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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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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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Salvation Is His Name. Selah.

“Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” – Psalm 3:8

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A word at the end of a verse that calls us to think… to ponder… to meditate on what has just been said. Let’s meditate for just a moment on our salvation.

They Said

They said there is no hope in God. In their arrogance, they belittled David’s faith and tried to scare him. By the thousands they surrounded David, seeking his demise.

But David was not afraid. His confidence in God was such that he could sleep like a baby, cradled in the arms of his Deliverer.

They said God could not – that He would not – help David. But that’s what they said … and they had no clue what they were talking about.

He Didn’t Listen

David’s hope was not in man; it was in God. Who were these people to say God wouldn’t help? Did they have control over the Creator of the universe? Were they to tell God to whom mercy would be given?

David didn’t listen to the lies of his enemies, and neither should we. Salvation is not something we can get by bowing down and submitting to men. Salvation is of God! And if He chooses to save us from danger, nothing can stop Him.

Prophetic Salvation

But if you don’t mind, there’s one more little thing to think about as we pause and reflect on God’s salvation. Think about the original Hebrew word for “salvation,” and then start putting two and two together.

  • The Hebrew word translated as “salvation” in Psalm 3:8 is יְשׁוּעָה (H3444) yĕshuw`ah – pronounced yesh·ü’·ä. It means “that which is delivered; deliverance.”
  • יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (H3091) is the Hebrew name “Joshua,” pronounced yeh·hō·shü’·ah. It means “Jehovah (Yahweh) is salvation.” 

  • “Jesus” is the way we spell the Greek name Ἰησοῦς (G2424), pronounced ē-ā-sü’s. “Jesus” is the Greek version of the name “Joshua.” Both mean “Jehovah (Yahweh) is salvation.

“But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ:” – Ephesians 1:3

When the Enemy comes against you, find rest in the assurance that your Salvation is in Jesus Christ. He saved David, and He can save you!

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No Help? Selah

Many there be which say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah. – Psalm 3:2

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. It’s a word that instructs us to pause and consider what was just read or sung (the Psalms were actually songs). But what good is there in pausing to think about people who want to discourage us?

There is no help for him in God.” How depressing those words are! Do they make you want to give up? Do you believe them?

Fortunately, King David, the author of most of the Psalms, did not believe what the “many” said of his soul. And neither should we, that is, if our hope Christ.

The Many

Let’s start with thinking about the “many.” Who are they? In the case of David, they were the ones who were intent on usurping his throne and replacing him with his son, Absalom. Like modern propagandists they tried to weaken King David’s resolve by removing all hope in his Rescuer and Deliverer. They struck at the very core of who he was by attacking his faith in the very God who promised “thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Who are the “many” in our lives? Jesus spoke of them as men who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and the “praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Paul describes them in Romans chapter 1 as those who suppress the truth by their wickedness (18), refusing even to retain the knowledge of God in their minds (28).

So, the ones who say that God will not help are the very same ones who refuse to know nothing about God. Think about that one for a moment! What do they know??

The Help

David was not about to lose hope in his God. In a later Psalm we read : “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). Who were they, those who refused to know God, to tell David the One who made heaven and earth…the One who promised to establish his throne forever…the one who delivered him from the lion, the bear, and the Giant…was unfaithful?

David had seen the mighty Hand of God in action. He has been witness to His deliverance and protection too many times before. That is why in the very next verse he could proclaim with confidence in the face of those who would discourage him:

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. – Psalm 3:3

Just Wait

There may be people who say the very same things to you that they said to David as he hid for his life in the caves. They mock your faith and hope as you huddle in the dark, waiting for deliverance. But just hold on, believer! His promises are true! You’ve seen the way He works, and He’s not done, yet!

The “many” have no clue what they’re talking about; they can’t see your soul and they don’t know your God. So, just wait on Him, and you’ll never be ashamed (Psalm 25:3a)!

Selah.

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An Exegetical Look at 1 Peter 3:15

This post contains part of an assignment I was given in a class I am taking on cults (yes, I’m still in school – working on getting more letters after my name). I was asked to do a quick exegesis of 1 Peter 3:15.

1 Peter 3:15 KJV – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

If you would like to read it, the following is what I wrote:

Authorship

1 Peter 3:15 was written by the Apostle Peter and most likely addressed to Christians living in Rome (Babylon). There are, however, various arguments against the Petrine authorship of the letter, but none have been taken seriously by the Church. As a matter of fact, by “the end of the second century and beginning of the third century, the letter is explicitly identified as Peter’s.”[1]

General Context

The overall context of 1 Peter is one of persecution. In other words, Peter wrote this letter to Christians who were heavily burdened with “manifold temptations” and “trials” (1:6-7). Scholars differ on the exact date of the writing and to which time of persecution the letter was actually addressing, but persecution was evidently a common occurrence.

Immediate Context

The immediate context of verse 15 has it on the heels of an exhortation by Peter to live in such a way that shows love to the brethren (v. 8). Immediately following in verse 16, Peter writes that by living this way their “good conversation” will put to shame any false accusers or those who may speak evil of them. Therefore, the exhortation of verse 15 is part of an overall call to be witnesses to a hostile world who is watching and looking for any reason to find fault.

Words to Examine

There are several words within 1 Peter 3:15 that are worth examining in closer detail. By doing so, we will be able to obtain a richer and fuller understanding of the passage.

  • Sanctify. The word translated “sanctify” is the word hagiazō (ἁγιάζω), which means “to make holy …purify or consecrate; …venerate…sanctify.”[2]
  • Heart. The word translated “heart” is a word that could be understood to be the actual organ within the body that pumps blood, but kardia (Strong’s G2588) can also mean – and in this case does – the center of spiritual life.
  • Ready. Peter suggests that the Christian should “be ready always…” The idea here is that of being prepared for something. We read in Matthew 25:10 of those that were “ready” for the coming of the bridegroom. Their readiness involved preparation for a future event. When we attach the adverb “always” to “ready,” what we have then is a readiness that is always anticipating something that could happen at any time.
  • Give an answer. The Greek word translated “give an answer” is apologia (ἀπολογία), which is a verbal defense of something, or reasoned argument (G627). Paul used the same word in 1 Corinthians 9:2 when he said, “Mine answer (apologia) to them that do examine me is this…” The idea of the word has nothing to do with making an excuse for something, but to give a reason for it in defense of it.
  • Reason. The Greek word here is logos (G3056), which has to do with words, things said, ideas expressed, thoughts communicated. Jesus was called the Word (Logos) in John 1:1. He was described as the Wisdom of God expressed. The Bible is the Word of God, the inspired, written revelation by God of Himself to mankind.
  • Meekness. This word in Greek is praÿtēs (πραΰτης), which is defined as a mildness of disposition, or a sense of humility (G4240).
  • Fear. The Greek word translated “fear” is the word phobos (G5401), which carries with it the idea of dread, terror, or exceeding fear.

Expanded Translation

Taking into account the background and context of 1 Peter 3:15, including an examination of the words used in the text, the following expanded version of the verse would thereby seem appropriate:

1 Peter 3:15 KJV – But sanctify [set aside as holy and revered, set up higher than anything or anyone else] the Lord God in your hearts [your life, your essence, the seat of your emotions, your way of thinking]: and be ready always [make preparations beforehand; do the work in advance of the need; anticipate the issue and prepare accordingly] to give an answer [a well-though-out response, a reasoned reply, a logical defense] to every man that asketh you a reason [because some men want more than “I don’t knows”; they want to be convinced with language they can understand] of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [because there are grave consequences for not being ready…1) the lost may remain in their lostness and reject Christ, and 2) the One who is Holy is judging your works].”

Conclusion and Application

As mentioned above, 1 Peter 3:15 was written to those who were enduring trials and tribulations, i.e., persecution. Today, even though we are not enduring the same kind of trials and tribulations, there are other more minor forms of persecution and tribulation we may encounter in the immediate future. Nevertheless, all trials and tribulations, regardless of the severity, should provide for us an opportunity to exhibit a “hope” that is in us and beg the reason why.

Therefore, as Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15), we should study as those who are to be examined, so when the time comes when we are asked to “give an account,” we will not be ashamed (1 Peter 3:16), but offer our actions AND our testimony as reasons for our faith.


[1] The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2003, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville. Page 22

[2] The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (G37)

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A Bible Study Promo

I created a little commercial for our new Bible study on Sunday mornings (the Sunday school hour). 

If you are ever in the Chattanooga/Soddy-Daisy, TN area, why not stop by? 

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