With or Without Warning

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I saw this image on Facebook last evening. This comparison is often made to encourage listeners to heed the warning of God’s coming judgement. Let’s ignore this awkward translation of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which actually uses the word Bible and focus on the caption at the top of the picture. “They were warned…” Were they though?

As I was making mental notes and forming an outline, I decided to check the archives to see if I had written on this topic before. Not only did I find a post I read through and realized it’s pretty good. Below is the full text of a post originally titled Did Noah Preach? posted March 30, 2014. Continue reading

Why I Love Christmas

merry_christmasEver bite off more than you can chew?  In Christians and Santa Claus I tried include a brief version of the entire history of Christmas; not the story of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, but of where our modern celebration known as Christmas came from.  That, plus what Christians do with Santa, ended up being a lot.  Here’s the thing: That post is full of facts, dates, events, and reads like an encyclopedia entry.  It contains a lot of information, but doesn’t convey any particular feeling.  Think about watching a tv commercial for a new car.  The images are poetry in motion.  You see a lot of smooth lines, highway flying past, the accelerator pressing to the floor, all designed to stir your emotions.  After buying the car you read the owner’s manual.  The manual is full of relevant information, but probably doesn’t stir your soul the way the commercials did.

I love Christmas.   Continue reading

Reading 1 Timothy

Timothy was a young pastor being mentored by the Apostle Paul.  Half the books of what we call the New Testament were letters written by Paul, many of them to specific churches (Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, etc.) but some to individuals, such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  1 and 2 Timothy could almost be thought of as early “minister manuals” but there are also instructions for selecting deacons, supporting widows, and to all believers to practice godliness.

1 Timothy is a mere six chapters.  Here is a link to 1 Timothy 1 at ESV Bible.  If you click “listen” a disembodied voice will even read it to you.  At the end of chp 1 simply click “1 Timothy 2” to go on.  Bible Gateway has many different English versions.  (I would rather folks read any version of the Bible than not read at all.)  Below are some of my favorite passages, but I highly recommend the entire book, which can be read in a matter of minutes.  *emphasis in bold are my own

  • The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.  (1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV) Continue reading

More Popular than Jesus

Update: this is a very good introduction.  Read the whole thing here.

Yesterday, Oct. 9, would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday.  Huge crowds gathered across the street from his former New York apartment, at the appropriately named Strawberry Fields Park.  He’s still fondly remembered, both here and in the UK, some 30 years after his death.  Google honored his birthday with their first animated doodle.

Back in 1966, protests and violence erupted in the United States after Datebook quoted Lennon on the cover of their magazine saying that the Beatles had become “more popular than Jesus.”  Concerts were cancelled, KKK members rallied, the Fab Four once thought they were the target of gunfire.  Well… here’s what Lennon had really said:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

We still remember Lennon 30 years later; and despite what you see on the covers of Time, U.S. News & World Report and so on every Easter, Christians still remember Jesus some 2,000 years later.  Lennon had studied many religions extensively.  There are much more vocal enemies of Christian faith today than anything he said back then.  Perhaps he was just ahead of his time.

“His disciples were thick and ordinary.”  Yes they were; and yes we are.  And we the body of Christ.  That my friends is the Gospel.

Peter Confesses that Jesus is the Christ.

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”    -Mark 8:27-29

I want to unpack Peter’s statement here that Jesus is the Christ.  There are two questions we need to answer; 1) What does Peter mean by saying that Jesus is Christ, and 2) What does it mean to us that Jesus is the Christ. Continue reading

Almost Getting Jesus

lego-jesusThere are many people who are big fans of Jesus that fall just a little short of understanding him.  I’ve spoken before of Hippie Jesus, Smiley Jesus, Mr. Rogers type Jesus, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  There have been a gazillion (pretty sure that’s the actual number) books on the “historical” Jesus.  There’s now lots of those, too.  I’m talking about people that have read or listened to things Jesus said and consider him to be a great guy.  I’m talking about people who know that Jesus loved everybody, talked about peace, refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, fed the 5,000 and raised Lazarus.  Yet at the same time those people ignore his command to “take up the cross” and follow.  They almost get Jesus. Continue reading

He cannot save himself.

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross and we will believe him. Matthew 27:41-42 (ESV)

As Jesus hung on the cross, obedient to the Father’s will even to the point of death, the crowds and the accusers still mocked him. Matthew goes on to say that the thieves acted this same way. In Luke’s account, one of them even says to him “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself, and us.” I am drawn to that statement “He cannot save himself.” Yes, he could.

The night before, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to God the Father. He knew what lie ahead, and he wrestled through blood, sweat and tears as he prayed. Even while he was tempted not to go forward with God’s plan (being tempted is not a sin) he prayed for the Father’s will to be done. Jesus could have saved himself that night, by not waiting for the guards to come and arrest him. He had foretold that Judas would betray him. Jesus knew when and where, and awaited the arrival of the Roman soldiers and his betrayer. He had escaped angry mobs before, but did not this time. Not because he could not, because God did not will it.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan. In all three instances, what was being offered was an easy way out. Jesus had been fasting, so in his hunger he was tempted to turn stone into bread. He responded with scripture. He was tempted to throw himself from a high place, and thus summon legions of angels. He again quoted scripture, responding with God’s truth. Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if he would fall down and worship him. All three cases were the easy way out. If he would just accept Satan’s offer, he could reign right now, not years later after hard work and death on the cross. He was offered a short cut, not the long, slow plan that God had designed. He was offered instant gratification, a temptation we Americans know all too well. Jesus, however, took the long, slow, hard way that God had designed to bring salvation to mankind. Remember when Peter drew his sword in the garden, cutting off one man’s ear? Jesus response to “Get behind me Satan!” makes sense when you think about how Peter was offering an easy way out. That was what Satan had offered three times. Taking up the sword, battling their way out of the garden, Jesus could have saved himself. But that was not what he came to do. He came to die.

Jesus could have saved himself and come down from the cross – but it would have cost the lives of every Christian believer that has been since. The Bible clearly teaches that he came into the world to save sinners. He was offering himself as a sacrifice. He came to save us, not himself. He plainly states that no one can take his life, but that he gives it freely. His life was the ransom for many, the price of our redemption. Those same accusers that mocked him with “He cannot save himself,” Jesus was dying to save. He prayed a prayer of intersession for the very people crucifying him that day. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Christ led by example; he didn’t just tell us to love our enemies, and pray for those who use us. He did it himself with his dying breath.

I can’t stand to be mocked. I’m one of those people that has to always prove that I am right. Jesus example on the cross only illustrates how far each of us fall short of righteousness. He perfectly lived out the commands to love others, to think more of others than of self, to pray for those who use, and to bless those that curse. I could never have been that righteous in those circumstances I’m sure. None of us could. It’s a good thing we don’t have to; Christ did it for us. He is our righteousness.