Pros and Cons of the Bible: Part IV

This is the final post in my four-part series that tries to honestly engage with some of the angst that some people (myself included) feel when they read their Bibles. The goal here was to perhaps say, put words and language to, those feelings of frustration, bewilderment, and curiosity that can rise to the surface when we try and interact with this thousands-year-old collection of writings.

In case you missed the first part where I explain the premise, I’m using a Pro/Con framework (ala Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show) to provide a jumping off point for the discussion.

In case you need to catch up,

Part I
PRO: The Bible is Inspired by God
CON: It has armed people throughout history to do some really atrocious things in the “name of God.”

PRO: The Bible was written by Humans
CON: It’s culture and context isn’t always understood or appreciated

Part II
PRO: The Bible reflects ways in which humanity has sought after, heard from, wandered from, and engaged with their Creator
CON: Those interactions all occurred a long, long time ago, and can be quite violent and disturbing

Part III
PRO: The Bible is diverse collection of different types of letters, poems, and books that all move with a singular narrative.
CON: It has been used as a legal constitution to statically determine what is “right” and what is “wrong.”

PRO: The Bible is the unique Book for Christianity and functions as its voice of authority.
CON: It has been seen as the ONLY source of truth, wisdom, and beauty, and its “authority” has been misunderstood and abused.

Many of you found it refreshing to have someone else echo things that you’ve always felt. While others have been a bit flummoxed that I’d say there are “Cons” to the Bible.

I acknowledge that none of these posts are exhaustive treatments of the issues I address. In fact, this post will be even briefer in its treatment of the final two Pros/Cons. But feel free to sound off in the comment section if you want to engage in any of them further.

Now, on to Part IV…

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PRO: The Bible reveals to us the life, teachings, and person of Jesus, as well as the movement that began in his name.
CON: It has wrongly been used as the Word of God, to replace or trump Jesus, and the church has forgot her roots.

This, for me, is one of the strongest most compelling reasons why I still return to the Bible over and over again. For it is the unique and primary revealer as to the person of Jesus Christ. And it is Jesus that I follow, Jesus that I trust, Jesus that I give my life to.

And be it not for the Bible, I’d really struggle to know about Jesus, and to know how to best follow him.

However, the Church historically at times has err’d on the side of elevating the Bible as the “Word of God,” instead of acknowledging that Jesus is the “Word of God.”

And when you read the teachings of Jesus and get a picture for what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like.. and you read about the New Testament church and how they functioned… it can often times be very curious how some of our Western/American/Protestant/Evangelical churches have gotten where they have.

It seems (to me, anyway) that according to the Word of God (remember, that means Jesus) some of our current church practices just seem really counter-Kingdom.

I get confused by the Prosperity Gosepl.
I get confused by churches of tens of thousands of people.
I get confused by churches who exclude people from the Table.
I get confused by churches run/led only by men.
I get confused by churches that get mixed up in politics.
I get confused by flashy lights, fog machines, theater seating, rock-concert-vibe.

And so many times they point to something in the Bible as their support, or to justify something… but I want to say, “no, look at the person of JESUS!”

Like we talked about in Part II, if we are not viewing ALL of Scripture through the lens of Jesus, then we are doing it wrong.

PROThe Bible has a profound ability to still speak to us, challenge, encourage, and inspire us today.
CONIt is hard to interpret and can be wildly misunderstood and misused.

For the majority of the Church’s life the lay Christian did not have a Bible. In a world now where you can get a teen Bible, a women’s Bible, a man’s Bible, children’s Bible, a Bible app, a Bible for this or for that, for this AND that… I even came across the Forever Bible this week (you’ve been warned), it seems completely foreign to us to consider Christianity apart from having a Bible to read.

But Christianity operated for 1600 years with only the highly educated having the access or ability to read the Bible, and only the religious leaders having copies. People were, more or less, beholden to whatever was taught to them on Sundays. They did not have the ability to study the Scriptures for themselves.

You could argue there’s an upside and a downside to that, I suppose.
And I say that because nowadays everybody has a Bible, everyone has access to resources online (dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, Greek/Hebrew translations, etc), so therefore everyone is an expert.

Except they aren’t.

Furthermore, within the western/protestant/evangelical strain specifically, the idea of the “plain meaning” of the text has been elevated far beyond what is probably helpful. The idea being that you can simply open up to any passage, read it, and the best meaning is the plainest and simplest one.

Yet that just simply isn’t the case.

As we’ve discussed previously, if you don’t have a grasp on the context, the culture, the author, the audience, and the general narrative thrust of the Bible, there’s a really good chance you’re going to be headed in a poor direction interpretation-wise.

So yes, the Bible is (as the Hebrews writer said) living and active and powerful, and I’m fully convinced that the Spirt of God works profoundly through the words and the stories found therein, but it just isn’t always that simple.

Which honestly can be a bit of bummer.
I know people who have just been turned off completely at the sheer weight of the realization that they couldn’t every really fully understand what the Bible was all about. They felt totally unequipped and unable to make sense of it.

And I resonate with that. Truly, I do.
I’m someone who studies it and teaches it for a living and I can still feel like that!

One of the practices of reading the Bible I’ve found to be really helpful in light of all this is called Lectio Divina. It is essentially a way to Pray the Scriptures. To just sit with a text, meditate on it, pray it. The goal is not to figure it out, dissect it, interpret it.

It’s something, therefore, that anyone can do as a way to approach the Bible and be fed by the unlimited inspiration and beauty found therein.

So if you’re someone who has been turned off or discouraged from reading the Bible because you just feel totally insufficient to really “get” it, then I invite you to try it out.

Okay friends, that is it.
Thus concludes my four part series featuring seven PROS/CONS of reading the Bible.

Thanks for reading along.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

 

 

Pros and Cons of the Bible: Part II

Yesterday I kicked off this little series on the Bible which aims to lean in to some of the angst that is often felt by people (Christians, mainly?) who really want to engage the Scriptures on a level that goes beyond just a surface acceptance of the Text.

Stylized like this Jimmy Fallon bit, in this post I offer the third PRO/CON of Reading the Bible.

PRO: The Bible reflects ways in which humanity has sought after, heard from, wandered from, and engaged with their Creator
CON: Those interactions all occurred a long, long time ago, and can be quite violent and disturbing.

Angry Zeus-like-God

Even though our 21st century is worlds apart from the ones we find in the Bible, the essence of what it means to be human hasn’t changed all that much. The Bible is full of stories of how humanity has sought to connect with their Creator, and who doesn’t find their own stories reflected in these stories?

For instance, have you ever felt like the people you trusted most in life (say, your family) all ganged up on you, and treated you like dirt? Made you feel like an outcast?

If so, you can relate to Jacob in the book of Genesis, who’s brothers sold him in to slavery because they didn’t like him and were jealous of him.

Have you ever made a horrible mistake and betrayed a close friend, and wondered if they’d ever forgive you again?

If so, you can relate to Peter, who denied he even knew Jesus. Only to then have Jesus come to him later and affirm his love for him, forgive him, and restore their relationship.

I could go on and on… stories of heart break, stories of betrayal, stories of questioning and doubting God, stories of triumph and overcoming…
Stories of God never giving up on us. A God who is compassionate, and merciful, and slow to anger.

These stories are the stories of humanity whether it happened 3000 years ago or happened last week.

But still, that being said, it can be kind of weird, when you stop and think about it, that we orient ourselves around and follow things that were documnted in a book written so long ago.

It raises a really good question: Honestly, what does this dusty ancient book have to do with me here today?

I was sitting at Modern Times, a bar here in North Park, writing this. And I was surrounded by a wall made entirely out of floppy disks. You remember those? Little square disks of color that held 1.44 megabytes of data? I think I fit my entire Freshman year of college on ONE of those disks.

Then you look over and their bar is made out ofold  VHS tapes.

Floppy disks and VHS tapes. Ancient, ancient techonology… of like 20 years ago!! But now completely irrelevant and useless to us.

Ours is a culture that thrives on the Next-Best-Thing.
We all know this to be true.
What is the newest and latest model?

So to consider, then, giving ourselves to a book written two to three thousand years ago can seem at best naive, and at worse irresponsible.

I think It’s easy to read some of these Bible stories and think “what in the world does that have to do with me today?” Not only that, but they seem so barbaric, and primitive, and violent… because, well, they are!

It’s tempting at times to want to dismiss the Bible because of the atrocities that we read in stories like those found in the OT.

But one of the things I’ve had to reconcile with is this: if God truly desired to interact with, engage with, and be in relationship with Creation, with humanity, then what choice was there but to do so with.. well.. humans?

in other words, God didn’t really have a choice in the matter when it came to WHO to work with, and HOW to work with them.

The world of the OT was barbaric and violent and filled with warfare.

It’s kind of like parenting: if you, as a parent, have any hope whatsoever to raise a mature 20 year old who is full of compassion and love and respect, well then you HAVE to start with a winy, needy, violent, selfish, disobedient child!

And consider this: God’s blessing on people, like the Israelites (who engaged in some rather bloody warfare and went through their own seasons of oppressing people) is not a blanket acceptance of all their actions.

I was reminded of this concept recently when someone on FB said something to the effect of, “well, if you voted for Politician X a couple years ago, and you still support them today, then that means you have to be in full support of all the things they have done while in office!”

And I pushed back by saying that I, as a parent to my children, will always hold them in my blessing. I will always support them. But of course that doesn’t mean that I therefore must always (or WILL always) support or be in favor of everything they DO!

So to believe that God chose Israel as a nation that God would then bless uniquely so that they could be a blessing to the rest of the world does NOT mean that God therefore blessed or approved of everything they did as a nation, or of everything some of the characters in those stories themselves did.

A couple more thoughts.

Keep in mind… God was working with the raw materials of humanity thousands of years ago. And so we should expect then, when reading the Bible and reading these stories, we should expect to see that type of world reflected.

But we should also expect to see a God who is about the business of trying to help humanity towards greater love, and peace and unity and wholeness.

When we read, for example, a story in the OT where we are told that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites, we must ensure that we also pay attention to details like God also telling them that once they subdued their enemies that Israel was then to treat their neighbors and others with respect and hospitality.

I also wonder if a lot of what we see in the OT, the stories of God seeming to be a violent or war-like God, are examples of a sort of Divine Accommodation.

In other words, picture this:

If I’m God, I personally might object violently to violence, for I am a merciful, compassionate, forgiving God.

But I ALSO am 100% committed to this project called Creation.
Committed to the restoration and reconciliation of all things.

But in order to do that, I have to make some accommodations of my inherent values and principles in order to effectively engage with humanity.

Just overriding your free will isn’t an option. Love has to be completely free otherwise it isn’t love.

So I make some accommodations… but I don’t just stay there, in that place, nor do I leave you there.

I accommodate and then I invite and compel humanity towards transformation. Towards growth. Towards maturation and evolution and greater wholeness and equality and love and peace.

Eventually it becomes evident that I can only do so much going about it like this. So I choose to visit my creation, showing up as someone just like them, so that I can actually physically show them who I am and what I’m like.

And you guys, this is so important, and I feel like I say it all the time… but the God we are introduced to in the OT is NOT the final , not the last, not the best, not the most accurate picture of who God is and what God is like.

That is found in Jesus.

The Bible is not a flat document.
Everything is not weighted equally.

If the scriptures are not read through the lens of the person of Jesus then we are doing it wrong.

Okay… my point for this Con is this: yes, there is a lot in the Bible that is disturbing and confusing, and at times it can portray a really cruel and violent God. But those are incomplete and inadequate pictures of God. We HAVE to look at Jesus or we will constantly be led astray.

And to dismiss the Bible because of those sorts of stories is, in my mind, to not fully understand or appreciate what the world was like back then and what God was (and indeed still is) attempting to do with Creation.

When Jesus Altered Scripture

“Yeshua, would you do the honor of reading the text this morning,” the synagogue attendant softly asked, as his outstretched arm was offering me the scroll.

I walked to the front of the room feeling a strange mixture of excitement and nerves. For the past few weeks I had been traveling around Galilee doing this exact same thing, but today is different. These are my people. This is Nazareth. This is where I grew up. These men here know me, and they know my rather checkered upbringing and all the scandal surrounding my birth.

But still, I’m feeling light today.
I’m feeling full… full of my Father’s Spirit.

After all, it was only a few weeks ago that I returned from my time of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. 40 days of not eating was bad enough, but then I had to spar with the Satan at the end of it. So many temptations… but each time I was able to pull from the Scriptures to resist. Even when the Satan tried to use the Scripture against me, to twist it, I still outfoxed him.

And since then, since getting back to civilization, I’ve been on a roll. People are finally starting to respect me. Admire me. Listen to me.

My hands trembling slightly, I take the scroll and turn around to see the faces of friends, family, and other people I’ve come to know and trust and love. Looking down I could see that I was handed a section from Isaiah.

Phew. I’ve always liked Isaiah. I’ve always felt strangely connected to his words. As though he was able to sense in some way the mission I feel called to. He got me.

As I’m unrolling the scroll I can feel the butterflies inside me speeding up. My eyes come up from the scroll one last time to scan the room. Will these men hear me? Will they listen? Will they respect me like the others have throughout Galilee? Or will I continue to feel their patronizing crooked smiles as they placate me as the “illegitimate son of Mary the UnFaithful.”

Nervous, and seeking escape, I look back down at the scroll, determined to not look up again.

I take a deep breath, and begin to read:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me
because the Lord has anointed me

I knew that was true.
I’ve been more keenly aware of that recently that ever before.
From that strangely beautiful baptism by my cousin John, to the time spent in the wilderness… I definitely feel God’s Spirit upon me.

Anointed… yes, that’s the perfect word for how I feel right now. I read on…

to bring good news to the poor,

Wow… yes… absolutely! I have always felt drawn to the outcast, the forgotten, the poor. Like I said, Isaiah gets me…

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound

This is it.
This is why I’m here.
I just know it.

My whole life has been leading up to this moment, and I can feel it. This is who I am, this is what I’m called to do. Now is the time, I just know it, when God is announcing healing, and love, and freedom… Good news! Okay, Yeshua, keep yourself together… keep reading…

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

And then I stop… mid sentence.
Crap. Hold on… wait…

My eyes are glued to the scroll, refusing to look away just yet.

Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, yes, good… I’m down with that. So far so good.

But I knew what was next.
I had this section memorized, but somehow it has still caught me off guard.

Suddenly, though I’ve read this sentence and said these words countless times, suddenly it no longer feels… right? Good?

What began, moments ago, as a mixture of excitement and nerves, has now morphed completely. The nerves have partnered with fear and resolutely wiped out any and all excitement. I don’t want to be here any more. This is not going to end well. I can’t read the next line. I won’t read the next line. Everything else resonated so deeply with me… within me… but not this. No, not this.

I stare at the words as I feel the stares of the men around me. I roll them around in my head again and again, refusing to say them aloud:

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… and the day of vengeance of our God.

No.
I can’t do it.

I don’t know exactly what Isaiah had in mind, but right now, in this moment, I don’t agree.

If the Spirit of God is upon me, and if the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor and proclaim the arrival of the Lord’s favor, then that makes sense to me. That I can do.

But I am not here to announce the vengeance of God.
Sorry, Isaiah, that does not resonate with me.
I can’t go there with you.
That’s not me.
That’s not my Father.

I finally compose myself (and, I think, finally closed my mouth… I’m pretty sure it hung awkwardly open this whole time). My mind was made up. Even though everyone will be wondering why I stopped mid-sentence, I know that’s what I have to do.

My fingers found their strength again as I rolled the scroll back up, preparing to return it to the synagogue attendant. He seemed a bit confused as I moved towards him; the rolling of the scroll was complete, but the reading of it obviously wasn’t.

Finding my courage again, and remembering the space I’ve been in lately, walking in God’s Spirit, I turned back around and sat down. Feeling the eyes of all, and sensing that they were expecting me to finish the Prophet’s sentence,  to announce the coming vengeance of God, I slowly scanned the room, making sure I connected with each set of eyes before I spoke next.

Butterflies gone.
Fear chased out by love.
Peace had arrived.

That’s when I said,

“Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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A creative imagining of Luke 4:16-21

 

 

 

Louis C.K. and Cellphones; Jesus and Wine

If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you borrow 4 minutes from your day to listen to this mini-sermon delivered by comedian Louis C.K. on Conan.

In it, he reflects on the parenting decision to NOT let his girls have cell phones. Which, in a (crude) nutshell he says that parents often struggle with the idea of, “well, all the other kids have a phone… so my kid has to, too.”

To which Louis says, how about you let YOUR kid be the better example to the other kids. “Just because the other stupid kids have phones, doesn’t mean my kid has to be stupid in order to not feel weird.”

A bit harsh, but that’s Louis.

The real gold comes, though, when he unpacks how he feels in general about cell phones. About how they are toxic, and how they shield us from dealing with that existential angst in our soul that threatens to remind us that we are alone.

We are so afraid of being alone, admitting that we have a “forever emptiness” in us (as Louis says), that we turn to the crutch of our phone to instantly “connect” with someone else.

Which is all well and good, and I think just THAT naming of reality makes this video worthwhile. Because yes, my cell phone is what I turn to when I don’t want to just sit with “me.”

Yesterday I walked my three oldest boys down to a block party. We arrived at the tail end of the party, so the bouncy house was largely vacant. My boys wasted no time in filling that empty space with screams, yells, Power Ranger kicks, and other such shenanigans. I meandered over to where I heard my name being called… whispered… summoned.

The free beer.

Filling up my cup with a nice Pale Ale from Thorn St Brewery I surveyed the party area and recognized no one. Content with this discovery (because I am, after all, socially awkward at times and definitely not good at small talk or meeting new people) I took my cold draft and walked back to the bouncy house.

Though I WANTED to go inside and join my boys, I decided they were having too much fun to risk being kicked out because of me. So, instead, I sat down on the sidewalk and just watched them bounce.

And you know what my hands INSTANTLY did, once I sat down?

Likely the same thing YOURS do: reach in my pocket for my phone.

Sadness then hit me when I unlocked my phone and discovered I only had 10% battery left. I thought, “dang… I don’t know how long I’ll be here, so I better conserve this 10%. Who knows how long it will have to last me. I’ll check email and FB now… wait a few minutes… then check football scores… wait a few more minutes, then maybe post an Instagram…”

I didn’t want to just sit. Alone. With just ‘me.’

Let alone (obviously) go out and mingle with people.
Yeesh.

So yeah, Louis, I’m tracking with you. Cell phones medicate us from having to just be with “us.”

But he doesn’t stop there.

He tells a story about driving down the road, alone, and suddenly becomes overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. When he felt it coming his FIRST instinct was to grab his phone and start texting people. To connect with someone. To not feel alone, or sad.

Instead, he rejected that instinct, and chose instead this:

“Just be sad. Just let the sadness… stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck…. I pulled over and I just cried… I cried so much… and it was beautiful… sadness is poetic, you’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because of it. When you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies. It has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness… and because we don’t want that first bit of “sad,” we push it away [with things like our cell phones]. (editor’s note: He mentions other things we do to distract ourselves, and it’s funny, but I don’t feel like typing it. HA!)

And I just find all that so absolutely, beautifully, and truthfully profound.

We don’t want to be sad.
We don’t want to feel alone.
And our phones are wonderful happy devices that connect us instantly.

But more than just phones, we live life like this. We try our damnedest to avoid feeling sad. And when we do, we certainly don’t elect to “just stand there and let it hit us like a truck.”

If you need confirmation about this human reality, just listen to the audience when Louis is talking.
You can hear the crowd laughing as Louis is telling his story. And yes, partly because he’s funny, but mostly you can sense it’s a nervous laughter.

It’s the type of laughter when you’ve just been exposed, and it’s uncomfortable.

But we do that, don’t we?
We avoid facing the full trauma of our sadness.
We numb ourselves.

I’m reminded of Jesus on the cross. In Mark’s gospel he tells the story of Jesus’ humiliating walk to Golgotha. And shortly after Simon of Cyrene is grabbed from the crowd to carry the cross for Jesus, Mark says, “The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to dull his pain, but he refused it.” (Mark 15:23 The VOICE)

Jesus had the option to take the edge off.
To dull the pain a bit.
To medicate.
To grab the cell phone and avoid feeling sad.
Alone.

But he refused it.

And I think that point is important because Jesus’ knew on some profound level that he had to fully be present and fully face the upcoming sadness. He needed to face the full force of the trauma that was happening.

To truly absorb the weight of humanity’s collective wickedness, to fully expose the myth of violence, to ensure a defeat of the powers of sin and death, and to thoroughly demonstrate the weak power of love, mercy and sacrifice, Jesus had to just be sad.

This full engagement with the trauma allowed then for a complete and total break through on the other side.

Resurrection.

And resurrection can ONLY come after we have endured the tragic.
Resurrection comes after death.

In the words of Louis, “happiness comes rushing in to meet the sadness.”

But the happiness won’t come if we refuse to engage the sadness.

Resurrection life becomes merely a half-dead, barely-living, zombie type of existence if it isn’t first accompanied by a full embracing of the tragic.

I wrote this post a while back about the experience of losing something. And I concluded with these words, and I still like them, and it sort of applies to this post:

If we lose something in life that was dear to us, and we are sincerely led to believe that God was involved in the process of initiating or directing this loss, then let us choose to first engage with that loss. Experience it. Know it. Let it stare at us in the depths of our soul and let us not move on to quickly. But when we do, when we begin to move from crucifixion to a time of resurrection, then let us begin to believe that no matter what comes next, whether or not what we initially lost will ever be replaced, that we will be better because we engaged with Christ and participated in his crucifixion and are now living in his resurrection. And that, ultimately, is life.

Thank you, Louis, for making accessible such a beautiful spiritual truth.

Be sad, my friends, when sadness comes. Don’t reach too quickly for the cell phone, don’t numb the pain with wine and myrrh. Like Louis said, “you’re lucky to live sad moments.”

Because the eternal life (abundant life, life of the ages, or, as Louis names it, happiness) that is waiting for you on the other side is infinitely better than numbness, avoidance, or pretending all-is-fine.

Jesus: The Original Hipster

If one of the hallmarks of a good Hipster is being “ironic,” then perhaps Jesus was the original Hipster.

Christy Wampole, of Princeton University, says that irony is the ethos of our age, and that Hipsters are the archetype of ironic living.

Irony, in part, is when the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same. So a 25 year old Hipster wearing a “I ♥ Justin Bieber” shirt is being ironic because, well, there’s a solid chance that he/she doesn’t ACTUALLY love the Biebs. The surface meaning says, “this is true!” but the underlying meaning is more of a “wink-wink… not really… but ain’t it cool?!”

So then, how was Jesus a Hipster?

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” -Mark 1:15

Jesus was about the business of announcing the Kingdom of God had come. His life and ministry and teachings all pointed to this reality. God’s Kingdom had arrived, and it is time to orient yourself around it.

But here’s the deal: Jesus’ t-shirt that said, “The Kingdom of God is Near” amounted to the same thing as “I ♥ Justin Beiber.”

Because God’s “Kingdom” isn’t really a kingdom.

“The time has come,” Jesus said, with a twinkle in his eye. “The “Kingdom” of God has come near,” he announced, while placing air quotes around the word “Kingdom.”

Kingdoms are about ruling people.
God’s “Kingdom” is about serving people.

Kingdoms are about hierarchy.
God’s “Kingdom” is about equality.

Kingdoms are about dominance.
God’s “Kingdom” is about openness.

Kingdoms are about control.
God’s “Kingdom” is about freedom.

Kingdoms are, ultimately, about power.
God’s “Kingdom” is about weakness.

You see, the kingdom of God is not like the Kingdoms of this world. In any way, really.

John Caputo writes:

God chose the outsiders, the people deprived of power, wealth, education, high birth, high culture. Theirs is a “royalty” of outcasts, so that, from the point of view of the aion, the age or the world, the word kingdom is being used ironically, almost mockingly, to refer to these pockets of the despised that infect and infest the world. For this is a kingdom of the low-down and lowborn, the “excluded,” the very people who are precisely the victims of the world’s power.  -The Weakness of God

This is why I won’t be surprised, once I finally kick the bucket, to find Jesus chilling outside the entrance of the Pearly Gates, sipping on a PBR and offering me a swig.

What Was So Scary About Jesus?

As we go through the book of Acts this summer, I hit chapter 4 last week, and it’s the first time the early movement started to see some opposition.

Acts is a crazy story about the growth and the spread of this movement centered around Jesus. But at the same time, it also tells a parallel narrative of opposition and persecution.

So in this sermon I am interested in exploring what it was about Jesus and the Gospel message that was so scary, so threatening to the systems of the day. Of course, what we also find though, is that these same things were also amazingly compelling to so many people.

The message of Jesus truly does change everything.

What’s So Scary About Jesus? (right click and “Save As” to Download)

 

Stop Acting Your Age

On Sunday I preached from Matthew 18:1-4

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child, whom he placed among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4Therefore, whoever takes a humble place–becoming like this child–is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I talked about such questions as:

  • Why did the disciples ask this question?
  • Why did Jesus choose a child to illustrate his point?
  • What does it mean to ‘enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’
  • How can we become like children?
  • Who then IS the greatest in the Kingdom?

You can read the manuscript here.

Or to download the .mp3, go here.

To stream it, well, just click the play button below.