Dueling Jesuses

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“My God is a God of love; My God would not send anyone to hell!” –Oprah Winfrey

Okay Oprah lovers, forgive me in advance, but Oprah could not be more wrong with this opinion.

A few years ago I heard her make this comment after I had momentarily stopped on her show while channel surfing.  The topic of the show is irrelevant; but her comment is.

While I appreciate her sentiment of wanting a loving God (which He is) and her best desires for people (which God shares), the God she is talking about simply doesn’t exist.  While God is loving as she suggests; he is also perfectly just.

The God she holds to is a God fabricated in her own mind.  She may as well have taken a piece of wood and carved her ideal image of God and worshipped it, because this is what she has done in her  imagination.

We hear similar quotes and opinions about God, Jesus, and religion from the media and celebrities.

Specifically, everybody has an opinion of Jesus. Just do a quick Google search and you will find a plethora of ideas about Jesus. Everybody wants a Jesus who matches with their views and sentiments.  They want a “user-friendly Jesus.” There are hundreds of “dueling” Jesuses out there.

A question – does Jesus give us the liberty to define who he is and what he is like? I don’t think so.

Do we get to do this with other personalities?

Can we fabricate a fictional image of, say:

  • Abraham Lincoln?
  • Mother Teresa?
  • Ronald Reagan?
  • Barbara Walters?
  • Princess Kate Middleton?

No.

Well, I guess we do have the vampire-slaying Abraham Lincoln.  But you get the idea.  We can’t just make up what we think these very real people were or are like.

Although people might disagree about their legacy and their personalities, we have to take what they’ve said about themselves and what they’ve done to determine who they are and what they are like.  Then we can like them, hate them, or dismiss them; but we can’t make them into something they aren’t.

Jesus is no different. We do not have the liberty to “make Jesus in our own image.”  The absolutely only place we know about him is from the New Testament.  It is the only place that has any record about who he is, what is important to him, what his teachings are, what his personality is like, what his instructions are for his followers, etc.

To be honest about what Jesus is really like, we must look seriously at the source.  And once we get a picture about him from the source, a decision has to be made about whether we will believe it or not – or believe in him or not.  He can be accepted or he can be rejected.  He can also be marginalized.  The one thing that can’t be done, at least honestly, is to make him into something He is not – which is what Oprah has done.

If you want to find out who Jesus really is, jump into the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

And yes, Oprah, Jesus does love us and he is also the coming King and Judge.

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Who Is This Guy?

 

“Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well…”  John 4:12 

The woman at the well asked Jesus a question that is still being asked today.  Jesus told her that he could give her living water; water that was more satisfying than the water in her well.  Her response was, “Who is this guy?” Or, in the words of Scripture, “Are you greater than our father Jacob…”  She wanted to know who Jesus was, how could he do this, what made him greater than any other man that he would be able to give her living water. 

In essence people are still asking the same question today.  It’s phrased a little differently; but essentially the same.  Some of the questions you hear are: 

* Was Jesus greater than just a good teacher?

* What makes Jesus greater than any other prophet or religious leader?

* Were his miracles greater than others done in the day  (or did Jesus do those miracles – from the skeptics)?

* Is Jesus great enough to make the claims he made?

* Is Jesus greater than my current god?

* Just who is this Jesus anyway?

In a nutshell, “Jesus, are you greater than ____________”.  Fill in the blank yourself. 

Interestingly enough, Jesus answered the woman’s question.  She told him in further conversation that she knew a Greater one was coming and would “tell them all things (vs. 25).”  She also called this anticipated person, the “Messiah” or anointed one. 

Jesus answered her first question by stating, “I who speak to you am He (vs. 28)” 

The answer today to those asking the similar question, “is Jesus greater than ____________,”  is…

yes.

Fisherman and Jesus Make Good Company

Matthew 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 

Our family is a fishing family.  I think we have stinkbait in our blood.  Or blood in our stinkbait; I’m not sure which.  We just love to fish.  My grandfather and father passed on the fishing gene to me.  Although I don’t get out as much as I’d like, I enjoy it tremendously when I do.

There’s a misconception by many that fishing is a passive activity.  Anyone who has fished seriously knows this is false.  If you picture fishing as sitting for hours on end and waiting for the fish to “bite”, you’re probably not a fisherman (or at least one that catches anything.)

Fishing is an active sport. Continue reading

“Who Dun It?”

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 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

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Stephen King, Nancy Drew, Monk, and CSI: what do they all have in common?  Mystery.  We love mysteries.  That’s why we play the game Clue.  That’s the reason for murder mystery dinners. The question of “Who dun it?” intrigues us.

In fact, people look for mysteries where there are none.  Conspiracy theorists look for dark plots.  People play songs backwards looking for hidden messages.  And just why is my neighbor digging that big hole in his backyard?  Surrreeee he’s putting in a firepit.  We’ve all heard that one before. Continue reading

Most Misused Verse of All Time…?

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Phil 4:13 

What a great promise!  But what is it a promise for? This may be the most misused verse of all time. 

God does promise to help us and strengthen us in all situations.  But people have used this verse in some interesting ways. Here’s a sample of how you might hear it applied: 

  • “God will help me make the 35 foot winning jumpshot”
  • “God will help me with this financial disaster”
  • “God will help me fix this lawn mower”
  • “God will help me get this virus off my computer”
  • “God will help me with ______________ problem” 

Continue reading

The Missing Hand of God

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Letters which look like chicken scratches, flash cards, memorization, relating new words to odd memory aids; such is the life of beginning Hebrew students.  It’s hard to describe what learning Hebrew is like.  There’s a lot of necessary repetition. I’d compare it to brushing your teeth.  As a seminary student you need to do it, but it’s more of a necessary obligation than an exercise you look forward to. Continue reading

“Hello, this is Discover Card”

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“Hello, this is Discover Card,” the woman said, “Did you forget to pay your bill this month.” 

 

My wife took the call and didn’t think we had forgotten.  But then we discovered we had.  Arrghh!  A $39 extra charge and the irritation of dealing with a late bill was the result.  It was due to a small change in how we organize our bills.  We really do pay our bills on time and are quite diligent about it.  It’s only that the Discover bill had got put in a new folder and I hadn’t realized it.  

 

Have you ever done that?  Notice how you never hear from Mr. Discover when you pay the bill on time.  They just take the money and bank it.  But be late and they become your best friend.  Rightfully so, it’s their money. Continue reading