More Than One Way to Jesus?

Jesus insists and Christians believe that he is the only way to God (John 14:6), but is it possible that there are many ways to Jesus? Theologian Peter Kreeft asks the question this way: “What subjective relationship must one have with Jesus in order to be on the right way?”

Some insist you merely need to say a prayer inviting Jesus into your heart. Others suggest it isn’t enough to reduce your salvation to a “magic formula,” that there needs to be true repentance, or a desire to turn away from sin. But was the thief on the cross next to Jesus sorry for his sins? All we know from the text is that he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” to which Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

What about the Old Testament saints? How were they saved? James the apostle, writing about the kind of faith it takes to please God, said that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). Abraham didn’t know Jesus, but he experienced the righteousness of God extended to sinful people through Jesus.
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The Myth of Equality: a review


If you’ve been following the writing career of Ken Wytsma, you’ll note that he’s been tackling such lightweight subjects as the pursuit of Justice and the practical nature of paradox. All kidding aside, Wytsma brings a warmth and intelligence to his material that is both accessible and respectable at the same time. Falling down on either side is not good, so this is important. A book that errs on being too accessible often dumbs down research and salient points. A book that errs on respectability can become laborious and too narrow. And this is especially important in his newest book entitled The Myth of Equality.

Immediately, the word ‘equality’ needs to be set in context and in a world super charged with angry tweets and social media rants, a book that tackles subjects like white privilege, equality, racial tension, and power structures must be both accessible and respectable. After all, this is what we all want in adult conversations about serious subjects and let me say from the start that this is the best way to read this book. I don’t think books on justice or equality accomplish much in an era overloaded with blog posts and web based information. My initial comment on Wytsma’s new book is that this should be read with another person or in a small group. In fact, I think it’s hard to grow in this subject area without allowing someone else to ask questions of you in real time and over a period of time

And I am giving away the most impactful undercurrent in Wytsma’s book. He frames it this way in chapter eleven: “Listening isn’t just about content but also about whose voice carries it.” Listening, then, is more than information and involves context and involves language, tone, non-verbal communication, and culture. Later on, Wytsma talks about the “texture to truth that comes from experiencing something directly,” and there is about a three hour coffee shop conversation that could stem from those two ideas alone.

The beginning of the book is an effort to set “white privilege” in a historical context and it’s an overview that references Downton Abbey, aristocracy, and European influence quite a bit. While this is important and to be commended, I felt like this overview in the first few chapters fought against the experiential aspects described in later chapters. For this reason, I feel Wytsma, like his book Pursuing Justice is writing an introduction to a subject that deserves further treatment.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday last year, I read Bryan Stephenson’s powerful book Just Mercy and I was glad to see Wytsma also highly recommend it. Stephenson’s book also gets the point across, but in the experiential, direct, and textured way that seems more focused and fervent.

Let me be clear. I think The Myth of Equality is clear-headed, accessible, respectable, and an important contribution to a discussion that is textured and layered with historical context rich in individual and collective nuances. At twelve chapters, Wytsma’s book is approachable and readable. What happens, though, if Wytsma’s subject gets the narrative voice of Stephenson’s Just Mercy?

In the end, this is an introduction to not only a subject that carries weight and baggage, but also a posture that carries the burden of listening and learning. Shame is the enemy of authentic relationship, so Wytsma is right to tread carefully through this topic. If you’re willing to have an adult discussion, Ken Wytsma could be a helpful guide and the world could use a few more adult conversations about things that matter.

 

 

(Royalties from sales of this book will go to helping leaders of color get published through The VOICES Project. )

The Story of Star Wars Is Our Story

For those who grew up in the era of Star Wars, the 40th anniversary of the space opera franchise is something to celebrate. Even if you’re a latecomer to the series, enticed by all the hoopla and impressed with the last two Star Wars movies, you can appreciate the 40-year history and the accumulated achievement of nine films, dozens of books, countless games and apps, plus the endless array of licensed merchandise. One estimate puts the value of all Star Wars films and products at $41 billion, or just over a billion dollars for every year Star Wars has been around.

These are staggering numbers, but there’s another even more impressive number: One. Millions of people have experienced Star Wars, either by working on the creative side of production or paying for the consumer products, but the genius of Star Wars comes from just one source. And it isn’t George Lucas. In fact, it isn’t a person, but a story.

Yes, George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars: A New Hope, the movie that started it all. And he also wrote outlines for nine stories. But the original story was not his idea. It came from a place long ago and far away.
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How Do You Explain the Trinity?

You have probably heard some illustrations that are supposed to help explain the Trinity. One of the most common examples is the egg. Everyone knows an egg has three elements: the yoke, the white, and the shell. Each element is distinct from the other, yet they all combine to make up an egg. Just like the Trinity, right? Well…not really.

Yes, all three elements of the egg make up the egg, but each element by itself isn’t an egg. You can’t isolate the shell and say, “This is an egg.” The next time you have guests for breakfast, try scrambling up a couple of eggshells for them. We guarantee they will think you’re one egg short of a full omelet.

The shell is part of the egg, but separated from the other two parts, it isn’t truly an egg. By comparison, if you isolate Jesus or the Holy Spirit or God the Father and say of each one, “This is God,” you would still be right. They are all God, but they are not each other. Jesus is equal to God, but He isn’t God the Father. The Holy Spirit is equal to Jesus, but the Holy Spirit isn’t Jesus.

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Books Are Cool Again

Once upon a time people bought books in bookstores. I should know. My family owned a Christian bookstore chain. It was an idyllic, almost magical time when independent stores like ours and large bookstore chains like B. Dalton Bookseller, Walden, Borders, and Family Christian Stores—plus thousands of independent bookstores—dotted the landscape. Almost every town of any size had at least one. 

Today all those bookstore chains are gone, and the number of independent stores, both general and Christian, has shrunk dramatically. I could list many reasons, but there are just two that matter: the rise of Amazon and the appearance of e-books. Physical bookstores, even those owned by big corporations, just can’t compete with the selection, prices, and convenience of Amazon. And what can possibly match the instant delivery of a book to a device you’re holding in your hand?

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Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

The following was originally posted March 29, 2010. It's being reposted here today as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In 2010, I wrote a series of blogs titled Slavery in America. This particular blog in the series is on worship and jubilee. 

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I talked about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi in the summer of 2008. It had been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church. He asked me, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

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Slavery in America: A Conversation with International Justice Mission

In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, this is a repost of an interview held with International Justice MIssion staff member Lauren Johnson in early 2010. IJM currently is one of the world leaders in combatting slavery today. 

 

Last month I visited the International Justice Mission headquarters, not far from the Pentagon and just outside our nation’s capitol.  It was a beautiful day. The air was crisp and cool and the ground layered with the remnants of the recent snow storm.

Inside IJM headquarters - aka HQ -, you’ll find a quant, but inspirational photo gallery. The walls are lined with telling photographs of beautiful people who are part of IJM’s work abroad. Each face on each photo tells a different story of survival, of redemption and of justice at work.

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Where Power Resides

Washington is broken.

Wait….What?

When that phrase is uttered, what is meant is that the people elected to office have done a poor job leading. The people “elected to office,” have not performed their duties like most people expect. Gridlock. Negative rhetoric. The same men and women in office for years making little progress on issues or policies or problems. That’s what is meant when someone says Washington is broken. Personally, visiting the city is fun and always a bit energizing. Lots going on, good food, and enough to see to stimulate most imaginative people.

The power of Washington, though, at least from how our current government is framed, resides with people from all over the country.

The Road to Justice Begins at a Stop Sign

Have you ever broken a bone? I have. When I was 11 or 12 years old I broke a finger playing in what was likely a fierce game of handball. You read that right. I was one of the cool kids who played handball in elementary school (green with envy? I thought so).

The thing with breaks is, in order for them to heal correctly, they need to be reset, realigned or readjusted to the way they were designed.

When I first learned of the realities of modern day slavery, it felt like a bad break. How could things be so off set, out of order, out of place and in desperate need of healing and resetting? I felt a burning rage boil up in my gut and an overwhelming desire to barge into a brothel or brick kiln to rescue the oppressed and give the oppressor a piece of my mind, or, let's be honest, my once broken middle finger gesture.

My New Year's Resolve

I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. This is likely because I know I could never keep them. You know the popular resolutions well.  Get-up-earlier, actually-exercise-for-the-love, go-to-bed-earlier, read-the-one-year-Bible-without-missing-a-day, cut-out-sweets, I mean, who am I kidding? I could never keep those up for an entire year. That’s 365 days! (I’m not good with math so hopefully I got that right). I don’t make resolutions because I can’t keep them. I end up feeling like a failure come March or April when I’ve lost all steam to uphold such resolutions and I go on a colossal binge of all things unhealthy and unorderly. Is anybody with me?

Resolutions may not be my thing at the start of every New Year, but to resolve, that I can work with.

Resolve means to ‘decide firmly on a course of action.’ I can do that.

You may be familiar with a guy named Daniel from the Bible. He’s the guy who was thrown in a lion’s den and lived to tell about it. He was also a man who influenced culture and didn’t allow the cultural waves to carry him away from the path he was on. Daniel was an Israelite. He was one of God’s chosen people. He was living in Jerusalem when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded and took what he wanted from the area, including Daniel.

Without warning, Daniel was kidnapped and under the King’s orders, he was to learn the Babylonian way, culture, language, literature, etc. He was also ordered to adopt the diet of the King’s men, a beefy diet of meats, carbs and wine (I’m doing a round of whole30 at the moment so all of that sounds delicious right about now. It’s only day 2; I’m in trouble.).  

In Daniel 1:8 it says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”.

Daniel was bold. Essentially, a slave, he told his new boss he didn’t want to spoil himself with what the earthly King Neb (we can call him Neb for short don’t you think?) considered fitting because Daniel lived for a better way serving God, the King of all Kings.

We are people of culture. We were born into a particular culture during a particular time period for a particular purpose ordained by Jesus long ago. Culture is not bad. But there are cultural trends that are not of God and are not pleasing to Him. As a Christian, I want to be like Daniel. I want to live my life according to what’s good and pleasing to God and not according to my wavering culture.

So here’s my resolve for 2017.

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