Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Nebulous Jesus

Nebulous: 1. of or like a nebula or nebulae 2. cloudy; misty 2. unclear; vague; indefinite. (Webster's Dictionary)

The name "Jesus" can mean many things to many people. It is easy to bandy about the name of Jesus. But what does it mean? To some evangelicals Jesus is a slogan, a brand name, a logo. Jesus sells. Jesus is a name that can be tacked on to programs, ideas, philosophies, agendas. . . . Many use His name, but the Scriptures warn about these phenomena in the last days.

In a story related to yesterday's Herescope post about Christians finding common ground with the Dalai Lama, Tim Timmons, who was featured in the Dalai Lama story, also wrote a story for the February 4, 2006 ASSIST News Service about another "gathering" in "the name of Jesus" which was held in Washington, D.C. at the National Prayer Breakfast. At this "gathering" the evangelicals found common ground with the Moslem faith and Judaism.

These two events were both connected to a secretive Washington, D.C.-based cult group called the "Family" or "Fellowship." This organization is connected with much of the dominionist effort in the last half-century, especially including the Christian Right in politics. Its focus has always been global, and it has been intricately involved in international governments. This organization is likely the birthplace of the marketplace apostle component of the New Apostolic Reformation.

A fascinating inside story on this "Family" or "Fellowship" organization and its agenda can be found in an article published in Harper's Magazine, March 2003 by Jeffrey Sharlet, entitled "Jesus Plus Nothing." [http://www.harpers.org/JesusPlusNothing.html] At the end of the article Sharlet concludes that the nebulous slogan "Jesus plus nothing" used by members of this secret society is more similar to Buddhism than classic Christianity. Another nebulous slogan commonly bandied about by this group is "in the name of Jesus."

It is therefore relevant to examine the ASSIST News Service account of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. In this article the phrase "Jesus plus nothing" is used to describe the contextualization process by which a "Moslem businessman is still a Moslem businessman" even though he is supposedly a "new believer and follower of Jesus." There are many other comments of concern, particularly the definition of salvation that does not include conversion. The article below was written by Tim Timmons, who was mentioned in yesterday's post as having found common ground with the Dalai Lama.

Reflections on this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, by Tim Timmons Special to ASSIST News Service. [http://tinyurl.com/oglgd]

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Every year in early February a rare gathering of people from all over the world occurs called the National Prayer Breakfast. It has always been a rare happening, but this year was most extraordinary! Never before has there been such a coming together of the three major religious faiths of Moslem, Judaism and Christianity. What’s important to note is that this breakfast is not a gathering of Christians, but a gathering of all cultural faiths and backgrounds in the name of Jesus. This was most clear at this year’s event.

Dignitaries, corporate executives, and people from all walks of life, representing 160 countries, participate in this event. Everyone comes at the invitation of a friend to enjoy a time of fellowship with old friends and to make new ones around the table at the breakfast with the President of the United States…all in the name of Jesus. The National Prayer Breakfast has been convening since President Eisenhower’s administration. It is hosted by either Members of the House or Senate, alternating each year. This year the breakfast was coordinated by the United States Senate prayer group, co-chaired by Senator Norman Coleman (Minnesota) and Senator Mark Pryor (Arkansas).

At the breakfast itself there was a variety of participation from 7 Senators, 2 Congressmen, the Chief of Naval Operations, King Abdullah II of Jordan, the President of the United States and music from Karen Mason and Point of Grace. There was a clear spectrum of diversity from Democrat to Republican, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, all bowing their heads and hearts to the God of gods.

The most electrifying time at the breakfast was the keynote speaker, Bono, lead singer of the famous U2 Irish rock band. Bono may be one of the most recognized figures in the world today, not only for his music, but for his leadership toward solving the leprosy of our day -- AIDS.

Bono, in so many ways, is a most unlikely speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. Although he has made himself known as a believer and follower of Jesus through his music and interviews, he is quite critical of the “traders” of religion (especially Christianity), as in the traders in the Temple that Jesus kicked out.

On the other hand, Bono is a most excellent and appropriate choice to keynote this event. He is a radical believer and follower of Jesus plus nothing.

Growing up in an Irish home, split between his parents’ faith -- one a Catholic and the other a Protestant -- Bono resented religion from day one. He avoids religious people, because he believes religion often gets in the way of God.

Bono’s theme is right at the heart of God. He believes God is with the vulnerable, the poor, the hungry and those who are struck with the disease of AIDS. Bono shared his thinking about the heart of God by using a variety of Biblical passages. He did it in such a way that made you feel like he had actually found this passage for himself in the Bible, rather than transmitting something he had heard from another. He warned that taking care of the poor and afflicted is not an issue of charity, but of justice—of doing what is right. Bono challenged the governments of the world to enter into a partnership with Africa—a partnership in which each country would commit 1% of its annual budget. It was a most powerful and persuasive appeal by the rock star.

Bono shared advice from a spiritual mentor that penetrated the hearts of his audience. It was “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing. It’s already blessed!”

In addition to the powerful speech by Bono, there was another rarity that was very evident. As I mentioned earlier, this international event, contrary to public opinion, is not a gathering of Christians. If you approach the breakfast with this thinking, you will miss the entire point of the gathering.

The National Prayer Breakfast is for everyone from everywhere with every kind of religious and cultural background imaginable. And, all gather to this event from all over the world in the name of Jesus. There is no confusion about this among the Moslem, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu participants who attend.

If there is any confusion, it might come from the Christian. In my experience Christians seem to believe that Christianity owns Jesus. Jesus, however, is for everyone everywhere! He didn’t come to planet earth to start a religion, but to initiate a personal relationship with the God of gods.

This year at the National Prayer Breakfast there were Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, Hindi, Catholics and even some Christians who lifted Jesus up in their testimonials. This was most refreshing!

A Moslem businessman working in Saudi Arabia shared his encounter with Jesus. Before 9/11 he thought of himself as a Moslem “missionary”, feeling he was on a mission to convert everyone he met to the peaceful faith of Islam. Then 9/11 hit. He was so discouraged, because this act of terrorism was anything but peaceful or in the spirit of Islam. Through a friend this Muslim’s heart was apprehended by Jesus. Now he has real peace to share with his world—the love and peace of Jesus.

This Moslem businessman was not converted to Christianity, but drawn to Jesus. You see, all of the religions of the world are basically a way of life emerging from their cultural backgrounds. To convert a Moslem and make him a Christian would mean to deny his culture and to accept a foreign culture. So, this Moslem businessman is still a Moslem businessman, however he is a new believer and follower of Jesus. To hear him share this story was most powerful!

When you examine Paul’s life in the New Testament, this man’s experience is a lot like Paul’s. Paul was a faithful Jew who was a follower of the Christ. He was persecuting the followers of Jesus, because they seemed to be a threat to His faith as he understood it. Then, Jesus apprehended Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul was not converted from being Jewish, but from that day on was devoted to Jesus as the Messiah.

This is only one of many non-Christian testimonials shared in regional dinners and sessions. All who shared their stories had one thing in common—the person and teachings of Jesus. Since 1984 I have been attending the National Prayer Breakfast and have always found the friends and family at this event to be most refreshing and challenging to my personal relationship with Jesus. The overwhelming theme is most life-changing. It is JESUS PLUS NOTHING. What makes JESUS PLUS NOTHING work are three habits that are practiced world-wide in the fellowship of Jesus…

1) Walking with Jesus
2) Walking with others
3) Waiting on Jesus to lead out

The National Prayer Breakfast is a wonderful event where believers in Jesus come to fellowship together and those who are interested hear about the King of kings and Lord of lords—Jesus. The Acts of Jesus are still happening in the four corners of the world. Let’s not ask the Lord to bless what we’re doing, but join in on what God is doing because it’s already blessed!. . . [all emphases added]

The Truth:

"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:20-23)