Suffering Servant, Resurrected Lamb

Jesus Messiah

The Redeemer came to reunify the created to the Creator. Like the Good Shepherd that goes after the one lost lamb, He came so that all the lost have freedom to choose life. Life not given at first breath, but by means of faith in the One who died in our place.

But is there proof for our belief that Jesus is the Messiah and that he was resurrected from the dead?

Today, I hope to strengthen the minds of those of you who answered yes, and guide those who would answer no to the question above. We will look at one aspect of the proof of Jesus being the Messiah via the Old Testament prophecies and another for the proof of His resurrection from an eyewitness account.

First, in Isaiah 53, the prophet, Isaiah, prophesied about Jesus, the Messiah, 700 years before His birth and 733 years before His cruel death on the cross.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Today, the response to Isaiah 53 for the Jewish and rabbinical theologians is that the Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53 was not referring to the coming Messiah, but to the nation of Israel.  The first Jew to propose that Isaiah 53 is referring to the nation of Israel was Shlomo Yitzchaki, more familiarly known as Rashi (c. 1040-1105). According to Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (2004),  there are at least three reasons why Isaiah 53 cannot be referring to the nation of Israel:

  • First, unlike Israel, the Servant is sinless. (53:9) If Israel is sinless, then why did God give the Jews a sacrificial system? Why did they have a Day of Atonement? Why did they constantly need prophets to warn them to stop sinning and to come back to God?
  • Second, unlike Israel, the Suffering Servant is a lamb who submits without any resistance whatsoever (53:7) History show us that Israel certainly is not a lamb–she lies down for no one.
  • Third, unlike Israel, the Suffering Servant dies as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of others (53:4-6, 8, 10-12) But Israel has not died, nor is she paying for the sins of others. No one is redeemed on account of what the nation of Israel does. Nations, and the individuals that comprise them, are punished for their own sins.

(Geisler and Turek, 2004, pp. 333-334)

Who alone in all of human history can match the description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53? None but Christ alone.

Secondly, as we consider the claims of the disciples and apostles that Christ indeed rose from the dead, let us look at Paul. Paul is one of the primary proofs of the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s consider Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts 9.

 Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4)

It is imperative that we distinguish this is Jesus addressing Paul for two reasons (verse 5). 

First, this is pertinent in the revelation that when a Christ-follower is suffering, Christ Himself suffers too. What is done to the Body of Christ, the church, is done unto Jesus Himself. The Bible clearly tells us that persecution of Christ-followers is to be expected and that we should rejoice in our suffering. Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, was a persecutor of the early church “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1)

Secondly, it is imperative that we note this is in fact Jesus talking with Paul because he is another eyewitness of the risen Savior. More specifically, an eyewitness by a professing enemy of the gospel following the ascension of Jesus into heaven. (See Acts 26) Paul’s conversion is significant in this fact as he was a primary witness of Jesus. Paul did not come to be a Christ-follower from a secondary retelling of the gospel; rather, he encountered the risen Savior himself.

The Old Testament prepares the way, and the New Testament documents the prophecies fulfilled. Now we who remain are looking to the clouds and eagerly awaiting His second coming.

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Reliability of the Scriptures Part III

 Archaeological

What have archaeologists discovered that would lead us to believe in the historical claims of the New Testament? Thankfully, the answer to this question is, archaeology has unearthed a great deal of support for the historical accounts of the Bible. Today I will provide a springboard for further studies of the wealth of archaeological support.

  • “There are at least thirty characters in the NT who have been confirmed as historical by archaeology or non-Christian sources.” (Geisler, Norman L. and Turek, Frank, 2004)
  • The John Rylands Papyrus, discovered by Grenfeld in Egypt in 1920, provides the oldest known fragment of a New Testament Manuscript. The small scrap from John’s Gospel chapter nineteen verses thirty-one to thirty-three, and thirty-seven to thirty-eight, was one specific finding that helped to fix a date to the gospel of John. Papyrologists dated the scrap to 125 A.D., “but since it was so far south into Egypt, it successfully put an end to the then-popular attempt to late-date John’s Gospel to the second century rather than to the traditional first century date of A.D. 85–90.” (Walter C. Kaiser, 2007; Walter C. Kaiser, 2007)
  • The well-known, well-referenced Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1948 in caves at Qumran in the Judean Desert, near the northwest end of the Dead Sea. This archaeological find provided around eight-hundred manuscripts of every book (in part or the whole) of the OT except for Esther. “Prior to that, the earliest Hebrew texts dated to around A.D. 1000, but the scrolls at Qumran are generally more than one thousand years older! These Hebrew texts illustrate that a thousand years of copying had provided us with an amazingly pure text, with one of the best examples being the book of Isaiah where only three words had slight modifications. (Walter C. Kaiser, 2007)

Given the number of manuscript copies (here), the agreement between manuscripts (here), and the archaeological support of Biblical, historical characters and events, we can say with confidence that the Bible is a historically reliable text. Further, that it is the most historically reliable text of all of ancient documents.

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The Reliability of the Scriptures Part II

Textual Variants

We’ve seen how the number of manuscripts for the New Testament exceeds all other ancient texts by thousands; as well as observed the fact that the New Testament books were well referenced in historical documents outside of the NT.

Now let’s look at the variants within the manuscripts. It should be noted that the more manuscript copies available, the more variants.

A textual variant is any time the New Testament manuscripts have alternative wordings…By far the most significant category of variants is spelling differences. Spelling differences account for roughly 75 percent of all variants.(McDowell, 2005)

Spelling variants, followed by pronoun and synonym differences account for the variants we see within the manuscripts. In fact, three scholars: NT scholar Bruce Metzger, Greek scholar A. T. Robertson, and Sir Frederick Kenyon all agree that the New Testament we have today is 99.9% accurate and by far the most accurate of any known ancient text. (Geisler, 2007)

We know that the manuscripts far outnumber all other ancient documents and are accurate according to the academic and historical tests of scholars, but how did the New Testament Cannon come to be? How do we know that the books included in the Bible are meant to be there? Three criteria were deemed necessary. Meeting these criteria, the entirety of the Old Testament and the New Testament were first agreed upon at the Council of Laodicea in 363 A. D. followed by the Council of Hippo (393 A.D.) and the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.):

  1. The books must have apostolic authority—either they were written by eyewitness apostles or by followers of apostles.
  2. Conformity to the rule of faith. Was the document congruent with the basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative?
  3. Did the document have continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large?

(Strobel, 1998)

In 2005, former evangelical and present New Testament professor at the Universtiy of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Bart Erhman, broke from the faith and published the New York Times Bestseller, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. As recently as March of 2014, Erhman continues to lead people astray with his claims that Jesus was given deity postmortem by his disciples in his latest book, How Jesus Became God.

In speeches and writings, Erhman points out the differences in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ final words on the cross in the books of Mark and Luke. Additionally, he makes bogus claims that Jesus’ was not buried and further that the eyewitnesses of Jesus following his resurrection were merely hallucinations. As Lee Strobel conveys in his book, The Case for Christ, Dr. Gary Collins, a psychologist, explains, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t’ something which can be seen by a group of people.” (Strobel, 1998)

Erhman’s claims can be rebutted.

These divergent, eyewitness accounts within the gospels are not barriers to our faith but are important in proving the authenticity of the texts.

Complete harmonization would indicate the accounts were all from a single source or editor. Each author of the gospels includes early and unique material that eyewitnesses can provide. (Norman L.Geisler and Frank Turek, 2004)

Further, the New Testament writers include embarrassing details, carefully distinguished between their own words and those of Christ, and refer to facts that readers of their day could either verify or repudiate. Finally, after imprisonment, beatings, and martyrdom none of the disciples recanted the gospel. The disciples either died for the truth or a known lie. As many can attest, “liars make poor martyrs.” (Habermas, 2004)

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The Reliability of the Scriptures Part 1

Proof of Historicity

Are the scriptures that we preach as truth historically accurate compared with other documents of their time and in light of archaeological finds? Can we trust that scribes accurately copied the scriptures as they were passed across the ancient world and how do we know that what comprises our Bible is what the original authors wrote? These are reasonable questions which you or someone you know may have asked and for which there are ready answers.

Today we will look at the historicity of the scriptures. 

The New Testament is comprised of twenty-seven different books written by nine different authors over a twenty to fifty year period. All New Testament books (scrolls) were written before 100 A.D. which is about seventy years after the death of Jesus. However, most books were probably written much earlier, before 70 A.D. placing the manuscripts forty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. This reasoning is due to the omission within the New Testament writings of the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem which occurred in A.D. 70. This omission would be akin to leaving out the bombing of the World Trade Centers on 9/11 when writing a text on American History.

In order to prove the reliability of any ancient text, historians look at the time gap between the original and first surviving copies of ancient documents. The New Testament manuscripts found to date were written within twenty-five years of the original documents. The next closest in years is Homer’s Iliad at five-hundred years between the original and first surviving copies.  (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, 2004)

Next, historians look at the number of manuscripts (copies of the original documents). The Bible has an embarrassment of manuscripts. The number of manuscript copies in the Greek alone is nearly 5, 700 and add to that more than 19,000 manuscripts in other languages and the nearly 25,000 manuscripts (some total Bibles others books, pages, or portions of scripture) vastly outnumber the next closest works, the Iliad by Homer with 643 manuscripts. Most other ancient works are considered reliable with fewer than a dozen manuscripts. (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, 2004) (McDowell J., 1999)

A closer look at the gospels and sources outside the scriptural authors on the events recorded therein, further add to the authenticity and reliability of the text. Consider:

  • The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are historical biographies written by firsthand eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or recorded from written and oral traditions passed down and carefully documented by early apostles (Mark and Luke).
  • Early Christian leaders between 120-170 A.D. including Papias, Justin, and Irenaeus, reported that Matthew and John were two of the twelve Disciples of Christ and attribute them to writing the gospels baring their names. Further, they record that Luke was a companion to Paul and wrote the gospel we know as Luke and that Mark had written what had been told to him by his companion, Peter. (Licona, 2012)
  • Twenty-five of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament  are recorded and referred to within the writings of the early church fathers, Clement, writing from Rome (c. A.D. 95), Ignatius, writing from Smyrna in Asia Minor (c. 107) and Polycarp, writing from Smyrna in Asia Minor (c. 110). Further, including Jewish, Roman historian, Josephus, there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life.(Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, 2004)

When tested, the historicity of the Bible withstands the tests better than any other ancient document. Next we will consider the variants within the gospel accounts.

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Proving the Resurrection of Christ

 Ready to Defend

During a time of year when bunnies, flowers and chocolates abound, Christians are tempted to believe that everyone will accept on faith what we preach as fact. What skeptics scoff at as a fictional fairy tale for the weak of intellect, the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be proven historically and logically concluded.

All salvation commences on an confession of faith in the final act of redemption that Jesus fulfilled on the cross. However, some converts will take more than merely the Bible’s word or that of a concerned friend or loved one to convince them of the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What about you? Was your conversion experience one of a skeptic convinced? Was it more with child-like faith? Was yours a conversion of the mind and emotions?

I came to know and accept Christ as the Lord and Savior of my life at eight years of age. I was one with a child-like faith that instantly responded to the pressing of the Holy Spirit on my heart to confess my sins and walk the isle of my baptist church to make my faith commitment to Jesus. I didn’t even consult with my parents before making the decision. One minute my family was standing in our pew singing Just as I  Am and the next minute my parents reacted by following me as I started crying and walking down the isle to meet the pastor waiting at the end.

Mine was not a conversion of a doubters mind. However, it is my job as a disciple maker to equip myself and the others who read my writing or listen to me teach with the ability to defend the faith. Further, to have ready answers for honest questions of seekers of the truth. Moreover, to equip the minds of children, teens, and adults God has blessed our paths with.

In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, we will address a few questions concerning the reliability of the scriptures and the proof of the resurrection. Today I want to highlight a few resources that have guided me in my studies and which will answer the questions that you or someone you know may face surrounding Easter and all that is celebrated within it.

Here are some questions you can look forward to answering with these resources:

    • Did the resurrection really happen?
    • How can we know that God’s Word, the Bible is accurate?
    • How did we get the Bible that we hold in our hand today?

 

Time to buckle the belt of truth and put on the helmet of salvation as we take up our shield of faith and carry the Sword of the Spirit walking in our feet ready with gospel shoes. (Ephesians 6)

Be ready,

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Ignorance is Not Bliss

 Ignorance is Not Bliss

I attended an apologetics conference at our church last week put on by Biola University (here). While at the conference I had someone tell me that they really didn’t see the need for apologetics training because the people you talk with are ultimately going to decide to follow Jesus or not. “Most people aren’t asking for hardcore evidence when you witness to them.”

It was apparent to me that this person doesn’t yet see, or at least doesn’t grasp, the gravity of the secular worldview that has pervaded and overtaken our culture, and they are not alone. Most Christians are turning the other cheek when it comes to defending our faith.

Because we have neglected the intellectual loving of God with our minds, our choices in everyday life are not affected by our faith. We see that reflected in voting choices of evangelicals as well as in their attitudes towards moral issues of today (here).

The world has walked away from God and the news bares the resulting stories.

  • Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals (read here)
  • World Vision’s (Failed) Attempt at Justice for Gay Christians (read here)

In the UK over 15,000 aborted and miscarried babies are burned along with trash because humans are not considered as persons.Operating from an evolutionary standpoint, this horrific story may in some sick way make sense; enter the survival of the fittest. If we believe that we have evolved from animals then we will begin to treat ourselves and other people that way. What we saw reported in the UK this week is a picture of personhood theory played out in a choice to burn miscarried and aborted babies for green energy.

Nancy Pearcy explained this way of thinking best in her book, Saving Leonardo:

In ordinary conversation, we use terms like human being and person to refer to the same thing. But a wedge was driven between them in Roe v. Wade when the Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is human from the beginning, but not a person until some later point in time. This is a radically fragmented view of what it means to be human. And it has a dangerously dehumanizing effect on the way Americans view themselves–and others. (p. 49)

This is a complete 180 from what the Bible teaches in Psalm 139.  Babies are conceived with a body and a spirit. We cannot separate the two. But when man separates the two, we get results like abortion and the subsequent horrendous burning of precious God-created babies for the heat of hospitals in the UK. Utterly disturbing and something we should not remain ignorant to.

Ignorance does not allow for everlasting bliss. 

The later news report from the Huffington Post online makes the claim that homosexual acts are not against the commands of God. Can you or I defend this statement with solid biblical teaching? According to 1 Peter 3:15-17 we should be able to give a reason for what we believe and to do it with gentleness and respect. I believe and can attest that Christian apologetics is the answer. 

Ignorance of the events of our post-modern times does not lead to bliss for our families or future generations. Ignorance leads to future disorder and condemnation for the world’s  inhabitants. It is not enough to simply disagree with the way things are, we must have ready answers to the questions and situations at hand. We must choose to study worldviews, creation science, and other biblical apologetic topics so that we can be a part of redeeming our culture.

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Prayers for Ukraine

 Prayers for Ukraine

Between my husband and I, we have traveled to Ukraine eleven times. Even now, six years since my last visit, places, sights, and smells will take me back to the beautiful countryside or the bustling brick streets in my mind within seconds.

The people of Ukraine have many lessons to teach: how to share, the enjoyment of creation, laughter, creativity, and simplicity. This was at least my experience in the more rural areas and with the children and younger generation of Christ-followers that we interacted with. On the opposite end of the spectrum were the hardened, worn faces we encountered of people who had lived under the iron curtain for longer than they had been free of it. They bore the marks of distrust and fear.

Communism leaves a mark long after its iron grip is loosened.

It pains me, as it does the souls of many, to see the powers that be straining to make the country of Ukraine once more wear the yolk of communistic slavery. As Putin seeks to take back all that the countries freed in the eighties, for I am convinced that is one of his highest aims,  he, akin to others in Ukraine’s past, will want to strip this beautiful country and her people of their language, freedoms, and identity. He wants to squelch the liberty in their lives for the end goals of his own dreams for Mother Russia.

I am no expert in foreign policy nor current affairs. I am simply a Christian-praying-thinking-woman who desires to see liberty and justice for the people and the orphans of Ukraine, Russia, and all the former Soviet countries.

Today, I ask you to join me in praying for this country that has made an everlasting impression on my life. For this region of Europe full of people who love the Lord Jesus as well as people needing to hear and receive the message of the gospel. I am asking you to make a difference in the history of the world. Will you join me? I know my God answers prayers and He is concerned with every facet of life. With God there is no split in the secular and the sacred; it is all a matter of sacred to Him.

  • Pray for the government leaders of Ukraine to act with wisdom and justice for all her people.
  • Pray for the leaders of NATO and the USA as they attend to the needs of Ukraine and the surrounding countries of the former Soviet Union. Pray that the powers that be will cut the rhetoric and act with reason and a sound mind.
  • Pray for the gospel to go forth in the land of Ukraine and for the people’s hearts to be receptive to the message of salvation and a Christian worldview.
  • Pray for the Ukrainian believers for wisdom to understand the signs of the times and to act in accordance with God’s will. Pray they will know how to respond to this face of adversity on a daily basis and for the long term.
  • Pray for daily needs to be met for the poor and the orphaned.
  • Pray that steps will be taken towards energy independence and/or other options for energy apart from Russia.

 You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

~John Bunyan

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Encouraging Our Children’s Dreams

Emily 8x10 b

daddy and ee

I would love for this story to be about me, a mom who chose to encourage her child’s big dream, but it isn’t. This is a story about a little girl with a dream, and a daddy who chose to encourage her.

Each year, at Christmas, we allow the children to choose items from the Gospel for Asia’s (GFA) Christmas Catalog. They choose from gifts such as farm animals, warm blankets, gospel tracks, or even a water buffalo! Last Christmas, our daughter noticed the Jesus Well in the catalog and started asking questions. We explained to her how many people in the world don’t have access to clean water and that GFA builds wells for such people while simultaneously sharing the gospel.

She was hooked.

“I want to raise money to build a Jesus Well,” she declared. We explained that the cost for one well was one thousand dollars but encouraged her to start raising money if she was committed to the project. Please follow me over to iBelieve.com for the rest of the story. (Click here.)

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Making Easter Memories

easter memories

Every Easter Sunday we would gather at Mama’s to celebrate our Risen Savior. Just outside her carport to the right was the most beautiful blue hydrangea bush brimming with blossoms. All the little boy and girl cousins would quickly run by them in a game of chase or hide-and-seek. Yet, every time I pass hydrangeas in the supermarket my mind is flooded with visions of the beautiful blue flowers of childhood Easters many years ago.

My own mother, perhaps remembering the women traveling early to anoint the Savior, would spend many hours sewing my sister and I beautiful smocked Easter dresses. Her loving stitches graced many smocked dresses that my little girl wears as she grows and as my sweet niece and her soon to be little sister will wear in like fashion.

What Easter memories are we sowing into our children and heritage? When they are grown and making a new home of their own, what will they remember of their childhood Easter’s?

As Easter is quickly approaching and your preparations are underway, here are a few posts to help you plan the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection:

No matter the color of hydrangeas on my table this Easter, in my heart are forever memories of blue.

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Gun Safety and Worldviews

gun safety and worldview training

On Monday we discussed the necessity that we, as parents, youth workers, and educators, do not mark certain literature containing conflicting worldview narratives as taboo. If we do, we risk heightening such texts to forbidden fruit. Conversely, openly discussing worldviews and other religious beliefs as they arise equips our children to seek the truth. Further enabling them to discern truth from lies and the underling message behind the texts they encounter.

Akin to this open discussion of worldviews is gun safety. Let me explain. Ron and I want our children to handle guns–that is unloaded guns in our presence. You may ask, Wait a minute, won’t that increase their curiosity about guns because you planted the ideas in their heads? I would like to propose the contrary.

By allowing our children to handle and inspect unloaded guns under our supervision, we provide a safe environment for their curiosity to be satiated. Showing them the workings of specific guns and discussing the use and the dangers of such tools gives them a safe, controlled environment to have their questions answered . We do not want to simply tell them, “Never touch a gun.” Kids are curious, they will be drawn to the unknown and forbidden. Additionally, guns are not bad in and of themselves. If we take the mystery out of the equation, we leave our kids knowledgeable about guns, their use, and handling rules by which to keep them safe.

This doesn’t mean we leave loaded or unloaded guns within our children’s reach or access, but it means that they know guns exist and we have set parameters by which they can learn more in a safe environment. As they grow, so will their independence level in learning how to load a gun and use it properly for hunting and self-defense. The same with our teaching of a Christian worldview; we teach them as they grow in the hopes they will apply this knowledge throughout their life to distinguish good from evil, truth from lies, and to know God and make Him known.

I propose that knowledge of conflicting worldviews, and thus religions, should be handled in the same manner we employ with gun safety. Educating our children on the whys and whats of the world gives them more knowledge to ascertain that the world around them is best, and only, explained by a Creator who has come, and will come again, to redeem His fallen creation from sin and death and restore it to its original perfect state.

Satan is using our children and youth as more than target practice. He wants to kill and destroy them. Equipping the generations to recognize the enemy, and solid knowledge to combat his lies, will assist in winning the battle for truth. Supplying children with the knowledge to speak into and about worldviews is a tool to spread the gospel to all nations.

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