Karma, Yoga, and Cosmic “Do-Overs”

Series: Consider this… “A Conversational Defense of our Faith”

Lesson 6: Karma, Yoga & Cosmic “Do-overs”

 Scenario: After a meeting at work, you’re having coffee with a co-worker and they say, “I’m doing the yoga class HR mentioned, and it really helps me focus.” Looking to you, they ask, “What are your thoughts on it?” How do you answer?

 Before we jump into a quick answer, let’s pause and look at the broad themes of the belief system called Hinduism (origin of yoga). First, let’s develop a picture of the tenets framing their worldview, and then we can ponder opportunities for conversation. There are many, many sects and variations within the Hindu community, but for this post we’ll stay within the boundaries of the more common major beliefs.

 I. The Framework

  •  The Term Hindu – An ancient Sanskrit word, historically referencing the Indus river basin. It is mainly practiced in India, and surrounding areas.
  • The Beliefs – According to L.T. Jeyachandran (an authority on Hinduism), it’s best described as the confluence of two seperate (and sometimes conflicting) streams of thought – Polytheism (many gods, numbering in the millions) and Pantheism (all or everything is god). 
  • The Worldview – Dharma is the Hindu word that describes a way of life, mindset, or philosophy as opposed to a creed or doctrine. Their holy writings are an “open canon” (as opposed to our closed canon of a 66 book Bible). For example, a modern scholarly writing could be canonized, and recognized as credible. This “open” approach creates a complex and personally diverse belief system that avoids absolutes.
  • The Process – The goal of “Self-Realization” is a key component in Hinduism. The two main methods for facilitating that pursuit are Yoga (Sanskrit word meaning “union”) and Transcendental Meditation (TM). It’s important to know that the seeker is attempting to clear away the illusions clouding the realization of the connection (or union) that already exists with Brahman (their name for Ultimate Reality that’s impersonal and unknowable), not to achieve union. This is why there is a focus on mental clearing and emptying.
  • The Results – Reincarnation (the cosmic “do-over”) is taught as the on-going, continual process of returning to life after one’s death at a higher or lower level each time based on deeds in the present life. For example, a bad person comes back as a dog, and a good person comes back as a prince. This is orchestrated by Karma (the cosmic “traffic cop”) directing people to their destinations.
  • The Goal – Ultimately a Hindu hopes to achieve Nirvana (the final stop, not the rock band) in which ultimate realization is found. The idea is once a person has accomplished enough good by overcoming the difficulties of life, then they’re simply reabsorbed back into Brahman like a cup of water poured into a river.

 II. The Conversation

When having a conversation with a Hindu, or someone interested in themes of their belief system, we need to stop and ask, “What are the core longings of their heart?” In other words, what are they hoping to find as result of such pursuits? Consider these 4 possibilities… 

A. Seeking Fulfillment – it’s easy to see the pursuit of “something bigger” in following this path of teaching. In Acts 17 Paul notices extensive pagan idols around him in Athens. When challenged by the philosophers of the day, he observed their religious passion and gave them truth within the framework they understood. For example in verse 23 he begins by referencing their altar “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD”. Using that as a springboard, he preached how they could actually know Him, and continued explaining by quoting their own poets (v.28). The Bible says in verse 34 that some believed, and followed Christ.

Hindus want to know the “Ultimate Reality”, and the Bible teaches God is by nature relational. His triune nature describes Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relating to each other in perfect fellowship. Adam was not only created, but invited into that fellowship. Colossians 1:19 tells us all of the fullness of God dwells in Jesus, and He is the one that reconciles us to God. By Christ’s sacrifice, we are invited into fellowship with Almighty God, not as an alternate or additional path, but the only path (John 14:6).

B. Seeking Purpose – We are made by God. Psalm 139:13-18 tells the beautiful story of how God intimately makes us. Knowing Him through Christ gives us incredible purpose. For the Christian, good works aren’t something driven by ulterior motives for a better next life, but a foundation for a now life of thankfulness. A life filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:20).

C. Sense of Inner Peace – As Paul says in Ephesians 2:14, Jesus is our Peace. Yoga & Transcendental Meditation both focus on emptying or clearing the mind. Maybe a person would think, “Hey, what’s wrong with that?” Well, for the Christian the Bible teaches a different idea of meditation. Philippians 4:8 instructs us to meditate with a focus on something, not emptying. We are to place our attention on the truth of scripture, and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit will always lead us back to the person of Christ and His teachings.

D. Seeking A Good Ending – The hope of a cosmic “do-over” may relieve some concerns temporarily, but we’re all ultimately appointed to die AND face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The problem is that the standard for judgment isn’t me versus another person, but me versus the perfect standard of God, and I cannot measure up (Romans 3:23). Paul explains in Romans chapter 1 how we can’t even live up to our own consciences, much less perfect God.

In conclusion, our only true hope is in Christ. To find real purpose, a sense of inner peace, and a good ending, I must rely on something more certain than cosmic guesswork. The Bible tells the story of God’s love for us and sending Jesus to make a way to know Him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8). What an incredible find for those seeking to know the truth!

Dads with “Impact”!

Football commentators have a new catchphrase, “Impact Player” – game changers that show up in most plays. Of course, it’s routine to have an occasional standout player, but those having significant impact game-after-game are less common. Because I’d been invited to speak to a group of dads, I wondered what an “Impact Dad” may look like. What are some qualities of a father making key plays “game-after-game”? Here’s what I found…

First, an Impact Dad is:

I. Powerful – I Cor. 1:4-9

Ever feel inadequate? I’ll admit it, I do. There are days when I wonder if I’m really up to the job of being the spiritual leader in our family. That’s when a reminder of I Corinthians chapter 1 helps.

Paul says we’re “enriched (lavishly blessed) in everything by Him in all speech and knowledge”. And he goes on to say in verse 7 that we come short in NO gift. It’s not a limited gifting from God, but a lavish, no-holding-back kind of gifting. As a follower of Christ, it’s His faithfulness (v.9) that compels me, and His equipping that qualifies me to “suit-up”. If I’m obedient to His voice, then I’m gonna make some plays.

Second, an Impact Dad is:

II. Practical – James 1:21-25

In college, I remember some professors teaching subjects they had no practical experience in. For example, teaching management, but never having managed a staff, or business without ever owning one. By contrast, I also knew some who were practitioners. They could say, “I’ve done this and…” or “I’ve tried this and…” – BIG difference!

How about you? Are you trying to pass on spiritual truth from someone else…maybe a pastor or teacher…or are you passing along experience? James chapter 1 tells us to be doers, not hearers only. Choose to walk in His grace. We can’t expect our family to follow us if we’re spiritual wimps and frozen in fear. Get in the Word, and get out there. You’re equipped. Make the effort to learn how incredible that is!

Third, an Impact Dad is:

III. Present – II Cor. 2:12-17

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Paul comparing us to “Roman Triumph”. You may ask, “What’s Roman Triumph?” It was a special reception honoring generals coming back from foreign battle with specific accomplishments. He must have captured new territory (expanding the empire), and inflicted at least 5,000 casualties. A large parade wound through Rome ending up at the Coliseum. The General & his Officers were up front, and captured enemy would walk behind with Roman priests mixed in. The priests carried burning incense, which filled the route with aromas of Roman victory. The smell of incense gave two very different reminders. To the citizens, it was the glory of Rome…to the captives, death waiting in the Circus Maximus.

Dads that are “present-and-accounted-for” make a significant impact on their families. In his powerful word picture, Paul calls us the fragrance of Christ. We are to live with the presence of Christ in and all around us. When I’m with my family, I need to be physically, mentally, and emotionally there. Distractions are everywhere, but my presence can be the reminder of security in Christ. Are you an Impact Dad? You can be. Romans 8:37 says we are “more than conquerors through Christ” and with Him in us, ultimate victory isn’t just possible…it’s absolutely guaranteed!

Horoscopes, Curiosity, and Faith

Series: Consider this… “A Conversational Defense of our Faith”

Lesson #5: Horoscopes, Curiosity, and Faith

Scenario: You’re at lunch with a friend. As you’re both checking phones for email, you’re friend says, “Hey, looks like a good day for me according to my horoscope.” Then based on your facial response adds, “It’s just for fun, no harm in being curious, right?” How do you respond?

Since the 1960s, horoscopes and other related things have increasingly become part of our pop culture. Most of you reading this know your zodiac sign, not because you follow astrological charts, but because it’s so prevalent. So what’s the deal? Is it harmless fun for the curious, or something we need to be careful about? I think the best way to answer is looking at three questions:

A. What’s Astrology’s Origin?

  1. The early origins of embracing the stars as influencers, trace back to the Chaldeans as recorded in Daniel. In Chapter 1 we see the story of four Hebrews-Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (the latter three more commonly known by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego). They were serving in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, along with “professional” astrologers, and magicians. What purpose did the court astrologers serve? Basically, they advised and counseled the king, guided by interpretation of the stars.
  2. Modern astrology, however, has shifted more to helping people find a “path” as opposed to outright answers and fortune telling. With the influence of people like theosophist Alice Bailey (1880-1949) and psychotherapist Carl Jung (1875-1961) astrology is part of a broader worldview involving psychology, eastern religious practices, and New Age ideas.

B. What does the Bible say?

  1. The Stars – 5 ways they reflect God’s incredible power
  • They were created as signs for navigation, seasons, days, and years – Genesis 1:14
  • They declare God’s glory as a revelation of Him – Psalm 19:1
  • They are a testament to God’s supremacy – Job 9:9
  • They remind us of God delivering on His promise to Abraham – Genesis 15:5
  • He used a star to direct wise men to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the King’s arrival – Matt. 2
  1. Forbidden in scripture – The Bible consistently condemns seeking to divine guidance from the stars (divination) and any kind of worship of the heavens – Lev. 19:26, Deut. 4:19 & 18:10-14, and I Sam. 15:23.
  2. Proved Unreliable – The court Astrologers could not measure up to God’s servants in any of the examples in Daniel, 1:20, 4:7, and 5:7-8.
  3. Divination will suffer God’s judgment as in Isaiah 47:13.

So how do we approach a conversation with someone involved with these things? I’ve found the best method is asking them questions, listening to their answers, and making comments anchored in scripture. For example:

C. The 2 Big Questions

  1. Who do you think is in charge? In Romans chapter 1, Paul talks about how the natural world gives evidence of God’s creative power, and the fact that He is charge. If that’s true (and it is) then mankind has a responsibility to honor Him as supreme, and listen to what He says through his Word.
  2. What are you seeking? What are you hoping to find in reading a horoscope or other predictive writing? The Bible says followers of Christ have a guide, the Holy Spirit – John 16:13-14. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us “into all truth”, and in a way that brings Him glory. He will never guide us in contradiction of His Word.

Conclusion: Is astrology compatible with Christianity, I say no. People are searching for answers and we have the revelation of Almighty God in His written Word. How comforting to know that He guides us in a personal way through a relationship with Him. Once we’ve entered into that relationship through Jesus, we don’t need flawed substitutes. We have the Creator of the universe to place our hope and faith in. Be confident in that reality and go forward in His grace. Now that’s something solid you can depend on!

For more info on this topic, check out this link:

http://www.gotquestions.org/astrology-Bible.html

“Hey, what’s that babbling I hear?”

Series: Consider this… “A Conversational Defense of our Faith”

Lesson #4: Hey, what’s that babbling I hear?

Scenario: You’re at a birthday party. The kids are busy playing and a conversation starts with other parents about the news of the day. As a couple of global issues are mentioned (environment, terrorism) someone says, “If the leaders would just sit down and talk, we could solve these problems.” How do you respond?

 With that in mind, let’s look at the first recorded “challenge” to mankind after the flood. Genesis 11:1-9 records that everyone had the same speech and they decided to build a city on the plains of Shinar (Babylon). According to verse 4, they were concerned with a specific threat; being scattered abroad over the face of the earth. Why? Well, we could speculate, but the scripture of course is our best source for answers.

I. The Command

In Genesis 9:1 God had given a directive to fill the earth. He even placed a “fear and dread” on the animal life ahead of the peoples’ migration (v.2).

With the long life spans of Noah and his sons, there would’ve been “firsthand” knowledge of God’s judgment as they went forth. For example:  

  1. The need for repopulation was a direct result of earlier generations’ rebelliousness toward God.
  2. God fulfilled his covenant to save Noah, his family, and the land animals.
  3. God is worthy of worship, praise, and service as modeled by Noah.

 II. Their Rebellion

The people rejected God’s command and chose a different path. Their idea was a “public works project” to build a city with a tower reaching the heavens. Why? Well the Bible tells us in verse 4 they wanted to “make a name for themselves”. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with building a city and a tower, but their motive was the issue.

 It would be a monument to them-as a people. The construction of something so large…generations would know they had taken charge of their destiny and defined their own reality. Oops, that’s starting to sound familiar…even contemporary.

 III. A Modern Tower

Currently there are several “towers” under construction in the public discourse, but I’ll focus on one-humanism. Whether the name has “secular” in front, another label, or no label, modern humanists sound cutting edge, but have roots reaching back to ancient times. As a matter of fact, you can hear the echoes of the serpent in Genesis 3:5 “you will be like God” and 11:4 “make a name for ourselves” in their teachings and goals. 

With the Enlightenment and Greek philosophy as a resource, Roy Wood Sellars wrote the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. It stated core beliefs through 15 affirmations. Some of the points; the universe is “self-exiting and not created”, a “continuous process” is man’s origin (evolution), “old attitudes of prayer and worship” are to be replaced with a “heightened sense of personal life”, a “cooperative effort to promote social well-being” should be established, and a “socialized and cooperative economic order” needs to replace the inadequate “profit motivated society” (capitalism).

Consider how they’ve shown up in various institutions over the last 80 years, like the education field, political/legal forums, Media circles, and Social organizations. It’s not a conspiracy so-to-speak, but something larger, deeper, and fundamentally rebellious…it’s the “call of the tower”. For a quick overview of Secular Humanism click this link: 

http://www.gotquestions.org/secular-humanism.html 

So, how do we respond in conversations that are framed with beliefs such as “tolerance is supreme”, “profit is evil”, “conviction is narrow-minded”, and “man is progressing”? Well, first we should learn from God’s response. 

IV. God’s Response

  1. He accomplished His purpose in spite of their disobedience. By changing their language, He “scattered them over the face of the earth” Genesis 11:8-9.
  2. A permanent reminder was left from Babel that’s still with us today. The languages of the world are a testimony of God’s seriousness about his commands. 

Based on that, we see Proverbs 19:21 in action. It says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel-that will stand.” Our job is not to deconstruct every opposing view, but articulate the truth of scripture. A lesson from the story is that man’s attempts to control destiny is futile at best and fatally foolish at worst. 

We need a savior. That’s the reality, and Jesus is the only worthy of the job. When in history has mankind ever permanently fixed any global problem? The answer is…never. Of course we should be engaged in taking action against the problems of our day, but remember the overarching reality of the Bible. 

In the Bible, Babylon is a symbol of the world system, and thankfully we’re not citizens, but sojourners. As a “guest” in a foreign city, there will be times when it sounds like everyone is “babbling” because…well…they are. In those moments, I encourage you to think about “home” where Jesus reigns, and ask Him, through the Holy Spirit to lead. A word of truth spoken in love can translate directly into someone’s heart, and you may just speak the language they’re waiting for.

%d bloggers like this: