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Harry Potter and the Empty Tomb

How would you feel if you were to find out that the resurrection of Jesus was somehow a hoax, or at least a misunderstanding?

In his book, Philosophia Christi, Gary R. Habermas responds to some “suggested alternative scenarios” posed by Dale Allison concerning Jesus’s resurrection. You can read part of the response at www.garyhabermas.com, but for now, here’s a quick look at some of those alternative scenarios:

Veridical Apparitions—This is just a fancy way of saying that what everyone witnessed was a ghost. And while there are some intriguing biblical examples of apparitions as well as some global fascination with ghosts (and thus many claims of having seen one or more), none of these experiences, real or imagined, have the qualities associated with Jesus’ post resurrection appearances.

Sorcery
—Yes, you read correctly. Some have suggested that a sorcerer/necromancer stole Jesus’ body. Given the fact that Egypt’s sorcerers were able to perform some pretty nifty tricks (albeit inferior compared to those of Moses), the theory does make for a riveting fictional plot for, say, a new Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Empty Tomb, anyone?).

The Truly Shocking—Both Allison and Habermas find these theories comical, but they are, nonetheless, actual theories. First, there’s the idea that Jesus’ dead body simply turned to dust and blew away. Another states that an aftershock from the Crucifixion earthquake opened up a crack in the earth and swallowed Jesus’ body, then resealed itself without a trace. And let’s not forget those who say aliens abducted Jesus’ corpse, inserted a new brain, and created a “better body” for Him.

Despite the foolishness of these theories, they do raise an important question: Is the Resurrection story, as presented in God’s Word, critical to the Christian faith? If someone were to say to you, “What does it matter” how would you respond?

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Must Read: A Collection of Easter Thoughts from Twitter & Facebook

Here are some of the best thoughts I've run across. May you be as challenged, stretched, and inspired as I have been.

Joe Long (via Facebook):
"And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13: 32-33).

Herod is a "fox", who thinks he's king of his own kingdom and making the important decisions and scheming the schemes for himself, just as we think we're "in charge" and doing important things...but the Lord has him in derision. "Tell him he can kill me when I have TIME to let him kill me; I'm busy right now." (Elsewhere He declares, "I lay down (my life) myself; no man takes it from me.")

"Fox" is also a bit sarcastic; it's more "he thinks he's pretty slick", than any suggestion that he really is.

Pharisees were the ones warning Christ of the death plot. They get a bad rap - but many of the greatest leaders of the Church were drawn from among the Pharisees. Pharisees were serious people, scholars and "seekers", prone to grievous errors but also sometimes profound insights - and Jesus loved them enough to confront and chasten them, over and over and over again.

The irony, indeed the black humor, of vs. 23 is not what we expect from the blue-eyed, curly haired character from the Sunday School paintings, who's always holding a lamb. "I've got three days of hard travel ahead, but after all, prophets HAVE to be martyred in Jersualem!" That's the Man I want to follow - not the smiley cartoon caricature

Jonathan Grubbs (via Facebook):

When Jesus said, "It is finished!" on the cross, it wasn't simply a statement referring to the end of His suffering or the end of his life. The Greek word Jesus spoke here is tetelestai, a legal term of His time that means "paid in full." The payment that was required for the sins of the world past, present and future was "paid in full" by Jesus that day on the cross!

James P Bowers (via Twitter):

The darkness before the dawn.

Athena Buckner Davis (via Facebook):

This night must've been the darkest night... so full of fear and emptiness... so devoid of hope... I wonder what it must've felt like for them, not knowing that Sunday was coming? I wonder how many in the world right now feel that way? I wonder why we aren't falling over ourselves to tell them about Sunday?

Leonard Sweet (via Twitter):

Holy Saturday, aka “the longest day,” is when Jesus’ mission moves from the tomb into dark womb of the earth.

Rob Alderman (via Facebook):

Death took a bite and said, "Hey... There's something different about this guy. I suddenly don't feel so good."

Kevin Trowbridge (via Twitter):

Will you follow or unfollow? Now is the time to decide.

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King James

Basketball fans know him as “King James.”

Lebron James was already being hailed as a future NBA superstar when he was a sophomore in high school. At age 18 he signed a contract with Nike and then became the number one draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers straight out of high school. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2003 and led the Cavs to consecutive NBA playoffs from 2006 to 2010. And then came the time to exercise his free agency. That’s when all Hades broke loose in the King James world. BleacherReport.com columnist Aaron Green probably summarized it best for Cavs fans everywhere:
“For months, I had anticipated an emotional press conference where James would say how much he loved Cleveland and the Cavaliers organization. He would tell Cavs fans everywhere that he came to Cleveland intending to bring the city its highly sought-after title, and he’s not going anywhere until that’s accomplished.”
There was a press conference. But it wasn’t at all what Cavs fans had expected. They were hoping that King James would be the NBA savior who pulled them out of a 46-year drought. Instead, James announced on national TV, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat . . . I feel like it’s going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and . . . to win championships.”

Ouch. To be fair, “saving” the Cavs was a tough cross to take up for a rising superstar, but James did it. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the courage or motivation to stick with it until the end. Given the chance, James chose to come down from that cross and take what many fans considered to be the easy way out by signing with the Miami Heat.

Whether you are a basketball fan or not, I’d like to hear your opinion on the decision by Lebron James: Do you think he made the right move? More importantly, what crosses have you had to bear in your own life (could be “good” or “bad” crosses)? Were you able to bear them until the end, or did you find an easier way out?

Sometimes the crosses we bear are both unhelpful and fully deserved. Sometimes they are neither. I hope you've taken the time to reconsider the significance of the cross of Christ and of His willingness to endure that cross for us all.

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A Toothless Gospel

Not long ago I found myself in the middle of a difficult conversation with a very dear friend. The issue had to do with choices. My friend—against advice, good judgment, scriptural admonition, and old-fashioned pleading—had chosen to make some lifestyle changes that were clearly out of harmony with God’s Word. Well, I say “clearly”, but for my friend, things were no longer clear. His words to me were simple: “I’ve made my peace with God over this issue. I believe He loves me anyway, so I’ve chosen to stay on this path.”

I was heartbroken. I tried every argument I could think of to help my friend see the error of his ways. But it didn’t matter. Biblical arguments were met with less enthusiasm than a telemarketer’s phone call on a lazy afternoon. He had convinced himself that God was not concerned with the choices he made and that all that mattered was that he still believed in God and still believed God loved Him.

How is it that we, as the body of Christ, have come to trust so completely in a toothless gospel where choices lack consequences? How is it that our eyes have become so blind and our ears so deaf to the dual reality of truth and love? I thought long and hard about these questions in the days following my conversation with my friend. Honestly, I simply don’t have any clear or easy answers for these kinds of dilemmas.

Have you ever had one of those “difficult conversations” in which you couldn’t seem to help the other person see the truth (not an argument, but a genuine plea for caution and redirection)? Have you typically found it easy to balance the dual reality of truth and love, or does it seem that they are often at odds with one another?

In the end, I simply have to echo the heart of Joshua when he declared to the Israelites that, regardless of how others choose to live their lives, “I and my family will worship the Lord” (24:15). It may not always be easy or popular, but at some point, we all must make that choice, and the consequences reach all the way into eternity itself.

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What's For Dinner?

I have a friend who is a single male in his late forties. Career-wise, he’s quite successful. And his passion for Christ and genuine love for others is obvious after only a few minutes in conversation. But even more striking is his story of how he found a level of contentment that many single adults never find. The answer was food.

My friend works with singles and young adults in his local congregation. Because of his compassion, he often found that groups of young adults would “drop by” his house and wind up hanging out on any given night of the week. This made for plenty of interesting and entertaining moments, but it also made for quite a bit of stress and chaos. Then one night, my friend decided that this group of twenty–somethings could probably use a real, home-cooked meal. He went to the grocery store, filled his cart, and came back to prepare a meal. Those who felt comfortable doing so chipped in to help with preparations. The event was magical. My friend and his ten visitors shared a meal together, but somehow, they shared something more. They shared stories. They shared dreams. They shared life. And they decided soon after that they should do it all again sometime soon.

That was many months ago. Now this “family dinner” is the highlight of the week and everyone pitches in to buy and prepare food. As word spreads, more and more people are anxious to get in on the deal. Why? I think Miriam Weinstein, author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals, has the answer: “Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us. It encloses us and, for a brief time, strengthens the bonds that connect us with other members of our self-defined clan, shutting out the rest of the world.”

So, did you and your family have regular family meals as you were growing up? If so, what do you remember most about those times? In your experience, what is it about sharing a meal that typically makes it such an enjoyable bonding experience?

Christ often used mealtime as ministry time during His brief time on earth. Even in His stories, meals often played a big role. How would your relationships be different if you adopted this method and mentality?

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