Monday, July 7, 2014

God's Not Dead!

I am up at camp this week, teaching a bunch of kids and teens. I'll be posting some of what I'll be sharing with them. Pray for me and my whole team as we serve.

I think there are a couple of reasons to believe anyone. First, if what they are saying is true. Second, if they can back it up. So how do you prove that something someone says is true? Wouldn’t they have to tell you what they are going to do ahead of time and then actually do it?

If your mom said she was going to make you lunch in a half an hour, you could start looking at the clock. But if an hour passed and still you had no lunch, you would know 2 things. First, now you’re really hungry. Second, your mom is a liar.

Or, you might come to find out that your mom didn’t have any peanut butter or jelly in the house. So, even though she wanted lunch to be true, she had no power to actually make it happen.

So now let’s apply this to Jesus. I can tell you that He told people He was God. When they asked for proof, He told them if they killed Him, He would rise again from the dead. He said He would do it in 3 days! Well, how do you prove this? Let’s kill Him and see if He actually rises from the dead!

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. ~1 Corinthians 15
Let’s be clear about this. Paul was writing that Jesus rose from the dead and that more than 500 people saw it. This isn’t me saying I saw a flying unicorn, but he flew away, so you’ll just have to believe me. This is like saying I saw a flying unicorn and so did 500 other people. You can ask any one of them and they will tell you it’s true.

With the story of Jesus rising from the dead, these 500 people said, ‘Even if you threaten to hurt us, and kill us, we will stand by this truth. We saw Jesus alive!’

But Jesus wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead. Let’s talk about some of these other people who rose from the dead.

1 Kings 17 - Elijah and the Widow.
There was a famine in the land. God tells Elijah to go and live with a widow and her son. A widow is someone whose husband has died. She doesn’t have a lot of money. In fact, when Elijah asks for some food and water, this widow tells Elijah, ‘Actually, I was about to make some bread for my son and I. We were going to eat it…and then die.’

She’s telling Elijah they don’t have enough food left. But Elijah tells her, ‘That’s nice. But could you make me some first?’ She does and God starts providing enough food for them every day.

But then one day her son dies and the widow gets really angry with Elijah. So Elijah takes the boy and goes to pray for him. He even lays on him a few times and the boy comes back to life.

2 Kings 4 - Elisha and the Shunammite's Son.
There was another story of a woman and her husband who had no children. Another prophet, Elisha, would stop by whenever he travelled that way. So this woman and her husband built him a guest room. Elisha wanted to thank them, so he told the woman she would have a son. She replied, ‘Don’t get my hopes up.’ But Elisha said it would be done by the power of God. Sure enough, this couple had a son.

Several years later, the boy dies. The woman is very upset with Elisha and reminds him that she didn’t ask for a child. But Elisha goes in and prays for the boy and lays on him and this boy rises from the dead.

2 Kings 13:20-21 –
Elisha was a pretty special prophet. He is recorded as doing a lot of miracles while he is alive. But eventually he died. When people died back then, they would place their bones in a cave.

We then have a story about how these guys from Moab would come to Israel and just steal a lot of stuff. One time, while they were coming to steal, some Israelites were burying a friend who had died. But they saw the raiders coming, so they wanted to get away quickly. So instead of taking their time, they just took their friend’s dead body and chucked it in a cave. Then they took off running. It just so happened to be the same cave that Elisha was buried in. When this dead guy’s body touched Elisha’s bones, the dead guy comes back to life.

Elisha's dead body raises another dead guy to life! Can you imagine the guy who died and how he reacted? Imagine waking up next to a dead body. I imagine he freaked out and started running as fast as he could from the cave. In fact, I imagine he ran so fast, he probably passed his friends, who were running from the raiders!

Then we have some in the New Testament.

Acts 9:32-43 - Peter raises Tabitha
There was this lady named Tabitha who was known to help people. She died. But a bunch of her women friends decided that wasn’t okay. So they sent for Peter, who was doing some healing nearby. Guys, I want you to imagine a room full of crying women. They’re showing Peter the stuff Tabitha made to help people. And they’re crying. A room full of crying women. Peter, like any guy, decides he’s heard enough. ‘Okay, okay, I’ll wake her up. Just stop crying!’ He throws all the women out of the room, looks at Tabitha and tells her to get up. She does.

Acts 20 - Paul and Eutychus.
I love this story because Paul was a preacher. He was leaving the next day, so he decided just to preach for a long, long time. They were on the second floor of a house. It was well past bedtime and this one guy, named Eutychus, was sitting in an open window. Apparently Paul wasn’t very interesting, because Eutychus fell out of the window and died. But Paul wasn’t done preaching, so he goes down, raises Eutychus up from the dead, and then goes on to continue preaching until morning! Are you kidding me?

Then there are the people Jesus raised from the dead. I want you to imagine these stories with me. These people had seen Jesus do amazing things (make food out of nothing, walk on water, heal major illnesses) so some people took it one step further and asked if He could raise people from the dead.

Jairus's daughter: Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43;Luke 8:40-56
We have a story of Jesus being called to help a sick girl. Along the way, it appears that Jesus gets distracted by a sick older woman, who had been bleeding for 12 years. Here’s what happened;

Jesus and His disciples are walking amongst a huge crowd and there is no room to swing your arms without hitting people. This woman sneaks up on Jesus and just touches His cloak, hoping that will heal her. It does! But Jesus feels some power go out. So He healed this woman without even talking to her. But Jesus stops and looks around, and asks who touched Him.

His disciples think He’s crazy, because everyone is touching Him. It’s a crowd! But Jesus insists He knows someone touched Him with purpose. So the woman admits it.

While Jesus and this woman are talking, the family of the sick girl come by and tell Jesus the girl died. They don’t need Him to come over, because nothing can be done about death.

Jesus says, “Bah! Come on boys!” He gets to their house and says the girl is only asleep. When everyone laughs at Him, He kicks them out. Then He raises the girl back from the dead and gives her back to her family.

Lazarus: John 11:1-44. 
Perhaps one of the most famous resurrection stories is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been sick and then dead for 4 days when Jesus arrives. Jesus tells them to remove the stone. Before they obey, they argue. “Dude, Jesus, the body is going to smell.” But Jesus insists and so they obey. Jesus calls out and tells Lazarus to come out. Sure enough, Lazarus comes walking out!

Besides the smell, can you picture the looks on everybody’s faces there? ‘That dead guy is walking! It’s a zombie apocalypse!’

There are also modern stories of people rising from the dead. I read of a 95-year old Chinese woman who had died. The custom was to let the body sit in a coffin for a few days before the funeral. The day before the burial, her neighbor went to check on the coffin, and the lady was gone. "I slept for a long time," she reportedly told her fellow villagers. "After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat." Apparently, a doctor said, the tradition of waiting days before burial saved her. Another custom — the ritual burning all of a dead person's possessions — did not work in her favor.

A South African man in his 60s passed out after an asthma attack last July. Thinking him dead, his grieving family called a private funeral company, instead of paramedics. After spending 21 hours in a refrigerated morgue, the man woke up surrounded by corpses and started to scream. Two workers heard the noises and panicked. "They thought it was a ghost," said Sizwe Kupelo, spokesman for the local health department, "and they ran for their lives." The entire mortuary team returned together later and freed the undead man.

A Venezuelan man, Carlos Camejo, was declared dead after a highway accident in 2007. Before his wife could arrive to identify the body, medical examiners began an autopsy. Camejo who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began an autopsy. They cut into his face, and were surprised as fresh blood poured out. They quickly started sewing the incision, and Camejo regained consciousness. "I woke up because the pain was unbearable," Camejo told a local newspaper. When his wife arrived to identify him, she found Camejo waiting for her in the corridor.

These stories are all amazing. And they are true. But none of these stories tops a man raising Himself from the dead. In every story, God worked through some man to raise another person up from the dead. But Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Only God can do that!

So, when we have a guy who raised Himself from the dead, we should probably go back and listen to what He says we should be doing. When someone can control life and death, it might be a good idea to listen to what He says.

Jesus controls life and death. And He told us the most important rule was to love God and to love people. God’s not dead!

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