• How will we be able to enjoy heaven if we know loved ones who are in hell?

    The question always comes up when Christians think of hell “How will we be able to enjoy heaven if we know loved ones will be in hell?”. This is one of the hardest questions I get asked. Over at Christianity Today the great theologian J.I. Packer answers this question. Here is the main part of his answer:

    Significantly, this is not a Bible problem; instead, Scripture rules out all thought of it ever becoming anyone’s problem. For it tells us that God the Father (who now pleads with mankind to accept the reconciliation that Christ’s death secured for all) and God the Son (our appointed Judge, who wept over Jerusalem) will in a final judgment express “wrath” and administer justice against rebellious humans. God’s holy righteousness will hereby be revealed; God will be doing the right thing, vindicating himself at last against all who have defied him, and there is no hint that this hurts the Judge more than it hurts the sinner. (Read through Matt. 25John 5:22-29;Rom. 2:5-1612:192 Thess. 1:7-9Rev. 18:1-19:320:11-35, and you will see that clearly.) God will judge justly, and all angels, saints, and martyrs will praise him for it. So it seems inescapable that we shall, with them, approve the judgment of persons—rebels—whom we have known and loved.


    That sounds appalling; how can it be? Remember, in heaven our minds, hearts, motives, and feelings will be sanctified, so that we are fully conformed to the character and outlook of Jesus our Lord. This will happen at or before our bodily resurrection. How we shall then think and feel is really beyond our knowing, just as a chrysalis could not know what it feels like to be a butterfly till it becomes one.


    But certainly the promise that God will wipe away every tear from believers’ eyes (Rev. 7:17) will find its fulfillment as one aspect of this transformation. In heaven, glorifying God and thanking him for everything will always absorb us. All our love for and joy in others who are with us in heaven will spring from their doing the same, and love and pity for hell’s occupants will not enter our hearts. Their hell will not veto our heaven.


    What do you think of his answer. It rings true but still there is something in me that still hurts. Which may be the right response to thinking about hell and loved ones. We probably should feel pain, pain that moves us to act in love and to pray and tell the gospel.

    Read the whole article here

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  • Small Shifts in Doctrine May Destroy the Future Church

    A mate tells me a story about the first time he played golf. Needless to say he sucked. One shot was far left and in the trees and the other was far right in the water. His friend that took him out to play golf said that he was only off by a few millimeters! My friend then hit another ball in the water and said “Yeah looks like it!”. His friend said “No your club face is just a few millimeters off from where it should be. If you turn the club face a tiny bit in the wrong direction in has huge results. A small change here means huge changes down there!”

    I hate golf but I think this is a great analogy for doctrine. Because if doctrine shifts subtly in one area we may not see the full affects of this shift till we we are long gone. A small change in doctrine can have huge affects later on down the line. And therefore we must assess changes in doctrine, however subtle, just on whether they are still within in the bounds of evangelical belief but also how will this shift affect the witness of the gospel in future generations. Small changes in doctrine may mean huge changes in later generations. This is what P.T Forsyth helpfully pointed out about a century ago:

    The ideas at the centre of the Christian faith are too large, too deep and subtle, to show their effects in one age; and the challenge of them does not show its effect in one generation or even in two. Individuals, society, and the Church, indeed, are able to go on, externally almost unaffected, by the way that they have upon them from the past; and it is only within the range of several generations that the destruction of truths with such a comprehensive range as those of Christianity takes effect. Therefore it is part of the duty of the Church, in certain sections and on certain occasions, to be less concerned about the effect of the Gospel upon the individual immediately, or on the present age, and to look ahead to what may be the result of certain changes in the future. God sets watchmen in Zion who have to keep their eye on the horizon; and it is only a drunken army that could scout their warning. We are not only bound to attend to the needs and interests of the present generation; we are trustees for a long future, as well as a long past. Therefore it is quite necessary that the Church should give very particular attention to these central and fundamental points whose influence, perhaps, is not so promptly prized, and whose destruction would not be so mightily felt at once, but would certainly become apparent in the days and decades ahead.  P.T. Forsyth The Work of Christ, pp. 142-43


    Let us not be historically naive  Let us make sure we learn from the past and see how small shifts in doctrines may mean huge losses in the future.

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  • Do You Have Unhelpful Assumptions About Your Pastor?

    Pastors carry a huge weight. It is a weight that sometimes is unbearable. A lot of this weight is felt by pastors because they or their congregations assume the wrong things about them and what their life is meant to look like. Paul Tripp in his great book Dangerous Calling points out some of the most dangerous assumptions that congregations make of pastors and pastors make of themselves:

    It should be obvious that the unhelpful assumptions made as the pastor is coming to lead the church would be fruit in a whole set of unrealistic expectations. The biggest is that many churches simply don’t expect their pastor to struggle with sin. But he is not sin-free! Since he is still being sanctified, sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. They don’t expect him to get discouraged in the middle of the war for the gospel. They don’t expect him to be tempted toward bitterness or envy. They expect him to be a model husband and father. They don’t expect him to be lazy or to settle for mediocrity. They don’t expect that in moments of self-protection he will be tempted to be antisocial and controlling. They expect that he will be able to joyfully carry an unrealistic job description that would overwhelm anyone this side of Jesus’s return. They expect that he will be content with significantly less pay than most people with his level of education. They expect that his wife is so fully committed to ministry herself that his coming to the church is actually a two-for-one deal. They don’t expect that there will be moments when he is tempted to doubt the goodness of God. They don’t expect that in a meeting or in the pulpit, fear of man will keep him from doing or saying the things that God calls him to do and say. They don’t expect to hire a flawed man who is still desperately in need of the very grace that he is called to offer and exegete for others.


    If you are a church member what are you assuming about your pastor from this list?

    If you are a pastor what are assuming about yourself from this list?

    How will you change your assumptions to be more in line with what the Bible says about pastoral ministry?

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  • Jason Collins, Homosexuality and So Called Religious Bigotry

    Yesterday Jason Collins, a 12 year NBA veteran, came out and announced he is gay. Both the blogosphere and the twittersphere has exploded with this news. NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Bradley Beal, among others, have tweeted their support of Collins. Collins has also received encouraging tweets from people like Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Spike Lee. The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline for this news was “‘I’m raising my hand’: basketball star reveals he’s gay after being inspired by bombings

    There are a few things to say here. Firstly this is not as big news as it seems. Contrary to the SMH Jason Collins is not a star or never has been a star. He is coming towards the end of his 12 year career (which is a very good stretch in the NBA!) and is a free agent that no one probably wouldn’t have been signed regardless of whether he is gay or straight. If Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin or Lebron James came out and announced they were gay this would have been a far greater news story. This fact is in ten years time no one will remember Jason Collins as a great basketball player only as a gay one which I think is sad for Jason Collins.

    Secondly, it has been interesting to watch how to media has reacted to people voicing their religious belief that practicing homosexuality is a sin. For example, the NBA team I support, the Golden State Warriors have a lot of Christians on the team and a lot of those guys are Christians. The coach, Mark Jackson, is a pastor and was questioned about Collins coming out: Here is the transcript:

    Q: “Did you hear about Jason Collins today coming out as the first gay athlete still in the game?”

    Jackson: “I will say this. We live in a country allows you to be whoever you want to be. As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be who you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family, and am certainly praying for them at this time.”

    Q: Is there a stigma attached to him now? Will he be able to get on another team?

    Jackson: “That’s not for me to answer.”

    Q: “Would he be welcome as a Warrior?”

    Jackson: “If he had game.” (Jackson laughs, as do several members of the media.) “If he can help this basketball team. Today he can’t help this basketball team.”

    Q: “You said you knew Jason. How well do you know him and were you surprised to hear the news, knowing him a little bit?”

    Jackson: “I called Nets games for three years and he was a member of the Nets team. Also, living in LA, his parents, his mom, I don’t know if she does but works for one of the private schools. We had interactions in terms of attempting to get one of my kids into school and she was instrumental in it. Comes from a great family, and he’s a great guy.”

    Q: “Knowing the locker room atmosphere as you do, Would any player in general have trouble gaining acceptance around the league not just this team or not just with Jason, but in general? Would that be difficult?” Jackson: “It’s something that obviously being around Jason, and I played with John Amaechi in Utah, that there’s a reason why in these situations these players are at the end or done. So obviously that answers itself. Right, wrong or indifferent, it is something that’s new to people.”

    Q: “Are you shocked?”

    Jackson: “Shocked? That there’s a gay man?”

    Q: “That he came out.”

    Jackson: “It’s like asking me if I was shocked that he came out and said that he liked women. It is what it is. To each his own. And like I said, I know him as an individual, he’s a good guy, and I’m certainly praying for him. I’m not shocked at anything these days.”

    After these words were reported the Twittersphere exploded. Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe), the Warriors beat writer for the Bay Area News Group and a Christian, went on twitter defending the rights of Mark Jackson to say what he thought. But the guy who has really copped it was ESPN NBA writer and Christian Chris Broussard. Broussard was asked whether Collins could be Gay and a Christian because Collins has said he is both. This was Broussard’s reply:

    Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

    This was a very bold statement! But did you notice how Broussard carefully says that all sex outside of the confines of marriage is sin. He is therefore not saying that homosexuality is worse than any other sin but he is standing on his own convictions and saying it is a sin. Ironically, many people have spoken out and called what Broussard said wrong. It seems you can’t call things a sin today because that would be, well, sinful right?!? Whether or not you agree with Broussard’s thoughts about homosexuality I am sure you can agree with what he said in the same show about name calling and bigotry:

    In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what LZ was getting at. Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.

    We need to be truly tolerant about this issue and many others today. To call each other names like “bigot” or “intolerant” is, in the end, not tolerant at all. If we are to be mature adults about this we listen respectfully to each other and we can all agree that even though I may disagree with your moral choices or your sense of morality and you me disagree with mine we need to hear each other out on the issue of sexuality as well as many others.

    Maybe you are reading this and you aren’t a Christian, I would add one more thing. The Bible doesn’t say that  homosexuality as the worst sin, nor does it permit abuse or vilification of homosexuals. If any Christians vilify Gay people they are in deep sin and God hates all sin, especially the ones religious people commit. But the Bible does hold to a high standard of sexual morality that we all fall short of (e.g., Matt. 5:28). That means we are all  sinners and that all of us are in desperate need of a savior. The good news is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), no matter their sexual orientation. Because he loves us he died on the cross and took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved. Then God raised Him from the dead three days later. This is what Easter is all about.  Now anyone can receive forgiveness and eternal life when they trust Jesus as their lord and saviour and repent of their sin. God loves you and has done everything you need to be right with him. The choice is yours as to whether you come into relationship with him or not.

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  • Bible Reading Plan for May

    Arguably no other piece of writing has had the impact that the book of Romans has had on history. Many great theological minds were converted after reading the book, hearing it preached or reading a commentary on it.

    N.T wright says about the Book of Romans:

     It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages. Not all onlookers have viewed it in the same light or from the same angle, and their snapshots and paintings of it are sometimes remarkably unalike. Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.


    With this in mind we are going to look at Romans over the month of May. The instructions for following this reading plan are below. Please give this reading plan to anyone who would profit from it.

    Read the Bible passage that is assigned for the day of month (e.g. read 1 on the 1st of May and 15 on the 15th of May) and meditate on what hits you from the passage about God or yourself. Pray in response to what you have learnt and then pray the prayer below that is based on Philippians 1:9-11 for yourself and two other people at Resolved. Tweet what you are getting out of these readings using the hashtag #savedbygodalone

    1. Romans 1:1-17
    2. Romans 1:18-32
    3. Romans 2:1-16
    4. Romans 2:16-29
    5. Romans 3:1-20
    6. Romans 3:21-31
    7. Romans 4
    8. Romans 5:1-11
    9. Romans 5:12-21
    10. Romans 6: 1-14
    11. Romans 6:15-23
    12. Romans 7:1-6
    13. Romans 7:7-25
    14. Romans 8:1-17
    15. Romans 8:18-27
    16. Romans 8:28-39
    17. Romans 9:1-29
    18. Romans 9:30-10:13
    19. Romans 10:14-21
    20. Romans 11:1-10
    21. Romans 11:11-24
    22. Romans 11:25-36
    23. Romans 12:1-8
    24. Romans 12:9-21
    25. Romans 13:1-7
    26. Romans 13:8-14
    27. Romans 14:1-12
    28. Romans 14:13-23
    29. Romans 15:1-13
    30. Romans 15:14-33
    31. Romans 16

    Pray this prayer based on Philippians 1:9-11 for yourself and two others at Resolved every day for the month of May.

    To the God of all grace,

    I pray that _____ love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that ______ may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. I pray that _____ may be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. To the glory and praise of God.


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  • The Demise of Guys

    I have just finished an amazing E-Book called The Demise of Guys by Phillip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. It is a book outlining why guys are not performing as well as they used to and what we can do about it.  To whet your appetite have a look at the TED talk that Zimbardo did below and if you like it buy and read the book. I think everyone (yes everyone) should read the book!

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  • What’s Wrong With Our Young Men?

    There is something wrong with a lot of young guys today. A lot of young guys don’t seem to have drive, enthusiasm, commitment or courage. And these are the things that older generations prized in men. I have been reading a brilliant book that everyone should read (no that is not hyperbole) it is called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. They say this about guys today:

    Consequently, many guys lack purposeful direction and basic social skills. They’re living off, and often with, their parents well into their 20s and even 30s, expanding their childhood into an age once reserved for starting a family and making a career. Many young men who do manage to find a mate feel entitled to do nothing to add substance to that relationship beyond just showing up. New emasculating terms such as “man-child” and “moodle” (man-poodle) have emerged to describe men who haven’t matured emotionally or are otherwise incapable of taking care of themselves. Hollywood has caught on, too, to this awkward bunch of dudes, who appear to be tragically hopeless. Recent films such as Knocked Up, Failure to Launch, the Jackass series and Hall Pass present men as expendable commodities, living only for mindless fun and intricate but never-realized plans to get laid. Their female co-stars, meanwhile, are often attractive, focused and mature, with success-oriented agendas guiding their lives. The sense of being entitled to have things without having to work hard for them — attributed to one’s male nature — runs counter to the Protestant work ethic, as well as to the Vince Lombardi victory creed (“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”) These guys aren’t interested in maintaining long-term romantic relationships, marriage, fatherhood and being the head of their own family. Many have come to prefer the company of men over women, and they live to escape the so-called real world and readily slip into alternative worlds for stimulation. More and more they’re living in other worlds that exclude girls — or any direct social interaction, for that matter. Over the past decade, this pattern has escalated into adulthood where grown men remain like little boys, having difficulty relating to women as equals, friends, partners, intimates or even as cherished wives.

    Guys are pushing their adolescence into their retirement but what is the cause of this? The cause is, understandably, porn and technology:

    We believe this demise can be traced to the rise of technology enchantment. From the earliest ages, guys are seduced into excessive and mostly isolated viewing and involvement with texting, tweeting, blogging, online chatting, emailing, and watching sports on TV or laptops. Most of all, though, they’re burying themselves in video games and in getting off on all-pervasive online pornography.


    The authors quote some disturbing statistics about guys and pornography:

    One in three boys is now considered a “heavy” porn user, with the average boy watching nearly two hours of porn every week, according to University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Sonya Thompson.15 And that’s the average; just imagine what the outliers are doing! Add to the mix older guys watching adult videos online, at work, at home or in hotels across the country and around the world.


    As they go on to state that guys have become addicted to games and porn and this is changing their brains and ruining their lives:

    This new kind of addictive arousal traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote, as the present moment expands to dominate everything. And that present is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly. Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way to demand change, novelty, excitement and constant stimulation. And their brains are being catered to by porn on demand and by video games at a flick of the switch or a click of the mouse. That means they are becoming totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play, on long-term goal setting.

    The church needs to step in and teach young men what it is to be a man again today. Young men need to be taught that being a man is not about sex, violence and getting drunk.  What is a man? 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 are great verses on this issue:

    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

    From this verse we see a man stands firm in his faith. He is not swayed by the winds of teaching. He knows and loves his Bible. Act like men can be translated be courageous like a man. So a man has courage, he may be sacred but he does the right thing despite his fear. Strength doesn’t refer to physical strength but it refers to strength of character, a man does what he says he will do. And finally a man loves selflessly and sacrificially.

    Let’s teach our young men to be men like this.

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  • How to Create a Positive Church Environment

    Having a positive culture in any organisation is a key to growth. This cannot be more true of church. Mark Driscoll has written a great piece about about the three types of people Positives, Neutrals and Negatives. Here is what Driscoll says about keeping your church culture positive:

    For a ministry to remain positive, three things need to occur. First, the senior leader and the other official and unofficial leaders who wield the most influence must be positives. Further, they must be continually exhorted to remain positives. This means that even when they deal with negative things, they do so in a positive way for the glory of God and the good of his people. Second, the negatives must not be allowed into leadership. If they are in leadership, official or unofficial, they must be rebuked. Titus 3:10–11 describes this rebuke: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Too often negatives are tolerated for too long; the longer their sin is tolerated, the more toxic the ministry culture becomes. Therefore, unrepentant negatives need to be brought through formal church discipline after their negativity has been documented and addressed; this process may end with their removal from the ministry, if needed. Ministry leaders are often reticent to deal so forthrightly with negatives; however, the longer they are tolerated, the more neutrals they infect with their gangrene. Third, the neutrals need to be lovingly and patiently informed that they are in fact neutrals and that they need to take responsibility to not give in to negatives. Additionally, neutrals cannot be allowed into ministry leadership because they are prone to be influenced rather than be influencers. Sadly, neutrals are often nominated for and voted in to ministry leadership because they tend to be nice people who are likeable because they are amiable and easily influenced. But they are prone to work toward consensus rather than lead and are therefore not helpful for moving a ministry forward into innovation and growth. Change is controversial and requires someone who is a strong positive to build consensus for change and who is also able to neutralize the negatives rather than being influenced by them.

    What do you have to do to either get a positive culture at your church or maintain the positive culture you now have?

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  • The Great Porn Experiment

    Porn screws up guys lives and here is a very important video that all guys, pastors, coaches, teachers, etc. should watch. Trust me it is worth the 18 minutes of your time to watch.

    Gary Wilson has a webpage dealing with the content of his talk more fully. Access it here http://yourbrainonporn.com/

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  • Your Church may be Repelling People Before the Service Starts

    Our church environments speak to visitors a long time before the pastor gets a chance to preach to them. Think about your church environment for a second. What is it saying to your visitors? Does it say what you want it to say? Does it say: We love you come in? Does it say: Go away we are weird?

    Andy Stanley in his great book Deep and Wide has a section in the book where he talks about church environments and what they say. He tells the following story to illustrate his point about the importance of thinking about the vibe our church environments give off:

    We arrived about twenty minutes before the service was scheduled to begin. Andrew was with us. He had just turned three. We had to ask twice where to find the children’s area. Signage was almost nonexistent. Someone finally pointed us to a door. We peeked in and the only person in the room was a man who looked to be in his late twenties. When he saw us, he came to the door with a big smile on his face. A little too big for me. We told him this was our first visit. He assured us that we were at the right place, and he invited Andrew into the room. That’s when I noticed a back door standing open that led to what looked like an outdoor playground. But it was hard to tell exactly where it led. Sandra asked if we needed to fill out any paperwork. He looked a bit confused and said we didn’t and that he hoped we enjoyed the service. Then he turned and went over and began talking to Andrew. We just stood there—both thinking the same thing, but neither of us wanting to say it aloud. Ignoring our raging parental instincts, we headed off to big church. During the second song, Sandra turned to me and asked, “Do you feel okay about Andrew’s situation?” I assured her that I did not and that it was all I had been thinking about since we left his classroom. She immediately slid out of our row and headed back to the children’s wing. It took every ounce of self-control I had to not follow. A few minutes later she came back and informed me that there was, in fact, another adult in the room along with a dozen or more children. If you have children, I bet you aren’t surprised to know that we never visited that church again. Worse, that’s the only thing I remember about our visit. Every time someone mentions the name of that church, I think about that incident. I will be the first to admit that our experience couldn’t possibly be the norm. But I still wouldn’t go back. That was seventeen years ago. Similar to my previous story, this church taught several lessons they didn’t intend to teach. Lesson #1: We don’t expect new families. We have the same kids every week. Lesson #2: If there is an emergency, we don’t plan to notify you. Lesson #3: Your child’s security is not our primary concern. Lesson #4: Our volunteers don’t understand the way parents think (i.e., our volunteers are untrained).

    He then goes on to talk about the effect the shabby children’s environment had on him:

    Every ministry environment communicates something. There are no neutral environments. Environments are the messages before the message. The messages your environments communicate have the potential to trump your primary message. I do not remember a single thing about the message preached at the church referenced in the illustration on page 153. Not a thing. I was too distracted by the four-point message of the children’s environment. As I am constantly reminding our leaders, the sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliver what is traditionally considered the message, everybody in our audience has already received a dozen or more messages. Many have already made up their minds as to whether they will come back the following week.

    We want to do everything to welcome new people to our churches. Is your church environment repelling people or welcoming?

    What can you do to make it more welcoming?

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