Tag Archives: humor

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

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

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!

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

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?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

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

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What Do Bob Newhart and Jesus and Nathan the Prophet All Have in Common?


Comedian Bob Newhart reminds me a lot of Jesus. Okay so Jesus didn’t perform stand up comedy, or star in hilarious TV sitcoms, though I believe Jesus was funnier than he is portrayed by all those deadly serious British actors. Nor did Bob Newhart change the world. But I digress.

Bob Newhart and Jesus were both great story tellers. In the original Bob Newhart Show Bob played a psychologist who stammered through the surreal situations his crazy patients and friends drew him into. His solutions to their problems usually came in the form of a story. “Emily,” he would say to Suzanne Pleshette, who played his wife Emily, “that reminds me of a story.”

Jesus did likewise. And the prophet Nathan did too when approaching David with the truth about David’s sin. Why?

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)

2 Samuel 12:1-31

John 16:1-33

Psalm 119:65-80

Proverbs 16:4-5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 12:1-31: God is never without a voice. He always has someone he can call on. Nathan only shows up here and in the early part of 1 Kings. And he is called on in extremely difficult situations.

David and Bathsheba’s child dies despite the baby’s innocence and David’s repentance, fasting, and prayer. This seems unfair and even cruel. But in order to honor the freedom God grants each of us, God cannot subvert or remove the consequences of those very free choices. David chose his course and God did not alter it.

John 16:1-33: One core idea of this passage contradicts some tenants of a wide stream of modern Christianity. Jesus tells us that following him will bring us trouble and persecution. Yet many today seem to believe in a Jesus whose sole job is to make them happy and keep them safe (in the U.S. we have transferred much of this belief to our government). Jesus promises us both peace and trouble. Seeking only half the equation means we may only get half of Jesus.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

For the majority of human history story (factual and fictional) has  functioned as the major way we communicate truth and important ideas with one another.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Scripture itself is 75-80% narrative. Even in today’s rational, scientific, “just the facts, ma’am” world, ideas (good and bad ones) are often more effectively communicated through story than any other medium.

For example, several scholars wrote tomes containing the questionable idea that Jesus did not die on the cross and after waking up may have married Mary Magdalene. But no one paid attention until Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” hit the book stores. Even in our biblically illiterate world, the best known Bible stories are the ones that have been made into movies and books. Story, though much maligned, especially in Christian circles, is and has been an extremely powerful communication tool.

This is why Bob Newhart and Jesus told so many stories and why Nathan confronted David about his dangerous moral failure using fiction.

Notice how Nathan’s story contains elements David’s relates to. David too was an underdog and a shepherd. On hearing the story, David relates and his newly hardened heart is cracked wide open.

Story simultaneously knocks down our defenses and invites us in to the process of change and growth. Had Nathan come to David with bold, only factual accusations, he may not have lived to help David repent. Nathan’s little lamb story also reached David’s emotions and not just his head. It is always harder to deny and debate feelings What we call facts are always debatable. Stories travel that long road between the head and heart faster.

God too is a storyteller. It is his surest way of reaching our heads and hearts. Below are a couple of questions to help you explore the stories God may be using to form you.

  1. What biblical story has made the biggest impact on you?
  2. What is your story?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

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

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