Saturday, December 3, 2016

Luke 20:41-47 Reasoning From the Implied

41 Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? 

The Sadducees has just presented a cleverly conceived scenario (v. 28-32) to Jesus with the hope that they could catch him either in denying the Law of Moses or denying belief in the resurrection as taught by the Pharisees and believed by many of Jesus' followers. Jesus responded with a far more clever answer that did not force him to deny either option. 

He then went on to suggest that the resurrection was actually implied in the Torah, even if not explicitly stated as a fundamental belief. It turned out to be an interpretation that even some of the scribes accepted as reasonable. In his answer, Jesus assumed that God is only God to living people. So, if Moses could say - under the inspiration all Jews believed was occurring at the 'burning bush' - that the Lord is the God of Abraham who had been long since deceased, then Abraham must be alive since God is not God to the dead. That being so, then Abraham must have been resurrected. This is a strange argument and a particularly daunting one for those who believe in soul sleep (See 1 Th 4:13-18; Ps 115:17; Is 38:19; Job14; Acts 2:28,34). 

What do you think about that kind of reasoning - reasoning from what may be considered as implied by a statement that was not originally intended to be a statement about doctrine in general, and the resurrection in particular? 

Jesus, according to Luke's gospel, did not cease his argument even at that point. He went on to illustrate a manner of interpretation of the OT scriptures that does no sit well with many Christians who prefer to only accept the plain, contextual meaning of scripture. It is a type of reasoning that theologians might call eisegetical. Jesus often used this method to confound his enemies. (see Ps 82:6; Jn 10:30-36)

Here again, Jesus threw his enemies off balance by introducing another scripture that he had interpreted in a manner that was clearly within the realm of Jewish practice - because they apparently accepted his logic - yet it did not reflect the plain, contextualized understanding of the verse. How can the Messiah be the 'son' of David - as everyone assumed, yet David calls him Lord? (Ps 110:1)  We need to be careful to avoid glossing over this point.

42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 

So, the Psalmist wrote that God spoke to David's Master - the Messiah, as the rest of the Psalm makes clear. Thus, Jesus' question to his enemies, how can the Messiah be a descendent of King David, yet exist at the time of David, unless the Messiah is much more than a descendent of David? The Messiah would have to be like Melchizedek - without beginning or end (Ps 110:4; Heb 7:1-3). Was the psalmist not really inspired and thus wrong in what he wrote? Was the psalmist accurate in what he stated, but we have wrongly applied it to Jesus rather than to a contemporary of David’s - i.e. one of his sons who would eventually rule over David? 

43 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ 

The Messiah would, according to the Psalmist, have enemies, yet he would eventually crush out all his enemies. In other words, according the the OT, the Messiah would not only be a savior of those who place their faith in God's grace, but he would also be a mighty king who would destroy those who act against God's chosen people.

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?” 

All this, of course, once again begs the question - from the perspective of King David's psalm, how could the Messiah - as Christians believe Jesus is - be both the authoritative master of King David and yet also be his 'son' (descendant)? How is this logically possible, unless there is much more to existence than what humans commonly encounter? 

If David was simply saying that one of his own sons had exceeded him to the throne and effectively became David's master, then this might make sense. Yet, this 'Lord' was to 'sit at the right hand of God' and be the ultimate destroyer of all of God's enemies. This certainly was not true of any of David's sons, nor descendants - except... 

Assuming that Jesus was a descendant of King David, he did not accomplish this final victory either - at least during his lifetime - unless he conquered the greatest enemy of God's people - sin and the Devil - and is currently sitting at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom 8:34; Heb 8:1). 

45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 

Though some of the scribes had concluded that Jesus' had 'spoken well' (v. 39), the bulk of the scribes were operating as a 'satan' to the people. They were obstructing their ability to see and know God. The scribes were so narrowly interpreting the scriptures that they were missing the salient point of all scripture - which was to lead us to see God. 

The scribes were far more interested in their positions of influence than in any efforts to turn the hearts of the people to God. Instead of discipling others to follow God, they conspired with one another to hoodwink the population into following the religious elite. The narrowness of their interpretations of scripture were, for all intents and purposes, totally self-serving. Jesus was, from their perspective, ruining everything they had built up. They didn't want a savior from what they had. They wanted a 'savior' from the Savior. So, they became in cahoots with the government. They wanted the secular powers to act on their behalf, to keep alive their religious realm. Clearly, they did not believe in nor trust in the power of the Almighty. In fact, they showed no fear of God, as if they did not really believe that God existed. 

47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Jesus' condemnation of these religious elites was not over. Not only did they diss God and his Christ, they stole from the weakest among their people and then covered their tracks by the appearance of religiosity - long, tedious prayers. But, God was not listening to their prayers because their hearts were far from them. As Jesus said, these scribes were dangerous to the faith of the people and thus would receive the greater condemnation. 

Religious leaders who don't lead people to Christ, will become the footstool of Christ.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Luke 20:27-40 Rule of Law?

27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 

According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed there is no such thing as 'fate'; that God does not commit evil - though man has been given the freedom to choose either good or evil; that the soul is not immortal - thus there is no resurrection to an afterlife either as a reward for faith in God nor a place of eternal torture as a penalty for not placing faith in God. Should these beliefs label the Sadducees as either liberal or conservative? Depending on what you read, you will find one or the other label applied to them.

As this text establishes, the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection - at least not as the Pharisees did nor as most Christians do today. Though there are texts in the Torah that imply a resurrection, there are no explicit statements about resurrection. Later, particularly in the book of Daniel, the afterlife is explicitly stated.

In this confrontation with Jesus, the Sadducees legalistically point to the 'rule of law' - the precise words of the Torah - in order to undermine the authority of Jesus. The Sadducees apparently believed that the Torah was a guide to the here-and-now, not the here-after. Jesus challenged their interpretation of the law rather eisegetically. 

28 and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 

The Sadducees were interpreting the Torah literally. The passage is from Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

5 “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7 But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’

For Jesus, this law was not in question, at least prior to the cross - which raises a question for those who do not believe that the New Covenant was inaugurated at the cross, effectively moving believers from being 'under the law' to being 'under grace'. In other words, we no longer abide by this, or any other, 'rule of law' as stated plainly in the Torah. Can you imagine Christians living by this law in 21st century American society?

What Jesus did question was the Sadducees legalistically narrow interpretation of this law.   

29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

Of course the Sadducees were playing to the belief in resurrection as taught by both Jesus and the Pharisees in the first century. If we assume there will be a resurrection, then 'whose wife would she be'? Will all 7 brothers be forever considered to be the husband of this one woman? 

It was, at least at first blush, a clever argument indeed - yet it unwittingly assumed too much. Confirmation bias is a common error. It assumed that there was one and only one way to interpret scripture the seemingly plain language of scripture. 

Jesus listened. He did not deny that the Torah did teach this practice. He did not even suggest that the practice was misguided or should be ignored or excised from the scriptures. But... 

34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 

The Message Bible translates verse 35-36 in this manner:

Jesus said, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. 

So, while Jesus confirmed the Mosaic 'Rule of Law' at that point in history, he undermined their argument from the law without actually arguing about the factuality of the resurrection. He did exactly what the Sadducees had done. If we assume, for argument's sake, that there is a resurrection, then...'  Jesus, at first, effectively sidestepped the whole debate about the existence of a resurrection simply by dismissing the basis of the argument as presented by the Sadducees. But he wasn't finished. He went on to establish the doctrine of the resurrection from the Torah itself, demonstrating that the Law could demand what it did AND there a resurrection could be plausibly assumed from the Law itself.

Though Jesus preached a gospel of grace, he also respected the law. When the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery (Jn 8:4) was thrown in front of Jesus with the demand that he condemn her according to the 'rule of law', Jesus didn't deny the existence or the value of the Law, but presented another way of dealing with the situation. The 'Rule of Law' is a political issue in our day as well. We need law, but we must - as Jesus always did - understand that the law is to help humanity. Loving our neighbor must always trump loving the law. 

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” 

In other words, how could Moses truthfully speak about the 'God of Abraham' when Abraham was long since dead? How can God be God to someone who ceases to exist - or so Jesus' argued. Jesus was giving evidence for a resurrection, but was he also saying that when we die, 'we' don't really ever die - that our 'soul' continues to communicate with God? It is one thing to believe in a resurrection at the end of this world, when Jesus returns, as written in 1 Th 4:13-18, but quite a different thing to suggest that some intelligent essence of man remains in communion with God even after the body has died.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Is only the physical body 'asleep', but the mind is not? Can there be a mind apart from the brain? Age old questions, right?

In Ps 115:17, though, we are told that the dead no longer praise the Lord (see Is 38:19). 

In Job 14, we read:

7 “For there is hope for a tree when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail. 8 “Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, 9 At the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. 10 “But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? 11 “As water evaporates from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dried up, 12 so man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep."

"David ... is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day." "For David is not ascended into the heavens." (Act 2:29,34)

So, how should we understand Jesus' response to the Sadducees? 

39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

Did the scribes merely acquiesce to Jesus' cleverness, knowing that the people sided with Jesus, or did they actually think Jesus' answer made sense? Does Jesus' answer make sense to you? If so, how do you reconcile old and new testament bible texts that appear to be saying something contrary to what Jesus implied in his answer? 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Luke 20:19-26 In The World, but...

19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. 

Fear led the scribes and chief priests to want to kill Jesus, and fear of the people led them not to act at that moment. Though 'fear' plays an essential and even natural role in human survival, we often fear the wrong things. We fear difference - difference in skin color, culture, religion, social status, education, ideas, gender, politics, and we fear facing the truth about ourselves. We fear reality, thus we attempt to preserve our preferred 'truthiness' rather than actual reality. 

Only an educated mind can choose to be enlightened by difference rather than become fearful every time we encounter something different. Society often chooses to regulate our fears through laws, but since the impulse to fear is rooted in our human nature, laws - secular and/or religious -  cannot erase our fear. For example, fear of punishment if one expresses a racist sentiment may squelch our desire to give voice to our thoughts, but not our thoughts. Our fear of punishment may outweigh our fear of difference, but does not change the fact of our natural fear of difference.

The chief priests and scribes feared Jesus. They feared that the truths he taught and preached would undermine their way of life - their position of power and the system of religion that had existed among the Jews for centuries. They feared change. Change requires thinking. The status quo does not. Ironically, they found themselves forced to think anyways, yet they channeled all their thinking on how to keep their world from changing rather than to try to understand why the change was not only necessary - but also prophesied in the very oracles they we charged with protecting.

20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 

Fear prompts the fearful to exaggerate, manipulate, and confiscate. Wherever we find an inordinate amount of lying, we will find excessive fear. We often attempt to disguise our fears with anger, hoping that our anger will legitimize our fears in the hearing of others. 

The leaders of the Jews angrily presented their fears to the governor in a manner that appeared as legitimate concern for the welfare of the nation. The teachings of Jesus would upset the apple-cart which may require Caesar to send in troops and blame the governor for allowing things to get out of hand. The scribes and chief priests just needed to find something - some act or statement - that could be used as proof of their claims against Jesus. So, they attempted to entrap him, as they had before (Jn 8:8). 

21 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 

Flattery makes for a useful tool to manipulate others. Again, because of our nature, we love having our ego stroked. When we embrace flattery, we get distracted from the real issues, and can more easily be led to say more than we ordinarily would have if we had kept our wits about us. How did the scribes and chief priests know about this approach? Clearly, they had used it before.

The set up was to proclaim that the teachings of Jesus were always correct. In other words, whatever he said was exactly what he believed. Now, if they could just get him to say something that he believed, yet was contrary to what the governor believed was acceptable, they would have their evidence - evidence witnessed by all the people.

The issue of taxes, then as now, is always al touchy subject. Human nature is self-centered. We don't want to give up anything that we believe is rightfully ours. Paying taxes, no matter how wonderful their application for the good of society, is never what we prefer to do. The scribes and the chief priests were well aware of the fact that the followers of Jesus didn't like taxation, any more than we like it today. Humans will search for ways not to pay taxes, even to their own disadvantage. 

So, the question, 'Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?' In other words, we are Jews. We have our own nation. How can it be proper to support a ruler who is not one of us? This was a damned if you do, damned it you don't, type of question. The Jewish leaders banked on the fact that Jesus would pander to his crowd, just as they would do. And, as soon as he did, they would take his words to the governor. 

23 But He detected their trickery and said to them, 24 “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 

It was cleverly designed entrapment. Except, Jesus was not like other men. He was human and tempted as are all humans, but the locus of his decision making was not centered in himself, but in his Father. Jesus' mission was not to fix the kingdoms of this world, but to invite the people of this world into the heavenly kingdom. He distinguished between this world and the the heavenly. He was 'in this world, but not of it'. His heart was married to the heavenly, not the earthly. He wept over the earthly, not because he couldn't fix our kingdoms, but because so many of his own people were not interested in his heavenly kingdom. They not only lived 'in this world, but were fully of this world'. 

Having his heart firmly wedded to the heavenly while his feet carried him through the earthly, Jesus was perfectly positioned to give an unanticipated response to his enemies. What is of this world, belongs in this world. We live in this world, so follow the rules of this world. Yet, keep your heart pure by becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God. We are dual citizens. We are in this world and must live with the realities of this existence. Yet, our hearts do not need to embrace the motives of this world or even the impulses of our earthly nature.  

25 And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

We can, through faith in God's grace, choose to acknowledge this world without clinging to this world in heart. Abide by the laws of this world, while recognizing that there is something much better for those who enter the kingdom of God. Give to man his due, but give your heart to God. We can do both. We must do both. Jesus did both. It was with this in mind that the apostle Paul could give his counsel found in Romans 13.

26 And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Jesus' response not only silenced his enemies for the moment, but exposed the truth about who owned their hearts. It was not God. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Luke 20:1-18 The Way The Wind Is Blowing

1 On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, 2 and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” 

Malcolm Gladwell once said, "I enjoy having my apple-cart overturned." Why? Because he always wanted to grow in his knowledge of the facts about life. He invites constructive criticism. For life-long learners, growth in knowledge and wisdom is paramount.

But, what if you are Jesus? We assume, in our Christian theology, that Jesus was God incarnate. If so, what would there be to challenge? Wouldn't he know all things? His disciples believed that he did. In fact, they believed that no one should question him because he knew everything.

"Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?" Jn 16:30,31

“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jn 21:17

Yet, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders - the authorities - confronted Jesus. They did not agree with his teaching and preaching. The gospel Jesus taught differed from what they had been taught and that which they believed was truth. So, they rightly asked Jesus about the source of his divergent theology. As the depository (depositary?) of the oracles of God, the Jewish leaders easily assumed that their interpretations of the sacred writings were accurate. They also assumed that anyone who had not been trained (licensed?) by them, could not rightly divide the word (2 Tim 2:15).

Yet, authorized possession of the scriptures is not equivalent to correct interpretation of the same. 

Who authorized Jesus to teach a divergent gospel? If the source of his authority could not be established, how could the accuracy of his teaching be confirmed? For those who followed Jesus, the source of his authority was not a seminary degree, but was established by his character and his healing ministry. But, does the possession of a good character guarantee that truth is being taught? Moreover, should the ability to work miracles be all the evidence we need in order to believe every word that that someone teaches (Mt 7:22,23; Mt 24:24)?  

3 Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” 

I have often gotten a bit miffed at the response Jesus gave to the leaders. Why didn't he just spell it out for them. Or, did he know that they weren't really interested in the truth?

"Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge." Prv 14:7

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself." Prv 26:4

Jesus, presumably, did not answer the priests 'according to their folly'. Rather, he presented them with a question. His question betrays his insight into their character and their motives for asking him about his authority. His question revealed that they were not honest seekers after truth - a perspective that unfolds more clearly in the next few verses.

5 They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Which way is the wind blowing today? That is the question far too many folks ask before answering a question. This is not all bad. Unfiltered responses often suggest the presence of mental illness. We all should have a private thought that is not always presented to the public, or at least only presented to those who respect our perspective. Yet, when we are the accepted 'authority', we frequently need to give an honest answer to an honest question. If we say 'I don't know', particularly in regards to a question that we should know, we undermine our authority.

In this case, the priests realized that their position of authority could survive if they said, 'we don't know', than if they stated what they really thought. The down side of that decision was that Jesus was free to continue teaching and preaching with 'authority'. The people witnessed that their religious authorities had no argument to stop him. Again, the people didn't need to hear an answer from Jesus since they had already made up their minds based on other criteria - character and miracle working.

9 And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10 At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13 The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15a So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 

Fools seldom respect anything but their own opinion. 

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Prv 18:2

In this parable, Jesus taught the people the danger of being a fool and/or following fools. Fools bite the hand that feeds them. 

"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Prv 13:20

15b What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 

"Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." Prv 26:11

"Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him." Prv 27:22

Though we were all born fools, we do not need to remain fools. Yet, many fools so glory in their foolishness that nothing can be done for them. 

17 But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief corner stone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

Love wins. The truth will prevail. If we fall at the foot of Jesus - the Rock - we will have his wisdom to guide us. Yet, if we continue to live as a fool, eventually the Rock will crush us. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Luke 19:41-48 Don't Be a Fool

41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 

This story is a continuation of last week's study. If we refuse to fact check, we will often suffer unnecessarily. 

Imagine noticing that your vehicle's oil check light suddenly turns on. Maybe you haven't ever seen that before. Maybe you don't even know what it means. It is, perhaps, something new. Yet, you don't stop and ask your mechanic about it. You don't open up the vehicle manual to learn more about it and learn what you should do. So, you just continue to drive your vehicle until the engine seizes. What may have been a $25 solution, has become a $1000 problem. Why? Simply because you were unwilling to check it out. You assumed that everything must be ok, because your vehicle was still running fine - until it wasn't. 

Fears and laziness remain the cause of untold suffering in society. We say to ourselves in way of an excuse, 'if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.' But many times we are living with something that is very broken yet we have so accommodated it that we don't know broken from not broken. Others say, 'if it was good enough for my parents, it is good enough for me.' This is simply another mindless phrase that yells out 'lazy'. It there was any truth to that, we would all still be cavemen. 

"Come," they say, "let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; And tomorrow will be like today, only more so."  (Is 56:12)

42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 

What are the 'things which make for peace'? Faith, hope, and love. Through faith we access God's amazing grace. Yet, if we refuse to open our eyes and ears, refusing to know the truth, we grow increasingly blind to the many 'something betters' that God has prepared for us. 

Imagine Jesus weeping. Imagine that moment as he look upon Jerusalem, seeing all the hustle and bustle, and knowing exactly what was going to happen to the children of Abraham. Imagine knowing how different it could have been for them if only they were open minded? Imagine the knowing the 'peace that passes all understanding' that could have been theirs if only they had stopped and listened, rather than to assume that all that they already believed was sufficient. What might have been...

43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

This is what Jesus knew would happen. How many times have family and friends warned us about a particular choice we were about to make, yet we pursued it anyways? How many times have we neglected opportunities with the excuse - 'maybe tomorrow', or 'I'm too tired', or 'I don't like change'?

How foolish can we be? 

45 Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘And My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a robbers’ den.”

Though he wept, knowing what was about to transpire, Jesus made one more intervention to expose blind his people had become to their situation. They had accommodated thinking and behaviors that were sucking the spiritual life out of their nation. 'Wake up!', he was saying to them as he overturned the tables of the merchants around the temple. 'Can't you see what you have become? Can't you see how far you have strayed? Don't you know how much you are missing?'

As Jesus drove out the money changers, he was calling his people to stop and think, to self-examine, to 'fact-check', and to cease being 'fools'.


47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, 

After Jesus had 'cleansed the temple', an act that was not only psychologically essential but also an act symbolizing the cross, he sat down and again tried to teach the people 'something better'. His sacrifice would clean us of our sins. His act of grace would set us free from the bondage of guilt and shame. Through faith in God's grace the fools mind would be jettisoned for the mind of grace.

Meanwhile, the religious leaders, the fools who did not know they were fools, shunned all that he was teaching and continued to look for ways to kill God's Messenger. Instead of seeing him as savior, they saw him only as a social/religious disrupter. They had become so 'foolish' in their thinking that they effectively called 'black, white', 'good, bad'. Only fools don't fact-check.

This morning I tweeted my strong objection to a statement made by a prominent politician, as reported by a usually reliable news source. After pushing 'send', I continued to scroll down my Twitter feed only to discover a Snopes post informing readers that the politicians remarks were untrue. Yikes. I quickly deleted my response. I had believed a lie, because I had trusted the source. 

48 and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.

Do you want to stop the mindless foolishness in our society? Join those who refuse to follow the crowd and insist on seeking for the truth - wherever it leads. If we start each day determined to hold on to what we currently believe is true, then we will never grow and only perpetuate untruth in our community. Yet, if we accept that none of us believe the truth about everything, and determine to always seek 'something better', we become an effective obstacle to the mindlessness that runs so rampantly in our world. 

Don't be a fool. Fact check.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Luke 19:28-40 Trust

28 After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here

When we were small children we easily trusted others rather indiscriminately - particularly if we were raised in a healthy family. As we grew older, perhaps we became more careful, yet still tended to trust others too quickly and too unwisely - often getting burned. Then, depending on the bulk of our experiences, we came to the place where we found it far too difficult to place trust in anyone. 

What does it take for you to trust someone? Are there those in your life whom you trust without question, no matter what they ask of you? Are there those whom you trust, but only in certain circumstances? Do you know people you will never trust again, under any circumstances? 

As a believer in the grace of God, are you willing to permit someone who has broken your trust to regain it again? What will it take? How long will it take? 

The disciples of Jesus trusted his word because they had always found him to be faithful to his promises. In other words, they tested him and found him to be trustworthy. Like Abraham, when commanded by God to sacrifice his only son, the disciples believed Jesus when he told them exactly what they would find in the village.

31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 

It has been said, 'the proof is in the pudding'. In other words, if folks don't walk their talk, beware. If someone calls something a fact, yet when you check it out, you find it is not true, it is time to be cautious when listening to that person.

The scriptures tell us to, "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). The disciples did just that and found everything to be exactly as Jesus said it would be - over and over again. Has that been your experience with Christ?

"You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.…" (Dt 18:21,22).

Our fear and anger arise out of our beliefs. Our beliefs originate from those we trust. So, again, on what basis do we place trust in our sources? This is where it is essential that we regularly review the list of cognitive distortions. 

It is a distortion of cognition to trust someone simply because many others trust that person, or because the person is famous, or because the individual is smart. Of course it is also foolish to trust someone simply because they are beautiful or handsome, wealthy, is nice to us, or is a member of our particular 'tribe'. Trust, but verify. Fact check. Don't be deceived. 

Be wise. Clever charlatans take deception to a new level. They will often lead you astray by first demonstrating that they are true to their word. Once they have your trust and know that you are no longer fact-checking them, they begin their evil work of seducing you into believing and doing things you ordinarily would never have considered. The blind confidence we place in them comes about nearly imperceptibly. It is wise to always keep a small question mark operative in every situation. No other human being is completely trustworthy at all times. All of us are imperfect. 

Cults are created when we suspend disbelief. It is one thing to suspend disbelief at Disney Land or while watching a science fiction flick, but it is dangerous to suspend disbelief in daily life. Cult leaders sense what others are angry about or fearful of. They loudly and passionately proclaim their anger toward the same things we are angry at and they exaggerate their anxiety of the same things we fear. 

Humanly, we tend to more quickly trust those who resonate with our anger and fears. The best defense against this kind of deception is to first question the source of our own anger and fear. Is our anger truly justified? Is it based on the facts or upon innuendo and false accusations? Did our anger arise because we wanted or needed to feel anger at someone or something, because we were told it was right to do so? Did we fact check to make sure our anger is truly justifiable? Similarly, are our fears based on fact or fiction? 

Remember, just because something has been long designated as a thing to be feared, doesn't make it so. Mankind long feared falling off the edge of the earth if they sailed too far out into the ocean. Eventually mankind learned that the earth was round and that particular fear was dismissed, though many continued to cling to it simply because it had been believed for so many generations. 

If we are not careful, our fears and anger will make us easy prey to be manipulated by others. If we don't make sure that the source of our fears and anger are truly legit, rather than simply assuming so, our emotions become a leverage point for every savvy charlatan. Just because people we respect believe something to be true, does not make it true. Fact check. 

33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.” 

I like this. Someone was 'fact-checking' them. We should all invite others to fact check what we say and do - particularly if we are leaders. We should also be interested in fact checking everything about our own beliefs and values. 

To be a mere replica of mom and dad is to have squandered opportunity. Each generation should encourage the next generation to differentiate, to rise to even greater heights than the previous generation. How many coaches dream of their students athletes becoming only as good as they once were? Great coaches glory in their trainees exceeding them in every possible way and even becoming a teacher to their teacher.

35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. 37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Great leaders are fact checkers. A great leader is someone who encourages others to constantly fact check them and to call them on anything they've said that proves to be less than factual. 

When the facts are checked and proof of their legitimacy is obtained, honor is rightly given. Jesus demonstrated that he was the real thing - the only legitimate Messiah. Praise was given. Yet, continue to fact check.

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 

Why were they angry? They refused to fact check their beliefs. They neglected to fact check the basis for their fears. They were lazy leaders. The people had exceeded their leaders simply because they, like Zacheus, were not afraid to check Jesus out for themselves. The religious leadership had for so long suspended disbelief in their religion, that they had become seduced by it's lies. 

There is nothing wrong with traditions and myths - as long as we recognize them for what they are and are not. For example, a new movie, "Panfilov's 28 Men", is a Russian myth. It is an inspiring myth, yet still a myth. 

40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

Given sufficient time, the truth does prevail. Sadly, though, along the way, many are deceived to their own destruction simply because they refused to fact check.