Archive for the ‘Christian’ category

Is Jesus God? Part 1

February 5, 2019


Over 800 churches in the Chicago area are working through a series of big questions together all at the same time. (See exploreGod) The big question two weeks ago, for instance, was: Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering? I have addressed the problem of pain before. Not that I have addressed the issue once and for all. I certainly haven’t. Gaining knowledge and understanding is an ongoing process. In that vein, I tackle the question for this week: Is Jesus God?

Not that I (nor anyone) can prove Jesus is God. I don’t suggest that I can, and it isn’t my goal to offer that proof here. Rather, I intend to go through the exercise of following the claims that Jesus and others made about who Jesus was. After all, why would it even be a question whether Jesus is God if neither Jesus nor any of his close associates made that claim?

Before launching into a review of what Jesus and others said about his deity, we should note what he didn’t say. To be perfectly frank, Jesus didn’t not say, “I am God in the flesh” in those exact words or other words directly and expressly making such a claim.

At the same time, Jesus never said, “I am not God”. He never says, “Don’t worship me.”

Jesus is known for the questions he asked. Perhaps, the most significant question he asked is this: “Who do you say that I am?” This series of blog posts is an introduction to that question by looking, first, at the claims Jesus made about himself and then looking at what others said about him.

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Is Jesus God? Part 2

February 5, 2019


Over 800 churches in the Chicago area are taking on seven big questions in a series of discussions over the course of seven weeks. (See exploreGod) The big question this week – Is Jesus God? – is the subject of this piece. I introduced the question in a preliminary blog post (Is Jesus God? Part 1). I will get into the specifics of what Jesus said about himself in this piece followed by what others in his time said about him. (Is Jesus God? Part 3)

There are people who say that Jesus didn’t, in fact, claim to be God. One friend of mine, asked recently, “Jesus was a Jew, right? Didn’t he preach Judaism?” He was suggesting that people took what Jesus said out of context and ran with it, creating a new religion that Jesus didn’t even intend.

I believe my friend is partially right – that Jesus was a Jew, and he came first to the Jews, but that wasn’t his end goal. (See John 1:11-12; John 10:16; see also Got Questions) If we understand the sweep of the Bible, Old Testament through the New Testament, we see that the Jews and Judaism were the platform and the stage on which God could engage with His creation and demonstrate to the world who He is, but the climactic event in that drama was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of all the world.

Of course, Christians believe Jesus was God in the flesh, but, I am getting ahead of myself. The only goal of this piece is to explore the what Jesus claimed about himself, and what other people in his time claimed about him?

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Is Jesus God? Part 3

February 5, 2019


Jesus said to his followers, in no uncertain terms, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4:8, quoting Moses Deut. 6:13) Why, then, do Christians have this notion that Jesus was God?

That is the question being addressed in this blog series. The question was introduced in the first piece: Is Jesus God? Part 1. The question is being posed as part of a series of questions, that is being discussed among over 800 churches presently in the Chicago area. (See exploreGod) In the second blog post, Is Jesus God? Part 2, I covered the things Jesus said about himself.

In this third installment on that question, I will review what others said about Jesus in his time, both those who followed him and those who opposed him. The statement Jesus made about worshiping and serving only God is important to consider in light of the claims Jesus made about himself as well as the way other people reacted to Jesus.

Surely Jesus would not deign to suggest that he was God after making such a statement, right? How could his followers be confused about his deity? (If, indeed, there was any confusion.) What did others say about him? And how did they relate to him?

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God’s Love is Not Platonic

February 4, 2019


John the Apostle, a Hebrew from a remote province in the Roman Empire, lived a long life, unlike the other apostles who died premature deaths. John, a typical Hebrew, was elevated out of his provincial Jewish world by the God who created it. His writing, as much as any of the New Testament authors, has a strong philosophical theme, but that philosophical theme is no abstract intellectual construct.

John obviously became familiar with the greater Greco-Roman world by which the Palestinian province of his birth was governed and influenced. That familiarity is reflected in the Gospel that bears his name.

His gospel begins with the philosophical statement, “In the beginning was the Word”, the Logos.  (John 1:1)  The word, logos, had very strong philosophical meaning in the Greco-Roman world. John’s use of that word to open his account of the life and message of Jesus shows that John, the provincial Hebrew, familiarized himself with that world and its thought.

This is in keeping with the instruction from Jesus to his followers to go into all the world explaining the message he left with them. To go into the world, we have to become familiar with it and conversant with the thought that predominates in the world to which we go.

Though John used this loaded word, logos, he didn’t have the abstract notions of philosophy in mind. John’s use of that word pointed outside and transcended the Greco-Roman box.

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Perspective and Worldviews

January 25, 2019


It’s always interesting to listen to people who come from outside our own circles. I have become a religious listener of the Unbelievable Podcast hosted by Justin Brierley in the UK. The difference of perspective that is driven by our different experiences, individual, familial and cultural, is the subject of this piece.

Two recent podcasts come to mind. The first included two Christians, one with an egalitarian view on women and the other with a complimentarian view on women (Unbelievable? #MeToo and the Church: Egalitarian vs Complementarian • Natalie Collins & Phil Moore). The egalitarian position is the progressive view, and the complimentarian position is the conservative view. That seems obvious enough. What interested me was not only the difference in opinions, but the influences that shaped those opinions.

The other podcast (Unbelievable? Render unto Caesar – Should the church keep out of economic politics? Andy Walton vs James Price) involved two more Christians, one with a view that the church should speak to politics, and another with a view that the church should not speak to politics, but should stick to theological things. These guys, being from Great Britain, turn the American views of these things on their heads. Thus, a difference in perspective that prompts me to write this blog piece.

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Stepping Into the Light of God’s Love

January 23, 2019


Psalm 139 is a favorite of mine. It can be very comforting knowing that God is intimately familiar with me. He knows my struggles, my good intentions, what I long for and what I need.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

(Psalm 139:1-4) On the other hand, God knows my demons, my sinful thoughts, my envious, hateful, spiteful and selfish thoughts. He not only sees the good things I do and think (that I want others to know); He sees the bad things I do and think (that I want no one to see). The idea that God knows me so well – even better than I know myself – is both a wonderful and a fearful thing!

Amazingly, even so, God loves me. He knows me intimately – better than I know myself. And He still loves me. (more…)

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 21, 2019

National Civil Rights Museum located in the old Lorraine Motel, site of the Martin Luther King, Jr assassination, in Memphis TN including the balcony on which he was shot preserved as it was on that date

I am about ready to fly back to Chicago from Phoenix, AZ after participating in my first Board Meeting of the Gospel Justice Initiative as a board member. I am humbled to be part of this group that is attempting to implement and carry out in these modern times the words of the prophet:

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

It’s fitting that today is Martin Luther King Day. Last night as I drove back to my hotel, I listened to a podcast interview of Frank Viola who wrote books like Pagan Christianity and his most recent book, Insurgence. He pointed out in the interview that both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a problem with Jesus. The Pharisees were the equivalent of the conservative right today, and the Sadducees were the equivalent of the progressive left.

That resonates deeply with me as I survey the world today in and out of my social media feed. While both sides might claim Jesus in their political platforms (more or less), I have the distinct impression that they would be put off by Jesus face to face in their presence. Jesus didn’t conform to the spirit of this world. His was the kingdom of God.

Followers of Jesus, it seems to me, should reflect the character and “aroma” of Jesus. I think of these things when I remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was hated by the ultra-conservative, called a communist and scrutinized like an enemy of the state. He was also despised by the radical left who criticized him for standing in the way of real revolution, a violent takeover and overthrowing of the status quo.

I see Jesus in Martin Luther King and his legacy – not just because he didn’t sit comfortably with the far right and the far left, but because he exhibited the character and carried the aroma of Christ.

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