More Than A Legend

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Many in-the-public-spotlight people will hire a publicist to make them look good. Although this publicist can try to direct the public’s opinion, they cannot control the actual word on the street about their client. What people are talking about in their private conversations is closer to the truth than the publicist’s spin. 

Some skeptics of the claims of Christianity have tried to claim that the New Testament is really a publicity stunt: That the New Testament authors wrote their documents to try to control the narrative of the story of Jesus. But I find it fascinating what people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He ever preached a sermon or performed a miracle. 

Skeptics may want to claim that what Jesus said or did is a myth. But we need to ask, “Where do myths originate?” Myths come from legends, and legends come from historical facts. J.R.R. Tolkien says in the opening of the Fellowship Of The Ring, “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” 

There are those that steadfastly cling to Fact long after others have gotten tired of the Legends, and now only see a Myth. Throughout history those that cling to something others think are out-dated have often been able to bring clarity to confusing things that the modern science of the day couldn’t do. Sometimes these Fact-clingers have been called seers or sorcerers or magicians.  

Some of these magicians show up shortly after the birth of Jesus: 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-11) 

Some English translations of the Bible translate Magi as “wise men.” This is pretty accurate, but magi can also mean teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, interpreters of dreams, or magicians. These Babylonian Persians had seen some sort of astronomical occurrence that led them to make a nearly 900-mile journey to Jerusalem. 

For over 500 years these magicians had been clinging to a Fact taught to them by the chief magician of Babylon. Not a fellow Babylonian, but a Hebrew given the name Belteshazzar. He was one who could…

  • …tell someone what they had dreamed about and then interpret it 
  • …solve the deepest riddles 
  • …read and translate an unknown language 
  • …call on supernatural powers to shut the mouths of lions 
  • …foretell future world events 

Belteshazzar the Magician also saw a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus before Time even began, One whom he called “the Ancient of Days.” And he even saw all the way to the end of Time when this King of kings would judge the entire world.  

These Persian magicians didn’t make an arduous 900-mile journey for a Myth. They didn’t bring gifts fit for a king to honor a Legend. They did all of this because of a Fact: Jesus is Fact. 

We meet another magician on Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey. He was a man named Elymas. The English version of the Bible calls him a sorcerer, but in Greek the word is magos, the singular of the word magi. 

He’s called a sorcerer because he tried to make Jesus a Myth. He worked for the Roman proconsul, a man called Sergius Paulus, whom Luke describes as “an intelligent man.” Elymas in essence said, “Sergius, use your intellect. There may have been someone called Jesus (in fact, my own father had that same name), but the stories about His miracles, death, and resurrection have to be mythical!” Sergius Paulus was convinced that the accounts of Jesus were myth until he heard the words of fact spoken by Barnabas and Paul. 

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, 

“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.” 

So who do you say Jesus is? Is He a Myth? A Legend? A liar? A lunatic? Or is He the Ancient of Days, the Light of the world, the Lord of all Creation? 

Christians, we must have this Fact clear in our own minds, and then—just as the Persian Magi did and as Barnabas and Paul did—let’s clearly tell about this Fact to the world’s skeptics, especially as the world’s modern telling of Christmas seems to be becoming more and more mythical. 

Don’t rail on the Myths and Legends, but use them to show others the Fact of Jesus Christ—the Ancient of Days, Savior, and King! 

(Watch the full message More Than A Legend by clicking on the link below.)

To catch up on all of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, please click here. 

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People Are Watching 👀

 “…they watched Him closely… (Luke 14:1). 

The skeptics were always watching Jesus. As with our Master, so with us.

They wanted to find an inconsistency with which they could discount all that Jesus stood for. Thankfully, they found none! May the same be said of you and me.

May our lives and speech (or silence) never cause skeptics to discount the Gospel or—even worse—blaspheme God, nor may our lives cause a weak Christian to doubt or stumble.

This requires from us—

  • Self-awareness … I have to know my tendencies and avoid those things that cause offense.
  • Boldness … to speak the truth in love.
  • Knowledge of the Scripture … and its correct application.
  • God-confidence … so that we’re not intimidated by man’s disapproval.
  • Humility … to not seek things for our own benefit.
  • Charity … as we demonstrate our faith in loving action.
  • Focus … on eternity and on the greater treasure in Heaven.

Holy Spirit, empower us to live like our Master every day. “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place.” May people see and hear Jesus in us. No matter how closely they watch us, may they see no inconsistencies.

The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth (book review)

This is a fantastic study guide from Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. It was originally published with the title Today’s Moment Of Truth. 

Most Christians will tell you they love God “with all my heart.” That’s a good start, but according to Jesus, there needs to be more. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s especially these last two areas that concerned Strobel and Mittelberg enough to put together a wonderful book: The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth.

Strobel and Mittelberg were concerned (and rightly so) that Christians were engaging their heart and soul in their Christian witness, but not developing their mind and strength to the same extent. As a result, when someone challenges them to explain why they believe what they believe, many Christians struggle to answer convincingly.

Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg are both top-notch Christian apologists. They don’t just present solid evidence for the Christian faith, but they do so in a winsome, inoffensive way. And through 180 different lessons, they train all who read The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth to do the same.

Each day you will read a quote from a notable atheist or Christian skeptic, and then be trained in solid apologetics to refute their claims. You will be given Scripture verses, proofs from all disciplines of science, and some good old-fashioned common sense. This book will expand your spiritual muscles and your mental muscles. Each day’s reading will only take a couple of minutes, but you will be well-prepared for any challenges to your faith. A must-read for all Christians!

I am a Zondervan book reviewer.

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!

If you missed any of the messages in this series, please check them out here. I can know that Jesus is alive because of…

How Should Christians Handle Objections?

It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.

How are Christians to respond?

Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—

1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).

2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.

3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).

4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.

5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.

“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte

Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!

I go into more detail in this video…

40 Questions About Your Religion

The Mathematical Proof For ChristianityDan Delzell wrote a very thought-provoking book—The Mathematical Proof For Christianity—which gives skeptics a lot of evidence to contemplate. As I said in my review of this book (which you can read here), this is a good book for Christians to read with a skeptic as a great conversation-starter about the Christian faith.

Dan also presented this list…

“The true religion is a match to all 40 questions:

  1. Which religion was started by a prophet who never did anything wrong?
  2. Which religion produces scores of people who speak out against injustice and work hard to correct it?
  3. Which religion fulfills hundreds of prophecies that were written down hundreds of years before the prophet fulfilled them?
  4. Which religion produces followers who have established thousands of hospitals, orphanages, and homeless shelters?
  5. Which religion, when practiced correctly, empowers followers to turn the other cheek when being mistreated?
  6. Which religion began with a leader who died, but then came back to life?
  7. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who do not judge others or look down on them?
  8. Which religion produces a tender love for God in heaven, rather than lingering fear and trepidation?
  9. Which religion do people turn to in tough times and when disaster strikes?
  10. Which religion has done the most to advance the rights of women?
  11. Which religion details historic events that are supported by plenty of archeological evidence?
  12. Which religion is based upon documents that are better preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writings?
  13. Which religion began with a prophet who is loved and even worshipped by millions of followers?
  14. Which religion has been around for thousands of years and continues to expand around the world?
  15. Which religion teaches that eternal life in paradise is a free gift through faith in its prophet?
  16. Which religion has millions of followers who experience tremendous peace as a result of their prophet?
  17. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who are quick to forgive rather than to seek vengeance?
  18. Which religion offers the forgiveness of sins based solely on the goodness and sacrifice of the prophet?
  19. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces genuine humility before God and man?
  20. Which religion teaches that you cannot earn your way to heaven?
  21. Which religion produces men and women of justice who speak out when others are committing atrocities?
  22. Which religion, when practiced correctly, lines up with the humble and compassionate attributes of the prophet?
  23. Which religion seeks to bring help to the hurting, comfort to the sorrowful, and encouragement to the downcast?
  24. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces genuine love, joy, peace, and patience?
  25. Which religion requires divine revelation in order to understand it?
  26. Which religion rules not by force, but by love, as demonstrated by the prophet?
  27. Which religion has produced the most freedom of religion in the world?
  28. Which religion turns man’s body into a temple where the Spirit of God comes to reside?
  29. Which religion, when practiced correctly, has done the most to advance the rights of minorities?
  30. Which religion gives followers the grace to say ‘no’ to ungodly passions?
  31. Which religion produces people who long to improve the lives of those from other religions?
  32. Which religion cares as much for the unborn and elderly as it done for the youthful and strong?
  33. Which religion has done more than any other to help turn communities into places of freedom and safety for all?
  34. Which religion provides a personal assurance of salvation based solely on the sacrifice of the prophet?
  35. Which religion has a prophet whose name is used by many as a curse word?
  36. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who focus on their own sins rather than the sins of others?
  37. Which religion can turn a terrorist into a loving peacemaker?
  38. Which religion teaches that your works become ‘good’ in God’s eyes only after you accept the prophet through faith?
  39. Which religion will you wish you had followed on Judgment Day?
  40. Which religion is the answer to all 40 questions?”

To read some of the other quotes I shared from this book, please click here.

Links & Quotes

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Some good reading & watching from this weekend…

[VIDEO] John Maxwell has some good insight on dealing with skeptics, even if the skeptic is you!

The begging in ministries today is a result of men doing good things without being sent by God’s voice. Their own desires are being mistaken for God’s bidding.” David Wilkerson shred 4 ways to know you are correctly hearing the voice of God.

“The heart knows so much more than the mind.” —Henri Nouwen

“Lord, grant we may always keep between the two extremes of distrusting or tempting Thee.” —George Whitefield

“The principle virtue of music is a means of communication with God.” —Igor Stravinsky

“Where would you have been but for grace? To repeat the old saying of John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to Tyburn to be hanged, ‘There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.’ When you see the swearer in the street, or the drunkard rolling home at night, there are you, there am I, but for the grace of God. Who am I? What should I have been if the Lord, in mercy, had not stopped me in my mad career?” —Charles Spurgeon

“There can be no such thing as chance from God’s point of view. Since He is omniscient His acts have no consequences which He has not foreseen and taken into account and intended.” —C.S. Lewis

[VIDEO] This short film is based on a true story from the front lines of a World War I battlefield on Christmas Eve 1914…

Links & Quotes

link quote

Some great reading from this weekend…

Are you a Christian? Then there’s something dreadfully wrong with you. You’re unthinking; you’re unscientific; you can’t see how badly Christianity botches morality. You represent a deeply defective culture that’s been getting all the most important things wrong for a hundred generations.” Read more from Tom Gilson in Skeptics Dehumanizing Christianity.

“No one can know truth except the one who obeys truth. You think you know truth. People memorize the Scriptures by the yard, but that is not a guarantee of knowing the truth. Truth is not a text. Truth is in the text, but it takes the text plus the Holy Spirit to bring truth to a human soul.” —A.W. Tozer

Important news for pregnant women: Take care of your teeth. “The results reinforce data suggesting a link between periodontal disease in the mother and the risk of preterm birth.” Read more in Bacteria Found In Healthy Placentas.

Many contemporary critics of the faith charge that Christianity is a barrier to progress. … But the overwhelming weight of good is undeniable—and indispensable to civilization.” Read more in The ABCs Of Christian Civilization.

[VIDEO] Rep. Trey Gowdy asks “Did the media ever pursue these big questions on Benghazi?”

“Biblical hope is not wishful thinking or an optimistic outlook; rather, it is a confident expectation based on the certainty of God’s Word that as He has anchored us in the past, so He will in the future.” —David Wilkerson

“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.” —Jim Stovall

“The Bible was not given to replace the miraculous but to correct abuses.” —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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