Kim Jong Il & the Story of Christmas

The passing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has monopolized a lot of news coverage since the story broke yesterday. Much more interesting than the story of his death, however, is the story of his birth … or at least the “official” story of his birth:

For everything that was wrong with Kim Jong Il’s thinking, he apparently recognized one theologically true fact: the solution to man’s problem lies outside the normal human experience. To be accepted as the “savior” of North Korea, he felt the need to make his birth appear to be supernatural. He had to be more than a man. From the Yamato Dynasty in Japan to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, leaders have felt the need to claim some aspect of divinity in order to present themselves as saviors.

But they have all claimed to be men + something divine. They were somewhat divine or descended from a deity. They were partially god or one god of many. They were not the only God, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Then there was Jesus: Continue reading Kim Jong Il & the Story of Christmas

Cultivating Powerful Faith

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”
20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
21 [“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
(Matthew 17:19-21)

The disciples had to have been bewildered. They had cast out demons before. They had even done it without Jesus being present, when they were sent out by him in Matthew 10. Now suddenly they were impotent. This was definitely a blow to their egos. That’s why they approach Jesus “privately.” Their failure had been public, and they were determined not to continue that public embarrassment. Somehow they must have guessed that the problem was with themselves and not with the strength of the demon.

When they heard Jesus’ response, they must have been glad that they didn’t ask him publicly. He describes the disciples as having “little faith,” once again in contrast with the Roman centurion (Mt 8:10) and the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28). If their faith had been adequate, “nothing will be impossible.” They would even be able to move mountains. Continue reading Cultivating Powerful Faith

Taking Risks of Faith

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)

I confess: I have no idea what was running through Peter’s mind when he told Jesus to command him to walk on the water. In Matthew 14:26 we saw that the disciples were afraid because they thought Jesus was a ghost or evil spirit come to harm them. If that was the case, wouldn’t the spirit have just commanded Peter to walk on the water so he would plummet to his death? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Of course, considering how impetuous Peter could be, it might not have made any sense to him either. Continue reading Taking Risks of Faith

More than a Miracle: The Feeding of the 5,000

The Feeding of the 5,000

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:19-21)

This is the only miracle recorded in all 4 gospels so we have a few different perspectives on it, the most interesting of which is probably John’s. In fact, pretty much everything I’ll say here today comes straight from reading John’s account of this event (Jn 6:1-15) and it’s aftermath (Jn 6:22-59). It’s easy to read this passage and see it as simply a miracle (and an awesome one at that!) that Jesus performed and move on, but the feeding of the 5,000 (men + uncounted women and children) has much deeper meaning to it. And if you read these 3 verses and don’t see it, that’s okay because we don’t have to search for the meaning here because Jesus and the apostle John illuminate it for us in John 6. Continue reading More than a Miracle: The Feeding of the 5,000