Easter Is Laughable

To the modern mind, Easter is laughable. At Christmas time, Christians claim that Jesus came through a virgin’s womb. Equally as laughable is the Easter claim – Jesus was medically dead and then returned to life. It’s laughable because it’s unscientific – we simply cannot repeat or observe this phenomenon. Further than that, it’s naive – we are putting ourselves in the same boat as those uneducated primitive people 2000 years ago. It’s laughable because it flies in the face of the regular rules of biology. Life-savers at Australian beaches regularly successfully perform CPR, but the Easter claim presents Jesus as rising after not 3 minutes but 3 days. If we are to believe Roman historical records, then the crucifixion process Jesus endured is enough to send the body into a state of trauma. If we are to believe the Biblical record of John 19:34, the guards checked Jesus was really dead by piercing his side with a spear and producing a flow of separate blood and water. Then they laid him in a cold tomb, embalmed for 2 nights. Ultimately, it is 100% laughable that he rose. Haven’t we progressed beyond such outdated myths?

ONE WAY AROUND

One way around the medical ignorant claim about a man rising again from the dead is simply to label it a metaphor. Maybe Jesus didn’t actually begin breathing again, but his memory lives on. Perhaps his ‘resurrection’ just means that his inspirational teachings still impact people 2000 years later. It’s possible that the Jesus-narrative of ‘overcoming’ is true locus of power.
Yes, that’s one option.
If we proposed that option to an early Christian called Paul (who wrote about half of the New Testament in the Bible), however, he would respond something like this: ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins’. We can even go one step further: It seems clear that the people who composed the New Testament didn’t simply believe in an inspiring idea of resurrection, they believed in a historical occurrence. We know that because of how they called eye-witnesses of Jesus walking, talking and even eating (see Luke 24:42). It would be convenient if Easter was simply a metaphor, but that option requires a bit too much mental creativity for most of us.

CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY

C.S. Lewis, who wrote the Narnia books, warned against chronological snobbery. He explains that chronological snobbery is the

 ‘uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions.’

OPTIONS

As rational thinkers, we have only a few reasonable options:
1. His early followers faked the whole event,
2. His early followers deluded themselves and genuinely believed he was alive again,
3. Perhaps at one brief moment in time the regular rules of physics were upended and Jesus really did come alive again.

 

What Are 3D Affections?

Charles is our band leader (pictured with wife Ash and daughter Poppy and +1 child on the way). We asked him a few questions about music at church.

Q: What if I’m not a ‘singing’ kind of person?

A: It may surprise you to know that outside God’s gathered people, I’m possibly the least sing-y person ever. Karaoke is my worst nightmare. So when I got to a concert or a gig – we went to see Ed Sheeran for my birthday – I sit there with my arms crossed, sit back and enjoy. People think that I am HATING it – I don’t sing, don’t dance – I’m LOVING it on the inside. But I’m not a particularly sing-y person. So that’s me.
 

Q: You’ve recently been talking about ‘3D affections’. What is that?

A: Yep, I’ve been thinking hard about music and trying to view it in a fresh way. 3D affections is a framework that’s been really helpful to me. What if re-conceptualised our affections, which are connected to our emotions but are something deeper, in these 3 dimensions:

Depth

There is a depth to our affections. Do you know the song ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay? When that song comes on, everyone cries. It moves you. How much more reason do we have to be deeply moved by the gospel! The love of God, Christ’s death for us, the hope of the resurrection – that has such potential to move us so much more than Coldplay.

Width

We don’t just have one emotion in life. In life we go through different emotions. Part of the role of singing in church is to capture the spectrum of emotions. Joy – we want to be happy! But it’s also natural to lament and say ‘life is hard, and I just feel like crying, but God is still good’. And so you may not be smiling and chipper, but that is an affection that we have been called to be holy in as Christians.

Together

Another dimension that we sometimes miss is that we do this together. It’s not just me feeling and thinking these things. It’s us together.

 

4 Approaches to Meaning in Life: Which is Yours?

“You have your meaning, and I have mine.”
“I’m glad that your faith gives you meaning, but that’s not my meaning.”
“You are free to make your meaning and I’m free to make mine.”

Have you come across these thoughts before, when trying to discuss Jesus with your friends?

How do you respond?

 

The key secular idea here is what Tim Keller calls ‘assigned meaning’: each person needs to self-assign their own purpose in life. Each individual is entitled to her own raison d’être. It is therefore a waste of time to apply one person’s source of purpose to another: just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.

Assigned meaning is one of at least four common approaches to purpose in life:

1) I’ve just never thought about it.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many people have simply never considered meaning and purpose in any deep sense. When suffering comes, however, or major life decisions need to be made, humans do tend to at least subconsciously form opinions on meaning.

2) There is no meaning.

This sentiment is captured by this absurd story from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: a super machine is constructed to discover the meaning of life, the universe and everything. After much suspense, the computer-generated answer is revealed: 42. With comedic genius, the author Douglas Adams is expressing the impossibility of finding any kind of real meaning in our lives. Problematically for Douglas Adams, however, humans are meaning-demanding beings. It is simply unliveable to go on without any meaning. So what options are we left with? Rather than abandoning the quest for meaning, many people simply assign their own meanings.

3) I create my own meaning (assigned).

In this framework, my role is to assign or discover it for myself. I define a purpose that works for me. I may discover it by going travelling, doing some soul searching, or perhaps just bumbling along until it falls into my lap. Assigned purpose could most commonly be to cultivate a fulfilling career, create great relationships, align myself with a worthy cause, or perhaps a mixture of multiple purpose-sources. But there is at least one more option.

4) Meaning exists independently of me (inherent).

This is closest to the Christian framework. Since God exists independently from us, we align ourselves with him, who gives us objective purpose. Humans all have one inherent meaning in common – it is fixed and consistent across all people. Specifically, in Isaiah 43:7 we find that it is to glorify God. When John 1 speaks about “the Word”, John is employing a Greek philosophical framework (in the original language, logos) to identify Jesus himself as the meaning of life. Ultimately, this purpose is not a far-off concept but actually a person.

But is inherent meaning actually any better than assigned meaning? After all, assigned meaning allows me choice and also allows my meaning to develop as my life progresses. That being said, there are at least two factors to recommend inherent over assigned meaning, even to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus.

1) Assigned meaning can become narcissistic

Doesn’t the quest to live out a personally-assigned meaning end up with us gazing at our own belly buttons? Doesn’t the infatuation with subjective purpose have the potential to leave us self-absorbed? One of the great contributions of Western science is the investigation of a universe beyond this world—people are not the centre of the universe and I am not the centre of this planet. But don’t we abandon that wonderful outward-looking focus when we turn inward for meaning?

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2) Assigned meaning stumbles in the presence of suffering

Imagine you are playing make-believe games with a child; you are playing pirates or princesses or dragons or pretending to cook. You take on identities, knowing fully that you’re not actually a pirate or a princess, but happy to be that identity for the sake of fun. So you’re waving cutlasses and putting on glass high heels and prancing through the house—until someone falls or bangs their toe or accidentally whacks the other one too hard. At that point, the entire assigned meaning falls down. The bubble is broken and it can’t, nor should it, endure when reality kicks in.

It’s enjoyable to play in the shallows, but the depth of reality is unavoidable. And at that point, our assigned meanings, our subjective meanings, our created meanings need to be left to the side so we can put a bandage on the toe or an icepack on the arm. Assigned meanings tend to work best when it’s playtime. But we all need an inherent meaning to deal with the real world. We all need an objective meaning when life hurts.

So…

Understanding assigned and inherent purpose could be helpful next time a friend offers you one of the lines from the beginning of this article. Rather than feeling like you have encountered a roadblock, you could help your friend see that their approach to purpose is only one of at least four. Additionally, you could gently point them to the two problems with assigned purpose.

Although the gospel is the main topic we would love to discuss, pushing through this roadblock is a good first step.

For further reading on this, I recommend that you read chapter 3 of Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God, which I’ve greatly relied on.

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This article was first published on GoThereFor.com, an online resource library for disciples making disciples, and has been republished with permission.

 

5 Things To Do If You’re Lonely

Despite being surrounded we still feel alone. Despite Skype we are still distanced from family. The phones in our pocket allow us to call anyone we want, but it doesn’t feel appropriate to actually press the green button. Every advertisement wants our ear but no one wants to speak with us. We have 1000 friends on Facebook, but no friends in real life. We move apartments and never really establish a connection with our neighbours.

4 Things To Do

In the face of loneliness, standard wisdom tells us to intentionally pursue new relationships. Here are some common suggestions.
1. Join a hobby-group. The local tennis club may have evening competitions, or the local art group may offer evening classes.
2. Take a walk and smile at those who walk past. You may be surprised to get a smile back.
3. Go to the gym and do the group fitness class. Exercising alongside other people is a quick way to eliminate barriers.
4. Check out social groups with websites like ‘Meet Up’. There are groups meeting up every week around common interests like books, rock-climbing or karaoke.

A Fifth Thing To Do

However, while all these things could help, they can feel like a single band-aid on an open wound. In reality there is a deep problem with the way we are living. Here it is: we were never meant to live without community. You were not made for individualism. We were not made to live without others, without shared meaning, without helping hands. It could be the case that your loneliness is alerting you to a bigger problem.

So, what could you do about this problem? A fifth and final suggestion might not have occurred to you before – If you’re feeling lonely, why don’t you connect with a local church? Most churches are very happy to have you attend, even if you are unsure about your own faith. In our church, for example, we have people who come from Buddhist, Taoist and Atheist backgrounds.

 

Anton (pictured right) “I came to Australia by myself. Grace City has definitely allowed me to make new connections. And with such a warm welcome and smiles I think anybody would be able to. Just stand by yourself for 3 seconds and somebody will magically appear offering you some coffee…”

True Devotion. October and November

 

Australian Christianity

A lot of Australian Christianity is comfortable, middle class, ‘don’t impact my life’ kind of stuff. Now there’s nothing wrong with being middle class, but it’s certainly fertile ground for half-hearted faith. The thing is, half-hearted faith isn’t biblical faith. Jesus called his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow him. Biblical faith is about true devotion.

Malachi

Half-hearted faith isn’t just a modern problem. It’s been a problem for the people of God for centuries. In the Old Testament, God sent the prophet Malachi to his people to address this very issue. Their worship was ritualistic, their lives were full of compromise and they’d lost all sense of wonder at the grace and mercy of God. The glory days were over, life was hard, and they just didn’t see the point of true devotion anymore. That’s why God sent them Malachi. He came with a message of rebuke and promise. Rebuke for their half-hearted faith and promise about what could be. A promise of the blessing, righteousness and hope that comes from true devotion. Malachi’s message is just as relevant today as it was back then. Our constant danger is to grow content with half-hearted faith. But God wants true devotion.

Grace City

At Grace City, our prayer has always been that men, women and children would be so captured by the cause of Christ that they’d pour themselves out in devotion to him. That’s why we’re doing this series. Starting October 14, we’re going to spend 6 weeks in the book of Malachi. Week one will lay the foundation- true devotion is a response to the God who is truly devoted to us. Then over the next five weeks we’ll explore what true devotion actually looks like. It’s about offering worship that’s worthy, having relationships that are faithful, pursuing righteousness that endures, trusting God in our generosity, and living lives of reverent service. Don’t settle for half-hearted faith. Join us for the series and discover the beauty and blessing of true devotion.