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Examine the Evidence

In Matthew 16, Jesus posed the question to His disciples. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These were dead men who the people believed had come back to life as Jesus. But Jesus turned the question to His disciples. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Was Jesus having an identity crisis or was He just trying to determine their foundation of belief? Were they getting to the truth yet? Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” After living with Jesus for a few years, they finally understood!

So the question is now posed to us, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Some would say Jesus was a good man. Some would say He was a prophet. Some would say He’s a myth; someone designed a religion around this mythical character. But we all have to wrestle with this question because it is foundational to how we live our lives. Let’s examine the evidence for the case of Jesus. Pastor Louie Giglio said in a message recently, “Investigation brings revelation, and we will come to know the reality of Jesus.”

Jesus said He is God – the great I AM. In John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus did not die because of the things He did, but what He said about Himself. The Jewish leaders accused Him of blasphemy because of His claim to be God. Jesus claimed it and as proof did miraculous things. Whatever He claimed He backed up with His works. The biblical accounts of Jesus found in the Gospels attest to these works. These were eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life. The disciples point to Jesus by the way they lived after His death. Something happened that changed their fortitude. At the death of Jesus, they were afraid – hiding from the Jewish leaders fearing that they would be next. However, when Jesus – who claimed that He would die and rise again – did what He said He would do, everything changed.

Jesus was seen after His death. The disciples became empowered by the Truth. The foundation of their beliefs was realized in that moment when they could touch Him and see the nail scars in His hands and feet. It has been noted by historians that each disciple died because of what they believed. They could have recanted and lived; but they died because they knew the truth. John was the only disciple who lived to be an old man. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying to kill him. Many attempts were made, but God allowed him to live so that he could give the revelation of things to come.

But if you don’t believe the Bible, is there other proof of Jesus’ existence? What do we have to point to Jesus’ life – that He was real? Pastor Louie pointed to the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. It was discovered in Egypt and was dated from 186 B.C. If nothing else, there is a break in history: Before Christ and After Christ. There were many historians from that time period noted the significance of the events that changed people’s lives. Josephus is one of the main historians of that era that notes the Christian religion. There were others too. There was something different about these Christian people.

Pastor Louie noted from Josh McDowell and C.S. Lewis that there were three ways to consider Jesus – he was a liar; he was a lunatic or He is Lord. One of these is the truth, and we have to determine by the evidence given by Jesus’ claims; His actions about His claims; by historical evidence of these accounts; and by changed lives of those who believe. This is foundation truth that will change how we live.

If Jesus is Lord, then that changes everything. Our circumstances can be seen through that lens. If Jesus brings something into our lives, then it is for a purpose. We are told to endure it because it will strengthen our faith. It will give us greater understanding of Jesus’ character during those trials. We can believe what Jesus said about Himself because He proved it on the cross. He loved us enough to die for us and give us eternal life if we just believe He is who He says He is. Examine the evidence and settle the issue in your heart. There is no greater time than in the present. Investigation brings revelation. Settle the matter and live as you believe it is true.

The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Luke 4:17-20 (NLT)

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The Message of Hope

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker deliver a message about hope. He is a person on a life-long mission to deliver hope to the world. He has visited many countries around the world and has many stories to tell of the adventure of delivering hope to the hopeless. He wrote a book which was sold on Sunday. But the book wasn’t to provide for his financial gain. Matter of fact, he was going to give the book away, but my pastor said the money would be donated to provide Bibles to a people in a closed nation. The opportunity has arisen to send one million Bibles to this closed nation, so we were tasked with filling one freight container filled with boxes of Bibles.

I am reminded every now and then how privilege we are in this country. I have grown up with a Bible in my hand. I was given my first copy as a baby at dedication Sunday. Throughout the years, I have owned many different translations. For much of my life, my Bible sat on my shelf unread. At first, it wasn’t very easy to understand. There were too many “thees” and “thous” and such. Secondly, it made no sense to me.

There were many things that just seemed wrong – all the people who were wiped out so that Israel could have their Promised Land. The teachings too seemed wrong for this day and time. A woman’s role is taught to be submissive – I grew up with “woman power” and burning bras – being empowered to do anything we set our mind to. It just seemed wrong. However, what was wrong was my reasoning. I viewed the Word through my “worldly” perspective and not through God’s eyes. God actually elevated women from a man’s property to being man’s helper. God used women throughout history just as He did with men. And we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The things that I questioned in the past were by my own standards – what I thought was right by my own reasoning. But that’s not the right interpretation. God’s Word is God’s word. It is right in all circumstances; for the past, the present and the future. It never changes, and it stands forever. Sure, it was writing in a time when things were vastly different from today. But its life-giving message stands forever.

Written over a period of 1600 years by many different writers but it is the same message throughout. It is the story of God’s pursuit of man and His extent to redeem mankind from the eternal destiny apart from Him. We all stand condemn until a Savior has risen to redeem us to eternal glory with God in heaven. In God’s eyes, we are the same – lost until we find redemption through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the message of hope. God wants no one to die apart from Him. But many do – either because they have never heard this word of hope or they have rejected it because of their wrong reasoning.

Since my time in the Word has grown deeper, there are many passages that stand out to me. One of those is the passage where Philip takes a trip down a desert road to find a eunuch from Ethiopia studying God’s Word (found in Acts 8). The Holy Spirit led Philip to a man who needed help to understand what he read. As Philip explained to the eunuch a message of hope through Jesus Christ, Philip essentially opened up God’s Word to a nation. Because all it takes is one person to change their perspective, and they will share the message with others. That’s the power of hope. It’s meant to be shared.

After Sunday, I realized what a difference we can make by giving God’s Word to someone who needs hope. It is a treasure. And it should be seen as such. I hope I will never take it for granted anymore. There are many pastors throughout the world who do not even have a full copy of the Word. There are stories of people passing around bits and pieces to share and memorize before passing it along to others. It amazes me the lengths to which many will go to obtain a copy. I have read story after story about people who were desperate for a copy of a Bible to receive it in unusual ways – all by the hand of God. God’s Word is a treasure we need to remember and appreciate, but most of all, we need to read it and share it. It is the message of hope for a hopeless world.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)

The Mini Meltdown

For the last month or so, I have been praying for a miracle. I had in mind that it should happen around Friday (due to my immediate needs). It didn’t happen. The enemy had a field day with me. I gave him every opportunity to attack me when I was vulnerable. My physical appearance didn’t change, but my emotionally charged inner child ranted and raved at God. I am so glad we serve a patient God. God let me have my say without striking down with an angered response (which He had every right to). My feelings were hurt. I was greatly disappointed. Why hasn’t He directed me out of my circumstances? Why am I still waiting for something to happen? What am I waiting on? I thought God was in this with me. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why I am in the mess I’m in. I thought I was doing what I was called to do. I thought I had been obedient. On and on; tears rolling; red eyes swollen. I just couldn’t get past it. I was stuck in that place.

Friday night, I sat down to eat my supper and tuned into one of my favorite websites for a short word on whatever the topic of the day was. I listened to Monday’s broadcast because that was the only one that really interested me. The topic was about a woman’s story of how she moved to Haiti because of God’s direction. Her story was pretty amazing… again God you did it for her, why not me? Blah, blah, blah. Pity party of one, this way please! After finishing my meal, out of the blue, one of my friends called me. She normally doesn’t call often, but on this night she felt led to do so. With her call, I got out of myself and focused on someone else’s life. We caught up on the details with one another and called it a night. When I laid down that night I was still upset about my circumstances.

I woke up once during the night, and still had the events on my mind. I got up from my bed to write a letter to get out the anger, the hurt and all the things that had welled up within. In the morning, I was feeling a bit better. I began my quiet time with an apology to God for my mini-meltdown. I opened the Word and began to listen as I read. Now that I was ready to hear, three things were brought to my attention.

First off – when I was watching the video on Friday night, the woman kept repeating this phrase “God was telling her she was not alone in her circumstances.” God reminded me that this was true for me as well. I noticed her using the phrase a couple of times, but didn’t internalize it until Saturday morning. He also reminded me of my friend’s call. Sometimes I feel so alone. My Mom used to say she didn’t have any friends, but she had so many friends who truly believed she was their best friend. It’s hard to resist the lies of the enemy when we are in that pit of despair.

Second. I began to read about contentment from Beth Moore’s commentary in the “Voices of the Faithful” for August. She wrote “Contentment has little to do with what we have or lack. It is a state of mind.” She went on to write about Paul’s explanation of contentment found in Philippians. “Paul explained that Christ had used circumstances to disciple Paul in the art of contentment. Discovering the power and the presence of Christ in every circumstance was the secret.” I am okay with my circumstances most of the time. Friday was the exception not the rule. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. And I was acting out in my flesh. God is working in my current circumstances for a greater work in me. God is working to grow me up.

The last thing that was brought to my attention was from Charles Stanley’s monthly devotion for Saturday’s reading. Again, he pointed to Paul and Philippians. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. The letter is full of rejoicing and praising God. Each sentence in this devotional was like God speaking into my heart every word on that page. The direction was to “focus on Christ instead of the circumstances – God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial.” Dr. Stanley mentioned that focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one. He said to dwell on His provision (even when we don’t see it) and care instead (even when we feel alone). Believe in God’s character – which never changes. All it takes is a glimmer of hope to get out of the pit of despair.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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

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