But What if it’s True?

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In an article written some years ago titled Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

Yes, you might think it sounds like a fairytale, but what if it’s true? What if death can be conquered?

For over two thousand years, millions of people have placed their faith in Jesus as the one who overcame death and now offers the same to those who would believe. Are you going to dismiss that possibility without even looking at the evidence?



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Betrayed

We’ve all been let down. People close to us have hurt us. We’ve been disappointed by those we thought we could depend upon.

Have you ever come to a moment of great need and found yourself alone? Have you had to face trials on your own while those who have previously pledged their friendship and loyalty have scattered?

That’s the kind of thing we remember on Good Friday. Imagine facing the following scenario on your own.

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. – Mark 15:15-20

The most amazing thing in all of this is that amidst the torture, the pain, the horror of a barbaric death, Jesus was thinking of others. He even prayed for forgiveness for those who had caused his pain. I don’t know about you but I tend to get angry when someone causes me pain or discomfort. I can forgive them later, but at the time I can get pretty annoyed. Jesus was still in the middle of being tortured to death while he was offering forgiveness. Makes the ‘injustices’ I suffer seem fairly inconsequential.

Incredibly, he even promised forgiveness to a common criminal who was suffering the same fate that he was. There were two criminals being slaughtered alongside Jesus. One hurled insults. One asked to be remembered by Jesus. The one who asked to be remembered could see beyond the grave. He could see that death was not the end. He talked about Christ entering his kingdom. Jesus promised him a direct trip to paradise.

A lot of pictures that depict the life of Jesus show him as an otherworldly kind of figure, detached from the worries of our day to day lives. It’s good to remind ourselves that he knew what it was like to suffer pain and betrayal of the worst possible kind.

Even if you’re the kind of person who really can’t identify with Jesus, it may help you to remember that he can certainly identify with us and everything we’re facing.

The greatest news is that the betrayal and suffering of Good Friday was not the end. Sunday was coming; a day that would change our world forever.



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I See Dead People

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What happens when our loved ones die? Do they visit us from he grave?

It’s been reported that many years ago English Bible scholar, translator, author and clergyman, J. B. Phillips was visited by the recently deceased C. S. Lewis. Phillips said that Lewis suddenly stood before him, having entered his bedroom through closed doors. Lewis spoke just one short sentence to Phillips: “J. B., it’s not as hard as you think!” This “appearance” was precisely what was needed to draw Phillips out of his depression, and to set him free again to continue his life’s work.

Others feel a strong presence of loved ones for a period after they have passed away.

While the Bible warn us of the dangers of trying to contact spirits through mediums, is it possible that the reference in the book of Hebrews to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ is about those who have passed on? There are some theologians who believe it is.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98five Sonshine FM is Rev Dr Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today we discussed life beyond the grave. You can listen to what Ross had to say by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

I’d be really interested in your opinions. Do you think there’s something to the idea that we can feel the presence of those who are now in God’s presence or is it just our own grieving and emotions?



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Brennan Manning Dead

brennanmanning

American author, friar, priest, contemplative and speaker, Brennan Manning, born Richard Francis Xavier Manning, has passed away aged 78. He had battled failing health in recent years.

Born and raised in Depression-era New York City, Manning finished high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Korean War. When Manning returned to the United States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest.

In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason’s assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert.

In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism. – Wiki

His books touched many lives and had a profound impact on the way many people lived out their faith. The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out became a classic.

The Ragamuffin Gospel is a popular book about Jesus’ gospel by former Franciscan priest Brennan Manning. First published in 1990, the title was the inspiration for Christian musical artist Rich Mullins’ group a Ragamuffin Band. Songwriter musician Michael W. Smith’s glowing review in the foreword supports Manning’s simple concept that perhaps the most important tenet of Christianity was grace. Manning argues that Jesus’ gospel was one of grace, and that efforts to earn salvation are impossibly misguided.- Wiki

I recently read The Furious Longing of God, a book described as, “a love story for the brokenhearted. For those who are burdened by heavy religion. For those who feel they can never measure up. It is a provocative and poignant look at the radical, no-holds-barred love of our Heavenly Father.”

He is quoted as saying, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”



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I’m Not Dead Yet

Gilberto Araujo is a 41 year old Brazillian man who has done what very, very few people will have the opportunity to do. He turned up at his own wake.

A Brazilian man shocked his family when he appeared at his own wake, police in north-eastern Brazil say.

The family was gathered around the body of what they believed to be 41-year-old car washer Gilberto Araujo when the man himself showed up, causing some relatives to faint.

The body in the coffin is believed to be that of another car washer, who relatives say looked like Gilberto. – BBC News

I wonder if he was surprised to see who was there or even who wasn’t. Of course, while it was a relief and a time for rejoicing for Gilberto’s family, there’s now another family and group of friends mourning someone they loved.

The Final Farewell

Sometimes I wonder who’ll turn up at my funeral when my life here is over. Will those who do show up have good things to say or will their silence tell a different story? I will have no chance to control what’s said when the time comes but I can do something about it while I’m still here by the way I choose to live my life. Will I leave friends and family with good memories? That’s up to me and the choices I make every day of my life.

I wonder about what kind of difference I’m making to the wider world. Will I be missed by more than those close to me? Will there be those I’ve never met who will be thankful that I was once alive? Am I making a difference through my work and through the the volunteer tasks I undertake?

Skeletons in the Closet

While we’re on the subject of our own passing, or at least I am, I reckon that something worth thinking about is having my family sort through all my belongings. I try to live an honest and open life so there wouldn’t be any surprises, but I’ve heard stories of people passing on, only have their loved ones find out later that the person they thought they knew was someone quite different to the image they had portrayed.

Wouldn’t it be awful for a family dealing with their grief to discover the person they thought they knew was hiding some dark secret?

I reckon the easiest way to avoid having skeletons in our closets revealed after our deaths is not to find better hiding spots, but to ensure that we maintain our integrity both when people are watching as well as when there’s no one else around. We tend to like ourselves a lot better that way too.

I’m not dead yet

I should probably add that all this talk about leaving this planet isn’t because I’m planning on doing so anytime soon. I’m enjoying life too much to go at the moment. I have a magnificent family, a great job, wonderful friends and a blog that needs updating regularly. I’m not planning on leaving it all behind just yet, but you never know when your time is up.

Being confident that there’s something better beyond the grave isn’t going to convince me to get there any faster than I need to. I believe in life after death but I’d like to ensure that I get to live this life first.

What About You?

Do you ever wonder how it would be if you were no longer around? Will those you leave behind remember you as someone who made a positive difference to their world? Are you involved in things that will mean that your life will have an impact even after you’re gone?

I wonder also if you believe that there’s something more than this life. Have you seriously considered what there may be beyond the grave? Is your daily life reflecting your belief?

I’d love to hear your point of view on the whole subject. I look forward to reading your comments.



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