Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door or Many an Un-truth is Spoken in Jest

Mother Teresa died and was greeted at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter . . . so the typical heaven’s door joke opens. We’ve all heard a thousand different versions featuring everyone from golfers to geriatrics and pastors to prostitutes. Most of them also have Peter asking the poor soul standing at the gate, “Why should I let you in?” The answer is usually the punch-line.

These punch-lines produce more than a chuckle; they also reveal what many popularly believe about life and death and heaven and the God who is supposed to be living there. These jokes show us that many an un-truth is spoken in jest.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 41:17-43:13

Ephesians 2:1-22

Psalm 67:1-7

Proverbs 23:29-35


Isaiah 41:17-43:13: Because the arts, such as poetry, are often difficult to interpret, many are therefore very uncomfortable seeing the arts as valid ways to communicate truth. God seems to have no such misgivings. This chapter continues the beautiful poem describing God’s power, wrath, love, grace, and concern for Israel and his creation. By using artistic words and poetic concepts, God is able to deliver to us some hard truths we may shy away from if stated in mere propositional language.

Ephesians 2:1-22: “We are God’s workmanship,” Paul writes in verse 10. The word we translate “workmanship” is literally and better translated “poetry” or “artwork.” Would that the Bible translators were more comfortable with metaphorical translations. If we are “workmanship,” we can only be one of many: identical fenceposts standing in a row or silver automobiles rolling off an assembly line. But if we are poetry or art, we are unique, painstakingly written or drawn not just designed with a purpose but carrying a message and an image of the Artist himself. As I wrote yesterday, you and I are works of art!

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Have you ever noticed how the punch-lines of these gone-to-heaven jokes usually boil down to what the person knocking on heaven’s door did or didn’t do in life? According to these jokes, entrance into heaven depends on how good each of us are during our lives down here.

One such joke features Mother Teresa and God eating very simple meals together in heaven. Eventually she asks about the sparse menu. God answers, “Let’s be honest Teresa, for just two people, it doesn’t pay to cook.”

I don’t find that idea funny. If Mother Teresa is the standard my good works have to measure up to, I might as well not even knock on the door. Further, if anyone of us, even Mother Teresa, could earn heaven, why did Jesus let himself be tortured and nailed to a cross to give us eternal life freely? Instead why didn’t Jesus just write out a check-list of attittudes and actions that we could fill out and present to Peter at the gate?

Because, as Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” By definition you can’t earn a gift.

This is the beautiful theological truth behind birthday presents. How ludicrus it would be for anyone upon opening her birthday gifts to say, “Thank you for recognizing how hard I worked to get here. These gifts will remind me each day of the effort I put into my conception and birth.”

Just as there is no way anyone earned his or her birth and the gift of life, so too none of us can earn being born again and the gift of eternal life. All we have to do is receive God’s gift of grace and forgiveness and open it.

Another un-truth spoken in these jests is that Peter usually stands as heaven’s gatekeeper. In reality Jesus gave Peter keys to the kingdom. But since Jesus flung the doors wide open, I’m not sure what Peter’s keys are for. Jesus is the way. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus, even Peter.

Finally notice how these jokes place heaven “up there.” Yet, Scripture speaks of heaven as a kingdom that contains earth. In the end, the earth will be reborn just as we have been. But until then it is an imperfect piece of heaven here and now. We will not walk for eternity on clouds. Paul says we “have been saved” and are “seated in the heavenly realms.” This is all written in the past or present tense. Heaven begins when we are “in Christ” not after death. Heaven is here and now. Yet there is a piece of it to come. Fuller Seminary Professor George Eldon Ladd called this the “already/not yet” truth of the gospel. Our theology lived out and conveyed in these jokes expresses only the “not yet” part of what Jesus gave us from the cross. Paul desperately wants us to live in the “already.” Mother Teresa didn’t care for the sick and dying and castoff of Calcutta to get from earth to heaven. She poured her life out to them to bring heaven to earth.

Please don’t think I can’t take a joke, I love a good comedy routine and punch-line. Still there are many truths and un-truths spoken in jest. We can laugh at both, but eternity may hang in knowing the difference.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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Bob Dylan’s Unknown God

For a five or six year period, Bob Dylan professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he attended Bible studies led by Kenn Gullickson and John Wimber, the co-founders of the Vineyard churches, and looked to well-known Christian musician Keith Green as a spiritual mentor.

That season in his life was probably best reflected in his album Slow Train Coming. One song in particular expressed a deep longing in all of us: Gotta Serve Somebody. Here’s an excerpt of his lyrics:

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The message behind Dylan’s song? All of us are wired to worship. Some of us worship a God we know. Others worship unknown gods.

Join me this weekend as we delve further into this subject.


2 Kings 9:14-12:21
Acts 17:1-18:22
Psalm 144:1-145:21
Proverbs 17:27-18:1


2 Kings 9:14-12:21. Notice the location where Jehu accosted King Joram: the field where Joram’s mother Jezebel had Naboth murdered, which was then stolen by her husband King Ahab. The irony in this passage is that Joram ran away from Jehu yelling “Treachery,” when that is how his father and mother treated Naboth.

Why did Jehu kill King Ahaziah of Judah? The New Bible Commentary explains:

His killing of Ahaziah of Judah was not commanded by the prophet in verses 7–10. Jehu presumably felt it was justified because Ahaziah was the son of Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri (2 Kings 8:26).

Jehu was an “all or nothing” kind of person. When he slaughtered Ahab’s family, he destroyed them completely. Then he slaughtered anyone close to the family and then ordered the killing of all the priests of Baal before turning their temple into a latrine.

Lest we assume all of his actions were pure, scholars speculate that Jehu’s “zeal” was a means of destroying any potential opposition to his throne. He also assumed the throne by striking fear in the hearts of anyone who questioned him. Lastly, we read in Hosea 1:4 that God brought an end to Jehu’s legacy because he was displeased about the massacre at Jezreel.

Interestingly enough, though, he failed to destroy the golden calves that the people worshipped (2 Kings 10:29). Apparently, vestiges of idol worship remained in his heart because we read in verse 31 that “He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

Yesterday we read about Athaliah. Today, we learn that when she heard that her son Ahaziah had been killed, she proceeded to wipe out the rest of her family (except for Joash). Athaliah was indeed an extremely evil, power-hungry woman. Had she succeeded, she would have ended David’s dynasty.

Note to self: no one can thwart God’s plans.

Acts 17:1-18:22. In this reading, we’re given some snapshots of Paul’s stops. The people in Thessalonica weren’t very receptive which forced Paul to depart very quickly. After leaving the city, Paul wrote a letter to the church in order to leave some important instructions. You can read that letter—it’s called 1 Thessalonians.

Proverbs 17:27-18:1. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to tell people everything that’s on my mind. For extroverts like me, fewer words are better.

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While in Athens, Paul was invited to address a gathering of philosophers at the Aereopagus (also called Mars Hill). Addressing the men and women in this venue, which was filled with idols, must have given him quite a cultural jolt due to his strict, conservative Jewish upbringing.

But instead of criticizing his listeners or the idols they worshipped, Paul found common ground between them. In the hall where they met, he noticed an altar—a religious monument—dedicated to an unknown god.

Paul worshipped a God he knew; they worshipped a god they didn’t know.

Paul then explained that the unknown god they were worshipping was really the God of the Bible. He then quoted two poets with whom the listeners were already familiar. Epimenides and Aratus, the two poets, were like rock stars in their day. Most importantly, Paul used the idols and poems to point to their need for Jesus.

All of us are worshippers. Some of us know the God we worship. Others worship gods they don’t know.

But we’re all gonna have to serve somebody.

So how can we identify those unknown gods?

They can look like addictions, hobbies, wounds, vocations, avocations—anything that tends to control or dominate our lives. We can catch a glimpse of those gods through our restlessness, fear, lethargy. Whatever ways those unknown gods express themselves in our lives, they ultimately point us to our deeper need: Jesus.

If you’re going to serve somebody, you might as well serve someone you can know—and someone who deeply loves you in return.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, was Jehu a good king or an evil king? Is it hard to make a distinction? Why or why not?
  3. What gods do you gravitate toward?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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