Believing is Seeing [v51]

MAY 2003

BELIEVING IS SEEING: For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. As far as we know, no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He then went to the top and pushed off two steel balls—a ten-pound and a one-pound. Both landed at the same instant. But the power of belief was so strong, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right!

Often it is said that, “seeing is believing.” Obviously, in the Galileo example, this wasn’t so. Basically, people believe what they want to believe—what they choose to believe—and often times what is convenient to believe. It has been said that faith in God is often more of a moral problem than an intellectual one. This is because many know that if they choose a life of faith in God, there are some things in their life they will have to give up. For these people, it is much more convenient not to believe in God—no matter how much the evidence confirms the existence of God, they refuse to see it.

When explorers from England first went to Australia they discovered some strange and wonderful animals not seen anywhere else in the world. There were animals such as the kangaroo, the koala (which isn’t a bear as it is often called), and the ornithorhynchus. This is a mammal that laid eggs; spent some time in water and some on land; had a broad, flat tail, webbed feet, and a bill similar to a duck (now known as the platypus). When the explorers returned home, nobody would believe their story about the platypus. All felt it was a hoax. Even after they returned to Australia and brought back a pelt from this strange animal, people still felt it was a hoax and refused to believe it was real. Many people say, “I believe only what I see for myself.” That’s not necessarily true either because, by and large, people see and believe only what they want to see and believe—and refuse to see and believe all else—regardless of the evidence.

However, what I see and believe has absolutely no effect on what is. What is. . .IS—whether I see and believe it or not. For instance, I’ve never seen an atom, but I’ve seen (at least in pictures) the evidence of its incredible power and believe it is real. I have been to a nuclear power plant, but didn’t ‘see’ the electric power it was generating—but its electricity is probably powering my computer on which I am typing these thoughts on right now. I can’t see the electricity but whether I believe it is real or not doesn’t affect its reality—it just is. I’ve also never seen God—but I see evidence of His presence and mighty power everywhere I look.

Last month Christians all over the world celebrated Easter—the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, some may say that this never really happened—that it is a legend—or something made up to ‘shore up’ the memory of a “good teacher.”

Well, if Jesus predicted His death and His resurrection and He really did it—He really accomplished it and came back from the dead—wouldn’t that be a pretty solid objective basis for believing in Him?

So, let’s consider this in the light of the kind of evidence that one would use in deciding a legal case or a point of history. For example, do you believe that Abraham Lincoln lived, that he was the sixteenth president or that he gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863? If yes, the question is, why? Why do you believe those statements when you never saw him or talked with him? Were you there in 1863 when he gave that famous speech? Have you ever talked to any of them?

Continuing with the legal train of thought, the ‘witnesses’ would give the story its credibility—in this instance, the ‘writings’ of the people that were there—with the places and the events that check out as being reliable and accurate. I guess it’s like seeing ripples on a pond—even though you didn’t see a stone get thrown in or a fish jump, you could trace the ripples back to where the disturbance on the water took place. That’s the same kind of reasoning one should use in determining if Jesus really rose from the dead.

Now, if the resurrection didn’t happen, how do you explain the apostle’s actions—former cowards that were willingly to face hardship and death for this ‘story’? And while people do die for causes, they only die for causes they believe are just and true causes. Now, if the disciples had been involved in some kind of hoax regarding the resurrection of Christ, they obviously then knew it was a lie. People don’t die for something they ‘know’ to be lie. Chuck Colson said that it was less than 24 hours after they were caught, that the Watergate conspirators starting ratting on each other in order to save their own necks.

(If you would like to investigate resurrection evidence, visit the following link: http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q2_d3_1of10.html or take a look at a few books: “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell or “Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel).

Does it really matter whether the resurrection of Jesus actually happened? I strongly believe it does. If God has never intervened in human history, if He cannot or simply has not, it seems to me we have no way of knowing if the God who created the universe really cares about us, that our lives have any purpose, or that there’s any ultimate accountability for our actions—or that there are any truly transcendent principles to live our lives by or that there’s any hope of us continuing on after this life is over. But, if God has stepped into human history, then the Bible could be true, Jesus could be who he claimed to be, and at the same time, we could have real meaning, purpose and values, forgiveness and hope in our lives.

Our beliefs are remarkably powerful in that they are to our lives what a rudder is to a ship. That is, they control the direction and destiny of our lives. Furthermore, while we don’t always live the life we profess, we always live the life we believe.

For some in difficult circumstances it may be difficult to believe in God and that He has a specific purpose for your life. Nevertheless, we still can believe in God by choice as exemplified by a World War II prisoner of war who wrote on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany: “I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining; I believe in love, even when I feel it not; I believe in God even when He is silent.”

The good news about beliefs is that we get to choose them. In so doing we choose the direction and destiny of our life. Thus, I submit that we all need to choose our beliefs carefully and base them on reality—and not on that which is convenient, or on false teaching or faulty perceptions from the past.

Another powerful thing about beliefs is that they determine not only the destiny of our present life, but also our relationship to God and our destiny for the life to come. God’s ‘love letter’ to us, the Bible, says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]. It also says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved [for the life to come] [Acts 16:31].

The implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ must be considered honestly. Everything depends on it. Here is what the Apostle Paul said:

“[God] commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” [Acts 17:30-31].

According to the Bible, the eternal destiny of every human is at stake. Because of what Jesus did, each of us has two choices. We can live forever under God’s blessing in heaven, or we can be separated from Him eternally in the torment of hell. It all depends on our response to Jesus’ resurrection.

Most of us ‘see and believe’ because we want and choose to. But this is not a ‘blind’ belief—there is a tremendous amount of evidence for those who will look at it in an unbiased manner. And with God, as with many things in life, when I choose to believe in Him, the ‘eyes’ of my understanding are opened and an amazing thing happens—believing is seeing.

If you haven’t made a decision about Jesus, may I encourage you to investigate the evidence. Don’t put it off or ‘run away’ from making your determination. Ask God to ‘rescue’ you from your unbelief. If you honestly seek Him, He will show Himself to you—in a way that will ‘speak’ to you directly!

This will be the greatest life decision you could ever make. Remember, too, that beliefs are only wishes until we act on them!

[Excerpts from: Dick Innes; Bill Kraftson]

Blessings…. Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v51) for MAY 2003  If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net

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RESURRECTION?  PROVE IT TO ME
“Raised from the dead? Sure. Right. And I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.”

That’s how “Doubting” Thomas might have responded if he had lived in the 1990s. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” He’d seen dead people before. And Jesus was dead. He sounds like sophisticated rationalists of the Twentieth Century. “It isn’t plausible,” they would contend. “It didn’t happen.”

But what if it did happen? Thomas was convinced when Jesus appeared to him, reached out his hands to Thomas, and said, “Put your finger here.”

Thomas dropped to his knees. “My Lord and my God!”

It was self-hypnosis, you counter. The disciples wanted to believe that their Lord was not dead, so they just invented it out of whole cloth. Really? Let’s look at some of the evidence.

1. First, Jesus’ body was missing. If the Jews could have found it, they could have stilled the preaching of Jesus’ resurrection that filled Jerusalem. But they could not.

2. Next, the body wasn’t stolen. The Romans had no motive. The Jews had no motive. But, you say, the disciples stole it. There is the matter of the Roman guards, and the disciples’ initial disbelief when the women brought them the news early that Easter morning. This brings me to my third point.

3. If the disciples had stolen the body, you wouldn’t expect them to risk their lives. People don’t die for what they know is not true. But the disciples put their lives on the line, and nearly all were eventually martyred for their faith. They certainly believed it.

4. Followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands soon after Jesus’ resurrection. They believed it was true.

5. Even contemporary documents refer to the event. Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny contain references to Jesus. Jewish historian Josephus writes about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. They knew something had happened.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is actually more plausible than any other explanation. That’s why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. That’s why we celebrate.

Jesus’ resurrection means that death is not the end. That though my body may lie mouldering in the ground, Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, we Christians believe, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead.

And since Jesus is not dead, people can encounter him today. You can know him through a personal relationship. I could point to lots of people who can testify what Jesus has done in their lives to bring them from the brink of disaster to peace and meaning and joy. He changes people for good.

If you’re not sure can’t really say you’ve met this risen Jesus, this Easter Sunday why don’t you slip into church to seek him. And perhaps in the midst of our celebration, you’ll find him for yourself.

He’s alive…that’s what Easter is all about!  [Dr. Ralph F. Wilson]

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YOU CAN BELIEVE IT
In 1957, Lieutenant David Steeves walked out of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared. He told an unbelievable tale of how he had lived in a snowy wilderness after parachuting from his disabled plane. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead. When further search failed to turn up the wreckage, a hoax was suspected and Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. More than 20 years later, however, his story was confirmed when a troop of Boy Scouts discovered the wreckage of his plane.

Another ‘survival story’ from centuries ago is still controversial. A man by the name of Jesus Christ walked out of the Judean wilderness making claims a lot of people found difficult to believe. He was later executed and pronounced dead. But 3 days later He showed up alive. And there have been skeptics ever since.

But consider the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. His integrity is well founded. Prophets foretold His coming. Miracles supported His deity. Eyewitnesses verified His resurrection. And today the Holy Spirit confirms to anyone who is seeking to know the truth that Jesus is alive.

Yes, you can believe it! Do You?
[Mart De Haan II]

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THE GREATEST F-E-A-T IN HISTORY
Through the resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers with Buddha, Mohammed, or any other founder of a world religion. They died and are still dead, but Christ is risen. As someone well said, the resurrection is the very capstone in the arch of Christianity; if it is removed, all else crumbles.

Fact. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an undeniable fact of history. and that’s not just anyone’s opinion. That was the opinion of Dr. Simon Greenleaf, who was the greatest authority on legal evidence of the nineteenth century. He was also the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard and was directly responsible for the school’s rise to eminence among American law schools. After being goaded by his students into examining the evidence for the resurrection, Greenleaf suggested that any cross-examination of the eye-witness testimonies recorded in Scripture would result in “an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”

Empty tomb. Even the enemies of Christ had to admit that the tomb was empty. The record shows that they went so far as to attempt to bribe the guards to say the body had been stolen. If the Jewish leaders had stolen the body, they could have later openly displayed it to prove that Jesus had not risen from the dead. Although many flawed theories have been concocted over the years, the fact of the empty tomb has never been refuted.

Appearances. He appeared to more than 500 witnesses at a single time. He also appeared to many other people, providing “many convincing proofs” of His resurrection. Christ in His resurrection body was even touched on two occasions, and He challenged the disciples and Thomas to feel His wounds.

Transformation. Before the resurrection, they might best have been characterized as cowards. After the resurrection, they were transformed into lions of faith. Despite intense persecution and the threat of cruel deaths, they testified to the truth of the resurrection. While it is conceivable that some might die for what they believe to be the truth, it is inconceivable that so many would die for what they knew to be false. As Greenleaf put it, “If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error…If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for this fabrication.”

Not only did the resurrection of Christ transform the disciples from cowards into lions of faith, but His resurrection also continues to transform lives today. Because Christ lives, the Scriptures says, we will live also. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, our bodies shall be transformed into resurrected bodies like His resurrected body. Indeed, the evidence for Christ’s resurrection is so overwhelming that no one can examine it with an open mind without becoming convinced of its truth.  [Excerpted–Hank Hanegraaff (www.equip.org)]

[Ed. There are many good sources of “evidence” available–some authors include Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, D. James Kennedy, and Ravi Zacharias, and, of course, Hank Hanegraaff]

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BRAIN TEASERS

1.  How can you arrange for two people to stand on the same piece of newspaper and yet be unable to touch each other without stepping off the newspaper?

2.  How many 3-cent stamps are there in a dozen?

3.  A rope ladder hangs over the side of a ship.  The rungs are one foot apart and the ladder is 12 feet long.  The tide is rising at four inches an hour.  How long will it take before the first four rungs of the ladder are underwater?

4.  Which would you rather have, a trunk full of nickels or a trunk half full of dimes?

5.  Steve has three piles of sand and Mike has four piles of sand. If they put them all together, how many do they have?

6.  In which sport are the shoes made entirely of metal?

7.  If the Vice President of the United States should die, who would be President?

8.  How can you throw a golf ball with all your might and–without hitting a wall or any other obstruction–have the ball stop and come right back to you?

9.  Find the English word that can be formed from all these letters: PNLLEEEESSSSS

[Answers at the end of the newsletter]

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Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe .
[St Augustine]

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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A continuous fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued,  “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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The famous Olympic skier Picabo Street is not just an athlete, she is a nurse. She currently works at the Intensive Care Unit of a large metropolitan hospital.

She is not permitted to answer the telephone, however, as it caused simply too much confusion—when she would answer the phone she would say, “Picabo, ICU.”

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THE CARROT TEST
Do the following exercise—guaranteed to raise an eyebrow.

There’s no trick or surprise. Just follow these instructions, and answer the questions one at a time and as quickly as you can! Again, as quickly as you can but don’t advance until you’ve done each of them.

Now, arrow down (but not too fast, you might miss something).

Think of a number from 1 to 10.

Multiply that number by 9.

If the number is a 2-digit number, add the digits together.

Now subtract 5.

Determine which letter in the alphabet corresponds to the number you ended
up with (example: 1=a, 2=b, 3=c, etc.).

Think of a country that starts with that letter.

Remember the last letter in the name of that country.

Think of the name of an animal that starts with that letter.

Are you thinking of Kangaroos and Denmark?

If not, you’re among the 2% of the population whose minds are different enough to think of something else.

Freaky, huh?

[Mike Atkinson]

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ANSWERS TO THE BRAIN TEASERS:

1.  Slide the newspaper half way under a closed door and ask the two people to stand on the bit of newspaper on their side of the door.

2.  There are twelve (not four).

3.  Actually, the ladder will rise with the ship!

4.  Dimes are smaller than nickels, so choose the dimes!

5.  If they put them all together, there will be one pile.

6.  Horse racing.

7.  The President.

8.  Throw the ball straight up.

9. Sleeplessness

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DEEP THOUGHT: Daylight Savings Time: Why are they saving it and where do they keep it? [Mike Atkinson]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls”  [1 Peter 1:7-9].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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