Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 8

For the past several weeks, we have been investigating how the historical Jesus of Nazareth fares by being tested by the traditional historical method. Before wrapping up our investigation, NT scholar Michael Licona provides two additional tests that need to be considered. This article will investigate those two additional tests or methods and will offer some concluding thoughts on our quest.

1. Arguments to the Best Explanation.

Licona notes that the Arguments-to-the-Best-Explanation method “makes inferences and weighs hypotheses according to specific criteria.”[1] In other words, the data is compiled and examined according to a particular hypothesis made by the historian. The criteria include:

Explanatory scope: Examining the most relevant data according to the hypothesis.

Explanatory power: Looking at the “quality of the explanation of the facts.”[2]

Plausibility: How much confidence can the historian possess that a certain event took place? For the skeptic, if they are to be honest historically, they must suspend their skepticism, and allow for the possibility of the miraculous if they are to become unbiased.

Less ad hoc: Covering only what the data suggests without going “beyond what is already known.”[3]

Illumination: Where one piece of data strengthens other areas of inquiry.

Speaking of this method, Licona goes on to say that “Arguments to the best explanation are guided by inference and can sometimes be superior to an eyewitness to an event. Testimony to the court does not provide truth but data.”[4]

Examining the data that we have presented already when using this method demonstrates that the best historical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth existed and walked out of the grave the first Easter Sunday. Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach , comes to the following conclusion in his over 600 page work:

“I am contending that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical bedrock. Since it fulfills all five of the criteria for the best explanation and outdistances competing hypotheses by a significant margin in their ability to fulfill the same criteria, the historian is warranted in regarding Jesus’ resurrection as an event that occurred in the past.”[5]

Thus, from using this method, Jesus’ historicity as well as Jesus’ resurrection are confirmed.

2. Arguments from Statistical Inference.

The Arguments from Statistical Inference method evaluates all data in question and evaluates the probability that an event could have happened. If one eliminates the possibility of God’s existence and God’s involvement in an event, then the odds that a “miraculous” event occurred goes down dramatically. However, if one holds that a greater power was involved, the odds go up drastically. Licona gives the illustration of one evaluating whether his son could lift 200 lbs. over his head. While such may be improbable, if one is willing to add that a bodybuilder assisted him, the added datum allows for such an event to become much more probable.[6] If the historian is going to be unbiased, then one must allow for the possibility of God’s existence, and the possibility that God may have an invested interest for raising Jesus from the dead.

While this method will always be somewhat subjective, the historian can make an educated synopsis of how historically certain an event is. McCullagh uses the following grades:

“Extremely probable: in 100-95% of cases

Very probable: in 95-80% of cases

Quite or fairly probable: in 80-65% of cases

More probable than not: in 65-50% of cases

Hardly or scarely probable: in 50-35% of cases

Fairly improbable: in 35-20% of cases

Very improbable: in 20-5% of cases

Extremely improbable: in 5-0% of cases.”[7]

 

While it must be admitted that in history one cannot hold 100% certainty that any event took place one could argue that one cannot be 100% certain of what a person had for breakfast. However, one could say that it was extremely probable that a person had Cheerios® for breakfast if one sees a used bowl and spoon with bits of Cheerios® cereal, accompanied by used milk at the bottom of the bowl, with an empty Cheerios® box sitting beside the bowl.

So, what can we draw from our investigation?

Concluding Thoughts

So, does Jesus pass the historical method? I would say so. In fact, so much so that I think one can logically hold the following premises.

It is extremely probable that Jesus existed. One can say with over 95% certainty that Jesus existed. To claim otherwise is to hold a level of skepticism that will disallow one to know about anyone or anything in history.

It is extremely probable that Jesus rose from the dead. The strength of Jesus’ existence is coupled with the strength of his resurrection. In my estimation, I would say that one holds a very strong case for the resurrection of Christ being an actual event of history.

It is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples saw him risen from the dead. Some may argue that this point deserves to hold the level “very probable.” However, I feel that given other data to consider that it is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples encountered the risen Jesus.

It is very probable that we have good eyewitness testimony telling us about the life of Jesus. While we have fantastic eyewitness testimony for the life of Jesus, particular debates surrounding the Evangelists’ identity and the like take down the probability a notch. In my estimation the eyewitness testimony deserves to have the highest ranking, but to be fair to all the data involved, I give it a very probable ranking (95-80% certainty).

It is extremely improbable that the Jesus Mythicist campaign has any leg on which to stand. Even agnostic Bart Ehrman has confessed that the Jesus Mythicist campaign is erroneous. While the historical data does not prove Jesus to be the Messiah (that comes by faith), the data provides solid grounding for accepting such a belief. In stark contrast, one can claim that the idea that Jesus was a myth is extremely improbable (0-5%).

Therefore, one may deny Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, one may reject his claims as divine, and one may pass off his miracles as the work of a magician, however one cannot deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed and one will be hard-pressed to deny that this same Jesus walked out of the tomb the first Easter Sunday.

Jesus of Nazareth passes the historical test with a solid A+. 

© February 15, 2016. Brian Chilton.



Note to self and others struggling with faith: In my darkest moments, I held for dear life to the fact that the most certain thing about Jesus historically is that He died by crucifixion. And if He died on that cross, then Islam was false. I still had to deal with the fact of Jesus being divine or Jesus resurrecting… But if He died then Islam was false. That did not make Christianity true but Islam was false. I felt joy. And the best argument that Islam gave me about the cross was that God wanted to test people. Allah went all the way deceiving everybody to think that Jesus had died, but it wasn’t really so. Of course, Islam said Allah loved Jesus PBUH so much that He had to rescue Him from the shame of the cross and whatever, that’s why He had to raise Jesus to Himself. 

Okay, fine. But why? Why would Allah make other guy loo like Jesus? Why the secrecy? Why the lying? Why not be open about it and say, “Look, this is Jesus, I’m taking Him up to me”. No. Allah made other look like Jesus. That was deception in my eyes.

If that was God I would rather go to hell than to follow Him. Didn’t Allah know that by making other person look like Jesus many people would start a movement called The Way? Didn’t Allah know these people would follow Jesus as Lord and Savior? Didn’t He know I would be deceived as well in to worshipping this Jesus? And He still did it – just to test me? Why would Allah put so many obstacles between Him and me? I decided I would rather follow the Biblical Jesus and go to hell – even if that Jesus was a product of my own imagination – than to embrace the Islamic understanding of Allah and the non-historical life of  Jesus in the Quran.

As it turns out, Jesus did die for my sins and did rise from the dead. My head went ahead my heart, and the Holy Spirit kicked in later as I came back from India. I am now on fire for my Lord Jesus and I will forever proclaim Him as my Savior 🙂



Bibliography

Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.

McGullagh, C. B. Justifying Historical Descriptions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

[1] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 108.

[2] Ibid., 109.

[3] Ibid., 110.

[4] Ibid., 114.

[5] Ibid., 610.

[6] See Licona, 114.

[7] C. B. McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 52.

The Leftovers – Part 3


Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn, He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified.

Mark 6:47-49


Basically the disciples are freaking out in the storm. I don’t know how to put it any other way – they were freaking out. The storm was more than they could handle. Sometimes I have the same feeling, but to tell you the truth, I am not afraid anymore.

I was looking for some information on hell – why not – and I stumbled upon the concept of the afterlife from the Jewish perspective. I am still planning on writing about that, but something struck me. For Jewish people, this life is more important than the next. Heaven and Hell are not mentioned specifically in the Five Books of Moses (The Torah), but only in the books of the Prophets, the Writings, and the Talmud.

Why is the afterlife absent form the Torah if it is such a crucial part of Jewish philosophy? Heaven is not discussed in the Torah to emphasize that Jews do what’s right because it’s right. As simple as that.

We are not meant to dwell on the reward and punishment that awaits us in the next world. I can be a “righteous” person my whole life, do every single commandment, stop hunger, bring about world peace, save the ozone and cure all diseases. I can go to church every single Sunday, pray in the name of Jesus, and give my money to the poor – but if I did it all for a reward in the next world – I have lived a selfish life.

A story is told of a Jew who gave away his portion in the World to Come in order to rescue a kidnapped family being held for ransom. When asked why he was not sad over losing his place in Heaven, he responded, “I was always concerned that I was serving God for the wrong reasons. Now that I don’t have a portion in the World to Come I can serve Him reassured that I am doing it purely out of love and devotion.”

This is true service of God. God will judge our actions as well as our motives.

Even from the Muslim perspective, I found a poem from a Sufi poet. My Christian friends: You should know Sufi Muslims are the Charismatic Muslims. They are the Mystical Muslims. I met a Sufi Muslim in Delhi, and we had a wonderful conversation, I will write about that too – as God allows me. Sufis do not constitute a separate sect of Islam (as do, for example, the Shi’ites), but can be found within both the Sunni and Shi’a sects. All Sufis stress the supreme importance of religious experience, and distinguish themselves among other Muslims by their insistence that experience of God can be achieved in this life.


O my Lord, if I worship you

by Sufi Rabi’a Al-‘Adawiyya

O my Lord,

if I worship You
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship You
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship You
for Yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.


I think that the more I see the world, the more I want to follow Jesus. And don’t misunderstand what I mean by that. Does that mean I believe Jesus is God? Or that He died for my sins? Or that He was crucified? I don’t have the answer to those questions as of now. But I will continue to hold on to His teachings. It’s like a marriage, you know. If Jesus is indeed who the Bible portrays Him to be, I have been betrothed. I am a Bride waiting for my Bridegroom. Would I dump my husband because He is not coming back just yet? Would you dump your wife just because someone told you they saw her with another man? Would I get a formal divorce because I heard rumors of my Bridegroom not being the person I have thought Him to be after all these years? No. Of course not.

When you have marriage problems, you deal with your own problems as a couple. You fight, and wrestle with each other, until things become clearer. You stay there if you really love each other because marriage is sacred in the eyes of God. You try, and keep on trying, because when you married your spouse you made a promise to God. That is what marriage is for me – commitment. For better or for worse.

If Jesus is the Savior- if He is the Savior of the world- then nobody can snatch me out of His hand. Nothing spiritually evil can touch me. My body, you can kill it if you give me a poisoned red velvet cupcake – but not my soul. Nothing will be able to separate from the love of God. Not death, not life, not angels, not demons, not things present, not things to come, not any powers, not height, not depth, not any other created thing (call it human beings, jinns or Shaytan himself), will be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Jesus the Messiah.

Isn’t that awesome? That if Jesus is the real deal, then the love of God for somebody can be so wide and long and high and deep that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. And that this love surpasses human wisdom, knowledge or human understanding – because it doesn’t make sense that God could love this much! And that by knowing this love, you might actually be filled with the fullness of God.

If someone misguided me to worship Jesus – the church or a pastor – then I will deal with that. Not alone, but with YAHWEH who knows it all. I hope my blog helps other people to see this fearless faith – even if you don’t agree with it.

The Christian faith is NOT just a blind leap in the dark, you know, like you are gonna run to the end of the cliff hoping there’s something there to catch you. No. The Christian faith is also rational. 


Faith is trusting what we have good reason to believe is true. It provides us EVIDENCE that appeals to our minds. The Christian faith is not an ALL or NOTHING proposition. You don’t have to be TOTALLY CERTAIN or else, you have NO FAITH AT ALL. That is not the faith that Jesus talked about…

– Rich Nathan


This has been my struggle. But what if Jesus saw His disciples in the storm and thought, “I wish you would just look down in the boat, ’cause you’ve got your sack full of broken pieces…”

They had the evidence for the miracle of feeding fifteen thousand people. They had just witnessed it, but they were focusing on the storm. In the middle of my own storm, I should not focus on my circumstances. I will focus on the things that Jesus has done for me before. I will take my basket full of broken pieces into the storm of tomorrow. The same God who was with me back in the storms of yesterday is the same God who is with me in the storms of today. The same God who brought me to where I am now is the same God who will get me through this.

Jesus climbed into the boat with them, and told them DO NOT BE AFRAID.

There have been times when I have asked God who He really is with only a Bible in my hand. I have also done that with only a Quran in my hand. Was He Allah as revealed in the Bible? Without corruption theories… Or was He Allah as written in the Quran? With Quran as the final revelation?

My Muslimah has been so faithful praying for me through all this. She prayed something called Istikhara in my behalf. In love, she asked Allah to guide me. After finding out what Allah had revealed to her, I asked God to reveal to ME who He really was – Bible and Quran side by side. I am thinking that If Allah gave HER an answer in my behalf, then Allah would have to give ME the same answer. Otherwise, we were not talking to the same Divine Being.

Call me crazy, but on my own prayer time, Allah guided me to the same account in both Quran and the Bible. The account of Judah as he offers himself to protect Benjamin during the famine in Egypt. The accounts are SO different in both books and Judah WAS NOT a mere coincidence for me. God did not lie with His revelation to my friend. He was so truthful with His guidance to me as well. In His loving character, and being faithful to Himself, Allah showed me the two paths.

And I chose the LION OF JUDAH.

Not fair...

Not fair – Part 3

While on vacation, several things happened regarding my faith journey. I was asked by a waiter if I was a Muslim. I couldn’t but laugh nervously. Apparently he saw my daughter eating enormous amounts of bacon with her pancakes.


No, I am not a Muslim. Why do you ask me that, Abdullah? [Points at the bacon] Oh, the bacon, of course. Nope. I am not a Muslim, but I know about the bacon. I’m reading your Quran. My best friends in Chennai are Muslims, and I always tell them how a terrible Muslim I would make because I like beer. Are you married, Abdullah?  


Abdullah is married, but he sees his daughter -who is 18 months old- only a few days every six months. He also told me that a lot of Muslims eat bacon because they don’t even know they are not supposed to eat it. This is in a country where alcohol and pork are banned from consumption (except at the resorts), and importing anti-Islamic materials (including idols for worship and Bibles) is an offence. Abdullah was nothing but nice to me. I did not take any offense in him asking me whether I was a Muslim or not. My husband, of course, thought that was none of his business.

But I actually thought it was really sweet that Abdullah would care for my daughter and for me not sinning in case we were Muslims. My daughter has a free pass on sins until she reaches puberty, but not me. He was not telling me it is wrong to eat pork. He was not holding me accountable to his beliefs. He was holding me accountable to my sin only if I was a Muslim. That is why he asked first. And I think that was a beautiful Muslim parallel example of the accountability I explained in my last post Christians – Part 2.

Another thing that happened is that I was asked by a young woman [Sherry] which religion I followed. She explained she was Catholic, but she did not understand why the priests were so controlling to the people in her native country, and why her Muslims friends at the resort were telling her that Jesus was not God. I seriously felt like hugging her and asking her, “Have they told you yet that the Bible is corrupted?” 

She asked me if I could explain the Trinity for her. I gave it a shot, and I explained it to her – as much as I grasp it. The Trinity belongs to another post, tough. I just want to make clear that The Trinity mentioned in the Quran is indeed a blatant blasphemy for me as a Christian.


They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God.

-Quran 5:73

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “‘O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it.

– Quran 5:116


After reading these two verses together the question begs to be asked… Is it reasonable for me to think that Prophet Muhammad thought that the Trinity of Christianity consisted of Jesus, Mary and Allah? I say maybe. Many Muslims on the web wrongly assert this is what Christians believe. My own Muslim confronted me one morning on why I prayed TO Mary. Who told him that? Other Christians? I don’t think so. I will have to ask him, but he definitely read it in the Quran. Maybe Prophet Muhammad was referring to a smaller group of Christians who seemed to have a heretical emphasis on praying TO Mary.

But it is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church that Catholics do not pray TO saints or Mary, but rather that Catholics can ask saints or Mary to pray FOR them. Whether this practice is biblical or not, my Catholic Brothers and Sisters in Christ worship GOD ALONE. We may have differences in understanding, but Catholics will never tell you Mary is part of the Trinity. I was raised Catholic, FYI.

Anyway… Sherry was very sweet. There are people hungry for God. There are people who have questions about God. I knew there were people actively looking for God, and maybe this was God’s way to show me. This morning, on the other hand, my children and I were surrounded by five Muslim women all wearing black from top to bottom – abaya, hijab and all. They were all smiling and shaking my hand as my landlord introduced them as his wife and his four daughters. What is God trying to tell me? My Muslimah thinks Allah is trying to open my eyes to the truth of Islam. Sure. Why not?

BUT IT IS NOT FAIR.

It is not fair that I have to become a Muslim for God to love me. Being a Muslim is not as easy as believing in One and Only One God and submitting to Him. One cannot be a Muslim until one recites the Shahada, the First Pillar of Islam, with sincerity and conviction: I bear witness that there is no God worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the  Messenger of Allah.


Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Obey Allah and His messenger [Muhammad], but if they turn back, Allah does not love the unbelievers.

– Quran 3:31-32

Whoever disbelieves, he shall be responsible for his disbelief, and whoever does good, they prepare (good) for their own souls, that He may reward those who believe and do good out of His grace; surely He [Allah] does not love the unbelievers.

God’s love for me is contingent on whether or not I believe in Muhammad. As of right now, I am an unbeliever. I cannot recite the Shahada from the heart. And if I do not believe in God AND Muhammad:

  • As I enter hell and my skin is burned, it will be exchanged for other skin so that I taste the punishment (Quran 4:56).
  • The angels will smite my face and my back so that I taste the punishment of burning (Quran 8:50).
  • I am also the vilest of animals (Quran 8:55).
  • I have burning fire awaiting for me (Quran 48:13).
  • I will also have an entertainment of boiling water (Quran 56:91-93).
  • I will also burn in hell (Quran 56:94), but that I already knew.

There are more verses, but those are enough for me. After doing all this reading, not a single Muslim can sincerely tell me that Christianity is too narrow. No way. Islam is as narrow. I don’t have a problem with the doors being narrow, you see, because I do want to choose a door. My doors are either the Jesus of the Bible OR Muhammad [and the Jesus in the Quran]. I cannot have both. Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive.

But I have experienced that God is loving. I know God is just. And I know God is fair. Our human understanding of His justice is what makes us question His love and His fairness. But God’s ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts are our thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are higher [Isaiah 55:8-9].

As I read my Quran, I constantly ask God with an open heart, IS THIS TRUE?

Not fair...

Not fair – Part 2

“Aren’t you afraid?”, I asked my husband. “I know you are sick of me with all this, but I need to hear from you. What do you think? Don’t you care about going to hell?”


Sweetheart, you are looking for something that you will NOT find. You are looking for proof that what you believe is true. You won’t find that. The only thing you will find is information that will enable you to make a decision – a sensible choice. I made a choice a long time ago to follow Jesus. I read and I chose. Can I prove it? No, but I still choose to believe it. That’s faith. Go running, it will help you clear your mind…


He is right, you know. I don’t know how it happened but I have committed so much of my time to find information about Islam and Christianity for the last six months. It probably started after the Bible-corruption talk I had with my Muslims. They are my Muslims and they will always be. But my husband is right. I will never be certain of anything. These things are not very likely to be settled scientifically. All I can do then is to make an informed decision. If I end up going to hell, I cannot blame anybody but me, I guess.


A Muslim is a person who submits to God. Any human can be a Muslim if he believes in one and only one God AND he leads a good life by submitting to that one God.

A non-Muslim, by definition, is a person who does not recognize God as a Sovereign Law giver Who rewards the good and punishes the bad.

OnIslam.net


The duty of Muslims is to do more good deeds and minimize evil deeds. That’s how they hope to attain salvation. Again, bear in mind, only in general terms. So on the Day of Judgment, Allah will judge them and ask them about each single deed that they did in this world. If the scale of good deeds exceeds the bad deeds, by Allah’s mercy they will enter Paradise.


Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. He who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed

– Prophet Muhammad

Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim


In Islam actions are judged on the basis of intentions. Bad actions are not necessarily bad. Actually, good intentions in themselves have become good because they are based on the right philosophy or the right belief. Personally, I don’t think that would fly with the Jesus of the Bible. They might fly with the Muslim Jesus in the Quran, but not with my Jewish Husband. I have been so angry with my children that I have felt like throwing them out of the window. That is murder according to the Jewish Jesus.

When Jesus walked on this earth, He elevated the standard of morality to a higher level than The Law of Moses. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says that you shall be subjected to penalty (bound, guilty) if you get the kind of anger (irritation) that focuses on punishing your offender rather than punishing the moral content of the offense (that’s me with my children). Not only that, if in contempt you call someone a moron, a fool, a stupid idiot – anything that puts into question his “brains” – you are risking going to gehenna (hell). Keep in mind that Jesus is talking to his twelve closest men, and to a whole crowd of people.

I am telling you people, following Jesus is creeping me out. This is a Jesus I had never seen in these eight years. This man is NOT a pushover. But then He forgives, and says that there is no greater love but to give your life for your friends, and He dies willingly. So Jesus calls you out when you sin, but then He dies for it. I think trying to explain how He embodied grace AND truth is impossible for me as a human being.

According to Islam, though, even if I felt like killing and thought about it many times, it doesn’t count as a bad deed. It actually counts as a good one because I didn’t follow through with the murder. Of course I was confused, so I asked my friends. They told me to read the Quran first, and to stop messing with the hadiths. Haven’t they realized they got me into this to start with?

 So to make things clearer: Muslims follow the Quran, the Sunnah and the hadiths.

  1. The Quran is their Holy Book.
  2. The Sunnah are the religious practices that were established by the Prophet among his companions, and have passed to them by the consensus of generations.
  3. The hadiths are narrations that are attributed to the companions of the Prophet who narrate a statement or a story about Muhammad or related to him.

According to some Muslims, the Quran and the Sunnah remain as their primary sources to understand Islam. But there are other Muslims who only follow the Quran and disregard the Sunnah, so you see them arguing on the web about this. These arguments do not even include the hadiths. There is a whole process for determining if the hadith is authentic or not. But a good rule of thumb is to go with Sahih al-Bukhari since it is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be the most authentic collection of sayings of Prophet Muhammad. After that, Sahih Muslim is the second best collection. So for now, I’m sticking to those.


He who obeys the Messenger [Mohammad] has obeyed Allah

– Quran 4:80


Were am I going with all this? Well, it has actually crossed my mind the idea that if Islam is the true religion, I have to dump Jesus as my Savior, acknowledge Him only as a prophet, and embrace the Seal of the Prophets: Muhammad. If I am going to be a Muslimah, I’m gonna have to give it my best shot because No Savior means it all depends on me. My salvation rests on my shoulders, and of course, Allah’s mercy.

As I’ve seen, though, there is no consistency in how Allah punishes sin. Sometimes He wipes it all away, sometimes He does keep track of your wrong doings. This, of course, has me all confused because Allah in the Quran does not display the same character that Allah in the Bible displays (which has given me headaches for the last 6+ months). Seriously, it is hard to keep track of my children on an everyday basis, how am I supposed to keep track of my deeds with God?


Whoever says, ‘Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi,’ one hundred times a day, will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea.

Sahih al-Bukhari

Whoever says, ‘La ilaha illal-lah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu-l-mulk wa lahul- hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shai’in qadir,’ one hundred times will get the same reward as given for manumitting ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts

Sahih al-Bukhari


Allah can do whatever He wants because He is God. God is God. The One and Only True God that Muslims, Christians and Jews worship according to Quran 29:46. So I think I owe it to myself to learn from Prophet Muhammad. It only makes sense that if he is a beautiful pattern of conduct (Quran 33:21) then I have to evaluate whether or not I want to sign up for Islam.

I am questioning things. I have to dissect the Jewish Jesus, the Muslim Jesus, Christianity, Islam, Muhammad, even Judaism and reincarnation. Anything goes in my search for truth, and I am telling you, it is NOT fair.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Not fair...

Not fair – Part 1

Now that my life is spinning around the internet researching for stuff, I have stumbled over the subject of Jesus as the ONLY way to heaven. Most people think it is unfair. Let’s say it is. I agree. It is unfair. It is very narrow. What I would like to know is exactly what fairness is. I cannot speak for everybody because I cannot know the heart of every single person in the world, so I will just speak for myself.

The very fist time I heard about a guy named Jesus had died for my sins, and that He loved me so much He wanted to help me with my life was when I was 12. I vaguely remember a friend of mine inviting me to this Protestant church in Mexico. Mostly I was hanging out with him, and then his parents took us with them to church. I don’t know how I ended up there, but I did. After the message, a gentleman asked us if we wanted to know more about Jesus. I raised my hand, but when someone came to talk to me, they saw that my parents were not there. They said they could not talk to me about Jesus because I was not with a responsible adult. Apparently, I needed my parent’s permission to hear the gospel [sarcasm].

Then, at age 20, a friend from high school invited me to church again. He told me about a guy named Jesus being amazing. My friend told me how he was a new person, and how this Jesus had rescued him from his sins and whatnot. Keep in mind I was Catholic, alright? I had been baptized as a baby. I was Christian. Is that what being a Christian means? Anyway… my friend stopped inviting me after I said no many times. It was wonderful that he had seen the light, I was just not interested.

My point is this. Of all the people who say Christianity is too narrow, that it is unfair that a loving God would only choose a person – Jesus – as the ONLY way to come to Him… Of all the people who refuse to come because the gate is too narrow… How many of those people really want to enter?  I ask because the narrow door was just an excuse in my case. The truth is I did not want to enter. I was very comfortable sleeping around. I might have known deep down inside me that God knew better and that having sex like I had candy was not good for me.  But who the heck cared? I liked it!

If you told me back then that the gate was too narrow and that the ONLY way to come to the Father was through Jesus, I would have objected. Of course. I would have made plenty of excuses. I’m happy Jesus works for you, but it’s not for me. I don’t think it’s a sin to have sex with my boyfriend, you know. After all, if we love each other, then it’s okay. It is not a sin if it’s done with love. I need to clean up my act before coming to God. Besides, it is unfair to other people. The way to the Father is too narrow. Why ONLY Jesus? 

You name my excuse, I would have given it to you. I knew there were things that might have been wrong with my life, but it was okay. I was happy. I never felt broken. Not all the time anyway. Sometimes I did feel lonely, but then I would just sleep around some more, and my loneliness went away. But my burden, my load, began feeling really heavy. I don’t know how it became heavy or when, I just felt really tired.

Being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, requires sacrifice. I wish I could tell you I am a disciple. For the most part, I am  trying to follow Him. But now that I am reading all this, and even doing a little bit of Greek here and there to understand the New Testament in its original language, I am scared of Jesus. I had always been like Jesus, Jesus, lovely Jesus, softy Jesus, but you don’t mess with Jesus. He said that if you wanted to be his disciple (to go after Him) you would have to deny (to disown, to repudiate, to ignore) yourself, to take up your cross, and follow Him. He doesn’t sound like a pushover. If the guy really died out of love for you, it is only fair He would demand obedience from His followers. The gift of salvation is free for anybody who wants to take it. But free doesn’t mean cheap. 

So I rejected the offer many times, mainly because I had no idea what the offer was. Tell you what, tough, unconditional love… you don’t walk away from that. I just couldn’t. So one day, I decided to walk through the narrow gate. I wish I could tell you I had objection for the door being too narrow, but I didn’t have excuses anymore. I had tried many things, but nothing seemed to change. So why not? I gave Jesus a shot. In faith, I asked God to help me change my ways, and my heart. I was ready for Him to do whatever He needed to do, I was done trying to figure out life on my own. And He kept His word. He helped.

But last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I was afraid. I was afraid I am going to hell for believing in Jesus as my Savior. I have been reading my Quran too much, you see, trying to make sense of all this. My Muslim friends told me to read it if I wanted to understand their religion. All this time, though, my husband has probably gotten the worst part. I talk constantly about all these things, about all I am finding out, about all the debates I’ve watched, and the latest news on Jewish and Islamic websites.

I know my husband loves me, but this definitely is not something he enjoys talking about – at least not for hours, like me. Hence, the blog. This morning I asked him, crying, if he was not afraid of going to hell for having confessed Jesus as His Lord and Savior eight years ago.


Seriously? We are going on vacation tomorrow. I am taking you to the beach for the first time in eight years. WE HAVE NEVER GONE TO THE BEACH. Do we have to talk about hell right now? Can you just disconnect your brain from all this until we come back?

– Dear Husband


Yep… that’s my husband right there. All our closest friends know this is him. He kept on talking.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Fear of death

Fear

I have only been VERY afraid three times in my life. You know, that kind of fear that overtakes you and you cannot sleep. The first time it was when I thought I had cervical cancer. I had been diagnosed with HPV, and the possibility of developing cancer was there. My mind is a very powerful mind. It takes me places where I know I shouldn’t go. It was fear what made me think I might have cancer. I went through a cryosurgery, and the lesions were taken care of. Ever since then, I have a very healthy cervix. I am not afraid anymore. But if I have to be honest with myself, when the time for my yearly pap-smear comes, I always grow anxious until I see it’s negative.

The second time I was very scared was when I didn’t feel my first child moving anymore around 30 weeks into the pregnancy. We rushed to the hospital and I was given steroids in case the baby had to be taken out. My amniotic fluid was at a very low-level, and I remember feeling alone. We decided not to tell our parents mostly because they were a thousand miles away from Houston. Literally. They were in Mexico City.  But I remember a sweet woman who came to the hospital to pray for me. At that time, we were doing a 30 week study of the Book of Isaiah. I was so afraid lying down in my hospital bed when she began praying over me. She did not pray for my baby to be healthy. She did not pray for my baby to stay inside my uterus. She did not pray for everything to be the way I wanted it. She prayed for God’s will to be done. Up to this day, that prayer has been the most difficult – and the most beautiful – I had been prayed over.

That day I realized that if I was going to follow the God of Israel, I had to agree with Him in many things, whether I understood them or not, whether I liked them or not. It made sense to me that sometimes bad things happened to good people, but there was nothing in this world that would happen to me if God had not allowed that to come my way. The problem with this statement, of course, arises with the different views people have of God. But I believed God was good all the time. I trusted Him. I knew Him. I knew He was for me and with me. So I was not worried anymore about the outcome. Of course, it was pretty sweet when they released me from the hospital with a big baby that I had to carry for ten more weeks.

The third time I was afraid happened just recently. A sudden pain in my back got me by surprise. I ended up with the gastroenterologist who suggested some lab work, an ultrasound, and an endoscopy. I was afraid of eating anything with fat, and guess what? Yes. I was afraid I had stomach cancer. My grandma died of stomach cancer so it was possible. My mind took me to scary places and I lost about 10 lb. in about two weeks. Even after the endoscopy showed only a mild gastritis – that I think everyone has- I kept on losing weight. I was eating even more than before, but kept on losing weight. I was afraid of dying.

I wanted God to help me. I just did’t know how He would do that. I remembered the two years that I went for counseling every single week. The lady mostly just let me talk forever, and she would just lead the questions, but I often ended finding my own answers. So I figured God had to be the best counselor. So every morning, before my children got up, or when they were napping, I made myself a cup of coffee and talked to God for hours. I asked Him to show me something, to tell me, to guide me to the root of my fear. If only I knew the root of my fear, then I would know how to stop being afraid. The Lord guided me through some Scriptures…


Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you;

He will never let the righteous be shaken.

– Psalm 55:22 of David


I was afraid for my children. I did not want to die because I feared they wouldn’t remember me. I would be such a distant memory. My oldest one was not even two years old, and my youngest was not even six months old. They would not remember the words I had spoken to them everyday. They would not remember about how beautifully they had been created in God’s image. They would not remember how infinitely they had been loved by God. As much as I tried, I couldn’t remember my parents at their age. The freshest memories of my parents that I was able to really remember (without looking at photos) were when I was about four or five years old. But I wanted to be remembered. How did I want to be remembered? That was the kind of mom I needed to be.

“I know one day this will be over. I will conquer it because you are helping me”, I wrote down. Yes, I keep logs of every single thing I have prayed. I need to remember God’s faithfulness to me. I often forget.

I argued with God – as if I could bargain – that maybe if my children were fifteen years old I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. I just wanted them to be saved. You know, I just wanted them to accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Then it would be okay for me to die. But somehow, in my Christian psyche or whatever (we call it the Holy Spirit) I knew that was not right. Even if they were fifteen and they had decided on their own to follow Jesus as Savior, I knew I would still be afraid. My fear was that I wouldn’t be there to help them choose right all the time. It hurt to realize that this children were not my own as much as I wanted them to be. It became obvious to me that I had to teach them to follow God on their own. God showed me that even if they were thirty and, I was still alive, they could reject my faith. They could say they were Christians, but only God could see their hearts.


The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.

– 2 Peter 3:9,15


Every person has the free will whether to choose to put their faith in Jesus as Savior or not. Once I realized I was not in control anymore, and that it was their choice and not mine, the fear disappeared. I had found the root of my fear: I did not trust God with my children.  The only solution possible was to trust God. I had to trust God to make Himself known to my children. God had been patient with me. What made me think He wouldn’t be patient with them?

Fear and doubt is something that you don’t make an appointment with, if you know what I mean. Nobody says, “Today, I’m gonna fear and doubt my salvation at 3 pm”. But I am afraid. Fear and doubt are gripping my heart like never before. I believe hell is real, and I used to believe I wouldn’t go there. But I am reading things and hearing things that have made me put into question every single thing I felt so sure about.

Jesus’ death and resurrection has been my hope. Without His resurrection every single Christian’s hope is futile. There’s the slight possibility that my faith is all a lie. But if not Jesus, then who?

Christians – Part 2

I think the definition of Christian I gave in the last post struck a cord with many of my friends, and I am glad. Here’s the unfortunate truth. As Christians, we need to understand that when people outside the church (people who are non-religious, people who have never called themselves Christians) look at us, sometimes they expect more of us than we expect of ourselves. We can hide behind the word Christian. We say, I am a Christian. But they say, Yes, but you don’t look like Jesus. 

Andy Stanley never defined Christian as such, but somehow it is true, isn’t it? I know not all Christians are like that, and that’s awesome. Unfortunately, outsiders see one Christian acting like this, and the tendency is to ditch the whole thing based on that. The relationship with my sister suffered because of this. And I had to ask her to forgive me. Now we don’t even talk about Jesus on a regular basis. Our relationship has improved. A LOT. It improved once I realized my sister is not accountable to me for what I believe. Her life and how she deals with her life; the decisions she makes and the reasons behind those decisions are NONE of my business. 


A Christian is about what a person believes. A disciple is about what a person actually does.

– Andy Stanley


When the whole Jesus’ movement began, the apostles began scattering throughout the whole region preaching what they have seen and heard. They did not had any Bible. The New Testament as we know it hadn’t even been put together yet. All they had was the apostles stories of Jesus, the eyewitnesses accounts of all the people who saw Jesus resurrected, and some letters that the apostle Paul had written to different churches – the letters to the Romans, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, etc.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes to the followers of Jesus living in Corinth. In the apostle Paul’s day, Corinth had several nicknames.  It was known as Carnal Corinth, Sin City, or Vanity Fair.  What happened in Corinth stayed in Corinth. Come sin here.  Come indulge hereThat was my kind of city back in college. There was commercialized gambling, debauchery, drinking, and prostitution. Sex was practically considered a religion in itself. The apostle Paul had to instruct them on how to live their faith in a city like this.

Sexual immorality, however, had found their way into the Jesus’ followers community. A man was sleeping with his father’s wife. Probably not his mother, maybe his ex-wife, but it might have been an ongoing relationship. The Christian community, however, was not addressing this issue. They all knew about it, but nobody was speaking up against it. It was so bad that not even the non-followers of Jesus in Corinth sinned like this.


It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud!

1 Corinthians 5:1-2


The apostle Paul continues to tell them that they are not supposed to dissociate from the people who do this kind of things because in that case, they would have to leave the world – let alone Corinth. But Paul makes sure that they understand that this is a behavior they cannot tolerate in the Jesus community. In other words, there are standards. The man can do whatever the heck he wants, but if he has signed up to be a disciple, there are rules to follow. The Believers in Corinth have to disassociate from this man until he repents and stops that behavior.  Then of course, he can come back to the Jesus community.


As one who is present with you in this way [in spirit], I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this

1 Corinthans 5:3


I thought the Bible said you are not supposed to judge, you might say. Well, according to the Bible, Paul judged this man in the name of Jesus. Sure, Jesus said, “Do not judge or you will be judged”. Every time we judge the heart of people based on their behavior, we are stepping over God’a arena. That kind of judgement belongs ONLY to God. But Paul is talking about accountability within the church. We, Christians, are supposed to hold other Christians accountable for their actions.

Paul continues in verse 12, What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside“.

You see, Andy believes – and I agree – that we have found something amazing. We believe you can have peace with God. We believe broken marriages can be restored. Bad relationships can be healed. Your children can come back. We believe God can land in the area of your money, your profession, your whole life. Addictions can be broken. We believe you can have peace with God. We believe God loves you, and we feel compelled to tell you. But unfortunately, our approach has not always been the best.

We have to understand that in the first century, Jesus’ followers never expected non-Jesus’ followers to behave like them. Our mistake as Christians is that we expect everybody who has never signed up to follow Jesus to behave as if they have signed up to follow him. We were doing great for the first three centuries. The disciples won people to Christ by loving them. People felt drawn to this type of community, they never felt coerced. People may have felt guilty, but they never felt condemned. But when the Roman Empire made Christianity its official religion, everything went bad. Once the church had the power, we went from God is love to God will getcha

I want to tell you, my friends – you know who you are- that Jesus does not condemn you. He loves you. He died for you. And whether one day you will sign up to be His disciples or not, my Jesus community wronged you. They sinned against you. I am deeply sorry that they did not show you what it is to be His disciple. I am sorry they were not able to love you like Jesus has loved them.

As an insider, I am holding them accountable for that.