Tag Archives: worship

Do Non-Christian Jews and Christians Worship the Same God?

Last night I was listening to some US history lectures from The Teaching Company as I drove home through the night. Here is one thing I learned: Apparently the concept of “Judeo-Christian values/morals” is a relatively recent concept, birthed right here in America.

(Here is more information from Wikipedia that supports this assertion.)

Prior to the time when this term was birthed, a greater separation was usually assumed and promoted between Judaism and Christianity. And apparently (Wikipedia again), some Jews even today find the term “Judeo-Christian” offensive. I’m missing a lot of details, but I’ll let you pursue that history further if you wish.

This discovery relates to all sorts of knotty questions. For example, consider the recent convoluted debate about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. There is legitimate debate about whether that is a helpfully-phrased question. (See, for example, this insightful post.) But, setting that aside for a bit, I’ve noticed that the strongest negative answer that Christians give to this question is to rightly note that Jesus insists that the only way to the Father is through the Son, and that “whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). Thus a person who does not worship Jesus does not really worship God/the Father, either.

I agree with that observation (despite lots of undeniable overlap between Mulsim and Christian concepts of Allah/God on other points). However, this rebuttal just as surely suggests that non-Christian Jews and Christians don’t worship the same God. That sounds like a radical suggestion to our modern (“post Judeo-Christian”) ears. (In fact, I’ve seen someone make the same observation, then use it as proof that Muslims and Christians must indeed worship the same God—for Jews and Christians surely do, right?)

Yet, as radical as it sounds to suggest that non-Christian Jews and Christians don’t worship the same God (and, again, there may be a more helpful way to frame the issue), somehow it also sounds pretty much like what Jesus might have said. After all, it was to Jews that he insisted on the above-noted relationship between the Father and the Son. And he also said this, which is even more offensive to our ears:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47, bold added)

There is much to ponder here, and much need to define terms clearly and speak to each other with grace.

But one thing is already very clear: If you want to know and honor God, Jesus is non-negotiable.


What do you think? I’m not sure I have time to host a big discussion about the current events issues I’ve raised. But perhaps you have an observation about how Christ is at the center of true worship of God, or an observation about how we can discuss these matters helpfully in the context of missions and witness. If so, share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Fresh Milling [Poem by Mom]

Do you look like Jesus today? Listen to Paul’s testimony and promise:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor. 3:18)

In these busy summer days, stop to gaze. Glance up. Turn from work to worship. Schedule an August audience in his august presence. Renew your acquaintance, and renew your resemblance.

Here are two writings from my mother—prose and poetry—to help you turn your eyes upon Jesus.


BEING GRANDMA

Ken and I have just returned from a few days at a lakeside cottage with our oldest son and his wife and their five young daughters. I spent time with the girls splashing in the shallow beach and watching the older girls learn to swim. We played games and sang around the campfire. We studied God’s creation, the little fish in the clear water, the different bugs and birds. We fed the ducks, listened to the loons and explored the lake. The girls cast lines for elusive fish.

NorthernLakePhoto Credit: Paul R Lamb via Compfight cc

Now that I am home, five unique voices calling “Grandma, look” echo in my memory. I carry fresh imprints of each granddaughter on my heart. New memories are impressed on my mind and I feel a deeper bond with their individual personalities. I watched them conquering fear, shyness and impatience. I saw what makes them excited, bored, curious, restless. I learned what they are reading, writing, singing and laughing about. They taught me a new song about a worm in a box that, every time we sang the song, (gasps of wonder) turned into a butterfly! I watched their eyes sparkle as Daddy played guitar and they sang along. I listened to a toddler delight in singing “How Great Thou Art.”

When we left them at the cottage their hugs and ongoing chorus of good-byes sent me home feeling so loved as a grandma. Though we are in the same community and church, in the busyness of daily life we can get out of touch. Some of our grandchildren live far away making it even harder to stay connected. I spend a lot of time with the elderly in hymn sing ministries and with my mother who lives with us. Sometimes the responsibilities of life can almost make me forget that I am a grandmother.

Because interacting with all five girls at once can be overwhelming I recently invited the older ones to visit me two at a time. It was so rewarding. I learned their faces, voices and smiles in a new way. I discovered a common interest with one granddaughter that immediately drew us closer together in a delightful personal connection. I gained a new vision and longing to bless our grandchildren.

Though I am always a grandmother, I need time with my grandchildren to make it real, to refresh the essence of being a grandparent into my soul.

In a similar way, although I am God’s child, in this world of distractions and distortions, of pressures that would mold me into ungodliness, I too need time alone with Him if I want to truly know Him and to have His image real and reflected in me. This poem prayer reflects that longing.

 —Elaine Gingrich, August 2015


FRESH MILLING

OldCoinPhoto Credit: Lawrence Chard via Compfight cc

Lord, let us not like coins rubbed smooth and faceless
By constant mixing in the purse or hand,
Become, like all the world of coins around us,
Innocuously indistinct and bland.

Lord, spare us from the polishing of theory,
The shrewd abrasion of materialism,
From fads that fool the crowd and cause us, weary,
To lose our message of evangelism.

Lord, call us each when we are worn and dented,
For time alone with You in some still place
To stamp upon our coin, like freshly minted,
The express image of Your glorious face.

—Elaine Gingrich, November 1994


For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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Remember the Resurrection, to Keep it Central

Thursday is an excellent day to remember Christ’s resurrection!

“The Resurrection changed everything…

“If there is a power great enough to bring someone back from the dead, then anything can happen!…

“Is it any wonder that the news of the Resurrection became the central message of the newly Spirit-powered Christians…? Is it any wonder that the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, the ‘Lord’s Day,’ soon became the usual day for the believers’ weekly outpourings of rejoicing, thanksgiving, and worship?

“Is it any wonder that the early church prohibited fasting or even kneeling for prayer on the Lord’s Day? Sure there, was place for penitence, for supplication, for humiliation. But not on the Day of the Resurrection!

“What does make me wonder, though is how little attention the Resurrection receives in much of Christian worship today… Over the centuries Easter celebrations have been mixed with pagan influences…Too often this has led to a serious neglect of the Resurrection in our worship.

“Perhaps another reason for our neglect of the Resurrection is Reformed theology…–an unbalanced theology that makes salvation depend almost entirely on Jesus’ death, with little need for the Resurrection. (Footnote: “Interestingly, the Reformed theology that minimized the resurrection also borrowed from Old Testament Sabbath requirements to prop up the Lord’s Day observance.”) Or perhaps, as Western Christians mostly living in freedom and prosperity, we have lost something of the urgent sense of need for hope that the early Christians felt, and that many suffering Christians today feel–a hope that is found only in the Resurrection.”

Source: “The Resurrection Day,” an editorial by Leslie A Stover of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in the Mennonite periodical “Hearts and Voices,” Summer 2015 edition, published by Lamp and Light. (Thanks to a blog reader for providing more information on the author!)


I think Leslie Stover is onto something important here in his comments about Reformed theology and Sabbath. However, I would note that this cross-sized, resurrection-downplaying theology began long before Reformed theology, as demonstrated by the crucifix-centered faith of medieval Roman Catholicism. (Please don’t hear me downplaying the cross! Both cross and empty tomb are essential.) Similarly, the practice of borrowing from OT Sabbath requirements to prop up the Lord’s Day began long before Reformed theology, as early as Constantine.

What was interesting to me about this article (besides the ever-needed reminder to remember resurrection) was the juxtaposition of these two ideas: A theology that downplays the place of the resurrection in our salvation has also been a theology that turns to OT Sabbath requirements to interpret and support the Lord’s Day. (See here for more on the resurrection, and see here for more on the relationship between Sabbath and Lord’s Day.)

When we turn to the OT to guide our observance of the Lord’s Day we have lost not only Christian freedom but also something of the joy and hope of participating in Christ’s resurrection. This is a tragic double loss!

I have no desire to mandate Lord’s Day observance, let alone any specific manner of observing the day. Paul clearly taught that in the Lord all days are ultimately equal, and that those who choose to observe one day to the Lord above others must not force their choice on others (Rom. 14:5-6; Col. 2:16-17). That said, when we do meet, on the Lord’s Day and otherwise, let us agree on this mandate: resurrection must be central!

After all, the new covenant cry is not “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8), or even “Remember the Lord’s Day,” but “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor. 6:14). Therefore, remember the resurrection, to keep it central!


Thanks for reading! Share your resurrection-rousing reflections below.


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