Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Posts Tagged ‘Christian

The Triumphal Entry

21  Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

I love how Matthew is kind of like a researcher. He’s documenting all of the things Jesus did and citing his sources for each prophesy. I have a couple of questions about that though: How did Matthew know the prophesies so well? He wasn’t really trained in these things. Also, when did he write this all down? It had to be some time after this all took place. How did he know Jesus’ origins so well? Did Jesus tell him? I think bible scholars say that Matthew wrote this like, 30-50 years after the fact. I’m not doubting that everything wasn’t seared into his brain, but it does make me wonder how he got all of this information written down so accurately.

Look at verse 11: This is the PROPHET. Did they see him as their Messiah? Or simply another prophet from God?

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12  And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them,“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” 14  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple,“Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them,“Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Dang, these guys just do NOT want to have an open mind about this, do they? Also, I only remember Jesus coming in like a badass and tossing everyone out – nobody tells the rest of the story about more healing and more prophesies being fulfilled.

Like this:

Okay, a couple things: 1) I always thought Jesus acted kind of like a psycho, but I guess that’s righteous indignation. 2) Is that Desmond from Lost?!

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

18  In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19  And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

I  have a few thoughts on this one, too. Jesus, CHILL OUT! Man, no mercy for a sad little fig tree. Just kidding – but it is kind of funny, right? Also, there’s that faith thing again. Man, if there is ONE SINGLE THING that re-reading Matthew has taught me, it’s that more than anything Jesus asked for or responded to, it was FAITH.

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

23  And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them,“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Haha, Jesus knew they were cowards.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28  “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Hahaha BURN/ZING/OH SNAP. Man, Jesus was a smart ass.

The Parable of the Tenants

33  “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants[c] to the tenants to get his fruit. 35  And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36  Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves,‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[d]
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”[e]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Wow, if I heard this, I think I would IMMEDIATELY tear my clothes and run to Jesus and ask him to forgive me and let me follow him. This also seems to indicate that Jesus recognized that the Jews weren’t ever going to fully get behind him, and so the Gentiles were the ones whom would receive the kingdom of God. Or is that me just reaching?

Matthew 10

Posted on: February 8, 2012

Matthew 10:5-6 – Jesus was so not interested in people outside the Jewish faith. At least, not yet. But I guess it was the Jewish religion and its prophesies the was here to fulfill. Everything he says to his disciples in this chapter are very interesting. Strict and important. I like how he basically says, you HAVE to have faith in me – don’t take a bag, don’t take an extra shirt, just go and tell people what I’ve told you. Don’t worry about what to say, because the Spirit will move through you. Don’t worry about getting hurt, because that isn’t important.

Matthew 10:22 was always taken out of context when I grew up. I was told that it meant that if you committed suicide, you would go to hell. That’s so off base.

Verse 27 gives me faith. Sometimes, as a Christian and a theist, you are praying and you become enlightened. You hear things in your heart. It’s supernatural, but you instantly doubt yourself, no matter how logical or reasonable what you believe you’ve heard is. I have a serious problem when people say “God told me XYZ,” because usually you can see right through what they are saying as bullshit. Like when I’ve heard girlfriends say, “God TOLD me that I was going to marry this guy.” Did he now? A) I think you want to marry him, and you want it so bad that it feels right, and you want people to support you. I’ve seen that happen a million times (and 999,999,999 times out of a million, they did not end up marrying that person), and B) Why would go tell you that? That doesn’t seem like something you need to know. Has God told you how many kids you’re going to have? Did he tell you what your job was going to be out of college? Did he tell you when you’re going to die? When I hear people tell me that God told them what’s going to happen, that doesn’t make sense to me, because God doesn’t decide what we’re going to do with our lives – we do. We decide to be good people or bad people every day. We make our life decisions based on various reasons; sometimes those decisions make our lives better and sometimes they make our lives worse.

Verse 31 – I’m worth more than many sparrows? OH THANK GOD. Not many horses or two houses or anything? Ha.

Verses 32-33 – That’s serious. What does acknowledge/deny mean? Just curious.

Verses 34-35 – Isn’t this the same situation that Jesus just talked about in regards to persecution coming? It sounds like there is no safe place.

Verse 37 – I really don’t know anyone who would say they love God MORE THAN their family – but I think the love we have for our families is different than the love we have for Jesus.

Lingering Questions:

  • What did he mean when he talked about acknowledging/denying him?
  • Persecution and people turning on each other… huh?

Matthew 9

Posted on: February 7, 2012

Jesus just keeps performing miracles and healing people of their illnesses and problems. If they have faith, he responds. It’s a good lesson for me. If I believe in Jesus, I should have more faith that he will do what I request… or is that too much to ask for?

But what does he mean when he says “your sins are forgiven?” His sins are what caused him to be paralyzed? Maybe something he did previously? Or does he simply mean that anything that is keeping us fron being the best and healthiest we can be is wrong, a sin?

Also, they saw him as a man, a prophet, and also later they see him as a messiah – The Messiah. But what does the comment in verse 8 mean when they talk about him being a man who has been given power by God?

Next, Matthew makes a cameo appearance in the story and we see the side of Jesus that makes me love him and want to follow him: he hangs out with the fringe groups of people that are looked down upon. Whenever I got to church, I get frustrated when people are dressed to the nines and covered in expensive bangles and jewels. If I was a poor person and walked in, I wouldn’t feel welcome. But Jesus reclined with them! I want to be someone on the fringe, or who the fringe people are okay with hanging with.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” What does that mean?

Now notice this little remark Jesus says to the Pharisees: “But go and learn what this means: Why did Jesus say this? Because Jesus knows all about the Pharisees. That was their thing! Debating, analyzing, arguing, dissecting, trying to get the exact meaning of every word in the Scripture. Yet they couldn’t recognize COMPASSION because their hearts were empty! He is basically saying, “Go off and study, have your meetings, discussions and debates and try to figure what LOVE is all about. Jesus knew they would NEVER GET IT, because love, compassion and mercy CANNOT be learned by studying but only by each person’s experience of pain, rejection, struggle and suffering. It is a HEART MATTER.

Jesus continues,‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Jesus is referring to Hosea 6:6 which says:
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

The Pharisees taught themselves that serving God was all about performing rituals, sacrificing burnt offerings and keeping traditions. Yet see at how God feels about all of this done…without love. (epistle)

I don’t have a lot to say other than how much it would suck to keep having your period for 12 straight years.

When Jesus heals the mute guy who is oppressed by demons, it makes me wonder if “demons” were attributed to any handicapped or mentally ill people.

What did I learn today? That if people asked things of Jesus in faith, he would respond, lavishing them with the healing they desperately wanted and needed.

Lingering Questions:

  • Why did Jesus attribute affliction to sins?
  • What did they mean when they were awed by miracles being done by a man (Jesus wasn’t simply a man…)?

Frustrated

Posted on: February 6, 2012

Wouldn’t it have been so funny if Jesus had seen the cross and been like, “I know I SAID I was going to do that, but I don’t want to I don’t think God wants me to anymore.”  Why are Christians always changing their plans, crediting God for the capricious direction of their lives, and leaving broken promises and empty words in their wake?  Some form of witnessing.

None of the prophets prefaced their prophecies with “I think God said…”

If the all-mighty God speaks to you, you won’t need to tag the “I think” to the front.  And you will (hopefully) follow the instruction all the way through, no matter how hard or scary.

If God didn’t tell you something, don’t tell people that he did.  Because when you back out on it and excuse yourself by suggesting God has changed his mind on you, you make your God look fickle and you look like the fool who follows a God that can’t be trusted.  Just because you really want it and circumstances might make your desires accessible, it’s not indicative of God’s hand.

I’m frustrated by fair-weather “prophesies” and the Christians who are making them.

Matthew 8

Posted on: February 6, 2012

So Jesus heals a guy with leprosy. My first thought was 1) Wow, that leper had some mega faith. How did he hear Jesus (as in, if he was an outcast, how was he able to get through the crowds to hear Jesus speak, let alone speak to him). However it happened, it’s pretty impressive.

I am also curious about why Jesus told him not to tell anyone. I think I knew this once. I believe it was because Jesus was still trying to just teach, not be put up on this pedestal that he knew was coming.  Wikipedia says that the leper went into town anyway and told everyone, and that Jesus was no longer able to go into the cities, but had to remain outside the towns. Why?

To our way of thinking, it would seem that Jesus would want everyone to know about the miracle. But Jesus knew that publicity over such miracles might hinder His mission and divert public attention from His message. Mark records that this is exactly what happened. In this man’s excitement over his being miraculously healed, he disobeyed. As a result, Christ had to move His ministry away from the city and into the desert regions (Mark 1:45) “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere.”

In addition, Christ, though he had cleansed the leper, still required him to be obedient to the law of the land – to go at once to the priest, and not to make delay by stopping to converse about his being healed. It was also possible that, if he did not go at once, evil-minded men would go before him and prejudice the priest, and prevent his declaring the healing to be true because it was done by Jesus. It was of further importance that the priest should pronounce it to be a genuine cure, that there might be no prejudice among the Jews against its being a real miracle.

Finally, Jesus did not want people focusing on the miracles He performed, but rather the message He proclaimed and the death He was going to die. The same is true today. God would rather that we be focused on the healing miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ instead of focusing on other healings and/or miracles. (gotquestions.org)

So a centurion (a professional officer of the Roman army) shows up and asks Jesus to help his servant. At first I was a little confused about why Jesus marveled at this, but the centurion wasn’t Jewish and had no reason to pay attention to Jesus, let alone have faith in him. None the less, he came to him, humbled himself (pretty miraculous given his position), and asked for Jesus’ help.

I don’t know for sure what Jesus was rambling about as far as the sons of the kingdom being thrown out of the dinner party, though.

Jesus heals many, which results in more prophesies being fulfilled.

Jesus also starts using his weird riddles to talk to people again – I don’t understand what these mean most of the time.

Okay, this is another one of the miracles of Jesus that is etched into my brain.

I don’t understand why they woke him up if they were going to be surprised when he saved them, but maybe it’s the manner in which he spoke to nature and it responded.

It kind of sucks that he let the demons go into the pigs. For one thing, why was he entertaining the requests of demons? And for another, what happened to the men? Also, those pigs were owned by people, and allowing them to be killed seems like a form of stealing…? Then again, why would Jews be raising pigs, an unclean animal? Maybe they weren’t in Jewish land? So confused.

I assume the city asked him to leave because he was destructive to their property.

Lingering Questions:

  • Why couldn’t Jesus go into the cities if people knew about him? Did they not want him to or was he worried about being mobbed by adoring fans?
  • What/who was Jesus threatening about being sent away from the dinner party?
  • What exactly was Jesus trying to say when he talked about the cost of following him? Was he referring to the coming crucifixion, or something else?
  • Why did the disciples seem so surprised? They seem kind of stupid sometimes. Maybe they are supposed to represent all of us – we see God in so many ways, but we never actually have faith in him?
  • The whole last part about the demons and the pigs is foggy to me.

 

Matthew 6

Posted on: February 4, 2012

Giving to the needy – kind of one of the cornerstones of loving neighbors and enemies as ourselves, right? I think he was also taking a jab at the uber-religious, too.

Matthew 6:5-8 gave me such a serious complex when I was growing up. I always wanted to make sure I was wording my prayers right, but not being too wordy (like the Gentile I am), in case someone thought I was showing off. I still worry sometimes that I’m just rambling – and I also wonder pretty often if what I’m saying makes God roll his eyes. “Dear God, please help me not get a cold sore.” “Dear God, please help me make the right decision.” “Dear God, what should I do next in my life?” Does God deal with all of our prayer requests? We grew up hearing that God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Not now.” But I tend to think now that God says, “Hey, I care about you, but I’m not going to interfere with your life (for the most part). I want to see what decisions you choose to make, and how you handle the success or consequences.” But that is totally a guess – I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure how God does anything. That’s just how life has felt. I’ve asked for things and received them, and sometimes it has felt divine but most of the time it just feels logical or lucky or normal. And sometimes I asked for things and didn’t get them, and it turned out that it was a literal God-send that I didn’t get them after all.

I went to a (non-Southern) Baptist church growing up. I loved (and still do) my church family at that church. They really were a family to me. They brought me up well, I think, and I’m so thankful for so much. I remember memorizing the Lord’s Prayer, but never really being asked to use it. However, it’s such a concise prayer, and it covers all the bases without getting caught up in the perfect words.

I’ve actually never fasted for Christian reasons. I have fasted for Ramadan, though. I’ve always found Christian/Catholic forms of fasting fairly anemic. Oh, you’re giving up candy? Boohoo. Try giving up anything in your mouth – even water or gum – from sun up to sun down. See if you don’t start to really understand what fasting is about.

If you haven’t noticed, I am not a fan of the Prosperity Gospel. How is it even biblical? It seems about as far from Jesus’ words as you can get. Don’t store up treasures on earth – because that’s all you’re going to care about. And you’re not supposed to care about things, or yourself, but others and God. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be selfish. Boom.

But then again, it’s hard. How much is too much? Should we all be bug-eating nomads like John? Should we give up absolutely everything? A house? A car? It probably depends on the person. At what point do you start adding things to your “I Want” list before you start thinking and acting on helping others meet their basic needs? I guess it’s a personal matter, but I’ve rarely been in the position where I’m doing that, and I’m not even well to do.

 

Compared to giving up material goods, not being anxious  is so much harder. I’ve had people whose mouths spoke all about Jesus and what was going on in their lives because of him, but their anxieties dictated all of their actions. I’ve been the same way on occasion. Thankfully, anxiety isn’t something that has really bothered me. But that’s because as long as you really do have faith in God, nothing should really bother you too much, right? At least, the way I see it is, the worst that can happen in any situation is… you die? And that’s probably not going to happen most of the time you make a decision. As long as you’re still alive, you still have options.

That’s kind of morbid, though.

Lingering Questions:

  • Loving money – do you have to give up everything to really follow Jesus’ commands?
  • Prayers – What do you need to say? Is the Lord’s Prayer sufficient? Does he want us to chat with him like a friend?

Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.[1][2] Agnosticism can be defined in various ways, and is sometimes used to indicate doubt or a skeptical approach to questions. In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the difference between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief. In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist. Within agnosticism there are agnostic atheists (who do not believe any deity exists, but do not deny it as a possibility) and agnostic theists (who believe a deity exists but do not claim it as personal knowledge).

Yeah. This about sums it up. Although I’d say I am a follower of Jesus and his philosophy of life. He’s so freaking awesome. He shows up basically out of nowhere (or everywhere, it seems), and he turns the leaders of the faith on their heads. He proclaims to know things and he fulfills the laws and puts everything in a new perspective. He loves poor people, the oppressed, the ignored, the outcasts. If there is some prophet out there to follow, I haven’t found one better. I love everything he has to say, and I want to be like the person he wanted people to be.

If he died and rose again and all that jazz, I’d say he is the Messiah. But what that means fully and how to apply some of the things that are proclaimed in the rest of the New Testament – that’s where I remain an agnostic. I can’t prove a thing. Do I have faith? Yes. Does that mean I understand or simply blindly do and believe what other Christians tell me is the “right” way to do things? Absolutely not.