• 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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  • My Little girl is a Gangsta Photo Caption Competition

    Kate and I have been blessed with an amazingly beautiful girl in our Emma Grace. This is one of our favourite photos of her! So today I am starting a caption competition that will finish on Friday the 2nd of November.How do you enter I hear you ask? That is easy! Just come up with a caption for this photo and put it in the comments section of this post and post a link to this blog on Twitter or Facebook and then I will choose the best caption! If you come up with the best caption for this photo you will win the following great resources:

    What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

    The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel

    Showing the Spirit by D.A. Carson

    A DVD of Collision featuring Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson

    These are all great resources which I have profited from greatly. Make sure you enter to be in the running to win them!

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  • Do you make Jesus want to throw up?

    “You make me sick!!”

    Has someone ever said that to you? Only one person has but one is definitely enough! It is so confronting!

    Do you realize that you can make Jesus want to throw up? In the book of Revelation Jesus, through John, writes a letter to the church at Laodicea and the words he uses are stinging. He says: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)

    Near Laodicea there was a river which had lukewarm salty water that was couldn’t be used for anything. In fact if you tried to drink it you would throw up! Jesus is saying to the Laodcieans you are like this water useless and you make me want to throw up![1]

    But did you see why the Laodiceans make Jesus want to throw up? It was because they were lukewarm! They weren’t on fire for Jesus. This is a challenge for all of us because we all tend towards lukewarmness don’t we? We are all tempted to have just enough of Jesus so we are saved but not enough so that we are seen as on fire for Jesus.

    But what is the cure for lukewarmness? Well Jesus gives us the cure:

    Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV)

    See what he says? Repent and be zealous!! Do you realize that lukewarmness is a sin to be repented of? Do you realize that Jesus wants you to live zealously for him? 

    How will you do that? How will you live every moment if every day for Jesus?

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    [1] On this point see Osborne, Grant R. Revelation (BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.) , 205

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  • Guest post: Alie Benge’s Strategy for Managing the Crazy

    Alie is a former member of Resolved who moved to NZ a few months ago. She is focusing on carving out a writing career while studying a bachelor of arts in Philosophy. Follow her writing at www.searchingforourselves.wordpress.com

    Welcome to my five point strategy for how to deal with the things life throws at you. No one’s life is a perfect ray of sunshine and every now and then you may find yourself in a rut. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. Whenever you need it, here’s some ideas for how to get back on the happy train.

    1.Keep a book of crazy.

    Get a journal and write in it how you’re feeling, why you are feel the way you do, and try to bring it to a resolution. The benefit of writing things down is it forces you to carry a thought to completion. I have the tendency to mull over something, turning it over in my mind, never actually thinking helpfully about it. Writing it down gets it out of your head, puts it where you can see it and enables you to be a problem solver, not a problem wallower.

    2. Don’t be a jerk about medication

    There seems to be a stigma attached to medicating things. Believe it or not, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication isn’t concocted over a cauldron and there’s no eye of newt thrown in there. It definitely shouldn’t be a first resort as there are side effects involved, you also don’t need it if you’re just feeling a bit down in the dumps that particular week, however if a doctor has agreed that it would help you then there is nothing wrong with taking it. We aren’t living in a dark age. There’s nothing to fear about modern medicine. However, they should be used in conjunction with some kind of counselling. What the drugs do is help with the process of getting better by lifting your mood and allowing you some perspective. The idea is to reach a stage where you no longer need medication.
    3. Don’t run from your problems. They run faster.

    Seeing a counsellor or psychologist is mentally depleting. You’ll be asked hard questions and asked to think about things you’ve been avoiding. You know those memories that you’ve buried away in a dark corner of your mind? Well, you’ll need those. You’ll have to brush the dust off and bring them back into the light. I used to have an image of myself standing on a cliff, facing land. Over the cliff was all this crazy, hovering menacingly in the open space. I thought if I turned around and really looked at my problems they would drag me over the edge. Now I see that as one of my face palm moments. By not looking behind me, I couldn’t see that it had already begun pulling me over. My psychologist asked me hard questions. She made me feel uncomfortable, she made me take deep breaths, and she left me feeling like I’d run an emotional marathon. Sometimes I left her office feeling confused, sometimes furious, sometimes terrified, but I realised after a while that I hadn’t fallen over the edge; in fact I was walking away from it, descending the hill. You can ignore your problems, keeping them in your peripherals, but that’s where they’ll always be, growing and manifesting in secret ways. Or you could muster all your courage, face your problems and begin pushing them away.
    4. Don’t be a hero

    This is the part where I need to take my own advice. Don’t be the strong, silent one, bearing up under suffering all alone so as not to hurt others. I’m a witness to the dangers of internalising. Soon the problem will warp and mutate and blow your brain up. It will become a heavy secret that will bear down on your shoulders and cause you to distance yourself from people. Those who love you would be more horrified at the thought of you suffering alone. They’ll want to help you but they can’t read minds. Talk to your pastor, parents, siblings or friends. Trust the wisdom and perspectives of others and don’t be afraid of being a burden. It is one that most would gladly bear.

    5. Find healing in the Bible

    No one gets through life entirely un-bruised. We’ve all been damaged in some way by the people around us or by the things we’ve lost. At some point in your life you may not have been loved perfectly, maybe your parents, your friends or your spouse let you down, maybe you were rejected or anxious. Not everything that damages us is unreasonable or even noticed. Lucky for us we have in the bible one who has loved us perfectly. One who will never reject us or let us down. One who will keep loving us and keep forgiving us every time we turn around sheepishly and ask to come back. You can trust God with your anxieties. You can ask him to forgive you when no one else will. You can see how he loved you on the cross when it seems you are unloved. When you feel you are unworthy you can know that you are made in the image of God.

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  • God will not forget your suffering but he will reward your faithfulness

    I am preaching on having  joy in the midst of suffering this Sunday at Resolved. Joy in the midst of suffering is something we need to talk about as Christians because we will all suffer at some point in our lives.

    In preparing this sermon I keep thinking about my family as we all struggled through my dad’s cancer and as we continue to live without a great friend, husband and father.  I came across this quote from Wayne Grudem as I was not only grieving my loss but preparing this sermon.

    “He thus reminds Christians that Gods purposes in present grief may not be fully known in a week, in a year, or even in a lifetime. Indeed, some of gods purposes will not be even known when believers die and go to be with the lord. Some will only be discovered at the day of final judgement when the Lord reveals the secrets of all hearts and commends with special honour those who trusted him in hardship even though they could not see a reason for it: they trusted him simply because he was their God and they knew him to be worthy of trust. It is in times when the reason for hardship cannot be seen that trust in God alone seems to become most pure and precious in his sight. Such faith he will not forget, but will store up as a jewel of great value and beauty to be displayed and delighted in on the day of judgement.”Wayne  Grudem. The First Epistle of Peter, pg 65

    I love how Grudem point to so eloquently reminds us of our reward in heaven.

    The great hope that Christians have when they are suffering is that God will not forget our suffering but will reward our faithfulness.

    How do you hold onto this hope when you are suffering?

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  • Five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute Conference

    I love being a Geneva Church planter. In fact if anyone tells me they are even thinking about planting a church the first thing I say is “You gotta get in touch with the Geneva guys!” Every year The Geneva Push puts on it’s yearly conference called In The Chute. It is always an amazing time. So in light of the upcoming conference I want to give you my five reasons why you should go to In The Chute.

    1. It is a refreshing time. As church leaders we need to get away and be taught ourselves so we are refreshed by God and his word. The teaching at Geneva events is always top notch and is always encouraging and refreshing.
    2. Don Carson will be speaking. If you have never heard of Don Carson he (along with Tim Keller) runs The Gospel Coalition and is one of the most influential men in Evangelicalism. Don is an amazing speaker who will stretch, rebuke
      and encourage you as he preaches and teaches.
    3. The topic for this years conference is The Church. I have written on the mission of the church here. I think what the church is and does is one of the most important topics for contemporary Christianity. It is going to be amazing hearing from Don Carson on this topic.
    4. You learn from other church leaders about what is working for them. It is great to get together with other planters and church leaders and compare notes on what is and isn’t working for them.
    5. You get to listen and learn from older more experienced guys. I love hearing from a guy 1, 5 , 10 or 20 years down the track because I hear that what I am going through is pretty standard. I also get to reap the wisdom that God has given them through the years. At In The Chute I always get time with older more experienced pastors and try to learn everything I can from them.

    There you have it. There are my five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute this year. If you want to sign up for it go here.

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  • Is trying to be cool making us unholy?

    I have been reading Kevin DeYoung’s new book The Hole in our Holiness and so far it has been a great read. In  the first few pages Kevin talks about why we either don’t want to be holy or ignore holiness. Here is what he had to say about being a cool christian and the pursuit of holiness:

    “Our culture of cool is partly to blame. To be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That often means pushing the boundaries with language,  with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip, many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom without an equal pursuit of Christian virtue.” (The Hole in Our Holiness pg. 18)

    This hit me hard, have I in my attempt to fit in with the world ditched or pushed to one side my pursuit of holiness? I am ashamed to say that sometimes I have. I have said many times that you cant be a cool christian because you will either have to choose one or the other. And I need to hear that God wants me to be holy more than I should want to be hip with the world.

    Have you let worldliness creep into your life so much so that holiness is not something you think about let alone strive for?

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  • Have Younger Evangelicals Lost What the Mission of the Church is?

    I hear and read of so many young evangelicals talk about what the church should be doing. The church should be “making sure our city flourish” or “bringing shalom to our world” or “eradicating injustice, oppression and poverty”. This is all couched in such language that if your church isn’t doing these things your church is not truly living as salt and light in out world or your church doesn’t have a kingdom mentality.

    But the question is “What is the mission of the church?” Is the mission of the church narrowly defined or broadly defined? Is everything mission or are only a few things mission?

    What does Jesus say that the mission of the church is? In Matthew 28 Jesus says:

    “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    For Jesus, and therefore for us, the mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel to a dying world so that people escape the wrath to come and to grow Christians in their knowledge, love and service of Jesus.  Now does this means that doing social justice is a bad or unbiblical thing? Not at all, in fact the bible says a lot about caring and loving the poor. But we need to be clear and say social justice might be what a church does but it is not the primary thing a church does. Preaching the gospel is the primary thing the church does. Gresham Machen nails what the primary thing a church does is in this quote:

    “The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life–no, all the length of human history–is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth–no, all the wonders of the starry heavens–area as the dust of the street.

    “An unpopular message it is–an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life”  Gresham Machen in Selected Shorter Writings: J. Gresham Machen, edited by D.G. Hart, 376

     

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  • How Christians get Holiness Wrong

    What does it mean to be holy? When I was a teenager I thought that to be holy meant that you shouldn’t do certain things (e.g. have sex outside of marriage, swear, listen to the Backstreet Boys, etc.). This version of holiness says you are holy if you avoid the wrong things. This is what I think Christians generally mean when they talk about holiness.

    But there is something missing with this view of holiness. Actually not something missing but someone missing. Notice how Jesus is missing from this view of holiness? Because Jesus is missing from this view of holiness it not only is it not Christ centered but it can be legalistic. I I am only concerned with doing the right things and not doing the wrong things my life therefore becomes about me and what I am doing but as Christians we know that our lives should be all about Jesus.

    Having Jesus at the centre of our holiness also reminds of us of where our holiness comes from. It doesn’t come from a certain will within ourselves. It comes from Jesus who made us holy by his shed blood on the cross.

    What does this look like practically I hear you ask. It means now we live out of who we are. The Bible says we are new creations and therefore we live like we are new creations. We don’t do the things we did once because that is not who we are anymore. As you can see a Jesus centered holiness is less about striving to be someone or something and more about becoming what we already are. Sure it means that we will not do some things (like listen to the Backstreet Boys) and we will do other things (read our Bibles and pray). But our motivation for doing these things is different. We are trying to be who we are because,  in Jesus, we already are holy.  It means because Jesus has made us right with God we are totally dedicated to him and therefore we will be apart form anything that is sinful. As Anthony A. Hoekema says

    Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, holiness means more than doing certain good things and not doing certain bad things; rather, it means being totally dedicated to God and separated from all that is sinful. 

     

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  • Pastors always look better on social media

    Here are list of things that you will never see a pastor put on Facebook or Twitter:

    “We had the lowest attendance ever but the gospel was preached!”

    “I am really bombing on this camp I am speaking at”

    “I am burnt out and I want to quit ministry!”

    “My wife is going through post natal depression and I am struggling.”

    “My Church wont seem to grow no matter what we try.”

    No here is what we (and I am putting me square in the middle of the we) put on Facebook and Twitter:

    “Please pray for me because my church has grown from 10 to a quarter of a million in 24 hours and I really need wisdom on how to pastor them.”

    “How good are the first 9 chapters of Chronicles? God’s word is amazing!”

    “Can’t wait to preach at John Piper’s church’s youth group. I am humbled by the opportunity”

    Granted, these posts are sarcastic posts that I have never seen on social media.  But I have seen and I have posted things that are very close.

    I have been challenged over the past few months to think about why I post what I post on Social Media I especially have been challenged by how my posts affect others. Sure my church is going great at the moment and I want more people to come to it but would posting how awesome my church is going discourage a godly and faithful brother in Christ who is struggling leading a church that is elderly and dying no matter what he tries to do? Putting up a post about my great wife could be cute or romantic but how does the single person who is struggling with their singleness feel when they read that post? How does the man who is married to a woman who is going through post natal depression feel when he reads my tweet about my amazing wife?

    I am not saying that we should never put things on social media about how great my church is or how awesome our spouse is but we should check our hearts before we post. We should ask what is the motivation behind posting this tweet. Is it to show the world that I have arrived  that I am awesome and that my life is fantastic? Or is it for a more noble reason? Also, ask this question before you post “Would I say what I am posting to all my Facebook friends or Twitter followers if they were right in front of me”? If not why would I post it online for them to read it?

    Twitter and Facebook has shown me for who I am in the past. That I am really quite narcissistic and this narcissism is deadly to my soul. What about you? Do you need to change they way you use social media?

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