Category Archives: Christianity

Easter, The Ultimate Answer To, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Golgotha

With this year’s Resurrection Sunday celebration approaching, I’ve been reflecting on a really good related discussion I had with a friend, around this time of year, about five years ago. What was then a new relationship seemed to be one where we quickly recognized that we liked each other regardless of our differing views on some pretty important topics. I say “really good discussion” because it was an open exchange with both of us genuinely interested in hearing the other’s points of view and wanting to learn from that. Candidly, I have to give my friend more credit than I can take myself, in that regard. Although this “really good discussion” mostly involved the two forbidden topics typically warned against for peaceful relationships … Politics and Religion … as I strongly suspected, this was just our first “really good discussion” of many to come.

One of the results of that conversation was for me to be reminded that, while I was clear in my understanding of my positions on the issues we discussed, I wanted to be able to clearly express my views to others. The question that was raised that confronted me with this most significantly was the question, “Do you believe there’s only one way to Heaven?” Although I think my response to this was adequate, it seemed to me that I should be prepared to offer more than an answer that’s just OK to such an important question. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible compels Christians to do this, saying, “[be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”.

Expressing the “reason of the hope that is in (me)” is what I wanted to be better prepared to do but, before I delve into that, I should give you my initial answer to that question. My answer is:

I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I, also, believe that every person can have salvation through accepting Christ’s sacrifice for their sin. And, I believe that salvation, through accepting Christ’s sacrifice, is the one and only path to Heaven.

Since my friend didn’t state his position on this question, I won’t presume to give you his answer. I will say his question was accompanied with several related questions and comments that I took into account as I considered how to best express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”. One related question was, “Do you think Mother Teresa went to Heaven?” and one related comment was, “I make it a daily habit, when considering certain choices, to ask myself, ‘What would Jesus do?’” I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting here but, to me, this combination of questions and comments had certain implications. One was that while my friend had some high regard for Jesus, he didn’t necessarily accept Him as being the only way to Heaven. Another was that “good works”/”being a good person” should get you to Heaven.

So, in order to respond to this and more adequately express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”, the two questions to answer are:

  1. Who is Jesus
  2. Can “good works” alone be a path to Heaven?

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Going To Heaven Alone

iron

REBUKED BY FRIENDS

When I express strong views on a sensitive topic, I’m not surprised when I get pushback from those who see matters differently. But, when I’m rebuffed by those who I think are friends, accepting me and my beliefs, it’s sort of shocking. I had that happen recently and it led me to do some introspection that I’d like to share.

The specifics of this recent occurrence involved a meeting I attended with a small group of people who I’ve worked very closely with for several years. Without inappropriately sharing intimate details of that meeting, let me just say that there was mention of another person who we’ve known through our work, who seemed to be going through a difficult time and that they were attending a Bible study being conducted by someone else we’ve known through our work. Hearing that was a pleasant surprise to me so I responded by saying something like, “I just hope (that person) is truly paying attention at the Bible study.” With that, I sensed a reaction that I later described as a unanimous rolling of the eyes by the other participants.

UNDERSTANDING THE REBUKE

Since my comment came just from my truly caring about the person we had been discussing, that added to my bewilderment over being chided as I was. So, the following day, I approached one of the other attendees to discuss this. In addition to getting affirmation of my sensing that unanimous rolling of the eyes, I was reminded that there are some settings where discussion of topics like religion and politics is just not welcome. And, beyond that, I was told that I was just more spiritual than the other attendees.

In reflecting on that one-on-one follow-up conversation, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t already know. And, in reflecting on my follow-up self-conversation, I remained sure of my caring intent with the comment that led to my rebuke. To me, though, the disapproval I had received from my friends clearly indicated the need for me to examine how I share my Christian faith in order that it’s received as intended. So, I determined to do just that.

FOCUS ON A SIN

In the course of making this examination, I thought of a point that I’d heard Pastor Brian Brodersen, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, make in a teaching from 1 Corinthians. As a side note, I ended up going through 11 of Pastor Brian’s teachings to find what I was looking for. At first, that seemed like a nuisance but it turned out that I was richly blessed through a fresh look at much more of God’s Word than I’d had in mind. Anyway, I did find what I was looking for in Pastor Brian’s lesson, entitled “Tending to Our Own Issues”, based on the following Scripture:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

The point that I had been thinking of was made by Pastor Brian in addressing the part of this Scripture that says, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” Pastor Brian’s comments here were: “ … notice, first of all, that the issues of sin go beyond sexual immorality … notice the other sins included there … we have a tendency to isolate a specific sin and focus in on that sin to the exclusion of other sins … that’s part of the problem we have right now, in the current cultural situation, in regard to homosexuality. I think that we, the church in general, have over emphasized this one sin. If you think about it, as we share the gospel with people, generally, we don’t begin by talking about specific sins. But, with homosexuality it seems we focus in on that particular thing. That’s the wrong way to understand it. I was thinking the other day about the idea that so many gay people have in their mind … I’ve heard them say this, ’You think I’m going to Hell because I’m gay.’ The reality is, they’re not going to Hell because they’re gay. They’re going to Hell because they’re lost. They’re going to Hell because they’re a sinner. They’re going to Hell for the same reason an adulterer is and the same reason a swindler is and for the same reason a slanderer is … because they haven’t turned to Christ to have their sins forgiven.” Continue reading

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Morality vs. Miracles: Looking at Machen’s “Christianity and Liberalism” Today

From: Trevin Wax

Machen bookIt’s been almost a century since J. Gresham Machen’s landmark work, Christianity and Liberalism, was released. What prompted Machen’s book was the descent of many mainline churches into liberal theology and teaching. Higher critical approaches to the Bible were a factor in this development, as well as scientific discoveries that made the Christian’s affirmation of miraculous, supernatural interventions seem embarrassing.

Keeping Morality, Ditching the Miracles

The trajectory of liberalism one hundred years ago went something like this:

  • We are living in a scientific age of discovery.
  • The miracles we read about in the Bible were written from another cultural vantage point.
  • It is important to maintain the ethical and moral teaching of Christianity.
  • Belief in the literal occurrence of biblical miracles is not needed to maintain the moral center of Christianity.
  • If belief in miracles is embarrassing to modern people, we should deemphasize them in order to extend Christianity into the next generation.

Machen’s point countered this line of thinking: You can’t have the moral teaching Christianity apart from its miracles.

The Issue Today

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Stand By Me at the Glassy Sea

Ron CoxRonald Ray Cox, a friend from the time of my birth, passed from life on Earth to life in eternity at about 8:32 a.m. (EST), October 19, 2013. Knowing that, it’s likely for you to think that I’m writing this to honor my friend and to tell you wonderful stories from a relationship that stretched out over nearly 70 years. Though I do want to honor my old friend, since there was a gap in our relationship from the time we finished college until about five months prior to Ron’s passing, when he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, I don’t have those nearly 70 years’ worth of stories to share. Thankfully, I do have the story to share of how I was blessed in reconnecting with Ron at the end of his life and getting to witness how he and his Wife, Kim, embraced God and each other through their final season together.

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My Walk On The Beach With Jesus

Father Jonathan Morris is an American Catholic Priest, currently serving in the Archdiocese of New York. He is probably best known as a contributor and analyst for the Fox News Channel. Last weekend, in the interview captured in the video below, he was asked to comment on recent news-making statements from Pope Francis, urging more understanding for homosexuality. Father Jonathan’s commentary included him reading a touching letter from his sister, who, he explained, “was legally married, in the eyes of the law in Washington D.C.,to another woman earlier this year.” What I heard through Father Jonathan moved me deeply and in a fully unexpected way.

Since I’m an Evangelical Christian and not Catholic, I don’t look to Pope Francis, as my spiritual leader. So, when Father Jonathan said, “He (Pope Francis) is inviting us, he is inviting me, he is inviting Christians to give a new emphasis on mercy, oncompassionate kind expression of the Gospel of Jesus and that means changing the way we’re doing things.”, I was skeptical. I wondered if the change he was encouraging was doctrinally sound. However, listening to what Father Jonathan shared about his correspondence with his sister, regarding the Pope ‘s statements, convicted me. Here’s a summary of what Father Jonathan had to say on this:

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Rediscovering America’s Strength

This past weekend, Figgie (Figgins) and I had a few discussions about the 2008 Presidential Campaign. It seems that this campaign has already been going on forever and its not even 2008 yet. The election itself is still about 11 months away. Its all pretty new to Figgie though and while he hasn’t registered to vote, he has seemed pretty keenly interested.

Our level of interest seemed to ramp up over the weekend, as a result of media focus on a certain “Celebrity Endorsement.” This isn’t a topic that generally carries much weight with me. However, Oprah Winfrey was at the center of this and though neither Figgie nor I are fans, we recognize her unique celebrity status. The factor that stirred my interest most was that she wasn’t just lending her name, as an endorsement for a candidate, she actually showed up at a few campaign events to say why. So, we tuned in.

I ended up telling Figgie that I was disappointed with what I heard. Generally, there were comments about need for change, followed by the name of the candidate she is endorsing, as the preferred change-agent. This is a theme I’ve heard countless times, for numerous candidates (both real and fictitious), since before I was old enough to vote. What I didn’t hear was much substance about the need for change or details of the “something better” we need to change to or specifics of plans for accomplishing these improvements.

So, there we were, with our interests stimulated but not gratified. What were we to do? Well, the first step was pretty obvious … we needed to face the fact that, going into it, we knew better than to expect much from a celebrity endorsement. And, frankly, we had to admit that our critique of the event was pretty obvious and easy. Those steps taken, we decided to check a source with a track record of fulfillment for us, when it comes to political observation … Charles Krauthammer … a Syndicated Columnist who, when I see him on TV, I spontaneously shout, “My hero!”

To my astonishment, we came away from reading Krauthammer’s column for this past Friday, in The Washington Post, with a sense of disappointment too. His comments were about one Presidential Candidate’s Evangelical Christianity and how he had used that to “manipulate” another candidate into having to discuss his Mormonism. As usual, Krauthammer expressed his views intelligently and interestingly but, at the end of it all, he just pitted one candidate against another, based on their differences.

But then it struck us! Ironically, we realized that “My hero”, Charles had actually come through. He had pointed us in the right direction by pitting one candidate against another. We realized … that’s what they all do. Regardless of the forum, its Democrat against Republican, Left against Right and Pro versus Con on: abortion, energy, environment, immigration, Iraq, taxes and pretty much any issue you can think of. How does that make us better? I don’t think that’s what led to our success, as a nation, in the first place. At the outset we pitted ourselves against Britain to gain our independence but we didn’t do it just one person’s way. I seem to recall that we drew on the best of the differing ideas of those we now honor as our Patriots … John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington, etc. These were all very different guys. Where would we be if all they did was pit themselves against each other, based on their differences? … In a place where there is only a Union Jack and no Old Glory, that’s where! … So, why is it that that’s all we do today? Although Oprah didn’t persuade me to support her guy, I’d bet that he does have some good ideas and that he, genuinely, wants to do his part to better our nation. Likewise with both the Evangelical Christian and the Mormon. As a matter of fact, that’s probably true of all the current mainstream candidates. So, why is it that not one of them seems to have the courage to offer what we do need … not just change but leadership, with a vision aligned with the beliefs of the majority and with the common sense to embrace the superior ideas of others, even if the “others” are political opponents. Now there’s the candidate I’m looking for! One who can lead us to rediscovering the strength that made America great in the first place … the synergy of the best of our differing ideas.

After basking for a few moments, in the illumination of the “Aha moment” we’d had, it occurred to me that I’d recently heard a similar point of view. As I reflected on this, I realized it was what I’d heard about a new book called Common Ground – How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America., by Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel. If these two, literally, political polar-opposites have come to this conclusion too, we’re more encouraged, we must be on to something!

As a relative newcomer to considering Presidential politics, this all seemed to be a bit convoluted for Figgie. But I sensed it was sinking in and beginning to comfort him. As soon as we came to today’s conclusion, he wandered off to one of his favorite spots … the living room couch. There, he was able to look out and enjoy the sunny, though chilly, mid-December day. No doubt, it was that comforting view, along with the enlightened vision, resulting from our examination of today’s topic, that had him peacefully snoozing in no time. I was thankful he could do that so easily. He is such a good listener but I know that takes a lot out of him.

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