Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Month: July 2015

How do we know Christianity is true?

imgresI was asked this week, “how do we know Christianity is the true religion? I mean, there are many religions out there. How do we know ours is true?”

Great question. Frequently asked question. There are many ways to begin the answer and to start the investigation.

I was asked by my 11-year-old son. So I knew I had to give him something to chomp down on. And I knew I had to do it pretty quickly. We were on a road trip, but still, he was not going to listen to a 2-hour lecture.

So I prayed and then started with a question: “What’s Christianity about… at its root? Maybe I should ask this: WHO is Christianity about?”

“Jesus, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.” I continued, “Jesus Christ is the source of Christianity and the goal. So, when we are asking how do we know our religion is true, we are really asking how do we know Christ is true… or that Christ is who he said he was. For instance, Jesus said, ‘I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Now either that’s true or that’s not. If it’s not true, Jesus is a liar. If He knows it’s not true, but he says it anyway, then he’s a liar. Right?”

“I guess so.”

“Does Jesus seem like a liar to you?

“Not really… he healed people and helped people.”

“Exactly. And everyone says his teaching is worth listening to. Is a liar worth listening to? Is a liar worth following? Not at all. Jesus’ teachings and life don’t seem to be one giant scam. Everything about him screams authenticity. So, if he’s saying these things, he’s either a liar… or maybe he’s a lunatic.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, CS Lewis (who wrote Narnia) noted that there are only three options for figuring out who Jesus is, based on his life and teachings. Liar or Lunatic are the first two. Maybe instead of being a liar and perpetrating a fraud on everyone (saying things he knew were not at all true), maybe he himself believed them to be true, even though they aren’t. For instance, maybe he really did think he was the only way to God. But, if in fact he isn’t, then that makes him crazy! Insane or a lunatic.”

“What?”

“Well, think of it this way, if I told everyone that I’m the guy who is the center of the world and all of history revolves around me, and you should worship and serve and follow me… what would y’all do with that? Would you believe me?”

“No.”

“Of course not… but if I truly believed it, and ended up dying because I believed it… what would you think of me then?”

“That you were a fool, and totally out of touch with reality.”

“Exactly. In other words, I’d be a lunatic.”

“I get it. So, when Jesus says, “no one comes to the Father except through me,’ either he is a liar, saying something he knows isn’t true, or he’s a lunatic, actually believing this thing that isn’t true. You said there were three options. What was the third?”

“Well, based on his claims, Jesus is either a liar, or a lunatic or he is Lord. And that’s exactly who he said he was: the Lord of all. He claimed to forgive sins (something only the Lord can do), and to prove it, he healed a lame man’s legs. He claimed to be the one way to the Father, he is revealed as the King of Kings over the whole universe. Liar, Lunatic or Lord, that’s how CS Lewis has helped generations of people wrestle with the question of who Jesus is, and is Jesus true and right. If Christianity is true or not depends on whether Jesus is who he says he is. It seems like Lewis is right: when you consider the exclusive and comprehensive nature of his claims, either he’s a diabolical liar, a certifiable lunatic or he is, in fact, the Lord of Glory. How does that grab you?”

“Hmm.  Cool.  I’m going to the back seat for a sleep.”

A tumor & a worldview

55a04c59deb1c.imageJennifer Chetelat is the daughter of my good friends, Walt and Jenny Whilden.  Walt & Jenny have been “Friends of Grace” (Frogs?) since Grace’s inception.  He was an elder at Grace Fellowship Baltimore when Grace Fellowship Kinston started in 1994.  They have maintained deep friendships within our body even after moving to Richmond, VA. And, Walt has been a great sounding board / sage to me for several years.  Every few months we’ll meet halfway for breakfast and great talks.

2 years ago, their daughter Jennifer was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and it was extremely serious.  She recently told her story in the Richmond Time-Dispatch.  And, she offers 15 things she’s learned along the way.  Worth reading.  Click the link, and be inspired! “Tumor, surgery and a worldview makeover.”

I particularly liked #7 – “steroids make me crazy. (Really, certifiably nuts)” and #12… you’ll have to read that on your own.

Your wilderness experience is mine

images-1A friend’s high-school daughter is in the middle of a “ministry immersion” month. It’s called the Compass Program, and it’s hosted by my alma mater, Gordon-Conwell.  A small cohort of high school students gather for a month: a week in the wilderness, a week in seminary classes, and 2 weeks in Latin America. As you can imagine, they grow strong together.

My friend emailed out to several of us some thoughts as she pondered her daughter’s journey in the wilderness.  They are worth all of us reading:

“A really cool lesson they learned in the Wilderness Experience is that while there wandering about, they all had the same goal and that was to get to the end of the trail together (7 days of hiking, canoeing, and running).  If any one in their group got tired, they stopped.  If anyone got hurt, they helped.  If anyone had any concerns, they encouraged them as a group to keep focused on the finish and keep walking the path. One step at a time.  One day at a time.  Don’t worry about yesterday.  Don’t worry about tomorrow. They would NOT leave anyone behind or keep moving forward without the entire group.  They were in this together as a community to the very end.  They compared that wilderness / wandering mentality to our life as Christians.  We are a community heading to the finish line, which is our ETERNITY IN HEAVEN! If someone struggles or falls off the path, we help them get up, love them, encourage them, and keep moving forward toward ETERNITY.  We don’t want to leave anyone behind, we don’t want our finish to be solo, but we want to share it with everyone we know and love.  Keep focused on the goal, the finish line.  It is a vertical finish, pleasing to God, not a horizontal finish, which pleases the earth.  And we all know the world we live in today is more like Babylon and not the Jerusalem God would have loved. (got that from church sermon yesterday) 🙂  But the good news is the finish for us as Christians is not the end, it is not death, but the beginning of a wonderful, new life in Eternity!

“This is what I gained by reading [my daughter’s blogs].  Sorry I got wordy, but I pray we can all keep focused on the Truths, keep our Faith and not let this world that we are living in suck us into the mindset that we have to conform to its evil ways, but that we can be Bold and stand apart and for our God who will be victorious in the end.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

“I’ll pray for you” …and other lies we tell

imagesHow many times have you said it? Someone shares a hurt or fear with you, a concern upcoming, or trouble they are in.  And, you are in a bit of a rush, you listen politely and blurt out, “I’ll pray for you this week.”

Makes them feel better, makes you feel better, kinda closes the conversation, and you move on …and more often than not, you forget.

Next day, next week when you see them again there’s a pang of guilt: promise unkept. It’s worse when they run up and say, “thanks for praying, God totally answered.” But, I didn’t pray, you think but never say.

I’d been in this situation a hundred times, and I finally had to figure out a way through it.  The solution I stumbled on is this: As often as possible I pray right then and there with the person. I just lift the conversation to the Lord, asking him to heal, change, reconcile, provide for, convict, protect… or whatever it is that’s on my friend’s heart. And, I ask that the Lord would show himself in a new and deeper way.

Here’s why this is so good:

First, it keeps me from being a liar. Even when I have the best of intentions, it’s so easy to forget to pray. We don’t mean not to pray… that’s why it’s called “forgetting”.  and, then we feel badly, and feel somehow that we’ve let God down too. I don’t want to say something and not do it; so I say, “can we pray right now about this?”

Second, If I’ve already prayed out-loud, with a friend, to God, wholeheartedly, I’m much more invested in their concern than if I’ve just listened to them tell their story. At that point, I’m way more likely to remember it later. And, pray again. I’ve already got skin in the game; I’ve already taken it to God once. Now, when I come back to him later, it’s “remember Lord this situation? We’ve already talked about it. Will you do something?”

Third, Jesus says that when two of you agree on earth about anything you ask , it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Mt 18:19) While this isn’t a blank check for anything we want, it sure is a word about the power of 2 in prayer! When I pray right then and there with my friend in need, that’s two of us… and Jesus says that’s where the power is.

I would think that God’s heart would swell with Fatherly pride and joy at a whole bunch of his children stopping often through the day to pray quickly and wholeheartedly for the concerns in front of them. That’s what we were created for. Don’t you think we’d see God answer a whole lot more of our prayers… if we actually prayed them?

Now, I try to avoid saying “I’ll pray for you.”  I like, “Can we pray about this right now?”

From Sojourners to Diaspora… God’s people have done it all

imgresThrough the OT, God’s people found themselves in several political situations:

  • The Patriarchs were SOJOURNERS: settled and welcome, but not quite at home.
  • Jacob’s family went to Egypt as IMMIGRANTS: foreigners in a foreign country.
  • The Children of Israel became ENSLAVED by later Pharaohs
  • The Exodus Generation were “REFUGEES”: a people who fled one place and are without a country
  • During the time of the Judges, Israel was a THEOCRACY – God himself was their leader, and he led them through judges.
  • The next phase was MONARCHY, where kings ruled the people, sometimes well, sometimes weakly, sometimes wickedly.
  • The people were EXILED from their land: foreigners ejected them, and took them captive.
  • At the return from Exile, God’s people existed in one of three political environments:
    • enjoyed some measure of autonomy,
    • but were almost always a CONQUERED PEOPLE in the land.
    • Where Jews stayed in foreign lands, they are DIASPORA… meaning, spread abroad but purposefully Jewish.

In the OT, the believer’s relation to the state was varied. From Slave to Monarchy and everything in between. It was always changing. What didn’t change was this:

God’s purpose in history.

  • To bless (by rescuing from sin and sins, and by reconciling to himself) all nations through the Messiah and the Messiah’s people; Gen 12:1-3, Gal 3:8.
  • To unite all things under one head, even Christ; Isa 9:6-7, Eph 1:9-10

No matter what our relation is to the state today, or how it might change in the future, God’s purposes in history are the same. He will magnify his Son. That means, my purposes in daily life will be the same: I will magnify his Son. Thanks be to God!

“I became more racist than I wanted to admit”

imagesSo it seems that this last week I’ve been alternating between thoughts from Charleston and thoughts about gay marriage. Today, we’re back to Charleston. After I posted Claude Alexander’s simple letter (you can read it here), I received the following note from a friend who had read that post. I have his permission to share it. He is young, in his 70s, and a godly man, as you will read.

He recognizes God’s healing in his heart… and that’s what we’re counting on God to do in many hearts!

Jason, 

Thank you for your blogs.  They continue to be thought-provoking and edifying.  The two on the Trinity were especially exciting to me.  They were refreshing since so much of “evangelicalism” has turned away from doctrine, saying “I don’t need theology; just Jesus & me.” 

It was the blog you posted from Claude Alexander, however, that really nailed me to the wall, so to speak.  Living for so many years in the South I became more racist than I want to admit.  It seems that the Lord has started the process of cutting that out of my life.  It is worse than I would ever have thought, more a part of me than I’d like to concede, and the cutting away is painful.  Alexander’s blog was like being carved with a knife. 

For more than three years before my wife died of Alzehimer’s we could not go to church.  Having been very involved in church all of our lives, suddenly stopping was one of the hardest parts of being her caregiver.  I listened to Ravi, Stuart Briscoe, and others on the radio, but that is not enough; I needed to be in fellowship with God’s people… The Sunday after she died I went to Bethlehem Baptist North Campus [in Minneapolis] and have been there ever since.  What a blessing that church is!  I’m not sure if you have met Jason Meyer, pastor of preaching and vision, but he is delightful to sit under…  

One big surprise for me was that I realized (about the middle of January) that I was becoming less and less racist.  Jason doesn’t talk much about it, but somehow because it is in his heart it is coming out in his preaching and actions, and it has affected me profoundly. 

Then I read your blog, and it was like the Holy Spirit was pounding me on the head.  I am seeing more and more clearly just how wrong I have been and how wrong the Church has been.  It is humbling for an old buzzard like me to have to confess to such terrible racism, but there it is right in front of me. 

As you have time, pray for me; and thank you so much for the courage and wisdom to post such an excellent and needed article. 

I bet there are tens of thousands of people who mirror his journey… or would mirror it if they considered long enough. God has created us each one in his image, and he loves us each one.  Whenever we recognize that we differentiate people or kinda sorta judge them from afar (but only because they aren’t acting normal… i.e., like me), then we can begin to filter those thoughts: are these thoughts that God would have? Do they take into account the fact that God loves that person/group as much as he loves me? Do these thoughts build bridges or walls?

Then we can take the next step: how can I move toward each person I see, especially those I might judge? How can I help in some small way? Can I make them smile right now, or take them off guard with a small grace?

Once we get good at that, then we will be ready to do some heavy lifting in ridding ourselves of racial prejudice. Society will change, but not merely with laws or protocols. Its most lasting and effective change will come with hearts oriented rightly toward the dignity of every person, created in God’s Image and Loved by God’s Son.  That’s change we can believe in.  (…sorry, I couldn’t resist redeeming a political slogan!!)

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