Monthly Archives: March 2016

Jesus’ resurrection: Fact or fiction?

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Jesus' empty tomb

By Rusty Wright
Special to ASSIST News Service

MOUNT HERMON, Calif. – At Easter, some might wonder what all the fuss is about.  Who cares?  What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?

It makes all the difference in the world.  If Christ did not rise, then thousands of believers have died as martyrs for aJesus' empty tomb hoax.

If he did rise, then he is still alive and can offer peace to troubled, hurting lives.

Countless scholars – among them the apostle Paul, Augustine, Sir Isaac Newton, and C.S. Lewis – have believed in the resurrection.  We need not fear committing intellectual suicide by believing it also.  Where do the facts lead?

Paul, a first-century skeptic-turned-believer, wrote that “Christ died for our sins…he was buried…he was raised on the third day…he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve [Disciples].  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred…at the same time, most of whom are still living.”  Consider four pieces of evidence:

  1. The explosive growth of the Christian movement. Within a few weeks after Jesus was crucified, a movement arose which, by the later admission of its enemies, “upset the world.”  What happened to ignite this movement shortly after its leader had been executed?
  2. The disciples’ changed lives. After Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, most of his disciples fled in fear.  Peter denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus.  (The women were braver and stayed to the end.)  Yet ten out of the eleven disciples (Judas committed suicide) were martyred for their faith.  According to traditions, Peter was crucified upside down; Thomas was skewered.  John was boiled in oil but survived.  What turned these cowards into heroes?  Each believed he had seen Jesus alive again.
  3. The empty tomb. Jesus’ corpse was removed from the cross, wrapped like a mummy, and placed in a solid-rock tomb.  A one-and-a-half to two-ton stone was rolled into a slightly depressed groove to seal the tomb’s entrance.

A “Green Beret”-like unit of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb.  Sunday morning, the stone was found rolled away, the body was gone, but the graveclothes were still in place.  What happened?

Did Christ’s friends steal the body?  Perhaps one of the women sweet-talked (karate-chopped?) the guard while the others moved the stone and tiptoed off with the body.  Or maybe Peter (remember his bravery) or Thomas (Doubting Thomas) overpowered the guards, stole the body, then fabricated – and died for – a resurrection myth.

These theories hardly seem plausible.  The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, and the disciples too frightened to attempt such a feat.

Did Christ’s enemies steal the body?  If Romans or Jewish religious leaders had the body, surely they would have exposed it publicly and Christianity would have died out.  They didn’t, and it didn’t.

The “Swoon Theory” supposes that Jesus didn’t really die but was only unconscious.  The expert Roman executioners only thought he was dead.  After a few days in the tomb, the cool air revived him.

He burst from the 100 pounds of graveclothes, rolled away the stone with his nail-pierced hands, scared the daylights out of the Roman soldiers, walked miles on wounded feet, and convinced his disciples he’d been raised from the dead.  This one is harder to believe than the resurrection itself.

  1. The appearances of the risen Christ. For 40 days after his death, many different people said they saw Jesus alive.  Witnesses included a woman, a shrewd tax collector, several fisherman, and over 500 people at once.  These eyewitness claims provide further testimony for the resurrection.

As a skeptic, I realized that attempts to explain away the evidences run into a brick wall of facts that point to oneRusty Wright conclusion:  Christ is risen.

The above does not constitute an exhaustive proof, rather a reasoned examination of the evidence.  Each interested person should evaluate the evidence and decide if it makes sense.  Of course, the truth or falsity of the resurrection is a matter of historical fact and is not dependent on anyone’s belief.  If the facts support the claim, one can conclude that he arose.  In any case, mere intellectual assent to the facts does little for one’s life.

A major evidence comes experientially, in personally receiving Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness.  He said, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him [or her].”

Worth considering?*     *     *

The New Testament resurrection accounts are in Matthew 27-28Mark 15-16,Luke 23-24, and John 19-21.  Suggestions for further reading:  J.N.D. Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection; Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?; Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Copyright © 2016 Rusty Wright

Harris: Nineveh, that great city

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Jonah the reluctant profit

By Jack Harris
Special to ASSIST News Service

IRAQ – “Yet 40 days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4). Thus cried Jonah, the reluctant prophet. One man speaking against one of the mightiest cities of the day.

The result?

The whole city repented in sackcloth and ashes; from the throne room right down to the stables. Even the domesticJonah the reluctant profit animals were covered with sackcloth and ash. Both beast and man were called upon to fast before GOD under penalty of law. The book of Jonah thus records one of the most dramatic wide scale acts of public contrition and repentance in history.

GOD spared the city in that generation though it would later in history become one of Israel’s greatest enemies. This fact and the prophet’s foresight was the cause of his reluctance to bring GOD’S warning to the city. He preferred to see a whole generation of his people’s enemies perish rather than repent and experience GOD’S mercy.

I believe the Book of Jonah was placed in our scriptures by the Holy Spirit to have more meaning than to address the problems of those who run away from their calling, or to provide our Sunday Schools with a quaint story of a man and a big fish. However, I believe this is more about how we view our enemies.

I expect nothing different from the unbelievers among our countrymen than the fear and hatred I see whipped up to the point of frenzy by the media and politicians. But I’m shocked to the core when I see it in GOD’S own people, the very ones who claim to believe in the same Jesus Christ who said, “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;’” (Matthew 5:44).

The LORD rebuked an offended James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a small village that rejected their LORD’S message. He said, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55).

We seldom would think of such a spirit as antichrist but that’s exactly what it is. Jesus said, “You’re either gatheringThe_Walls_of_Nineveh with me or you’re scattering abroad.” (Matthew 12:30).

Just because you favorite politicos say such things on TV doesn’t make it right. Lest you misunderstand, I’m not a pacifist and I’ve no objection to taking up arms against evil or protecting one’s family friends and country. But I’m dead set against one size fits all racial or religious prejudice.

Recently, I sat with a young Kurdish woman in the government office in Northern Iraq, where she worked. We were waiting for some document I needed to come back from another office. As we talked, I could tell she was discouraged and worried about the future. Why wouldn’t she be? The border separating the Kurdish forces and ISIS was only mere miles over the horizon. I tried to assure her that many American people, especially we Christians were with them. She just looked at me sadly and said, I don’t think your people like us anymore because we are Muslims. I asked her where she got that impression. She said, “By watching American TV and hearing the hatred spoken toward Muslims on the air. These people are our friends, our allies and so far they’ve lost over 1500 of their soldiers in the fight against ISIS.”

I am no lover of Islam. I am, however, a lover of Muslim people, as is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for their sins just as he did for ours. He was sent by the Father to save these people, just as he saved us. What don’t we get about this?

Abe Lincoln was once criticized for trying to befriend his political enemies rather than destroy them. He replied, Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?

This is what Christianity is all about or rather should be all about.

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

Potentially, the greatest harvest of souls in human history is right before us but are we too blind to see it? Are we too predisposed to pay attention to it? Will we, one day, wail over a harvest past and a missed opportunity as Jeremiah did because his generation did not heed his words?

GOD is moving in the Middle East but will we, his people, miss it? Israel missed their Messiah when Jesus came the first time. They were blind to the most significant spiritual event in their history.

Jesus asks an interesting question concerning his return.

Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?

We are witnessing nothing less than the spiritual rebirth of Christianity in the Middle East. As one very dear Muslim friend told me, “The religion of Islam is finished! People are disgusted with it.”

In Romans, Chapter Ten, we read, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

It’s this writer’s humble opinion that it’s high time to quite trying to prophetically second guess God with our clever eschatological assumptions and simply do what He’s called us to do and that’s to labor in the harvest until HE returns.

It’s almost paradoxical that the ancient ruins of Nineveh lay just four kilometers [about two-and-a-half miles] fromJack_Harris_on_a_missions_trip Mosul across the Tigris River a mere sixteen miles from the Kurdistan border. Mosul, a city of two million is still, at this writing, in the hands of ISIS forces. There is a planned invasion to liberate the city. Nobody knows exactly when, but it’s coming. Without GOD’S intervention. it’s likely to be a very bloody battle with the loss of a great number of lives.

With over a million Syrian refugees and Iraqi IDP’s just across the Kurdish border and the cities of Domiz and Duhok, as well as many smaller towns clustered close by, there’s a sense of impending judgement and coming wrath that hangs like a dark cloud in the atmosphere. It’s palpable.

Yet 40 days! Jonah cries, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

The Days of Prophetic Judgment are once more come to this region and we have a Jonah generation there right now, in place and standing up with the message of repentance and redemption.

* If you, YES, YOU! are ever going to pray for our people, Pray NOW!

* If you’re ever going to stand with us, then Stand NOW!

* If you’re ever going to give to help us, then Give NOW!

* That our brethren will have the resources, spiritual and material to win a harvest.

Easter a popular time to visit Israel

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By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – Tens of thousands of Christians are expected to visit Israel to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in theGarden of Gethesemane next two weeks and visit the very places described in the New Testament.

“There is nothing like experiencing Holy Week in Jerusalem,” according to Don Weitz, marketing and sales consultant with E.D.I. Travel Israel Tours.

“Celebrating the greatest events of salvation history and of Jesus’ life at the very sites where they occurred is a moving and unforgettable experience of faith for all believers,” he told ASSIST News Service.

“On Easter and the preceding Holy Week, Jerusalem fills will pilgrims from all over the world,” Weitz said.

“On Palm Sunday (March 20), more than 1,000 Catholic and Protestant pilgrims come streaming down the Mount of Olives singing hymns and bearing palm fronds, reenacting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A procession takes place in the afternoon, beginning at the Bethpage Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and descending into Gethsemane and ending in the Old City at the Church of St. Anne’s. Olive Trees in Garden of Gethsemane,” he said.

Weitz said that another highlight is Maundy Thursday (March 24), when the faithful commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the apostle’s feet by Jesus and his last hours prior to his arrest in Gethsemane.

“In the afternoon, a short Catholic prayer service in several languages takes place at the Cenacle, while the Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant denominations hold a procession from St. George’s Cathedral to the Redeemer’s Church and Christ Church, ending at Gethsemane,” Weitz stated.

Weitz said that on Good Friday a procession of thousands bearing crosses and led by the Patriarch, the Custodian of the Holy Sites, and other independent groups marks the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

“In the evening, a burial procession is held in the Holy Sepulcher (Catholics), in the Old City churches and at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (Protestants), where services are also held in English.”

Weitz described how, on Easter Sunday (March 27), when the faithful celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the Latin Patriarch heads a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for a multi-lingual reading of the Gospel of Resurrection and celebration of the Easter Masses.

He said Protestants partake in the Easter services in English at the Garden Tomb and several Protestant churches in Jerusalem.

Please see a schedule of Garden Tomb Easter events at this link www.gardentomb.com/easter-2016

Photo: Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Former elected official pens book for citizens to boost their role in local government

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

In this election season, Americans are taking to the polls to perform the most treasured act granted in a democracy.

But, the election process is just one way for citizens to interact with government. And, according to Cynthia Northrop White, the best way for citizens to increase their knowledge of government is to get involvedCynthia Northrop and Women in Transportation at the local level.

“I truly believe if citizens are knowledgeable about how local government works and how different levels of government interact they will be more successful in finding solutions to issues important to them,” White said.

White, a former Denton County (Texas) Commissioner, recently celebrated the release of her first book, Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government (Austin Brothers Publishing, $24.95).

Touted as a “local government for dummies” type book that takes a holistic approach by connecting the dots between the different levels of government and how they each inform the other, White points to her ultimate desire of motivating and equipping citizens to engage in their local communities.

“We don’t learn about local government in school. I’ve talked to many citizens during my time in office over the years and have found that the more information they get on how local government works the more they want to get involved because they begin to see they can make a difference,” White said.

The book covers the nuts and bolts of local government structure and includes practical information on knowing who and how to contact, how the federal government informs local government and perspective onMake A Difference by Cynthia Northrop White what make a community successful.

White, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas, stresses the importance of collaborative partnerships.

“I believe synergistic communities of cohesive local government, community-minded businesses, strong and supported non-profit community and informed and engaged citizens spell success.”

Denton County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell and former Commissioner White’s served on the Lewisville (Texas) City Council for three years in the early 1990s and Denton County Commissioners Court from 2001 to 2008.

“I was impressed by Commissioner White’s commitment to not only serving the citizens but to her passion for educating them as well,” said Commissioner Mitchell, specifically recalling White’s initiative in creating and initiating a Student Government Day for high school seniors, hosting town halls on specific topics of interest to her constituents, creation of a monthly transportation task force meeting designed specifically for residents of her precinct and the creation of the “380 Coalition.”

The book also includes a collection of columns on county issues White wrote while in office and distributed to community newspapers and through her own email distribution list.

“The release of Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government allows me to continue my mission to provide a convenient and compact resource for citizens on how to understand, connect, and make a difference in their communities.”

The book is available at all major book retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Photos:

Top: Cynthia Northrop White, right, makes a presentation during a Women in Transportation meeting.

Right: Book cover: “Making A Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government”

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

Bubba Watson’s colorful journey with Christ

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By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis
Special to ASSIST News

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — He grew up wearing knickers sewn by his grandma, endured the rage of his Vietnam vet father, and learned to play golf smacking a wiffle ball around the house.

Bubba Watson, 37, arguably golf’s most colorful character, won the Los Angeles Riviera tournament Feb. 21, and he credited Jesus and the Bible with the win, his ninth PGA tour victory since 2010.Bubba Watson

“I have a lot of fears in my life, which, as I’m reading the Bible, I’m not supposed to have — but I do,” Watson told the New York Times. “Me changing as a person has helped my golf, not my swing.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Watson would lose games in his brain. He struggled with insecurity, melted down after a bad shot, and looked for people to blame when things went wrong. He used curse words and rankled other players with some unfriendliness.

But with the help of his wife, his caddie, and fellow Christian golfers (who meet weekly at a PGA Bible study), Watson is overcoming the temperamental side of his personality.

“We’ve been working on it, a hard, slow process,” Watson said in Golf Digest. “Instead of swing thoughts and swing, it’s all about the mind for me. It’s staying patient, and having Teddy (the caddie) in my ear. Teddy’s been a blessing. It’s been a struggle over five years, but we’re working in the right direction.”

His Twitter account is telling. Followed by 1.54 million, @bubbawatson describes him in this order: “Christian, husband, daddy, pro golfer.”

Watson told BillyGraham.org that he is “getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”Bubba_Watson_with_wife_and_adopted_child

His walk with Christ started when he was 19. A neighbor invited him to church. It was his first time in a service. “I went to church with her a few times,” he told CNN. “I listened, thought about, gave myself to the Lord.”

During college, his church attendance tapered off, but in 2004 he got baptized with his new wife, Angie, and renewed his faith.

On his first date with Angie, a college and professional basketball player, she advised him that she couldn’t bear children – and Watson told her that was fine. To date, they have two adopted kids, Caleb and Dakota.

After his baptism, he drifted away from God. Then his caddie yelled at him for his stormy behavior on the links, and Watson realized he needed to take things more seriously.

“I’ve been reading my Bible and getting stronger in my faith,” he said.

Today, Watson is a very visible and vocal Christian. After the won the Master’s at Augusta for the first time in 2012, he said, “I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Famously, Watson never received any more golf instruction than from his dad when he was a tyke using a sawed-off club. That’s astonishing because the lefty hits the ball farther than pretty much anybody in the PGA (over 350 yards). And he can put spins on the ball that produce tree-rounding curves that will make you think he has Jedi powers.

To win the 2012 Master’s, Watson hit his ball out of some pine trees in a boomeranging hook that landed on the green only a few feet away from the pin of the second hole. It would seem that whacking that wiffle ball around the house taught him about spin.

Watson donates tons of money to various causes. When Ping fell short in raising money for a Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Watson gave $110,000 to reach the goal. He gave $35,000 to a high school and spoke emotionally about his own low self-esteem and poor grades. He helps earthquake victims and sick kids.

Watson loves Christian rapper LeCrae. “Lecrae said it the best. He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Apparently, that rap has influenced the country boy from the Florida Panhandle. Watson and three other pro golfers formed the rap group “Golf Boys,” which is more antics than lyrics. Their single “Oh Oh Oh” is sponsored by Farmer’s Insurance Group, which gives $1,000 to charity for every 100,000 views.

Watson has his zany moments, cracking jokes on his Twitter account as frequently as he shares the gospel. He recently purchased the Dukes of Hazzard car called the General Lee and outfitted a golf-cart “hover craft” which floats on water. He comically refers to himself in the third person: “a guy from Florida named Bubba.” He has one pink driver shaft among his clubs.

Around his golfing schedule in Los Angeles, he managed to watch Justin Bieber rehearse and give his son an impromptu drum lesson. Incredibly, he also passed a kidney stone. He acted in a bit part for the T.V. show “Girl Meets World.” Is it ADD or does he use distraction to de-stress?

For the win at the Riviera, it all worked.

Photo credits:
Top, Bubba Watson takes a swing. Bottom, Bubba Watson and his wife, Angie, with their first adopted child.

COGIC Charities gives water, baby formula to Flint residents

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

In wake of the ongoing Flint water crisis, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Charities recently announced it is sending water and ready-made baby formula to Flint residents.

According to a press release, several COGIC churches in Flint will serve as distribution centers providing much-needed water and babyFlint Water formula to thousands of Flint residents for the next couple of months or until supplies are depleted.

“There are more than 60 Church of God in Christ congregations in Flint, Mich. When we heard about the crisis, we immediately began to mobilize and strategize how we as an organization could help our members and residents,” said Charles E. Blake, Sr., COGIC presiding bishop. “The leadership of the Church of God in Christ cannot stand silent as the innocent children of Flint and their parents suffer the ravages of poisonous water. We stand with these parents, and with all the residents, to call for the speedy, permanent restoration of clean, drinking water.”

The following COGIC congregations in Flint will distribute water and infant formula free of charge: Greater Holy Temple COGIC, 6702Flint Deliveries North Dort Highway; Cathedral of Faith COGIC, 6031 DuPont St.; International Inspiration Gospel Ministries COGIC, 901 Brown St.; Pentecostal Tabernacle COGIC, 401 Carton St.; Open Door COGIC, 3925 North Term St.; Lively Stone COGIC, 1023 Pettibone St.; Redeeming Grace Ministries, 802 E. Baltimore Blvd.; Greater New Bethel COGIC, 925 W. Atherton Road; Faith Temple COGIC, 5802 Fleming Road; Born Again Ministries COGIC, 3302 Lewis St.; and New Jerusalem COGIC, 617 Stockdale St.

For more information about COGIC Charities’ “Water For Flint,” visit www.cogic.org.

Photos:

Top: COGIC Charities has donated water and ready-made baby formula to residents of Flint, Mich. Courtesy of Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press.

Right: Charity donations were delivered by U-Haul trucks and cars.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.