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hollywood-party

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ – Matthew 22:8-9 (NIV)

The US Presidential inauguration kicked off the season of parties, balls and gala for the powerful, rich and famous.  The season continues and rounds into form with this weekend’s Super Bowl.  There will be countless Super Bowl parties, but I’m not referring to the kind where hot wings and nachos are on the menu.  I’m talking about the kind of parties attended by “A-listers” where formal tickets are issued and scanned for admission by security and where gift bags of expensive tchotchke are distributed to people who really don’t need them.  The celeb party season rounds to a close later this month with the  Oscars and all its parties.

In the text above Jesus tells a parable that started out with a VIP guest list, but ended up being an open call.  A king’s son, a prince, was getting married so it seems, and the king sent his servants out far and wide to invite the movers and shakers (Matt 22:3).  The king enticed the invited guests with a menu of oxen and fatted calf, yet they still did not come. A parallel telling of the parable in Luke reveals the guests offered every imaginable excuse for not coming (Luke 14:18-21).  Upon hearing about the number of declined invitations, the frustrated king extended an open invitation to all.

The king in the parable is God and his son is of course Jesus Christ.  God called the Jews to be his chosen people to showcase himself to the rest of humanity.   The Jews largely rejected Jesus’ messianic claims.  John 1:11 states, “He [referring to Jesus] came unto his own and own received him not” (KJV).  Jesus’ death and resurrection become a gateway for God’s message of salvation to all humanity.  The invitation to the wedding feast was extended to all.

The King of King’s invitation is to the ultimate party, the wedding feast of the Lamb of God – an eternal celebration in God’s presence.  The best thing about this party is that everyone is invited!  You don’t have to been on the Forbes 400 richest people list or trending on Twitter.

However, like many exclusive engagements admittance is based on who you know.  You must know the bridegroom – Jesus Christ.   Knowing not from a sense of giving mere mental assent to his existence as a historical figure or teacher of moral principles, but knowing from a sense of placing your very life in his hands.  It is this transfer of trust that purchases your wedding attire and admittance to the party.  In the parable those who were attired inappropriately were cast out of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:11-14).

The invitation has gone out.  My question is, have you RSVP’ed in the affirmative?  If you have, terrific.  My second question is, are you telling others about the party?  In the Lucan account of the parable the master tells his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full”(Luke 14:23)(NIV).

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let each one who hears them say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17a).

Truth, What is Truth?

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Lance Armstrong confesses to Oprah Winfrey about his use of banned substances (courtesy of Washington Post)

Lance Armstrong confesses to Oprah Winfrey about his use of banned substances (courtesy of Washington Post)

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. – John 18:38a (NIV)

Just this past week, the carefully constructed narratives of two prominent athletes came crashing down.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted in an Oprah Winfrey interview to using banned substances in the pursuit of his seven Tour de France victories after vehemently denying the same for years. Armstrong went has far as to sue the London-based Sunday Times for slander and attacked former teammate Floyd Landis to cover his tracks.

It was first reported by DeadSpin.com, that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te’o never existed. Te’o who previously reported Kekua died of leukemia last fall now claims he was the victim of an online hoax. Apparently he never met the love of his life in person but only corresponded with her online and via phone. I can’t help but think of another virtual love, Karen, the computer wife of Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants. (Am I the only parent who watches their kid’s television shows with them?)

We live in an age of moral relativism, and for many there is no longer such a thing as absolute truth.

You may have even heard someone say, “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Yet when stories like Armstrong’s and Te’o’s break, there is a general sense of outrage. Why? Because there is something inside of us that innately bristles against falsehood. In order to know that something is false, we must know the converse, that something else is true. There are proponents of moral relativism who do actually believe what they profess, but there are others who simply refuse to acknowledge the truth. To acknowledge the truth is to be held to the standard of that truth.

The word “truth” appears throughout the Gospel of John over 50 times, more than in any of the other Gospels. It is most often associated with Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth.” Why did John place such a great emphasis on the truth?

The best evidence suggests that the Gospel of John was written between the years of 85 AD and 95 AD, well after the other Gospels were written. John would have witnessed the spread of the gospel throughout Asia Minor, into Africa and to Rome. He would have experienced the gospel’s persecution externally by the Jews and the Romans. John battled false teachings from within the church such as Gnosticism.

Yet the Gospel not only survived but thrived through all of these withering attacks. John saw Roman Caesars who encouraged their worship as gods die as other mortal men. He witnessed the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life, just as Jesus predicted before his death. John instinctively understood what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. put to speech centuries later in his “Give Us the Ballot” speech, “truth crushed to earth will rise again.”

Perhaps you are reading this as someone who has doubts about or flatly does not profess the Christian faith. You may have troubling and perplexing questions about Christianity such as, “how can an all loving and all powerful God allow pain and suffering in the world?” or “why does the Bible condemn homosexuality and yet God allow people to be born with these feelings?” I would encourage you to at least temporarily suspend whatever objections or doubts you have about the faith and read the Gospel of John. If you come to the reading with a truly open mind, you may still have questions when you’re done, but you will also discover simple yet profound truths.

After reading the Gospel of John I am left with a perplexing question myself, “why would the God of the universe subject his son, Jesus Christ, to such a grisly death on the cross to grant me the gift of eternal life?”

The First and Worst Pandemic

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Baseball players wear masks to thwart the spread off the Spanish Flu ii 1918 (courtesy of science.nationalgeographic.com)

Baseball players wear masks to thwart the spread off the Spanish Flu ii 1918 (courtesy of science.nationalgeographic.com)

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me – Psalms 51:5 (NIV)

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; – Romans 3:23 (KJV)

Within the last 24 hours the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that outbreaks of the flu had reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the US.  Flu vaccines are in short supply in many areas and the country and the heath care infrastructure is being taxed.  Experts are calling this the worst flu outbreak in years.  Even as I’m writing this I’m not feeling my best.  While I’m pretty certain I don’t have a case of the flu, I’m not ready to skip along singing “zippity do dah.”  (Come to think of it, I couldn’t envision myself signing that song even if I were feeling fit as a fiddle!)

The current flu outbreak got me to thinking about the worst pandemics in recorded history.  So I consulted my favorite research assistant, Google, and here are the top five pandemics:

1.  Peloponnesian War Pestilence – 430 BC.  Killed 30,000 of Athen’s population.

2.  Antonine Plague – 165 – 180 AD.  Now thought to be smallpox, killed 15 million of Rome’s inhabitants.

3.  Plague of Justianian – 541 – 542 AD.  Death toll is uncertain, but one estimate places it as high as 25 million in the region of Constantinople.

4.  Black Death – 14th century.  Estimated to have killed between 75 million and 200 million of Europe’s inhabitants.

5.  Spanish Flu – 1918. Death toll estimated between 20 million and 50 million worldwide

There are an awful lot of smart people who work for Google.  Mathematical geniuses like Matt Damon’s character in the movie, Good Will Hunting.  However for all this grey matter applied to search engine analytics, the folks at Google, as well as those at Bing, Yahoo and the other search engines missed the first and worst pandemic.  This pandemic is unique in that unlike the pandemics listed above, it infected and continues to infect 100% of the world’s population and it has a 100% mortality rate.

I’m referring to the pandemic of sin

Our first parents, Adam and Eve were born without the contagion, but became infected when they disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17).  They passed along this genetic mutation to every human being who has lived ever since.  Unlike some diseases, there are no mere “carriers” of the sin virus.  Everyone develops a full blow case, which results in death.

Throughout the ages, God has prescribed remedies that have provided temporary relief from, but not an ultimately cure for, the virus of sin.  The various offerings prescribed under the Levitical law treated the symptoms, but not ultimately did not provide a cure. It was not until Jesus Christ entered the world and died on our behalf that the ultimate cure for sin became available.  The precious blood he shared provided the serum. While death is still a byproduct of the original virus, it loses its potency (1. Cor. 15:54).

God readily makes the cure available to all, but you must willingly submit to it.  He does not practice forced inoculations.