Category Archives: Bible Study

Jesus Memes and the Comma-Challenged

imageIn a recent Facebook post a friend of a friend posted a meme created by John Fugelsang, the actor, Huffington Post contributor, and former co-host of America’s Funniest Home Videos (1998-99). The meme was posted in an effort to show how that Jesus Christ, if He were politically active in today’s America, would more likely be a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican.

Mr. Fugelsang uses his meme (if he was actually the one who created it) to state ten assertions regarding who Jesus was and what He believed. For ease of reading and future commentary by me, I’ve listed them below (punctuation intact).

According to John Fugelsang (and, by extension, the friend of a friend on Facebook) Jesus was a:

  1. Radical nonviolent revolutionary
  2. Who hung around with lepers hookers and crooks;
  3. Wasn’t American and never spoke English;
  4. Was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5);
  5. But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control,
  6. Never called the poor lazy,
  7. Never justified torture,
  8. Never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes,
  9. Never asked a leper for a copay;
  10. And was a long-haired brown-skinned homeless community-organizing anit-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew.

Before I go any further, I must address Mr. Fugelsang’s punctuation. You see, I am not a grammar Nazi, nor am I a punctuation prodigy, but sometimes a point can better be made if one would pay attention to the proper use of commas. For example, without commas it could be inferred that Jesus hung around with the hooks and crooks which belonged to lepers. As for “anti-gay anti-death penalty anti-public prayer,” that simply makes my head hurt.

Now, to the ten assertions . . .

Radical nonviolent revolutionary.  First, how many radical non-violent revolutionaries are there? I guess they exist here and there, but are they really that common? I mean, once you put radical and revolutionary together, specifically with the qualifier of “liberal,” how many are not violent? Jeez! However, that’s only based upon my own observations, so I’m happy to be proven wrong.

However, the question that ought to be asked first is: “Was Jesus really a revolutionary?”  I don’t believe He was. For one thing, most revolutionaries are focused on bringing about change within a political system – Jesus’ purpose in coming had nothing to do with any political system. Then secondly, it is clear from Jesus’ own words that He did not come to change or do away with anything, only to fulfill it.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” – Matthew 5:17 KJV

[He] hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks (punctuation added).  One of the biggest misconceptions about Jesus is that because He chose not to stone anyone for things like adultery (John 8:11) He must have had no problem with their actions. The problem with that assertion is that it totally avoids his command to “go and sin no more.” Yes, Jesus ate with the sinners, but that’s not to be construed that He “hung around” with them. Jesus came for a purpose, to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), not to condone their lifestyles and avoid confrontation. No, Jesus ate with sinners so that they might be saved!

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard [it], he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Mark 2:16-17 KJV

[He] wasn’t American and never spoke English. Except for the most die-hard KJV-only-ist, and one who might never have had even the most basic of history lessons, most would agree. This is pretty much a given. However, the assertion being made is that Jesus is thought of by conservatives as being pro-American and anti-everything else, and that is mostly untrue and unfair. Sure, there are some kooks who believe America is the New Jerusalem, but there are others out there, such as Louis Farrakhan, who believe aliens live in a spaceship and are circling Earth as we speak. Neither represents the majority, I hope.

Actually, the only think that we must be concerned with is whether or not our nation (whichever nation that is) is on the side of the Lord, for His Kingdom is not of this world.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” – Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

[He] was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5).  Oh boy. May I break this down into sub points? I mean, really, commas would have been helpful.

  1. Anti-wealth. I’d really like to know where Fugalsang got this. My guess is that he got it from passages like Luke 12:15 or Matthew 6:19-21. In the first Jesus warns us to guard against greed, while the second advises us to store up treasure in heaven, not down here where it can corrupt and/or be stolen. Even more, Fugalsang may be thinking of how Jesus is described as one having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), or that passage where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel than a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25).However, the fact is that it wasn’t wealth that Jesus had a problem with; it was greed, envy, selfishness, and faith in one’s own money and not in God.The reason Jesus spent more time with the poor than the wealthy was because the wealthy more often had hard hearts (much like today). The rich tend to put their faith in their possessions and positions more than in God, so why would they respect the One who divested Himself of the riches of heaven and humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8)?You see, Jesus wasn’t anti-wealth; He was concerned only with what men do with it (Matthew 25) and the condition of their hearts: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). For crying out loud, the Church is forever in debt to Christians who used their wealth (while remaining wealthy) to feed, clothe, house, and instruct the poor of the world. It was even a rich woman in Thyatira named Lydia who used her wealth to house the early Church in her town (Acts 16:14-40).
  2. Anti-death penalty. Again, this must be one of those derivations from John 8:11, the passage where Jesus rescued a woman caught in the act of adultery. The only problem is that this passage does not assert that Jesus disagreed with the law, but rather opposite. Jesus gave every opportunity for her accusers to carry out the death penalty which was prescribed by law, but none of them were able to stand without hypocrisy. Jesus knew they were trying to set Him up, not to mention the fact that there was an un-mentioned man involved. Jesus took the opportunity to take the Law beyond where it could go on its own and showed mercy and grace.
  3. Anti-public prayer (M 6:5). Seriously? First, you don’t abbreviate the book of Matthew with a capital “M”. I mean, there are other books in the Bible that start with “M,” such as Mark, Malachi, and Micah. I guess since we’re talking about Jesus we’re supposed to know the one to which he was referring.Secondly, to use Matthew 6:5 as a basis for condemning public prayer is to admit one has little understanding of context. The context in this passage of Scripture was one which dealt with pride and hypocrisy. Jesus was addressing those who did good deeds and prayed verbose prayers all for the purpose of being seen and praised by men. That is why He said of the hypocrites, “They have their reward.”

So, what is the assertion being made with this point? That people should not be allowed to pray in public? That freedom of speech should not include two Christian school football teams being allowed to use a public address system to say a prayer before a game? – Yes that just happened.

But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control.  The whole “anti-gay” thing has been argued over and over and much has been devoted to it, yet liberals will only hear what they want to hear; therefore, I will devote very little time to it in this essay. However, saying that because Jesus never mentioned abortion or birth control means these are non-issues and would have been no concern to Him is ludicrous. It would be just as easy to say that governments shouldn’t restrict unnecessary use of antibiotics because Jesus never mentioned Penicillin.

Let’s save some time and get straight to the big theological issue in the room: Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God made flesh, Emmanuel (“God with us” – Matt. 1:23). What was said about homosexuality in the Old Testament are actually the same position Jesus took, for He and the Father are One (John 1:1-2, 14; 17:11).  The only difference is that Jesus came to show that the strict requirements of the Law could only cause men to realize their own sinfulness in the light of Holy God, not save them. Jesus came to show God was merciful and wanted to graciously save men through putting their faith in Jesus. If you divest Jesus from His divinity then all you have is a crazy man who thought He was God and died for nothing.

As for birth control (speaking of contraception), there is no mention of it in the Bible, most likely because it was commonly understood that children were a gift from God (Gen. 4:1; 33:5) and the man with a “full quiver” was blessed (Psalm 127:5). With regard to abortion, it is God who gives life and considers us persons even before we are born (Psalm 139:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5), so I believe Jesus would have viewed elective abortion as murder. After all, it was Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, who “leaped” in his mother’s womb when (Luke 1:41) when she greeted the pregnant Mary.

[He] never called the poor lazy. No, I don’t think He did. However, the Bible (the Word of God – See John 1) does say the following:

  • By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:19 ESV
  • For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV

[He] never justified torture. That’s probably true – can’t argue with that. Of course, Jesus wasn’t a military leader who’s task it was to protect the lives of millions of his fellow citizens, either. Actually, Jesus was the One who gave His life so that others might live. Yet, He also said to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We will all have to answer to God for our actions.

[He] never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes.  This is actually correct! Jesus never did fight for tax cuts for the wealthy. However, it is equally true that Jesus never fought to reduce taxes, either – even for the poor. In Matthew 22:17-21 Jesus made it perfectly clear that we are to pay taxes when taxes are due, and that even goes for the least of us. He said, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Later, speaking to average Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.  – Romans 13:6-7 HCSB

[He] never asked a leper for a copay.  No, I don’t guess He ever did that, either; He just healed them. The last time I checked, neither Republicans nor Democrats are God (even though some think they are) and somebody has to pay somebody for adequate medical services (therefore, refer back to Romans 13:6-7…not just the rich should pay).

And finally, [Jesus] was a long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, community-organizing, anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew.  Well, at least Mr. Fugelsang got the brown-skinned, homeless (technically speaking), anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew parts right. The rest, along with the usual lack of commas, he stereotypically got wrong.

Nazarenes (sometimes called Nazarites) were from Nazareth; Nazarites were those who took a vow not to cut their hair, drink wine, etc. Jesus never took a Nazarite vow. But, then again, Mr. Fugalsang is not a Bible scholar, only a political comedian who writes for the Huffpo and creates comma-challenged memes.

Funny how all of this would have been unneccessary if Mr. Fugalsang had actually read the Bible . . . and a grammar handbook.

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Filed under Abortion, America, Apologetics, Bible Study, Jesus, politics

Will God Put More On You than You Can Handle?

In a recent Facebook comment I was told by a friend (one who was only trying to encourage me) that “God will not put more on you than you can handle.” This was in reference to one more in a long list of “trials” we have had to endure, and in this case it was the issue with our van’s transmission failing.

Then, right after that, another friend tried to help by saying: “Not true. But the word says, you shall have what you say.

With these two well-meaning comments I was faced with a conundrum: Should I let them stand or challenge them? Like I said, I know they were well-meaning, but they must be evaluated in the light of Scripture.

Let’s begin with the first…

“God will not put more on you than you can handle.”

Where, exactly, does that statement come from? Well the basis of it is found Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. There, in chapter 10, he was discussing the way the children of Israel had been rebellious in their discontent and had angered God in the wilderness. Paul wrote:

Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did. Don’t become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to party. Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day twenty-three thousand people died. Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes. And don’t complain as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. – 1 Corinthians 10:5-10 CSB

The time in the wilderness was a time of trial, of testing, of proving. The wandering Hebrews were never tempted by God to sin, but were very often tested to prove their trust in the One who brought them out of captivity. Would they trust Him to provide?

Unfortunately, most of the time they did not trust God, but complained at every turn. They doubted God’s provision, even though time after time He miraculously provided for their needs (water, manna, clothes and shoes that never wore out, etc.). They “tempted,” or “tested” God – they wanted to put Him to the test to “prove” His faithfulness, as if He had not already done so!

Even worse, they blamed God for their rebellion and idolatry! They would say that is was only because God had led them into the wilderness to die of hunger or thirst that they were forced to fornicate and create their own false gods.

And it was the very judgment of God on the children of Israel when they tested God that Paul points to when he warns the Corinthians not to test or tempt Christ. He said:

These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction… – 1 Corinthians 10:11a CSB

Therefore, when we get to 1 Corinthians 10:13, what we find is the reassurance, along with a warning, that God will certainly test, or prove us, and just like the children of Israel, there will be a “way of escape,” i.e., an option to put one’s faith in God/Christ to provide as opposed to turning to idols.

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB
So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. – 1 Corinthians 10:14 CSB

So how does all the things my family and I have been going through relate to all of this? Has God put more on us than we can handle? Well, honestly, no…not unless we are unwilling to take the “way of escape” He has provided.

If we choose to lose faith, question God’s goodness and provision… If we start to murmur and complain… If I start with all the “Why God? Whyyyy???”… If I start trotting off after other “gods” to meet my immediate needs… then I choose to allow the “temptation” to be more than I’m able to bear by not accepting God’s provision.

But to take things one step further, let me repeat what I wrote in the comments on Facebook:

“For the record, I do believe that God will allow us to experience more than we can handle (on our own)…otherwise, we wouldn’t need Him.”


I’ll address the next point – “But the word says, you shall have what you say” – in the next post.

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Rhetoric and Homiletics.org

Every once in a while I come across a blog that doesn’t get near the attention it deserves. This is one of them.

I would recommend you check it out, especially if you are a teacher, preacher, or pastor.

Just make sure to check out more than one post so you can get a feel for what is there.

God bless!

rhetoricandhomiletics.org/2019/04/09/todays-illustration-noise-or-message/comment-page-1/

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Filed under Bible Study, blogging, Preaching, Uncategorized

Are You Doing Any Quiet Construction?

Just across the street from the parsonage and the church where I pastor, there’s a house being built where an old one used to stand.

Every morning, and throughout the day, one can hear all kinds of noises coming from that direction, like hammers, saws, and a few unknown tongues. Theses are the common sounds associated with construction.

But what you will not be able to hear are the painters, the finishers, the electricians, and the plumbers doing their work. The loud noises made by the initial builders and framers might be signs something is happening, but much of what must be done before the house is usable happens on the inside … in the quiet.

Meditate on that truth for a while.

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Beginning a 10-Part Series

Happy New Year (2019) to everyone! 

If I was rich, and if I had a secretary who brought me coffee and handled all my correspondence, I would have sent every one of my followers a Christmas card and a New Year’s card – but I’m not rich and I don’t have a secretary, only my wife. She put water in the coffee pot for me this morning, but I’m not going to push my luck.

So, I hope all of you have had a blessed season, even though I wasn’t able to express my feeling with a Hallmark.

The Starter Sermon

Last Sunday, the last one of 2018, I preached a sermon entitled “Things I Want to Do In 2019.” It was a 10-point sermon, but it only took 30 minutes to preach. Unfortunately, it didn’t record! Oh well.

So, what I want to do is take the points – the individual things I want to do – and spread them out over the next couple of weeks, unpacking them in a little more detail than time allowed me to do from the pulpit.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if this series will interest anyone or gain me a bunch of hits, but I feel it needs to be done for myself, if no one else.

As it’s been said many times in the past, if you don’t write down your goals you’re unlikely to reach them.

As a teaser, here is the basic outline I’m going to follow:

“Things I Want to Do In 2019”

James 4:17; Colossians 3:17, 23

  1. Lose an “X” in my clothing. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  2. Avoid anger. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
  3. Avoid whining and complaining.  (Phil. 2:14-17)
  4. Show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace. (Rom 14).
  5. Don’t take time for granted.  (Psalm 144:4).
  6. Strengthen my marriage.  (Proverbs 5:18).
  7. READ more, starting with my Bible. (Ps 119:105, 140; John 17:17)
  8. Never preach another boring or routine sermon.
  9. Pray. (Psalm 55:17)
  10. Win One More. (Proverbs 11:30)

So, may God bless you and and be with you this year. With God’s help we can do more than we think possible.

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How Long? Selah.

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” – Psalm 4:2

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A word that calls us to stop for just a moment and contemplate what we’ve just read. This morning pause and consider the glory of God.

“My glory”

It is important that we realize first that when David writes these words it is not only about himself. This is one of those verses which have a double meaning: one that is meant for the time it was written, and another that implies a bigger story. In this case, it’s about the glory of God.

In case you’ve ever wondered, the word glory carries with it the idea of a “heaviness” or a “burden.” It concerns one’s “reputation.”

“Sons of men…”

David was probably writing to men whom at one point were his trusted friends, but now they were trying to kill him. These were men who made up his inner circle of government, who acted in his name. Yet now, here they were in rebellion, turning the glory of David’s reign into shame.

Sons of men was something of a title of honor and dignity.

“Vanity” and “Leasing”

Vanity is that which is hollow and worthless. Vanity is that beauty that fades, the riches that decay. Yet, what does the world love? It chases after fleeting fame and false beauty. It’s constantly trying one-up God’s creation. Yet, men “love” it; literally, they “flirt” with it. Why not seek after things that last?

“Leasing” is another word for lying. David is asking why it is that men seek after lies? I guess the answer could be found in the modern context of news. Why do we keep going to the media for truth about the world when we know they rarely tell the truth?

From Glory to Shame

God is asking His creation – the ones who bear the fingerprint of their Creator – “Why do you turn MY glory into shame?” Why do men and women constantly seek after emptiness and lies, when the Truth is right in front of them?

Why did David’s men rebell against him, knowing he was God’s annointed King of Israel? Why do men rebel against Jesus, the eternal King of Glory? After all, we are who we are because of God; we are the jewel of His creation? Why do we love to devalue ourselves, turning His glory into shame?

Tragic, isn’t it? Nevertheless, the “how long” part of this verse hints at something very important: We can’t rob God’s glory and impune His name forever.

Just think about that for a while.

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Proper Fear and Persuading Others

Not long ago I preached a sermon to my congregation, the following text being one of several that I used.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” – 2 Corinthians 5:11a

There is always talk about the fear of terrorism these days, yet very few talk about the fear of God. Why is that? After all, aren’t we commanded to fear the Lord? Isn’t it the wise thing to do?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

The problem is that we get so distracted by the common, temporal fears of this world forget about the eternal. Some of us are terrified of what others may find in our closets, but forget that God knows all. Our minds are so cluttered with all the stresses of this life that we forget about what comes after.

Both of the previous verses also talk about “knowing” and  the “knowledge” of God. In the first passage (2 Cor. 5:11a) the Apostle Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians: “Hey, it’s because we know who God is and what He’s capable of, not to mention the fact that we must all stand before Him one day (5:10), that we do our dead-level best to tell it to you like it is!”

In the second passage, wise King Solomon is telling anyone who will listen, “The more you know God, the better you’ll understand how life works.” Knowing and understanding who God is will produce produce fear: terror in His enemies; reverential fear in those who love Him.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [emphasis added]

So, while ever-present bad news will tend to make us want to run and hide or take matters into our own hands, keep everything in its proper perspective. Those who serve the Living Savior; those who are reconciled to God by the atonement of the cross of Christ; those who were once strangers, but now have been made children of the Father, can find peace and rest in the fearfully omnipotent hand of our faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter 4:19 

The only ones who should be living in terror, in fear of what may come today or tomorrow, are those who have never known God, have forgotten God, or worse, mock Him (Romans 1:18-32).

When we persuade others to fear God in the proper way, they will come to know His love and love Him in return. Then, instead of living in terror, ironically, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 

Are you living in fear? Can you call God “Abba, Father” (Daddy)? A proper relationship will produce a proper fear; terror is the product of rebellion.

If you don’t fully understand what I’ve written, or if you’d like to know more about how to live in peace without terror, click on the Eternal Life tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions.

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Filed under Bible Study, God, salvation, Struggles and Trials