Mar 27

Should Christians answer every question about their faith?

They say that you should not talk about religion or politics but sometimes it seems that is all people want to talk about.

Two types of believers

Some Christians enjoy answering every questions they get asked- Adam and Eve, the Flood, length of the first days, number and age of New Testament manuscripts, etc. They will even bait people to ask them questions and collect the latest books of evidences and lines of argument.

Others stay close to the story of Jesus and try not to wander far from the Gospel.

How did Jesus handle questions?

During the final week of his life, a few days before the crucifixion, Jesus upset the business that grew up around the temple sacrifices. Agents of the leading priests changed money and sold acceptable animals. It was a lucrative business. Jesus upset the tables, chased the vendors away, and interrupted their work. (Luke 19:45-48)

It was done in the Court of the Gentiles, the only place where non-Jews were allowed to pray.

Soon afterward the leaders asked Jesus by what authority he did this? He refused the answer and instead asked them if they accepted John’s baptism. They were trapped because they did not believe John but the onlookers did and venerated him as a prophet. They did not answer and Jesus refused to answer their question. Jesus then quoted the Song of the Vineyard from Isaiah and turned it against the leaders. Everyone knew that he condemned them with this familiar passage. (Luke 20:1-19; Isaiah 5:1-7)

The leaders then tried to trap Jesus with two more questions. Should the Jews pat taxes to Rome and an application of the law that would either make Jesus look silly or irreverent depending on his answer. He answered them successfully and they stopped questioning him. (Luke 20:20-40)

Jesus then continued the discussion. He subtly moved them toward the mystery of the incarnation by asking them how the Messiah could be both King David’s descendant and his Lord. The leaders gave no answer. (Luke 20:41-47)

What can we learn from Jesus?

Jesus did not answer every question.

He did answer some questions.

He moved the discussion toward the Gospel.

This is a simple, profound, but, at times, difficult example to follow.

When have you been asked a question that was only intended to trap or embarrass you?

How do you try to focus a discussion on Jesus?

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Mar 23

I have just added two revised posts to my blog

The Church and the Poor- Dignity and Charity in the Story of Ruth.
Followers of Jesus must be fruitful

Mar 20

What can Christians learn from a dishonest accountant?

A weird parable

I have taught Luke’s Gospel many times in different settings.

Most of my students have concluded that Luke 16 contains one of the weirdest parables that Jesus taught.

Jesus told the story of a dishonest manager who was called to give an account of what he had done before he was fired. He had some time to act quickly so called in some of his master’s debtors and rewrote their accounts so that they owned less. He reasoned that they would provide for him after he was fired. After all, physical labor would be too hard for him and he did not want to beg. This would be best for him.

His rich master found out about what he did and commended him for it. He thought that the manager’s dishonesty was very shrewd.

The rich man and his manager lived in a moneyed world. Dishonesty, bribery, and inflated commissions were the norm. In this world and by these standards, the manager was shrewd.

What can Christian learn from this?

In verses Luke 16:8- 9 Jesus turns the parable in a subtle direction. Christians are often not very shrewd with money. Christian shrewdness means moving the money to heaven. The money is not evil in itself.

The dishonest manager wants to be welcomed by others on earth. Christians should want to be welcomed in the eternal kingdom.

How do you move the money in that direction?

John Chrysostom who preached around 400 AD spoke of the poor as God’s bankers and urged his listeners to make a deposit.

We can use earthly wealth to achieve heavenly goals

We do this when we reach out to the unbelief in the world.

We do this when we give to others who cannot meet their own needs.

We do this when we invest in people, churches and other groups that invest in people.

Can you think of any investments that you have made in your life that you are 100% sure we meet you in eternity?

Can you think of some that you are sure won’t?

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Mar 16

I have updated two posts on my blog

Jesus Was the Perfect Messiah for Imperfect People

God used a Pagan Prophet to Bless his People.

 

Mar 11

Big men don’t run. Except when they really want to help someone.

Important people don’t have to hustle. Others do that for them. They can move at their own pace.

The lost sheep, lost coin, and the lost son

Before Jesus talked about lost things that were found he balanced the picture of the great open heavenly feast with the costs of discipleship. All are invited but it demands all you have. (Luke 14:12-35)

Martin Luther summed up the balance when he said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

To follow Jesus takes all of you. You are often out of place in this world. Family, friends, and people in general don’t understand what you are doing

Jesus told stories about a God who looks for the lost when they are far from him. He talked about the human joy of finding a lost animal or coin. He said that the joy in heaven was far greater. (Luke 15:1-10)

The Father who runs

He then told a story that is the source of a picture often applied to disappointing children, the Prodigal Son.

The younger son asked for his inheritance while his father was still alive. He all but told his father that life would be better without him but with his money. He took the money, went away, and wasted it. He suffered humiliating consequences. He decided to return home, acknowledge his wrongs, and rejoin his father’s household as a servant, not a son. (Luke 15:11-19)

The father was looking for him, interrupted his speech and celebrated his return. The older brother was angry at his Father’s response but the father urged him to join the celebration. (Luke 15:20-32)

Jesus used the father to reveal the response of God to those who return to him.

The Father’s Response

He was looking for the son.

He ran to greet the son.

He interrupted the confession and restored the son.

He celebrated the son’s return.

He reached out to the legalistic brother and wanted him to celebrate as well.

Grace and Consequences

There is a subtle but clear note of the consequences of the actions of the returning son. There will be no inheritance for him when the father dies. All that the father has belongs to the older son. (Luke 15:31)

We live in a world of grace and consequences. We do not suffer all the consequences we deserve but there are some empty places in our lives that are reminders of past mistakes.

The sons are real people. There is the wasteful, self-centered, impatient but repentant son. There is also the obedient but legalistic son. There are no black and white hats. They’re just like us.

Both of them had a forgiving, patient father.

How have we experienced the balance of grace and consequences in our lives?

When have we run to welcome someone back to the faith?

When has come one ran to welcome us?

When have we taken our time when we should have run?

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Mar 09

I’ve just revised two posts on my blog

We have faith and we have doubts…What do we do?

How do we live in an unbelieving world?

Please enjoy the new versions

Bob

Mar 05

The Politics of Statues: Pennsylvania, Oregon, and your state

Thermometer Issues

Certain issues are thermometer issues. They warn us and alert us to changes in a situation.

The Visit

A few years ago I was in DC with family and at the end of a tour of the Capital I asked to go away and look at something while the others talked. I wanted to see the statue of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg in Statuary Hall.

The Muhlenbergs

In the early 1700’s the Lutherans in American were losing members to the Moravians and others. They believed that the problem was a lack of trained clergy and sent to Germany for help. In 1742 Henry (Heinrich) Melchior Muhlenberg was sent to Pennsylvania. He became the patriarch of the Muhlenberg family that was influential in American politics and education for over a century. One of his sons was Peter (John Peter Gabriel) Muhlenberg.

Would the German Americas fight? The role of the German Americans was a key issue in the early months of the American Revolution. The King of England was also the Duke of Hanover in Germany. He hired German mercenaries to fight in America. Would the German Americans fight against King George?

On January 21, 1776 Peter Muhlenberg preached on Ecclesiastes 3 to his Lutheran congregation in Woodstock, Virginia. As he spoke on verse eight, “a time of war and a time of peace,” he opened his pastor’s robe revealing the uniform of an officer in the Continental Army underneath. He told the congregation, “This is the time of war.” This account was preserved by a great nephew and is doubted by some. The statue in Statuary Hall captures the moment when he opened the robe revealing the uniform.

He led troops in the south and was later at Valley Forge and other battles in the north. At Yorktown he held the right flank under Lafayette and finished the war as a Major General.

He later served in various positions in Pennsylvania and was a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington.

His brother Frederick was the first speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pennsylvania

In Statuary Hall Pennsylvania chose Peter Muhlenberg and Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat, to represent the state.

Oregon

Currently, Jason Lee and John McLoughlin represent Oregon. John Lee was a Methodist missionary who founded a school that would become Willamette University. McLoughlin, whose general store in Oregon City was the last stop on the Oregon Trail, is considered the “Father of Oregon.”

The procedures governing the hall provide that a state can change its statues.

On August 24, 2014, Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon established a commission by executive order to study whether the Oregon statues should be changed. The governor and leaders of the Oregon legislature chose the members of the committee. The committee recommended removal of the statues of Lee and McLoughlin to places of honor in Oregon. Their places in Statuary Hall would be taken by Nez Perce leader, Chief Joseph, and pioneering woman rights activist Abigail Scott Duniway.

Are the statues a thermometer issue?

I have read short biographies of some of those chosen in the first century of Statuary Hall beginning in 1807. Many of them were open about and active in their Christian faith. America is becoming more secular. The replacement of these statues by certain states will become a thermometer issue. It will tell us something about how people think and what they value.

Your State

Who represents your state in Statuary Hall?

You should read a short biography of their lives. Why are they there?

What does this thermometer issue say about your state…our nation?

If you have any thoughts, please comment.

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Mar 04

I’ve just updated two posts on my blog

Moses’ Staff.

Judicial blindness is real.

Enjoy

Bob

Mar 02

Not even the apostles had perfect churches

John’s last years

The Apostle John lived a long life. He lived so long that in the last chapter of his Gospel he had to correct the rumor that he would not die but would live until Jesus returned. (John 21:20-23)

Near the end of his life he supervised a group of churches near Ephesus in Asia Minor. There churches were not perfect.

John’s letters

His first letter was a message that focused on sin in the life of the believer. It ended with the charge that his readers keep themselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

His second letter talked about a church that was strong and faithful. But, even in his commendation, he said that he was happy to find that some of the members walked in the truth. (2 John 4)

His third letter talks about divisions and opposition to his leadership in one of his churches. (3 John 9-10)

Churches are not perfect

Churches are not perfect. They are made of people who have come to Christ from background that are full of false notions about God, right and wrong, how a marriage works, etc. They have been hurt and used and have learned protective devices that hinder their spiritual growth.

Advice I received

When I was new in the faith a leader told us that we should not wait until we found the perfect church. When any real people joined it would not be perfect anymore.

Are there any things about your church that bother you that you have not prayed about this week?

Are there any things about your church that bother you that you have never prayed about?

When was the last time you prayed for the leaders of your church?

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Feb 28

These are the posts that were viewed most on my blog in January:

These are the posts that were viewed most on my blog in January:

 

Have you ever prayed for someone you did not trust? …. Like Abraham did

God is a generous God

What is really inside people? … Jesus knew.

I’ve decided to continue a discipline I started last year

Would God’s answer be acceptable to us?

 

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