Once it was the Lord, Now it is the Blessing

A.B. Simpson wrote a beautiful hymn that portrayed the growth of a person from a self-focused infant in Christ to a mature Christ-focused Christian:

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own,
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone
.

Simpson’s hymn portrayed the movement away from simply seeking things from God, even good and godly things, and seeking the Lord who is more valuable and wonderful than any of the blessings, feelings, gifts, and healings that He could provide.  The simple, yet profound hymn illustrates that if the gifts are great, how much greater is the Giver of the gifts!

Yet, how quickly are people, like little children at Christmas, quickly caught up in the glitter of the gifts that the Giver is sidelined or even seen as little more than a genie to provide what we desire.  In a subtle or none-to-subtle shift, we end up spending more time asking Jesus for something and praising Him if He “delivers’ what we desire and end up spending little time praising Christ for who He is, regardless of our situation or desires, and seeking to dwell in His presence above all else.

Ravi Zacharias points out in his book Why Jesus? (pp. 112-113) that too often today’s spirituality (which I believe unfortunately often includes many Christians) reverses the thoughts of Simpson’s hymn to:

Once it was the Lord, Now it is the blessing;
Once it was His Word, Now it is the feeling;
Once I knew the Giver, Now the gifts I own;
Once I sought Himself, Now it is the healing and my “self” alone
.

 

Truth, Exclusivity, and Christianity with Ravi Zacharias

“You know professor, I think the time has come for us in the Islamic world to stop asking if Jesus Christ died and to start asking why.”
(Top Shiite Cleric in Damascus, Syria) Sheikh Hussein in a conversation with Ravi Zacharias about Islam and Christianity.  

While responding to a question, “How do you know that Christianity is the one true worldview?” Ravi Zacharias discussed the cross of Christ, the resurrection, and revealed a conversation he had permission to tell from a top Islamic cleric.  The cleric turned to Ravi, admitted that the Muslim belief in the “swoon theory” (basically, Jesus passed out but did not die on the cross) didn’t hold water factually.  Sheikh Hussein’s comment, “You know professor, I think the time has come for us in the Islamic world to stop asking if Jesus Christ died and to start asking why,” is a demonstration of a man who is starting to seek “true truth” and not just “preferred truth.”

For the entire video and the context of the quote, check out the video:

 

Four Worlds and Love

Good and evil.  Love and suffering.  Why not a world with only good and only love and no chance of evil or suffering?  The Bible does offer the former, but it is a result from those who have chosen the path laid out by God for dealing with the latter.  But the Bible also addresses the current situation of the world.

Ravi Zacharias discusses four possible worlds that scholars have theorized concerning regarding good and evil:

There are only four possible worlds that scholars have talked about.  The first is that there be no created versus this world.  Would it not have been better for God to have created no world than to have created this one where good and evil are possibilities?  The second is to have created a world where only good would have been chosen, a kind of robotic world.  The third option would have been a world where there was no such thing as good or evil, an amoral world.  The fourth is this world that we live in, where good and evil exist along with the possibility of choosing either.

As soon as we introduce the question of what would have been better we again invoke an absolute point of reference, and that we can only introduce if God exists.  In the final analysis, of the four worlds described ours is the only one where love was genuinely possible… We must recognize that love is the supreme ethic that we know of, and where love is possible, freedom and the possibility of suffering accompany it.  In His character, God alone is the absolute expression of love that is never separated from holiness.  God cannot be at the same time holy and unloving or loving and unholy. In turning our back upon Him, we lose the source of defining love, live with the pain of unholiness, and suffering remains an enigma – leaving our blemished characters in search of a moral law and our finite minds crying out for an answer.  Which of us does not hurt when we see a pure love abused or despised?  Our hearts reveal a hunger for a love that is pure, and in this world we have lost both definitions because we have denied their source.

When we come to Jesus Christ at the cross, where love, holiness, and suffering combine, we find both the answer to why we suffer and the strength to live in this mortal frame for him… As we come to the cross and from there live our lives for Him, we make the extraordinary discovery that the cross and the resurrection go together.  Where love is possible, there pain is also possible.  Where the resurrection is promised, there is also the promise of tears wiped away.  Heaven is the confirmation of our choice, to love Him and to be with Him.  That is the hope of everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ, whom to know is life eternal.  Hell is the confirmation of spurning God’s answer and hope and of living with the entailments of our ability to procreate but also to destroy without recovery (Cries of the Heart, pp. 216-217).

Has Christianity Failed You? (Interview)

What causes a person to stop attending church and leave the Christian faith?  What causes a person to declare that Christianity has failed them?  Ravi Zacharias wrote a book entitled Has Christianity Failed You? and talks with Lauren Green of Fox News about this topic.

Some of these were (1) lack of experiential fulfillment, (2) intellectual issues, (3) personal needs not met, & (4) feeling of not being forgiven after stumbling.  Watch the interview as the talk about some of the reasons and the topic of evil and pain in the world:

Nostalgia

“Nostalgia is a powerful tug at the human heart, but within that grip is the recognition of reality. Wonder is a strange and elusive state of mind. We know it when we have it. We talk about it as if we all know what we mean. we wish we could hold on to it forever. Yet we have consigned nostalgia to the days of childhood and fairy tales. The world then was one to be conquered. we were going to soar to heights and breathe new air. The future was like a banquet table laden before us, and we were going to taste its delights to our fill. But now that they years have gone by there is a different emotion. Fatigue, care, worry, mistakes recognized, and yes, even farewells now evict the marvel of what we once envisioned. At best we are sorry that the life invested did not bring the dividends of a compounding fulfillment.”
(Ravi Zacharias Recapture the Wonder p 30)

Do you feel like the wonder in life has slipped away? Do you dream of days of old or the “good old days”?  Where is the passion in life?  If a person is a Christian and feels this way then there is something not quite right.  Consider this quote from Eugene Peterson’s Traveling Light:

“The word “Christian” means different things to different people. To one person it means a stiff, upright, inflexible way of life, colorless and unbending. To another, it means a risky, surprise-filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation…If we get our information from the biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”

Still The Way, The Truth, and The Life

I was reading the latest Christianity Today (December 2009) and came across some stunning statistics that made me think, “How stupid can a person be?”

The article “Still the Way, the Truth, and the Life” by John Franke was an ok read (3.5 out of 5 stars), but I was stunned at some professing Christians’ stupidity due to lack of logic, determination to be “politically correct”, or whatever other reason they think they can say they are an Evangelical Christian yet hold a pluralistic worldview.  The author of the article was describing the results of compromising on Jesus being the Truth and related a story of a pastor who believed that many religions can lead to eternal life:

A pastor who wanted to demonstrate the strength of his conviction said that if Jesus himself were to appear and affirm the opposing view, he would look him straight in the eye and say, “No, Jesus, you are wrong.  I know this based on my experience, and nothing you can say will lead me to believe otherwise.” (p 30)

Just think about that for a moment.  God shows up and states the facts and you tell God – your Creator – that He is wrong based upon your feelings and experiences which are not facts.  That is beyond stupidity!

I could rant more, but I suggest that if you are interested in this topic you listen to the One Way series currently being produced by John Myer (it will be over 20 messages total).  You can also listen to podcasts and read books by Ravi Zacharias for great insight into logic and the exclusivity of Christ.

Modeling Truth

I finished up the book Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias.  In the final chapter a couple great paragraphs reflect the need for our modeling the truth both in our public lives and in our private lives:

“After lecturing at a major American university, I was driven to the airport by the organizer of the event.  I was quite jolted by what he told me.  He said, “My wife brought our neighbor last night.  She is a medical doctor and had not been to anything like this before.  On their way home, my wife asked her what she thought of it all.”  He paused and then continued, “Do you know what she said?”  Rather reluctantly, I shook my head.  “She said, ‘That was a very powerful evening. The arguments were very persuasive.  I wonder what he is like in his private life.'” (p 304)

Shepherd Family“This call to a life reflecting the person of Christ is the ultimate call of everyone who wishes to do apologetics because of the snare of argument and its overriding appeal that suppresses the devotional side of truth.  This applies especially to leadership within the church.  If the shepherd is not living the way he should, how can the ones shepherded follow the right path?” (p 305)

I have written about this topic in the past, but that last sentence, “If the shepherd is not living the way he should, how can the ones shepherded follow the right path?” really struck a chord within me.  Not just because of the moral implications of a right living both in private and in public (as what we do in private eventually seeps out into the public), but because of the shepherding aspect.

As a person in any kind of leadership role within the church – from behind the scenes to behind the pulpit – can we really expect people to live normal and active Christian lives if we are not doing so?  Can we expect people to share the gospel if we do not model it ourselves?  Can we expect others to labor to disciple and mentor others if we are not actively doing so?

I am not calling for those in leadership to be “all-inclusive” workers – we are part of the body of Christ and a priesthood of believers after all.  But we (myself definitely included) must be careful not to excuse away inactivity and laziness in the realms of moral living, the gospel, and discipleship with pseudo-spiritual wording like, “It’s not my gift”, or “I am called to preach/sing/[enter your service here], not labor like that”.

Paul’s words, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) strikes a sobering note when thinking on Ravi Zacharias’ words.  If as leaders we allow ourselves to become lazy in our love and labor for the Lord those whom we lead will soon imitate us in this unhealthy habit.  I pray for myself and all others in any kind of leadership role within Christ’s church that if in any area of our  life & labor we have slipped into laziness that the brakes would be put on and a fire would be rekindled so that we do not just speak the truth but also model it privately and publicly.