Don’t worry. This one is approved for all audiences.
Over my winter break (yes, I’m thirty-six and still have such things–though I do work full-time during them) I have been renewing my Certified Flight Instructor license via online testing. Truth be told, I haven’t flown in six years, but as I watch H- get older I am pretty sure that she will be my next student. So I keep my license in the event that, as ol’ Leo noted, “For once you have tasted flight…there you will long to return.” Plus, what kind of schmuck would I be for not teaching my daughter how to fly? Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to demonstrate how to use a current and trending event as the launching point for spreading the Gospel.
Current Event: Oprah seems to have reached a tipping point in her life. Will she run for president of the United States of America?
Launching point: Critics of Oprah have already pointed out that she is just a greedy celebrity, categorically the same as President Trump. One piece of evidence the critics cite is her recommendation and belief in the tactics of the best-seller The Secret, those tactics being positive thinking–often in opposition to medical science and other fruits of western civilization. Positive thinking, of course, is to the gracious non-believer exactly and only all that Christianity ever could be.
Spread the Gospel: Explore this Christianity-is-just-positive-thinking-like-The-Secret-and-therefore-unbelievable-too notion with the non-believer using James’ words. Here’s an example discussion.
Christian: So you don’t think positive thinking is the end-all-be-all, then?
Non-believer: Of course it isn’t. Go to the doctor if you’re sick for crying out loud.
Christian: You do know that Christianity does not believe in merely positive thinking, right?
Non-believer: Well, I know that there isn’t a god–no offense–and so all your praying and hoping is just helping you stay positive in this sometimes depressing life.
Christian: None taken. Here’s where I would like to have a moment to clarify something. Can I clarify something?
Christian: I don’t know your thoughts. And neither does the Bible tell me that I do. And vice-versa. We can’t read minds-
Christian: -but we can hear what each other says.
(Here’s the key move)
Christian: So this discussion isn’t really about positive thinking, is it?
Non-believer: I guess not.
Christian: To further evidence this, it was you, not me, who actually mentioned prayer first.
Non-believer: Ya got me. So what?
Christian: The question, then, at least in your mind–I know what I believe–is whether or not prayer is real. I’m not suggesting that I believe you or anyone else lies awake at night wondering this or even actively thinks about it often at all, but, at this moment, what appeared to be a question of positive thinking was actually a question of talking, a question of our tongue’s power. Agree?
Non-believer: I’m a bit lost and am not sure how to feel about how Oprah’s speech took us here, but yes, this is where we are.
Christian: We don’t have to keep talking about this. It’s heady and a bit deep, and I know you’re busy. Do you want to switch subjects?
Non-believer: No, I’ll hear you out.
Christian: Okay. You know and I know, basically everyone knows that human history includes this notion of praying, of talking, to beings that are not necessarily immediately in our presence or even claimed to be visible at all.
Non-believer: Sure. People used to believe and do a lot of other silly things too.
Christian: Some still do–like me–though I wouldn’t call it silly.
Christian: What I want to ask is, “Why don’t you think the tongue is powerful?”
Non-believer: I never said the tongue isn’t powerful?
Christian: You didn’t?
Christian: It’s okay. We’re talking about powerful things right now.
Non-believer: I didn’t say the tongue isn’t powerful.
Christian: Two thousand years ago Jesus’ brother James’ audience–if we can use James’ words to evidence his audience’s struggle–James’ audience seemed to think that since the tongue is so small it surely couldn’t be powerful. Unlike those primitive people, two thousand years later folks like you and me commonly say, “Ant’s are able to lift many, many times their own body weight,” alongside many other claims which scientific study has validated over time. So to us, it’s not even a question if small things are powerful. But then to James–not his audience–it wasn’t either. His claim was that the tongue was powerful, not that small things were powerful. He had no more trouble persuading his audience that small things were powerful than we have today. He simply said, “Look at the rudder on a ship if you’re unconvinced.” (Sidebar: If you’re waiting for the connection to the opening flying talk, planes have rudders. 🙂 )
Christian: Maybe now you can see why Jesus doesn’t seem to have written anything down.
Christian: Christianity is a big boys game. It couldn’t be any other way. Our tongues matter. You know this, I know this. What we say matters. So now, and you don’t have to answer me this instant, I want to ask you another question.
Non-believer: What’s that?
Christian: It’s the same question Jesus asked long ago. Before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus was teaching about the so-called “Son of Man” and his listeners were offering various names as to who the different and competing groups of the time suspected this person to be. As the answers came in, none of the answers were “Jesus” or “you.” Then Jesus narrows his question and says, ‘Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” So I’m asking you, out loud, with my tongue, “Who do you say Jesus was?”
Non-believer: (Go. Find out for yourself what he or she says. Their answer may surprise you.)
I couldn’t help but perk up when I heard my pastor mention “London” as he led us in prayer this morning. My folks are in London vacationing. I just figured he misspoke, but then he also mentioned Manchester. Having not checked the news since early yesterday, I inquired of my pew-mate. Then I cried. My parents are fine. But this scene from Cooper’s classic came to mind.
So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he descended, and, moving silently through the throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he had selected for his meditations. After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader to take some distant and momentous flight.
A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body, and then turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and blazed trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his girdle and leggings, and with one–half of his fine features hid under a cloud of threatening black.
A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be “blazed.” The term is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white mark.
Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of birds––and then, by sudden and startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy. The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior’s object, and terminating as they commenced with an acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might read something like the following: “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou! Manitou! Thou art just. “In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see Many spots––many dark, many red: In the heavens, oh, I see Many clouds. “In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear The whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the woods, oh, I hear The loud whoop! “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I am weak––thou art strong; I am slow; Manitou! Manitou! Give me aid.”
At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well–known and terrific war– whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his dance.
At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce–looking and menacing visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed his own battle cry.
And these scriptures.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Pray for mercy. Preach Christ.
It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.
Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.
Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.
Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.
To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.
Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.
Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God.
If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I had no idea.
I haven’t had any ideas for this blog since learning this on Thursday or Friday night. That is, I can’t think of anything else to write except to share my slightly embarrassing astonishment at what I learned.
When I have H- I usually spend all the time she is asleep writing posts or writing books. But when I don’t have her, I am able to finally catch up on some reading. One book is (as I’ve mentioned before) N.T. Wright’s Jesus and The Victory of God. It is book two in a five book series on first century Jewish-then-Jewish/Christian history. From what I have been able to discern, it is tier one as far as historical critical scholarship goes. I say tier one to attempt to convince you that I am aware there are many good researchers who all come to different conclusions about such things, but to be honest, I’m kind of falling for the arguments Wright is making. Anyhow, I’m writing this now because I want to move on and write fun things again.
The information I was shocked to discover was that the temple Jesus of Nazareth displayed anger towards and overturned tables at etc. shortly before the crucifixion, this temple was not just the local baptist church in Jerusalem. It was the Temple. Capital T. The one that has been fought over for thousands of years. The one that has been destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed and now there is a Muslim structure on it blah, blah, blah. I had no idea. I feel pretty foolish. I grew up as a bible memorizing, save the world one non-believer at a time Southern Baptist and somehow totally missed this. I just thought that he picked one of the many mega churches that surely existed back then to make an example of. I think that’s some variation of projection and ethnocentrism. Oh well.
The real question is, of course, does any of this matter?
“But!” he said, finger in the air, ready to make a point, “If Jesus and his message were so important, and God knew we’d invent video cameras eventually, why did God send him in a time period before technology could capture his life? Heck, not only did he never write anything himself, he probably couldn’t write. Isn’t that a strike against the whole thing?” he said, not wanting to offend him, but seriously wanting to discuss the issue. “I mean, all of this could be settled by a single video of him, right?”
“You know, I thought things like that for a long time myself. I would even go further than you just did and point out that precisely because there is no recording, the story’s fantastic nature was able to gain traction. I really wanted to believe that Jesus was followed by people and gained notoriety because the people of that time were ignorant and looking for answers etc., etc.,” the man replied. “But then a thought hit me–what if the timing of his life contained a truth in itself? What if God purposefully sent Jesus to reveal the gospel at a time before wide-spread literacy, much less technology?
“Starting there, I found something striking. If the general population Jesus lived among was illiterate and didn’t have TV, movies, or screens upon screens that prevented actual relationship from occurring, surely they had a more grounded existence. Whether they did or not, Jesus would have had to actually meet and greet people. Without sound amplification, his audiences would have been smaller. Without DVR, his speech would have had to be simple and clear. Without YouTube’s ‘I’ll record myself once and then put it out there for the world to see’, he would have been required to live with perfect integrity daily.
“For all technology’s benefit, we are clearly not reaching our potential as a group.
“Who would argue that talking on the phone is the same as in person? Who would rather skype than eat a meal together? And that isn’t even opening the door to the world of nothingness that is tweeting and texting.
“So, that’s what I tell myself to explain why God sent Jesus before things that would have helped ‘prove’ his divinity. Maybe a video would have helped with the miracles, but I think a lot of his message would have been lost in the process. As I understand this world and Jesus’ message to it, he was a man who wouldn’t want anything to come between him and us–including time and space.”