It’s A Onederful Life

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1 Timothy 2:5-7For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – In a 2016 Gallup survey of Americans, when asked whether or not they believe in God, 89% answered yes, 10% answered no, and 1% had no opinion.  In a separate Gallup survey that same year, when given a third option to yes or no (unsure), 79% answered yes, 10% were unsure and 11% answered no.

In a 2008 Pew Research survey, 52% of all American Christians believe that some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life, while only 49% of evangelical Christians believe theirs is the one true faith.

Of course surveys only reveal what people believe to be true, they do not determine what is in fact true.  The same is true with respect to various religions – they define people’s beliefs, which may or may not be truth.  I can only speak for myself and why I believe that Christianity is the truth.

One God For Christians and Jews (perhaps Muslims?), this is the God of the Old Testament.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV 1984).  Logic tells us that there can only be one “supreme” (superior to all others) being.

One Mediator between God and men – The Christian faith, and as far as I know none other,  believes that the “one” (exclusive) mediator is Jesus Christ.  Why must Christians (despite what the polls might say) believe this.  Because Jesus said it Himself.  “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.‘” (John 14:6, NIV 1984).  He was either telling the truth, lying or deranged.  If He was not telling the truth, He cannot be a path to God.  But His resurrection testifies that He was telling the truth.

One true faith – Is the Christian faith the one true (exclusive) religion?  If you believe the Gospels, then yes it is.  “[Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.‘” (Matthew 26:39, NIV 1984).  If Jesus was indeed the “only begotten Son of God,” then you would have to believe that if there was another way (another path – one or many), God would not have allowed His only Son to be crucified.  But Jesus was crucified.  There was, and is, no other way or path.

My Advice – Only we can choose what to believe.  But what we choose to believe cannot change the truth.  The stakes are high, so we must consider carefully what the truth is.  One cannot blame Christians for asserting that Jesus is the only path to God. because Jesus claimed it Himself. And God ratified it by allowing His death and raising Him from the dead.  In this sense, yes, Christianity is exclusive – it is the only path to God.   But in another sense, Christianity is all-inclusive. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12, NIV 1984).  It is a path that is open to all.  The choice is ours.  Only we can make sure we “earn” our wings by believing and receiving.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Reputation Real?

Revelation 3:1-2 – “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up!” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Our faith must be more than reputation, it must be reality. It must be more than outward appearance.

My Advice – Don’t build a Godly reputation without building a Godly relationship.

What Do You Tolerate?

Revelation 2:19-20 – “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against: You tolerate.…” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – This is an age where tolerance is considered a virtue. And in certain cases it may be. But not where the tolerance is for immorality or religious teachings that deny Christ or teach another path to God.

My Advice – Tolerance sounds admirable, but be careful of what you tolerate.

Ears of the Heart

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Proverbs 18:13, 15He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.  The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. (NIV 19840

“You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”― John Wayne

“I never miss a good chance to shut up” ― James Patterson, Along Came a Spider

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.” – Dean Rusk

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

“[R]emember we’re trying to understand their point of view, not necessarily agree with it or support it.  Understanding doesn’t equate with agreement.  Sensitivity does not equate to acquiescence.  [W]e’re merely trying to get at what others think in order to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling and doing what they’re doing.” – Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.

My Musings – Listening involves more than the ears.  It involves the heart (sincerity).  Listening with the heart does not necessarily mean we will agree with what we hear, but it may help us understand (discern) why they hold the views that they do. Understanding may not lead to agreement, but it should lead to helping us craft a more heartfelt response and improve the odds that we will convince them of what we hold to be the truth.

My Advice – Start a crucial conversation by listening (before talking) with your heart (with sincerity).   Only then can your ears hear sufficiently well enough to equip your lips to speak with enough knowledge to persuade others to your point of view.  It is foolish and shameful to do otherwise.  In the process, you may learn that your point of view was just that and not the truth after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trustworthy Wounds

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Proverbs 26:20-28, 27:6Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.  As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.  The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; They go down to a man’s inmost parts.  Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.  A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.  If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.  (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 12:15-19The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.  (NIV 1984)

Learn to Argue – People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. (G.K. Chesterson)

The Art of “Arguing” – People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it [not behind their back – “words of a gossip are like choice morsels“], without brutalizing them or causing undue offense [“wounds from a friend can be trusted“]. But this confidence does not equate to arrogance, pigheadedness, threats, accusations or disrespect. They are humble enough to realize that they do not have a monopoly on the truth.

There are five distinct skills that can help us talk [argue] about even the most sensitive topics:

Share your facts – Facts are the least controversial way to begin a crucial conversation, because facts by their very nature are uncontroversial. Be careful to not “spin” the facts, embellish the facts or omit facts (“the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). This will derail a crucial conversation before it even gets started. “speak the truth (facts) in love.” Do not rub their nose in it. Facts are the most persuasive and the least insulting.  They form a foundation believability, that lays the groundwork for all delicate conversations. But make sure they are facts and not conclusions. That comes next.
Tell your side of the story – With the facts properly laid out, you can tell your side of the story. The conclusions you have drawn. If you have thought through the facts, your conclusions (story) should be viewed as reasonable, rational, decent and deserving of being considered.
Ask for others’ views – If done sincerely, this demonstrates humility. Be open to having your mind changed. If your aim is to be “right” and win the “fight” you are not being sincere.  If your aim is to determine what is right and walk in the light, you just might find that you were wrong and fighting the wrong battle.
Talk tentatively – Do not share the facts or tell your story in a dogmatic fashion. One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking to those holding opposing positions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. The more tentatively you speak, the more open people are to your story and conclusions. But you don’t need to be wimpy either. Strike a just right “Goldilocks” balance. Just because you back off on how you state your beliefs, does not mean you have to back off on your beliefs.
Encourage testing – At this point, you can argue as vigorously as you want for your point of view, provided you are just as vigorous at encouraging others to challenge or even disprove it. Remember, the truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue. It is okay to have strong opinions and vigorously defend them. Just remember that the other person is entitled to the same. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

If we S-T-A-T-E things this way, we improve the odds of having a favorable outcome.  Even if we do not win or change your mind, we can still agree to disagree and preserve the relationship.

My Musings – If the beliefs we hold are the truth, we want others to believe them too.  How we present our case can go a long ways toward convincing the other.  Done thoughtfully and caringly, even if we lose the “argument,” we are more likely to at least win respect and preserve the relationship.  And that respect, might eventually carry the day.  On the other hand, if done thoughtlessly and uncaringly, even if we win the “argument” respect and the relationship may be permanently damaged.

My Advice – Do not merely argue the truth, argue it in a thoughtful and caring way

Private Interpretations

2 Peter 1:20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We are being bombarded by new “revelations” and new interpretations at an ever-increasing and alarming rate. But the Scriptures we have had stood the test of time because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let’s stick with them.

My Advice – You will encounter many private interpretations of Scripture. Many will have generated a large following. But always remember, God’s Word does not change, and a large following of another word does not make that word true.

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.