• How Jesus Helps us in Our Suffering

    You and I will suffer at some stage in our lives. That is just a fact of life. But the question is how are we going to deal with our suffering?

    The biggest question for a belief system whether it be a religion, a philosophy or some other worldview is how does this belief system help me suffer?

    Christianity is unique among worldviews because at the centre of Christianity is a God who comes into our world and suffered for us and like us and therefore we can go to him when we suffer.

    Here is how Mark Driscoll helpfully puts this idea in his latest book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ:

    For those who are afflicted and in Christ, Jesus is a God to whom you can speak personally. You can run to him and walk with him. Jesus Christ didn’t sit back in his heavenly ease and from a safe distance give us mere counsel for our suffering. Instead, he entered into human history to identify with us. He was tempted. He wept. He was poor and homeless. His family rejected him. His friends abandoned him. His disciples betrayed him. His enemies falsely accused him. The government unfairly tried and condemned him. The soldiers mercilessly beat him beyond recognition. He bled, suffered, and died in shame. And he did it all for God’s glory and your good.

     

    Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest, who gives grace to the hurting and promises justice to the unrepentant. He is preparing a place for us, and he’s given us God the Spirit as our Comforter until he returns, so we can live out of our identity in Christ. One day, we will see Christ face to face. Our faith will be sight. His nail-scarred hands will wipe our tears away. One day, all who are in Christ will sing his praises and see his glory together forever. One day, he will work out all things for the good of those who love him. One day, all our questions will be answered, our hopes will be realized, and our fears will be forgotten. Until that day, we will be afflicted, but our identity in Christ need not be affected.

    When we are suffering we have a faithful high priest that can sympathize with us in our weakness! What a great God we serve!

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  • 7 Great Quotes About the Resurrection

    Jesus is Risen! Hallelujah!

    Here are some of my favourite quotes about the resurrection of Jesus. Hope you enjoy them!

    “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
    ― Timothy Keller

    “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
    ― Charles Colson

    “Indeed taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.”
    ― Brooke Foss Westcott

    “If the truth is that after there comes a negatively spiritual life, an eternity of mystical experience, what more misleading way of communicating it could possibly be found than the appearance of a human form which eats boiled fish? Again, on such a view, the body would really be a hallucination. And any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention, it is the oldest invention that ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus.”
    ― C.S. Lewis

    “The Bible says he was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so prefect that the resurrection was the reward and vindication of Christ’s achievement in death.”
    ― John Piper

    “The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity…There can be no rational doubt that they occured, and that the main reason why Christians become sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance ‘We have seen the Lord.’ They knew it was he.”
    – Michael Green

    Because Christianity’s influence is so pervasive throughout much of the world, it is easy to forget how radical its beliefs once were. Jesus’ resurrection forever changed Christians’ view of death. Rodney Stark, sociologist at the University of Washington, points out that when a major plague hit the ancient Roman Empire, Christians had surprisingly high survival rates. Why? Most Roman citizens would banish any plague-stricken person from their household. But because Christians had no fear of death, they nursed their sick instead of throwing them out on the streets. Therefore, many Christians survived the plague. – Kenneth L. Woodward

     

     

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About God’s Judgement

    Why does God judge? Is it because he is capricious or judgmental? And how can we reconcile a loving God with a God of judgement. This quote from Miroslav Volf goes a long way to to answering these and more questions about God and judgement:

    God will judge not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evildoers experience God’s terror it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah.

    The violence of the Rider on the white horse (Revelation 19), I suggest, is the symbolic portrayal of the final exclusion of everything that refuses to be redeemed by God’s suffering love.

    Should not a loving God be patient and keep luring the perpetrator into goodness? This is exactly what God does: God suffers the evildoers through history as God has suffered them on the cross. But how patient should God be? The day of reckoning must come, not because God is too eager to pull the trigger, but because every day of patience in a world of violence means more violence and every postponement of vindication means letting insult accompany injury. – Miroslav Volf,  Exclusion and Embrace, 298

    God judges because he hates violence and injustice. That is why he will judge the world because he will rid the world of anything that can and will harm people.

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  • Where Should Christian Generosity Come From?

    I have just finished Jamie Munson’s free E-Book called Money. You can get it for free here. Matt Chandler calls it “The best book on money. Period.” Matt’s assessment is pretty close. It is a gospel centered book which goes through everything from giving money to budgeting. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 

    Here is a section of the book which hit me. It deals with where my motivation for generosity comes from. It also encourages me as a pastor to remember what will change people is not may telling them to be more generous but the gospel:

    “Often books and speakers tell Christians that they should help the needy because they have so much . . . Ultimately it produces guilt. It says, “How selfish you are to eat steak and drive two cars when the rest of the world is starving!” This creates great emotional conflicts in the hearts of Christians who hear such arguing. We feel guilty, but all sorts of defense mechanisms are engaged. “Can I help it I was born in this country? How will it really help anyone if I stop driving two cars? Don’t I have the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor?” Soon, with an anxious weariness, we turn away from books or speakers who simply make us feel guilty about the needy. The Bible does not use guilt-producing motivation. . . . The deeper the experience of the free grace of God, the more generous we must become. This is why Robert Murray M’Cheyne could say: “There are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart.”

    If I want to be generous and I want those who I lead to be generous I will preach the gospel and let the gospel affect our wallets.

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  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Atheism

    A lot of atheists think all religious people would be better off if we ditched our religious beliefs and became atheists. Not only would we be using our brains for once but we would see freedom from religion as ultimately freeing.

    But there is an ugly side to atheism that many new atheists don’t really talk about. Whether or not it is true, atheism is an extremely bleak outlook on life, humanity and the world. Damon Linker wrote a piece called Where are the Honest Atheists? in which he sums up the bleakness of atheism perfectly:

    If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

    Atheism therefore may free us from the constrains of religion but this freedom it gives is not really freedom at all. Because it is freedom to despair whereas the freedom that Christianity gives is the freedom to be joyful! Not only does reason and evidence favour Christianity over atheism but Christianity also gives the greater life.

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  • Two Distinct Errors in Thinking About the Holy Spirit

    A while ago I went to a wedding. The bride looked beautiful, the groom had actually showered, the music was great and there was a lot of happiness to be shared around. It was a Christian wedding and so there was the usual Bible readings, sermon, prayers which were all Gospel centered. I was talking to an old friend of mine after the service and he pointed out that there wasn’t one mention of the Holy Spirit in the service. Not one.

    Another time I had a conversation with a pastor who told me he was sad a particular minister was leaving town. When I asked why he replied “Because he is interested in the things of the Holy Spirit.” I was taken aback. Shouldn’t he have said he was interested in proclaiming Jesus?

    We Evangelicals have reacted against the excesses of the some brothers and sisters in the church who are not only spirit filled Christians but Spirit centered Christians. But we have reacted so strongly that sometimes we are wary of anything that feels charismatic.  Some of us over react and therefore we have not defined ourselves by what the Bible says but we define ourselves by what we are against. This means that our preaching and our churches are silent on the Spirit. He is, as Francis Chan has said “the Forgotten God”

    Wherever we think about the Holy Spirit we need to heed John Macarthur’s words on the spirit very carefully:

    “Two errors regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have clouded the contemporary church’s understanding of His person and ministry. On the one hand, the charismatic movement is obsessed with the Holy Spirit, tending to focus all doctrine and worship on Him exclusively. The danger with an undue stress on the gifts and leading of the Holy Spirit is that personal experience is often elevated over the objective truth of Scripture. On the other hand, many non-charismatics tend to ignore the Holy Spirit altogether. Perhaps weary of the controversy, confusion, and subjectivity of the charismatic movement, too many have responded by going to the opposite extreme. They simply avoid the Holy Spirit in their teaching and study.”

    John Macarthur, The Silent Shepherd: The Care, Comfort and Correction of the Holy Spirit. 

    Are you and your church more likely to fall into Charismatic errors or Conservative Evangelical errors when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

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  • Why You Should Listen to a Historian and Not a Hack on The Existence of Jesus

    Some Jesus deniers say that is doesn’t matter if no professional historian denies the existence of Jesus. They say academic credentials don’t matter only the arguments do.

    Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth shows why not listening to professional historians on this issue is ridiculous:

    “I hardly need to stress what I have already intimated: the view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet. That in itself is not proof, of course. Expert opinion is, at the end of the day, still opinion. But why would you not want to know what experts have to say? When you make a dental appointment, do you want your dentist to be an expert or not? If you build a house, do you want a professional architect or your next-door neighbor to draw up the plans? One might be tempted to say that in the case of the historical Jesus it is different since, after all, we are just talking about history; experts have no more access to the past than anyone else. That, however, is simply not true. It may be the case that some of my students receive the bulk of their knowledge of the Middle Ages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but is that really the best place to turn? So too millions of people have acquired their “knowledge” about early Christianity—about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the emperor Constantine, the Council of Nicaea—from Dan Brown, author of the aforementioned The Da Vinci Code. But at the end of the day, is that such a wise choice? Serious historians of the early Christian movement—all of them—have spent many years preparing to be experts in their field. Just to read the ancient sources requires expertise in a range of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and often Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic, not to mention the modern languages of scholarship (for example, German and French). And that is just for starters. Expertise requires years of patiently examining ancient texts and a thorough grounding in the history and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the religions of the ancient Mediterranean world, both pagan and Jewish, knowledge of the history of the Christian church and the development of its social life and theology, and, well, lots of other things. It is striking that virtually everyone who has spent all the years needed to attain these qualifications is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure. Again, this is not a piece of evidence, but if nothing else, it should give one pause. In the field of biology, evolution may be “just” a theory (as some politicians painfully point out), but it is the theory subscribed to, for good reason, by every real scientist in every established university in the Western world.”

    So if no professional historian denies the existence of Jesus why would anyone else?

    Do you find Ehrman’s argument persuasive? Why or why not?

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  • Has the Holy Spirit Made a Difference in Your Life?

    I have been reading Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. If you have never read any of Chan’s books they are always very easy to read as well as being very hard hitting.

    In the book Chan is getting us to reconsider how much of a force the Holy Spirit is in our lives. Here is the section that has challenged me the most:

    “You are most likely familiar with the “fruit passage” in Galatians 5, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23 NIV). You may even have the list memorized. But look over those traits right now and ask yourself if you possess each to a supernatural degree. Do you exhibit more kindness and faithfulness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends? More peace than Buddhists? More joy than atheists? If GOD truly lives in you, shouldn’t you expect to be different from everyone else?”

    They are great questions aren’t they? If God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, resides in us shouldn’t we be more like God? Shouldn’t we exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit more?

    What Fruits of the Spirit do you want to see made more manifest in your life?

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  • Fight for your Holiness

    Christians believe that we are right with God, forgiven and cleansed by the death of Jesus. We also think that we are sanctified or made holy by what Jesus has done. These are things that no biblical Christian would want to deny.

    But as we rightly remember that Jesus sanctifies us through his death do we also remember on the other hand that we are to fight for our sanctification?  Take Paul in 1 Timothy 6 for example:

    11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12

    Notice the verbs Paul is using here. We have to pursue, fight, take hold. They are all active verbs. Meaning, that we are not to sit back on our laurels but we are to fight to be more holy, more Christ like.

    Or take Paul in Philippians 2 for example:

    12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

    Notice what he is saying. He is saying that God works in us and we are to work out salvation. Now what does it meant to work out our Salvation? I think it means that we are to strive to live as a Christian because a Christian is one who is saved. So I think Paul is saying work it out, live it out. Live life like you are saved.

    So Christians are meant to fight for our holiness. We are meant to battle sin. We are meant to walk away from the internet when we are tempted. We are meant to work hard at seeing the good in others so that we don’t gossip. We are meant to fight to read our Bible  and fight to be encouraged by it. We are to labour in prayer. But we do this all because we have the power from God to do it!

    Here is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones say about our fight for holiness:

    “The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. . . .We are in the ‘good fight of faith’, and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.”

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans:Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man, 76

    How do you fight for holiness?

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  • Why the Claim Jesus Never Existed Should be Put to Bed

    Very few people think that Jesus never existed but some do. No matter what argument you use it seems like Jesus deniers never even concede an inch of ground. Jesus never exited and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. They are obviously a deluded and morally suspect person who is just defending their beliefs. But let’s hear what Bart Ehrman has to say.

    If you have never heard of Ehrman, he is a famous guy in the New Testament scholarly world (which is akin to saying he is famous in the stamp collecting world). He is a prolific author and is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. Ehrman once was an Evangelical Christian who ditched his faith because of a number of reasons. One of the main reasons he ditched his faith was because he didn’t think the Jesus of the Bible was the historical Jesus. Here is a guy who we must say is informed, a scholar and as unbiased on the question “Did Jesus exist?” as anyone else. He has written a book called “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth,’  and he he wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “Did Jesus Exist?” Here is how that article ends:

    “Moreover, the claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground. The alleged parallels between Jesus and the “pagan” savior-gods in most instances reside in the modern imagination: We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions).

    Moreover, aspects of the Jesus story simply would not have been invented by anyone wanting to make up a new Savior. The earliest followers of Jesus declared that he was a crucified messiah. But prior to Christianity, there were no Jews at all, of any kind whatsoever, who thought that there would be a future crucified messiah. The messiah was to be a figure of grandeur and power who overthrew the enemy. Anyone who wanted to make up a messiah would make him like that. Why did the Christians not do so? Because they believed specifically that Jesus was the Messiah. And they knew full well that he was crucified. The Christians did not invent Jesus. They invented the idea that the messiah had to be crucified.

    One may well choose to resonate with the concerns of our modern and post-modern cultural despisers of established religion (or not). But surely the best way to promote any such agenda is not to deny what virtually every sane historian on the planet — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, what have you — has come to conclude based on a range of compelling historical evidence.

    Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.”

    Check out the full article here

    If you want to check out some good critiques of Ehrman’s other work by other scholars see http://ehrmanproject.com/

    Do you find Ehrman’s arguments in the article persuasive? Why or why not?

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