Monday, December 24, 2012

God's Open Door

Christians, have you ever had a really good answer to a question someone asked you....about 10 minutes after the conversation?  That is the way it often is for me.  Anyhow, the other day my son, Ben, asked me a question that I told him I wanted to think about a bit.

Benjamin had a friend ask him, "How can we say Buddah isn't a god, yet Buddhists believe he is?"  It seemed to me that the deeper question he was asking was, "Who are we to say our religion is the way to God, and another's isn't?" least that is how I took it.  I took it this way because Buddhists don't believe Buddah is a god anyhow.

Issue: There are many angles I can take on this. For this blog, I am taking the angle of, "Does the Bible really teach that Jesus the only way to God?"
1.  John 3:16 alone, does not exclude people who don't believe in Him.  While it says, "those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." It in no way says that those who don't believe cannot have this eternal life.
2. John 14:6 speaks of Jesus being the way, the truth, the life.  But does not say that the way to Jesus is through faith. So what about those who follow his teaching as a good inspirational person but don't necessarily submit to his lordship & his propitiation?

So how would I respond to Ben & his friend's question, as his dad?
1. Buddah is not the Buddhist's god.
2. Most religions know of Jesus, as he is a key figure in each (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Christianity, Baha'i, Sikhism, syncretism, etc ). And all of these consider Jesus as someone to be followed.  For instance, in Islam Jesus is to be followed as a prophet & al-Masīḥ (the Messiah).

So far, we would all agree.  Now here is where the sword comes down...this is where the Scriptures and Jesus leave the realm of "coexist" and into the hard teachings of truth.
3. God, however, accepts worship on His terms, not on man's terms
A) Jesus, in John 14:6, notice that Jesus used a definite article (earliest Manuscript we have of this is between 175-225 AD, P75), "I am THE way, THE truth, THE life.  No man comes to the Father except through me." What does this "through me" mean?  The next passage will answer this question.
B) Jesus, in John 3:16-18, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
So far, there is no exclusion of those who may not believe in Jesus.  However, the next verse is where the exclusion starts-
There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son." 
C) Exodus 32:1-4, 5-10 When Moses was up on the mountain for a long time, Aaron & the Canaanites got antsy, so they made a gold calf & worshiped it.  Aaron told the people that this was the Lord who lead them out of Egypt.  One thing to notice here is that God didn't look down and say, "Bless their hearts.  They have the wrong idea of me, but I love the sincerity."  No, God was not happy & wanted to destroy them for worshiping false gods. God wanted the worship of Him to be done on His terms.
D) Malachi- This book talks about how God refuses worship done in the wrong heart.  He wasn't glad and relieved that they were worshiping Him. God was actually disgusted by their worship.
E) Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:5 states, " For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus." This is pretty awesome, pretty clear, and a great picture.  I picture a man on a cross bridging the gap between God & man. All who come to Jesus can also come to the Father!  
F) Jesus, in John 10, says that He is THE door.  This is a beautiful picture.
Speaking of Buddhist, I was at the health club, running alongside a Buddhist man once, when we got onto the topic of Christians being closed-minded.  I told him that this wasn't true.  That God opened up the door of salvation to anyone who would come, buddhist, Baptist, straight, homosexual, drug user, atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Wiccan, whoever.  The door is Jesus.  He thought this was a pretty cool analogy, so I thought I would share it with you.

4. Jesus resurrection puts the exclamation point onto His message!  God showed His approval of Jesus by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31, Romans 1:4). To be cliche, "I am God, and I approve this message."

5. Action Steps: No one is converted but by God's Spirit (John 3:3).
-Prayer. We need to pray for our friends, that God's Spirit would open up their eyes to understand this.
-Discipleship (Mt. 28:18-20). We need to look for "God moments".  Times where God is working in their hearts & stirring up questions.  We need to be available to walk with them as they discover this truth.
-Love (Mt. 22). We need to love our friends, unconditionally.  In other words, whether they believe or not is irrelevant to our loving care for them.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Frontlines: Thoughts on Christian Warfare

Christians are in a War. Every day.  You are in a war when you enter the office, enter the school, wherever you go.
So yesterday morning I threw on my dogtags & headed off to the front lines.  On my way, God taught me a new perspective on Christian Warfare & especially on Ephesians 6.  Up until yesterday I did not really grasp this passage, although I have accurately taught it many times.

How does a Christian fight this spiritual war for the souls of man?  How does a Christian fight against the schemes of Satan?

Ephesians 6, we do not wage war as the world does.  Christians are not to fight like some Muslims or the military.  Here are some thoughts from this passage for the Christian's Warfare:

1. People are not our enemy! (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Timothy 2:23-26).
2. Before going on the frontlines, we need to arm ourselves with certain things.  The weapons of our warfare are (Eph. 6):
-Belt: Being truthful
-Body armor: Being righteous & holy
-Boots: Having the peace that comes from the good news
-Shield: Trusting/having faith in the Lord
-Helmet: Remembering our salvation
-Carbine: God's word
-Com Device: Prayer

Earlier this week I was subbing and found I am not allowed to share morality with people.  We were talking about AIDS & the kids asked how we get AIDS & how to keep from getting it. In our conversation, I mentioned that abstinence was the best policy and the assistant teacher told me that I was not allowed to go there.
I know the laws & will not violate them, for the sake of not getting the school into trouble.  Oddly though, you would assume that morality would help children.
So I have to make a choice, not mention truth or push wisdom, and morality...thus not really helping the kids blossom in life OR carefully use truth and package it without mentioning religion.  So, I have decided that because truth is good, I will put on the belt of being truthful & really love the kids.  It is part of my attire for battle.  I will be tactful, respectful, but if asked a question, I will answer it with truth & wisdom so I can really care for others.

So, Christians fight war by loving people & living for their eternal well-being.  This is how to fight a war, this is how to advance the Kingdom of God...and the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it.  So fight Christian. And tomorrow morning when you head out to the front lines, remember to arm yourself & love others!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Discipleship Plan for My Children

Here is what I am doing, Lord willing.  And I am going to have a lot of fun with the kids doing this.  It looks organized BUT, they won't know it is.  I hope to God I don't turn this into a classroom type learning, but more of a relational, "teaching moment", "As we go" teaching....kinda like Jesus did with His students. This looks technical, because it is how my mind thinks.  Kids, if I do this in a formal way, punch me.

Big Themes
2-8: Concrete Learning
Core Values (Mt. 22)
Huperstasso- (parents, government, church, teachers, bosses, etc)
Family: Our family follows Jesus (Luke 9:23-27, Jn. 14:15, Deut. 6, Josh. 24)
Choose 1: Choose your friends wisely
Choose 2: Choose whom you will serve (Josh. 24)
Character: Grace, kindness, love, patience, mercy
Character: Truth, integrity (even in private), reconciliation
Anthropology 1: How to engage people in conversation
Anthropology 2: Social Etiquette
Anthropology 3: How to care for people
Bible Characters

9-12: Concrete Learning
Family: Our family follows Jesus (Luke 9:23-27, Jn. 14:15, Deut. 6, Josh. 24)
Choose: Choose whom you will serve (Josh. 24)
Choose: Choose your friends wisely
Core Values (Mt. 22)
Our Cause (Mt. 28)
Character: Truth, integrity (even in private), reconciliation
Angelology 1: People are NOT the enemy (Eph. 6, 2 Tim 2)
Angelology 2: We have a great enemy (John 10), spiritual warfare
Angelology 3: Our warfare (Eph. 6)
Anthropology 4: Understanding your body, and prep for puberty
Huperstasso- (parents, government, church, teachers, bosses, etc)
Culture 1: Be discerning (Proverbs, Php. 4)
Culture 2: Peer-Pressure & Influences you will face
Stewardship: Giving, savings, spending
Trust: How to wait on the Lord
Walk 1: How to do your own devotions
Walk 2: How to pray
Walk 3: Understanding Soteriology
Walk 4: Understanding Anthropology
Questions 4: Basic Logic

13-18: Concrete/Conceptual Learning
Family: Our family follows Jesus (Luke 9:23-27, Jn. 14:15, Deut. 6, Josh. 24)
Choose: Choose your friends wisely
Choose: Choose whom you will serve (Josh. 24)
Core Values (Mt. 22)
Our Cause (Mt. 28)
Huperstasso- (parents, government, church, teachers, bosses, etc)
Anthropology 5: The Flesh: understanding our bodies (1 Cor. 6-7, Eph. 5, Gal., Rom. 7)
Anthropology 6: Peer-Pressure & Influences you will face
Be discerning (Proverbs, Php. 4)
Walk 5: How to follow the Spirit
Walk 6: How to study the Bible
Walk 7: Stewardship- Prep for living on your own (finances, responsibility, college, job) (using Bible characters)
Walk 8: Understanding the flow of the Bible (Law, Prophets, Gospels, Pauline, etc)
Walk 9: Understanding Theology
Questions 1: Hard Questions answered
Questions 2: Understanding God’s will
Questions 3: Dating & sex
The Cause 1: How to disciple/take someone under your wing
The Cause 2: How to share your story