Death is a great sadness in this world, but not the greatest. We lost a dear friend, like many others in life, but we will see her again.
By Mark D. Harris
It was a beautiful morning at the state campgrounds at Lake Anna, near Richmond Virginia. Several families from our church, and one family that had recently moved away to pursue new job opportunities, had come together for a Labor Day getaway. We were busily preparing breakfast, assembling fishing tackle, and drinking coffee by the crackling fire. As the only physician in the group, I was in unfortunate demand. One girl from a different party had had a bike accident, a man splashed some chemlight fluid in his eyes, and a little boy hurt his arm. After my quasi-clinic Mary, a dear friend and breast cancer survivor, asked me about some back pain she had been having. I tried some spinal manipulation with little result. Chagrined by the lack of improvement but without the opportunity to investigate further, we moved on. Our group had prayed for these problems, and Mary had a medical appointment a few days later.
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Misfortunes and even disasters are part of life. Are they natural phenomena, are they judgments from God, or are they both?
Hurricane Sandy has just swept through the east coast of the US, killing at least 100, leaving six million without power and causing at least $3 billion dollars in damages. In March 2011, an earthquake (magnitude 9.3), tsunami and radiation accident in Japan killed 15,870 and caused $235 billion in damages. In January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Leogane in Haiti, killing at least 316,000. Disease epidemics relentlessly cycle through populations. Such catastrophes occur constantly somewhere in the world, and terrible suffering and loss is an inevitable result.
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God is not the giver of blessings; He is the blessing. God is not the enabler of accomplishments; knowing Him is the accomplishment. God is the center of our provision and the center of our ambition. And yet why is that so easy to say and so hard to do?
One of my favorite hymns is the Irish “Be thou my vision”, its words are attributed to Dallan Forgaill in the 6th century and its tune an Irish folk song, “Slane”. The theme is that God alone should be the vision and goal of every Christian, just as He was for Paul in Philippians 3:7-14.
What does it mean to have God for our vision in our purpose for life?
The modern mantra of finding ones’ purpose for life seems to be “follow your inner star”, “find your dream” or “do your own thing.” The idea is that within each person is something that will guide him or her to meaning and fulfillment in life if only he or she follows it. Books, music, and movies parrot this idea relentlessly, and many people simply accept it as truth. Under certain assumptions this could be logical:
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No one on earth or even in mythology defeated Death, except Jesus. Life finally conquered death. Can you feel it?
Jesus physically rose from the dead. This statement, if true, is the most radical statement in human history. If there is one thing that seems certain about the human condition, even more so than taxes, it is death. This event separates Christianity from all other religions, and makes Christ unique among religious leaders. Islam does not make that claim for Mohammed, nor Judaism for Moses nor Buddhism for Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. Yet the Bible makes that claim for Jesus Christ. Not only does it make the claim but stakes the truth or falsehood of Christianity, the religion founded by Jesus Christ, on that event (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). If Jesus physically rose from the dead, Christianity is true. If not, it is false. The most widespread religion in the world is thus founded on the most preposterous claim in the world.
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Jesus died, there is no doubt, what happened next, is what the Gospel is about.
Christianity is unique among the religions of the world for many reasons, but one of the most important is that it can be disproven. The fundamental event of Christianity is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). There is no claim in the Koran that Mohammed physically rose from the dead after his death; neither is there a similar claim for Moses, the Buddha, or any founder of a major religion in the world today. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if they actually happened, separate Christianity from all other religions, and make Christ unique among religious leaders.
Anyone who wants to refute Christianity and make the Church wither and die simply has to prove that Jesus Christ did not die, at least not in the way that the Bible records, and did not physically rise again. In the two millennia since Jesus’ life, many skeptics have tried to disprove the Bible on this issue. None have succeeded thus far, but there are many theories about how Jesus did not really die as the Bible suggests.
Continue reading “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” →