What Others Say

"Thank you for the words of wisdom in today’s Abilene Reporter News. In the midst of wars violence and pandemics, your words were so soft spoken and calming."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Was Jesus Right? 8-31-2010

Jesus is universally respected. Even the followers of Islam claim him as a prophet. And millions who have no use for the church still like Jesus. But the question still remains, “Was Jesus right?” “Did he know what he was talking about?”

It is difficult to reconcile Islam’s claim that Jesus was a prophet with the clear statements that he made regarding himself: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” “I and the Father are One.” “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth.” “No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus clearly claimed to be more than a mere prophet or a great teacher.

It is also difficult to reconcile the attitude and actions of professing Christians with Jesus’ words and instructions. When I was eighteen, I worked in a warehouse that shipped products to stores where they would be sold. I worked with older workers who, like me, worked for minimum wage. Some of my co-workers, who were professing Christians, heard that I planned to become a “preacher.” They tried to be nice and encouraging. They told me it was a good thing for me to become a preacher, but reminded me that those things “don’t work here.”

I interpreted their comments to mean that they believed in Jesus but the teachings of Jesus were out of touch with the real world. They were like many Christians I have encountered over the years. Dallas Willard calls them “vampire Christians.” They want a little of Jesus’ blood, just enough to forgive their sins and assure they are going to heaven, but they don’t think Jesus knew what he was talking about when it comes to everyday life.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Clearly, He thought He knew what He was talking about, and he expected that anyone who placed their faith in Him would do everything they could to obey Him. It was apparently inconceivable to Jesus that someone could think they loved Him, and, at the same time, ignore or disobey His instructions.

Either Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived and knew better than anyone else how life should be lived on this earth, or he was a delusional pretender who has misguided millions for more than two thousand years. If Jesus’ instructions for living will not work in the courtroom, the schools, the factory and the family, neither will they work to get us to heaven. Our personal conclusion about whether we believe Jesus was right will not be reflected in what we profess about who He is, but in what we do when we are going about our day to day activities at work, at school and at home. Are we bringing our lives into alignment with his life and teaching? Do we act like Jesus acted? Do we forgive like Jesus forgave? Are we truthful and faithful like Jesus was truthful and faithful? Do we love like Jesus loved? Following Jesus’ instructions has nothing to do with earning our way to heaven. It has every thing to do with loving Jesus and living a meaningful life. If you want to know what Jesus expects, you can find his instructions in Matthew chapters 5-7.
Jesus told us how to know whether He was right or not. He said, “If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32. Amplified Bible).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Living Water 8-23-2010

For many years I have made it a practice of having a time of devotion early in the morning. I like to spend this time outside, preferably at sunrise. I have done this in the winter in Rochester, Minnesota where I bundled up in my winter coat, gloves and hood, scraped the ice off the chair and took my place to watch the rising Sun glint off the glass buildings of Mayo Clinic. There have been gaps when I missed. The demands of the day were pressing and I was unwilling to get up early enough for this discipline. But I have discovered that when I spend time for personal study of Scripture, prayer and reflection on what God wants to say to me, the day seems to go better. My life has a healthier center and, when the day is done, it seems to be more productive.

Lately I have been going out on my patio behind our house in Rockwall, Texas. The landscape seems braced for the scorching heat that will surge past 100 when the sun rises to its full height. After my devotion, I water the potted flowers on our patio: bachelor buttons, petunias, chrysanthemums and periwinkles. I keep a watering pot handy, and often leave it filled the day before so I will remember to do this. If I miss a few days, the plants show it. They become stressed, and, if neglected too long, they wither and die. Recently I missed a few days of having my devotion on the patio and, as a result, the flowers missed their watering. Their leaves shriveled and the flowers began to fall from the drooping stems. They have become a spiritual barometer. Perhaps they reflect the condition of my spirit and soul from these quiet times alone with God.

The flowers don’t respond well to alternate periods of draught and deluge. Drowning them in water once a week, simply doesn’t work. They need watering every day, not necessarily a lot, just enough to soak in the soil. Watered frequently in this fashion they thrive, even in record setting triple digit weather.

This may explain why American Christianity seems so insipid, (like salt that has lost its taste). Many Christians depend on a deluge of spiritual watering for one hour once a week during a worship service at church. And many more don’t even do this. The spiritual lives of many Christians may resemble the stressed out flowers sitting on my patio table in the heat of summer.

David expressed this truth in Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers”

Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:14) And again, he said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” (Rev 21:6).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Inception 8-2-2010

My son-in-law, who is a psychology major, recently went to see the movie Inception … twice. Last weekend, my son, an architect, talked me into seeing the show starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It is still the number one box office attraction in the country. I was surprised to find the theater almost full at 2 PM on a Saturday afternoon more than two weeks after its initial opening. I was also surprised to find a reference to Inception popping up this morning in a newspaper report on the economy. “Inception” is quickly entering mainstream conversation.

“Inception” is a science fiction movie. Like all science fiction, there are holes and gaps in the science. And, like all good science fiction, the fiction feeds the imagination. The science does not have to be validated; it only has to be believable enough for the imagination to take over. And, for those of us willing to let our imaginations run wild, it creates some interesting scenarios.

The plot’s thesis is to plant an idea into someone’s mind so that they change their actions and thereby change the world. Along the way, it raises psychological questions about dreams and the subconscious. It also raises philosophical questions about reality and perceived reality. And, it leaves totally unanswered the questions about what happens to us when we die.

In the dream worlds of Inception, when we die, we just “wake up” at another level of consciousness. But what happens in the “real” world when we die?

This final question, the one about what happens to us when we die, is the critical question that Jesus addressed. He demonstrated that death is not final when he raised the dead to life. This he did with the widow’s son at Nain and with his good friend Lazarus at Bethany. He promised the penitent thief who was crucified with him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” But he answered the question most effectively by his own resurrection. Luke says, “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).

The Bible is very clear about the reality of Heaven. Contrary to the opinion of some that when our body ceases to breathe we cease to exist, the Bible promises a new body in a new reality that supersedes this temporary world. That is largely the reason that Jesus came. The Scripture states, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Of course, Heaven is not the only reality after death. I will write more about that next week.