You’re Being Lied To

I have a fancy watch.

It tells me all sorts of things, including the weather.  Last Tuesday, it informed me it was a whopping 81 degrees outside!

So I dressed appropriately in one of my summeriest beach-shirts and headed to the church for a meeting.

I turned a lot of heads, because it was only 65 degrees outside.

My watch was lying to me!

I think I’ve got that fixed now, but I don’t know what to do about the rest of the world.

I get this feeling that LOTS of people are lying to me.

Advertisers?  Big time.  I’ll almost never trust something they tell me on a commercial.

Politicians?  Well…yeah.  I’m afraid so.  When you couple these experts at doublespeak with the slipperiness of today’s media, half the time it all sounds like one big lie.

That calls into question lots of things like Facebook Posts and Tweets and all kinds of social media.

And then, I can’t help but think it, but there may be people I know.  Friends, acquaintances, even family who could be lying to me!

I like to think I can trust most people.  A lot of lies are white lies, or lies of omission, or to prevent embarrassment. But it’s true that sometimes we trust someone and we get burned.  We can even lie to ourselves.

For a society built largely on a set of commandments including “don’t bear false witness”, there sure is a lot of false witnessing going on!

If you can’t fully trust your technology, or big business, or government, or media, or even the occasional friend, or even yourself, who does that leave that you can trust?

(Here is where, if this were a children’s sermon, all the kids would say, right on cue:  “Jesus”.)

And that’s a good answer, of course, but let me offer two thoughts first.

If you’re worried that you’re being lied to, here are 2 ways I suggest responding:

  1. Think Critically.  Use your brain.  Gather data.  Sort through a wide range of possibilities.  See where reason takes you.  Once I stepped outside, it didn’t take me long to figure out that my watch was lying to me.  Sometimes the lies are harder to uncover than others, but God gave us minds to help us seek truth.
  2. Employ Faith.  Faith isn’t meant to be a passive feeling, it’s meant to be an active, useful tool for your whole life.  Faith is what makes trust possible even in difficult circumstances.  Blind faith will let you down a scary road (see #1 to avoid that).  Instead, an informed faith will make it so that you can make wise choices and invest your trust where it is warranted, without becoming paranoid or jaded.

I’ll admit there are days when I’ll spin around and wonder if there’s anyone not corrupted by lies.  Anyone?

The answer, of course, is (Okay now, kids, say it loud…) Jesus.  Here’s what he said:

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  -John 8:31b-32

Holding to Jesus’ teaching involves thinking (#1) and believing (#2).  Instead of dwelling on all the lying, we can place our supreme trust in The Truth Jesus offers, and go from there.

It’s a spiritual attitude adjustment that can change our lives and help transform others.

The Bad News?  You’re being lied to.  (It isn’t close to 81 degrees out there.)

The Good News?  Well, let’s just say,

It’s better than all the Bad put together.

And that ain’t no lie.

Have a great week,

Mitch

(surely) Jesus laughed.

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Jesus Wept.

We know that, not just because of John 11:35, but also from stories of Jesus weeping in the Garden, and weeping over Jerusalem.

That makes sense.  The Gospel stories are intense, and what Jesus goes through is very emotional.

But what about Jesus laughing?

There isn’t a single reference to Jesus laughing.  No laughing? I find it hard to believe that our Savior was on a life-long personal downer.

I’m invested in this topic because I use humor everyday, even in sermons. One of my favorite movies is Airplane!, for Heaven’s sake.

I couldn’t make it through a day without laughter.

I figure the Gospel writers were busy with other objectives than pointing out every divine chuckle, and so, I’ve been digging…

Here are six passages where I could picture Jesus having a good ole’ laugh.  Take a read through them, and you’ll notice where I’ve inserted [JESUS LAUGHED] into the text.

I may or may not be right, but see if you can picture a little holy laughter for yourself:

1. Peter Walks On Water

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” [JESUS LAUGHED], “why did you doubt?”      Matthew 14:29-31

2. Zacchaeus Climbs a Tree

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-figtree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, [JESUS LAUGHED], looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  Luke 19:1-10

3. A Gentile Woman

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then [JESUS LAUGHED], “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.  Matthew 15:26-28

4.  The Children

16 But [JESUS LAUGHED] and called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18:16-17

5.  The Boy

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 [JESUS LAUGHED] and said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).

6. The Plank

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, [JESUS LAUGHED], first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-5

What do you think?  Can you picture Jesus laughing in any of these stories?

If so, it would appear that Jesus has a special fondness for people who stretch and grow in their faith.

Hey, maybe I’m on to something, or maybe we’ll just never know.

Jesus’ sense of humor could have ranged from non-existent to really absurd.

For me, I’m gonna hold on to these examples that..

surely, Jesus laughed.

(But don’t call Jesus Shirley.)

Have a great week,
Mitch
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Lumped In.

I hate being lumped in.

I just don’t like sharing that name “Christian” with some of the other folks who call themselves Christian.  We seem to have some different opinions on what that name means.

  • I watch people on some news channel claiming to speak for the entirety of Christianity, and I can’t help but think –“You ain’t speaking for me!”
  • I’ll hear about young people becoming atheists, and talking about all the bad things the church has done — money grubbing, hypocrisy, clergy with no boundary training, intolerance, etc., and I’ll think –“Hey, that’s not my Christianity!”
  • I’ll read articles about how the church in America has failed in so many ways, and I’ll think — “Look at all my church accomplished this week.  We’re trying! We’re really trying.”
  • I’ll see a report about some church making a decree or taking a stand that is, in my opinion, against everything Jesus would do, and I’ll think –“Why would I want to be associated with them?”

Now, if you’re a critical reader, you may have figured out that some of these criticisms, especially hypocrisy, DO apply to myself and most Christians. Sometimes a lot. No church is perfect, as an institution or as a movement.

We have so much work to do.

But that doesn’t change the fact that some churches do things that, (at least from my Christian perspective), are reprehensible. Not just irresponsible or misguided, but dangerous and damaging.

Things like claiming an earthquake or 9/11 was God punishing certain people.  Or treating women as subservient, second class citizens.  That kind of stuff drives me crazy.  Your criteria may be different.

I wonder. To keep us from being lumped in with Christians that give us fits, should we abandon the name all together?

Call me a Jesian, or a Christ-Follower, or part of the J-Crew (well probably not that last one), just don’t compare me to such-and-such Church as if we’re saying and doing the same thing.

I don’t know.  There are a great many other denominations that I see acting in integrity, mission, and purpose.  I want to be connected to them.

But there are some others out there I’d very much like to disassociate from.

Until we can all truly agree on what it means to follow Jesus as individuals, institutions, and movements, maybe we’re better off not being lumped into one category.

But who knows?  In 50 years believers may go by lots of different names.

I’m not planning to arm-wrestle somebody over who gets to use the name Christian…

That’s not the sort of thing we Jesusites would do.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

Don’t Tell Anyone.

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After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this,and told them to give her something to eat.   (Mark 5:40b-43)

If someone were to read the Gospel of Mark without the Easter Sunday story, they might come to an interesting conclusion about Evangelism:

Maybe we shouldn’t do it.

That’s right.  Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone about Jesus!

Several times, like after casting out a demon, or healing someone,  Jesus makes it clear he doesn’t want people to hear about this stuff.

It’s like a refrain:  “Don’t tell anyone!”

Maybe we should take him seriously on this.

Let’s stop telling.

If someone asks about Jesus’ mighty deeds, we could say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Or, “I’m sorry, but that’s classified.”  Or, “Members only.” Or, “That Holy Mystery is above your pay grade.”

You know, it just might work.  Church is in a decline these days.  Maybe we need to add a little secrecy back into what we’re doing.  Instead of showing all our cards, we can hold back a few things.

Call it “Advanced Christianity”.

What do you think?  Should we stop spreading parts of the Good News, and let folks come to us for a change?

Here’s how we could do it:

On our signs out front we could just put a great big question mark.

And we could all adopt buttoned lips but knowing smiles.

Speaking of buttons, we could have buttons that say “2B1Ask1”.

Oh wait, that’s the Freemasons.

Scholars call these statements from Jesus the “Messianic Secret”, but I don’t really think Jesus was trying to be hidden or unapproachable.

I think he was trying to make sure people didn’t just point to his miracles, and miss the message.

He wanted folks to hear the Word, not just watch the spectacle.

I get that.  The world needs to hear what Jesus has to say more than ever.

So maybe we aren’t being commanded to keep the Good News silent.  The Gospel of Mark just wants to remind us to choose our words wisely.

And as for the healing and demon-casting?

That will continue to be a Holy Mystery…

Even for us Advanced Christians.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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