Jesus & Fake News, part 2

Taking a look again at The Triumphal Entry, of Jesus into Jerusalem, who did these people in this set of verses say Jesus is? Well, they said more than “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” This is from

His coming in this manner had been revealed prophetically in the Old Testament: Zechariah had told of the King’s coming on the colt of a donkey so that Israel would recognize Him. From Daniel, the exact time of the Messiah’s arrival can be calculated. Psalms announced the meaning of Christ’s arrival, which the crowd realized in their shouts: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”

This event also fulfilled Jesus’s promise that He would not return to Jerusalem until such time as the citizens would say those very words. (Luke 13:31-35).

While many cheered His arrival, He did not live up to what they had expected—someone who ushered in a kingdom on earth. Instead, He called the people to the Kingdom of God. Do you see that not much has changed today? Jesus is still often viewed one way by our culture who expects him to be one thing, but they don’t fully see or understand him as who He really is.

I spoke yesterday on the idea of changing views on history and the Bible, I remember around the year 2000, it seemed at Christmas and Easter all the news programs and magazine covers had something about Jesus. Do you remember that? It was the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ after all. There were also two or three television dramas about Jesus at the time, and one for children.

About two years later, I got a job working at Barnes and Noble in Big Flats. For a couple of years “The DaVinci Code” was the number one best-selling novel, and is still considered one of the best-selling novels of all time. It depicted an alternative history of Jesus taught as fact; it taught an alternative history of Christianity during the early church age and an alternate history of how we got the Bible, also taught as fact. This of course probably led many people astray, if not at least made atheists more settled on atheism and agnostics more settled on agnosticism.

At the same time, though, Left Behind was a huge bestselling novel series—currently, the second best-selling novel series of all time next to Harry Potter; and the bestselling non-fiction book at that time was A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, still considered one of the best selling non-fiction books of all time. Today, it’s still not hard to find some Christian books making the bestseller list.

Speaking of bestsellers, did you know that The Bible is the best-selling book of all time? Does anyone want to guess how many Bibles have been sold around the world in the past 200 years? I’ll give you a hint, it’s as many people that are on earth right now. That’s right, most estimates are at over 7 billion copies sold in the past 200 years. There are about 2,500 worldwide translations of the Bible in either part or whole, and another 1,300 translations currently in progress. Nearly 170,000 new Bibles are sold or distributed in just the United States every day. That’s not to say how many copies are stolen.

It has been said that The Bible is the most shoplifted book of all time, though there’s no conclusive evidence of that. Needless to say, there’s something about The Bible that people want.

There’s a survey group based out of Ventura, Calif. called Barna Group. They are a Christian-based group that specializes in studying religious trends. Just last week they released their annual State of the Bible survey, commissioned by American Bible Society. The study examines the behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults. The results show that Americans overwhelmingly believe the Bible is a source of hope and good.

Here are some of their findings: 87 percent of households in the U.S. own a Bible. 58 percent of adults wish they read The Bible more often. 56 percent of those who report an increase in Bible readership attribute it to their understanding that Bible reading is an important part of their faith journey. 39 percent point to a difficult life experience that led them to search the Bible for direction or answers, at an increase of 13 percentage points from the previous year (26%). Seeing how the Bible changed someone they knew for the better was an important motivating factor for 30 percent of adults, as was being asked by someone they know to read the Bible (20%).

People are searching for answers. And they’re doing a great thing by looking in The Bible. But how many of you know that opening up from page one and reading through doesn’t really give people the answers right away? The Bible often doesn’t have topical indexes for inspiration on what you need. This isn’t written like an owners manual or a self-help book. People need more than just reading the Bible for themselves alone. They need us to help give them direction, support, and prayer. They need us to plant some seeds. You may say, then that if they’re so interested, then why don’t they just come to church? It seems like the logical thing to do, right? Well, the Barna Group, the one that conducted the study on the Bible, has some interesting statistics on that, too. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s finish looking more at people’s curiosity about Christ:

Besides books where else can we find curiosity about Christ today? Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are bestselling authors, but they also gather thousands of television viewers and followers on social media. Christian music artists will sometimes top the secular music charts. And occasionally we see a Christian movie in the theaters. Right now The Shack is getting both praise and criticism for its take on God. And Oprah Winfrey regularly has the controversial Rob Bell on her channel.

I’m not delving into who’s right or who’s wrong about what doctrines, what I am saying is this: People are curious about Christ. And there are so many voices out there right now on the right and on the left—on the traditional view and on the liberal view—that I think there is a lot of confusion about who this Jesus really is. It’s up to us to give people the right perspective—the people in whom we come in contact every day, it’s not just the job of a church service.


Jesus & Fake News, part 1

The term “fake news” has really become a big issue this past election season and even into the presidency. And it isn’t just regarding the professional news media, it’s also all over social media because, with social media, anyone can post anything about anyone and anything—including themselves—to make someone look a certain way. In fact, just this week, Germany introduced a bill that would prohibit social media outlets to allow “fake news” or face a fine of up to $53 million. Good luck with monitoring that! But why did they do this? Well, as you may know, it can get confusing finding out the real truth, because people confuse opinion with fact. This side said Donald Trump is this and he’ll destroy the world in his first 100 days; while the other side said Hillary Clinton is that and she’ll do the same thing. Then, if you sift through and find the real facts, you’ll find opinions about the facts and then that turns into fake news because people think commentators are newscasters. It’s become this crazy cycle, hasn’t it?

Fake news has been going on in other arenas as well. It seems every time you turn around, there’s some new research on some food or drug product that contradicts something said about the same product six months ago. And there’s a new book or a new documentary about some historical figure or historical event that sheds some kind of “new light” on the subject, then it spurs some debate on TV and you don’t know who to believe. We see this even with The Bible.

Let’s take a look at The Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21, starting with verse 7.

 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Isn’t it interesting, when you look at verse 10, how the whole city was stirred about this Jesus? Obviously, many knew something about who he was and what he had done. But isn’t it also interesting in the next verse that there were apparently plenty others who asked: “Who is this?”

What I want to focus on with this blog series are the people who saw what was going on and inquired about it—they inquired about this Jesus. Today, there are people who are just the same. They may know that this man named Jesus lived 2000 years ago, and he was some sort of prophet or something. They know some people think he’s God or something. We can assume they know that’s what a church is for. Some have a basic idea of what Christians ought to act like and they may even see us as good Christian people. But 2000 years after Jesus lived, people still want to know who this Jesus is even if they don’t step foot in a church.

Impossible Christianity? A short post

Dr. Nathan D. Sanders

A lot of people think Christianity is mainly about changing your behavior on the outside, that to become Christian is to be a better person (maybe implying perfect?), to learn how to be nice, to stop swearing, stop doing wrong things, and so on. “I’ll need to do this and that, and then do some more and always try and hope for the best and stop doing bad things, and THEN I can be a Christian.” “But on second thought, I can’t do all that. I’ve tried and failed, so forget it.”

Well, I have good news: that’s a wrong view of what it means to be a Christian. Such thinking is void of the true power of faith in Christ, which calls a person to turn away from wrongdoing and to do good ONLY AFTER receiving what is necessary on the inside—FIRST. Putting outer behaviors before inner change…

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Steven Fry and the question of suffering part 3

Concluding our three-part series in which we take a closer look at a short viral video in which British actor Steven Fry “annihilates God,” we further tackle the concept of living inside of a cursed world.

The question that most skeptics and atheists ask is why would God create (they presume intentionally create) a world with such suffering? The answer is that this is a cursed world, of which we were born into, like it or not. But Fry’s question implies something further–that it’s God’s responsibility to end suffering. After all, an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God would do such a thing, right? If he doesn’t, then that means He’s a moral monster; which in turn implies that we are better than God because we have compassion where supposedly God doesn’t; and we demand that God do what he ought (which makes us God’s god). But the answer to the question is not that God does not care about human suffering, nor that he can’t end human suffering. As mentioned in the last post, He has designated a time when the curse will be lifted. Until then, God placed the responsibility to ease pain and suffering on this earth upon us.

When Jesus walked the earth as a man, he did not raise his fist at his father and demand that God do something about the people living in a harsh Roman rule, or that God snap his fingers and wipe away suffering; nor did Jesus act like the Messiah the people were expecting by overthrowing Jerusalem’s captors and taking his place on Jerusalem’s throne. Jesus was not a 20th Century social justice advocate demanding that the Roman government develop a program to take care of the poor. So what did Jesus do to alleviate suffering? He simply walked the earth as a man, and did what he could on a personal level (

Did what he could, you ask? I’ll refrain from commenting too much on that for fear of getting off track, but even Jesus did not heal the entire world–nor even everyone with whom he came into contact. Let’s look at John 14:12: “What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. In fact, he will do even greater things.” What does this mean? All you need to do is read the book of Acts and pay attention to the immensely overwhelming Christian missions work that has gone on around the world, and continues to go on, for the past two thousand years.

But you still ask, “When Jesus walked the earth, he healed the sick one by one. He did all this as a man. Why?” Simpy because Jesus was being our prime example, preparing us to do what The Father wishes us to do. It’s rather lengthy to insert into this blog post, but take a look at Luke 10 here.

Paul, the apostle, said to the Ephesian church, “10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph.2:10).” His teaching on love to the Corinthian church is important to study as well.

And Jesus’ stern parable of The Sheep and the Goats tells us The Father’s heart regarding our deep responsibility as His ambassadors here on earth.

So Steven Fry and those like him have a right to pose questions, and even be a little angry at what they see around them. But this should stir them to action instead of cursing God. But their perspective has been skewed. God is not a superhero who swoops down and saves everyone who is in trouble; nor is he a magic Genie who does what we command. No, He is God, the supreme and sovereign king of the universe. We are subject to Him. Everyone will answer to Him. And He has given us charge, that through the power of The Holy Spirit, we are to love and take care of those around us. What has Steven Fry and others like him done to alleviate suffering? More importantly, what have you done?


Stephen Fry and the question of suffering, part 2

Starting from where we left off last time, British actor Stephen Fry deliveres a lengthy diatribe against God for causing unspeakable suffering in the world. You’ll notice that it isn’t a diatribe that God does not exist, but rather, what kind of god does he think he is? Take a moment and watch the video here.

As Fry begins his arguments, it becomes clear that Fry sees himself, and the general population of humanity, as having a moral compass that is greater than God’s. Fry believes that God is a maniac. Yet, we have the ability to be more sane than God. Let’s think about that for a moment. Is it possible that God could create someone greater than himself, billions of people greater? No. But how is it then that we seem to have this moral compass, yet God seems to have “created” a world where he “intended” [as Fry seems to think] so much suffering?

The answer is simply that God did not create a world with suffering. God created a beautiful and perfect world that he called “good.” Everything in it was good. It was pure and without disease and pain. So then, what happened?

Many atheists are fully aware that God allowed mankind to have a will of its own, and that will includes the choice to rebel against God. They also are aware that God cursed the good and perfect world that he created not because God is evil, but because God is holy. And a just and righteous king will not let rebellion against him go unpunished. And this curse has brought about the pain and suffering humanity has endured for some six thousand years.

C.S. Lewis explains this more clearly:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

“Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Fry argues that God is selfish. Really? He apparently does not understand the meaning of John 3:16. He apparently hasn’t seen Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. (By the way, you’ll notice in instances such as Fry and other atheists–they’re still crucifying Christ!He apparently doesn’t understand that it was God the Father who sent his only son to endure suffering–for us and for his own sake (Isaiah 43:25). And for those who think that it was a cop-out for God to send his son, and not himself, to suffer and die, then they don’t know what it’s like to have a son.

God has, since before the beginning, deemed a time to end the suffering and pain on this earth (Revelation 21:1-7). For us, it seems like an eternity; but to God, a day is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8-10; Psalm 90:4). The time in which God will end suffering on this earth has already been established. We are in the middle of this curse, and hopefully, we will see it come to a close soon. But what are we to do until then? As Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die? (Job 2:9)”

That will be the point of the next post.



Stephen Fry and the question of suffering, part 1

A few days ago, I had reposted “Why do the righteous suffer,” on this blog’s Facebook page, originally posted on this blog on Jan. 14, 2014. I had come across it after having also just a few days earlier come across a viral video (aired in January 2015 on The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne) where British actor Stephen Fry “annihilates God.”

In the video, Fry is asked by the interviewer what he would say to God after he dies, if “it’s all true.” Then Fry “puts God on the stand,” so to speak, charging God with crimes against humanity. Even though I had seen this video before, for some reason this time it had been swirling in my head moreso now, and after having just reposted a blog on suffering, I thought I’d take the time to comment on Fry’s assertions.

First, and foremost, I don’t think anyone has all the answers on God and suffering. I certainly don’t, and I’ve learned that we never will. The reason why is because we are not God.  It seems like a simple answer, but I have found it to be wildly profound. You see, without even realizing it, we tend to naturally think of ourselves as God’s god. Fry certainly seems to think so.

God is God. God is sovereign. What do I mean by sovereign? Well, for example, God did not create the universe having himself bound by physical laws. No, he created physical laws–physics is his invention. He is not bound by time and space–time and space are his inventions. He stands outside our universe in much the same way I stand outside this blog post. I am not bound inside a computer screen. God holds the universe in his hand. We are not able to contain him in our minds or constructs of neatly designed packages of “if/then” statements (though there are a few if/then statements in the Bible). God is sovereign. What we know about God can be obtained through his word, and by our relationship with him. But God has not revealed absolutely everything about himself to us. We do not have the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:16). That’s what makes him God. And our desire to have him all figured out and to have a say in how he operates his universe is a result of us having been born and bred in a 20th and 21st Century/Western democratic republic with an increasing ability to have our say via blog posts and social media; as well as hearing everyone give their opinion via news and entertainment media.

While we may have the right to have a mind of our own, God is not our public servant. We don’t get to vote on God. We don’t get to throw him out of office after four years or throw him on the stand in front of an ethics committee or judicial committee. We don’t get to impeach him. Instead, we are placed on the judgement stand in front of him. We answer to him. When Fry stands before God, I unfortunately don’t think Fry would be able to utter a single word.

But back to the question at hand. What about Fry’s points about suffering? I admit, that it seems oddly unfair that an all-loving/all-knowing/all-powerful God would allow such suffering in a universe that he created. Is this truly fair? Are there answers to Fry’s question? Should we even be asking such questions? Keep an eye out for a series of upcoming posts on this subject.