Was Jesus A Myth?

“Nothing in Christianity is original.” That’s the claim of Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code.

But is it true? Is Jesus just a mythological figure with parts and pieces borrowed from ancient myths and foisted on an unsuspecting, gullible public? Many skeptics think so, but serious flaws infect their logic.

First, the ancient myths that the Jesus story supposedly imitates and the life of Jesus don’t match. Despite the misinformation circulated by skeptics on their websites, there aren’t any significant similarities between Jesus and the mythical gods of ancient lore.

One of the most common fake links between Jesus and ancient myths is the case of Horus, an ancient Egyptian deity. Supposedly, Horus was born on December 25th (Jesus probably wasn’t born in December; the Bible never dates his birth), born of a virgin, heralded by a star in the east, was visited as a child by three kings (again, the Bible never numbers the wise men and never calls them kings), had 12 disciples, was betrayed and crucified, resurrected from the dead, etc.

But when one actually studies the myth of Horus first-hand (and other ancient myths that are supposed to be the wellspring of the “Jesus myth”), they don’t even resemble the life of Jesus. As for Horus, the supposed connections are easily debunked – see this LINK for more.

These comparisons between Horus (along with other mythological figures) and Jesus arose in the 1800’s with theological schools of thought such as Form Criticism and the move to “de-mythologize” the Bible. Such theological thinking has been resurrected recently in pop culture as a way of diminishing the influence of Christ and the church in modern thought, while most serious scholarship has moved on.

If one goes back to the original, scholarly material on the ancient myths that are supposed to be the source of the gospel story, it’s easy to show that they have no resemblance to the Biblical account of Jesus’ life and work. For an excellent analysis of these false connections between Jesus and the myths, see this LINK.

Dr. William Lane Craig, a research professor of philosophy, also weighs in on the subject at this excellent LINK.

Second, Jesus was an actual historical figure while the mythological characters he’s often compared to didn’t exist. They were myths. Jesus was not. He is mentioned in several historical records outside the New Testament. You can find him discussed as an actual person by Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, as well as by Lucian, Mara bar-Serapion, Pliny, Seutonius and Tacitus. Even the Jewish Talmud mentions Jesus and admits to his historicity. See more details at this LINK.

For the skeptic who wishes to debunk Christianity by casting it as a myth, this road is a dead end. Nice try, but the facts don’t support it.

Why do you think this concept of Jesus as a myth appeals to so many people?

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How To Pray Through The Guilt

When it comes to prayer, guilt makes cowards of us all. It can drain the juice right out of an otherwise lively prayer. Feeling like an impostor, I’m afraid I don’t deserve God’s ear.

But I get encouraged when I see a man like Jacob pray boldly in the face of a long list of reasons why guilt should’ve intimidated him. Born into one of the richest families in the ancient east, Jacob’s nature (and even his name – “heel-grabber”) leaned toward the dishonest. His con-artist ways soon merged with his own mother’s shady disposition, so they tricked Esau out of his inheritance rights as the older brother.

But this trick soon soured Jacob’s enire life. Esau vowed to kill him, so mother sent Jacob away to their equivalent of the witness protection program – living with relatives in another country. Now penniless, Jacob hiked hurriedly toward a shadowy future with distant relatives. As far as he knew, his future was history.

Yet at this low point, Jacob encounters the God of his ancestors. Jehovah arrests the broken young man as he’s running from his past, trying to get some restless sleep on a pile of rocks.

Note the covenant language: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you… the land on which you are lying. I will bring you back to this land.” (Genesis 28:13 NIV)

Armed with this amazing promise, Jacob slowly builds a life among his mother’s relatives, and even regains much of his wealth. But just when Jacob starts enjoying a little affluence in his new life, God speaks again: “I am the God of Bethel… Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. (Genesis 31:13 NIV)

Jacob wants to return, but he’s married to his guilt and the offspring of the wedding is fear. How will he ever deal with Esau’s violent hatred? Stirring up his faith, Jacob decides to obey and head home.

But once on the road, something happens that resurrects his dying fears; Jacob gets word that Esau is coming toward his caravan with 400 men! His heart sinks. Why does Esau need 400 men just to welcome him home? It’s clear what Esau intends to do.

In this blood-chilling circumstance, Jacob’s guilt must’ve laid heavily on his chest each time he tried to breathe. All he could cling to now was Jehovah’s word. Quieting his guilt and grounding his prayer in the covenant agreement, Jacob calls God into account for what He has promised, challenging Him to stand behind His own words – “O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper…’ Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau… “ (Genesis 32:9-12 NIV)

And the answer came: “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

Have you ever experienced praying and getting a breakthrough despite the guilt? Encourage us by sharing it…

Why Is Faith Such A Struggle?

“Toto, I have the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” -Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz.

The cultural cyclone that America has weathered in the past 50 years launched us over the rainbow to a land many true Bible-believers hardly recognize. The latest episode in Oz has become the “Christmas wars” – conflict over how much we’re allowed to celebrate Christmas as a society without being politically incorrect.

One website tells how:

  • New York schools banned Santa from the campus during class hours,
  • How Columbia University hosted a play called “xmas” where the virgin Mary begs for sex,
  • How “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues”, performed in Philadelphia, features a discussion of Santa raping Vixen… and on it sickeningly goes.

Obviously, we’re now caught in a rip tide between two massive cultural currents: (1) Bible believers who think Western society will crumble in direct relation to the level of unbelief, and (2) secular forces trying to “liberate” the world from the supposedly tragic influence of religion.www.whatistruth.info/40storyMan_In_Prayer.jpg

If you’ll pardon another movie cliche, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” (Margo Channing in All About Eve). I’m not sure where or when all of this will end, but it will indeed be bumpy for a while.

During this turbulence, nominal Christianity will slowly die in the face of the black tide of cultural relativism. Only the strong (in faith) will survive.

Given the toxic cultural environment, what kind of faith will survive? Why is true faith such a struggle? Here are some possible causes:

  • Familiarity doesn’t always produce faith. Jesus’ own home town had such little faith in him, that he couldn’t do miracles there. Just being a church goer and knowing about Jesus won’t produce faith. (Mark 6:5-6)
  • Faith isn’t merely inherited. The greatest faith Jesus encountered in his ministry came from a Roman Centurion, who wasn’t a Jew and didn’t have the benefit of religious heritage and training. (Matthew 8:10).
  • Faith is a choice.  Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest followers, couldn’t believe that the Master had been resurrected. He chose his own reaction: “Unless I see… I will not believe it.” The resurrected Jesus told him to “Stop doubting and believe.” – a choice. (John 20:24-28).
  • Faith dies without intentional nutrition.  Without maintenance it can’t survive. Without time studying the Bible and praying, faith can’t live very long.  (Rom 10:17).

Why do you think faith is such a struggle? Help us by telling how your faith has grown stronger. How did it happen?

Ways Praying People Stay Connected

Here are some great ways I’ve found to stay connected to praying people:

  • WeArePrayingForYou.com This new social networking site is devoted specifically to prayer and to connecting intercessors together. Just launched recently, the site is beginning now to grow. It’s worth your while to take a look at it.
  • Harvest Prayer Ministries provides teaching and training in corporate prayer, motivating churches and groups to become “houses of prayer”. The ministry also has an online bookstore with almost every title about prayer.
  • Pray Magazine has been around about a decade, and is now primarily an online publication. Has great articles and resources concerning prayer.
  • Church Prayer Leaders Network links intercessors and prayer leaders in local churches to each other, and to helpful resources. Their main task is to network praying people in local churches together.
  • National Day of Prayer Task Force. This organization is the official group that heads up the special day of prayer for our nation each year.
  • Community Prayer Partners is a local group for Northeast Louisiana, but its principles and strategy can be applied anywhere – networking churches of all denominations to pray for spiritual revival for our world.
  • CrossView Prayer Ministries is our local church’s effort to train and motivate God’s people worldwide to devote themselves to prayer.

Do you have any other ways you stay connected to praying people?

Let us know… and keep watching the comments where you’ll see more great ideas.

I Think We’re Asking The Wrong Question

Most churches I know seem to fall into one of two categories: those that work hard to get more people into their buildings, and those who don’t care much if anyone new shows up.

Churches in the first group, often called “seeker sensitive”, spend small fortunes and countless hours trying to interest a consumer-oriented society to join in and follow Christ.

But it hasn’t always worked. Bill Hybels, founding pastor of the famous Willow Creek Church in the Chicago area, recently admitted that they have, basically, failed to make mature disciples with their otherwise successful approach. (See more at “Willow Creek Repents?”)

Whether a church calls itself “seeker sensitive”, or whether it doesn’t care much for reaching the modern masses, both classes of churches seem to be missing the whole point.

Our calling isn’t to move heaven and earth to get more people in the building, but it’s to move the universe (if needed) to make our churches a place where God wants  to attend.

When the Creator of all things, the One who is love, appears in our assemblies, we won’t have to convince people to come. They’ll be drawn like iron to a magnet. They’ll “fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'” (1 Cor. 14:25)

When HE comes to church, the crowd won’t behave like they’re in the local mall or doze or check out the audience for fashion tips. They might behave more like those in Acts 5:11 – “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

When the Presence enters the assembly, we might see the church operate like the one in Acts 9:31 that was “strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

We’ve been asking the wrong question. Instead of, “How do we get more people involved in this church?” – we should be concerned with, “How do we make a hospitable, holy environment for the Lord Himself to come?”.

Got any suggestions? How does all this fit with why our churches should be “houses of prayer”…?

Why do our best prayers often fail?

Back in mid-twentieth century, a psychologist named Klopfer made an amazing discovery in dealing with one of his patients, a man named Wright.

Cancer had eaten up Mr. Wright, causing tumors the size of oranges throughout his body. He lay in the hospital, dying. Nothing could be done, except to make him as comfortable as possible.

But Mr. Wright’s hope flared a little when he heard of a new cancer drug called Krebiozen. He asked his doctors about it, but they wanted to reserve the experimental drug for patients who hadn’t progressed as far as Mr. Wright; they wanted to use it on those who would live longer.

But Wright begged until his doctor gave one injection on a Friday, expecting him to die over the weekend.

Not only did Mr. Wright live through the weekend, but his doctors found him on Monday morning happily walking the halls and visiting with the staff. His tumors had shrunk to half their previous size.

Doctors excitedly began three injections a day for Mr. Wright, and within ten days he went home and back to his usual activities (which included flying his airplane).

However, it wasn’t long until the news media reported conflicting stories about the new drug’s effectiveness. Many said it was useless, news that put Mr. Wright back in the hospital where he reverted to his former critical condition.

At this point Dr. Klopfer intervened, telling Wright that the earlier drug had deteriorated in shipping and that a new, more powerful form would arrive soon. Mr. Wright took heart, and the Doctor began more injections… this time of nothing but fresh water!

Mr. Wright again recovered, leaving the hospital and going back to his normal activities in a few days. His watery injections had soared him back to health… until.

Until the American Medical Association released a statement saying that Krebiozen was a totally worthless drug. His faith in the drug now shattered, Mr. Wright reentered the hospital and died within a few days. (See Dr. Bernie Seigel’s book, Love, Medicine & Miracles – Harper & Row; 1988, page 33.)

This amazing story reminded me of some ways Jesus emphasized the power of belief throughout his ministry:

  • Jesus talked incessantly about faith. He often quizzed his disciples about it, pushing them to develop more of it. He often said, “according to your faith will it be done to you”, leaving all things open-ended with no limits other than our lack of belief.
  • Faith amazed Jesus. To see time-bound mortals “get it” – to see them learn this God-like skill called faith – this excited Jesus.
  • He marveled at the Centurion’s astonishing faith (Matthew 8 ) and the iron-willed faith of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15), but he also stood amazed at the smothering lack of faith in his own home town (Mark 6:6).
  • Jesus went around looking for faith, evaluating each encounter with people, sizing them up and taking their measure, always with an eye toward discovering faith… faith in him and his ability to manifest God on earth.
  • He even said, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIV).
  • While we’re here on earth doing all this praying, he’s looking for faith. He’s evaluating our prayers based on their faith-content. Why? Because Jesus knows that even eloquent prayers spoken without faith are dead on arrival.

(Have you ever had a “Mr. Wright” experience? Tell us about it…)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24 NIV).