Thursday, August 28, 2008

Christian Genius

I'm pretty sure he's a genius. Definitely one of the most intelligent persons with whom I've ever conversed. A graduate of Berkeley and Cornell, he spends his days playing with chemicals and debating the difficult questions. He can speed-read a page faster than I can say, "Did you really read it?" What's more, he remembers every detail.

I enjoy spending time with this fascinating Chinese-American who eats deer hearts, makes music and speaks a few languages. But it's not his brains that impress me the most. It's his heart.

"Jason the Genius" is a born-again Christian. As if this isn't paradoxical enough, it was how he converted that amazes me the most. I would have guessed Jason saw the light while debating intelligent design and evolution on campus, or while reading apologists like McDowell or Zacharias. For years I've insisted that we can only reach intellectuals through reason. "The mind is their door to the heart." Jason proved me wrong.

It wasn't through philosophy, new scientific discoveries or historical evidence that Jason came to Christ. Amazingly enough, he heard the simple gospel message at a vacation Bible school as a twelve-year-old. Rather than reason it away with his sharp mind, he embraced it with a humble and receptive heart. Something clicked in his spirit when he heard the truth--We need a Savior. It can't be us. It can't be just God. It must be God becoming one of us. In an instant, it all made perfect sense and a young boy made his way to the altar.

But Jason didn't check his brains at the door. I'd love to see any agnostic challenge him on matters of faith.

Jason moved away recently and our family will miss him greatly. He is an inspiration to me, and an example of one who is truly sold-out to Jesus and trusting Him with his entire life. His is a solid faith, the stuff of devoted saints willing to go the way of the Cross. I'll never forget the night we sat around the computer with Jason, watching his idea of a great movie--a document of the suffering underground church of China. This--more than seeker-friendly, happy-clappy church is what attracts Jason. I was sobered.

Jason is living proof that what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2 is true: the things of the Spirit (God's Spirit) can only be discerned, understood, known, through our spirit--not our intellect. The wisdom of God is foolishness to man. And it is with "the heart"--not the mind, that one "believes unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10). That explains why people all over the world--of every shape, size, color and intelligence quota--are finding out that Jesus is indeed "the way, the truth and the life."

We will miss you, Jason. Keep the faith.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Church at a Bar

I was discussing spiritual things with a Jehovah's Witness several years ago and she made a comment that caught me off guard:

"You Christians are always bickering over petty issues. You're hopelessly divided over doctrines and methods. You've got your splits, cliques and denominational walls. Who would want to be a part of that?"


Having nothing to say and knowing she was right, I changed the subject.

I wish I could have known back then to say this: There is a difference between uniformity and what she claimed to have in her church--unity.

Uniformity depends on everyone seeing eye to eye, agreeing on all points of the law, worshipping the same way and holding to all the same convictions. Been there, done that.

True unity, on the other hand, is not dependent on any of the above. In fact, the more diverse the crowd, the more meaningful the "unity of the Spirit," as described in the book of Ephesians. When believers are unified, the only common ground they need is love for our Lord Jesus. All differences fade away in the light of Who He is.

Ephesians says Jesus came to tear down the walls we put up between ourselves. While so many Christians insist on keeping those walls erected, some are choosing to keep them down. I saw evidence of this today, of all places, in a nightclub.
Passersby on route 352 in Big Flats may have wondered what was happening at Tags on this bright Sunday morning. They may have been surprised to find out that we were having---church?

Yup. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we should hang out in the places He did. And scripture makes it clear--he liked being with "nonnies." He had lunch in their homes and sat in their taverns. It was the religious folk who were disturbed by this habit of His.

But what I most enjoyed about this morning's gathering was not just our willingness to rub shoulders with "the world," but the fact that five churches closed their doors today and gathered together to celebrate our common thread--Jesus Christ. What made it so remarkable was the diversity in the crowd. I know most of the ministers represented, and many people in their churches. Let me tell ya, we aren't cut from the same mold. We worship, believe and baptize differently. We vary in all things color, age, education and political persuassion. Why last year even the local Rabbi and his wife joined us. If there were ever reason to raise walls, the several hundred people gathered at Tags today had them.

But our unity centered on our love for a Man Who loves us all.

The service began with a time of praise and worship, led by band members from different congregations. A dance team performed a very hip-hop rendition of "Awesome God" and then we enjoyed an inspiring message by Bob Cornwall, a man not affiliated with any church, but who travels from place to place encouraging believers to stay unified and fulfill the Great Commission. Afterward people purchased food prepared by Tags and sat around catching up on each others' lives, or getting to know one another for the first time. I looked around; people of Catholic, Methodist, Weslyan, Pentecostal, CMA and Baptist backgrounds were smiling, laughing and stuffing their faces. No one seemed to be quibbling over predestination and free will. It was a little (and quite literal, to be sure) taste of Heaven on earth. There is simply no other religion in which members can be so divided and yet united at the same time.

Then again, this isn't exactly a religion, is it? The Church is a family, a group of people in relationship. You know how your own family members can differ in points of view, yet the family name unites you. We have the same family name. What's more, because of the cross, we're blood related! I could start preaching right here.

It was suggested we send a thank you card to the owner of Tags for the free use of his facility. I hope many people follow through. It is my hope that someone looking on at this event today took note that: we are grateful for such a lovely meeting place, we left it clean, and we love one another. Who knows, maybe that girl I talked to years ago was looking on with curiosity....