Monthly Archives: February 2012
By Dan Sidey
I came upon this poem recently:
With That Moon Language
Everyone you see, you say to them,
Of course you do not do this out loud; Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
I resonate so deeply with this poem. I am one of those who is walking around everywhere looking for Full Moon Eyes. Before I was a Christian it seemed the only ones who noticed were the cops! But thank God that changed. My journey into finding Full Moon Eyes began early in life when I was in college in Portland, Oregon. It was a very tumultuous time for me. I was navigating the labyrinth of dating, longing to experience new life and throw off my noose of self-addiction. This is when Herb Heofer became a professor at Concordia, where I was attending. Herb was very different then the others. There seemed to be an insatiable desire for adventure and excellence about him. He and his wife, Carol, were leading a trip to China. Atarah and I thought it would be a great way to get our feet wet in missions. It was on that trip we began to learn that Herb and Carol’s greatest quality is their love.
After going to China, Herb and Carol began to invite us to their house for meals. They would listen deeply to us, laugh with us, grieve with us and offer little bits of advice at just the right moments. They bestowed love on us in a way we had never experienced before. After each meal with them, Atarah and I would say our goodbyes then sit in the car outside their house and have a conversation that went something like this:
“Wow…did that really just happen?”
“I think so.”
“Did you enjoy that as much as I did?” “I did.”
“Do you think it will happen again?”
We’ve had this conversation innumerable times over the years while in the Hoefer’s driveway, always ending in “Do you think it will happen again?” At some point we realized that this question wasn’t really about the Hoefers. It became for us a question about divine acceptance and the enfolding arms of God’s Family. We were becoming insiders into a Kingdom we didn’t even know existed.
When you look out the windows of our house, you see the bleak wall of a youth center. When we first moved here there was a little ivy on it. Last year we had to tear the ivy down, because it was tearing the gutter off the center, growing into their ceiling and popping up in the middle of the kids play area inside. None of us noticed the ivy until it was demanding a response. There came a day God’s love through the Hoefers demanded a response of us. “Will you let my arms reach out through you also?”
Today my family lives in Mills. It’s the section of Klamath Falls that people typically avoid, because of the run down houses, rough looking individuals walking to and fro, and the typically darker skin of folks in a very white town.
One of the first children we got to know in Mills is Mary. After spending less than a few hours with us she joyously exclaimed “I think I want to come here every day!” We couldn’t help thinking “What have we gotten ourselves into?!” But Mary has grown to be one of the children so special and beautiful to us that she can come even on the days that are reserved just for our family. Last week for Valentines day we decided to celebrate the true spirit of St. Valentine and threw a feast inviting a few children. Mary was one of these and when it was over she jubilantly expressed “I wish we could freeze this moment!” Mary is searching for Full Moon Eyes and I’m deeply humbled that our searching has brought us together to be God’s Family.
My son, Chris, is in first grade. When we first met Anna, one of Chris’ classmates, she was very quiet and her hair was in her face veiling her search for Full Moon Eyes. I learned her name and soon she wanted a hug every morning before school. She began talking about wanting to come to our house like other children have. The chance came before school and she came over just for a moment. It was a cold snowy day so we ate cookies and drank hot chocolate. Later in the classroom she proclaimed, as heartily as one of those at God’s banqueting table, “Chris, I came to your house today!!”
I’ve learned about the value of God’s acceptance from my neighbors, the Markfords, also. In their house of three bed rooms, lived thirteen people. A friend was having problems with domestic violence so the Markfords opened their home to this family of four. Atarah and I couldn’t help but ask “What does this mean for us who have far more room then they do?”
I’m seeing the signs of something I’ve never thought imaginable. God’s Family is forming in our midst. Like our ivy its tearing and scraping at the walls of this place, popping up in our dining area, spreading into our neighbors’ yards. How could we have missed it? Jesus is in our midst… and he has Full Moon Eyes.
By Carl Medearis
You could only imagine how many times in a week (or day) I get asked questions like “Do you think we should bomb Iran?” Or… “Do you think Iran is going to get nuclear weapons and then will bomb Israel?” Or… “Why do the Muslims get so angry when we accidentally burn their Qur’an and yet they seem to feel free to burn our Bible?”
I remember being in southern Iraq a few years ago and the bus boy at the hotel where we were staying looked at me with large brown innocent eyes and asked “Sir, why do the Americans hate us?”
Actually in 30 years I can’t count the times when an Arab Muslim has asked similar questions. “Why do you want to take over the world?” They ask. Or… “I don’t understand why America doesn’t care about Palestinians who are being killed?” And… “Do all Americans love their family the way you do? Because I have never heard of such nice Americans before.”
Funny how this works. Lack of understanding usually goes both ways. And misunderstanding between potential enemies is dangerous. When we don’t personally know someone we can easily fall into fear. And fear leads to all things bad.
I remember early on during our Lebanon years a family saying to Chris and I that they could never become Christians because they LOVED their family. That meant, that what they thought of Americans/Christians (which they see as the same thing) are only people who don’t love each other. Who get divorced. Who send their kids off to colleges far away when they turn 18 (like we’ve done). And they – being good God fearing family oriented Muslims – could never do that.
So back to the questions. Why do they seem to hate us? Want to kill us? Bomb Israel?
I thought I’d share with you a blessing I pray over my children every night before they go to bed. It’s a combination of four passages of Scripture (Numbers 6:24-26, 3rd John 2, Psalms 91:10,16, II Thessalonians 3:3)
May the Lord bless you. May the Lord keep you. May the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance towards you and give you peace. May you prosper in all things and be in good health, even as your soul prospers. No evil shall befall you. Neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. With long life he shall satisfy you and show you his salvation. The Lord shall establish your hearts and guard you from the evil one.
When it comes to proposals to end the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Arab Peace Initiative is most comprehensive one that comes to mind, yet a lot of American Christians believe that any peace initiative proposed by Arabs is simply a trick to weaken Israel’s defenses, so that they can slaughter them later! Well, it turns out there’s a group of highly influential Israelis starting to take the API seriously, and they’ve responded with a peace plan of their own. I have my friend Carl Medearis to thank for bringing this to my attention.
I’m sharing this for two reasons:
1. It’s a very good summary of the most problematic issues of the conflict, and proposes reasonable solutions.
2. It shows that the extremely hawkish position of Netanyahu and the Likkud party (which many mistakenly presume is the Israeli perspective) is not the only Israeli perspective out there.—–Aaron
In light of the continuing political stalemate over the past years, and especially in view of the current dramatic events that are taking place in the area, and their effect on the State of Israel, its security and its international status, we call upon the government of Israel to make a courageous decision and take the initiative, the purpose of which is to advance a regional peace agreement in the Middle East, to strengthen the security of Israel in the tumultuous region and its problematic international standing.
We call upon the government to present a framework for the conclusion of the Israel-Arab conflict, as a comprehensive response to the 2002 Arab peace initiative. Israel must decide on its future from a position of strength and not to be dragged along by events.
We present the public and its elected representatives with our proposal for an Israel Peace Initiative, which has been developed over the past years with the aid of Israeli experts, based on the known solutions to all the basic problems in the area (for example, the Clinton parameters, the proposals put forth Barak at Camp David, the Olmert and Livni understandings in the framework of the Annapolis process, the talks with Syria from the time of Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak till Olmert). We have a strong basis to believe that the initiative will be accepted favorably by the Arab capitals and the Palestinian leadership.
We hope that brave leaders will be found in Israel, in the area and in the international community who will translate the Arab and Israeli vision for peace into reality, instead of waiting for vain magic to take place.
Following are the main principles of our proposal:
Israel will accept the Arab initiative of 2002 as a basis for negotiations for peace agreements in the area, and will present her ideas on the points of dispute.
Israel will announce that her strategic aim is to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinian Authority, as well as permanent peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon that will put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of the following principles:
1. A solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict through “two states for two peoples”, which shall form two nation states – one for the Jewish people and one for the Palestinian people (including the implementation of the Declaration of Independence from 1948 regarding the equality of Arab citizens in Israel).
2.The establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the basis of the 1967 lines, and territory swaps on a 1:1basis, in limited scope.
3.The Palestinian state will be demilitarized with control over its internal security, side by side with strict security measures on its borders.
4.Jerusalem will be the capital of both peoples, whereas the Jewish neighborhoods, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter will be under Israeli sovereignty and the temple mount shall remain under a special no-sovereignty regime (“G-d sovereignty”) with special arrangements. Israeli Jerusalem will be acknowledged as the capital of Israel.
5. An agreed upon solution regarding the problem of the refugees on the basis of financial compensation and their return to Palestinian territory only (with symbolic and agreed upon exceptions).
6. An agreement with Syria that is based on the gradual withdrawal to the 1967 borders (similar to the model in Sinai), a 1:1 exchange of territories and broad security measures on the border.
7. A peace agreement with Lebanon based on the UN decision 1701 and on significant security measures on the border.
8. A commitment by Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to prevent terror and to discontinue cooperation with hostile entities and states.
9. The establishment of regional security arrangements between Israel, Arab states and the international community.
10. The building of regional economic development in order to ensure prosperity and stability among all the people of the area.
11. The advancement of normal relations between Israel and the Arab world and Islamic countries will take place alongside progress in the negotiations, coupled with mutual commitment towards peace education and the prevention of incitement.
The Advantages of the Initiative
1. The uniqueness of the initiative is that it provides an answer to the Arab initiative, with a wide perspective of the future of the area and not only regarding the topics of the conflict but from a strategic political, security and economic perspective.
2.Israel demonstrates that she is ready for far-reaching concessions only if the recompense will be the conclusion of the conflict and the end to all claims alongside significant security measures.
3. The actual announcement of the Israeli initiative will open channels to both new and old Arab leaders, will break the circle of isolation and international de-legitimization and will prevent international pressure and forced solutions.
4.Israel is sending an important message to the Arab public in general and to its youth in particular, that she is a true partner for peace, democracy and economic prosperity in the area.
5.It is possible to translate the initiative to progress in each channel simultaneously and without pre-conditions.
6.It is possible to use the initiative as a framework for a permanent agreement or an agreed-upon political horizon in the context of interim agreements.
Okay, so I lied. There’s a third reason why I wanted to share this with you, so that I can say this:
Don’t buy into the lie that Jews and Arabs are destined to fight each other until Jesus comes back! That is a self-fulfilling, self-defeating gross misreading of the Scriptures…that makes a mockery of the life and teachings of the Prince of Peace!
Glad I got that off my chest.
To read the full text of the Israeli Peace Initiative, click here!
By Aaron D. Taylor
My pastor and I have a friendly tiff going on. He says that Jesus was strictly a-political; therefore Christians should abstain from politics completely. I say that Jesus challenged violent, poverty-inducing, socio-political structures throughout his life and ministry; therefore Christians have a duty to advocate for peace and to speak out for the poor and the oppressed. Both of us are hardheaded, and neither of us cedes much in our debates, but we always walk away as friends, because at the end of the day there’s a key component to the discussion that we both agree on: The Bible is not a public policy manual!
I realize that might feel like an outrageous statement to some. After all, the first five books of the Bible are commonly referred to as the “Books of the Law.” These books contain legal codes that governed the every-day life of the ancient children of Israel, ranging from personal hygiene to how to prosecute thieves and murderers. Furthermore, the Hebrew prophets railed against the kings of their day for making “unjust laws” and “oppressive decrees” (Isaiah 10:1), implying that there is such a thing as an unjust law—and woe to the legislators who write them!
Over and over the Scriptures reveal a God who cares deeply about the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien, yet strangely the man who Christians believe embodies the will of God in action (Jesus) refused to take sides in the bitter partisan divisions of His day. Jesus welcomed both zealots and tax collectors as members of his inner circle. And when two brothers asked Jesus to solve an inheritance dispute, He responded by saying, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14). If Jesus intended his followers to establish themselves as the moral guardians of society, He had a funny way of showing it.
The pattern continues with the Apostle Paul. The indisputable case for followers of Jesus not involving themselves in judging those outside the Church comes from a passage in I Corinthians 5:12-13, where Paul says, “ What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” Paul clearly established a demarcation between Christians judging matters within the community of believers (allowed) and matters outside the community of believers (not allowed). At the very least, this suggests that Christians who think they can impose what they perceive as “Biblical values” on secular society are—more often than not— wrong. There’s simply no way to translate the Bible into concrete public policy, at least not without a considerable degree of ambiguity.
For example, most of my conservative friends are convinced that they have a Biblical mandate to outlaw abortion and gay marriage, even though abortion is only mentioned once in Scripture, and the reference is—oddly—the Prophet Jeremiah cursing the man at his mother’s side for not aborting him! (Jeremiah 20:14-18)…and gay marriage was hardly an issue on the radar in Biblical times. The Laws of Leviticus prescribe a massive redistribution of wealth every 50 years by canceling people’s debts and restoring property to original owners, yet many Christians are convinced—right or wrong— that justice for the poor is a matter of individual charity alone, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is duped by the devil. And while we’re talking about what’s Biblical and what’s not Biblical, why isn’t anyone suggesting that America as a nation love its enemies and turn the other cheek?
Come to think of it, maybe my pastor is right for refusing to use the power of the pulpit to trumpet a political agenda. I live in San Juan County, New Mexico, a place where the average evangelical pastor is about 20 degrees to the right of Rush Limbaugh, yet at Sunrise Christian Church; I’ve never heard a sermon that could be misconstrued as a cleverly disguised political endorsement—and the congregation is better off for it.
Because my pastor refuses to drag the church into the bitter divides of the culture war, there exists a wide diversity of political and theological persuasions within the congregation. People can walk into church and feel genuinely welcomed as they are, without having to conform to some mind-numbing group think. As a member of the worship team, I look out into the congregation every Sunday and see people with vastly different political, cultural, and theological beliefs, all worshiping God. It’s refreshing!
Pastor David, even though I tease you with my Talking Tom app, telling you that neutrality always benefits the oppressor and never the oppressed, the reality is I’m glad that you’ve created an atmosphere at the church where nothing is more important than Jesus Christ and him crucified. As you know, my wife and I and our two boys are moving to Albuquerque this year. Thank you for being there when we needed it the most.
We’re really going to miss you.
I’m adding a new feature to Deep Thoughts called “Bible story of the week.” Hopefully, I’ll be able to post one a week. I’ve asked my good friend Regina Manley to do the first one. Notice the words in bold. Those are the questions Regina would like for you to reflect/comment on—-Aaron
By Regina Manley
Near the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he tells his disciples that he wants to visit the villages of Galilee and preach the Gospel stating, “That is why I have come.” (See Mark 1:38). After preaching in some synagogues and casting out demons, a leper meets Jesus along the way. The leper kneels right at Jesus’ feet begging for healing saying, “If you are willing, you can make me clean!” Jesus not only heals the man, but first he does the unthinkable. The next verse says, “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and TOUCHED THE MAN. ‘I am willing!’ he said. ‘Be clean.’” The leper is immediately healed.
Then comes the another surprise, verses 43 and 44: “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning; ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
This man had other plans, though, verse 45: “Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
Jesus’ compassionate touch breaks centuries of “proper Jewish protocol” toward lepers who, as outcasts were commanded to wear torn clothing and shout “Unclean!” lest anyone be made unclean by actually touching them. Are followers of Jesus still shocking the world today with out- of- the- box responses of love? I’d love to hear your first-hand (or second-hand 😉 accounts.
And what do you think about that STRONG warning NOT TO TELL anyone but the priest? Wouldn’t that be hard not to tell anyone? Why do you think it was so important to Jesus that the priest should be the first to hear about this miracle?
In the end, the leper, who was isolated from society, had the freedom to go anywhere, whereas Jesus was limited to the “lonely places.” Have you experienced Jesus trading places with you? If so, let’s find ways to step up to his example of radical love.
By Aaron D. Taylor
I saw “Harrison Ford” a couple of weeks ago at Starbucks. We sat across from each other for about three hours. I kept sneaking peaks at the guy. I even posted a status update on my Face Book saying, “I’m sitting across from a guy at Starbucks that looks like Harrison Ford, what do I do?” One person said I should tell the guy that Jesus loves him. Another said I should go up to the guy and say, “Excuse me sir, but has anyone ever told you that you look like Harrison Ford?” And then there’s my cousin Derek who suggested that I do my best Chew Bacca impression. I’m pretty sure the guy wasn’t Harrison Ford, but it must be nice to be able to say I get that a lot, when you look like a guy that gets paid millions of dollars for not looking dorky!
Not that I know what that feels like.
Allow me to share with you a list of characters I’ve been told that I look like. I got all of these when I was in elementary, junior high, and high school.
The elf that wants to be a dentist on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Imagine being a 12 –year- old boy and all of your classmates agree that you look like the nerd on Saved by the Bell. Not exactly a confidence booster when it comes time to ask a girl if she wants to—as I remember the phrase—“go out with you.” But that was me. Scrawny. Brainy. Goofy. Religious. Socially-awkward. I sucked at sports, but could sing and act, which were gifts that no adolescent male wanted back then. These were the days before High School Musical, American Idol, and Justin Beiber. Go figure.
I used to lay awake at night thinking about suicide.
You might be thinking that a kid like me must have been a prime target for bullies, but I wasn’t. While it’s true that I got made fun of from time to time; because of my faith and personal convictions, I was also well- respected. Though I felt like an oddball in my private Christian school, I had plenty of friends at church and in my neighborhood. The problem wasn’t a lack of friends or a lack of confidence or ambition. Outwardly I had all of those things. The problem was that I was deeply uncomfortable with what many perceived as my lack of boyishness, and because I felt I didn’t measure up to what society said a boy should be, whenever anybody made a comment about my looks, lack of athletic abilities, or—frankly—girlishness—it cut deep.
If only I knew back then what I know now.
When I was in junior high I wanted to be either the next Billy Graham, a major league baseball player, or a movie star. Neither of those thing happened, but I do have a beautiful wife and two small children, and I’ve been able to travel the world and do all kinds of interesting things (like driving through the Sahara desert in the middle of the night dodging donkeys).
Lately I’ve taken up Zumba, a class where a bunch of people get together twice a week to shake their booties and burn calories. There are a couple of other guys in the class, and we all look ridiculous. Neither of us can dance, and one of the guys has a significant potbelly, but guess what? Nobody cares. In my Zumba class there are people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and degrees of attractiveness, but at the end of the class, we all want to get home to our spouses and children, even the not-so-“attractive” ones.
I wish I would have known in junior high that most of the kids that made me feel awkward would one day grow up and become parents, and that as parents they would try to teach their children to be kind and respectful to others, and that if they didn’t, they would be the oddballs. In junior high, peer pressure is largely negative, but when you grow up, it turns positive. That’s what growing up is about.
For example, if somebody in Zumba class were to make fun of me or the guy with the potbelly, everyone would disapprove, not just the courageous ones. In junior high, an “unattractive” girl might get made fun of for being unattractive, but rest assured, when that same “unattractive” girl grows up, if she ends up with a guy that puts her down for being plump or homely, nobody’s going to take his side. The overwhelming consensus will be that the guy’s a douche bag. I wish I knew that back then.
If my 33-year old self could send a message back to my 11-yeard old self it would be this:
You. Are. Okay.
Hang in there.
It gets better.
I first saw Craig S. Keener in 1999 at a debate on women in ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. Keener argued the Biblical egalitarianism perspective, which denies pre-ordained male domination/female submission roles and argues that women can serve in leadership roles in the life of the Church. I have Keener’s IVP Bible Background Commentary (which even his opponent at the debate acknowledged as the best Bible background commentary out there) and I’ve also read Keener’s book And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament, which explores the issue of divorce and remarriage from a New Testament standpoint. I was delighted to see Keener on the Huffington Post arguing for the credibility of miracles in the name of Jesus
By Craig S. Keener
Many people today are familiar with miracle stories in the Bible — the parting of a sea, water turned to wine, and, most frequently in the New Testament, healings, even of blindness, leprosy, and the reversal of recent death.
Yet it is not just people in the first century who have believed in miracles. Various polls peg U.S. belief in miracles at roughly 80 percent. One survey suggested that 73 percent of U.S. physicians believe in miracles, and 55 percent claim to have personally witnessed treatment results they consider miraculous.
Even more striking than the number of people who believe in miracles is the number who claim to have witnessed or experienced them. For example, a 2006 Pew Forum survey studied charismatic and Pentecostal Christians in 10 countries. From these 10 countries alone, the number of charismatic Christians who claim to have witnessed or experienced divine healing comes out to roughly 200 million people. This estimate was not, however, the most surprising finding of the survey. The same survey showed that more than one-third of Christians in these same countries who do not claim to be charismatic or Pentecostal report witnessing or experiencing divine healing.
And the reports in these countries appear to be merely the tip of the iceberg. The survey did not include China, where one report from the China Christian Council over a decade ago attributed roughly half of all new Christian conversions to “faith healing experiences.” Another report from a different source in China suggested an even higher figure. Clearly many people around the world experience what they consider miracles, sometimes in life-changing ways.
What are we to make of such claims? At the very least, they testify that many people around the world today are experiencing cures in a context of deep religious faith. Numerous medical studies have shown that faith and faith communities provide a coping resource that often facilitates better health outcomes. A number of these global reports, however, exceed even our best current expectations for what “faith” can produce. In September 2010, Southern Medical Journal published an article showing that some people in Mozambique, tested before and after prayer, experienced significant recovery of hearing or eyesight. The Medical Bureau at Lourdes has long examined evidence for extraordinary recoveries.
Most stunning to me on a personal level were sincere eyewitness claims from people that I or my wife have long known and trusted, including everything from cures of blindness to restoration from apparent death. Sometimes the witnesses include doctors. In one case, the eyewitness was my mother-in-law, who reported that my sister-in-law was not breathing for three hours. During prayer, without available medical resources, my sister-in-law revived, and had fully recovered, without brain damage, by the next day. Similar reports, again sometimes from people I know or have interviewed personally, appear widely in Africa, Asia, Latin America and sometimes even North America. Many of these reports come from highly educated professionals.
That reports of extraordinary experiences are widespread is undeniable, but observers explain these experiences in various ways. Some reports stem from fraud or misdiagnosis, but vast numbers of cases cannot be explained this way. Some explanations may overlap; for example, most religious believers would allow that God can work through psychological causes. Some would not define such cures as miracles, however. The influential 18th-century philosopher David Hume, for example, defined miracles as “violations” of nature. Yet, this often-disputed definition cannot cover even many of the biblical miracles (for example, the Bible says that God used a strong wind to part the sea). Others define miracles simply as extraordinary divine action.
However miracles are defined, Hume’s argument against them, which provides the traditional basis for skepticism about them, is now problematic. Hume questioned the possibility of having adequate testimony to affirm miracles, since virtually uniform human experience ruled them out. Today, however, when hundreds of millions of people from diverse cultures claim to have experienced miracles, it seems hardly courteous to presuppose a “uniform” human experience on the subject. If any of these experiences constituted a genuine miracle, Hume’s argument against miracles, which in some circles has hardened into an uncontested consensus, would fail. Whatever one thinks about miracles, the long-held argument against them needs to be rethought.
While not everyone will agree regarding the causes of healing experiences, everyone must agree that they often do not happen. Sickness and injustice remain in the world. In the Gospels, miracles did not replace the kingdom that Jesus announced. Nevertheless, they were signs of hope to promise and invite us to work for a better future. This focus suggests the writers’ conviction that God cares about people and about their suffering, and welcomes us to care about these also.
Source: Huffington Post
Note to self: Do not watch this while sitting down in a crowded room at Starbucks with head phones plugged into the computer.
It’ll be embarrassing.
This article got me thinking about how God meets us where we are. Agree or disagree, the author gives us something to think about. Note: The author’s title for this article is: Jesus Plus Nothing–Anyone Anywhere can Begin to Follow Jesus
By Tim Timmons
One of the top takeaways from my new book JESUS PLUS NOTHING stirs up so much emotional response. In other words, there is more heat than light at first. It’s tough enough to separate Jesus from Christian ownership. Now, this insight sounds even more foreign and out of bounds from what we’ve been taught. No matter how much evidence is offered or how many people are produced from non-Christian cultures who are followers of Jesus, it’s still stifling to the brain.
A little over a year ago about 60 of us participated in the Montana Awakening. We were spread all over the state, sharing the message of Jesus. I was teamed up with a Muslim friend of mine who loves Jesus and has been faithfully following Jesus for years. My friend is more articulate and genuine in his relationship with Jesus than most Christians I’ve known for years. On our first night in Montana, we were scheduled to speak along with a couple of others from Germany. I began, setting the stage for my Muslim friend’s testimony of how he had come to follow Jesus. Then he would speak and I closed out our session. Well-meaning Christians bombarded us afterward, vehemently and angrily arguing with my friend and me that it is impossible for a Muslim to be a true follower of Jesus. It was just unthinkable!
The same attitude is found among the early disciples in Luke 9, where John says to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” You see how it works? It’s unthinkable that anyone who is not one of us-one of our group-could possibly have a right connection with Jesus. In John 10 Jesus tries to instruct His disciples that He has other disciples who do not belong to His disciples’ same denomination. He says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” Whoever Jesus is talking about, these other sheep are not from the same religious and cultural persuasion as His disciples. In the final book of the New Testament-Revelation-there is reference to “A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne” of Jesus. (Revelation 7) NOTE the common theme of these passages. There is no reference to any certain religious group, but it’s clear that God is calling people from every nation, every tribe and every language group.
So, how is it possible for a non-Christian-a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew or agnostic-to come to the point of being a follower of Jesus and have a genuine saving relationship with Jesus? I’ve observed it in three stages. First-a person is drawn to Jesus because of His miracles, His teachings. At this stage a person is fascinated with the most amazing man, Jesus. He’s a great teacher and a great example. Second-after following Jesus for a period of time, a person begins to embrace Jesus’ principles and teachings. The principles begin to make more and more sense, so the person who has merely been fascinated with Jesus now begins to take Jesus seriously. Third-after continuing to follow Jesus and embrace His teachings and principles, this is when Jesus begins to transform a person’s life. If an internal change or conversion is going to take place, then it will happen at this level of progression.
This progression is perfectly illustrated in Jesus’ encounter with Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers by saying, “You are God’s Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus strokes Peter for giving such a good answer, but says, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal that to you.” Only the Father could reveal this kind of thing to Peter. Only God can change a person’s heart. No amount of teachings or belief systems can do this. Here’s the way I see it. You don’t have to believe Jesus is the Son of God to begin to follow Jesus. The disciples didn’t! In fact, they weren’t even genuine “believers”, until later. It took them over three years of following Jesus daily for God, the Father, to change their hearts and minds of faith. When a person begins to follow Jesus, he is set up perfectly to have his heart totally converted-transformed by God Himself. We’ve seen this happen in every major culture of the world. They first are attracted to Jesus as a great teacher or example and later Jesus apprehends their hearts. One more thing. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a follower of Jesus either. Here’s the point! Anyone anywhere can begin to follow Jesus.