Category Archives: Easter

Easter’s Glory is God’s Image R’ Us

By Daniel Downs

Over the past five years, a number of people claim seeing Jesus or an image of Jesus. It is believed that the Shroud of Turin (Jesus burial cloth) bears the image of Jesus. Photos of the image reveals a facial image. In 2008, people in Kingsville Texas saw an image on a water tower that looked like the face of Jesus. The local news report not only interviews those who saw “Jesus” but also shows pictures of it. Recently, Sun News, a U.K. newspaper, reported the discovery of an image of Jesus located somewhere in Eastern Hungary. His image was captured by the Google Earth satellite. More interesting is a report by the U.K. newspaper, Daily Mail Online, in which a sonogram reveals an image of Jesus. The young pregnant nurse was so amazed that she and her husband gave their son the biblical name Joshua.

What do all of these and many other reports like them mean?

For many like the young nurse who was experiencing a difficult pregnancy, the image of Jesus gives reassurance that God is present. These images of Jesus are a sign of God’s present. The images of Jesus offers people hope that during difficult times things will work out. The appearances of Jesus’ images reminds people of God’s grace through the one who not only died to redeem them from the consequences of their sins but who is alive today helping them live God’s way in the present.

Yet, the Bible teaches some deeper than this. It teaches that the image God wants to see is not in shrouds, in fine paintings, in fields, and not even in sonograms. He wants to see the image of Jesus in all of us. The image of Jesus is the original. It is the image and likeness of Himself created to be reflected by us. We do bear the physical representation of His image. The problem is the lack of His likeness lived by us. We fall short of the glory of God because we all have or do act in godless ways. Violence, war, envy, hate, greed, manipulation, selfishness, perversion, lying, deceiving, stealing, cursing, and the like are the daily behavior of human beings. Jesus is the opposite picture. The image of Jesus is the likeness that God seeks in us.

Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ willingness to be made the source of our renewal in the image and likeness of God. Jesus had to die in order for God to acquit us of our moral crimes, and his resurrection was necessary for our renewal. For it is the power of the resurrection by the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead at work in our lives that empowers to live God’s way. Through this same Sprit of Christ, we will be renewed to the image and likeness of God, and that is our glory.

Resurrection of Jesus : Any proof?

By Daniel Downs

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is to Christianity as bedrock is to a stable building. A building capable of withstanding violent storms must be anchored to a solid foundation. Earth’s bedrock is the best of all foundation. The one type of natural disaster that bedrock may be unable to withstand is an earthquake. Probably, the best type of foundation is one capable of flexing while retaining its structural integrity. The resurrection of Jesus is bedrock of the Christian faith. Its 2,000 years of growth throughout the world provides solid evidence of its stable reality. Moreover, the quakes of earthly life such as persecution, natural disasters, devastating illnesses, economics disasters, and other forms of suffering more often than not result in greater assurance that Jesus overcame the worst of all disasters, death. That is due to Jesus’ present help during disasters faced by individuals and families that enable them to not only overcome the terrible affects but to even deepen their faith.

We have witnessed a recent example of the triumph over tragedy in Haiti. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief mission has been sharing the experiences of Haitians tragedy and triumph. Motivated by the love of God for people, Christians like those Samaritan’s Purse volunteers go to places like Haiti to help in a multitude of ways. Without having experienced the love of God through the risen Christ, neither Franklin Graham nor his volunteers would have considered enduring the hassle or hardships of going to any devastated place and helping any devastated people. Yet, they do because of their own experiences of the risen Jesus’ overcoming help.

In other words, God works through people and nature to accomplish his good will toward people made in His likeness and image.

Even before Franklin Graham’s missionaries arrived in Haiti, news reports of people who were rescued after being buried in rubble for weeks gave God credit for their survival. Why? Because God and Christ was a present help in their time of trouble.

To help skeptics reading this, the above can be put in another way. Science teaches us that the composition of all matter is reducible to atoms. Yet, no nuclear physicist has ever observed an atom. According to nuclear physicist Russell Stannard, they only witness the residue of energy of where an atom once was. All elements, molecules, cell, organism, super organisms, like we humans, are made up of various types of atoms. Therefore, what we see–stars, sun, moon, earth, animals, people, and even microbes–are made of things that are not seen. Is it not then reasonable to believe that the unseen God created the things humans have never seen? It certainly is when personal experience verifies that God is a genuinely present and real.

Christian apologists often defend the faith based on the argument that none of the ancient disciples of Jesus would have died because of their faith and testimony to the resurrection of Jesus had they known it was a lie. As taught by sociologists and anthropologists, honor and prestige may have been of great importance to ancient peoples, but the disciples of Jesus and the early church had very limited honor or prestige. That only changed after Emperor Constantine made Christianity the imperial religion.

I still doubt the above has convinced the skeptical.

However, other evidence available to us includes the report by Paul that the 11 disciples were not the only ones who saw Jesus after his resurrection. Paul’s conversion to the messianic faith was the result of seeing and hearing Jesus after his resurrection and ascension to the throne of God. Paul also wrote that over 500 saw Jesus after his resurrection most of whom were still alive, and a similar account is mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. (1 Corinthians 15-52-53; Matthew 27:52-53).

There also exist documented cases of people in various parts of the world having been resurrected from the dead. David Servant has published his detailed investigation into the death and resurrection story of Nigerian Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu, which happened in 2001.

Contrary to denials of skeptics and atheists, the so-called contradictions are likely to have occurred from cursory reading of the lengthy report by David Servant. My postings on the blog, The State of America, reflect the same. I first said that the pastor had been embalmed and then raised from the dead. But, after carefully reading Servant’s report, I discovered that the mortician had attempted to embalm the pastor but was not able to do so. What caused the same mortician to demand the pastor’s family to remove the corpse from his mortuary was song coming from the place of the dead pastor without any live human present. This so-called rumor originated from the mortician as reported by Servant.

A healthy skepticism of supposedly strange or supernatural events is good. However, rejecting accounts of experienced events because of one’s belief (in this disbelief) does mean the events didn’t occur. The fact is skeptics and atheists will one day die too. They also will discover if life extends beyond the grave. Unfortunately, for them, they will get the justice they deserve rather than the grace that was extended to them by God during their mortal life.

In 2005, Athet Pyan Shinthaw Paulu, a Myanmar Buddhist monk, was also raised from the dead after a number of days. He was on the funeral pyre being readied for public cremation when he was resurrected. The Monk said he went to the gates of hell first where he saw the Buddha and another renowned Buddhist saint. However, gatekeeper (read, prison door) turned him way telling him that he was not supposed to be there. So he walked away down a path where a man named Peter confronted him. He instructed to tell what he had witness and that the faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. This he did and was arrested for it. After he was released, he recorded his death experience on tape, which was first transcribed and published by Asian Minorities Outreach.

One of the most recent resurrection events came after an American pastor’s head on collision with a semi-truck. Pastor Don Piper was driving home after a conference. While he was passing over a single lane bridge, a semi-truck also entered the bridge but the driver didn’t see the pastor’s car. The impact crushed the pastor instantly killing him. Pastor Piper describes in great detail what he saw and heard in heaven where he went. In the meantime, another Baptist pastor came upon the scene. He would not have stayed to pray because the pastor was already dead. However, God told to pray for him. After a while, he stopped praying and began singing hymns. When the dead pastor was about to pass through the gate into the heavenly city, he suddenly heard singing coming from behind. Instantly, he was back into his body. That is he was resurrected. According to his surgeons and physicians, regaining the use of his severed arm and leg that they stitched back together was highly improbable. Yet, God healed him so that he has full use of all his limbs and organs. A number of his interviews (by Bill O’Reilly, NBC, CBN) are published on the internet and his book about his death and resurrection in titled 90 Minutes In Heaven.

Although not as well documented as the three previous events, other reported bodily resurrections include an Iranian named Sami by a Muslim name Mohammed, six-year-old Jyothi Pothabathula with her parents, and 45-year-old shop owner Mesheck Manepally, both of Andhra Pradesh, India.

The common denominator of all of the reported resurrection experiences is the risen Jesus.

Some scholars like Raymond Brown regard Jesus’ resurrection as substantially different from other biblical and modern experiences. In his book titled Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Brown says that like those raised from the dead by Jesus, the above pastors, Buddhist, Muslim, and Indians will again die. Brown thinks resuscitation is a better word from this type of resurrection. Jesus, on the other hand, did not die again. As Elijah, he went to God’s heavenly kingdom alive.

Yet, Paul the apostle described Jesus’ resurrection this way:

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the imperishable inherit the imperishable. This perishable [body] must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15: 50, 53, 44)

Paul teaching points to the impossibility of Jesus physical ascension to heaven not his physical resurrection. Jesus could not have departed earth’s atmosphere without his physical body disintegrating unless he had some sort of transport or a surrounding field of energy or something similar to capable of protecting his body from the various elementary changes that would have destroyed him. Paul’s writings claim Jesus put off his natural terrestrial body and put on a new form of celestial body to continue life in the place of the resurrected dead, the new heaven and earth. Paul’s teaching reflects his seeing after he had ascended to the throne of God (Acts 9:1-19). All people can look forward to this type of resurrection. There is a catch however. Jesus said, “Those who in this life did the good to a resurrection of life and those who did evil to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)

5 Simple Easter Baskets for Less Than $5

Lauri Ward, author of the best-selling book, Use What You Have Decorating, shares five of her creative ideas for making inexpensive Easter baskets at home. Simple, yet artistic, Lauri turns milk cartons, small beach pails, straw hats, old lampshades, and even a tennis ball can into beautiful basket. Anyone would impress other parents at the community or church Easter gathering. But, let’s be real, kids only care about the sugar-loaded treats you put inside the basket.

Of the five under $5 baskets, I like the Milk Container Easter Basket. Here is how to make it:

1. Cut a 1/2 gallon milk container in two and discard the top half.

2. Cover the outside of the bottom half with solid, colored paper or brightly colored fabric by gluing or stapling it on.

3. Attach two pieces of wide ribbon on opposite sides and tie in a bow to create a handle.

4. Fill with foil wrapped chocolates.

Now, the second most creative basket is the one made out of tennis ball cans. This one not for the non-artist though. Ward must be into painting flowers. For us non-artists, the skill deficit could be overcome by using colorful stick-on flowers. That is providing you first go to Reader Digest’s website to find out how to make do so. The same is true for the other three Easter baskets: Beach Pail, Straw Hat, and Lampshade.

Lauri Ward’s affordable creations are perfect for these troublesome economic times.

Source: Reader, April 6, 2009.

Easter Today and Tomorrow

Today is a day of vision. Children came to Hospitality East seeing chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, tasty jellybeans, and other fantasies children envision during the Easter season. Unfortunately, dark clouds above and raindrops below spoiled the screaming excitement of the annual hunt for the most colorful eggs. Those are the kind bunnies don’t lay.

Hospitality East is where my young 93 years of age father resides. Don’t tell him he is not young; it’ll spoil all of the fun….

Residents like my Dad saw many little festive faces pass by their wheelchair seeking chocolate filled eggs. The joy of seeing those smiling little eyes and hearing thank you was simply delightful. The opportunity to give the sought for candy brought back memories of even more joyful Easters when their own children where on the quest for the delicious treasurers. For many, it was like an NFL instant replay.

But what of tomorrow? What will Easter mean to the aged and young tomorrow? For Easter is not really about bunnies and their tasty eggs. Easter is about new life. When America was a more agrarian society, new life was represented by budding of trees, of flowers, and the beginning of a new harvest season. Few children living in our man-made desert of mostly wood, steel, concrete and asphalt have much appreciation for nature’s natural resurrection. The drab barrenness of grass, trees, and sky reflects the prospects of the aged. Sun may shine and the grass reborn but only on their wilting aged frames.

The ray of hope that Easter brings is a new morning of life without pain, illness, poverty, loneliness, or alienation. Easter sunrise beams the warmth of God’s love manifest in the death and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus offers a tomorrow of life after death. Jesus gives an eternal tomorrow without the pain of death, whether that death came by the consequences of wrongdoing, or by divorce, or by illness, or by some other circumstance. Jesus became poor so that we may have an abundant life. While Jesus’ death satisfies God’s justice for every moral crime, his resurrection is assurance that he who has suffered as we often do will guide us to life restored to God.

Tomorrow–Easter Sunday–is a day to remember that new life is possible through Jesus. Those who accept Jesus as their covenant with God have seen the vision of tomorrow; and they still see that today’s troubles are temporary in light of the reward of eternal life with Jesus in God’s kingdom.

The aroma of grass reborn and plant life budding anew is another reminder of God’s promise of a glorious tomorrow born of Jesus’ victory over alienation, pain, shame, and death. That promise is one confirmed throughout the life of experienced faith today.

by Daniel Downs