Except Through Me

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My Musings – A few days ago, (July 26, 2019) the title of my musing was “On the Side of Truth.”  In the blog, I wrote that the truth is verifiable, not fabricated.  There are two primary means of verification:  reliable evidence (something that furnishes proof) and reliable testimony (firsthand authentication).

In the verses above, Jesus makes the bold truth claim that He is not just a way to the Father (God) and to eternal life in Heaven, but that He is in truth (fact) the only way.  To know Him is to know the way.  Apart from His own word, what evidence and what testimony do we have that corroborates His claim?

Evidence – The Old Testament records 356 prophecies concerning the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled (see https://accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html for a complete list).  All recorded at least 400 years before Christ was born. Here are just three:

His Birth – These prophecies included specific details surrounding the circumstances and location of HIs birth, something He could not have possibly orchestrated.  One of the details even required the proclamation to a disinterest pagan emperor (Augustus Caesar – see Luke 2:1), to ensure that Jesus was born in the town of His ancestor King David (Bethlehem -see Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1-6) and not the town where His mother and step-father resided (Nazareth – see Luke 2:4).

His Triumphal Entry – Another prophecy (see Daniel 9:23-27), involving yet another proclamtion of a pagan emperor (Artaxerxes, King of Persia), predicted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the original Palm Sunday.  A span of 483 separated the proclamation and its actual fulfilment to the exact date (Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1363). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).

His Death – The predicted mode of Jesus’ execution described crucifixion in very specific detail (see Psalm 22), despite being recorded an estimated 600 – 700 years before the first recorded executions by crucifixion by King Darius I of Persia ca. 519 B.C (see https://www.gotquestions.org/crucifixion.html.).

Evidence  – The Bible records over 500 eyewitness to post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  There is no evidence that the Jewish or Roman authorities responsible for Jesus death were ever able to discredit any of the witnesses testimony.  Many of eyewitnesses died horrible deaths as a result of their belief in a risen Savior. Yet if the face of martyrdom and persecution, there is no evidence that any of these witnesses ever recanted.

The New Testament is not the only source of testimony concerning the historicity of Jesus.  These include Jewish historian Josephus, Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, Samaritan historian Thallus, governor of Bithynia Plinus Secundus, secular author Phlegon and Syrian philosopher Mara Bar-Serapion.  The Jewish Talmud also acknowledges the historicity of Jesus.  (see https://evidencetobelieve.net/history-of-jesus/).

My Advice – In “On the Side of Truth” I wrote that no matter what is being debated, there can only be one truth.  To me, there is more than a “preponderance (more likely than not)” of evidence and testimony that Jesus is the only way.  To me, it is beyond a reasonable doubt.  What about you?  What is the one truth to you?

 

Take Heart!

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My Musings – I wrote in my book “Got Spiritual Milk?” (see Store), that justification is a one-time event (the starting line), sanctification is a life-long process (the journey) and glorification is our ultimate destination (the finish line).  In the verse above, Jesus states that if we would come after Him (the justification part) we must take up our cross daily (the sanctification part) and follow Him (the glorification part).

While the justification part is a free gift, taking up our cross daily is a graphic illustration of the cost of becoming like Jesus. Crucifixion was one of the cruelest and barbaric forms of execution ever devised.  A medical doctor provides the following  physical description:

The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.

He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, “And they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:24).

What wondrous love is this?

— Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8

Somehow, the crosses we have to bear in our journey of sanctification here below, do not seem so awful after all – no comparison to what Jesus had to go through, and which bought our justification.  Paul also tells us the they are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed (Romans 8:18) — our ultimate glorification.

My Advice – Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV 1984). Jesus had the ultimate victory (overcame) over His cross.  Because of this, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome ours as well.  So take heart!

 

 

From the Senseless to the Absurd

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My Musings – Seems like a simple question with an obvious and expected answer (rhetorical).  And yet, so many chase after the “shiny” things that life affords in the here and now, that will not last and cannot be taken out of this life, yet neglect the more important matter of where they will spend eternity. This is illogical (senseless or unreasonable) at best, and foolish (absurd or ridiculous) at worst.

If one at least acknowledges even the slightest possibility of an afterlife with rewards (heaven) and punishment (hell), then it would be illogical to ignore or neglect carefully considering the possibilities.  Because even with a slight possibility the stakes are still way to high (your eternal soul).

If one believes in such an afterlife, it would be foolish to ignore, neglect or postpone putting one’s affairs in order.  Because there is no guarantee that an opportunity, ignored, neglected or postponed will ever present itself again.

My Advice – If you are a sceptic, it costs nothing to at least consider the possibility.  But it could be very costly indeed to not consider it (forfeit of soul).  Consider it.  If you are an “intellectual” believer you’re still 18 inches away (the distance between the head and the heart) from not forfeiting your soul.  Missing it by even a fraction of an inch is still a miss.  Don’t miss it.

Who Are You Really?

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My Musings – We are not born with character.  It is borne from our experiences.  Usually difficult experiences.  However, while many people experience difficulties, and even persevere in spite of them, character is not produced in all of us.  While suffering and perseverance are almost always a prerequisite for building character, it does not always result in character. “Character does not suddenly appear when we reach the mountain peak. It is something we develop on the journey up. The sometimes long, sometimes arduous journey.” (Adapted from “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek).

Many people may appear (have a reputation) to have character, but under the surface (who they really are) they do not.  Our true character is revealed in a variety of ways.  Here are a few:

George Orwell – “The real test of character is how you treat someone who has no possibility of doing you any good.”

Abraham Lincoln – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

John Wooden – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

J. K. Rowling – “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a look at how he treats his ‘inferiors,’ not his ‘equals.'”

Stephen Covey – “A moment of choice is a moment of truth.  It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”

Unknown – “Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”

My Advice – Character is the only thing you can take out of this life.  A treasure to store up that moths and rust cannot corrupt. Only we can do that.  Quick, while no one is looking, what choice will you make?  Your reputation may not suffer from your choice, but what about your character?  Choose wisely, it might just be your defining moment.

What Are We Seeking?

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My Musings – To seek first means to give priority (something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives).  Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus was talking about the things of this life that people give attention to – food, shelter, clothing.  Things that most would consider necessities, although there are still way too many that lack all of these in sufficient quantity (if at all) to not be considered in want.  Others have much more than they need.  Few are content with what they have.  But no matter what category one falls into, Jesus insists that there is something much more important – our relationship with our Creator.

Our life here on earth is fleeting (a mere mist of vapor) and of little consequence when compared to all of eternity before us.  But what we do with Christ while here on earth has tremendous consequences in terms of what eternity will be for us.  The lack of  the so-called necessities of this life will pale in comparison to an eternal separation from God in the torment of Hell (as politically incorrect as it is to even mention such a thing) if we never get our priorities straight while here. Likewise, the accumulation of things in this this life will be soon forgotten if the face of such suffering.  Whether a life of abundance or want, all need Christ.  If you seek Him, He (and His Kingdom and Righteousness) will be found.  In His Kingdom, all these things will be given as well.

My Advice –  Seek Him (Christ) while He may be found, because He came to seek (and to save) you. This is not me speaking in arrogance, although many will still believe so.  It is me speaking in compassion to those who do not have a relationship with Christ.  Because once upon a time, I was there as well.

On the Side of Truth

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My Musing – “What is truth?”  Truth has been defined as a proven or verified principle or statement (fact).  A fact is something that is known to be consistent with objective (not influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions) reality (the state of things as they actually exist).

What is truth?”  No matter what is being debated, there can only be one truth.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that those on both side of the debate are not really interested in the truth.  They are only interested in what they want the truth to be.  As a result, truth becomes an orphan.  Verification is replaced with fabrication.  Objectivity with opinion.  Reality with fiction.

What is truth?”  I am saddened that truth has become so inconvenient to so many.  I am saddened that lies and opinions (on both sides of whatever the topic happens to be) are driving so many people so far apart.  I am saddened that more and more people can no longer agreeably disagree.  I am saddened that we are increasingly being defined by what divides us rather than what unites us.  I am saddened that “wherever the truth leads” is so distasteful to so many.  I am saddened that what used to be a debate between what is true and what is not true has been largely replaced by a debate between “my” truth and “your” truth, when in reality neither are true.

My Advice – Keep seeking the truth “wherever it takes you.” When you discover the truth, embrace it.  Even if it turns out to be what you do not want it to be.  Finally, be nice.

Take Heart

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My Musings – We have a tendency to want to do things in our own might and power.  That’s a risky proposition, to say the least.  And a needless risk at that.  As His children we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.  And He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

My Advice – “I [Jesus] have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I [Jesus] have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV 1984).  And because He overcame, so will we.  Don’t take needless risks.