Millionaire Jesus

Read the article from CNN.com. Was Jesus Wealthy?

Gold chains, diamond rings, Mercedes-Benz, & country club memberships. Reads like a Christmas wish list for a prominent Hip-Hop artist, doesn’t it? Actually, this is how the Prosperity Gospel portrays Jesus. If he were to have lived in our day, the Prosperity Gospel says this is what he would’ve had. That’s because they read their Bibles and all they can see is a Jesus that was given the finest of gifts at his birth. All they read is the narrative of how Jesus wants all his followers to be rich, so that they can help others. What’s so wrong with that? Money itself is not evil, right? It’s the love of money. Surely gifts aren’t evil, right? It’s the love of gifts over the Giver. But to the thousands that stand on the Prosperity Gospel, I beg you to listen to the testimony of Scripture. What does Scripture say about Jesus? Was Jesus rich? or was He poor?

His parents, Mary & Jospeh, were not rich – Luke 2:24, “and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the LORD, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Lev 12:8, “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons…”)

Jesus’ greatest sermon warns against wealth – Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

His Disciples were called to be poor – Matthew 16:23-26, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”)

His Disciples committed to a life of poverty – Luke 5:27-28, “After this he went out and saw a tax collector name Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”

Jesus blesses the poor – Luke 6:20-21, “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”

Worldly gain are worthless in itself – Luke 9:25, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

If Jesus was rich, why does he pray for daily bread? – Luke 11:3, “Give us each day our daily bread.”

Jesus tells the rich young ruler to give up his riches – Luke 18:22-23, “When Jesus heard this, he said to [the rich young ruler], ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

Jesus commends the poor – Luke 21:3-4, “And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”

The wealthy aren’t mocked as ‘King’ – Luke 23:36-38, “The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.'”

The cross was a crude curse, not a form of reprimand for the rich – Deut 21:22-23, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD you God is giving you for an inheritance.”

Jesus was a humble servant – Mark 10:35, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Philippians 2:6-8, “[Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”)

The prophesies about the Messiah weren’t exactly glowing commendations – Isaiah 53:2-3, “He had not form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Reading the Bible as a whole narrative of Redemptive History, we are pointed to the fact that out of humble origins, God’s raises up a Kingdom of Priests. And not the other way around. In fact, any man-made attempt at glory (riches & reputation, i.e. Gen 11) is judged, for man is not god, God alone is God. It seems irresponsible and completely irrational to come to the conclusion that all God wants for us in this life is to become wealthy & healthy, so that we can give more and more to others. That’s certainly true to an extent, but if we read the testimony of the whole Scripture, then we can’t but help to see that it was Jesus, who came to us as a humble and lowly servant, “that God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)

In that way, Christmas is a season not only to remember and celebrate the abundance we currently enjoy, but ultimately to remember and celebrate the gift we received in the city of Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, in joyful anticipation of the culminating joy and riches we will inherit with the second coming of Jesus in the age to come.

We are poor, yet we are rich in Him for God is our great and mighty reward. He alone is God, there is no other, not even money, not even my well-being. Grace through Jesus Christ is the gift of God to us in this life, for GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

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“What if God was one of us?”

remember that song? i forgot who sang it.

I was waiting until a little after Easter to post this… in reverence of the Holy Day. But, with a sense of humor, this is pretty on point. 🙂

click on the picture to download the whole PDF

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It’s Only the Beginning

Don’t you get the sense that things just aren’t the way they’re supposed to be? I mean, the whole world’s economy is tanking. Thousands of people are dying everyday from ridonculous catastrophes and some very unfortunate circumstances. People of the same blood and heritage can’t seem to get along and fight over land. There are daily attacks on someone’s character simply for their position on this imaginary line we label with “left” or “right”. Polar bears & whales are more cared for than babies. The most respectable people in our culture all seem to be jacked up once the cameras are turned off and the lights go out. It all just doesn’t seem right. Something seems askew.

But the more and more I read the book of Genesis, I realize all this shouldn’t surprise me. The fall has immense and ever increasing effects that extend far beyond that garden. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Old Testament history to see that it didn’t take long for sin to settle in.

But from the beginning there’s a sign of hope. It’s not just a glimmer, it’s a glaring light. God isn’t one to give up. He doesn’t make a mistake. Instead, He takes the mess we’ve made and has decisively declared a solution. The first beginning, or Genesis, was ruined by sin. But there’s going to be a new beginning, a new Genesis.

Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and  her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

From the beginning, there’s this glaring light of the Gospel. There will be a person coming that will crush the head of the serpent, alluding to a victory over sin. And since there are plenty more allusions to this person’s identity throughout the Old Testament, it’s not just a guess that his name is Jesus.

So, though the world may look bleak out there in these dark times, I’m all the more encouraged that this is just the beginning of that new beginning. Jesus came and crushed the head of the serpent inaugurating that new creation, the new Genesis. We’re living in that new creation reality, however difficult it may be to see it. Let’s keep our heads up folks, ’cause we don’t want to miss God’s beginning work of His new creation.


Obama: A Mere Shifting Shadow

The New Lincoln? The New Eisenhower? The New Roosevelt? The New Reagan? Is Barack Obama all these things? Is he the fulfillment of the dreams of a certain doctor who gave a speech in the shadows of Lincoln’s memorial? Is he the promised liberator of America?

All these things have been stirring in our news, on our blogs, and on the pages of of our books. Some say Obama is the the hope of our nation. Others say that Obama is the fulfillment of a dream and a vision of the better future. And in the midst of all this speculation and forecasting, I can’t help but to think about what it must have been like in the 1st century. The Israelites had experienced the rule of faulty kings and leaders for centuries. And through it all, they had heard all the rumors and put their hope in one final perfect leader that would be the hope of their nation. All of Israel was waiting with bated breath for this Messiah.

Judging from what our nation is currently going through, I can’t help but to think how much more escalated the anticipation was when there were spreading stories of a man that was fulfilling these great promises, visions, and dreams. A man born in the small city of Bethlehem that their great King David was born in. A man that spoke prophetically and mightily like a certain prophet Moses, who God used to liberate their ancestors. A man that proclaimed to be the son of Adam, who was created by the very breath of God. A man that performed the great miracles of a once revered prophet Elijah. A man that fulfilled all the predictions of the Law and the Prophets. His name was Jesus.

Imagine all the questions that were swirling around the cities and towns in those years. Was he really our coming deliverer? Was he to be our protector? Will he finally end our oppression? Will he make our name great?! And imagine the deep sorrow and broken dreams of those that stood in the wake of this pronounced Messiah as he hung on that tree. But those with the eyes of faith knew that this was yet another fulfillment of that which God had planned from the beginning. And they were assured that he indeed was the Son of God! Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One – Israel’s Messiah.

I’m not certain how Obama’s presidency will pan out, but I know for sure that there is a man named Jesus that fulfilled all that God said he would do. He comes not only to restore one nation, but He came to inaugurate His Kingdom, which included all the nations. Obama is merely a shifting shadow in the brief history of the world, but Jesus is the true king who will claim his rightful place on the throne forever.


Christmas is for Babies!

That’s right. I said it. Christmas is for Babies!

It’s the most amazing miracle that never happened on 34th street – God came down to us. How ridiculous does that sound to you right now? It’s pretty ridiculous to me, for sure! But the truth of the matter is…well, that it’s true. God chose to take on human form so that His son Jesus could walk the earth more perfectly than any human ever could only to fulfill His ultimate purpose of dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead, all for the salvation of mankind. It’s a ridiculous plot and story, I know! But it’s the Gospel.

The Gospel wasn’t meant to make a whole lot of sense. The Gospel wasn’t supposed to be just another story that’s told on certain days and then placed back on the shelf to collect dust. The Gospel wasn’t meant to create fuzzies in hearts. The Gospel wasn’t meant to fit neatly in packaging. The Gospel wasn’t meant to be peddled and sold. The Gospel wasn’t meant to tickle the ear.

The Gospel was meant to shock and overturn. It draws a distinct line on the most important issue of all: the soul. The Gospel is supposed to be amazing. Why? Because it’s about Jesus – the son of God who came down from heaven to this earth.

The Gospel is good news because God is Emmanuel – “God with us”. The Gospel is good news because of babies, especially one sweet little baby named Jesus.

Christmas is about the Gospel. Christmas is about a baby.


We Don’t Need the Cross?

I’ll be honest. This enraged me…

“Christianity is an abusive theology that glorifies suffering,” and if the Christian faith can be transformed into a force for genuine human liberation, “it must itself be liberated from this theology. We must do away with atonement, this idea of a blood sin upon the whole human race that can be washed away only by the blood of the lamb.” The “blood-thirsty God” who presently “controls the whole Christian tradition” rules over a pervasively patriarchal system. “We do not need to be saved by Jesus’ death from some original sin. We need to be liberated from this abusive patriarchy.” [Joanne Carlson Brown is a Feminist Theologian and Professor of Church History and Ecumenics, St. Andrews College]

Joanne Carlson Brown, “Divine Child Abuse.” Daughters of Sarah, Vol.18, No. 3 (Summer 1992), p.28

Have we come to this point? Has our society been so pacified that we can’t handle the reality of the Cross and the violent death of Jesus Christ? Have we become so enamored with ourselves that we have to do away with anything that might draw a negative light on us? Has Jesus become made into a plastic toy we conveniently bend and shape as we see fit? How did we get here?

Yes, in our culture violence is not something we like with our Sunday morning cereal. It’s not a pleasantry that we exchange on sunny afternoons. Should we do away with it then? Does Jesus really have to die? Well, we see examples in the Bible where Jesus seemingly promotes non-violence (Matt. 5:39), but are we to make that the normative message of Jesus? No, because He’s talking about non-revenge there, not non-violence. So what does Jesus think about His own death? Jesus says in Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. He says this with progressively stronger language to His disciples as the time draws near. Ok, then we accept the death of Jesus as something that’s necessary, because He thought it was.

But did He really have to die for our sins (atonement)? Couldn’t he have just been murdered by an angry mob that was upset with Him? Why does it have to be God who ordains Christ’s death for the forgiveness of our sins? After all, is there such a thing as original sin that makes all of mankind depraved? Simply put, Jesus died, because there was a necessity for the atonement of our sins and however unpopular this may sound, God willed it (Isaiah 53, Exodus 16:59-63, Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17). This is not divine child abuse as if God was an angry out of control Father drunk with rage and bent on beating someone for His misery! This is God’s ultimate act of love (divine hospitality) to display His great love for His chosen people.

It amazes me what lengths we’ll go to create our own “religion”. We mar the Word of God and bend it to fit our own needs. That’s exactly what the Pharisees did. That’s why Jesus came to flip the script. And His ultimate act was the Cross.

We are sinners. We need saving. We need the cross. We need reconciliation. We need Jesus.


String of Thoughts (mostly about love)

What good is a label on an empty jar? Or better put, What good is a Christian when they are not filled with love?

Really. What good is the most righteous and upright Christian, if he/she does not display the love of Christ? What good is the sum of tireless service projects, short-term missions trips, and all night prayer meetings, if we do not display to the world the love of God by our love for one another.

What good is the “Welcome Sign” when all we do in our churches is huddle with our backs turned to the world?

Call me critical and label me hypocrite, but what would the world be like if we all learned how to love like the gospel has displayed for us.

He knew no sin. But He became sin for us. So that we might live. And that He would die. At the cross, He was labeled “King of the Jews”. And rightly so. Jesus came to us a servant. He died on the cross as a criminal. But He was raised from death as God. And now sits high on his throne like a King.

I desperatly need to understand this.