Troubleshooting Truth – Step 4 Process of Elimination

I live in the south, and, in the south, bad weather comes in all shapes and sizes. From thunderstorms to tornadoes and hurricanes, we see it all. And, with bad weather, come the inevitable power outages. And this leads to calls for generators, because most people can’t seem to survive a few hours without power.

One of the things the company I work for does is to install automatic standby generators. We’ve installed hundreds over the past few years due to a lot of bad weather. Mrs. Jones was one such customer, but she had a legitimate reason for needing a generator. She had cancer and she was on oxygen. A power loss was a life threatening situation for her.

I gave her a quote and she and her husband approved the installation. We came out, installed and tested the generator and everything seemed fine. But, then the calls began. She called and said the generator didn’t start during it’s weekly self test. I went and checked on it and it ran fine, so I figured that it was a fluke. It wasn’t. This began a frustrating 8 month process to solve her problem.

I could not seem to find a problem with her generator. Every time I came to check for a problem, it would run fine. The only thing I knew to do was to begin a process of elimination. I started with the controller, then the governor, then I changed the air filter. Nothing seemed to work. After elimination all other potential causes, I was convinced that she was having a fuel problem. But the fuel pressure tested fine.

Out of frustration, I hired another generator tech to diagnose the generator. He found the problem. The fuel pressure was randomly dropping which was causing the generator to cut off. He just happened to be testing it when this occurred. I called the plumbers who promptly replaced the fuel regulator and the problem was solved. She hasn’t had an issue since. It took eliminating all others potential causes before I became confidence that the fuel was the culprit.

Process of elimination is a common practice used while troubleshooting. What about the Gospels? Can we use this tool to eliminate all other potential causes other than that they are true and reliable? Let’s find out. Let’s look at the resurrection since it at is the core of the Gospel narrative. Let’s see what it’s potential causes might be.

First potential cause: The swoon theory.

The swoon theory claims that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. He just passed out, later revived and walked out of the tomb, thus leading the disciples to assume that he had been raised from the dead. There are several problems with this theory. If Jesus did revive, how did he unwrap the grave clothes, roll the stone away from the tomb, and overcome the Roman guards placed at the tomb? And even if He accomplished all this, He would have been in a very weak and wounded condition. He would have been hard pressed to convince anyone that He was miraculously risen. It would have taken weeks for Him to physically recover. There are so many holes in this theory, that most skeptics have stopped trying to use it.

Second potential cause: The Disciples stole the body.

This claim has multiple problems as well. Just as with the swoon theory, how could they have overcome trained Roman guards and rolled the massive stone away? Also, what would they have done with the body? Someone would have eventually noticed or told where the body was being hidden. And why would they have done this? They had no motive. They were all cowering in fear that they would be crucified as well. It’s also important to note that no one in history ever denied that the tomb was empty. They just tried to come up with reasons other than that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They are still trying this in our day. The Romans even passed a law after this criminalizing body thefts. Why would they care if this happened? Because the missing body of Jesus caused them quite a bit of trouble.

Third potential cause: Hallucination

Many skeptics claim that the disciples hallucinated that Jesus had risen. They were so convinced that Jesus would rise that they tricked themselves into thinking this happened. Again, we have problems. Hallucinations occur to individuals, not groups of people. Jesus appeared to multiple people at multiple locations, on multiple occasions. 1 Corinthians 15 records that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once! Paul basically said, “these witnesses are still alive. Go ask them what happened!” And another problem for skeptics is the empty tomb. Even if they were hallucinating, you still have to explain the empty tomb.

Fourth potential cause: The Disciples lied

Another claim is that the Disciples lied. Why would they lie? What would be their motive? They gained nothing from lying. They were ostracized, beaten, tortured, persecuted and martyred for this claim. They would have been better off lying and saying that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead! And, again, what about the empty tomb?

Fifth potential cause: Jesus really rose from the dead.

This is the claim that skeptics cannot bring themselves to consider. Jesus really rose from the dead. But if you use the process of elimination, the other causes fail time and time again. Like the Mrs. Jones’ generator, all other potential causes have been eliminated. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead provides the best explanation to the events surrounding His death. This makes the best sense of the empty tomb, the devotion of the Disciples and the multitude of appearances.

The swoon theory, the stolen body theory, the hallucination theory, and the claim that the Disciples lied quickly fail upon careful examination. The process of elimination leaves only the truth that Jesus rose from the dead. Place your faith in Him today.

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.

M&M Moments: 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.

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.

M&M Moments: Bloody Lip

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It was a typical night at our house. Lauren was busy cooking, and I was emptying the dishwasher or doing whatever I could to help. All the while, the twins were playing under our feet. They love to play in the kitchen. They explore the cabinets where we keep their food and they play with clean dishes in the kitchen floor.

Mattie had discovered the puffs canister and was carrying it around while she toddled through the kitchen. Lauren had gone outside to check on the grill and I had turned away for a second when I heard a thud. Then I heard Mattie crying. I looked down and she was laying on the puff canister crying.

Falling is a common occurrence for toddlers, but, this time, she was really upset. I quickly picked her up into my arms to comfort her. Then I noticed something on my hand. It was blood. Mattie had cut the inside of her lip and it was bleeding.

Mattie turned out to be alright as it was just a minor cut, but the image of my daughters blood on my hand stuck with me. I didn’t like it. Seeing her hurt, especially bleeding is not something I like very much. I can’t bear the thought of my little girls being hurt.

The blood on my hand turned my thoughts to my Savior. Jesus Christ shed all His blood for you and me. And, His Father watched. His Father forsook Him. He allowed the blood of His only Son to be shed. The thought of this is too much for my feeble finite mind to comprehend.

I could never fathom allowing my daughters’ blood to be shed for anyone. No matter the cause, I couldn’t allow that to happen. No matter how good and noble the person was that required my child’s blood, I couldn’t allow it. Yet, God shed the blood of His Son for us who are the opposite of good and noble. We are full of corruption and sin.

Oh, the love of our precious God for us. To sacrifice His Son for us. What love this is.

I’ve learned a lot since becoming a father, but the one thing that has become crystal clear is the love of God. How could I ever doubt Him or the lot I’m given if He first gave me His Son. What a thought.

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

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