Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For practitioners of Japan’s True Pure Land Buddhism, one desires to enter the pure land upon death. In so doing, he could bypass our corrupt world and enter the western paradise where he could quickly achieve nirvana. Conversely, True Pure Land Buddhism has a hellish alternative in which souls are tortured by oni (i.e., demons) until they are purged of their sins and can enter the Pure Land. No one desires torture. So, the Japanese would recite the nembutsu: “I call on the Amida Buddha.” In medieval Japan, practitioners of True Pure Land Buddhism would lay on their deathbeds holding on to a string as an added measure. That string led to a painting of Amida and his cohorts. As they looked longingly towards the picture, they hoped that their escaped soul would travel the line and enter the western paradise. 

It may be that upon reading the previous paragraph, you thought of the apostle Paul in ancient Athens. He told the men of Athens that he perceived them as superstitious, literally δεισιδαιμονεστέρους—“very fearful of gods” (Acts 17.22). As Japan is often called the home of eight million gods, with the Buddhas incorporated into the mix, it is easy to label the Japanese as superstitious. Yet, I note something different when I hear about this True Pure Land Buddhism. It would almost seem that True Pure Land Buddhism rubbed elbows with Christianity somewhere. It is conceivable since Pure Land Buddhism arose in India during the second century A.D. before making its way to east Asia. However, note two intriguing features of True Pure Land Buddhism reminding one of Christianity. 1) Calling on Amida’s name and 2) Looking to Amida for hope. 

Joel prophesied that those calling up the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2.32). Peter and Paul quote this verse from Joel’s prophecy regarding salvation within the New Covenant (Acts 2.21; Romans 10.13). So, there is most assuredly power in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says there is “no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). But calling on Jesus’ name is not like reciting a nembutsu. Paul shows us that we call upon the name of Jesus when our faith moves us to action. After seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul has been fasting and praying for several days. The prophet Ananias finds Paul in his misery and says, “ Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16 NASB1995). See then how Paul called on Jesus’ name. Paul submitted himself to baptism for the washing away of his sins. In so doing, Paul called on the name of Jesus. 

Do we not also look to Jesus to give hope? Well, we do not stare at an artist’s rendering of the Christ upon our deathbed. But we do look to Him in life as our hope. After citing many examples of those from whom we could find a worthy model of faithfulness, the Hebrews’ writer adds: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12.2-3). The KJV says we look to Jesus. Either way, our eyes are drawn to and become fixated upon Him. This hope we have in Jesus is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6.19). 

It remains a challenge to preach the Gospel in those parts of the world where Buddhism has taken root. I’ve heard missionaries remark of the antagonism against Christianity within the Buddhist world. Yet, it seems strange that within at least one branch of Buddhism, there is a central figure who is something of a Messiah. Considering that so much of Buddhism asks you to find salvation from within yourself, there are at least some within that belief system who recognize the nature of the human condition is such that we must rely on the grace of someone greater. Therefore, even in hostile environments, may we endeavor to preach that the One willing and able to save is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us tell the world to call upon and look to Jesus.

courtesy via Flickr

      

A Place of Peace

A Place of Peace

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley brought fierce destruction to areas of Florida. During the storm, 25-year-old Danny Williams went outside to find protection under the branches of a 55-year old banyan tree. Friends and family said that Danny saw this tree as a peaceful place. But on that day, his place of safety became a death trap. The tree fell on Williams and killed him.
 
Sometimes, the places and situations we look to for protection can ultimately be the most harmful. When it comes to finding peace, the world often looks for it in all the wrong places. What many believe will bring peace and comfort usually brings pain and harm.
 
Paul would say in Col. 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” The word “peace” that Paul uses here is defined as “a state of well-being.” Let this state of well being that comes from the Messiah rule in your hearts. How? We aren’t able to physically be around Christ, so how does this happen? Notice the very next verse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
 
This peace (state of well-being) comes from a steady diet of His Word. Specifically here we do this by singing songs centred around the Words of Life. We follow the Bible because it brings peace when we fill our lives with its words.
 
Peter would say in 2 Peter 1:2, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
“Grace and peace be multiplied” how? Grace and peace multiplied through a knowledge of God and Christ. The French have a proverb which states, “A good meal ought to begin with hunger.” It is hard to enjoy a meal when you are not yet hungry. But, when you are hungry, almost anything tastes good. If we approach the Word with a hunger to be satisfied, we will be satisfied every time. True peace begins with a hunger for God and His word. The Bible gives peace to those who hunger for what it contains.
 
 
Is It A “Sign”?

Is It A “Sign”?

Neal Pollard

I read about the discovery of World War I shells found in the Sea of Galilee, likely dumped by fleeing Turkish ships lightening their load to escape the pursuit of the British. There is a bigger story, though, than a 100-year-old wartime artifact being found in an unlikely place. The shell was uncovered through an unprecedented drought that has left exposed an island in the middle of that sea. Some religious Jews think it presages their long-awaited Messiah, their conviction based on their view of Psalm 66:6, Zechariah 14:8, and Isaiah 15:9. Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and freelance writer, cites various rabbis who say that the present weather anomaly and its consequences are prophesied signs. Yosef Berger, the rabbi of David’s tomb in Jerusalem, says, “Just like in prayer, which is a dialogue with God, our thoughts are taken into account in Heaven, and can bring the desired prophecy into existence… By people believing that the Galilee drying up is part of the prophecy, it will help the Messiah come” (Breaking Israel News).

I appreciate any people who believe in the truth of the Messiah, and I see any such looking and longing of a transparent sincerity. However, these well-meaning Jews are 2000 years too late. The kind of Messiah they seek is not clearly stated, but their forefathers rejected the kind of Messiah Jesus Christ was and is. The Old Testament prophesies of His birth, ancestry, forerunner, earthly ministry, opposition, crucifixion, resurrection, and church were fulfilled in the time of Jesus. The New Testament often looks back at prophesies and show how Jesus fulfilled them.

The Jews of Jesus day stopped their ears and shut their eyes to the signs and miracles He did, repeatedly proving to the open-minded observer that what such revered men as Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others wrote concerning the Messiah was fulfilled by the nature, birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Luke 24:44-47; John 20:30-31). Their lack of faith cost them at Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It will cost them eternally, if they do not believe in the Christ who has already come.

The drought-stricken waters of Galilee are a sign of a lack of sufficient rain, but nothing more. Those still awaiting the One who already came should instead learn of Him and follow Him. Because His second coming will be without signs (cf. Mat. 24:36ff). May we all be ready for that day!

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