“They that are whole need not a physician”

The Romans taxed nearly everything. They taxed personal income and the use of roads and harbors. They taxed carts according the number of wheels, and they taxed for the animal that pulled the cart. If a person was walking with a bundle on his back, a tax collector could require the bundle opened and taxes could be collected on any item therein.

Many Jews became tax collectors hired by the Romans. The Jews punished these people they called, “publicans,” because of their association with the Romans. Continue reading ““They that are whole need not a physician””

Five (unpopular) things Jesus said about divorce

“…from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8)

In 17 years of ministry (part and full-time), I have met with numerous married, and to-be-married couples. One thing I’ve found by this experience is that to-be-married couples generally understand the concept of adultery, and see it as a legitimate – if not the only – reason for divorce. Even if their Bible knowledge is somewhat limited, or they are not Christians, they will often say that this is the only legitimate grounds for a biblical divorce. I have this in writing from almost every couple I’ve married.

Yet, in nearly every troubled marriage that I’ve tried to help, one or both have a completely different, and non-biblical view of divorce and/or adultery. Continue reading “Five (unpopular) things Jesus said about divorce”

Are some of Jesus’ sayings too harsh?

“Unless you repent, you will all…perish” (Luke 13:3).

Most people cannot imagine Jesus saying, “You will go to hell if you do not change your ways.” I’m not sure if the scholars of the Jesus Seminar cut that phrase out, attributing it to some other source than the “real” Jesus, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Most people like the idea of what they deem to be God’s positivity – his love, his longsuffering, his grace – leading us to repentance. But can suffering and death do the same thing? Continue reading “Are some of Jesus’ sayings too harsh?”

The life-changing pause

We read the biblical passage straight through, without pause, as if the dialogue were a race, without feeling the dynamic between two strangers, a man and a woman, a Jew and a Samaritan, he on the road and she taking care of home responsibilities.

If the Hebrew word “Selah” means “pause,” and if John had the habit of inserting this word of Jewish poetry in a text of prose, I imagine he would have used it in this narrative about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Especially, right before this phrase of hers. Continue reading “The life-changing pause”

A thorny subject

It is said that a pessimist decries the fact that roses have thorns, while an optimist rejoices that thorn bushes yield beautiful roses.

We gardeners just take the thorns in stride. We invest in special gloves that aren’t punctured easily and wear long sleeves in hot weather. We ignore the strange looks we often get, as if folks wonder who pushed us into the tiger’s cage at the zoo. Continue reading “A thorny subject”

Give the winds a mighty voice

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NKJV).

For the past couple of months I have been in Bangladesh. It was spring here when we arrived, and is now officially summer. As elsewhere, spring is a time of moderate weather and, generally, some wind or breeze. Those breezes typically lessen as summer arrives. Continue reading “Give the winds a mighty voice”

What happens when we ignore the Composer?

“Be cleansed” (Luke 5:13).

Behold the impact of Jesus’ words:

  • Jesus said, “Be still!” and the storm stopped immediately (Mark 4:39)
  • Jesus said, “Be cleansed,” and the leper was cured instantly (Luke 5:13).
  • Jesus said, “Come forth,” and Lazarus walked out promptly (John 11:43).
  • Jesus said, “Come out” and demons fled fearfully (Luke 4:35-36).
  • Jesus said, “Let there be” (Genesis 1:3,6,14) and the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, sprang into existence from nothing, unhesitatingly (Exodus 20:11; Psalm 146:6; John 1:3).

Continue reading “What happens when we ignore the Composer?”

Thoughts and questions about forgiveness

In the fleshly realm, forgiveness represents everything humanity hates.

In a song about forgiving a cheating, lying wife, Lyle Lovett sings, “God does. But I don’t. God will, but I won’t. And that’s the difference between God and me.”

Forgiveness to some means surrender and endorsement. We won’t forgive until they’ve suffered sufficiently to appease our anger. But emotions are the cruelest creatures on earth and they can’t be trusted. Continue reading “Thoughts and questions about forgiveness”

“Greater sinners…”

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” (Luke 13:2, NASB).

Is there such a thing as one sin being greater than another?

Jesus was asked about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Josephus wrote about skirmishes between the Jews and the Romans – particularly around Jewish feasts – that resulted in heavy bloodshed (Pulpit Commentary). Perhaps such an event is here referenced. Continue reading ““Greater sinners…””