Thoughts on A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates — Follow Jesus

We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.

Larry Hurtado wrote this in his blog:

Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed.  It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters[…]

via A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

I’ve often been frustrated with debates as a tool for advancing knowledge and understanding. Many times, maybe even most often, both sides claim a victory, but wins and losses are hard measured in debates. Debates are seen as win/lose propositions, but they rarely deliver that kind of satisfaction.

Listen to any political debate, and both sides will claim victory. Listen to any debate of atheist and theist, and both sides will claim victory. The after debate responses are continuations in kind of the debate – both sides trying to convince the other and the world of their victory. The claims usually fall flat and ring hollow to anyone who makes an effort at remaining objective.

If we want to get at truth and understanding, debates are not the way to do it. Respectful discussion and dialogue are much better platforms for truth and understanding.

Since this is a faith-based blog, a little reference to Jesus is in order. Jesus didn’t debate people, ever. He often asked questions. He spoke in parables. He connected with people where they were – healing them, addressing them at a personal level, touching on their psychological, emotional and physical and spiritual issues.

Jesus treated everyone with respect, even the spiritually high-minded Pharisees. He took everyone seriously.

We can not get “inside” other people’s heads like Jesus could – knowing the thoughts and intents of their hearts – , but we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.

Reach out to our Muslim neighbors

Nabeel Qureshi Interview

Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a devout Muslim family in Virginia Beach, VA. He memorized the Qur’an by the age of 6 and prayed five times a day. When he went to college, his college roommate was a Christian. They spent three years debating the historical claims of both religions, and he came to realize that Christianity could withstand historical scrutiny but Islam could not.

At that point, he came face to face with a a difficult, life-changing decision: whether to abandon the Islam of his family and and heritage by embracing Christianity, or remain a Muslim, knowing that it could not stand up to history and reason. This was a decision that would ostracize him from his family. Continue reading “Reach out to our Muslim neighbors”

Intellectualism and Scholarship for Christ

On the other side of our language is something which sustains it which can’t be contained within it … and that’s what we call God.

Olin Hall

As Christians, we naturally emphasize faith because faith is what God rewards. Faith is what connects us to God. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. But, faith also separates people from God – when they don’t have it.

Faith is a stumbling block for the agnostic and the atheist.

When agnostics and atheists (and sometimes even Christians) talk about faith, they often talk about faith in the “blind” sense, divorced from reason and rationality. Real faith, however, is anything but blind or irrational.

For the Christian, faith informs a God logic that is captured in doctrine. This logic is far from irrational or inconsequential. Faith is part of that God logic, but it isn’t divorced from logic or truths discoverable in  the material world that God created. Atheists and agnostics, however, don’t see the connection. Continue reading “Intellectualism and Scholarship for Christ”

The Field is Ripe

lightstock_147019_xsmall_user_7997290I spoke to a woman yesterday who was raised Muslim. She has had a very difficult life. When she was 8 years old, she had a near death experience in which Jesus appeared to her, filled her with His presence and instructed her on what she needed to do to stay alive.

Many years later, after moving to the US, she had another experience with God in which God spoke to her in a concrete way resulting in the rescue of her son from certain death. These are the things she related to me sitting across from me. The second experience led her to give her life to Jesus and become a Christian.

No one preached to her. She never went to church before these experiences. As an 8 year old, all she knew was Islam. Still, she knew who it was who encountered her in both instances, and as a result she is now a believer.

The thing that struck me as we talked was the matter-of-fact way she shared these things and a throw away comment: that she does not understand why other people are surprised. That led me to wondering why any Christian should be surprised that God does these things. Jesus did these things! Why should we be surprised?

This was her story. She lived it. God is very real to her even though she is currently jobless and lives in difficult circumstances.

I felt compelled to try to explain the reactions she has gotten to her story. I explained that people in the US seem to have been inoculated with Christianity. They have gotten just enough of the church that they seem immune to the “disease”! American Christians largely do not believe in miracles, and if they do they are more apt to believe psychics, supernatural phenomena and paranormal occurrences before they might accept the possibility that Jesus can appear to people in visions, heal the sick or perform miracles.

She also mentioned to me that she immediately began going to Church and reading the Bible after she gave her life to Jesus, but what she saw in church did not square with what she was reading in the Bible. So she stopped going there and found another church. She does not go to the other church any more either. In fact, she is not going to church anymore, but she still reads her Bible.

Throughout the time we spoke, alternating between her immediate issues and needs, her salvation story and God, the Holy Spirit filled our conversation. He was palpably present.

I prayed with her before she left, and told me something that made an even bigger impression on me: she said no one had ever prayed for her before!

No one. Her story is an indictment on the Church and a call at the same time for the Church to be obedient to God.

No one witnessed to her, but God reached her and drew her to Himself in very dire circumstances. She was so open to God that He simply showed Himself to her, and she embraced Him. She struggles in her life under difficult circumstances, but she has no church body to provide her support. The Church needs to be about God’s business to help people such as this woman!

We have been going through the entire Book of Acts at our church, and we are nearing the end. Acts is the sequel to the Gospels. The Gospels end with the Great Commission – the command to go into all of the World and preach the Gospel. Acts is the beginning of the church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to aid us in carrying out the Great Commission. The Great Commission extends to the “end of the age”; and as far as I know, we have not reached that point yet.

I had committed myself many months ago to help at a faith-based legal aid clinic. Yesterday was one Saturday that I was committed to being there. It was just another Saturday. I would have like to sleep in, but I was committed. If I had not made the commitment and had not shown up, I would not have met this woman who I have described.

I did not do anything extraordinary. I have felt God convicting me and gently urging me to be more involved and more committed. I have gotten to a place in my life in which I am not satisfied with life as I have known it. I have spent too many years brushing God aside, going my own way and ignoring His gentle urging.

I have experienced the reality that I can either have the World or I can have God, and I have seen that there is nothing in the World that compares to God. I know that because I have tasted of God’s goodness, then walked the other way. I have admitted to myself within the last few years that I am ruined for God. I know that I need more of Him and less of everything else.

The encounter I had yesterday has gotten me thinking: how ripe is the field for harvest that God is coming to people in visions and speaking audibly to draw them directly to Himself?! I suppose another way of asking the question is: how slack has the Church been in fulfilling the Great Commission that God must encounter people directly Himself without the help of the Church?

I know for a fact that this woman needs the body of Christ. She needs support. We are not meant to live separate from the body, and God intends that His Church bring the Gospel to the World.

Let us renew that commitment to the Great Commission today for people like the woman and her family that I met yesterday. Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion. If we are following closely enough to Jesus, we will do as Jesus does. The field is ripe for harvest, and the field is all around us!

How Do We Present The Gospel?

As Christians, are we going to be like Peter, lopping off the centurion’s ear with a sword?

Depositphotos Image ID: 39763149 Copyright: creatista

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything – God and our friends and ourselves included – as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

We need to be very careful how we present the Gospel to the world. Please read this editorial. See the Gospel Coalition’s August article on Whether ISIS is Beheading Children. Back in August, there was some question whether the beheadings were really happening. It seems to be accepted as fact now, but the point of the article is important. We need to avoid being carried away with emotion and fleshy anger.

In that light this article is a must read! (A Christian Response to ISIS) This is an extreme example, but what of those who are “enemies” of Christ in culture, politics, whatever? What would Jesus do? How would Jesus respond? We need to think and pray about that.

Continue reading “How Do We Present The Gospel?”