Tag Archives: jokes

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!

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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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Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over

You may have heard of the young Catholic monk who was assigned to copying ancient manuscripts in the cellar of the monastery library. He worked tirelessly, straining his eyes and consulting lexicons and dictionaries to correctly transcribe and translate each parchment. He climbed the stars each evening exhausted and ink stained.  His brothers began to worry about him.

Then one day they heard a blood-curdling scream rise from the cellar. They rushed to the top of the stairs. The young monk raced up and dropped to his knees on the top stair. With a strength powered by anguish, he tore his robe and wailed, “The word is ‘celebrate,’ C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E.”

All the other monks dropped to their knees and wept with him.

A motto that can sometimes describe how many of us view and live the Christian life is the one sports announcer Don Meredith sang near the end of many Monday Night Football games, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

Yet, God spends a lot of time mandating his people to  celebrate feasts, festivals, celebrations, and–well–parties.

Are we guilty of thinking that the faith life amounts to turning out the lights and shutting down the party? I know at times I am.

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 Chronicles 31:1-36:23

1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Psalm 27:1-6

Proverbs 20:20-21

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Chronicles 31:1-36:23: To a large extent Israel has ceased to follow and serve the Lord. And in consequence God allows other kings and nations to rule and subjugate them. This brings up an age-old question, why would anyone choose to serve lifeless objects and ideas rather than the living, loving Lord of all? The answer lies in the heart of each of us.

But Chronicles ends hinting that even when we give up on God, God does not give up us. If God’s people will not respond to him, Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia will. The story is is not over.

1 Corinthians 1:1-17: 1 Corinthians is a misunderstood and often misused book. It has become a modern proof text for and against–mostly for–belief in miraculous spiritual gifts. Not to mention 1 Corinthians 13 becoming the most common wedding reading. But that is only scratching the surface of this brilliant, painfully honest–sometimes brutal–letter to the church that had formed and was struggling to define itself in the ancient Roman city of Corinth.

If not filled with wedding poetry and descriptions of other worldly gifts, what is this letter all about? Paul lays it out in verse 13 of chapter 1. “Is Christ divided?” he asks the Corinthian Christians. Thus is the underlying message of this letter. Our sister and brotherhood in Christ unites, not divides.

Paul addresses several divisions the Corinthians boasted of. As we read through this letter, let’s ask what as the modern bride of Christ, we have learned or failed to learn about unity in Christ. What divides us today?

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

Christianity and Judaism have long been accused of being monkish, dour and dreadfully serious. And rightly so. Not only have both faiths fostered movements such as the ancient and desert-bound Essenes and the somber new-world Puritans, but we are dealing with real life and death issues, not to mention life after death issues. This is rather serious business.

Yet feasts, festivals, and parties comprise a large part of what God expects his people to do together. Old Testament worship is often prescribed and described as celebration. Can you imagine how bustling and noisy and alive was worship in the days of the Tabernacle and Temple? Kids, fathers, mothers, soldiers, shepherds, birds, goats, priests, smoke, bells, songs, laughter, shouting, and teachers mingled in the courts all seeking God and his forgiveness. Compare that with our often silent, meditative, somber approach to worship.

It’s as if we are saying, “Shhh, God may be napping.”

Jesus seems to advocate this party mentality too. He describes heaven and the kingdom as a party. And despite our erroneous portrait of him as some depressed British guy, Jesus used humor often and moved comfortably in noise and celebration. He even threw a party for his last meal with his disciples. They did not eat only bread, nor drink grape juice.

This last section of Chronicles highlights this party mentality as well. Josiah brings Israel back to God and throws a Passover party. And it is an elaborate one. The whole nation is involved.

Then something we have seen before and very sad happens. Josiah and Israel stop celebrating. He is killed and the people turn away from God. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

As I read this section, I wondered if there is not a correlation between our inability to celebrate God and our slow movement away from obedience to God. Laughter and noise and celebration, especially together with loved ones, are healing and motivating. Yet we consider these things frivolous.

When I was a new follower of Christ, as a teenager, I struggled to break away from the drinking and drug party scene. I had heard that Jesus went everywhere with me and when I was partying, he was there and was probably not enjoying the party. That was all true. But his lack of joy came from my self-destructive behavior not my desire to enjoy life and celebrate. Interestingly enough, I truly began to grow and live in my faith when I found a group of friends who knew how to love and celebrate God. We throw a mean party.

Today let’s turn on the lights, the party’s just started!

  1. What divides us today?
  2. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?

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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