Overlooked Scripture No. 5: “Who is my mother?”

“One said to Him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with you.’  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are my brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'” (Matthew 12:47-50).

I’m so sorry, Catholic friends. But Scripture will not allow you to worship Mary.

There is no place for Mariolatry, as it is known, in the life of Jesus’ disciples.

We will give her the honor Scripture gives her. We have no trouble calling her blessed, for who would not be blessed by being chosen to bear God’s Son into the world. But no, she is not “the mother of God.”  Any way you slice it, the only way you can make Scripture justify worship of Mary is to ignore everything but a few selected verses.

A woman called out of the crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you! And blessed are the breasts that nursed you!”  Jesus’ answer is significant.  “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28).

Jesus would not allow people to make of Mary more than she was.

Continue reading “Overlooked Scripture No. 5: “Who is my mother?”” »

Overlooked scripture No. 4 “Second-hand faith”

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word. Then, they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world'” (John 4:39-42).

Paul Harvey used to call this “the rest of the story.”

We preachers dearly love the Lord’s encounter with the woman at the well, given in the first half of John 4.  It’s insights and teachings, its power and pathos, make it one for the ages.  But the story does not end the way we generally conclude it, with her rushing back into the town to tell her friends about the Man she had met. There is more.

As the townspeople flowed out to meet the Lord, they begged Him to stay, which He did. Then, two days later, when He left, Jesus left behind a lot of new believers.  That’s when some of them gave us the memorable statement which I’m calling “overlooked scripture.”

“Now we believe…not just because of your testimony that He told you everything you ever did…but because we have met Him for ourselves, and we know that He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

That’s strong stuff.

Continue reading “Overlooked scripture No. 4 “Second-hand faith”” »

Overlooked Scriptures No. 3: “Jesus baptized no one.”

“The Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)….” (John 4:1-2)

Baptism has bumfuzzled God’s people from the first.

Where did the practice originate?  Answer: Evidently from the Old Testament practice of drenching a newly ordained priest (Leviticus 8:6). Later, some say, the “pouring” was given to proselytes coming into the Jewish faith from the world.  So, when John the Baptist arrived and began calling people to wade into the Jordan for a dip (which is the literal meaning of “baptize”), while people thought he was strange, no one seems to have questioned the practice.  Oddly, he was baptizing Jews, not Gentiles and not proselytes.

When our Lord was baptized, it signaled His coming out, His going public, His announcing to the world His identity.  That moment, in my thinking, was the first time Satan knew beyond a doubt who the Messiah was. He knew the Lord was there somewhere, for he could read Scripture. But Jesus had done no miracles and singled Himself out in no way that would cause the enemy to identify Him.  But Satan was on the alert.  He listened to John preach and knew to be expecting the Christ.  And then one day, Jesus of Nazareth walked into the water and the heavens opened and a voice from the sky shook the landscape.

And that’s when Satan knew.

Continue reading “Overlooked Scriptures No. 3: “Jesus baptized no one.”” »

Overlooked Scriptures No. 2: “Why Jesus is the authority on Heaven”

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).

Jesus knows about Heaven.

He should. He’s a native.

When He speaks of Heavenly things, everyone else on the field should retire and every mouth be closed.  No one else carries the credentials Jesus does regarding the divine.

I wonder if people have ever considered the width and breadth and depth of this statement, given by our Lord to Nicodemus.

Continue reading “Overlooked Scriptures No. 2: “Why Jesus is the authority on Heaven”” »

Overlooked Scriptures No. 1: “Does Jesus believe in me?”

(It’s not that certain scriptures are lost, misplaced, or denied.  Rather, they’re usually surrounded by other better-known texts that tend to suck all the air out of the room.  We’re going to present a few articles on some of those overlooked scriptures. No particular order.)

“Now, when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

Is it possible that for some to believe in Jesus and still not be saved?

Doesn’t Scripture make belief in Him the essence of salvation?  Immediately after our text, we have the Lord’s encounter with Nicodemus with the iconic John 3:16 which states that “whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Earlier, John 1:12 had said “…to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

And yet, our text makes it clear that some who “believed” in Jesus were not born again.  The reason given is a fascinating one:  Jesus did not believe in them.

When have we ever given thought to whether Jesus believes in us?

Continue reading “Overlooked Scriptures No. 1: “Does Jesus believe in me?”” »

The best reason to believe in God

“Always be ready to give a defense (answer) to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience….” (I Peter 3:15-16).

Knowing you believe is not enough.

You should be able to state why you believe.

(And, it’s not enough to say, as a Mormon did to me once, “This is true because it gives me a warm feeling inside.”)

Most of us would require more reason than that to stake our lives on a teaching or doctrine.

I’ve been loving the last chapter or two of John Ortberg’s 2008 book “Know Doubt.”  And I’ve been doing something I rarely do: Reading the final chapter of a book I never actually finished.

I have hundreds of books I never finished.

In most cases, life intervened and something came up and I just never got around to finishing that book.  At any given time, I’ll have a half-dozen books going.  (At this moment, there are 10 books on the table beside my bed. Ten. I’m embarrassed to admit this.) And some books just get lost in the shuffle and I never finish them, although I enjoyed them and had good intentions.

While searching for comments and insights from Christian writers on the Trinity for a recent article, I found myself absorbed in Ortberg’s chapter on “Why I believe.” I read a page or two and stopped. I would read more and stop.  I found myself wondering: How does Ortberg do this? How can he know these things? How can he read those books he talks about and understand them? (Some I started on, but could not understand and abandoned, but here he is quoting some profundity I had missed.) How can Ortberg fill one page with so many delicious quotations?

Continue reading “The best reason to believe in God” »

Envy: The malaise afflicting God’s people

A friend asked, “Have you noticed that so many Christians seem to be discontented with their lot?  That they envy the rest of the world, and maybe even resent a little having to live like Jesus?”

If this is true–and I know enough of my own heart to suspect it is–it’s not a new phenomenon.  The condition has been with us from early on.

The malady was voiced perfectly by the Psalmist:

I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3).

You and I suspect the Psalmist may have been a bit too selective of the ungodly whom he chose to envy. But that’s how we do it, after all.

Continue reading “Envy: The malaise afflicting God’s people” »

This guy found a contradiction in the Bible and thinks he can now disprove God.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was reading comments on a friend’s Facebook page below something she had written about the Bible’s authenticity.

I suppose her critic was a friend, because after each of his statements, each one shallow and several insulting, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.

But nothing worked.

When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.

What was his “contradiction”?

Continue reading “This guy found a contradiction in the Bible and thinks he can now disprove God.” »

When God’s people do not live in the word, many things happen. All of them bad.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

The Lord never intended for His Word to collect dust on a table in your back bedroom.

People paid for your right to own a Bible in your own language with their very lives.

What are you doing about that?

Christians who own numerous Bibles which they rarely open are thumbing their noses at the saints of old who paid the ultimate price.

This hard-won treasure lies buried under the dust and detritus of your life.

Continue reading “When God’s people do not live in the word, many things happen. All of them bad.” »

Please write in your Bible

“This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people who shall be created shall praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).

Please go to the front of your Bible and write in it.

Start by putting your own name.

Often, when I pick up the Bibles of friends to see what they have written in them, I’m chagrined to see they don’t even have their names.

Write in your Bible, friend. Please.

At Christmas 1973, my aunt Eren gave to her mother, my wonderful grandmother Bessie Lowery McKeever, a Bible.  Grandma died in 1982, but not before marking up that Bible.
Continue reading “Please write in your Bible” »