to accomplish.” 3

Joshua Bell has an amazing gift from God. This gift has gained him wealth and notoriety in certain circles. The gifts we have may apply only to a small circle of friends or family, or you may have a gift that will touch thousands, but what ever the gift is, it needs to be applied to our mission in life. Without a mission, without a purpose, without a plan, life has no meaning – just a moment in the geologic time scale. Our lives forgotten in a hundred years.

Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the Nazi death camps in World War II. He recognized and saw first hand the need for meaning in life, especially if you are to survive in difficult circumstances that result in long suffering. He wrote in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, “As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.”4 Those who lost hope he explained, quickly perished, even the most hardy individuals. Only those who had a reason to live managed to survive.

In Romans 1:19-22 Paul wrote, “ since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” Carl Gallups, author of The Magic Man In The Sky said, “The apostle Paul wrote this passage to the church at Ephesus, to help these early Christians discern that there is an eternal purpose to life. He wanted them to be certain of the Grand Scheme.” 5

I have no doubt as to one of my purposes in life, and that is to teach at the Jr. High level and impact the lives of my students in a positive, Godly way. Over the years, I have had many students who lacked parents at home or any kind of father figure. What eternal outcomes I may or may not have had on many, I will never know in this life time, but I do know that I have influenced a few. That, along with some family, friends, and possibly this blog are my mission, my purpose.

Recently a young mother began attending our church. My wife noticed this new face and made sure to greet her when she saw her again. After a couple of Sundays, my wife noticed her sitting alone and invited her to sit next to us. We could tell she was pleased by the invitation, and she began sitting with us in church. Naturally, we each shared a little about our lives and she mentioned her boyfriend of several years. I asked if he would ever come to church and she said probably not. I asked if he attends any church and she said no, church was not his thing. I could tell she was a bit uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, so I just asked her directly if he believed in God, she said no. I laughed and said, “No wonder he doesn’t want to come to church!” She laughed with me and that seemed to break the ice.

Last Sunday, she announced to us her live in boyfriend of 5+ years asked her to marry him. She was very excited and we shared in her joy. We don’t expect to see her for a couple of Sundays because they are traveling to Las Vegas to be married and will be out of town. It was not hard to touch her life, to invite her into our circle, to share the gift of Christ’s unconditional love.

You may not be a Joshua Bell, but you have a gift, which with little effort can be shared and recognized by all who encounter you. I saw a quote that said, “Greatness is not in what you have, but what you give.”

 

Sources:
1. Weingarten, Gene. “Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.” Washington Post, 8 April 2007. Web. 9 February 2015
2. Ibid.
3. McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. The Unshakeable Truth. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010. Print.
4. Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search For Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 1959. Print.
5. Gallups, Carl. The Magic Man In The Sky. New York: WND Books, 2012. Print.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Recognizing Greatness by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

Feeding the Sheep or Amusing Goats

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Charles Spurgeon once gave a sermon he titled, “Feeding the Sheep or Amusing Goats” We have lot of churches in America that are more concerned with numbers than the New Testament. Norman Geisler and Jason Jimenez put it this way, “The truth is church isn’t about the individual; it’s about the person of Jesus Christ. But many people today have made church into a social club and are more concerned with image and size than about the gospel of Christ.” 1 Yes it is important to be attractive to the community, but not at the cost of the Gospel. Can a church focus on the person of Christ and still retain first-time visitors?

I just finished a book titled, “50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors”, by Johnathan Malm. It was a simple read without any deep theological or apologetic topics that would require a masters or doctorate to comprehend. Rather, just a simple and practical look at things churches may be doing wrong, and what they could do to improve upon their first impressions to visitors.

As I read this book, I reflected on my own church, naturally grading it on the various topics. I was not surprised that in just about all the categories we passed in flying colors, (at least in my opinion), but like any church, there is room for improvement. Besides, if you found the perfect church and joined it, you would immediately be looking for another church, because it would no longer be perfect.

Some of the broad categories Malm looked at were; First Impressions, Worship, Programing, and Communication. Each of these had several sub topics he addressed in short essays. A few of them are: Locked doors, Signs, Pastor’s dress code, Volunteers, Worship bands, Bulletins, Sunday School, Websites, and Social Media.

What was interesting to me were the number of topics that could apply to our own personal lives, not just an over-all critique for churches. Our men’s group at church just finished a series on addictions. It gave us plenty of information to digest and reflect on. Everyone of us has plenty of room for improvement, and it is often easier to spot what condition the guy or gal sitting next to you can work on, rather than what you need to work on.

I picked out 4 that I could improve upon, and maybe one or two of these will speak to you also.

A Helpful Greeter

Jonathan Malm wrote, “Your church is as foreign to your guests as those remote mountain villages were to us. [They lived in Guatemala for a while.] A pointing hand is nice, but a guide is the best way to go…Escorting instead of just pointing shows you care.” 2

I remember as a young man working for Home Depot. We would have weekly staff training meetings and at least once a month they would remind all employees to never point a customer to where they need to go, but always escort them. Large corporations world wide have seen the wisdom in this seemingly insignificant courtesy as opposed to the gesture pointing them in the correct direction.

How many times have you been asked for directions at a gas station, or even in a grocery store and you just point the way. If you have the time, could you show them instead of point them? Over the years, I have pointed people to where they need to go, but a few times, (especially if she was pretty), I would happily escort them to where they need to go.

If we only go the extra mile to those that were attractive, we are leaving out a significant portion of the population. You have seen them in the market, or on the street. They look like they just rolled out of bed, dirty clothes, oily hair, and if you get close enough they smell like they were working with Mike Rowe on a Dirty Jobs episode. By spending a moment with them, we open up an opportunity to strike up a conversation. No matter how much you smile, nod in agreement, and point, it is impossible to evangelize if you don’t strike up a conversation. Walk with them to their destination, don’t just point.

The Invitation to Worship

Malm had been a worship leader for several years before he moved into the position of Church Communications leader. One section of his book dealt with worship teams, and he shared a common experience among worship leaders, especially those relatively new to the position. One Sunday he recalled, he was ready with all of his ‘A’ songs and favorite musicians. Worship was going to be terrific and everyone would love it.

He wrote, “So you can imagine my frustration when, three songs into the set, I felt like the congregation just wasn’t responding. The room felt dead…I might say, ‘come on guys. We need to worship God together. You guys look like you’re at a funeral.’” 3 He was frustrated, even angry at the congregation for not joining him in worship like he felt they should. The times he spoke up and tried this, it never worked, not once. He explained he was taking authority to say things that were not his to say. “Shepherds lead the sheep, they never drive them.”

When you are walking on water, having one of those days where everything falls into place, are you willing to engage someone that is having the opposite kind of day? Or do you just take the nearest exit and head out the door putting as much distance between you and the dark cloud?

I can’t count the number of times I am looking forward to teaching students about a particular favorite algebra lesson, but the class just can’t get into it. I am cracking jokes, drawing pictures, using real life examples, often something to do with my own students, and they just sit there like I am describing the various ways we can pick our nose.

Sometimes they are not into it. Sometimes people are not on the natural high you find yourself in, and when this becomes apparent to you, don’t chastise them, or leave them. Love on them and you might be the one to point them to Christ for the first time in their life. Be willing to step out of your Corvette and sit on the side of the road to talk with a stranger or a friend that was walking beside the road.

The Full Service

During the school year I don’t have much time, but I was given a word of wisdom by one of my master teachers when I first started teaching. She told me, “Never take your work home.” At the time it made sense, but I did not see the wisdom it would hold over the years.

I was a young father of young children, and thankfully I was never married to my work. My wife has shared with me many times she did not want to marry someone with that ‘A’ type of drive, the workaholic. I have never had that kind of personality, but the more I taught, the more I realized that a teacher was never done. There are always more papers to grade, more lessons to prepare. A few times a year I would bring work home, but that was rare. Make time, make room for those who might need your services.

Malm shared, “I once attended a church that was massively popular…Unfortunately, that meant their services filled up quickly. In fact, they had to turn people away regularly because their services were at capacity.”4 That is a good problem for a church to have. Malm suggested several things a church could do to alleviate a problem like this, but my question is how often we we pack our days and weeks to capacity, and leave little or no room for people outside our immediate family or close friends? Is our service full every day or week? Do you make time for others who might actually enjoy your time and company?

The Cold Congregation

“There were greeters waiting outside the building to welcome me and open the door for me. They had massive smiles and cheerful voices… as I made my way through the foyer into the worship center, I knew I had found the perfect church. But as soon as I made it past all the professionally loving volunteers, I was confronted with ice. There was no more welcoming, warm feeling. The folks in the room gave me looks like, ‘Who is this guy? Why is he in our church?’” 5

Malm notes change is hard. Welcoming new people requires some of us to make a second effort, while others seek out any new face they spot in a crowd. We can all arrive at a certain familial comfort zone at church, then someone new shows up and sits next to us, and you know what is coming. The pastor or an elder, or who ever makes announcements, tells you to greet each other. For some, this is the most uncomfortable part of the service; they would much rather be left alone and lose themselves in the worship, or sermon.

We all have moments we want to be left alone, well most of us. Some of us are energized by being with people. Others need the down time, just depends on your personality type. My sister in-law blogs on the various personality types using Enneagram system. The name of the system comes from the Greek word ‘enna’ which means nine. This system looks at 9 different personality types. It is a fascinating look at who we are, how we deal with the good, bad, and ugly in our lives, and our relationship with God.

Have you ever dragged yourself to church? Or come this > < close to not attending that morning service, but attended anyway? Then you met someone and you were glad you showed up, or the pastor seemed to be speaking directly to your heart? Or maybe the worship not only lifted you up, but pulled you out of the hole you could not see out of?

I think there are times in our lives, when we are having a terrible day, that we have opportunities to shine light on someone else, or they to us if only we would only remain open and communicative. Easier said than done because I sure shut down when I am not in the mood. Our tendency, when things are not going well, is to retreat from the world, whether it is in our home, our room, a quiet spot in the park, or a long drive, but it is those times we often have one of those ‘God encounters’. You may be the reason a first-time visitor returns, or never shows up again.

Sources:
1. Geisler, Norman. Jimenez, Jason. The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015. Print.
2. Malm, Jonathan. Unwelcome. Los Angeles: Center for Church Communication, 2014. Print.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Feeding the Sheep or Amusing Goats by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

Pin It on Pinterest