God’s Favor

What if I were to tell you that God is for you? 

What if I were to tell you that God wants to bless you? 

What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you? 

Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true! 

“Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32). 

Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence? 

Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross! 

Join me this Sunday as we begin a new series exploring the wonderful depths of God’s favor. You can join me in person at Calvary Assembly of God, or tune in on Facebook Live at 10:30am Sunday morning.

A.L.I.V.E.—The “E” Is For Engagement Of Christ’s Followers

Let’s get some insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish mindsets of the first century AD. Specifically, the mindset of men. 

There is a well-known letter written June 17, 1 BC, from a man named Hilarion, who was gone off to Alexandria, to his wife Alis, whom he has left at home. He writes to her: “If—good luck to you—you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” This letter captures the male-dominated mindset in the Roman world concerning women and children. In a word: inferior or even disposable. 

This mindset wasn’t limited to the world the Jews called “pagan,” but it was prevalent in Judaism too. Every day Jewish men began their morning prayer time with, “God, I thank You that You did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” 

With this background, it makes it startling that a Jewish man (who prayed that prayer thousands of times) writing to people in Rome (who undoubtedly had the same mindset as Hilarion), begins his list of thank you notes with gratitude to two women! Paul goes on to list no less than 8 women, even giving preferential treatment to a wife (Priscilla) over her husband (Aquila) when he mentions her name first! (see Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12).

William Barclay wrote, “Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.”

Indeed Christians changed the lives of at least four groups:

  1. Women (especially in the role of marriage)—divorce was so common that it was neither unusual nor particularly blameworthy for a woman to have a new husband every year. Yet Christians taught men to esteem their wives and for marriage to be honored by everyone (Ephesians 5:28; Hebrews 13:4). 
  2. Children—who weren’t even considered a part of the family until they had grown up and proven their worth to the father. Yet Christians taught fathers to nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4).
  3. Senior citizens—the pragmatic Romans had little to do with those they considered less valuable. But the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free medical dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.
  4. The weak and sick—when a plague hit Rome, all the young, healthy people left the sick and elderly behind. They ran away, but the Christians stayed to help. The Christians taught that everyone (regardless of age, sex, or wealth) was valuable (1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

That was just the start of Christianity. Men like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln were Christians who opposed slavery; Clara Barton was nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” and founded the Red Cross; Paul Brand was a doctor who ran to leprosy patients when everyone else shunned them; Mother Teresa loved those poor, dying souls whom others ignored. 

So what’s your conclusion? Throughout history Christians have been martyred for their faith, but not only are they willing to die for their belief that Jesus is alive, but they continue to do good to those who persecute them. Would people do this to perpetrate a hoax? Or does this sound more like the real deal?

Please check out the other evidence I have presented for the resurrection of Jesus:

A.L.I.V.E.—The “V” Is For Verified Prophesy

This is part 4 in my 5-part series, “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of ….” I have already addressed A—Apologetics, L—Lives changed, and I—It is finished. Today I want to consider the prophesies that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus supposedly fulfilled. 

We have all heard about “copycat” crimes. Could the life and death of Jesus fit that? Since Jesus was born from the family line of King David, and His family really wanted the promised Messiah to finally appear, perhaps He was pushed that way. Perhaps He lived in a certain way to make it look like He was fulfilling prophesy. 

Detective J. Warner Wallace wrote, “Homicide detectives are perhaps the least trusting people in the world. My own experience investigating murders has taught me to consider everyone a liar—until, at least, I have good reason to believe otherwise.” 

So was Jesus a liar? Was He following some copycat script to make it merely look like He was the Messiah? Or do we have good reasons to believe He was telling the truth? Consider a couple of points—

    • How could David describe a crucifixion scene in 1000 BC, since the Persians didn’t invent it until around 400 BC (see Psalm 22:12-18)?
    • How could Jesus control others’ actions (i.e. Judas’ betrayal; being killed by crucifixion, not by stoning; soldiers gambling for His clothes)? 
    • Even His own followers—whom He would need to perpetrate the hoax—didn’t understand what He was doing (John 12:16). 

Prosecutors have to present enough evidence to convince a jury that they have arrested and brought to trial the right man. One of the key terms is beyond a reasonable doubt—“a part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ of his or her guilt.” 

Let’s consider a hypothetical case that a prosecutor might present: 

  • multiple eyewitnesses saw a man fleeing the scene, and all of them identified the suspect in a police line-up
  • the shoe prints at the crime scene were the same size and design that of the suspect was wearing when he was arrested
  • prosecutors presented text messages in which the suspect threatened to do to the victim exactly what was done to the victim
  • the wounds made by the weapon which was used on the victim correspond with the weapon the police found in the suspect’s car
  • the blood on that weapon matched the blood of the victim
  • the fingerprints on that weapon are the suspect’s fingerprints

That is the evidence. From that evidence, the jury is asked to draw inferences about the reasonableness of that suspect being the one who committed the crime. 

I have listed just six pieces of evidence. How strong do you think the prosecutor’s case is? What if the jurors were presented with 50 pieces of evidence? What about 100? 200? How about 300 pieces of evidence? 

Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophesies—which were made before He was born!—in His life, death, and resurrection!

Math professor Peter Stoner calculated that the odds for just one man in history to fulfill only 8 prophesies is 1-in-1×1017. How amazing is that!? To give us a little perspective, Stoner says that 1×1017 silver dollars would cover the entire state of Texas in silver dollars two-feet thick. If just one of those silver dollars was marked, and a blindfolded man could select that one marked coin on his very first attempt, that would be about the same odds of Jesus fulfilling only 8 prophesies. 

As a juror, if you weighed this evidence, do you find enough proof to “convict” Jesus? 

But ultimately Jesus didn’t come just to fulfill prophesy; He came to rescue you and me from the penalty of our sin (Luke 4:16-21), and that is the best news of all! 

Join me either in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday for the final message in this 5-part series. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “I” Is For It Is Finished

Throughout history, lots of martyrs have died for what they believe. But only One had been resurrected from the dead to prove that what He believed and taught was true.

Jesus, however, is not a martyr. His life and His work weren’t cut short. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but He came specifically to die on a Cross. He knew what was going to happen to Him. Check this out…

So we can know Jesus is alive by His “It is finished” declaration from the Cross—

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” … When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Actually His “It is finished” wasn’t just a statement, it was a yell that reverberated throughout the countryside. The Greek words Mark uses are megas phōnē, which sounds a lot like our word megaphone. Jesus wanted to make sure everyone heard Him, and then look at the result:

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain that separated God’s presence from mankind was torn in two. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

What do you conclude from all this? C.S. Lewis offered this challenge:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

Jesus told us that He would die, how He would die, when He would die, why He would die, and that He would be resurrected. If you heard all of these claims before His crucifixion, you might think He was a lunatic or a braggart. But after His It Is Finished! declaration, we have only one logical conclusion: Jesus is exactly who He said He was. It was out of love for you that Jesus laid down His life and picked it up again. Will you put your faith in Him today?

We are working our way through 5-parts of this series: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of….” We’ve already covered:

A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger preciously because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

A.L.I.V.E.—The “A” Is For Apologetics

This is part 1 of a 5-part series with a simple premise: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I am presenting evidence for each of the five letters. This is a look at the letter A” for Apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus.

For some of my evidence, I am going to use historical texts from the Bible. When I say “historical” I mean that in the scholarly definition: this Book is attested to by historians and literary critics to be an accurate record of actual historical facts. You can read more of the apologetics for the Bible’s authenticity in a post I previously published here.

I would ask you to weigh the evidence for three possibilities concerning the claims of Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.

(1) Jesus didn’t actually die.

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it to be one of the most gruesome forms of tortuous death that history has ever known. This leads one to wonder how could anyone go through the torture Jesus did and survive?

A team of medical examiners, after examining the historical account of Jesus’ death concluded: “The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. Jesus most likely died of a heart attack.”

Besides that, the dead body of Jesus was also thoroughly examined by both the Romans who conducted the crucifixion (see Mark 15:43-45) and His friends who prepared His body for burial (John 19:38-40).  In addition, two contemporary historians who aren’t friendly to the cause of Christianity (Tacitus and Josephus) both attested to Christ’s death by crucifixion.

(2) Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead.

Some say the disciples were delusional from their intense grief. But Jesus was seen on more than one occasion, sometimes by one person, sometimes by twos, and several times by large groups (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Some of Jesus’ closest friends weren’t convinced by second-hand testimony but had to see Jesus for themselves (John 20:19-20, 24-28). All four biblical accounts record women seeing the resurrected Jesus. This is significant because women were not allowed to serve as “legal witnesses,” so this wouldn’t have helped the “delusional” disciples at all.

Some say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. But this is problematic because of the armed guards at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15). 

(3) Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So after looking at the shortcomings and difficulties of the first two options, let’s consider this third possibility: that it happened just as the historical records in the Bible indicate.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace said of this third possibility, “The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).”

Check out the video where I discuss all of these points in more detail, and join me either in person or on Facebook Live for the next four Sundays as we continue looking at the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

Resurrected From The Dead?! Really?

It is the foundational claim of Christianity: Christ died on a Cross and was raised back to life. It is also the claim many skeptics of Christianity find so difficult to process.

I am going to present a 5-part series of messages on this topic—“I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I’m going to give evidence for each of the five letters of “ALIVE.”

These messages are specifically designed for those skeptical of the claims of Christianity. The evidence won’t be a bunch of “churchy” platitudes, but court-room-level evidence that will attempt to make the case for what Christians believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If you fall into that skeptical group, I would be honored to have you join me either in person at our church or on Facebook Live at 10:30am for the next five Sundays (March 18-April 15). I’m excited to present this evidence and I am looking forward to interacting with you!

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