Journal

Why I Believe

by billV on April 15, 2017

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I believe in God because of Jesus. I believe in Jesus because of the resurrection. And I believe in the resurrection because of the disciples. We can argue the existence of God, the validity of Jesus, or the legitimacy of the resurrection. But the life and death of each of the disciples is the greatest historical case for the resurrection. These men, one moment huddling in fear, have an encounter with the resurrected Christ, and that changes them forever. Ordinary men don’t die for a lie. And each of them separately, with no way to easily contact the other, was killed or tortured and none of them ever said, “Stop! We made the whole thing up.” That’s simply astonishing.

How did they die?

James was the first Apostle to be martyred. Herod Agrippa seized him when he was in Jerusalem in the year 42 and had him beheaded. Andrew preached the Gospel in Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia. He was crucified in Achaia at Patras in the year 61. Tied to an X-shaped cross after being scourged, he hung there he preached to people for two days before he died. Peter was martyred by Nero in the year 67. Peter was crucified, by request, upside down, out of reverence for Jesus. His request was granted. Paul was beheaded on the same day as Peter outside the walls of Rome. Simon was crucified at Edessa in the year 67. Matthew preached in Africa and was martyred by the sword in the year 65 in Ethiopia. Thomas was stabbed to death at Mylapore, India, in the year 74. Matthias (who replaced Judas) was crucified in the year 65. Jude was clubbed to death the same year in Persia. James the less had it rough in Jerusalem. The religious leaders took him to the pinnacle of the temple and told him to renounce Christ before all the people who were gathered below. Instead he proclaimed Christ resurrected and they cast him off. Still living after he hit the ground, a man stepped forward and smashed his head in with a club. Philip preached the Gospel in Greece and he was martyred at Hierapolis in Persia in the year 62. Like Peter, he was crucified upside down. Bartholomew was skinned alive in Armenia in the year 72. John was the only one not martyred. However, in the year 95, he was taken prisoner at Ephesus and sent to trial in Rome. Sentenced to death, he was boiled in oil before the Latin gate. Miraculously he survived and was exiled to the island of Patmos. He was later freed and died at Ephesus in the year 100 when he was eighty-eight years old.

So this Easter, I’m compelled to look around me at the arguments of people against the existence of God and the validity of Jesus, and each one has their theories. But the resurrection has moved from theory to fact in my heart because of my own encounter with the resurrected Christ. I understand now, how these men found a cause worth living and dying for. And it’s their lives, message, and deaths that solidify for me the truth of the resurrection, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the everlasting love of the Father. May Easter weekend bring each of you a life changing encounter with the resurrected Christ.

(For anyone who wants to do research on this, I highly recommend Historian Michael Licona’s incredible work called, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach”. At 700 pages and more than 2000 footnotes, Licona has done his homework. Also for the especially studious scholar, see the writings of historian, Josephus, Eusebius, and the early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian and the list goes on.)

What's the Point of Prayer and Fasting?

by billV on February 14, 2017

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Disciplines like prayer and fasting don’t make God. They make me. There’s no arm twisting or begging of God in these things. They are reminders of Spirit, a focused intention tending to the roots of faith in the soil of the heart. The disciplines of of prayer and fasting kill unbelief and give rise to an awareness that we are more than mere flesh and form. We don’t do these things because we are becoming something. We do these things to become aware of who we are. When you lose yourself, return to prayer.
When your heart is darkened by foolishness, return to fasting. When you forget who you are, pray and listen. When you’re offended at God, fast and detox. These aren’t dead religious works unless they become lifeless habit. They are an infusion of Presence in purposeful acts of life-giving worship. In prayer and fasting, I awaken and align to who the Father has always known me to be from before the foundation of the world. These disciplines keep me from becoming consumed with me.
The desire for things diminishes as the awareness of the Spirit is illuminated in clarity. If you have lost and let go of these disciplines in an effort to rest in a revelation of grace, I encourage you to revisit some of these disciplines that were so important to Jesus Christ. Let the Spirit draw you to them and them to you and in that drawing you will find the Spirit life and depth of soul tie with God that you longed to discover when you said your first prayer.

Four Words for the New Year

by billV on January 1, 2017

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On a mid December night in Titusville, FL, a small group of people who are heroes of mine, Jack Taylor, Leif Hetland, and a few others gathered. After a time of visiting and sharing a meal, we began to worship and pray. These words came out of that meeting.

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In Christ

by billV on April 20, 2016

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