Troubleshooting Truth – Step 3 Interview the Owner

Over my many years of troubleshooting in the electrical field, one of the first things I would do would be to interview the owner. I could glean a lot of information that could possibly shorten the repair process. “Where were you at when it happened?” “Did you do anything right before the problem occurred?” “Have you made any changes to your home?” These are a few of the types of questions I would ask.

A common scenario was that a breaker had tripped when a customer turned on a light switch. This information would help me know where to look for the problem. Usually, in this situation, I would find a problem in the related light fixtures. But, I would not have known this if I had not asked.

But what about the problem of Jesus’ claim to be God? Do we have any “homeowners” we can interview that can shed light on what happened when the life of Jesus occurred? We most certainly do. The gospels are the reliable accounts of the actual eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life. But how do we really know they are reliable? Many of the ways we know we can trust a homeowner are the same ways we can trust the gospel writers.

First, were they there? This seems to be a pretty silly question to ask a homeowner, but, if they weren’t at home when the problem occurred, then what they had to say would be of no use to us. It’s the same with the gospel writers. Were they there?

Skeptics often claim that the gospels were written centuries after the life of Jesus and the stories contained therein are exaggerated and false. But is there any truth to this? Early dating of the gospels is the easiest way to show that they were truly there. If the gospels were written immediately after the life of Jesus, then the people who wrote them were “at home” when it all happened.

There are many ways to show that the gospels were written early, but my favorite is the fact that the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D. is not mentioned in the New Testament. Why does this show early dating? Because, if it had occurred before the gospels were written, then they surely would have mentioned it. This was equivalent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Jews of that day. Their tradition and religious lives revolved around the temple. Surely they would have wrote about it’s destruction. But they didn’t. Also, Jesus predicted that this would happen. If the gospels were written after this, they would have most certainly wrote about it to show that Jesus was correct in His prediction. Yet there is no mention of it. What can we conclude? All of the New Testament was written prior to 70 A. D. The “homeowners” were definitely home.

Second, is it their home? Here we have another silly question, but if the person living there doesn’t own the home, they probably aren’t as interested in the details of what happened. Renters usually have little invested in the home they live in.

What about the gospel writers? Did they have anything invested in the claims that they were making? They most certainly did! The decision to follow Jesus and proclaim Him as God and risen Savior led to them being ostracized, persecuted, tortured, ridiculed and killed. They had invested all to the truth of Jesus. Certainly they had a sincere belief that this was true.

Finally, what did they do when the problem occurred? The actions of the homeowner often point to the cause of the problem. This is the case in the example of the switch that we mentioned earlier.

Again, what about the gospel writers? What did they do when the problem of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus occurred?

Honestly, they scattered. They gave up and went back to the lives they knew before Jesus. Peter went back to fishing.

Then Jesus came and appeared before them. All He told them was true and His resurrection verified all of it. They went back to following Jesus with a renewed vigor that never diminished until the day they died.

This is independently verified by the Roman historian Tacitus in his work “The Annals.” He wrote concerning Nero blaming the great fire in Rome on the Christians:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

Notice how he said “a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out.” This perfectly describes how the disciples gave up when Jesus died, then came back after His resurrection. Their radically changed lives are yet further proof of the truth of the gospels.

A few years ago, I went on a troubleshooting call at a local fuel terminal. I had recently been promoted at my job when a veteran supervisor had retired. He was an expert in fuel terminal systems which are extremely complex. Eager to prove myself, I attempted to solve the problem at the terminal on my own. After a few hours of frustration and failure to find the problem, I prayed to God for a solution and I asked my wife to pray. Right after that, the terminal manager, Kevin, began trying to help me. In the following conversations with him, I discovered that he knew the terminal like the back of his hand. He was there when the problem occurred, he was certainly invested in finding a solution, and he knew what the scenario was when the problem happened. With his knowledge and expertise, we quickly solved the problem. If I had only interviewed him at the beginning, I would have come to a solution much quicker.

Interviewing the homeowner is one of the most sure fire ways to solve an electrical problem and interviewing the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus is one of the most convincing ways to discover the truth of the New Testament.

Guiding Hand

Every Saturday in the fall, college football fans migrate to their favorite team’s campus in hopes of a victory. I come from Bulldog country and the red and black runs deep. My wife and I recently started taking our young twin girls on these journeys and it’s been a joy to watch the events unfold through their eyes.

Parking is usually difficult in Athens, but, this past season, some friends of ours let us park at their son’s rental house which was a short walk from the stadium. The walk to the stadium is a series of sidewalks, stairways, and parking lots, and it was interesting at times to navigate with a pair of wild twin girls.

Like most 6 year old girls, our twins don’t pay much attention to the dangers along the way. One step in the wrong direction and they would be in the path of a oncoming car. I found myself repeatedly correcting my girls’ path. As we walked along the sidewalks, I would nudge them one direction, or place my hands on their shoulders to point them in the right way. They wouldn’t make it very far without their father’s guiding hand.

While walking along this path on that cool fall day in Athens, my thoughts turned to my Heavenly Father and how he guides us in a similar way. How many times have I strayed from the path he has laid before me? How many times have I drifted carelessly into harms way? And yet, the divine nudge comes and a loving hand touches my shoulders. It’s comforting to know that our Father lets us freely walk but He gently guides us along the way to the destination he has for us.

There were times along the walk that one or both of my girls would reach up and grab my hand. They fully yielded to my control knowing that I would keep them safe. What joy it brought to my heart to see their trust in me. How much more joy must it bring to Father God when we take his hand and yield to His full control. He will never lead us in a path that is not best for us. And, yet, we so often resist. Why must it be so?

It’s true on a Saturday in Athens and it’s true in the walk of life. It’s always best to trust the Father’s guiding hand.

“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

Psalm 31:3

Troubleshooting Truth – Step #2 Know the Era the Building Was Built

Glen was a maintenance man at a local apartment complex that I worked at many times over the years. We became good friends during this time and I always enjoyed working there. He was always appreciative of the work I did there which usually involved troubleshooting and repair of something in an apartment. He would even call me every Christmas Day and thank me for helping him.

One occasion a bedroom in an apartment lost power and Glen called me to help find the problem. Usually it was an easy fix due to a bad outlet, but this time it wasn’t that simple. I eventually had to take all the outlets and switches out and I still couldn’t find the problem. The only thing I hadn’t checked was the ceiling light because that was never where the problem was located. As a last resort, I took the light down and found a bad, melted connection in the light fixture.

This apartment complex was built in the mid sixties when aluminum wiring was commonly used. This type of wiring is notorious for causing electrical problems and fires. It is softer than copper and tends to loosen its connection over time. It will also oxidize and deteriorate when mixed with copper.

As I gained more experience in troubleshooting over the years, I learned that knowing the era that the building was built could greatly aid in finding problems. Knowing when this apartment complex was built let me know what to look for before I even started.

How can this help us when seeking the validity of Christianity? Knowing the era when Christ came is a great aid to discovering the answer. It helps us know where to look before we even start.

The culture and era of Jesus’ time was not exactly the ideal place to start a new religion. First, Jesus stepped into history claiming to be God and the Jews and the Romans would both find this cause for the death penalty. On several occasions, the Jewish authorities took up stones to stone Jesus for comments he made that equated himself with God, and they plotted behind the scenes to have him put to death. As for the Romans, they would put anyone to death that attempted to undermine their empire or elevate themself above Caesar. Pilate interrogated Jesus to see if this were the case, but eventually concluded that he was crazy and not worthy of death. Claiming to be God, then getting yourself killed is a quick way to end a religion that is just getting started. Look at what happened to the disciples. They all scattered and went back to their original professions. Yet, later, they went back to worshiping Jesus even to the point of martyrdom. Something of great impact led them back.

Second, Jerusalem was not the ideal place to have a death and resurrection take place. If something equivalent were to happen today, it would take place in New York City in Times Square. Imagine Jesus being crucified in Times Square and that he was buried in Central City Park. Everyone would know that Jesus was dead and they would know where he was buried. And yet, this is exactly how the beginning of Christianity took place. Jesus publicly claimed he would be raised from the dead, publicly was crucified, publicly left the tomb, and publicly appeared to hundreds after his resurrection. All this took place in the New York City of the day. If it were not true, it could have easily been disproven by the Jews and the Romans. Any yet they all made excuses for why the tomb was empty. And Christianity flourished.

Third, and most convincingly to me, is the sudden and radical conversion of a large number of Jews. These people who had survived centuries of persecution, captivity, and relocation suddenly gave up the one thing that helped them survive eradication: Their religious traditions. They had no logical reason to follow Jesus. They were already God’s chosen people who followed the one true God. All they gained from following Jesus was to be ostracized, persecuted, tortured, and killed. They had no motivation to do this. Unless it were true.

The era and culture of the time of Jesus can tell us many more things which lead us to believe that Christianity is true. It’s a good lesson I learned from working with my good friend Glen, and it’s a good lesson to apply to the claims of Christianity.

M&M Moments: Can I Sit With You?

“Can I sit with you?” It’s phrase I’ve heard hundreds of times in the past few years. I usually hear it at a restaurant near the end of a meal. It’s a request that comes from one if not both of my twin daughters. They love to snuggle and sit in the lap of my wife and I, even though they are quickly growing up. They turned 7 in March.

We usually enforce the rule that we have to finish eating before they can sit with us. It’s difficult to eat with one or two seven year olds sitting between you and your food and vying for your attention. But sometimes I break my own rule. They won’t be this little for ever.

We have a meal every Wednesday at church before the service, and inevitably, I hear the phrase once again. “Can I sit with you?” It’s usually from Mattie, and she works as hard as she can to get and keep my attention. Her and her sister love their daddy.

Why do they do this? They do it because they love their parents so much and they long to be close to us and gain our attention and affection.

I was thinking about this common occurrence the other day when James 4:8 came to mind: “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you.” Just as my girls long to be close to their daddy, how much more should we desire this with our Heavenly Father? When was the last time you asked God “Can I sit with you?”

Yet, we’ve grown up too fast. We’ve moved on from the childlike wonder and awe of our loving Father. We run to and fro and fill our lives with things that, for the most part, don’t matter, when all our Father wants is for us to sit with Him for a while.

How long has it been since you sat in your Father’s lap for a while and vied for His attention? How long has it been since you have sat and read His Word and longed to know Him better? How long has it been that you just wanted to spend time with Him just because you love Him so much?

One day my girls will grow up and they won’t sit in my lap any more. They’ll move on with their lives, but I hope and pray they’ll always long to sit with their daddy. I try hard to cherish each “Can I sit with you” because I never know when the last one may come.

We may grow too old to sit in our earthly father’s lap, but, praise God, we’re never too old to crawl into the lap of our Heavenly Father, lay our head on His chest and spend time with Him. He has promised to return our affection if we will just draw nigh unto Him. He won’t force His love on us. He only grants it when we ask. Seek His love today.

Troubleshooting Truth – Step #1 Know the Construction Methods

I spent many years as a service electrician. This position required the ability to perform a wide variety of electrical tasks. I had to be able to wire a new house, remodel a commercial space, repair industrial equipment, install generators, and perform many other electrically related jobs. But one of the main tasks of a service electrician is troubleshooting. Webster’s defines a troubleshooter as “an expert in discovering and eliminating the cause of trouble in mechanical equipment, power lines, etc.”

There are many steps in troubleshooting, but one of the first is to Know the Construction Methods. When trying to repair an electrical problem, it helps to know how the building you are working on was wired and what methods were used. The main types of wiring used over the years are knob and tube, cloth, conduit, romex, and mc cable. Knowing which type was used can go a long way toward finding the problem. If you know how it is supposed to work, it can make it easier to repair a problem.

How can this approach help us troubleshoot the truth of the Bible? We’ve assessed that the situation is that Jesus claimed to be God. To the world this is a major problem. We must troubleshoot this problem and see if we can find a solution. Knowing the construction methods is one step in Troubleshooting Truth. But what are the construction methods of the Messiah? Let’s investigate and see if this helps us come closer to a solution to this age old problem.

The blueprint or construction methods of the Messiah was laid out in amazing detail throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 is a remarkably accurate description of Jesus’ life that was written nearly 750 years before He was born. Here are some of the predictions Isaiah wrote:

 

“1 ¶ Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Isaiah 53

In 1947,the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves east of Jerusalem and among them there was a complete copy of the book of Isaiah. This scroll was dated to 100 years before Jesus was born. It is undeniable that the prophecies were made before Jesus was born and they were fulfilled with amazing accuracy.

How remarkable are these prophecies? Peter Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, wrote in his book titled “Science Speaks” the probabilities that these prophecies would be fulfilled by chance. He calculated that the probability that Jesus fulfilled just 8 of the Old Testament prophecies by chance was one in 10 to the 17th power. That’s 10 with 17 zeros behind it! And there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled.

Here are some of the construction methods required of the the Messiah:

1 – He would come from the human race (Gen 3:15)

2 – He would come from a section of the race (Gen 9:26)

3 – He would come from a nation of that section of the race (Gen 12:1-3)

4 – He would be a descendant of Isaac (Gen 17)

5 – He would be a descendant of Jacob (Num 24:17)

6 – He would be a from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10)

7 – He would come out of a family of the tribe of Judah (Jesse) (Is 11:1,2)

8 – He would come from a certain household of Jesse (David) (2 Sam 7:6-16)

9 – He would be born of a virgin of the household of David (Is 7:14)

10 – He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)

11- He would be sold (Zechariah 11:12,13)

12 – He would be crucified (Ps 22)

13 – He would be raised from the dead (Ps 16:10, 30:3)

God laid out a blueprint for how the Messiah would be built. We can clearly see how the Messiah was supposed to work. Jesus was constructed perfectly according to the specifications.

A few years ago, I was working at the local Salvation Army headquarters. It was located in an old historic house. I was working on replacing a light fixture and I touched the hot wire that I thought was dead. I had turned the switch off, so I was confident that there was no electricity on the wire. It gave me one of the worst shocks I ever received. This house was wired with knob and tubing, and sometimes the electricians of that era would switch the neutral wire instead of the hot wire. This practice was later forbidden by the code due to the dangerous condition that it created. I was not aware of this which resulted in a shocking experience. I was unfamiliar with the construction methods.

The same is true with those who discount the prophecies of Jesus. They create a dangerous situation because they never familiarize them with the truth of the claims of the Old Testament. My unfamiliarity created a momentary discomfort, but the unfamiliarity of the truths of the Bible can create have eternal consequences. Take them time to Know the Construction Methods of the Messiah so that you may find eternal life.

Our first step in Troubleshooting Truth is to Know the Construction Methods and we’ve briefly shown how the Messiah was designed and constructed with amazing accuracy.

Assessing the Situation

It was a warm Friday afternoon and I was just finishing a long day at work. I was working at the local Ford dealership when I saw the clouds rolling in. I could tell by the way they looked that a bad storm was rolling in. The high clouds were moving in a different direction than the lower clouds. We took cover as the storm hit.

Shortly after the storms passed, my boss was on the phone with our local power company. He was always quick to volunteer our services after a bad storm. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then we were off to work. Trees and limbs were down everywhere and there was a lot of damage to the electrical infrastructure.

I had only been doing electrical work for a little over a year and I had no idea what I was getting into. We spent all night out rebuilding people’s electrical services where the power company could reconnect their power. I would wind up working 22 hours nonstop. The temperature was in the 70’s when the storms rolled in, and, by the time I finished working the next morning, it was snowing. It was a long night.

There are many steps to repairing electrical damage, but the first one is to assess the situation. Without doing this, we wouldn’t know what the problem was, what needed to be done to remedy they situation, what material to go pick up, and how long it would take. We would begin the demolition work while my boss went to get material. But none of it would be possible if we didn’t assess the situation.

It seems like assessing the situation would be common sense. It certainly is in the electrical field, but when it comes to the Bible, some people never seem to take this first step. They reject the Bible and Christianity before they even assess the claims it makes. They take what others say, and things they have read and never investigate it for themselves.

Such was the case for Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist for the Chicago tribune and a staunch atheist. He rejected Christianity before even giving the evidence a chance. The conversion of his wife to Christianity led him on a journey to attempt to debunk her newfound faith. The evidence he found was so overwhelming, that he converted to Christianity and is now one of its most fearless defenders.

But none of this would have taken place had he not assessed the situation.

What is the situation in the Bible that we must assess? On it’s most basic level, the situation is there is a man who claims to be God. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, son of a carpenter made the most extraordinary claims that anyone has ever made. He claimed to forgive sins, be one with God, and that he would resurrect from the dead. If someone made claims like this today, they would be labeled a madman, yet the world’s largest and most influential religion sprang forth from this carpenter.

May I challenge you to take this first step. Assess the situation. Read Jesus’ words. Start with the book of John and see what the claims are. Then do some investigating to see if these things are true. It may change your eternal destiny.

This is the first in a series of posts I will be writing entitled “Troubleshooting Truth.” In the electrical field, we troubleshoot problems in an attempt to repair a problem. The first step is to assess the situation. Even the Bible gives examples of those who investigated the claims. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:10,11

Come along with me as we troubleshoot the truth of Christianity.

The Heart of Christmas

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Luke 2:17-20King James Version (KJV)

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. I always wondered at the meaning of this passage. The Christ child had just been born, angels filled the night sky, and news spread everywhere of this miraculous event. Excitement was all around. And Mary? She kept these things and pondered them in her heart. Why? Of all people she should be proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah and Savior of the world. Yet she keeps and ponders the truth in her heart.

Think for a moment. Place yourselves in Mary’s circumstances. She knew it was all true. She knew the Savior has been born. All others involved were only retelling a truth that they had heard. Even Joseph was told what was happening by the angel. But Mary knew it was true in her heart. She had the truth born in her. Only she truly knew she was a virgin. All others could only speculate. The fact that they couldn’t stay in the inn may have been related to the stigma of a woman pregnant out of wedlock.

But she knew the truth. From the first morning sickness to the birth in a manger, she knew. The Messiah had come.

Consider for a moment:

1. The Truth was conceived in her

The shepherds. Joseph. The townspeople. They all spoke of a truth that they had not experienced. So it is in the world today. Countless books have been written. Scholars have studied it for ages. But the truth is not in them. Mary had the truth come alive in her.

So it is for for those saved in Christ. The truth has come alive in us. New life came into us when we believed on the Son of God. We know it’s true because the truth is alive in us. The Truth is alive in our hearts. “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”

2. The Truth grew in her

With each passing week, the Child grew inside her. The reality of the virgin birth became more and more clear as the birth grew near. From the angel’s visit to the manger, the Truth grew.

So it is inside the redeemed. At salvation, new life is conceived within us. But it doesn’t stop there. It grows. With each passing year, the Truth grows in those that trust in Christ. He becomes more real and more true as time passes.

3. The Truth was born out of her

The holy night finally arrived and the Christ child was born. The Truth had grown to the point that her body could contain him no more. He had to come forth.

Again we see the parallel. When the Truth is conceived in us, it grows until we can’t contain it anymore. The goodness and grace of our Savior overflows. Our hearts are full.

We may tell the story as the shepherds and angels but the Truth can only be known once it is conceived in our hearts. Many great arguments have been made in favor of the truth of Christianity, but it can only be fully known when it is conceived, grown and born in our hearts.

May we, as Mary, keep and ponder these things in our hearts this Christmas