Tag Archives: Jesus

Coming out of the Darkness

I haven’t posted anything for a while. I have been in the midst of a fight for my life. And now that I am coming out of the darkness of the cloud I have a new lease on life. As I found myself fearing that God may have some impending punishment waiting on me I had a moment alone with our Lord. And I felt the need to grant you all a very intimate look int my life so that you may be blessed.

While sitting in worship this morning, I was touched by what must be reverently described as the presence of God. And in that touch He spoke to me. And the words he said to me moved me to tears as I was overwhelmed with the reality of who He is in my life. As I remember all that He has done for me. He said to me, “Do you think that I have come all this way with you, to leave you now? I am always with you, I will never leave you. Even in the darkest hour I am with you. Don’t fear what you are going through, but trust me.”

So here I am, with a renewed knowledge that He is faithful. Even when I am unfaithful, He remains yet faithful. Yes, sometimes I feel alone, but He is there. Yes, Sometimes I feel like no one understands, but He does. He experienced my pain and more in His time on earth. He is not so far removed from my infirmities that he doesn’t know what I am going through internally.

Rather, He knows full well what it is to be rejected, despised, hated, and cast aside. And He experienced that while giving Himself in love to the world. I have not yet given myself to that level of sacrifice. As a matter of fact, I haven’t even come close.  So here I am again, learning the faithfulness of God. Learning that He is ever present and always helping. He is always teaching and correcting. He is always loving us into His arms and His ways.

I hope that this short read will add something to you, in some way. God Bless you.

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Lecrae – Church Clothes (Review)

On May 10, 2012 Lecrae, The President of Reach Records and Leader of the 116 Movement,  released his first mixtape. With a title like “Church Clothes” and a prevalent host like the infamous DJ Don Cannon, the anticipation was heavy across the hip-hop world and church world alike.  Questions lingered in the air as to whether Lecrae would be breaking away from his Christian background and embracing the secular world. And debates sprung up across discussion forums in the secular and religious world as to the merit and morals of this release. It was safe to say that Lecrae had stirred the pot with news of the release. Then, the music video for the title track to the mixtape “Church Clothes” was released and the cyclone of controversy gained strength.

Lecrae

This is the cover for the new mixtape from Lecrae, Church Clothes

As I sit listening to the mixtape now, I can confidently say that Lecrae has not disappointed either side of the spectrum. With lyricism, substance, and swagger Lecrae unleashes a barrage of social issues, truths, and challenges to the culture of hip hop. All the while he maintains a biblical worldview, and manages to incorporate the gospel message without alienating the hip-hop culture. As a fan of hip-hop I am both impressed and relieved for the fresh wind in the midst of stale air. As a Christian I am overwhelmed with joy that the truth is being preached without being “preached”, if such a thing is possible.

DJ Don Cannon does a great job as the host of this tape. We hear just enough of him to keep us motivated and excited about this new sound to the game. He isn’t all over the place like some DJ’s are, yelling over every track, and he does surprisingly well with his humble and profanity-free voice overs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the DJ of Choice for several upcoming tapes by artists who are well outside of his norm. Can we say Lupe and Cannon?

The production on Church Clothes has a well-balanced mixture of hard core, up tempo beats and melodic synths and Tantalizing chords. Great sounds from the likes of Street Symphony, and Wit with tracks like Cold World and Inspiration respectively. Also we see Boi 1da make a classic show of things with the notable track ‘Gimme a Second’ on which Lecrae discusses his motives and methods and dispels a lot of misconceived notions about him.

When it comes to features, we see No Malice (formerly Malice of The Clipse) put on for his newfound faith. The sweet sounds of Tasha Catour, the lyricism of Tedashi and Andy Mineo (reach records artists), Swoope and Suzzy Rock (High Society Collective members). Propaganda shows out, and Odd Thomas (Humble Beast) are just a few of the features that cover this mixtape.  Strange as it seems the amount of features don’t dilute the quality of what is being considered Lecrae’s debut into the secular rap arena.

Amidst all of the great points about Church Clothes are some drawbacks and negatives, but only a few. Lecrae has what many will consider a downfall as an artist, He only has one message. But even with his overall topic being the same, he handles it well and covers a wide range of concepts and subject matter. Other than that, hip-hop fans will be somewhat bothered that Lecrae isn’t spending time tearing down the system and criticizing the government for their failure to live up to someone’s standard somewhere.  Put those two issues to rest and Church Clothes becomes an excellently executed project.

The mixtape is free, so my recommendation is to download it and share it. Lecrae’s intentions with this mixtape were to introduce himself to those who may not as of yet have heard of him. Hope you enjoy it. If you’ve already listened to the tape, or are going to listen to the tape, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it.

For the Download of the mixtape go to http://www.datpiff.com/Lecrae-Church-Clothes-mixtape.348497.html

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Baptizo

Baptism has been the root of quite a bit of contention in the Body of Christ. It is a transliteration of the word Baptizo, which bears a manifold definition.

  1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
  2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
  3. to overwhelm

Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. ‘He that believes and is baptised shall be saved’. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.

Is baptism necessary for salvation and if so, which definition best illustrates the method?

 

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The 5 Sola’s Introduction

     Never forget your history, for it is your history which will inform your future.  That is my view of church history and the doctrines that accompany it. In this era we have seen many modes of the church, and for all of my study I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the theology of the laity with the doctrines of our spiritual forefathers. Do not mistake my statement to mean that there is no more to be learned, that is not my position.  Neither is my position that the theology and doctrines of old are immovable and totally authoritative, even over the Word of God.  But rather my position is that we cannot throw out the baby with the bath water. We must examine carefully what our history as a community has taught us and we must apply it in our progress.  Eat the meat, and discard the bones.  This is not an attempt to give an in depth dissertation of this topic. I simply wish to rehash a forgotten conversation among the called out of God.

    

       The 5 Solas are 5 Latin slogans that summarize 5 key elements of our faith. New to many modern day Christians, but in reality they were ancient truths lost in the dark ages.

  1. 1.       SOLA SCRIPTURA – By Scripture alone
  2. 2.       SOLA GRATIA – By Grace alone
  3. 3.       SOLA FIDE- By Faith Alone
  4. 4.       SOLA CHRISTUS/CHRISTO – By Christ Alone
  5. 5.       SOLI DEO GLORIA – To God Alone be the Glory

 I was originally going to post these all as one article, but for the sake of being reader friendly I have opted to go with one article at a time. I have attempted to summarize the 5 solas in a manner that is easily understood.  I hope that they have been laid out in a way that makes it easy for you to read and comprehend.

 

Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles. Do not assail this divine Aeneid; nay, rather prostrate revere the ground that it treads. We are beggars: this is true-Martin Luther (from his last statement)

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“Relationship is more important”

 

Today, I was confronted with my own heart and had no good answer to give God on its behalf. As I stood among the ranks of the Body of Christ that I gather with I observed an almost forgotten reality. God is more concerned with the hearts than the minds. What a jarring statement! What an absolutely insulting idea to the great theological teachers and teachings that have filled the Church libraries for so long. The thought, that God Almighty to whom we have devoted such intense scholarly attention would be rather aloof to our haughty words and enticing wisdom. To imply that he is more than moved at the sincere heart cry of the laymen with no theological background, and no knowledge of hermeneutics and exegesis. I was reminded today, that we serve a God who is not only the Creator of the Universe, but the Abba of every undeserving wretch who calls their self by the name of Christ. This God whom I serve is a Lord of Lords and a King of Kings, but he is also a Father of fathers and friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

As I drove to service this morning I felt in myself the sensitivity and presence of the Spirit, and I was anxious to see what our Father had in store for the assembly today. I didn’t have to wait long, at the very outset of the service the praise was high and the presence was strong. I watched and participated with wonder as I saw with renewed clarity the plea of the people for God to come in our midst and be with us. They actually wanted God to come and receive their worship and praise. They actually wanted to spend time in corporate communion with God. It was in this observation that I realized the futility of knowing the scriptures, which is of the utmost importance, but never knowing the author.

 

It is this same type of religious practice that Jesus corrected the Jews on all the time. To be consumed with the study and practice of The Word as we see it, and never get the point. God loves his people and he desires us to know him in an intimate way. Not just as the Creator, but as Abba Father. I was recounting to my pastor these thoughts afterward and his response was humorously short, but true nonetheless. He simply replied, “Relationship is more important.”

 

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Where is the Lord God of Elijah (by Paul Siddal)

     In 1952, an unheralded evangelist named, Tommy Hicks, was summoned to Argentina by a hopeful group of missionaries praying for revival.  As his plane soared high above the clouds to Buenos Aires, the name, “Peron” kept coming to his mind. When he asked the flight attendant if she knew anyone by that name, she told him, “He is the president of Argentina!”

     At that moment, Hicks knew divine destiny was amazingly leading him to meet “Peron,” i.e., the president of Argentina. The Spirit further impressed upon him it would be the restrictive President Peron who would assist him in helping to hold evangelistic campaigns in the nation’s largest stadiums.

     ”Preposterous and unfeasible,” were the thoughts of the missionary committee, who had invited this unknown evangelist in the first place. They believed a conference hall, holding no more than 2, 500 people, would more than exceed their expectations. Besides, Argentinian governmental policies especially, under Peron, strictly prohibited large gatherings for so called, evangelicos.

     But Evangelist Hicks wouldn’t hear of it. He told the committee the Lord showed him a stadium of at least 25,000 people and a man called “Peron” was going to help him get the job done.

     The next day the anointed evangelist tenaciously went to the Casa Rosado, (The Pink House), the equivalent to our, White House. But he was halted abruptly by a guard from the guard house pointing a loaded tommy-gun directly at his chest. The evangelist unflinchingly explained to the guard he came to solicit President Peron’s help, in holding salvation/healing crusades in the local coliseums. The guard queried Hicks if he actually believed Jesus could still heal as he did in Bible days. When the evangelist exclaimed, “He can and he will,” the guard proceeded to describe his ills from being plagued with hepatitis. Hicks authoritatively prayed the prayer of faith over him and he instantly felt all the pain leave his body. The astonished guard announced to Hicks and his translator, if they return at the same time tomorrow, he would arrange an interview with President Peron.

    Unknown by many, the President himself was inflicted with eczema, an incurable skin disorder, so disfiguring, he refused to be photographed. Curious over the reported healing of his guard, Peron asked Hicks if believed Jesus still healed as he did when he was on earth. The evangelist said, “Give me your hand.”   In a matter of moments, the power of God came so strong upon the presidente he staggered back under the impact. As the evangelist was praying, the diseased flesh on his face transformed before all their eyes into fresh new baby skin. The amazed Argentine president exclaimed with gratitude, “Caramba, Dios mio, estoy curado” (Good heavens, my God, I’m cured).  This is the same president Peron, who years earlier, and before her untimely death to leukemia, married the infamous, Evita. (The same Evita was portrayed on Broadway and later played by Madonna singing, “Please Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”)

   

 One article entitled, Revival Fires, reported:

 

      The eczema disappeared! Permission to hold the campaign was assured. Huge traffic jams blocked all roads leading to the gigantic Huracan stadium in Buenos Aires during the most electrifying gospel crusade Argentina has ever seen. Many thousands travelled by means available from as far as Brazil, Chili, and Bolivia.

     The blind saw, the deaf heard, cripples were walking. Ambulances full of sick passengers were driven to the meetings went away empty!

     A boy of three had been unable to walk without heavy steel braces on his legs. When the crowd prayed, the boy’s mother took off his brace in faith. The child began to walk unaided! Delighted, he ran up and down. The ecstatic crowd shouted, cheered and wept for joy… A doctor who knew the child’s case was so overcome when he saw the miracle he fell down, grabbing Pastor hicks by the knees, saying, “I want this Christ; I want to be saved.”

    

     I read of this revival many years ago when I was a very young 23 year old associate pastor. But what drew me to this story presently was something I hadn’t picked up on before. It was birthed by the heart cry of missionary Edward Miller who used “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” as his rallying call.

     I was stunned because I had already designed the front cover of this article before learning this.

     Let me explain.  For some years now I’ve been burdened beyond measure to see God do again what he did in my generation.

      I grew up in the early seventies. Reflecting on that time I used to say, “I spent the summer of 73 with LSD.”

     But then Jesus dramatically intervened on my life. I well relate to the great preacher Charles Spurgeon who wrote, “I did not light the torch but rather the torch lit me.” After reading the entire New Testament I went back to my high school and preached Jesus and they were amazed to hear me constantly talking about Jesus rather than my latest acid trip.

     I thought I was all alone and this was only happening to me- some hippie kid in northwest Indiana. But then in the school library I picked up a copy of Life Magazine and saw 1000’s of hippies being baptized in the Pacific Ocean on the west coast. I discovered I wasn’t the only one after all; but this was happening all over and I had been caught in the aftermath.

     Some years ago I was pastoring a church near Louisville and I stumbled on a YOU TUBE clip about the Emmy nominated documentary. “FRISBEE: The Life and death of a Hippie Preacher.” I bought a copy of the DVD on line and wept as I saw film footage of Lonnie Frisbee, a converted hippie, baptizing 1000’s of hippies at Pirate’s Cove, in Corona del Mar, California.

     I determined one day my feet would touch the same beach and there I would pray that God would do it again. Last month that aspiration came to fruition, when I flew to California, from Indianapolis, and was able to pray on that sanctified sand where so many lives had been changed. I squatted down and bowed my head in back of the cove to pray around 7:30 in the morning. The insides of me began to stir and then I heard the Spirit whisper, “This isn’t about Me repeating it…it’s about Me completing it.”

     After returning to Indianapolis I was over laying my photos on my PC of the baptism site with earlier images when Lonnie was there. As I looked over the images of the 100’s of hippies lining up and awaiting to be baptized, a cry came from my spirit, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And now I’m confronted with the realization the same cry came from the heart of missionary Edward Miller before the great Argentinian revival in the 50’s.

    Again the Spirit spoke to me: “The next wave of My Spirit will not only attain but will also contain.”    While driving, my mind centered upon Jesus’ first visit to Peter in Luke 5. There he told Peter to launch out into the deep. Peter told the Lord they had toiled all night but had caught nothing…”Nevertheless at your word we will cast our nets.” The haul of fish was so plentiful they had to beckon to their fishing partners to help haul them all in. But verse 6 says, “…and their nets began to break.”

     Immediately my mind fast forwarded to another fishing story involving Jesus and Peter after the resurrection. In John 21 we see the disciple Peter still nursing his inner wounds from denying Christ, returning to his earlier career in fishing. There, on the sea shore, stands an unrecognizable Christ telling the exhausted fishermen to cast their net on the other side of the boat. Their net is instantly filled to capacity. John says to Peter, “It is the Lord.” The haul of great fish was very large – 153 altogether.  Then verse 11 says, “…and although there were so many, the net was not broken.”  

     Then, out of nowhere, I heard, “In the next move, the Lonnie Frisbees aren’t going to be lost in their relapses.” And then very clearly, and in capital letters, the words appeared to my mind, “IN THE NEXT MOVE, THE SPIRITUAL FATHERS ARE NOT GOING TO REJECT THEIR SONS.” This next move of the Spirit is going to be one of restoration, not excommunication. (Luke 1:17).

     This move will be more restorative than authoritative. The cry from the heart is “ABBA Father” not “Father, ABBA.” Intimacy must always proceed before authority. (Romans 8:15)

      You see, Jesus, the good shepherd, wouldn’t allow, Peter, his lost sheep, to remain lost. He came to him after his failure, just as he did before his failure. The commission remained the same and the catch of fish was just as great. But this time the nets weren’t going to break. He was going to contain what he attained and none of the haul was going to be lost. Peter became a great spiritual father to those who had failed.

     The Lord is calling back the prodigals of the previous generation to be spiritual fathers of restoration to the prodigals of this generation.

      The message of the gospel depicted by Peter is simply this: “I treat you as though you never did it. I will always treat you as though it never happened. People may treat you differently now, but I, your Lord, will always be “the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

     In the next wave, more people will be falling forward on their faces than backwards on the floor. Because this move will prioritize prophecy over tongues, the results will mark the (5) signs of true revival as found in I Corinthians 14:23-24, “Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues…will they not say you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, (1) he is convicted by all, (2) he is convinced by all, (3) the secrets of his heart are revealed; (4) and so he will fall on his face, worship God, (5) and report that God is certainly among you.” Now that is true revival!

    In the next wave, the word “GO,” is going to be elevated as an equally important prerequisite for revival as prayer and fasting. People like Tommy Hicks and Lonnie Frisbee were always on the “go.” They didn’t just sit around to pray and wait for things to happen – they made things happen. This move is going to be all about Jesus’ commission In Matthew 28:19, Go therefore and make disciples…for lo, I am with you always…” I frequently reiterate to my younger Christian brothers, “No go, no lo.  Jesus said, “Go…for lo, I am with you always.” If we want the “lo” then we got to “go.” There’s another way to have beautiful feet than an expensive pedicure. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”(Romans 10:15). The last verse in the gospel of Mark climaxes with: “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word with signs following.”  Lonnie Frisbee “went out” witnessing by hitch hiking up and down the west coast, inevitably connecting him to Calvary Chapel, and the rest is history.

     I conclude with the yearning question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? In the next wave, the younger disciples are not going to subtly drift away from their spiritual mentors. (II Kings 2). The God of Elijah is now with the Elisha(s).  In order for the mantle of Elijah to be received there had to be a stick-to- it-ness in the life of Elisha.

     But a man is only to be served as an Elijah mentor when he has the ability to take you to the other side of Jordon.  The mantle is never transferred in the desert of defeat where Moses received the law at Sinai. A Moses will never take you to the promised land of victory. He looked in but never entered in.  Elijah’s mantle carried with it the power to cross over the river Jordon-to a land that flowed with milk and honey. The mantle resides on those who are able to deliver people from the desert to the Promised Land –from living under Law to living under grace. (John 1:17; Romans 6:15)

     The next move is not going to fade in glory, but exceed in glory, because it’s not going to mix legalism and religion in with it. It’s going to remain a ministry of the New Covenant and refuse to put the new wine in old wine skins.  (Mark 2:22; II Corinthians 3).

     The next wave is going to begin small, like a cloud the size of a man’s hand, then emerge as one of the largest outpourings this world has ever seen.

     The exercise of all spiritual gifts, are going to be restored back to the church. (I Corinthians 12)

      It’s going to come out of nobodies, not from somebodies. (I Corinthians 1)

      Mega-churches will soon discover man-made strategies for church growth will pale in comparison to what the power of the Holy Spirit can do in a small struggling church in one single day! It’s going to arrive, in weakness, and not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”(I Corinthians 2) Drug addicts, of all types will be delivered in just one day, without any withdraw symptoms, and not by a program, but by a person, and that person is:  the Lord Jesus Christ.  By His grace ALONE,     Bro. Paul Siddall             psiddall@mail.com

  

 

       

                                       

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Eyewitnesses of His Majesty (by Paul Siddall)

37 years after Jesus is crucified, the disciple he renamed, Peter, (a stone), writes his last letter to Christian believers, scattered about Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey. He doesn’t have much time left for this world. He’s about to be crucified, upside down under a very mad Roman Emperor named Nero.

     But in A.D. 67-68 he has one bold claim he to leave with this world: He was an eyewitness to the fact Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again on the third day. His fate is now sealed. He will imminently die a horrific martyr’s death for openly proclaiming:

      “For we did not follow, cleverly invented stories, when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”        

                                                                II Peter 1:16

     Believing the Bible simply means you choose to accept someone’s eyewitness account. To remain creditable, the eyewitness accounts had to be recorded within what is called, “living memory.” The gospels (good news) were written in contemporary history– that is, written during the time while the eyewitnesses were still alive.

     Although the first gospel doesn’t appear on the scene until almost 30 years after Jesus’ death, multiple eyewitnesses had retold their experiences many times over.  This served only to strengthen the accuracy of their message without any embellishment.  Many others, who were still alive, could have refuted their claims if the reports were not true.  Also, if they wanted to refute an incident they knew exactly who to go to because the gospels give us their names- Martha, Mary, Lazarus, etc.  

      The gospel accounts are a pluralistic. Peter wrote, We were eyewitnesses of His majesty…we ourselves heard this voice…from heaven.”    The Bible is intriguing because unlike the Quran, or the Book of Mormon, one is not asked to naively believe in the eyewitness account of exclusively one person.

       In contrast, here is a direct quote from an Islamic web-site introducing how the Quran came about:

     The word “Quran” comes from the Arabic verb, qara’a meaning “to recite”, “to read”. According to Mohammed, the command given to him, by Gabriel three times in the cave of Hira was “to qara’a” or read. Mohammad replied, “What shall I read”? Thus, the word for Mohammad’s revelation is known as the Quran .The words in the Quran are linked to the 23-years of Mohammad’s call, from A.D. 610 to his death in 632. The revelations, in the Quran, according to Islam are from an identical book located in Heaven, revealed through the angel Gabriel.                                          Truthnet.org

      In the Bible multiple eyewitnesses come forth. The New Testament initially begins with not just one, but four evangelists who utilize eyewitness accounts. I always smile when I hear someone quoting from their alleged “Holy Book. I think to myself, “They are relying on the informational source of only one man. I have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!”

     Luke 1:1-4, opens by revealing what the main criteria in the gospel writing it:

“Since…many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [thorough] narrative of the surely established deeds which have been accomplished in and among us. Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning [of Jesus’ ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word…It seemed good and desirable to me…also have searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first. To write an orderly account for you… [My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed…”                         

    In contrast, Mohammad received his dictations from the angel Gabriel, between: A.D. 610-632. But more than 500 years prior,( 20 some years after Jesus’ crucifixion), Paul, the sent one, forewarned the church to never listen to only one man who tries to change the eyewitness accounts of the gospels; especially if they claimed they received it from an angel. He forewarned with these words:

       “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we preached to you, he is to be accursed! “               Galatians 1:8-9

      Did Jesus actually die on the cross? The Bible says, “Yes.” The Quran says, “No.” Here is a direct quote from the Quran:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah“;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:–“

Qur’an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158[1]

       What is more reliable, the eyewitness report of one man claiming he received it from an angel or the reports of over 500 at one time? Paul, the apostle, (the sent one) backs up his claims by citing the existence of over 500 eyewitnesses:

 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died… according to the scriptures, and he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day…and that he appeared to Cephas, then, to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all to me also…” Paul also wrote in the time of, “contemporary history,” when most of the eyewitnesses were, still alive. Again, both the Quran, and The Book of Mormon, were written by only one author and both claimed to receive their messages from an angel. They were also written 100’s of years after the events they claim occurred.

     Is There any Historical Textual Evidence for Jesus’ Existence?  There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life. Here are nine Secular Sources: Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar-Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.

      The following quote is taken from the famous historian, Josephus referring to the resurrection of Christ: “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous… Pilate condemned him to be crucified and die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.”

     Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, however, did not endeavor to solely present history; but to present the gospels in such a way that we, with them, would be drawn into the same  dilemma to figure out who exactly this Jesus is. The gospels make us face what they faced. They confront us with the report of miracles, with the words from the Sermon on the Mount, and also with what one author, F.F. Bruce, would appropriately title, “The Hard Sayings of Jesus.”

     But at bay and the crux of it all is an incident sited by the three synoptic gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke share this account: “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”

    The four gospel accounts confront us with a strange alien figure they themselves found unsettling and mysterious. Each one, in its own distinctive way, is written to help us crack the code, to see our world view in a way in which we’ve never seen it before and so to be able to answer for ourselves the question Jesus posed, “Who do you say, I am?”  Will we ponder… and hesitate? Or, like Peter, answer emphatically, “You are the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God.”

     Christianity came into a world controlled by the Cult of Caesar in which the emperor was to be worshipped as god. Its “good news” was that Caesar, the son of god, was now the lord of the whole world, claiming allegiance from everybody in return for bringing salvation and justice to the world. Resistance was met with crucifixion. The system was based on sheer power.

     The gospels come along and finger the kingdom of Christ as a greater force and power to be reckoned with even than the Roman Empire. Resistance to it would not bring about a bodily death but an eternal death of the soul.

      For instance, the term kurios meaning “Lord” was used as a divine tile for the emperor. The term huios theou, “son of god” was also used in the Cult of Caesar. Jesus claimed oneness with the God the Father (John 10:30). He said, “Before Abraham came into existence, I am” (John 8:58). He claimed to be the Son of God (John 9:35-38).

     At least eight of the emperors insisted on being called, “savior of the world.” Thus the emperors were looked at as world-saviors. Muffling out the shouts of, “Hail Caesar,” Christianity infiltrated imperialistic Rome with this bold announcement: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).                                        

     Another term used by the emperors was “Pontifex Maximus,” high priest. Once again, the New Testament lobs a spiritual hand grenade in the middle of not only Judaism, but also imperial Rome, by saying, “We have a great high priest Who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the son of God…for we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us come therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). The Roman emperor was Pontifex Maximus, a high priest upon the throne of Caesars. But Jesus, as Lord, is high priest upon a throne of grace.

      The emperor also used the title, basileus, “king” and many would refer to themselves as, “King of kings.” Jesus’ last living disciple will write in 90 A.D., “He [Jesus] is dressed in a robe dipped in blood…on his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16). Before this, a converted Jew, named Paul of Tarsus, who was beheaded by Nero, also claimed Jesus’ lordship when he wrote: “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess…Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11).

      Another   expression, also commonly used in the Cult of Caesar was, “friend (philos) of the emperor.” By contrast, Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you…” (John 15:14). John, the disciple brings us into the court with Jesus on trial. We hear the words of his accusers to Pilate, “If you let this man go you are not Caesar’s friend” (19:12).  We too are on the jury and must make a decision.  Are we for Jesus or against him?  Is he our friend or are the Caesars of this world? This is not an open and shut case. We are made to listen to Jesus’ accusers, skeptics and critics. Last of all we are asked to listen to his followers. We must make the choice who to believe.

     John is the only disciple who followed Jesus all the way to the foot of his cross. He alone records the last loud screeching cry of Jesus from the cross: “Tetelestai” “It is finished.” The word picture of their day was the same as our rubber stamp when it says “Paid in Full.” After this, John witnesses a Roman soldier take his spear and thrusts it in Jesus’s side “…and immediately blood and water came out.”  John interjects his recollection with these words: “The eyewitness to these things has presented an accurate report. He saw it himself and is telling the truth so that you, also, will believe.” (The Message John 19:35)  The verdict now is up to you. The eyewitnesses have made their case. Is it thumbs up for Jesus or thumbs down? Who do men say, I, the Son of Man, am? Who do you say, I am? *  *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

(Send your prayer requests to Paul: psiddall@mail.com)

 

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