Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Jesus?

Something in me said that the man seated to my left would have some good questions for me. Perhaps it was his horn-rimmed glasses, or that he seemed to be taking things in with a good-natured skepticism. As dinner was being served at our Wednesday Community Fellowship at Grace, he looked at me and smiled and said, “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” Hearing my affirmative, he said, “Why Jesus?” I didn’t understand. So he asked me again. I apologized for seeming obtuse, and so he clarified, “Why Jesus and not God?” He went on to say that Jesus and God were different, and that Jesus could not have been God because God is eternal and Jesus died, thus not God. Usually when you have a conversation with someone with these types of questions, they come across as accusations, and you get the feeling that they just want to pick a fight. But with this guy, while his questions were pointed, they were said with a genuine smile, and I got the sense that while his mind was made up, he hoped that someday someone could change it.

I’ve been in a lot of conversations with non-Christians, and this was this first one of its kind. This man seemed very passionate about God as God, and had an affinity for the God of the Old Testament. In fact, he had grown up in church and knew the Bible very well. The only time our conversation soured for a moment was when I told him this joke (it fit the context of our conversation): A man climbs to the top of Mount Sinai to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord. "God, what does a million years mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A minute." The man asks, "And what does a million dollars mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A penny.” The man asks, "Can I have a penny?" The Lord replies, "In a minute."

He told me that I had just taken God’s name in vain, using it in a joke, to which I replied that I was sorry he felt that way but that I think God is joyful and enjoys laughter if it’s not at His expense. He seemed to accept that and our conversation continued.

The question of “Why Jesus?”, while not usually asked from the same point of view as this man, is one that we as Christians need to be ready to answer. “Because” is not enough. “Um…” will not cut it. As Peter says, always be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have. Not simply an intellectual defense of the veracity of Scripture (though that is good to have ,too) but a reason for the hope. “Why Jesus?” Because I know Him. Because He has changed me and He is evident in my life and in the lives of my friends who know Him. Because I have found that He alone is life for the soul. Because He lives. I hope that Al comes back so that we can continue to talk – I enjoyed his company.

Seeing the world in dark and light

Eliza has taken to asking people a very crucial question: “Are you for the Tar Heels or Duke?” Sometimes she assumes that their answer will be yes, like when she told our friend Suzanne, “You must be for the Tar Heels because you’re my daddy’s friend.” Other she expresses her surprise that anyone close to her and her family could pull for Duke, like my mom and stepdad. “Susu and PopPop pull for Duke – can you believe it!?” The choice for her is clear. She asked one of our tutors last week, “Do you like Duke?” When Lindsey said, “Yes, is that a bad thing?” Eliza replied seriously, “Yes it is.”

While some would say child protective services need to be called, it does make me think about how sweet and simple life is right now for my kids. Trust comes naturally, following their parents’ lead is second nature. Whether it’s believing that everyone should like the Tar Heels or that Jesus really did die on the cross for our sins, faith is uncomplicated. I know the day is coming when the world will not be so “dark and light (blue)”. There will be day when Eliza realizes that all Duke players are not evil (I mean, hey, there’s a whole bunch of them like Grant Hill, Johnny Dawkins, and….um…OK, so there’s more than one at least). She will realize that despite his affinity for cheese (being the Rat King), Coach K is actually a brilliant coach (did I just write that – my spell check went bezerk). And there will come a day when she has friends that she dearly loves who also loves the Blue Devils.

It’s silly, but it’s also not a leap to begin to realize that one day questions will come about not only her father’s basketball loyalties but her father’s faith, too. She will soon have friends that she loves dearly who don’t believe in Jesus. She will soon have questions of “why” and “how” that aren’t easily answered in the pages of her Jesus Storybook Bible. She will realize that God doesn’t always cause life to go the way you think it should go, and she will stray from the boundaries of right and test what is wrong.

The world won’t be so dark and light anymore, and as a parent, it will be hard to let her navigate those waters, trusting the Lord to guide her safely home (even if she goes to Duke).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Some photos

Just a few pictures to give you a glimpse into the Benbow's world in recent months.

Costume partay!

Nothin' could be finer.

Psalter just can't put a good book down.

Psycho T Hansbrough, look out for Psycho J, down the lane for the DUNK!

Sister love!

Jacob loved his first birthday cupcake!

Sowing to reap

Galatians 6:7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Our pastor preached on this section of Scripture this week, and it really got me thinking about the principle of reaping and sowing. Usually this concept is talked about when someone messes up - "Well, you know, you reap what you sow." But it struck me that this principle can also be applied in a positive sense, that we can sow with a purpose to have godly fruit born in our lives and into the lives of those that we love. I can think intentionally about how I sow into the lives of my family, how I sow into my ministry, how I sow into friends. For example, I want to see Diane grow in confidence and security in who she is, and one thing I can do is to sow words into her life that remind her of how gifted and loved that she is.

As I prayed about this intentional sowing, the Lord reminded me of my tendency towards legalism and trying to make things happen on my own. The way to sow good things is to abide. Jesus said in John 15 that we must abide in Him in order to bear fruit, and in Galatians 5, we learn that the fruit that we bear is Spirit fruit. As I abide in Christ, I bear love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, sowing those things into the lives of those I love and interact with. And so yes, I want to be intentional and strategic in my sowing, but only as I abide in Christ, asking Him to provide the seed.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Welcome to the Blogosphere

My friend Shawn Morrison is throwing his hat into the ring, starting his own blog. Some of you are "Motown" fans from way back, others don't know Shawn. But stop by and check out his musings and welcome him to the blogging world.

Hide and seek

Remember John and Princess from my last post? Today I heard another story about them. One of my co-directors noticed that Princess has been hiding from John on Mondays, and ordinarily my reaction to kids running off and hiding would be to scold them. But Regina pointed out that Princess is hiding because she wants John to come and find her. She is testing whether he remembers her, whether he is for real, and each time she hides, he goes and finds her and they get to work.

Isn't that the way we are with God sometimes? We don't really believe His love is as deep and pursuing as He says it is (remember how Princess said to John, "I bet you didn't think about me over the break"?). So we hide, wondering if He will come find us, wondering if He remembers. And He always does. Sometimes His remembering comes in the form of conviction. Other times it comes with gentle grace. But He always remembers. How can He forget? We are engraved on the palms of His hands.