Thursday, October 21, 2021

Only Jesus

 

I know one can't believe everything that gets posted on social media, but I have no reason to believe my son would lie about the results of a recent poll.

We don't know who was polled or what the exact questions were, but the published findings state that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation.

I liked Curtis' translation of that statistic. Saying that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation actually means that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 are NOT Christians.

Make no mistake, all religions do not teach the same thing, being sincere is not the same thing as being right, and all paths do not lead to the same place.

Acts 4:10-12  -  Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. [Jesus] is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.


That's what Peter said and that's what all true Christians must say.

Buddha did not sacrifice his body on a Roman cross.

Muhammed did not shed his blood to purify us from our sin.

Philosophers and philanthropists cannot transform us into representatives of righteousness.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...this kind of non-pluralistic message sounds narrow-minded and exclusive to the modern ear. But it is actually as expansive and all-inclusive as "whosoever will may come."


Thursday, October 14, 2021

How I Learned that Forgiveness Benefits the Forgiver

 

I was fired from my first youth ministry position.

Now, if you were a member of that church and you just read that sentence and you thought, "I thought you resigned," you would not be alone. Back in those days, when the leadership wanted a pastor to be gone, they allowed the pastor to tender a resignation. This allowed the departing pastor to avoid the stigma of Being Fired.

I survived the trauma, obviously, and went on to serve at three other churches before putting lock-ins permanently in my past.

The thing is, the one elder who was most responsible for my departure from that first ministry position stuck in my mind. Any time I heard a sermon or lesson about our need to forgive one another, my thoughts turned to him. It even got to the point where I couldn't enjoy the sitcom, Head of the Class, because one of the actors looked a lot like that one elder.

I finally realized that I was harboring a grudge against him and that I needed to heed the words of Jesus in Mark 11:25, "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

I needed to forgive the man or I would be carrying around a burden of bitterness the rest of my life.

So, I wrote him a letter that explained how I felt he had personally undermined my work with the youth and manipulated the board of elders into getting rid of me. But I also said that I believed he thought he was doing what was best for the church and that I was no longer going to harbor any ill will toward him.

His response acknowledged that he had received my letter and that he had heard I was doing well at my new church. There were no words of apology or regret...and that was just fine with me.


Truth is...once you've forgiven someone, they no longer hold any power over your personal peace or sense of worth.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Pray Where You Are

 

Have you ever listened to someone talk about something going on in their life, or read a particularly personal post on social media, and told the person you would pray for them?

Probably a pretty high percentage of people who read this blog can answer "Yes" to that.

Well...have you ever done that and then totally forgotten to ever actually...you know...pray for the person?

That would be one of my two definitions of "amenesia." (The other being when you pray for someone and then promptly forget about them or their need.)

In order to avoid promising to pray but then breaking that promise, I will usually stop whatever I'm doing and pray right then INSTEAD of promising to pray. In the context of a social media request for prayer, any comment I leave will be an actual prayer; not the words "I'm praying for you," but something that usually begins with "Father God...".


Truth is...while having a particular place and time set aside to talk with Yahweh is a good thing, let's not think that's the only time we can pray. I'm grateful for the following song by Lost Dogs, "Pray Where You Are." Make it so!





Tuesday, September 28, 2021

No...Really...What Do You Mean By "Following Jesus"?

 

A follow-up to last week's post.

You may or may not recall that last week's "Truth Is..." pointed out how following Jesus involves more than just agreeing with certain points of doctrine or philosophical falderal.

Since then, I came across a meme that skewers popular culture's version of expressing care and concern that illustrates my point perfectly.


Truth is...if Legolas and friends followed the example that most of us today are laying out to the world, the Ring of Power would never have been destroyed and Middle Earth would have succumbed to the forces of Sauron long ago. Let us be men and women who put our prayers into action.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

What Do You Mean By "Following Jesus"?

 

Probably because of the terminal mass of assumptions that have been attached to the term "Christian", it has become popular to identify oneself as a Jesus Follower. It's an attempt to differentiate oneself from merely attending church or from adhering to a particular set of mostly-radically-right-wing political positions.

In essence, I applaud the effort. But last Wednesday night's Bible study at my home congregation made me take a closer look at the concept of following Jesus.


We were looking at the first chapter of Mark's gospel, and I was particularly impacted by Francis Chan's comments about Mark 1:16-20, which reads:

 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Chan's passionate comments about those verses focused on how different following Jesus was for those fishermen compared to what most of us mean when we use the term.

James and John didn't just agree with what Jesus was teaching. Simon and Andrew went beyond meeting weekly at the local synagogue. When they became Jesus Followers, they actually...you know...got off their duffs and followed Jesus.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...If I'm going to call myself a Jesus follower, it involves more than an intellectual assent. It requires action. I need to pay attention to where Jesus is going and what Jesus is doing and I need to go there and do that.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Whose Side Are You On and Does It Make a Difference?

 

Today we find our hero (Calvin of Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes) making a grave mistake.


Sadly, an attempt to remedy the situation doesn't mitigate his teammates' wrath.


There are two ways to go with this:

       1. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just as Calvin felt proud of his accomplishment in getting the out, there are times when a person thinks they're doing a good thing when it's really a score for "the other side." Case in point: thinking you're taking a stand for righteousness when what you're really accomplishing is the continuation of a people-hating, Bible-thumping stereotype that has never drawn anyone into the Kingdom.

       2. What kind of army kills its wounded? Calvin's teammates could have turned this into a teachable moment and help mold Calvin into a productive member of the team. Instead, they condemned and rejected him. Kind of like blogging about Bible-thumpers.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...We've all stood on both sides of this equation and are equally dependent on the grace of God.


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Disproportional Legend of the Pony Express

 

Think about all you've ever heard, seen, or read about the Pony Express.

Between movies, television, and books, we've been entertained by stories of those 400 horses, 180 riders, and 1900 miles of the Immigrant Trail our whole lives.



Now think about this. The Pony Express closed its operations just two days after the first cross-continental telegraph message: an assurance of support from the chief justice of California to President Lincoln.

The Pony Express casts a pretty long shadow for a business venture that only lasted nineteen months.

But still, those legends and tall tales are practically nothing when compared to the real-life impact made by a rag-tag group of fishermen, civil servants, and would-be political activists led by a backwater carpenter-turned-rabbi.


Truth is... The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.(Matthew 13:31-32 NLT)