Thursday, October 29, 2009

The New Normal

Here's a challenge for a snowy day: flip through the gospels and make a list of all the miracles of Jesus.

You won't be half-way when you realize there are more than you thought. You won't be half-way when you come to terms with the truth that he was more often healing and delivering than teaching. You won't be half-way when you take pause about what you think is "normal life."

That is, if Jesus is alive and active today, in your life. We are called "little Christs" (that's what the word "Christian" means). He said we'd do the things he did, and greater.

All this may not be normal. It's not to me... but I want a new normal.

Matthew 15:29-31

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Friday, October 23, 2009

On the Question

Yesterday I posted a blog about my new "most important question" for life: Who is Jesus to you today?

Today, a thought in support of this question: it hinges entirely upon the claim of resurrection (which all of Christianity hinges upon); namely, the resurrection of the teacher from Nazareth nearly 1980 years ago. I suppose, for those who wrestle with the truth of Christianity, that this is the most important detail for you to grapple with. Historians are basically unanimous that there was a man named Jesus who was, like thousands of others, executed by way of Roman crucifixion in the neighborhood of 30 AD. The movement that began shortly thereafter which involved, essentially, the worship and imitation of Jesus, was predicated on the claim that he came back to life. This was enough to convince a handful (though a minority) of Jews that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah, and enough to convince an at first small, but then growing, group of non-Jews that the Jewish God was the true God and that the man Jesus was the Human Incarnation of that God.

So, either the resurrection happened and Jesus is someone to us today, or it didn't, and the claims of Christians are empty, divisive, and cruel (for the non-Christian world is repelled by the exclusivity of Christian salvation paired with the Judeo-Christian claims of God's omniscience).

Either the followers of Jesus stole his body and subsequently endured vicious deaths to protect their revolutionary deception (which won them no riches, no political power, no broad-scale respect), or Jesus came back to life.

Another option is a grand hallucination to the tune of hundreds of people. In their grief, Jesus' followers yearned so badly for his resurrection that they unanimously and synchronistically hallucinated his presence among them. Of course, the accounts tell of Jesus appearing to different groups at different times. So, either the physical life re-entered Jesus' body, or a whole community hallucinated that it did, and believed it so firmly that they were willing to be alienated, persecuted, jailed, and executed to support what they saw.

If the resurrection did not happen, the answer to my big question can be little more than "Jesus is a crazy or diabolical Jew who developed a following about 2000 years ago and was then executed." Perhaps this answer could go so far as to say "some of his teachings (but not all) are ethically respectable and have had good influence in history, and in my life."

It strikes me: that last answer is, in my estimation, the way most Christians actually live their lives. We (I must group myself in this, based on my normal way of living) live like Jesus is a character in a book that we have decided will be the source of our moral code, albeit one of the more significant characters (along with guys like Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Paul). That way of living will lead ultimately to a loss or death of faith, and rightfully so. If the resurrection didn't happen, Christianity is little more than a divisive and outdated religion that has intoxicated people's minds for centuries.

If it did.... then Jesus is still actively someone today. So, who is he to you today?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Daily Quest[ion]

Before I begin: Thanks, Michele Mollkoy, for nudging me back to this blog. Your words are just what I needed.

Just over a century ago, a book swept the Christians of this nation (and not a few seekers) called In His Steps. In this book, a community of people committed to the mentality that, in the face of everything that happened to them in a normal day, they would ask a question before they responded: "what would Jesus do?"

Many in my generation still wear bracelets with the now too familiar "WWJD." However, after both waves of that question, knowledgeable theologians and pastors joined in the chorus of criticism of this question. Unless one has gone through significant transformation on deep levels, one can ask that question ad nauseam and rarely, if ever, actually do what Jesus would have done. Life simply comes at us too fast, and there are too many factors playing into our every decision. Knowing what Jesus would do, furthermore, requires knowing Jesus.

I've been asking a new question these days, and it feels like the beginnings of a grand experiment akin to Frank Laubach's inspiring journey to spend every moment in the presence of God, preserved in the book Practicing His Presence. It is born out of the frustration that most Christian feel at some point, and pastors who preach passionately feel regularly: I talk about Jesus a lot, and know a lot more about him. But in most of my life, I don't really live like he's really alive. With that, I had to go back a few steps. My spiritual maturity isn't at the point where I can ask a more interactive question.

So, I've been asking of myself and anyone I can get a few minutes with: Who is Jesus to me today? For first timers, I have to clarify: I'm not asking who Jesus was. Nor am I asking what Jesus did. Theological truth is wonderful, and should shape how we know Jesus (or whether the one we know is the real Jesus), but I'm starting with one piece of theological truth: the Bible claims that Jesus is alive, right now, and that by the Holy Spirit, he is intimately involved in the lives of his followers. If that's true... he's someone to me right now.

The reason I have to ask it this way is because I know myself. I act a certain way based on who is around. When I'm with my mom, I am one way. When I'm with the people of my church, I'm another. When my good friends from college are around, I'm another. Shouldn't it be the same with Jesus? Well, that's only true if I'm aware that he's with me. And he has set things up in a way that I have to choose to be aware of him. The way I choose? By asking the question.

So, who is Jesus to you today? And, what need in your life does your answer reveal?