Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Reason For Our Hope (Part 2)

This post is a continuation from yesterday's which explains to anyone who is wondering where we find the hope that we have. If there is one post you read or share - let it be this one. If you missed Part 1 you can read it HERE. Final post (Part 3) to come tomorrow...
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ALL PATHS LEAD TO GOD?
Many people in today's day and age will tell you that all faiths are equal and that all religions lead to the same God. (see the blind man and the elephant, the wheel with many spokes, and the "we're all climbing the same mountain" analogies). Don't get me wrong, I am not here to disrespect other faiths or religions (I have many good friends of various faiths and I love them dearly), but as much as I have tried, I could not reconcile this "all paths lead to God" claim with what was being taught within the religions themselves. If you did an honest study of every religion you will find that they all make their own unique truth claims and they all have major differences in regards to life's "biggest questions" on origin, identity, meaning, destiny and especially salvation. So it's not only illogical but it's disingenuous to claim that they are all one in the same. (On a side note: Aren't making the absolute claims that "all paths lead to God" and "there are no absolutes" self-refuting statements and despite the appearance of "tolerance" doesn't it inherently assume an exclusive and more enlightened view over other views - which is the very thing people who make these claims accuse others of?) I won't get into all the details of the major differences here, nor am I trying to create a nasty forum which pits one religion against another. (Please don't leave comments of this nature). This is just a humble invitation to get serious about your own spiritual journey or faith walk, or whatever you wish to call it and to seek the answers to life's biggest questions with all your heart, mind, soul and strength before your heart, mind, soul and strength are taken from you. Life is too short, and it's only a matter of time before you are forced to confront these BIG questions in the midst of your own great personal crisis (if you are even given the opportunity of deep self-reflection) so you might as well start now.

MY TESTIMONY
I grew up in a Christian home and my dad was an elder at our church for as long as I can remember, but as I came of age I found myself seeking out a personal faith and my own spiritual identity. I wanted a faith that I could call my own, not something force-fed or handed down to me by my parents. So I studied different world religions in college, talked and befriended people of different faiths and engaged in dialogue and debate with all kinds of people seeking truth and answers to life's "BIG questions". I wrestled with a myriad of questions and doubts I had never struggled with before. But the long journey ended for me, when I finally came face to face with the person of Jesus Christ. Now, I had grown up in the church, went to a "Christian" grade school and had all the proper "credentials". But as someone once said, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger." The truth is I didn't really understand who Jesus was and what he was about until later in life and it didn't matter how much I fit the "profile" -  I just went through the motions. In fact, I vividly remember in 8th grade, at 13 years old standing on the roof of my house, tears streaming down my face, longing to jump off and end it all. I hated God, hated life and hated living. And if I had any more courage (or stupidity) I would have ended it right then and there. But God had different plans.

I never had this magical moment or epiphany in my own spiritual walk. All I know is that beginning in high school and well into college as I began my own spiritual journey and as I dug deeper into the Bible, I began to have a real and personal relationship with Jesus. I began to find answers to life's biggest questions. I began to realize who I was, where I came from, my purpose in life and where I was going. I began to find a transcendent peace and an inexpressible joy. 

WHO IS THIS JESUS?
Most people have no problems talking about God but for some reason when you start talking about Jesus it tends to make people uncomfortable. I get it. Although he lived 2,000 years ago, Jesus remains a lightning rod for controversy and is still a polarizing figure but no one can say that he did not leave a profound mark in history. I mean the calendar for much of the known world centers around his very birth. One could argue that his teaching rivaled the greatest thinkers of all time:
Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. –Unknown
His influence was not confined to the social elite or the well-educated but transcended all peoples, all classes, from all walks of life:
No one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine, but in Jesus Christ not only philosophers and scholars believed, but also artisans and people entirely uneducated, despising glory and fear and death. -Justin Martyr
The devotion of his followers was unparalleled by any other great leader and his reach more expansive than any known empire:
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him. –Napoleon
When you read the eyewitness gospel accounts of Jesus in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) you will immediately notice that people either loved him or they hated him. It was one or the other and there really was no middle ground. However, so many of us today love to put Jesus in this "middle ground". We love to put Jesus in this box and call him a great moral teacher (as Ghandi did) or an "enlightened man" (as many Buddhists do) or even a great prophet (as Mohammed did) but the truth is Jesus himself never offered up any of these as options to us regarding His identity.
Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Jehovah. Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.” –Unknown
There are many self-proclaimed "Christians" as well, who put him in this box and live a "middle-ground" faith because of their "middle-ground" Jesus. But the fact is Jesus is unique from all others before and after him and he made some incredibly unique claims. If what he said about life, about himself and about the past, present and future is true then there is no "middle ground". There are only two paths with two very different destinations (Matthew 7:13-14).
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. -C.S. Lewis
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life - no one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) He made clear claims of divinity (John 5:18, 8:58, 10:30-33, Mk 14:61-62) and those who opposed him clearly understood these divine claims (Matt 26:63-67, Luke 5:21, John 8:58-59) and sought to destroy Him for them. He did not claim to be just another prophet but He claimed to be God Himself - and He willingly died making that claim and for a greater purpose (Jn 10:17-18). The essence of His teaching was distinct from all others in that he did not claim to SHOW a way...he claimed to BE the way.
Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” –J. Sidlow Baxter 
....TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW WITH  "The Biggest Question of All"

Thanks for reading....

In His Grace,
Peter & Kim
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KIM UPDATE
I know many of you are anxious to know how the last echocardiogram  went yesterday and I'm happy to say that about 1/2 of the fluid around her heart has disappeared which means in the last week Kim's tumor is shrinking rapidly. Her blood work showed her white blood cell was normal and so in order to celebrate all this (and Valentine's Day) we went out last night for a nice steak dinner (Morton's - "delicious!") and a movie (The Vow - "disappointing"). Thank you all and your children for praying for us! We love you and thank God for you!!

6 comments:

  1. As always Peter, thanks for the encouraging words and also the great news on Kim's physical body. We keep praying...

    Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

    --1 Peter 3:13-22

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  2. Kim,
    Just wanted to let you know that I'm continuing to pray for you. My co-worker is as well! We fully believe that you will be healed! You will beat this and be an amazing testimony to God's loving grace!
    Love you and keep fighting!

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  3. Peter, love your blogs! You are so right ~ it is all about having a personal relationship and really knowing Jesus! Did you know He even speaks Texan? Hehehe! It's also about not just 'scheduled' prayer times, but about talking to Him as you would any friend and talking to Him all day long and even more importantly listening to Him!

    I have prayed in the Name of Jesus, believing that I receive what I have prayed for, without doubting, for the manifestation of Kim's total healing and now I am thanking Jesus for it!

    Love and Blessings to you both,
    ~Judy♡~

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  4. Peter,

    You are so open and honest about what you and Kim are going through. I know when my husband, Jim, had cancer 6 yrs. ago, I used a blog site called Caringbridge to do the same thing. Thank you for sharing your journey. My family and I are keeping all of you in our prayers!

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  5. Thank you for sharing...and the answers to prayer are so encouraging! Peter....your seeking and finding Jesus is what I pray for regularly for some of our adult kids..growing up in a Pastors home..and now just not interested. It breaks my heart but God is faithful! Thank you for sharing..I needed this.

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  6. Just catching up on your blog and amazed how much you guys remind me of paul and Silas singing in the prison at midnight in acts 16. It's hard not to tear up and worry and wonder what will happen, yet to rest in the knowledge that He has you completely covered with his love is inspiring and astounding. I pray many will come to know Jesus as Lord thru your testimony. I pray for your family regularly and love you in the Lord.

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