Tag Archives: Doubt

He’s Alive!-Now I Understand

Day 8 of the Week That Changed History

 It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!

The following is based on Luke 24

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“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.   And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.  And they remembered his words,  And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.”  Luke 24: 1-9

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It was early in the morning and the sky was getting brighter as I walked the dusty road speaking in low tones with my friend Cleopas about the things that had transpired over the last few days.  So many things!  All very bad!

It started with the arrest of Jesus in the Garden east of the city.   During the night and into the early morning of the Preparation Day (Friday) the soldiers and mob began to move Him between the governor and religious leadership. Then they beat Him to a pulp and eventually crucified Him on a Roman cross on the hill outside of Jerusalem later in the afternoon on the Preparation Day.  I watched as He hung His head and took his last breath. I think I saw Peter off in the distance.  He appeared to be on his knees with his face in his hands.  His disappointment must be very great! We all loved the gentle Jesus and will miss Him. He certainly went about doing good.  I just don’t understand. Why?

I will certainly be labeled as a fanatic believer by my brothers, the Sadducees.  The religious leadership have declared Jesus a blasphemer.

There had been an earthquake and the sun refused to let go of its light.  Darkness took over the land like a thick wet smothering blanket.  Everything seemed out of place…frightening.  The large curtain in the temple had been ripped from top to bottom by some unseen hand. There were even reports of  people, considered saints,  coming out of their graves and appearing to many in the city! (Matthew 27: 51-53)

My personal disappointment was great, because I believed everything He said and was amazed at His great miracles and works of kindness. We thought Him to be the Messiah prophesied by many of the prophets hundreds of years ago.  He was going to set up His kingdom and deliver the Jews from the iron rule of Rome.   He was the coming king upon which I hung all my hopes.   But, it seemed like He did not want the office of king.  I had left everything to follow Him and learn His teachings, but all this seemed to come to nothing on that Friday afternoon when He died.

Now only doubt, sadness, and disappointment draped itself on Cleopas and me. My head is spinning with confusion.  I  want explanation, but the reality of deception was creeping into my thoughts and it made me feel sick and foolish.  On top of everything else, the body of Jesus is missing!  The women said He was alive, confirmed by a couple of other disciples, but I know better.  It is just wishful thinking on their part. No one could have survived the beating, the nails, the loss of blood, and finally the sharp sword in the side.  I saw it and refuse to belief anything but what my eyes can confirm. There was no mistaking… the vision of so much blood and the pale appearance of death was real.

We are on our way to Emmaus to start over;  a walk of about 8 miles.  It will take me the usual 3 1/2 hours or so to walk…maybe longer today because of our conversation and heavy heart. This will give us plenty of time to try to put all the pieces together….to try to understand and make sense of everything and to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. My clothes are now those of the common person.  I have removed my garments  worn by the other Sadducees.

All of a sudden, and unexpected, a stranger walks up from behind and joins us.  He asks,

Why are you so sad and what are you discussing?”

I find these two questions odd in the light of the excitement and well-known events of the weekend. Slightly agitated and amazed Cleopas speaks before I can open my mouth and he answers the question with a question.  He throws in some sarcasm  for good measure.

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem that does not know the things which happened there this last few days?”

 I am even more amazed when the stranger asks,

What things?”

In disbelief, we began to explain to the stranger the events of the last few days.  Reviewing everything does not help my disappointment and we rush through them as a courtesy to the stranger.

“These things concern Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people .  The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.  Indeed, besides all this today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  Then they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

Then the stranger calls Cleopas and me foolish ones and that we are slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken  This is certainly not so! I have always believed the prophets.  I have come from a family who believes in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and I have read it often.  The prophets said, that the Messiah would come and deliver Israel from its enemies.

But the stranger began to recite the writings of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and all the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Malachi, etc)  of the Tanakh and explain things I had missed before.

The stranger clearly points out passages that were references to Jesus.  For the next 3 hours, I am amazed at the knowledge and clarity of the stranger’s words.  As I listened to him recite our ancient books, I begin to see that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, but that He would be raised up the third day!  How had I missed that?  Why had we not believed Jesus when He said it was necessary for Him to die and that he would rise again?  It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!  Indeed, we felt foolish, but encouraged by the words of the stranger.  My heart burned within me!  I wanted to hear more!  This was all exciting and new to me!  Hope was starting to spring up in my heart! What if Jesus really was alive again?

As we near the village it is almost dark. I don’t want the stranger to go and I look for excuses for Him to stay the night so we can hear more. Thankfully, He agrees to have supper with us.

As He breaks the bread, I recognize those hands and the manner in which He breaks the bread!  I finally look across the table into his eyes about the same time as Cleopas.  It is Jesus!  As soon as we recognize him, He disappears!  We had been talking to Jesus the whole time and we didn’t recognize Him!

With intense excitement and joy, Cleopas and I jump up and run the 8 miles back to Jerusalem in the dark!   We must tell the  others who were behind closed doors…those who share our confusion and disappointment.  When we arrive,  we find them huddled in a group in fear and disappointment.  Out of breath, we begin to tell them what had happened over the last several hours.  As we are telling them, Jesus appears in the room!

Everyone jumps back.  They think they are seeing a spirit, but Jesus tells them it is Him and that He is not a spirit. To prove it, He invites them to touch Him and He asks for something to eat.  They give Him some  fish and some honeycomb.  After everyone settles down and the scales of their eyes begin to fall away, Jesus repeats  the same type of study Cleopas and I heard on the road to Emmaus.  This time, He uses the entire Tanakh including the Psalms to explain how He is found all through scripture. All the disciples begin to understand that He had to die, but that He would rise on the third day.  How could we have been so slow to understand?  It was right there!

Then He said to us,

These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you.  that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.  And He opened our understanding that we might comprehend the Scriptures.”

The only disciple not with us is Thomas.  The disappointment of the cross was too much for him.  We have not seen him since Friday.  It will be 8 days before Thomas shows up….

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 Next, we will take a look at Jesus through the eyes of one who is a well-known doubter (Thomas) and attempt to understand why the resurrection of Jesus is an absolute cornerstone of the Christian faith. In fact, without it, Paul says we are most pitiful of all men (1 Corinthians 15: 12-19). But, after we see through the eyes of Thomas we will exclaim as he did:

“My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28 

Empathy for the Unbeliever-Part 1

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?

Romans 3: 3

Unbelief, doubt, mistrust are described throughout holy scripture.  It appears in Genesis and is the story of Abraham, Moses, Kings, Prophets, Disciples, and followers.

Doubt and unbelief starts early in scripture.  It takes only 3 chapters before they appear in very clear language.  Adam and Eve succumbed quickly and apparently easily when they believed Satan and disobeyed a clear command of God.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

Genesis 2: 15-17

Notice that this message was heard only by Adam.  Eve was non-existent when God gave this command. The verses immediately after Genesis 2: 17 describe the creation of Eve.

It wasn’t long (at least in the order of the passages in scripture) that Satan had the woman alone.  He charmed her, contradicted the words of God, and planted the first seeds of doubt.

Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”

Genesis 3:1

Eve knew the restriction.  She either heard it from her husband Adam or God told her directly.  It makes sense that Adam told her, but regardless of the source of the communication, she knew what God had said.

“We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered, “except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.”

The snake replied, “That’s not true; you will not die. God said that because he knows that when you eat it, you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad.”

Genesis 3:2-4

The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.

Genesis 3:6

So Eve heard the first contradiction of God’s word and responded through disobedience.  She thought it would make her wise and that God was withholding from her something to make her even more happy.   Sadly, it  had the opposite effect as demonstrated in the characters of the Bible who were also infected with similar doubt, unbelief, and disobedience.

 If Adam had been with her, the story might have ended differently.  But, Adam loved Eve and did not want to lose her.  While she was deceived, he walked quickly into disobedience without doubt and unbelief as the motivator.  Adam, in effect, chose death rather than life because of his love for Eve.  Sound familiar?  Jesus died because of his love for us.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 

1 Timothy 2: 13-14

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

So doubt about God and the truthfulness of His word is in the genes of mankind from the beginning just as sin has been.  In fact, sin is unbelief, doubt, and mistrust:

“…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Romans 14 : 3

“Indeed, I was born guilty.
    I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.”

Psalm 51: 5

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Doubt, unbelief, mistrust, and disobedience go together.  You might could say, “Doubt begets unbelief and unbelief begets mistrust, and mistrust begets disobedience.

There are basically two types of people that have doubt regarding  God.  First there is a follower of Jesus who has a weak experience and demonstrates doubt in his walk with God.  Then there is the one who has the basic doubt about the existence of God, Jesus, and his word.

With this basic framework, lets explore further the concept of doubt.

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If you doubt the existence of God, Ask yourself this question,  “What would it take for me to believe that God exists?”

Adam and Eve did not have this type of doubt.  They knew God, but doubted Him and what was truth about Him.

On the other hand, If you doubt God’s word and promises for the follower, your question would be “What would it take for me to believe God’s promises and His word?”

Before proceeding, answer these questions in your mind.  Think about it for at least 30 seconds.

Were your answers a one time event?  Maybe a Paul like experience where God appears and talks to you directly would make you a believer.  But, would one event be enough to convince you that there is a God ?  Would one event be enough to give you complete trust to believe His promises are sure and He is not a liar?

Anyone familiar with the journey of the children of Israel, would know that God gave them many such events and yet they still failed to believe.  Miracles were demonstrated daily around them.  But, their unbelief kept that generation from entering the Promised Land.

“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

Hebrews 3:19

I propose to you that even if Christ appeared in your bedroom one night or at your door one morning, doubt would still raise its head after the experience wore off.  If God appeared at the Super Bowl and made the announcement, “I am God, there is none like me.  I am going to turn everyone purple for the duration of the game as a sign, Many, if not all, would still return to doubt after a period if not right away.

Jesus said of the Pharisees that even if someone were raised from the dead, they would not believe:

“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

Luke 16:31

On a more practical level, I have found that most people want something almost as spectacular before they will believe and put their trust in God.  They want God to stop all wars, stop disease, death, and destruction before they  believe.”  “Give me wealth and security so that I don’t have to worry about food and insecurity of loosing my job, then I will believe”  “Explain to me how you could speak the universe into existence.”  Satisfy every need in my life and others and I will believe.”

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Actually God promises to do these very things, but it is not to turn everyone into believers, but rather is the reward for those who do believe:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

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You might ask how do I become a believer?  How does my weak experience with God become strong and real?

Once there was a man who had a  young son that would often have convulsions.  The son from his childhood would loose control and would put himself in dangerous situations.

The man brought his son to Jesus because his disciples could not help him.  Jesus told him this:

“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Mark 9:23

The man did not understand how to overcome unbelief so in his heart He asked Jesus to help him:

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24

This is the cry of many people,  Lord help me to believe!

Sadly, many people do not ask to believe.  They are content with the life they have made for themselves.  Their vision is only for 70, 80, or 90 good years on the earth.

Jesus offers much more, but many do not believe Him.

I came to a point in my own life where I began to search for truth.  When I came to Jesus and begin to study the Scripture about Him and listen to his words, it left me with only two conclusions.  Jesus was either all He claimed to be or He was the biggest liar and deceiver that ever lived.

My unbelief did not go away easily.  It was a journey that continues to this day.

Unbelief is normal, but it is not what God asks of us.  He wants us to believe and trust in Him.  He will give us reasons to believe if we are willing to search.  It will not be a one time event, but rather a continuous journey. After all, it was mistrust of God that got us into trouble in the first place.  We have much to learn.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Searching and seeking is a continuous journey, but Jesus is at the end of the search.

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10: 17

If you want more faith, hear or read more of God’s word.  If you want little faith then don’t ever read God’s word.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

The reasons to believe have substance and evidence.  Faith is not based on assumption or blindness.  Faith and trust and God can be real if:

1.) You are willing to dedicate some time to seeking God.

2.)  Seeking in His word is the best place to start

3.) Asking God to help you believe.

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Next week, we will talk in detail about the reasons why people have doubt and unbelief.

May the Lord bless you by bringing conviction to your heart and drawing you to himself.  Yield to the pull of God and your life will be better now and forever. Amen.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

What to Do With Doubt (Part 1)

“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

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It was the walk with Jesus by someone else that inspired me.  Since age 25, I have had a walk with Jesus, but it is a non-physical spiritual walk of faith.  In my walk, I can’t see His form, His eyes, His hair, His face, nor hear His kind voice, but there were two disciples who could. Their story is recorded in the new testament for our encouragement and contemplation.  (We will look at this story in the next post.) Parts of their 3-hour conversation with Him was recorded because our Creator wants to help us in our walk of Faith.  This is not my opinion.  Jesus said it!

“…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:31

My questions is this: Do I have “life in His name”? Is my experience all about heaven and the hereafter or the “here-now”?  May I propose to you that if we are not having a “here-now” experience with Jesus, we won’t have a “hereafter” experience with Him either.  It all starts here!  Now!

Don’t have this?  Your journey can start now….or perhaps it has already started and you just don’t know it.  Perhaps, if you have been on your Jesus journey for many years, you don’t have the assurance that you have eternal life.

Jesus said this to Thomas when He appeared to this doubter some 8 days after Jesus’ resurrection,

“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

Thomas had heard that Jesus was alive from people who would not lie to him i.e., the other disciples who had seen Him. But, Thomas wanted his own experience; not one based on the word of others. He was a doubter despite their convincing words.  So, Jesus accommodated him and appeared to him.

But, wouldn’t Thomas have an advantage over us in the faith department because he could actually see and feel the hands and side of Jesus?  Is faith built only on what you see?  No! In the verse above, it indicates our experience is blessed by believing even though we have not seen.  But, how does this work?

Are we going to be like Thomas and say,

“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  John 20:25

Let’s be real.  It is highly unlikely that Jesus is going to appear to any of us in our bedroom and say,

“Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop doubting, and believe.

John 20:27

Our faith in Jesus comes from three main sources available to everyone:

Creation

The Bible

Other Real People (Not REALigious people)

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 Creation:

It is by observing and contemplating the beauty of life….a squirming warm new-born human, calf, puppy, or anything new to the world through the act of birth and procreation…the laughter, smile, and innocence of a small child.  (They have more of the image of God at this point than any other time)….the wisdom of a bright-eye old man who has been there before you….large mountains with a hat of ice and snow…the laughing lapping of the ocean waves against the shore at sunset…the colorful creatures swimming past you in the waters off Cozumel….the intricate detail and webbing of an opening spring flower to receive the life giving sun rays…the sound of the morning birds outside your window bursting with the praise of its Creator. It is because of the signature of God on Creation that He says we can know Him….even the “invisible” things of Him…things we can’t see!

From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.

Romans 1:20

Do you catch that? We have no excuse to be an unbeliever.  Creation is available for all to see, touch, hear, taste.  If we open our minds and be honest and logical, we will not only know there is a Creator, but we will know some things about Him.

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The Bible

This  book is no accident.  It is not just a collection of 40 different authors separated by hundreds of years and three different continents with an agenda to deceive people.  If it had just one author, as do some religions, I would be skeptical too.

 It is in the number of different books, authors, and cultures preserved for thousands of years who agree about Jesus, which gives the basis for faith.

Have you failed to see Jesus in the Old Testament?  Has your experience been based only on the New Testament?  You are missing something…at least 39 books of the 66!  That is 59% of the story you are missing if you don’t visit the old testament! It is estimated that there are over 400 prophecies in the Old Testament about the first and second coming of Jesus.

I can say this with confidence because of the story that we will see in the next post.  Jesus himself exclaimed to his disciples this very thing when He appeared to them after His resurrection.    Once they understood that Jesus was throughout scripture, they went from fearful men hiding behind closed doors on the first day of the week, to week-long believers of Jesus willing to lay down their life for telling the truth about Jesus!

  It is a life-giving gospel of love and peace for all people unlike the hatred and control of other religions we are seeing modern times.

It is difficult if not impossible to ignore the word of God during the week and snack on it occasionally and be a solid believer in Jesus.  It was written that we might believe Jesus.  That Bible given to you by your grandmother with its 66 books is all about Him! Yes, that means Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy…you name it.  Here is how I know.

Jesus gave a Bible study to two disciples who had just witnessed his death a few days earlier.  They were walking away from the massive head wound of discouragement.  Their faith was near death. It was at the pinnacle of their hurt that Jesus showed up and encouraged them.  They went from the depths of doubt, despair, and unbelief to their “hearts burning” within them. As I mentioned, we will look at this next time.

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The Experience of other real people (Not REALigious)

It was the experience of these two men that inspired men and continues even to this day.  In my life I have seen some miraculous working of God in people’s lives.  I have seen atheists turned into believer in Jesus (I am one of them).  It is their testimony that is powerful in the dispelling of doubt.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony

Revelation 12:11

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When I was younger, a friend and I received an invitation to give Bible studies to the mother and daughter of a young African-American man who gave up a life of a professional fighter to follow Jesus.  He wanted his family to know Jesus. This is a powerful story in itself, but I will save it for another time.

On a frosty night in Nashville, Tennessee, I met with my friend to give the first of the Bible studies.  We walked into the very poor apartment complex of west Nashville wearing our ties and suits (We had just come from work that required us to dress this way.).  We carried our Bibles also.  Needless to say, we stuck out in our appearance.

As we passed by a group of young men warming themselves by a dumpster recently set ablaze, one of them asked, “Where are you going?”  We we told him, “To give a Bible study.”  The words came out of my fear lumped throat, “Come join us!”  We had reason to fear because one of them said, “I have a gun.”

One of them showed up as a massive shadow in the door way to the poor apartment!  He sat down quietly and with a threat in his eyes. The massive shadow said nothing when he arrived and nothing when he left, but you could see trouble in his face and the way he carried himself.

As I gave the study about the life of Jesus, the rats scampered about…even under my feet!  We never again saw the young man at the studies.

Several months later, I sat in church waiting for the service to begin when my friend came up to me and invited me to the vestibule to see something he said I was not going to believe.

I got up respectfully and walked to the back and through the doors.  Standing before me was the massive shadow who we had seen by the burning dumpster.  His eyes said it all.  I walked up to him and said, “You have Jesus in your life!”  You could see in his eyes and face the transformation from a troubled soul to a man of peace because of his Savior who had been welcomed into this man’s life.

 Somehow, our little time together on that frosty night led him to search for Jesus and he found him. His experience reminded of two great truths.  God’s word, will never return to void and if someone searches for Jesus, they will find him.

“My word, which comes from my mouth, is like the rain and snow.It will not come back to me without results.  It will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do.”

Isaiah 55:11

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Next time, we will look at the walk with Jesus by the two disciples and how it came help us with doubt in our life, but more important how it can help us on our Jesus journey.

Blessings my friends.

What To Do With Doubt-Part 4 (The Dirty Dozen)

It is OK to doubt.

Sometimes the Bible equates doubt with the concept of confusion (both willingly or unwillingly).  Let’s explore doubt through this idea and see if it makes sense.  If it does, we will also discover what to do with doubt.

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There was a time after Jesus left the earth and early days of the church when God’s spirit came upon the disciples (As Jesus said it would) and they began to preach in the language of the many different people who were in Jerusalem

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Acts 2:5-6

This remarkable event had a purpose.  It was to ignite and spread the truth, the good news about Jesus.  The early church went from a hand full who had been with Jesus to thousands in one day!  It was just the beginning.  The new converts (or simply those who had been there) would hear the message about Christ and take it back to their homeland.  This migration of the message would lay the ground work for the travels and preaching of the disciples by preparing the hearts of those who would hear the story of Jesus confirmed by those who had been with Jesus.  They did a similar work of John the Baptist by preparing their friends and loved ones for the reception of the gospel.

 ‘“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth”

Isaiah 40:3 (The Message)

But, for now, there was a bit of confusion by those who heard the disciples speaking in their own language.  Despite this miracle, there were some who doubted.

 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

Acts 2:12

Since they could not explain what was going on, they were confused and it led to doubt.

Not much has changed over the thousands of years.  When man cannot understand or explain something, they doubt.  It is OK to doubt, but to refuse to seek answers and truth is a mistake.

If you are having doubts about Jesus, it might be that you have not sought the answers.  For this study, let’s try to understand why there is so much confusion regarding the truth about God, Jesus, and our purpose on earth.

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If you think about it, your religious preference, world-view, denomination, and thoughts about truth are often “preset” for you based where you were born and your parents.  If you are born in North America, you are likely a Christian, either Protestant or Catholic.  If you were born in the Mid-East, you are likely Islāmic in your beliefs.  Are your parents Chinese? Then likely you would subscribe to some sort of Buddhism.

As a child, you were trained up in the preference of your parents.  If your parents never attended church or sought truth, then you too likely have done the same.

With all of us, from different backgrounds, confusion reigns.  A simple answer is to say that all are just different paths to the same place.  Some might say, there is no “path”; there is no “place.”

But Jesus makes a claim that cuts across this:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

Now if Jesus made this claim, He better be able to support it.  Either this is an absolute truth or it is an absolute lie.  It (and He) cannot be both.

It is tempting to go down the path of talking about the reality of absolute truth at this point, but I will save it for another time.  Instead let’s think about the things that would cloud our thinking and bring confusion and doubt about truth.

Here is a list of 12 items that can bring confusion and doubt in a person’s experience.  Before you read this list and think about it, know that there is a loving God who does not want us to be “ignorant” about truth regardless of how we got to a state of confusion.

“…I do not want you to be ignorant…”

1 Corinthians 12:1

  1.  Family religious ancestry (If Grandma’s beliefs were good enough for her, it must be right!)
  2. Popularity (If the masses believe this way, it must be right!)
  3. Tradition (It has always been believed this way)
  4. Dogma (Blindly following a set of creeds and rules for points with God.)
  5. Shallow study (Not only a cursory approach, but studying to prove a point rather than discovery of truth)
  6. No study (Gathering around us speakers we like and who support our un-researched beliefs.)
  7. Education (Especially denominational education) and Science explained with a humanistic agenda.  Remember, God is the author of all science!
  8. Closed-mindedness (Don’t want to know the truth.  Might interfere with my lifestyle)
  9. Feelings (My heart tells me what is truth)
  10. Good looking, articulate, entertaining ministers (Someone that is good looking and charismatic can’t be wrong!)
  11. Entertainment and Entertainers (These famous people are smarter than most. Aren’t they?)
  12. Actual deception from Satan himself (Don’t forget, he can appear as an angel of light. II Corinthians 11:14)

Let’s call these the “Dirty Dozen” for future reference.  Notice what is missing in all of these:  A personal knowledge and experience with God and his word! What do you think would happen if we earnestly asked Jesus, directly, for truth from His word through the work of the Holy Spirit?  What would happen if we honestly wanted to know truth, regardless of the presence of the Dirty Dozen?  How many Christians do this?  How many search like their lives depended on it?  Has church attendance become a routine and social event rather than worship and search for truth.

It should not be a surprise that the enemy of mankind can (and does) use the “Dirty Dozen” to keep truth from doing its work of introducing the lost to Jesus; building up the body of Christ; and enriching our experience with God.  Is that a fair statement?  He is the father of all lies

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

John 8:44

Actually, the Dirty Dozen is on automatic pilot in a world of sin.  Our sinful nature and those 12 items listed above can do their work on their own without Satan being just over your shoulder. He is not omnipresent, like God, is he?

So much to overcome in the pursuit of truth!  But, take heart!  God is working to draw every person on planet earth towards the one and only true God; towards truth about Him and His life saving teachings!  He does not want anyone to perish.  That is why the gospel must go to the whole world for a witness.  Yes, to the Chinese, the Japanese, the Asians, the Latino, the African, the English, Americans….everyone! Christianity is not an just for King James English speaking people. God and his written word is greater than the dirty dozen and greater than the boundaries of language, space, and culture!  He draws every person born onto the planet towards him…inviting us to search for truth.  If we search, we will find it!

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 1:9

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

John 12:32

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

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Most Important Truth

At the very core of every doctrine is the character of God.  It is often overlooked that the reason Jesus came to this earth was not only to live a sinless life; pay for our sins by his death on the cross; and to reveal the power of God through his resurrection, but to reveal the true character of God and therefore draw people into salvation.  By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the truth about the character of God had been turned into a lie.  Would you agree with that?  How had it turned into a lie?  Well meaning followers were influenced by the “professional” religious leaders (Scribes and Pharisees) in the interpretation of God’s word and character.  There were so many rules and misunderstandings that the creator God, they professed to know, was in their presence and he was not even recognized.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

John 1:10 

Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

John 8:19

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 14:8-9

It is so important that we “know” the true character of God the Father and Jesus our Creator, that Jesus equates it with salvation and having eternal life:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17:3 (New King James Version)

He goes on further in explaining this important concept of knowing God as the basis of salvation.  In the following text, he discloses that there are many who think they know God and even have the works to prove it (or do they), but they are lost, because of this lack of knowledge!

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 7:21-23

Interesting that these people look like Christians and even have some of the spiritual gifts and works, but they practice lawlessness.  In other words, they have the form of godliness but deny its power. 2 Timothy 3:5.

If we “know” him, we know not only about him, but we know his character, his motives, and his feelings.  We find out about him through: His word, the life of Jesus, other born-again Christians, His work though other people, nature, even through working with him and doing his will.  Very important that we are willing to do his biding, because if we are not willing to follow, not only will we fail to get to  know him better, but we will become confused about his teaching:

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

John 7:17

The power of the dirty dozen is not to be underestimated.  Any one of them can, at the least, can prove to hinder a relationship with Jesus and at the worse lead to making “Christ of no effect” Galatians 5:4 (King James Version).  In the end, a true knowledge of God is not just facts or an understanding of his historical actions, but a present personal relationship with him.  When you do know him, you will know that he is forgiving, slow to anger, has your best interest in mind, etc.

The only way to overcome confusion is through a personal study and application of the powerful word of God created by a desire to find out the truth about God.  In the end, however, it is not how much you know that saves you, but how well you know Jesus.  Today, He invites you to:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:29

How about it?  Are you ready to start your Jesus Journey?

What to Do With Doubt-Part 3 (Resurrection)

Have you ever thought about the claims of Jesus when he said,

 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

John 11:25

How important is the resurrection of Jesus? Was it a real event or did Jesus’ disciples just dream it up?  What will our bodies be like when we are resurrected?  What happens before then?

Doubt can be diminished as a person comes to believe that Jesus was resurrected and He has the same plan for us when He returns.

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This account is from Thomas who seems to have separated himself from the other disciples after the crucifixion and did not see them again for about 8 days (John 20:26) after Jesus appeared to them.  At the end of this story, continue to read to find out exactly how important the resurrection is in the life of the believer and in dispelling doubt.

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Greetings.  I am Thomas, one of his original 12 disciples.  I was commissioned by Jesus to do mighty works for the kingdom of God, but I am confused and skeptical, just as you may be.  Let me tell you what I know and the timelines.  I have not seen the other disciples since the last supper which was on the day before the Preparation Day.  You would call it Thursday.  Most of us were scattered when He went to trial and was crucified.  I think I saw Peter on the other side of the hill weeping on that day.

First of all, I know that Jesus is dead!  I saw him beaten, scourged and eventually nailed to a Roman Cross. He died on the afternoon of the Preparation Day.  This is the day you Gentiles call Friday.  It is the day us Jews and the converts prepare for the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.  I have always enjoyed the Sabbath especially with Jesus, but this Sabbath was different.  We all retreated to a secret spot to literally rest from the events of the previous 24 hours, but our souls were not at rest.  The women had seen the body of Jesus and were resting according to the Sabbath commandment.  Their plan was to go to the tomb of Jesus at the rising of the sun on the First Day of the week to prepare his body. (John 20:19 and Luke 23:56)

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because they said He claimed to be God and that he could tear down the temple and build it again in three days.  Often Jesus would say things like this that made little sense to me. But, later he would explain it to His followers and we could see its true meaning.

Since the religious leaders didn’t want Jesus and the two thieves hanging on the cross during the Sabbath, they broke the legs of the thieves to hurry the death process.  You see, a man hanging on the cross with broken legs is unable to push up against the nails in his feet to get a breath with their legs broken.  The diaphragm will collapse in such a way that they smother to death.  Such a disgusting and uncomfortable slow death, but since the Sabbath was only a few hours from beginning, they were fortunate and did not have to suffer for days as have many others.  The Romans are so cruel! But, I don’t blame them.  It was our own religious leaders that pushed and pushed until they finally got what they wanted…the scourging and death of Jesus.

But, when the soldiers came to Jesus, they supposed he was already dead and did not break his legs but rather took a sword and pierced his side just to make sure (John 19: 31-37).  Blood and water came forth.  I saw it even though I watched from a distance to protect myself from the same fate.   It was horrible!  It took the air out of me (so to speak) and made me wonder why I followed Jesus in the first place.  So, I know Jesus to be dead!  Even the women went to His tomb that Friday afternoon to look at his body and to prepare spices to anoint him early on Sunday morning.

Mary Magdalene, who Jesus had cast out 7 demons, said that she had seen Jesus at the tomb with two angels.  But, I don’t know about her.  She did have demons didn’t she?  Jesus cast out her demons, but maybe one was left over and it is making her mad.  The whole city must be mad, because it is reported that many people who were dead were resurrected and appeared to many! (Matthew 27:53)  I have not seen any, but I must admit I have not been going out much lately. I feel lost and with no purpose or direction.  I just want to rest.

Then I hear that about eight days ago on the day you Gentiles call Sunday, Cleopas and his friend were on their way to Emmaus and had an encounter with a spirit or something. It was reported to me by the other disciples that a stranger, spent a good three hours giving a comparative study of the writings of the Tanakh or the Old Testament as you call it.

As they walked down the dusty road towards Emmaus the stranger told them about how Jesus could be found all through scripture.  As they began to understand from the Tanakh about Jesus, they could see why He had to die on the cross, they said it made their “hearts burn within them.”  I remember Jesus saying something about dying and being resurrected, but it was so far from my thinking that I put it out of my mind.

Cleopas reported that when they reached their destination, they begged him to stay and tell them more of what he knew.  But, the stranger turned out to be Jesus himself!  They apparently recognized him as He broke bread and then He disappeared.  Can you image that?  He just disappeared!

They then raced back to Jerusalem with the news of what had just happened.   But the disciples were skeptical as I am. Now the other disciples are claiming Jesus showed up at their meeting and that he also gave them a comparative study from the Tanakh about himself.  He then asked for something to eat and he ate some fish.

So that is what I know so far.  It is all only rumor and wishful thinking as far as I am concerned.  Tragic events like this can lead you to think weird things.  So I think I will walk over and see how my friends are doing. The last time I saw them, they were fearful and unbelieving as I am, but something has come over them the last week.  They swear they have seen Jesus.

As I walk in, I notice the doors are not shut and there is a certain confidence in the countenance of each one.  Peter rushes over to me and says,

“We have seen the Lord!”

My response is quick and to the point,

Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

I am serious too.  His death has been difficult to both understand and accept.  My mind begins to fall back to those final moments before he died.  He said,

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

What did He mean by this?  Is there more to this than forgiveness?

As I am thinking about this, I look up and right there in front of me is Jesus!  But….Jesus…you….are… Am I seeing a spirit?  I don’t believe in ghosts!  Then I hear His voice and His words:

Thomas…. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

I take my trembling finger and place it on the place where the nails were…both hands!  It is strange, to feel a scar where I saw nails piercing his skin only a week or so ago.   I reach out and put my hand inside His robe and feel the warmth of His skin and the scar where the sword had been.  I then look up at His eyes and I see the kindness and royalty of a wise and gentle king and savior.  He IS alive!  I fall at his feet and say in remorse and acknowledgment.

“My Lord and my God!”

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“…we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”

Philippians 3: 20, 21

How Important is the Resurrection in your life?

How important is it in your experience and understanding of the Second Coming? Why is this so important?  Can’t we just believe that he existed and that be enough?

Jesus told Thomas these important words:

“Thomas,because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20: 29

We will never have the experience that Thomas had when he touched the risen and glorified body of Jesus, but we can still find evidence which will result in faith to believe that Jesus is alive and is preparing a place for those who believe and love Him.  You see, faith is based on substance and evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

If Christ was not raised, then the disciples are liars we have no hope and we are not saved from anything.  Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ have perished.  And when we sleep in Christ, there is no resurrection for us.  If we only have a Christ that died and did not come back to life, He is just like every other person who claims to be God.  Follow the logic of Paul’s argument in the following portion of scripture:

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  1 Corinthians 15:  12-19

Here is the logic:

If Resurrection is not possible, nor important, then Jesus has not been raised.

If Jesus has not been raised then preaching and teaching is in vain.

If Preaching and teaching is vain then faith is empty (It has no substance-nor basis).

If faith is empty then that means the disciples are false witnesses because they said they saw him alive.

If the Disciples are false witnesses then Christ is not risen.

If Christ is not risen then our faith in Christ is futile. All those who have died have perished.

Since there is no hope of a resurrection, we are of men, most pitiable.

Paul told us that he did not want us to be ignorant about the resurrection and those who have fallen asleep (died).  If we are ignorant about it, we will sorrow like everyone else that does not have hope.  But, the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected gives us the hope of one day coming back to life through the resurrection.

Our hope is that Jesus is all that He claimed to be.  He claims to have the keys of the grave and death (Revelation 1:8). He claims to be the resurrection and the life and

“even though we die, we will live again.”

John 11:25

“ But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring (resurrect) with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

Paul goes so far as to provide us with the clearest passage in the Bible about the day when all who have died in Christ will be resurrected.  It will happen this way: The Lord will descend from heaven.  It will be loud because there is a shout and a loud trumpet.  Also the sky will be lit up with the angels and the glory of the Jesus and the Father.

Those in the grave will hear his voice and will meet with those who are alive at the 2nd coming and meet them in the air.  This is the start of eternity with Jesus.  This picture described by Paul is the comfort us who are to be resurrected one day we will all be reunited with those alive at His coming.  Not at any other time, but at His second coming:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 I Thessalonians 4:15-18

 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  (Note: our reward is when he comes)

Matthew 16:27 

Then the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. Matthew 25:31

So how important is the resurrection?  It is critical to our salvation:

 “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Why is the resurrection not discussed more?  It is the bedrock of the faith we follow regarding Jesus.

Many of the writers of the Bible believed in and put their hope in the resurrection.  Here is but a few:

Job:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,

And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,

That in my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see for myself,

And my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Isaiah:

Your dead shall live;

Together with my dead body they shall arise.

Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;

For your dew is like the dew of herbs,

And the earth shall cast out the dead.Isaiah 26:19

Daniel:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

David:

 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” Psalm 17:15

Abraham:

Of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead Hebrews 11:18

There is no precedence for the resurrection except for Jesus. No other person has raised themselves from the dead. Jesus said this about the resurrection:

Jesus said,

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  John 11:25

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Until the Lord returns, the dead sleep and wait for the last day when Jesus will raise them up.  What a day that will be!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there (heaven), the Lord Jesus Christ,  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3: 20-21

Look again at the resurrection of Jesus and His body.  Here you will see what our bodies shall look like.  As the verse above , and many other,  tells us:  We “wait” for that glorious day when He returns and changes us.  It is not until that day that we can say,

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

We cannot say this at a funeral.  The context tells us, these words cannot be said, until our risen Savior returns and changes our bodies like to his risen body:

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? :1 Corinthians 15: 51-55

In conclusion, let us not be a doubting Thomas, but believe.  We are promised a blessing if we do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is able to do the same for us!  He has promised to do that very thing when he returns.  Oh what a day that will be!  The great “getting up morning”!

“In that great gettin’ up mornin’ fare the well, fare the well.”