Archive for July, 2008
Recently I was in Spain with the Herald of Truth, the non-profit ministry I work for, meeting with our European field office staff. While there, we were able to visit Toledo, one of the oldest cities in Europe. During the tour, our guide related the history of the Christians, Moslems, and Jews in that region. He commented about how peacefully they would co-exist. We even visited buildings that once were mosques and now are cathedrals.
It got me to thinking how so many news commentators, and even some religious leaders, talk about these three religions worshipping the same God. The implication is that since they worship the same God, they all provide equal entry into the family of God. It is as if these three religions are just different paths to the same God, and we ought to simply choose the path that best fits us.
There is one major problem with that concept: Jesus. Christians cannot subscribe to any theory that allows for multiple avenues to God. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus said the only way to God is through him. The question is not whether we all worship the same God. The question is how we are able to gain access to God.
If you believe Jesus to be simply a good teacher, or an important prophet, you have not heard him clearly. His statement is not confusing, nor is it unclear. He said he was the way to God: not “a way”, or “one way”, but “the way”. If you do not believe Jesus, then drop Christianity from your list of options.
So what do you think? Is Jesus the only way to God? Is that what he meant? If he is not the only way, why did he say that he was? What does that imply about other religions that deny Jesus is the only way to God?
Last Christmas my wife and I were given a kite. It’s one of those really large ones that requires two handles and gives you a pretty good work out. You might have seen them flown on the beach before. Where we live there is always plenty of wind so a kite was a great present.
It’s nearly impossible to fly this kind of kite alone. Without having someone to help you set it up, get it started, and put it away, it’s more than you bargained for. I learned this the hard way.
I set out to fly our new kite on my own one windy Saturday morning. I pulled it out of the bag that we store it in and began to unwind the spools of thin rope. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was going to be very challenging. The wind was whipping the kite around even before I could finish setting up.
So I decided to stand it up against a large light post until I could get the rope taut and the kite ready for flight. Before I knew it, the kite was tangled around the light post and my plan was falling apart. As I began to untangle the rope the wind picked up even more violently and the tangled knots began to tighten. It was then that I realized that doing this alone was incredibly foolish. I wished I had been wise enough to bring someone with me. The situation was becoming more and more hopeless.
I’ve tried flying solo in my spiritual life as well. It turned out to be an even more foolish endeavor than my kite flying experience. God has given each of us two very special gifts, Jesus and his church, so that we never have to be alone. It is good for us to be part of a community of fellow believers that are striving to follow his son, Jesus.
It’s easy to think that we are strong enough, courageous enough, or smart enough to fly solo through this life. If that’s our plan, sooner or later, our lives will become a tangled mess. There is someone who will never leave us alone even in the most difficult moments. Jesus told his followers that even until the end of this life he would never leave them. His promise is also for you and me.
Eventually I was able to untangle the kite. Likewise, in my spiritual life, when I began to take hold of the gifts of Jesus and his church, the spiritual knots began to untangle.
At what point in your life did you discover your need for Jesus Christ and his church? How have the gifts of Jesus and his church affected your life?
I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment or write me at [firstname.lastname@example.org]email@example.com[/mail].
There’s a story that tells of a woman who volunteered with the school district in a large city. Specifically, she was helping tutor children who were forced to miss school due to illness. One day she was given a name and a hospital room number, with this written instruction from the teacher: “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now, and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”
When the woman arrived at the hospital room, she found a young boy who had been badly burned that was lying in great pain in the bed. Overwhelmed by the sight of this boy, all she could do was blurt out, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” After working with the child for a time, she left feeling foolish. What good were grammar lessons to a boy in his condition?
However, her visit had a tremendous impact on the boy. Before seeing the tutor, the boy had been slowly deteriorating. After her visit, he seemed to find his will to live, working with therapists, eating meals, responding to treatments. Later the boy explained, “I had just about given up, assuming I was going to die. But when this teacher came, I realized that I was going to be all right. They wouldn’t send someone to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” What this woman shared about grammar was of relative benefit to the boy. But the hope that she brought to his life made all the difference. It saved his life.
Is the story true? I don’t know. Is the lesson true? Without a doubt. Hope is a powerful thing, giving us strength at times when nothing else can. They say that as the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre drew close to his death, he fought against despair, insisting that he would die in hope. But he also acknowledged, “Hope needs a foundation.”
God provides hope. He is the perfect foundation for our hope, the one that will never fail. Hope built on God and His promises need never fail. I am convinced that this hope, more than any other, can change lives and provide a sense of meaning in this world. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “[i]Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint[/i]” (Isaiah 40:31). Almost three thousand years later, it’s still true.
Grace and peace,
I have recently spent time at the hospital while my mother in law was recovering from surgery and I realized that I do not like hospitals. And it finally dawned on me why I do not like them: they are full of sick people. It’s the same reason I do not like to go to the Doctor’s office. That is where all the sick people go. You sit in waiting rooms with people who are not well. They have diseases that may very well be contagious. I do not even like to go for my physical. If I was healthy when I got there, I may not be when I leave. I am not like all those sick people, I am healthy. Well, most of the time.
I guess there are times when I might have a little bug. And I did have surgery for a surface melanoma. Sometimes I feel “under the weather”. But I am not a sick person. I don’t belong in a hospital, or a Doctor’s office, like those other people. In fact, I want hospitals to have a “sick” wing and a “you’re really not sick” wing. Maybe my doctor can have two waiting rooms.
Yet all of us, including me, get sick and need care. It is not healthy to deceive myself into thinking I am never sick, cannot get sick, and am never a sick person. So I am working on my perception of hospitals and Doctor offices. They are places of healing for sick people, and sometimes that means me.
I wonder how many times we have distorted our view of churches the same way I do hospitals. Do we believe churches are for people who cannot “get it together”, who have made lots of mistakes, and whose lives are a mess? Do we believe that does not describe us, or that we are not like those people who need church? The truth is, we are just like those people. I do not know of anyone who goes through life without needing help from anyone.
Churches sometimes seem to have gone to the opposite extreme. It is as if they want to appear to be a place where only healthy people meet to celebrate the fact that they are spiritually healthy. It was not meant to be that way. Churches are places of spiritual healing for those who are sick. And they are made up of those who have been healed…even while remembering that we are survivors.
Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
So what do you think? Are churches really places where the healed welcome those who need healing? What keeps the spiritually hurting from seeking help at church?