Do you ever read something and a short phrase jumps out at you and just gnaws away at your brain? That happens to me a lot. Today as I was doing my daily Bible reading it happened again. I was reading in Mark and the statement “It was not the season for figs” (Mark 11:13) captured my attention and wouldn’t let go, so I did some digging.
The context of the verse is that Jesus came to the fig tree looking for fruit but found none. It’s a symbolic judgment against the religious leaders of the day, in that they have the appearance of goodness but are lacking in what really matters. Mark points out that the fig tree had leaves but no fruit.
Typically this type of thing is easy for me to just take at face value, but the phrase “not the season for figs” really bothered me. Why would Jesus curse a tree if it was just doing what it was supposed to be doing, as in it wasn’t yet time for fruit to be there? Was Jesus being unreasonable?
Through a little bit of digging in some of my commentaries and resources I’ve come to this conclusion: When Jesus is present it’s time for action. The Jews of that day were not ready for Jesus and opposed his ministry. In the verses and chapter that follows this encounter with the fig tree, the religious leaders of the day are shown as being in conflict with Jesus. The fig tree is symbolic of them. They appear to righteous, but aren’t producing. They weren’t ready for the savior of the world to come. They wanted Jesus to act on their terms, but Jesus requires everyone to follow his plan.
All in all, Mark 11:13 probably isn’t the most controversial verse in the Bible, but for some reason I had to check it out deeper. This is why I love the Bible. Almost every time I read it God shows something new to me.
What’s a verse that’s bothered you lately?
Fig tree image courtesy of flickr user BigBlackBox
These days it’s not popular to talk about religion or politics. That makes the email I got today so odd. Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church in California, will be interviewing both presidential candidates for a nationally televised forum. The email he sent was soliciting questions to ask and prayer for wisdom. This will be a blend of both faith and politics, which should make it a very compelling thing to watch.
Pastor Warren will have to walk a tightrope as a representative of a non-profit organization, which just so happens to be a church, too. As such he cannot officially direct people on how they should vote or he would jeopardize the church’s non-profit status with the IRS. There are some practices that are allowed, but others that are not (see this article for more details). Since Pastor Warren will be interviewing both candidates he should be safe, but you know that the ACLU and other politial watchdog organizations will be keep close tabs on what is said.
I do think it’s important for Christians to be politically active. We’re instructed to pray for our government officials, pay taxes, and submit to laws of the land. It’s valuable to have Christians in positions of influence that can enact positive change for our nation and its future citizens.
Check out the email below:
Dear fellow pastor and church leader,
This next Saturday, August 16, 2008, I will interview Senators John McCain and Barack Obama for an hour each at our nationally televised Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. The following morning I will be preaching a message entitled “The Kind of Leadership America Needs.”
I’d value your opinion and feedback. What question would you ask BOTH candidates if you had the chance? Please frame your question in a way that it could be asked of both candidates (to be fair) and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This would be a great help to me.
We’re in this together. I also ask you to pray I’ll have the necessary wisdom. This will be an historic event. Never have the two candidates been interviewed by a pastor in a church. It will be a great day for all churches, showing the importance of the local church being at the civil table.
I thank God he has called you to serve Him. For the global glory of God.
Purpose Driven Network
The Global PEACE Coalition
In June, the Dallas Morning News published an article entitled “Most Americans say many religions can lead to eternal life.” This title in an of itself shouldn’t be surprising, considering the spiritual climate of tolerance that exists in the country today. It’s not politically correct or socially acceptable to claim exclusive ownership of true religion or the key to entering the afterlife. What was surprising about the study was that the MAJORITY of people surveyed who are connected to a Southern Baptist church agreed with this concept. “More than 60 percent of those who said they were Southern Baptists said many religions can be right about how to get to the hereafter.”
Why this surprises me is that the impression I get from Baptist churches is that they believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority for all spiritual matters. Where the Bible is clear on an issue they are typically ready to accept it as fact.
So, does the Bible leave any room for the possibility that other religions can lead to the same destination: heave? Uh….no. See for yourself:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
There are plenty more examples I could give, but I think these get the point across. The Bible points to only one source of salvation, and that is the grace that is offered through faith in Jesus Christ. Every other way does not lead to heaven.
I think the real issue that this article addresses is people’s acceptance of the authority of the Bible and the amount of time they spend reading and studying it. It’s not fun to think about friends or family that don’t practice Christianity but seem like good people who have faith in another religion ending up in hell. But if you accept the authority and inspiration of Scripture, you have no other option. This shouldn’t make you mad. It should inspire you to do everything in your power to help them come to a saving faith in Christ. Not only will they end up receiving an eternal reward in heaven, but they will also get a full life lived her on earth.