Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy 2 Conspiracy Theory – noun

1. a theory that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization; a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a group.

2. the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.

People tend to become fascinated with conspiracy theories. A quick search in IMDb found 230 movie or show titles named or containing the words “conspiracy theory”. The idea that there may be covert groups or secret plots directing the larger picture seem to be irresistibly captivating. Perhaps the most famous contemporary conspiracy theory involves a place called Area 51 and the supposed extraterrestrial life secretly studied there by the US government. And there certainly is no shortage of other conspiracy theories floating around these days.

I would put forth the idea that the greatest conspiracy theory of all history surrounds the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an historic fact that Jesus Christ was a real person who lived, breathed, and walked the face of the Earth. While some may argue the details, few would argue the basic fact of his existence. The evidence is overwhelming and would stand up in any court of law. But when it comes to his resurrection from the dead, there have been conspiracy theories since day one. Let’s take a look at three of the most well-known:

The Swoon Theory

The swoon theory proposes that Jesus never really died on the cross. Rather, after being flogged by highly-trained Roman soldiers, having a crown of thorns twisted around his head, being beaten by the same soldiers, then nailed to the cross through both wrists and feet, and then stabbed in the side by a sword, Jesus merely swooned (fainted). In the subsequent cool dampness of the tomb he regained his energy, got up and out of his grave clothes, pushed the stone aside and walked away.

The problems with this theory are numerous, but let me point out, a few of the more obvious ones. If you have seen the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ, then you saw a decidedly graphic portrayal of the flogging Jesus endured. But what is shown in the film is not nearly as graphic as the actual thing. Roman soldiers used a metal tipped whip that tore at the flesh right down to the bone. Flogging, or scourging, tore flesh, ripped at muscle tissue, and resulted in almost intolerable pain and profuse bleeding. Many people didn’t survive.

But Jesus did survive, and then was beaten, nailed to a cross on which he was hung for hours, and finally stabbed in the side with a sword. Even if he had not died, no person with injuries so numerous and severe would have the strength to roll away a stone of the type used to seal graves in those days, overcome at least three trained Roman soldiers, and simply walk away to meet up with his disciples (a walk of about seven miles, by the way). I think we can all agree that the swoon theory is preposterous at best.

The Hallucination Theory

This theory, quite simply, proposes that all of Christ’s post crucifixion appearances were simple hallucinations and thus can be dismissed. The problem with this theory is that Jesus appeared to many people, in many places, over an extended period of time, and he appeared to multiple people at the same time. Reference the following passage:

Mark 16:11-14 – But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.

Since so many people saw and interacted with Jesus in so many locations over such a period of time, we can be sure these were not hallucinations. And of further significance is the lack of recorded contradiction of the claims. With so many people claiming to have seen, conversed with, eaten with, and examined the risen Christ, there surely would be some documented contradictions. Simply put, the hallucination theory is only slightly less preposterous than the swoon theory.

The Impersonation Theory

This is the proposition that the appearances were not really Jesus at all, but someone impersonating him. Proponents of this theory say it is evident because in some cases they did not recognize him at first (or at all). But this theory ignores the fact that the disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection in the first place and would have been hard to convince unless it was really Jesus, as was the case with Thomas. Further, it would have been impossible to impersonate Christ’s wounds yet this was Jesus’ proof to Thomas that it was really Him:

John 20:24-28 – One of the twelve disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”.

Lastly, the disciples had traveled with the Lord for three years, during that period they were intimately close to him, and it is incredible to think that anyone could have gotten away with a convincing impersonation (especially given their reluctance to believe). Only the real resurrected Jesus could have changed their hearts and caused them to become relentless in their evangelistic efforts. So, indeed, the impersonation theory is also preposterous.

In the just released movie, Risen, Joseph Fiennes’ character, Clavius, is charged by Pontius Pilate with the task of finding Jesus’ missing body and bringing it forth to disprove the rumors of the resurrected Messiah. Unable to find a body despite in-depth interrogations and thorough searches, Clavius is unsuccessful in his quest, becomes deeply influenced by the disciples’ faith, and eventually begins to believe. What about you?

Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29) The evidence strongly supports the truth of the Gospel accounts. Jesus was real, his bodily death was certain, and his resurrection is no conspiracy theory – he truly is our resurrected Lord and Savior. Will today be the day that you examine the facts and come to believe?

God bless you.

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Everybody Hurts Sometimes

hurt man  When the band REM sang these words they were referring to the fact that everybody “gets hurt” or “feels hurt” sometimes. In this blog, I am taking a bit of a different track – everybody “hurts someone” at some time or another. In other words, everyone does the hurting sometimes. Now, if you are a perfect human being who has never caused another pain, who has never inflicted an emotional or physical wound on another person, you can stop reading right now. For the rest of us, perhaps we should take a closer look at the subject.

It’s conceivably too easy to think of the ways we might hurt another person. After all, as REM was kind enough to point out in their song, we’ve all been hurt, we all know what pain feels like. There’s always physical pain, perhaps some of us have been abused and know all too well the reality of physical torment, and then there’s emotional pain, which we have all endured. But is it not also true that we have at times been the inflictor as well? Perhaps it was a lie we told, or a break up with a significant other, or some gossip we shared, or a friend we turned our back on in a time of need. Or maybe a stranger we could have helped but chose not to. The list of ways we might cause hurt is long, indeed.

The guiding principle, or commandment, from God is that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus called this one of the two most important commandments (Matthew 22:39), teaching that this is one of the two commandments upon which all others hang. Yet if you have read this far you know as well as I do that we are guilty of being unloving from time to time. So what are we to do? Is there hope for us?

The Bible is brimming with stories of people who have hurt others. Let’s take a quick look at a few and see if there is hope for us “hurters”. We’ll start with Matthew, otherwise known as Levi. He was a tax collector, but back then tax collectors were not mere office workers at the IRS. Hardly. Tax collectors in New Testament times were typically corrupt and sometimes brutal instruments of the Roman empire who took full advantage of the power they were given, often collecting more than was actually required and inflicting brutal consequences on those who couldn’t pay. It was not uncommon for property to be seized, children to be taken, and men to be imprisoned for failure to pay the amount in demand.

Tax collectors were so poorly thought of that the Jewish leaders accused Jesus when he dined with them (Matthew 9:11). But Jesus merely responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) Levi the despised tax collector went on to become Matthew, one of the twelve disciples, Jesus’ closest followers. He heeded the call to follow Jesus and was redeemed.

Next let’s look at David. He wasn’t just king of Israel; He was God’s chosen king; it was through his bloodline that Jesus the Messiah would be born. God called David a man after his own heart. Surely David wouldn’t ever hurt anyone, right? Wrong. Upon seeing a beautiful, married woman named Bathsheba, David failed to control his lustful thoughts and he had an affair with her. And she became pregnant. And to cover up his “indiscretion” David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, a faithful member of Israel’s military (who refused the comfort of a night with his own wife while his comrades were still in battle) killed. King David, the man after God’s own heart, was also an adulterer and a murderer. But he eventually repented of his wrongs (see Psalm 51) and experienced God’s forgiveness.

And then there’s Paul, the Apostle who wrote most of the new testament. Paul was originally known as “Saul.” Saul hunted Christians and punished them, often brutally, in an attempt to stop the Christian church from ever getting off the ground. He hurt people – and even called himself the worst of sinners. Here’s what happened, in his own words: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1Timothy 1:13-16)

I can tell you that I identify strongly with Paul. As I look back on my life, decisions I made, things I did, lies I told – maybe they didn’t seem all that much when I was doing them and I did them in ignorance and unbelief – but I now understand the pain I inflicted and the consequences of my actions and I realize that I stand firmly among the worst of sinners. Have you ever felt that way yourself? Has the impact of something you’ve done or a hurt you’ve caused suddenly become clear to you? Have you felt the guilt of your actions?

Just like Matthew, David, and Paul, there is mercy and grace available to us through Christ Jesus. He came into this world for the very purpose of making his grace available to us. All we need to do is to admit our wrong and ask for his forgiveness, just like David does in Psalm 51, and we can be free of our guilt and the deception in which we have lived. Jesus said, “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” (John 8:36) and Paul taught us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

We have all hurt people. It may have seemed small at the time but we eventually come to see how our behavior caused harm to others. We have all broken the commandment to love others as we love ourselves. But through Christ we can be forgiven. Won’t you ask for His forgiveness today? To find out more, feel free to drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. We’d love to help!

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U Mad?

Angry Face  A while back, a member of my family was at dinner with a coworker when the coworker shared his religious beliefs with her. I was not there, and did not hear the conversation, but judging from her Facebook post she was very angry about the whole thing. Then just last week, someone I work with came in complaining about a similar encounter. Apparently she had been shopping at the Mall of America when a Christian approached her and shared the Gospel message. She was quite upset about it.

Now I was not there to observe either of these encounters, so it is hard to form much of an opinion about them specifically, but having observed the angry responses from my relative and my coworker naturally raises my curiosity about them. Perhaps the coworker sharing his faith or the Mall of America Christian made poor presentations of the Gospel message, thus eliciting such indignation, but could there be more to it than that? After all, it’s not uncommon for the Gospel message to provoke an angry retort.

So why do people get so angry when the Gospel message is presented? After all, Jesus is God incarnate, who gave up his heavenly position to dwell among us, to experience life in a sinful world the same way we do, to teach us and to heal us, and then to die a horrifyingly brutal death for us that we might be redeemed for an eternal life of pure happiness and contentment. As humans we break God’s laws every day, we intuitively know we are guilty, yet Jesus took the penalty for us so we might be spared. That is the ultimate act of unconditional love, yet people get angry when we talk to them about Jesus. Anger hardly seems the correct response to such acts of love.

There are probably multiple reasons for the anger. A poor presentation of the Gospel message, one that is delivered in a judgmental tone, that comes across as disrespectful or condemning, probably fails to capture the true love of Christ that is inherent in the real Gospel. To anyone who has heard the Gospel presented in such a way I will take this opportunity to sincerely apologize. The only time Jesus presented any message in a harsh tone was when he was speaking to religious leaders about their hypocrisy. For Christians, our mission, as assigned by Jesus himself, is to go into all the world and make disciples. If we follow his example, he always called sin out for the wrong that it is, but he presented the truth in a compassionate manner that was winsome and understanding, with a clear directive toward repentance and change.

But I don’t think the sole reason for such angry reactions to the Gospel is poor presentation of the message. I think we might see another reason for the ill-tempered reception of the message in John 3:19-20: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

Now, no one wants to think that their actions are evil, but in this case evil simply means that which causes pain or sorrow. The original Greek word used in verse 19 is ponéros and, in verse 20, the Greek word used is phaulos, which primarily denotes that which is trivial, slight, common, or bad. In other words, the “evil” John referred to in these verses isn’t necessarily limited to murder, stealing, rape, or other blatant acts that we all can easily call sin. Rather, he is referring also to those more common sins that many of us like to justify in ourselves. Things like drunkenness, sexual immorality, gossip, foul language, selfish ambition, and the pursuit of possessions are all included. Since people tend to rationalize their behaviors, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that when we share the Gospel we shine light on sin and that’s where a lot of the anger comes from.

People do not like to be told there are moral absolutes. And our sinful desires seem so innocuous at times that it is easy to defend our behavior. After all, if it “feels right” it must be OK, right? I have to admit to being no stranger to this line of thinking (for I, too, am a sinner). But our feelings can’t make something right or wrong. In fact, relying on our feelings can be conspicuously self-deceptive. In Proverbs 12:15 we read, “The way of fools seems right to them” and in Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The reality is that, much like our parents set rules for us because they loved us so much, it is another evidence of God’s love for us that He has established moral absolutes – rules that are meant for our own good.

But we like to legitimize our behavior so when the truth is pointed out, we get mad. The Apostle Paul taught us in Romans 1:19-20: “…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” In other words, we may justify our behaviors, we may deny the existence of absolute truth, but the fact remains that each of us inherently knows God is real and, therefore, we are without excuse.

Which means we really, really need a savior. And that’s where Jesus comes in. In an astounding act of pure and selfless love He gave His all that we might live. And the truth is, He loves you even if that fact makes you angry!

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