Archive for the ‘Jesus’ 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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The Importance of Relationship, Trust and Commonality

January 3, 2019


This morning I have listened to a podcast and read an article on the same theme: Christians who desire not to be defined by the things they are against. I didn’t go searching for themed material today, these things came together organically as I went about my daily habits of listening to a podcast first thing in the morning and reading throughout the day.

Early this morning, I listened to Justin Brierley interview Christian evangelist, Kevin Palau, and Sam Adams, the gay mayor of Portland, OR, on their unlikely friendship.  Later in the morning, as I was waiting on hold on the phone (for along time I might add), I read an article in Relevant Magazine: Don’t Be Defined By What You’re Against. I will add that the verse of the day on the Bible app is Psalm 90:12 (“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”)

While these three sources of material may not seem like thematic material, I assure you they are. Beginning with the interview, the evangelist, Palau, explained the motivation for engaging with the City of Portland in civic service. Palau recognized that Christians were known in the community primarily as people who were opposed to certain things, and not anything positive – let alone as followers of Jesus.

Palau also recognized that Christians were distrusted by the community, and so he set out to regain the community trust. The first thing Palau and his church did was to respond to the needs of a local public school that was failing. Not only did they show up; the showed up in such force that people took notice. What was supposed to be a day of work turned into an ongoing labor of love.

Palau and his church were so successful in making a positive impact that they inspired churches around the community to adopt schools, and the schools, in turn, embraced the church involvement. The involvement caught the attention of the mayor of Portland and his chief assistant, Sam Adams, who would later become mayor himself.

Palau and Adams are an unlikely pair to become friends, but that is what they are today. Adams is the first openly gay mayor of Portland. Palau is an evangelical evangelist. Adams confirms Palau’s concerns by agreeing that he previously only knew evangelicals for what they stood against, but now, he says, there are more things they agree on than disagree on.

Adams recognizes that they have some fundamental disagreements on key issues for both of them, but those areas of disagreement are no longer the defining characteristic. They now join hands on addressing areas in which they agree and have formed a long-term friendship as a result.

Palau has built a bridge without compromising his faith. As a result, Adams and the community no longer view evangelicals only for what they stand against; they also see what evangelicals stand for.  The community now knows that the Gospel means more than calling out sin. It means meeting peoples’ needs, loving people and offering hope. The Gospel isn’t primarily a what, but a Who – Jesus, who transforms people who follow him.

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Where in the World is God?

December 23, 2018


I have been listening with some relish to the new podcast, Ask NT Wright Anything, with Justin Brierley the host of Unbelievable! podcast fame. NT Wright is currently the Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College in the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. (Wikipedia) He is a renowned scholar and prolific writer and speaker.

In listening to the first few episodes of the new podcast, I have become interested in NT Wright’s view the kingdom of God, the ascension and what it means that someday Jesus will “come again on the clouds”.  calls westerners “innate Epicureans” who believe that “heaven is a long way away”. Thus, when we think of something like the ascension of Jesus, we imagine him rising up to heaven far away where He “sits at the right hand of the Father”.

This image of Jesus in heaven far away seems to be suggested in the passages from which we have coined the term ascension. The Gospel of Luke describes it this way: “While [Jesus] was blessing them, He parted from them [left them] and was carried up [taken up] into heaven”. (Luke 24:51 (NASB/ESV)) In Acts, the description is that “He was lifted up while they were looking on [taken up before their very eyes], and a cloud hid him [received Him] from their sight [out of their sight].” (Acts 1:9 NASB/ESV)

In Luke, the phrase, “parted and was carried” is a translation of the one Greek word, diístēmi, meaning literally “to set apart, to intervene, make interval” and translated as carried, parted and/or passed.[i] In the Greek, it appears (to me) that some interpretation is apparent in the English verb tenses used: “He parted and was carried [taken]”. The first phrase conveys action on the part of Jesus, and the second phrase conveys some action asserted upon Jesus, presumably from the Father.

The phrase is inserted as the interpretation of a single word so who undertook the action is really not implicitly expressed. It’s an interpretation (it seems to me). Further, the descriptor, “up” is added. That descriptor is not inherent in the Greek word, diístēmi. Rather, it seems to be a common sense addition to connect with the word translated “heaven”, which is ouranós. But is that an accurate translation?

After hearing NT Wright, I think not. Our western worldview filter may be to blame, and removing this worldview filter opens up a more accurate view, perhaps, of what the kingdom of God is, the ascension, and the second coming of Jesus.

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Christmas Thoughts: Ruth & God, the Kinsman-Redeemer

December 18, 2018


Have you ever wondered why the genealogy of the lineage of Jesus in Matthew includes five women? The inclusion of women in the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, from the First Century account of the life of Jesus by one of his closest followers, Matthew, should stick out as a curiosity to explore. At least it did for me.

I am reblogging a series of articles I wrote last year leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas on the women in the genealogy of Jesus. Their stories are interesting and reveal something about the heart of God that shines through them precisely because they are women in a patriarchal society.

Some of these women are not even descendants of Abraham! Yet, they are included in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah from the root of Jesse’s seed of the people of Abraham. What does that say about God? About His plan of salvation for the world?

The story of Ruth is such a tale. Ruth isn’t a descendant of Abraham, yet her timeless story is part of the lineage of Jesus. Her story has central significance in the story of God’s redemptive work through Jesus whose birth we are about to celebrate.

Navigating by Faith

maxresdefault-refuge-church-copyright-2016 maxresdefault REFUGE CHURCH Copyright © 2016.

My Christmas thoughts have taken me to the genealogy in Matthew of the lineage of Jesus and the curious inclusion of five women in that patriarchal history. They stand out, not only as women in a patriarchal society, but as examples of faith and of God’s redeeming love.

Tamar and Rahab, the first two women in the list, were unlikely examples. Tamar prostituted herself with Judah, and Rahab was actually a prostitute. That God would use such sinful and lowly women is shocking, if not remarkable. Their stations in life and their choices before the encounters which defined them were humble and base.

Their faith, however, is the story. They believed God. They made a choice to trust God and His promise. Though they were both flawed and of low station in life, they are remembered in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the…

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