Thursday, July 23, 2015

What About Jesus?

In preparation for the "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)" group, I compiled a list of quotes about Jesus from a wide variety of sources. Here's how Jesus has been spoken of by various people throughout history:

GANDHI:  "I have regarded Jesus of Nazareth as one amongst the mighty teachers that the world has had…I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus." [Hingorani, p.23]

ISLAM / MOHAMMED: “Oh God, bless Your Messenger and Your servant Jesus son of Mary. Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary, (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.” [Quoted in the Quran and inscribed within the Dome of the Rock Temple]

NAPOLEAN: "I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist…It is not so with Christ. Everything in Him astonishes me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and everyone else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself.” “I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him.”  “I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.” [Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics, vol. 2, pp. 216-17]

JOSEPHUS: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. [Titus Flavius JosephusAntiquities of the Jews (c. 93–94 AD), Book 18, Chapter 3, 3]

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. “[Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71]

CHARLES DICKENS: “My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived, who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as he was.The Life of Our Lord (1849), Chapter 1, opening paragraph.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: “Jesus Christ raised women above the condition of mere slaves, mere ministers to the passions of the man, raised them by His sympathy, to be Ministers of God. - Florence Nightingale, in Cassandra (1860).

SOREN KIERKEGAARD: “There is only one eternal hope on this earth: to follow Christ into heaven. There is one blessed joy in this life: to follow Christ; in death there is one final blessed joy-to follow Christ to life!Soren Kierkegaard Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits 1847, Hong 1993 p. 229

MARK TWAIN: “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.” [1835-1910; Notebook]

H.G. WELLS: “I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.[From  'A Short History of the World']

ALBERT EINSTEIN: “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” [Isaacson, Walter (2007). "Einstein and Faith"; p.47]

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Accidental Connections

Last night, I went up to the cashier at Keane Coffee to let them know that our little Meetup group was meeting in the back patio. Just in case new people walked in and couldn't find us. 

The young girl at the register, Kaylee, was about 20-something with a nose ring and a partially shaved head on one side. "Hey," I said. "We're having a Meetup outside, just in case anyone comes in and can't find us." Kaylee grabbed a slip of paper and a pen. "What's the name of the group?" She asked me, her pen hovering over the page. 

"Jesus Without Religion Or Politics," I said. She started to write it down and then she stopped. "What's it called again?" I repeated the name and she looked up at me with wide-eyed wonder. "Wow! That really sounds great! I left my previous church because all they ever did was talk bad about Gays and Muslims and Mormons and other people."  

I nodded and said, "Yep. And THAT'S why we started this group; so Christians who just want to gather around Jesus can do that without trying to show everyone else that we're right and they're wrong." 

She finished writing down the name of our group on a piece of paper and said, "So, how's the Meetup going so far?" I laughed. "I'll let you know! We're having our very first meeting tonight."

"Well, this sounds like what I've been looking for," she said. "Let me know how this group works out. I think it sounds like something I'd be interested in."

After that, I went back to the group on the patio and we had our first meeting together. When we were done, I went up to the register again to see if Kaylee was there but, unfortunately, she had already gone home. 

Please pray that we can reconnect with her! I really believe that the Lord had us bump into her for a reason. I'll try again to drop by later in the week to share our contact info with her.

Please pray for her, and for people like her, that they can find the community of believers they're searching for. 

And please pray for our little group, that we can find more people like Kaylee around Orange County who are desperate for "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)",  because, obviously, they are out there!

We just have to seek them out.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

[Podcast] Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics) - Preview

A new series of meetings are scheduled in the next few weeks to gather non-Christians and answer their questions about Jesus. Here's a sneak preview.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)

Dozens of surveys reveal that most non-Christians are interested in Jesus, but not in Church or Christianity. Most agree that the reason for this growing trend is due to the perception that Christians are all anti-Gay, pro-Republican, and dogmatic about their particular brand of faith.

In light of this, I have been feeling that it might be interesting to create a Meet Up group for unbelievers who are curious about Jesus and interested in learning more about him; what he taught, what his message was, what the Gospel is all about, what the Sermon on the Mount means, and other questions – without having to be coerced into a decision to join a church, or being sold a certain political ideology.

So, in about a week, on July 15, I’ll be hosting “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” for anyone and everyone who wants Jesus without all the usual baggage.

Assuming anyone even shows up to this meeting – and I’m praying at least one person will respond – the basic outline we’ll cover looks like this:

*Are the New Testament documents reliable? [Historical evidence for Jesus].
*Who was/is Jesus? [His birth, early life, family members, enemies, disciples, etc.]
*His Message [The Gospel revealed] and his Parables explained
*The Sermon on the Mount [His Manifesto]
*His influence on the culture; impact on History and the World
*Prophecies fulfilled [What Jesus prophesied and what was prophesied about him]
*His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and did the Resurrection happen?

Now, one unforeseen byproduct of this group has been that I’ve had more Christians sign up for this on than non-Christians. Since I really, really do NOT want our sessions interrupted with arguments about doctrine, I decided to create a second group called “For Christians Who Want Jesus Without Religion Or Politics” which will start meeting the following week on a different night.

Honestly, I really have no big plans for this group. My guess is that it will be a wildly divergent group of Christians with varying definitions of what our group should be all about.

For example, one person who signed up to the “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” group made a comment to me about how his previous church wouldn’t allow him to teach his pet doctrines, which is not quite what I meant by “Jesus Without Religion”.

I’m very tempted to start off the Christian version of the meeting by declaring that Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat, or a Baptist or a Lutheran, or a Calvinist or an Arminian, or even a “Christian” and see who’s still left after I’m done talking.

To be frank, I was tempted to cancel the Christian meeting all together, but my wonderful wife encouraged me by pointing out that a lot of Christians still don’t understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, or what the Sermon on the Mount is about, or what the Parables mean, or even if the New Testament documents are reliable.

So, I took a step back off the ledge and decided to at least attempt to teach this same material to the Christian group and see what happens.

Please, if you would, pray for me and for both of these meetings. Please pray especially that non-Christians who are interested in learning about Jesus would find the group and show up. Please also pray that the Christians will agree not to come to the first group but stay in the second group. And please also pray that the Christian group won’t turn into a massive argument about doctrine, politics or religion.

I’ll be sure to provide updates as things progress.