As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Are Republicans the Christian Party?

Is there evidence to call Republicans the Christian party? That’s in the Bible - not! Evangelicals point to obvious Democrat sins. Do we ignore our Evangelical and Republican sins? Would Jesus say “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you legislated not to feed me. I was thirsty, and you legislated against clean drinking water. I was a stranger (or foreigner), and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked, and you legislated against helping. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t provide health care or prison reform.” Have Republicans and Evangelicals failed Jesus? Does the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) make us ashamed?

Should Christians hate the Government?

Should Christians hate the government? That’s in the Bible - not! Government provides roads, schools, satellites, stadiums, defense, retirement, water treatment, sewage, trash disposal, research, ports, communications, mail, energy, disease control, health, consumer protection, clean air and water, work safety, weather service, unemployment, helps the poor, sick, elderly, provides police, scholarships, soil conservation, libraries, building codes, etc. God supports good government (Romans 13:1-7).

Where is the Lion Lying with the Lamb?

Where is the lion and lamb lying together? That’s in the Bible - not! Eternal peace is pictured by several predators and prey living together. Isaiah 11:6 actually says, "In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all." Isaiah 65:25 says, "The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. But the snakes will eat dust. In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!" Isn’t what the Bible actually says better?

Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath?

Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? That’s in the Bible - NOT! 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 describes a fundraiser for Jerusalem, not necessarily a collection at Sunday services. Acts 20:7 is a special farewell service, not necessarily a regular Sunday service. Romans 14:5-13 gives permission to worship on any day we choose. Hebrews 4:9 says that there remains a Sabbath rest still to come, referring to our eternal rest. Colossians 2:16 suggests that we should not allow others to judge us by mandating certain days. There is always a tendency to criticize people for the days they prefer. Christians are free to keep any rest day they choose, following the spirit of the law: one day in seven.

Is Human Nature Evil?

Is human nature intrinsically evil? That’s in the Bible — not! Didn’t Jesus say that people were evil and didn’t Paul describe the “natural man” as refusing the things of the Spirit of God (Matthew 7:11; 1 Corinthians 2:14). Jesus was not describing human nature and Paul described a sensual, unspiritual person, not the nature with which humanity was created. For that we have to go to Genesis 1:26-31 which describes humanity’s creation in God’s image as “very good.” Adam and Eve were not created flawed, but had the ability to choose between good and evil, and they chose sin. Humans thus became faulty images of God, like an image in a broken mirror.

What about Informal Marriages?

Does Christian marriage need a formal ceremony and a marriage certificate? That’s in the Bible — not! In Genesis 2:24 Adam and Eve were united as one flesh, but no formal ceremony was recorded. Malachi 2:14 supports a marriage covenant, without specifying what. Romans 13:1-2 encourages obedience to civil authorities, but some modern governments recognize informal marriages. In Bible times, marriage was by private arrangement, not by the church or the state. If modern non-traditional unions are closer to Bible marriages, why judge them by modern rather than Bible standards? On the other hand isn’t legal protection and a good reputation wise? Isn’t a church marriage good and like recapturing God’s blessing in the Garden of Eden?

Is Religion Wrong?

Have you ever heard people say they prefer Christianity without the religion? That’s in the Bible — not! James 1:26-27 tells us the real story. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” So, in the Bible, purity of religion is the goal. And it has nothing to do with the style of liturgy or the ways that we do church, but whether or not we control what we say, care for the needy and avoid corruption.

Is Christmas Pagan?

Have you ever heard someone say that Christmas is pagan? That’s in the Bible — not! Christmas was not generally observed until around the 300’s. Some Christians avoid it because of its pagan roots, but God only forbade evil pagan worship like child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21) and idolatry (Jeremiah 10:1-5). He did not forbid prayers, music or even using pagan dates for Christian worship (Romans 14:5-6; Colossians 2:16). Pagans used trees, but God did so first (Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24; Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4; Revelation 2:7; 22:14, 19). Christ’s birth is in the Bible (Luke 2). The angels celebrated that wonderful event and so can we.

Is there One Antichrist?

Have you ever heard people preach about a future world leader called the Antichrist? That’s in the Bible — not! The word Antichrist is only found in the Bible four times (1 John 2:18; 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). Already many Antichrists have appeared. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. Someone claiming to be a prophet and yet not acknowledging the truth about Jesus, has the spirit of the Antichrist. Anyone denying that Jesus Christ came in a real body is a deceiver and an antichrist. Rather than support any theory about a single apocalyptic figure, these verses suggest the idea that there have been many anti- or against Christ.

Is Dancing Sin?

Have you ever heard that dancing is a sin? That’s in the Bible — not! David danced before the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:13-15). There is a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:3-5). When God promised to bless Israel he said they would again be happy and dance (Jeremiah 31:3-5). God turns our mourning into joyful dancing (Psalm 30:10-12). We are encouraged to praise his name with dancing (Psalm 149:2-4; 150:3-5). Obviously lewd dancing or dancing to worship false gods would inappropriate and sinful, but not all dancing is wrong. God encourages the right kind of dancing, like joyful and worshipful dancing.

Is Government Welfare Wrong?

Some Christians claim that taking care of the poor is for churches and individuals but not for governments. That’s in the Bible — not! God required Israel to collect a national tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 26:12) as well as individual duty (Leviticus 19:19). God expects courts to treat rich and poor equally (Exodus 23:2-8; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 10:17-19). The New Testament praises helping the poor (Acts 10:2-4, 31; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:9; 1 John 3:17). After Constantine, when Rome became Christian, they found many principles of righteous government from the entire Bible, including Psalm 72, which holds national leaders responsible to defend the poor and rescue the needy.

Is Tongues-Speaking Necessary to be Spirit-Filled?

To be spirit-filled do you have to speak in tongues? That’s in the Bible — not! Let’s look at spirit-filled experiences in the Bible. Elizabeth prophesied to Mary (Luke 1:39-56). Bezalel was given craftsmanship (Exodus 31:3; 35:31). John was spirit-filled before birth (Luke 1:15). Zechariah prophesied (Luke 1:67-68). Jesus was led into the wilderness (Luke 4:1). The church spoke in known tongues (Acts 2:4). Seven deacons had wisdom (Acts 6:3-5). Stephen saw heaven (Acts 7:55). Saul preached (Acts 9:17-20). Barnabas brought many people to God (Acts 11:24). Paul had insight (Acts 13:9-10). Believers had joy (Acts 13:52). Many non-Christian religions speak in tongues. The fruit of the Spirit is the best evidence (Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Was Jesus Immersed in Baptism?

Have you ever heard someone say that if baptism by immersion was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me? Yeah! Right! That’s in the Bible — not! People claim that the Bible proves Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch were immersed (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, & Acts 8:38-39), but it does not. Coming up out of the water could mean that they came up the bank out of ankle deep water. The Greek can also be translated as coming up away from the water. This is inconclusive and proves nothing. Was God was not interested in inspiring exact detail about baptism? Is the mode of baptism far less important to God than the fact of baptism?

Is Immersion the Only Valid Baptism?

Have you ever heard someone say that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism? That’s in the Bible — not! The word baptism literally means immersion. But, it’s used in several non-literal senses. It means wash in several places (Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38; Acts 22:16). It describes Israel walking through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). The Israelites were not literally immersed in the Red Sea, but figuratively. They walked through with dry feet, baptized into Moses without being literally dipped or immersed in any water. So, biblical use of the word baptism reveals that it can certainly be an immersion and also some other use of water such as a symbolic washing.

Is Alcohol Use a Sin?

Have you ever met someone who proudly announced that they had never touched a drop of alcohol in their life? That’s in the Bible — not!
If used moderately, wine and beer were designed by God to be a blessing in the body of a normally healthy person. They may be enjoyed at worship feasts (Deuteronomy 14:24-26). Wine cheers God and men (Judges 9:13), gladdens the heart (Psalms 104:15), gladdens life (Ecclesiastes 10:19), makes the heart rejoice (Zechariah 10:7), and cheers up the depressed (Proverbs 31:6). It is to be imbibed with a cheerful heart (Ecclesiastes 9:7) and makes life merry (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
The Bible does not ban moderate and responsible use of alcohol, only drunkenness. Instead of acting like Pharisees and inventing sins not found in the Bible, what if we took genuine sins seriously, like bearing false witness?

Is Karma in the Bible?

Is karma compatible with Christianity? That’s in the Bible - not! Karma is a version of salvation by good works, which contradicts the Christian teaching of salvation by grace. Karma is a form of cause and effect, teaching that the balance of our deeds determines our future in this life and the next. This contradicts a foundational teaching of Christianity, God’s forgiveness in Christ. Romans 6:23 says that sin brings death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 says God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, not counting our sins against us. John 3:16-18 says God gave His Son, so that everyone who believes will have eternal life. Karma is unforgiving. God forgives.

Is Sola Scriptura Accurate?

Many Protestants believe in sola scriptura, the Bible alone. That’s in the Bible - not! Every church has important traditions, well-reasoned doctrinal statements, and experiences of the Holy Spirit. A more accurate statement is prima scriptura, primarily the scriptures. When tradition, reason or experience are made equal to the Bible we are in danger of preaching another Gospel (Galatians 1:8-9). God has inspired Scripture to teach us what is true, right from wrong, and prepare and equip us (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Acts 17:10-12; Isaiah 8:20; 40:8). The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:12-14) and faithful preachers expound the Bible (Acts 17:2; Acts 17:11; Romans 15:4; 1 Timothy 4:13).

Is Apostolic Succession True?

Is apostolic succession true? That’s in the Bible - not! Right teaching is not automatically passed on by continuously consecutive ordinations (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). Some church leaders will be false teachers. We should compare their dogmas with the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate written teaching authority (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:18-21). The church repeatedly overly focuses on human traditions, earthly reasoning and popular experiences. It wanders from the Bible to the right ditch of legalism and the left ditch of liberalism. Faithful believers are brought back to right doctrine by knowing their Bibles. The Bible reforms the church in a way that apostolic succession could not.

Is Papal Dogma Infallible?

Are ex-cathedra dogmatic statements of popes infallible? That’s in the Bible - not! Matthew 16:18-19 does not call Peter the first pope or chief of the apostles. James chaired the first church council (Acts 15:1-23). Paul corrected Peter (Galatians 2:1-14). The church is built on the foundation of all the apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20) and Jesus is the chief. Peter was not alone in having the authority to loose and bind (Matthew 18:15-19). It was Peter who said not to be authoritarian, lording it over others (1 Peter 5:3). A heavy-handed way to coerce people is by claiming that your dogmatic statements are infallible. Is infallibility bullying? Does Infallibility deny the need for human leaders to repent of bad doctrines?

Do Catholics Teach Salvation by Works?

Do Catholics teach salvation by works? That’s in the Bible - not! Some Protestants falsely accuse the Roman Church of teaching salvation by works. We Protestants ought to repent of bearing false witness towards our Roman brothers and sisters. Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe what the Bible teaches on this. Let me explain. All major branches of Christianity, east and west, believe in salvation by faith. But, a saving faith is not a dead faith. What is a living faith? Jesus said that good trees produce good fruit. We can be identified by our actions (Matthew 7:15-20). James explains it plainly. A saving faith is evidenced by good works and faith without works is dead (James 2:17-26).

Is Justification by Faith Alone?

Is justification by faith that is alone, sola fide? That’s in the Bible - not! Luther added the word alone to Romans 3:28, believing it made the text clearer. The letter of James annoyed Luther. He called it an epistle of straw and removed it from the Bible among other books. James 2:14-26 says that faith is proven by action, good deeds, and we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Faith is dead without good works. Later theologians wrote, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” What makes faith not alone? Could it be works? Are Catholics and Protestants closer than we think?

Is the One True Church Visible?

Are apostolic succession, baptist succession, sabbatarianism, or restorationism reasons to declare any denomination the one true church? That’s in the Bible - not! The church is built upon the foundation of all the apostles (Ephesians 2:20). One of those apostles was Thomas who started churches in south western India. Those churches were separated for 1500 years and some remain independent to this day. Are they not part of the one true church? Thomas and Bartholomew also planted the Assyrian Church much of which remains independent. The church is not visibly one but invisibly one in Christ (Galatians 3:28; 1 Peter 3:8; Philippians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Colossians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Acts 4:32).

Is Financial Success Having Money?

Is financial success measured by having lots of money? That’s in the Bible - not! Throughout the Bible those who give are considered by God to be truly successful and those who focus on getting are miserable losers. Selflessness is success. Selfishness is the ultimate failure. The parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46) reveals eternal bliss for the charitable and hell for the greedy. The story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4) shows that it is not the amount that gauges successful giving, but the percentage. There are two kinds of people, givers and takers. Givers are winners and takers are losers. True financial success is not gauged by what we accumulate, but by what we give.

Sabbath Freedom (Luke 13:14-17)

This is actually a story of two people in bondage, a crippled woman and a synagogue leader. The woman was in bondage to a crippling spirit. The synagogue leader was in bondage to human traditions and the letter of the law. Both needed a healing word from Jesus, one was the word “you are healed;” the other was an intervention.
Literally, two people needed to be healed, but in different ways. Morally, Israel was given the Sabbath as a day of freedom from seven workdays in Egypt. By analogy, human society tends to enforce a yoke of bondage, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Prophetically, only Jesus can truly free us from our natural human tendency to take freedom from each other.

Rejoice in Freedom (Luke 13:14-17)

Jesus set a woman free on the Sabbath day, but the synagogue leader could only see the day as a day of bondage to man-made rules of Sabbath observance. Jesus bluntly addresses the clear hypocrisy where cattle are set free to be watered on the Sabbath and clearly this “daughter of Abraham” should be set free of her crippling disease.
Literally, the comparison of freeing cattle and the woman shamed the synagogue leader. By analogy, many of our man-made church rules are called into question. Morally, any interpretation of Scripture that causes more bondage and less freedom ought to be questioned. Prophetically, would our church traditions sometimes become more Pharisaic than Christ-like? Christianity is a religion of freedom not bondage.

Biblical Healing (Luke 13:10-13)

Jesus healed a woman through word and touch. James (5:13-16) mentions faith, prayer and anointing oil. Naaman dipped in the Jordan seven times. Jesus made mud from spit and dirt. Faith is not always mandated. Paul sent (anointed) cloths to the sick (Acts 19:11-12). The Bible mentions many ways that healing was done. Within those guidelines is safety.
Literally, God heals us, not our prayer efforts or olive oil. By analogy, our care for the sick is a physical representation of the hands of Jesus, who does the healing. Morally, we have no right to draw attention to ourselves. Mystically, any healing in this life is only temporary, but symbolic of the permanent healing we receive in eternity.

You are Set Free (Luke 13:10-13)

In the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus saw a woman with a spirit of weakness, some kind of muscular disorder, caused by evil forces. Jesus told her that she was released or set free from the sickness. Jesus touched her in an appropriate gesture of encouragement to her faith and she was made straight and praised God for her healing. Literally, Jesus healed a woman with a weakness caused by an evil spirit. By analogy, she was freed on the day of freedom from work. Morally, Jesus, as the creator of the Sabbath day, had every right to determine what was appropriate conduct on that day. Prophetically the Sabbath pictures our day of eternal rest from wickedness all around us.

Why did Jesus teach us to Pray to Our Father? (Luke 2:40-52)

The idea of God as our Father offends a society which is abandoning Patriarchalism in favor of Feminism. Male leadership is called evil and female leadership good. God does not have gender, but described both male and female as very good. Feminine and masculine metaphors are used of God, but Jesus taught us to pray to Our Father in heaven. God is a Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one. Reducing creation to a competition between sexes insults God who created male and female to complement each other. Calling God our Father emphasizes his not being dependent upon any other for his identity, since the Son is generated by the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father.

Did Jesus Obey His Parents? (Luke 2:51-52)

To alleviate the fears of parents on earth, and to negate any kind of cultish ideas where family is ignored to follow a religious leader, the narrator reminds us that Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. Yet, here at age twelve, Jesus’ future mission is becoming evident to the reader. We are told that his parents didn’t know what to think, yet Mary stored these things in her heart, perhaps treasuring the extraordinary nature of her son’s encounter with learned teachers and wrestling with its significance.  Particularly, she may have been just as amazed as were those teachers at his understanding and his answers. Verses 40 and 52 reveal his growing favor with God and people.

Who is Your Father? (Luke 2:49)

The phrase I must be “in my Father’s house” in verse 49 actually refers to more than the Temple in Jerusalem. Many translations say “in my Father’s house” but the King James and others also legitimately translate it as “I must be about my Father’s business.” The words “house” or “business” are not in the Greek, but the phrase may be legitimately translated as something like, I must be involved in the things of my Father. So, the word house may be understood as household affairs or business. As we are converted, it is called being born again, or born from above. We are to honor our earthly fathers, but the Father who takes precedence is God our heavenly Father.

Did Jesus disobey his Parents? (Luke 2:40-52)

The narrative does not record that Jesus disobeyed any parental instructions. It does however, make a different point, that Jesus’ commitment to God’s purposes transcended even the expectations of a righteous household. We know that both Joseph and Mary obeyed the law by attending Passover, but Jesus’ calling was to eventually become the true Passover lamb. He would ultimately institute new elements at Passover, the bread and wine. So, it is that we find him given incredible wisdom at such a young age, able to hold his own with Jewish teachers highly educated in the Holy Scriptures. Notice a subtle shift in emphasis, from parents to child, but he returned to Nazareth with them and he was subject to them.

What is Mary’s Song? (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary’s ode became one of the church’s first hymns, perhaps written during her stay with Elizabeth during her pregnancy. The contrast between the exalted of this world and faithful, humble people characterizes the Magnificat. Mary sings with outrageous faith. She dares to believe that the poor will be saved, even though they continue to be trodden down, even in our day. It is a message of hope in present and continuing oppression by the world’s powerful. It dares to claim that the rich are really empty and that the humble are filled with good things. The birth of the Savior of the world in a stable to poor working-class people is a continual reminder of God turning things upside down.

What do the Proud and Haughty Do? (Luke 1:51)

Don and Sally had a wealthy business but constantly belittled their sons. Matt handled his mistreatment by disappearing from the family and John stayed trying hard to appease his abusive parents. The business will probably not survive. [1] In the US a 2009 study found that “most of the medical bankrupt were middle class… homeowners… had gone to college… [and] had health insurance.” [2] Some few people profit immensely from a failed system. In America 33% of the elderly live in poverty. The OECD average is 13.5%. The worst European states have elderly poor of 20-27% and only around 2% in the Netherlands and New Zealand. Causes of poverty include economic inequality, poor education, divorce, sickness, greed and corruption.
[1] Ruth Mcclendon, Leslie B Kadis. Reconciling Relationships and Preserving the Family Business: Tools for Success. Haworth Press, Inc. 2004. 60.

[2] 111th Congress. Medical Debt: Is Our Healthcare System Bankrupting Americans? US government Printing Office. 2009. 19.

What do the Spirit-Filled Do? (Luke 1:41)

The evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit varies. Elizabeth prophesied in her own language (Luke 1:39-56). Others were spirit-filled and given craftsmanship skills (Exodus 31:3; 35:31), or leapt in a mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), uttered a prophecy (Luke 1:67-68), were led into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), spoke in known tongues (Acts 2:4), received wisdom (Acts 6:3-5), saw visions (Acts 7:55), had healing (Acts 9:17-20), did missionary feats (Acts 11:24), experienced insight (Acts 13:9-10) and joy (Acts 13:52). Tongues experiences exist among non-Christian religions and may not always be evidence of being spirit-filled. When the Holy Spirit fills us, the evidence is not self-promotion, but glorifying God.

Why did Jesus Come? (Luke 1:39-44)

Mary’s long journey to Elizabeth in the hill country was dangerous for a bride-to-be. Once there, John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit before birth (Luke 1:15-17) leaps in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit prophesies. Elizabeth the older of the two reveals her humility, by addressing Mary in quite deferential terms. Her husband, Zechariah the high priest, lacked faith, doubting Gabriel’s message and was struck speechless until his son, John the Baptist was born. When Gabriel foretold Christ’s birth to Mary she said, let it be according to your word. She was an ordinary working-class girl, but she believed and was blessed. The message of Christmas includes mercy, humility and feeding the hungry.

Winnowing and Burning (Luke 3:17-18)

Winnowing is the process of separating a grain from its hulls or chaff using moving air. Chaff is indigestible to humans, but cattle can eat it as fodder. It can be plowed into the ground or burned. Response to John the Baptist’s preaching was like winnowing. Now is the day to respond to today’s message and repent. Jesus will judge, then burn up the chaff and preserve the wheat based on familiar criteria. How do we treat the hungry and thirsty? How is our hospitality to strangers or foreigners? How is our giving to those who need clothing? What is our treatment of those who need health care? How do we treat imprisoned criminals (Matthew 25:31-46)? Where will we be on the judgment day, among the wheat or chaff?

Confirmation of Repentance (Luke 3:12-16)

Repentance is primarily a change of heart, confirmed by fruits, good works. John the Baptist addressed the need to change our hearts and our deeds. We see John’s concerns even today, exploitation of taxes for personal gain and misuse of military might to enrich ourselves. Baptism is confirmed in a decision to repent. Baptism by fire is threefold: a baptism by fire occurred as flames of fire resting upon people’s heads on that first Pentecost, a baptism by fiery trials and judgment to come in which the “chaff” will be burned with unending fire. Hell “fire and brimstone” preaching can easily be overdone or ignored completely. Yet, Jesus does preach about final judgment in fire. He also appeals to us to repent so that we don’t have to face it.

Nationalism (Luke 3:8-14)

Nationalism is not new. It creates in us an air of superiority. The British Empire was the “kingdom of God on earth”1 and the royals were “defenders of the faith.”2 Then we learned the truth about British atrocities in many countries. America used the polite term “regime change”3 when overthrowing popularly elected governments to set up puppet dictatorships, while we believed it was making the world safe for Democracy. Nationalism blinds any people to their country’s sins. John the Baptist preached that his fellow citizens believed they were alright with God because faithful Abraham was their ancestor. They were blind to widespread national tax corruption, extortion and injustice in treating the poor and hungry. From government and industry leaders to ourselves, our whole nation needs to repent.

1 Brendon, Piers. The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997. Vintage Books, 2010. 335. 2 Sir Richard Baker, Edward Phillips, Sir Thomas Clarges. A Chronicle of the Kings of England. H. Sawbridge... B. Tooke... and T. Sawbridge. 1684. Great Britain. 321. 3 Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books. 2006.

Meaningless Religion (Luke 3:7-8)

In Isaiah 1:10-17 God chastised Israel for performing religious duties while having their hands covered with the blood of innocent victims. Stand up, sit down, genuflect, raise your hands, cross yourselves, put up Christmas lights, exchange gifts, sing Amen, shout Hallelujahs, praise the Lord, speak in tongues, bow your heads and swing that incense censer. None of these things is evil. They are all good if they come from God and are used for good. But John the Baptist called some religious people the children of snakes. Was it an allusion to the devil? Was he saying that, without repentance all or any religious dedication is worthless? Is he saying to us that, genuine religion is evidenced by seeking justice and helping the oppressed as James wrote (1:27)?

Preparation (Luke 3:4-6)

John fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:3-5) in a fresh manner. Preparation for Christ’s coming is in turning to God. Jesus died rejected by the world. He comes to a people prepared to receive him. Making things straight and level and smooth is far more important than who has the power, fame and fortune in the world. Straight, level and smooth describes what happens in a changed heart prepared to receive Jesus. God is often involved in small things in this world’s eyes, things far away from the fame and fortune that this world seeks, like John’s ministry far from Rome and in an insignificant wilderness along the Jordan. The seemingly big things of this world are really insignificant. The seemingly small things of God, changed hearts are more significant than all the politics, wealth and celebrity of this world.

Road Building (Luke 3:4-5)

John the Baptist described three basic principles of highway building, making things straight, level and smooth. Paved streets dating back before Abraham have been found in Ur. The Roman Empire built major roads covering almost 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles). To create a modern highway, surveyors must calculate the best route, it must be designed and approved, land must be purchased, rock and earth must be removed by blasting and digging, depressions must be filled, and embankments, bridges and tunnels must be built following prescribed maximum gradients. Drainage and water courses must be integrated. All this is before the first level of road bed is put down. That may consist of aggregate base, base, intermediate and surface layers. The thickness of these layers varies around the world. John’s use of a road building metaphor pictures preparation to receive Christ.

John’s Ministry (Luke 3:3)

John the Baptist traveled the region both sides of the Jordan with a message that was fundamentally the same as Jesus’, repentance and forgiveness. John’s baptism was basically a repentance-baptism, connecting the need for cleansing and repentance. Repentance presupposes that our society lacks something and needs a change. In John, we see repentance as turning away from old ways and pledging allegiance to God. Human sins cause great harm around the world, but forgiveness provides healing and restores unity in the community. In an era when prominent people and events of significance bring so much destruction, what John did in a corner prepared the way of peace. Many things crowd out the Christmas message like insipid politics and pathetic commercialism. The message of Christ’s coming is far more important. It was announced with a baptism of repentance in a wilderness.

Big and Small Things (Luke 3:1-2)

Rome invented the word dictatorship. Roman Emperor Tiberius reigned 14-37 AD. He was a gloomy and reclusive man, infamous for his cruelty and shameless debauchery. Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias were various local Roman governors in and around Judea. Annas and Caiaphas were puppet high priests over the Roman Judea, appointed by the local Roman governor, yet with great power over the Jewish people. The allusion to this world’s great and corrupt leaders sets the scene for what is to follow beginning in an insignificant corner of Israel. Do not despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:9-10), because God’s great works often begin small yet are of far greater significance than what’s currently in the news headlines. John’s ministry began in the wilderness, picturing a new Exodus and a new beginning preparing the way for Christ.

Positive Steps in a Negative World (Luke 21:34-36)

Looking down at the world we see turmoil and negativity. Jesus says to stand and look up, for your salvation is near! Where are our minds’ eyes focused? If the fig tree pictures the Jews and any other tree the nations, do we see signs there that his coming is near? Jesus says that we can know that the Kingdom of God is near. Why are we sad about nations rising and falling, when we know that the present heaven and earth will disappear, but his words will never disappear? Our generation is familiar with horror; we see it on the news; some even enjoy it as entertainment; as a society we are weighed down with self-indulgence and worries. Jesus says, watch out! If we fall asleep spiritually, that day may catch us unaware like a trap. Keep alert and pray.

Jesus’ Reappearing (Luke 21:27)

Jesus is actually with us every moment, but he is hidden to our eyes "behind that invisible veil which keeps heaven and earth apart, and which we pierce in those moments, such as prayer, the sacraments, the reading of scriptures, and our work with the poor.”1 One day we will see with our eyes. Heaven and earth will be one. At that time every knee shall bow, creation will be new again, the dead will be raised and the kingdom of heaven will be here in all its fulness. Before then Jesus speaks of signs alluding to prophecies like Isaiah 13:9-10; Ezekiel 32:7-8; and Joel 2:30-31. As this world and its institutions come to an end there will be two kinds of people, those who live in fear or panic, and those who live in faith.

1Wright, N. T. Simply Christian Why Christianity Makes Sense. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. Print. 219.

Faithful not Fearful (Luke 21:29-36)

Prophecy ought not make us fearful, but faithful. The analogy of a fig tree getting its leaves, indicating that summer is coming, indicates a different way of reckoning the seasons. Moderns like the day-and-hour concept of seasons. For instance, in the USA, summer 2016 begins Monday, June 20 at 6:35 PM EDT. We can also determine seasons by looking at plants and weather. In this way we speak of summer coming late or early. Jesus’ coming cannot be determined by the day-and-hour, but only by its nearness and it’s approach should spur us to readiness. The term “this generation” is not necessarily a length of time, but could also refer to fearful people attached to this world who resist the Gospel. That kind of people will not pass until Christ returns. Jesus encourages believers to be ready and in prayer.

Signs (Luke 21:25-28)

Jesus begins this chapter with short-range prophecy about the destruction of the Temple, then moves to longer-range prophecies. Signs of Christ’s return are astronomical, international troubles, oceanographic, and terror. While the world cringes in fear of the coming of the Son of Man, we Christians are able to rise above fear. What is the difference? Those who are too tied to this world fear and mourn, whereas those who are expectant of a better world have faith and look forward to Christ’s coming. The term Son of Man comes from the book of Daniel. We should stand up and look with confidence, because literally “redemption” is near. We cannot know the day or hour, but we CAN KNOW that God’s kingdom is near. This is good news for those who believe Jesus and submit to his reign over our lives.

Love of Truth (John 18:37)

Do we stand for the truth, even when the truth is not what we want to hear? Historical revisionism is a phrase used in popular culture to mean a falsifying of history. It really means a simple re-examination of the facts. What some call revisionism is technically negationism, a denying of past history. Honest revisionism simply seeks to find the truth. An example may be asking whether Antonio Meucci or Alexander Bell invented the telephone or whether Christopher Columbus or Leif Erickson was the first European to discover America. What is true Christian politics? Is it based on fear or faith, hate or love, greed or generosity, selfishness or selflessness. Rather than worry, should we just accept that some may not be his sheep (John 10:26-27)? If we really love truth, do we recognize what Jesus says as true?

Not of this World (John 18:36-37)

Though people may try to bring their Christian values into political office, the politics of this world is not the politics of heaven. Jesus emphatically states that his kingdom is not “of” or “from” this world. Like a lawyer bulldozing a case, Pilate only heard that Jesus admitted to being a king. Like both sides of politics, Pilate only hears facts that support his position. Did Jesus mean that he only rules in the hearts of men as some put it? Did Jesus mean that he is from above rather than from earth? The end of verse 36 clarifies it: literally Jesus’ kingdom is not “from here.” Coming from heaven, Jesus’ kingdom ultimately overrules all human authority. What if his kingdom was from here? Then his servants would fight for him, but Jesus had rebuked Peter for drawing a sword.

Comparing Pilate and Jesus (John 18:33-37)

Pilate represents the politics of this world, whether we call it monarchy, democracy or another government variety. He used his political power for selfishness even destroying those who got in his way. Jesus washed people’s feet and gave his life for them. Pilate caused terror. Jesus brings peace. Pilate's followers imitated his violence. Jesus' followers put away the sword of violence and hatred. Pilate governed by the will of Caesar, which could change any minute. Jesus rules by the will of God, which will never change. Royal families are viewed by their subjects in many ways from indifference and disdain to love and loyalty. French and Americans may view royalty negatively. Some view their monarchs as benevolent national parents who provide military protection, political unity and prosperity for all. How do we follow king Jesus and his politics of love?

King of the Jews (John 18:33)

Pilate asking if Jesus was king of the Jews was not new. Nathanael called Jesus the Son of God, the King of Israel (John 1:49). A large crowd of Passover visitors hailed him as king of Israel (John 12:13). Pontius Pilate ruled the Roman province of Judea from 26-36 AD, as one of 30 different Roman Prefects, Procurators and Legates who governed during that time. The Roman province of Judea existed from 6-135 AD. Its capital was Caesarea on the northwest coast and not Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate was the 5th Roman Prefect. Archaeology and history record him as being an equestrian, a knight to us. As Prefect or military governor over the Roman province of Judea, calling Jesus king of the Jews could have been a political threat and enough for a charge of plotting against Roman rule.

Look for Christ not Antichrist (Mark 13:5-6)

Christians panic and false prophets teach that the end is here. Jesus taught that it was not the end, only the beginning and that no one knows the day or hour. Jesus gives clarity. Today’s suffering is caused by sin. Be faithful in an evil world. Patience and faithfulness will be rewarded. During times of trouble, false prophecies abound. Jesus’ purpose was not to detail the future, but to encourage faithfulness in the present. Jesus is basically saying that everything will be all right, that God is working on behalf of humanity. He wants us to be free and open to the future and not have our faith limited by fear of world news. We seem to worry too much about the fate of the world our parents knew. Jesus encourages us to watch in prayer, stay faithful and endure.