Gilded Timbers

   As I sit in my darkened room gently tapping away I am lulled away from my work by the rhythmic breathing of my sleeping child just a few feet behind me yet miles away in peaceful slumber. Tired from a full day’s activities he rests peacefully, unaware of life’s many worries. I am quickly snapped back to reality and to the task at hand by the droning hum my computer fans. The cold stare of my monitor accompanies me on my journey into this paper. I am aware yet unmoved by the daily assaults on my; peace, my family, my finances and my faith. I am unshaken, not because I do not care but, because I am fully aware of the one who cares enough to stay awake with me. I am not consumed by dread because my dread is carried in bigger hands. If I am comforted by a fairytale, then why not make it Peter Pan or Santa Clause? Why, if this Jesus were not the one he claims to be, would I or anyone dedicate a lifetime to following Him? Why should I tolerate persecution and ridicule for a fraud? Jesus is either God Almighty who loves His fallible creation or He is the biggest lunatic in history. It is my intention to sway the; unbeliever and the uncertain and to arm the believer. The Bible says in Ro 1:20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse:[1] . In this paper we will look at what different scientist say and determine if we may come to a logical conclusion regarding the cross. We will look at the Bible and see if we may neatly dissect portions of the Bible to eliminate that which we do not like so much. We will look at historical evidence. We will look at the Gilded Timbers on which He hung, is this relevant today? Lastly I want to offer first hand experience; what did He do for me? Did He make a difference? Was it will power? Let’s find out.

    At the crossroads of intellect and faith it is easy to throw the Bible out, certain this archaic text no longer holds any relevance. Why would the logical man bother with such ancient writings? After many years of tampering and adjusting we can be sure the Bible we know today is nowhere near that which was originally written, or can we? The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered between 1947 and 1956 are among the oldest Biblical manuscripts ever discovered and they were discovered in the twentieth century. One testament to the accuracy of our current Bible is an ancient copy of Isa 66 wherein only 16 letters are in question, amounting to nothing greater than minor stylistic changes [2]. We have more complete original writings from the Apostles than we do from Shakespeare [2]. How is it that such an ancient book is better preserved than something from a century or two ago? Could it be a living God has preserved these writings? Jesus, the man is commonly accepted as historical fact even His crucifixion is rarely argued against. His resurrection is backed by the testimony of many powerful and influential religious and political leaders of His day. Why would so many with so much on the line, those with reputations to protect, testify to something nearly guaranteed to bring their influence, reputation and reign as leader to an end? The answer, to me, is clear; Jesus is who He says He is. There is no other book which stirs such great debate. Books which blatantly tout of human power and individual human rights and authority skim by skeptical eyes unnoticed. What is it about the Bible that stirs such passion? In human culture, it is more likely to see one expending efforts in silencing truth before they will lift a finger to quiet a lie. Our Bible is the base for; our laws, our standard of behavior [3], many popular songs and some common slang. One would expect that for a book, any book, to have such an impact it would have to reek of truth yet mainstream music has quoted the Bible time and again. One popular mainstream song, popularized by “The Byrds” was “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To everything there is a season). This song is taken almost verbatim from Ec 3:1-8. other secular songs taken from scripture include; U2’s “40, Boney M’s “Rivers of Babylon” and Sister Janet Mead’s “the Lord’s Prayer” [4]. I don’t know what you see when faced with little facts such as these but, it is clear to this author that a loving and concerned God is behind this. Perhaps this is a tool he uses to reveal His majesty. One of the most powerful, provocative and recognizable tools He has ever used is the cross. Let’s examine the cross and discuss some truths associated with it.

    The Father’s greatest gift to mankind came not beautifully ornamented and carefully placed beneath a well manicured tree, but wrapped in pain and carelessly draped across gilded timbers. The mere mention of the cross invokes images of God and of Christ and of supreme benevolence. The cross is revered by the Christian and nonbeliever alike. I will never forget the story of the young boy who had wandered far from home. When a police officer saw him sitting on a curb crying he asked what was wrong. The boy told the officer he was lost. The policeman asked him if he knew where he lived and the boy told him “no”. The boy explained that he lived with his grandmother and she lived near a church with a large cross on the roof. The boy said “If I can just find my way back to the cross, I know I will be home.” [5] The cross, the Bible itself is under constant fire from different organizations and the only reason for this I can see is the fact that these things make people uncomfortable. What if God is real? What if Jesus is who He says He is? If these things are true then my sinful life style is at risk. These loud voices of truth and these anchors in morality must be silenced if I am to carry on and continue as lord of my life. I am often asked, “If God is so good why….?” I answer with “God is so good He tells us the truth the steps back and allows us to make our own choices. When we see our own consequences we shake an angry fist heavenward and question God. As a father I am privileged to see a very clear picture of this. When my son does something which warrants punishment he often tries to place the blame on someone else, or an object or even on me. On occasion his choice result in a broken toy and if I were to shield him from every consequence there would be no love there for there would be no learning, no opportunity for growth and that would be damaging. In the same way I allow many of the decisions my son makes so too our heavenly father allows us to blow it. Prior to salvation these circumstances stand as an illumination of our need and post salvation the illumination remains and if we allow Him, God will use our circumstance to bring us to a higher level of learning. God has given us the gilded timbers of the cross as an anchor and as an eternal reminder of the one who paid a debt which was never His.

    Archeologists and Geologists have unearthed evidence on top of evidence supporting the Biblical account of creation. It is often suggested that our planet is thousands of millions of years old. Many respected Geologist, who happen to be Christian, respectfully disagree. It has been said that at first glance geological changes appear to occur quite slowly. The Genesis account records very rapid changes after the flood. The processes we now observe are actually so fast they challenge the ancient Earth belief. At our present rates of erosion one might expect our continents to be eroded down to sea level inside ten million years. Why then do we still have our continents if they are supposed to be thousands of millions of years old? Even after making mathematical adjustments for mans interference with our Earth we could still have expected to see the continents erode hundreds of times by now. [6] Why are we still here? There are many other arguments for creation which are supported by respected members of the scientific community. Are we to believe we humans are now perfect? Evolution seems to have come to a rapid halt. We see examples of devolution as sited in Behe’s book, “Darwin’s Black Box” [7] Conundrums such as; Malaria and Sickle Cell Anemia are sited as clear examples of this phenomenon. Patients with the Sickle Cell gene are resistant to Malaria yet evolution says any change, in order to be kept in subsequent members of the species must be wholly beneficial. Sickle Cell will kill you and is therefore not beneficial to the perpetuation of any species. The Malaria virus often builds resistance to human antidotes yet these defenses often are temporary and have devastating side effects to the virus itself causing it to once again revert back. Those changes are damaging to that particular species and are therefore not beneficial and, according to the rules of evolution, should be thrown out.

   Another big question is; “With so many religions to choose from, how can you be so certain you have chosen correctly?” I can offer clear examples from my life that are irrefutable evidence of God’s majesty and grace. I am a changed man today because Jesus, God almighty had mercy on me. I once ran the streets with violence and anger. I was depressed and addicted to drugs, and then God reached into my mess and lifted me out. I am alive today because Christ allowed Himself to be crucified two thousand years ago. My life took a dramatic turn for the better on the very day I dedicated my life to Jesus. It can be argued that having any purpose is an anchor for a good life but it is not enough to simply be “good”. I have been given, in addition to my new life, eternal life. Prior to my metamorphic change I tried Dianetics [8] and a host of other things. These other religions, and techniques and programs require too much work. The basis of such programs is that if you work hard enough you can some how make yourself good enough. Good enough for what exactly? I do not pretend that Christianity requires no effort but I do know that your efforts are not what will save you. I do not get to sit back and do nothing, God does all of the hard stuff for me, the greatness of this is that in doing so I am empowered. I am empowered to believe and endowed with faith. Scientifically there is no explanation for this, no good explanation anyway; this is God and God alone. His success in your life is independent of your abilities. It is not necessary to be able to quit bad habits or give a Bible study or to be able to stand before the church with Sunday’s message. You need not the ability to write a term paper, you are required only to hold on and to believe. In many counterfeit religions your success in that religion is anchored to your abilities or the amount of work you do. The work you do or the abilities you possess are not the determining factor with Christianity Jesus is.

   Scott, you have just told me my works are not needed, doesn’t the Bible say, “God helps those who help themselves?” No, that is not in the Bible. I have a dear sweet friend who I just got off the phone with. She is facing life’s difficulties unaided and talks to me knowing full well what I am going to say to her. Why is it that people are so hungry to hear about God’s love for them? We humans have done little to preserve the nature of true love. You can see clear evidence of our perverted portrayal of love when you turn on the television or go to a movie and our culture follows these examples very closely. God’s love is pure and untainted, we are hard wired to desire this love and compassion and mercy, and we are designed to desire God. My friend considers moving to Oregon in search of an easier life, I guide her towards the Bible. I can, with absolute confidence, invite her into the family of God in spite of her sin. She has been conditioned by polluted love, which is by no means love at all, to believe she must be something else to be accepted. Because of the very nature of God I can be certain I am free to speak on my Father’s behalf and say to her “come to church, come to god and bring your sin with you.” We serve a God who wanted so badly to be in communion with His creation and to hear our troubles that he allowed His Son, Jesus to be tortured and killed so we could come to him. While my God may not remove my situation or remove me from my mess He will offer me the tools to withstand. I am often asked, why I “waste” my time on God, it is a better question to ask why everybody doesn’t?

    The media, in my opinion, is the greatest opposition to the cause of Christ. Why do movies such as the Atheist written “Golden Compass” continue to flourish in the face of the fact that it’s author has come forward with the fact that his target audience is children. This man came forward and said that his intention is to steer children away from the dangers of the Bible. The other wildly popular piece of tripe infiltrating our young peoples mind is even hemorrhaging into the church is a little book called “Harry Potter.” The author of the “Harry Potter” books has said her books are simply entertainment, harmless fantasy. The truth about this is these books are dangerous, young impressionable minds read this and fantasize about magic and sorcery and power. The next step after fantasy is action. It is a dangerous thing to introduce such horrific nonsense to our children. Popular music teaches that love is sex and consequently all borders are down. If the Bible and if Jesus were harmless fairy tales there would be no need for such powerful opposition. The news media is completely unhelpful; we hear stories of priests acting badly and of the youth director who molests his kids or the drunken pastor who beats his wife. When was the last time the news reported the good done by the church? The media, both electronic and printed is guiding this nation, yes this world, and people basically accept this as normal. It sure looks like there must be something to this whole ‘Jesus thing” to me. Could it be that just maybe He is who He says He is?

    I have heard scripture quoted to contradict scripture in an attempt to disprove the Bible. Taking one small piece of scripture out of the context of its supporting scripture is a bit like settling for a small piece of gristle when you could instead have the whole steak. You could easily and correctly say, “God loves the world why would He let any of us go to hell?” Your supporting scripture here is Joh 3:16, but when you read the rest of the scripture which goes with that bit you see that He gave His son so none should perish. The key is, I can give you a new car but unless you take it you still don’t have a new car. The same is true with Jesus, God gave us Jesus, He gave us salvation, but unless we take it still we parish. God does not decide for us that we are going to hell any more than He decides who gets salvation, the salvation is there for everyone but only those who accept the offer receive it. In other words we decide whether or not we enter in to eternal damnation or eternal rest.

    Still, in the midst of these previous arguments stands a looming symbol of hope. The cross is the anchor in history which divides time in two. Who was it that ripped the fabric of time in half? Jesus is the one who changed history so dramatically that the calendar was rewritten. At what point did we decide to turn A.D. (Ano Domini –Year of our Lord) into C.E. (Common Era)? What exactly is so common about this era? Why is it no longer appropriate to give our current day to Jesus? What do you see when you gaze upon the cross, a man who was at once human and divine God or a well meaning teacher unjustly punished? Why would the cross, these “Gilded Timbers” stand as such an offense or even just a question mark to so many? The main opponents to the cross seem to easily ignore the manger and even the empty tomb. Paul said if Christ did not rise then our religion was in vain. [9]

    1Co 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. The empty tomb should be the focal point even more so than the cross. The cross marks the second miracle of our salvation the first being that He stepped from glory into our mess. The greatness of our faith is the resurrection. Had He not risen again there would be no reason to follow Him for it would then be clear He was not at all who He claimed but rather just another crazy man on the spotty pages of history. So influential was and is Jesus that our calendar reflects and is hinged on His coming to Earth. No other man in history has turned a torture device into a thing of beauty. When was the last time you saw someone with a little electric chair around their neck? There is something so spectacular about the simplicity of Jesus that the cross became beautiful as a result of His death, the method for gauging time has been forever changed and people from all corners of the planet have come to know Him personally. I would wager that even the most hard core atheist is touched on some level by the cross and the Bible. The heavy beams started as trees He created, He was beaten by whips braided from the hide of His creation, fastened to wood He created by iron formed by His hands, and laid to rest in a cave formed in the rock of His creation. His execution carried out by men whom he Knew before He formed them in theirs mothers wombs, men who He knew would one day kill him. This ugly tool of execution has since that day stood as something beautiful, a symbol and an anchor of faith the ultimate valentine. Our human reasoning often feels compelled to explain everything never once stopping to think that some things are because they are. These “Gilded Timbers” stand as the strongest evidence of Christ’s deity simply because they are. No one would consciously choose execution for a lie, the bottom line is; Christ is God almighty and He loves you and He loves me and we are powerless to erase that love. Jesus will even let you pick your old life back up and turn your back on Him. True love holds you not by force but by choice, that is you will be compelled by love to stay with and obey Christ. If you are not uncontrollably compelled to serve at the feet of the master you are free to pick up your old life and walk away. I can only offer arguments for Jesus and why you should serve Him, in the end the choice is yours, what will you decide?


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