By Bill Hughes
“So, 2000+ years ago a man was killed on a cross, buried, came back to life and lives today? Sorry, I’m not buying it.”—Bill Hughes, 2013.
Yep! That was me. I was raised in the church, and my father was a pastor. I turned my back on all of it because I just knew I had it figured out. There were plenty of “very intelligent” and vocal atheists to bolster those non-beliefs. They’re still here, in our universities and on talk shows, spouting “proof” that the whole Jesus and God thing is nothing more than fantasy.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. I was perfectly content with my life and one day, while surfing radio stations I came across a very highly-educated, well-spoken atheist taking on a highly-educated and well-spoken Christian philosopher in an open forum debate. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is going to be good!” It did not turn out the way I thought it would. The Christian was well-equipped to combat every argument this “expert” atheist presented, and he did it in a way that left me mumbling expletives. I wasn’t happy with this violation of my belief system. So, (I can’t explain why I did this) I remembered I had a Bible given to me by my parents years ago. It was still in the box. Inside, they had both written messages with their favorite verses. My father’s was Proverbs 3:5 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Terrific! Just swell! Easter Sunday was just a few days away so I developed a plan to visit Luminary United Methodist Church, sit somewhere that allowed an easy getaway, and finally put this thing to rest. The conclusion was a given.
Easter Sunday morning, five years ago, I drove to the church and, on the way, shook my fist at the sky and said something brilliant like, “If you really are up there, God, this is your last shot at me.” (I now don’t recommend challenging God to a duel. There are a few ways it can go… some not so good.) I stepped into the sanctuary, found a seat, and listened. There was no fire and brimstone spitting, pulpit pounding preacher, warning us that we were all on our way to Hell if we didn’t change our ways. Pastor Chuck Griffin delivered a very relatable, down-to-earth message about the Resurrection. Something happened to me that day that changed my life. Chuck says he cannot take the credit, that it was the Holy Spirit at work reaching me. There is no other explanation.
If you are an atheist, or you regularly question the validity of your beliefs, answers are available. The research has been done by other non-believers who set out to disprove Christianity, only to find the facts lead them to a different conclusion. I’ve spent the last 5 years reading and studying their findings, and justifying my beliefs to myself and others. It was Peter who said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But, do this with gentleness and respect….” I thank God for the ministry of Pastor Chuck Griffin, who follows Peter’s advice. His leadership has meant a lot in my journey.
Those of you who are members of the church have heard my story before because each Easter Sunday for the past 5 years I’ve celebrated two resurrections: Jesus Christ’s and my own. I just wanted to put it in writing.
“Every morning, when I look in the mirror, I don’t just see a balding old man … I see a miracle!”—Bill Hughes, 2019