Author Archives: Bob Rogers
Originally posted on Bob Rogers:
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
In ancient times, a victorious king would ride into a city on horseback. But Jesus was a different kind of king; He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The horse was a symbol of war. The donkey was a symbol of peace.
Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him, and waved branches. John’s gospel says they were palm branches (John 12:13). Mark 11:9-10 records their words of praise and worship as Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!…
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Originally posted on Bob Rogers:
The Gospel of Mark spends six chapters, one–third of the entire book, describing what happened in just one week. The fact that the gospel gives so much attention to the final week of Christ should tell us how very important that Holy Week was. There must be important lessons for us to learn from these days. So let’s review the entire week, and learn from God the holy ways from the holy days of Holy Week. Each day, starting with tonight’s post on Palm Sunday, I will share some thoughts on lessons we can learn from the events of Holy Week, from the Gospel of Mark.
Copyright 2015 by Bob Rogers
Imagine if legendary blues singer B.B. King died and went to heaven, and met King David, singer of the psalms. What would their conversation be like? Here’s how I imagine it:
B.B.: Are you David? Nice to meet you, sir. My name is Riley B. King, but my friends call me B.B.
David: Why do they call you B.B.?
B.B.: It stands for Blues Boy. You know, David, we have a lot in common!
David: What’s that?
B.B.: Both born in small towns, you in Bethlehem, and me in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Both played stringed instruments, you the harp and me the guitar. This is my guitar, Lucille. And we both sang the blues.
David: I’m glad you recognize that. When people think of my psalms, they may think of praises to God. But if you really read the psalms, you will find that many of them express disappointment with God. I wrote many of them in hard times.
B.B.: Yeah, growing up a black man in the Mississippi delta, I can relate to a lot of your psalms. One of my big hits was “Every Day I Have the Blues.”
David: You had the blues every day, and I had them all night long. Psalm 6 is about that. I was so depressed that I felt I was going to die, and I tried to convince God not to let me die by saying I could not praise the Lord from the grave. I did not mean that I didn’t believe in the afterlife– in fact, in Psalm 16, I said God would not abandon me in the graven, nor let his “Holy One” see decay. Hey, B.B., did you know that “Holy One” is Hasid in Hebrew, a play on words on my own name, David. You see, we Hebrews knew how to have fun with a pun, too. But it was still the blues. As I said in Psalm 6, verse 6, “I am worn out from weeping all night.”
B.B.: I like that one. It reminds me of a song by Slim Harpo. He sang, “You can cry, cry, baby, cry, cry all night long. But when you wake up in the morning, You’re gonna find your good man gone.”
David: Yeah, but the beautiful thing is that although I cried all night, God finally answered my prayer. I put that in near the end of Psalm 6: “The Lord has heard my plea for help; the Lord accepts my prayer.” B.B., let me ask you a question. Are black folks the only ones who sang the blues in your time? I mean, I’m a Hebrew, and like you said, many of my psalms were sad.
B.B.: I like to say that playing the blues and being black is like being black twice. But truth is, black folk ain’t the only ones singin’ the blues. In fact, lots of folk call country music the white man’s blues. In fact, one of your psalms reminds me of a country song.
David: Which one was that?
B.B.: Psalm 10.
David: The sequel to Psalm 9. Yes, I remember that one. It opens, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
B.B.: Yeah, there was a country song that said, “Where, O where, are you tonight? Why did you leave me here all alone?” Like I said, the white man’s blues.
David: But again the difference is that I ended my song with faith. Listen to verse 17: “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted.” It reminds me of something I heard one of your American presidents say after he got shot and came up here. Abraham Lincoln said, “Often I am driven to my knees because there is nowhere else to go.”
B.B.: That’s cool. I like ole Abe. Hey, didn’t you say this Psalm 10 was the sequel to Psalm 9? How’s that?
David: Psalm 9 and 10 form an acrostic in Hebrew, with each stanza beginning with each of the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, so Psalm 10 finishes the acrostic that starts in Psalm 9. Psalm 9 praises the Lord with enthusiasm and even says, “For you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” So remember when you read Psalm 10, not only that it moves from doubt to faith, but that it is part of another psalm of faith.
B.B.: Man, I didn’t know that! It’s like you didn’t cut a single, you was putting out a theme album, dude! So when I think the thrill is gone, I just need to hang on to God, cause it ain’t gone after all.
David: That’s right, B.B.
B.B.: But sometimes folks don’t see that. They just drown in their tears.
David: I wrote a psalm about that, too. I begin Psalm 13 by crying to God for times, “How long, O Lord?”
B.B.: Yeah, makes me think of some blues dudes named K-Ci & Jojo. They had a song that said, “How long just I cry, how long must I try, to make happiness my friend?”
David: I had the answer to that in my Psalm. I said, “But I trust in Your unfailing love.” Again, the mood changes to confidence in God.
B.B.: How can you have so much trust in God? I mean, with King Saul chasin’ you all over the hills, trying to slit your throat?
David: Yeah, Saul had the army of Israel and I had a rough band of 600 men. In fact, one time I felt like God had completely forsaken me. That’s when I wrote the bluest of my blues– Psalm 22. I sang, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
B.B.: Hey, wait a minute, man! I know those words. Jesus said that on the cross! Dude, you wrote that?
David: Yeah, check it out. When Jesus said that on the cross, Jesus was singing the blues, B.B. — literally! The words Jesus quoted from the cross, and not only those words, but other parts of Psalm 22 remind us of the cross. Listen to these lyrics from that psalm:
“He trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him…”
“They have pierced my hands and feet.”
“They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
All of those lines are quoted in the gospels when they talk about Jesus’ crucifixion. So you see, no matter how bad life seems, Jesus knows how it feels. He’s been there. He suffered for our sins on the cross, and experienced the very absence of God, because God cannot look upon sin, and Jesus became sin for us.
B.B.: That’s one of the reasons Jesus is my Main Man. I mean, if anybody had a reason to sing the blues, He did after what they did to Him on the cross.
David: But remember that Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. He arose from the grave! Jesus knew this when he sang Psalm 22. Even this psalm moves to hope, because near the end it says, “He has not hidden His face, but has listened to my cry for help.” B.B., remember how I explained to you that Psalm 10, a psalm that expresses a feeling of forsakenness, was preceded by Psalm 9, a psalm expressing God’s presence. In a similar way, Psalm 22 begins with “Why have you forsaken me?” but it is followed by my # 1 hit, Psalm 23, which talks about how God never forsakes us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death!
B.B.: Cool, man! You know, folks down in my home state of Mississippi have been singing the blues ever since Hurricane Katrina came down there and wiped things out. There’s this blues rock singer named Marc Broussard; he was trying to raise money for victims of the hurricane, and he used your Psalm 22. Here, I got the thing on my iPod. Listen to a little of it: (David puts on the headphones, and listens to a few bars of Bootleg to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Katrina.)
David: Wow, brother, it sounds different on my harp.
B.B.: Same broken heart, though, isn’t it? In Broussard’s song, “My God,” he concludes with these words:
“My God, my God, heal this sin-stained soul. I give my life to you, take me and make me whole. Oh, You are the way, the truth and the life. Burn over me, Lord, send me Your might. Oh, I can do nothing without You. With Your strength this dark night I’ll get through.”
David: Yes, it is. Same broken heart. Same faith at the end. Speaking of a broken heart, I have to confess that I often sang the blues because of trouble I brought on myself.
B.B.: Yeah, I heard about you and your woman, Bathsheba. But I read Psalm 51 when you confessed it. Dude, you really laid your soul bare. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
David: B.B., that wasn’t the only psalm I wrote after that. I also wrote Psalm 32 and Psalm 38. I was sick. Sick in my body. My bones felt brittle. I was so sick and disgusted with my own sin.
B.B.: Dude, there’s an indie rock band in Seattle, Washington, called Sorry the Band. They’re white boys, but they know how to sing the blues. I think they bootlegged Psalm 32 and Psalm 38, man.
David: Really? What do they call the song?
B.B. I think they just call the song “Shame.”
David: B.B., that’s the thing I wish people on earth could understand– that they can overcome their shame.They can beat the blues. Each of my psalms were soul therapy. They started with doubt, but ended with faith.
B.B.: I know it, man. That’s what Ray Charles and I were singing about on his last album before he died. We sang, “Lord, have mercy, please have mercy on me. Well, if I’ve done somebody wrong, Lord, please have mercy, if you please.”
David: That’s what the Lord did for me and did for you! When I did somebody wrong, I pleaded for mercy, and He gave it when I least deserved it. He told me that the Messiah would come through my descendants and He did! God sent Jesus the Messiah, and He died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and yours. Now by faith in Jesus, the Lord has mercy on all who sing the blues.
B.B.: Amen, brother!
Yesterday, President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. You can read the text of his speech here.
In that speech, he said many good things. He spoke out against terrorist attacks from Paris to Pakistan “by those who profess… to stand up for Islam,” and especially the “brutal, vicious death cult” ISIS, which he calls ISIL. He also spoke up for Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini, and he praised the release of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae from North Korea. Unfortunately, when he got to the subject of Nigeria, he only referred to “the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.” By mentioning Muslims first and Christians second, he played down the reality that it is an Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, that is wreaking havoc all over northern Nigeria, and that the killings in Nigeria are overwhelmingly done by Muslims, killing Christians and sometimes killing other Muslims, as well.
However, I was especially troubled by the way he focused on violence done in the name of Christ to imply that Christians were really no better than Muslims. Twice he mentioned violence done “in the name of Christ”– once in reference to the Crusades and the Inquisition, and then again in reference to slavery and Jim Crow. He said, “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith.” To sum it up, President Obama clearly implied that Christians are really no different from Muslims, because all religions have people who distort their faith.
So why do I find this so offensive?
1) To have a fair discussion of any religion, we should judge that religion by it’s true followers, not blame it for it’s misguided followers. President Obama, by his own words, appears to agree. So let’s look at the founders of Islam and Christianity. Muhammad was a man of the sword, who sought an earthly kingdom. He wrote in the Qur’an, “Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in Allah nor the Last Day… until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued” (Sura 9). Through countless sayings attributed to Muhammad in the Hadith, he left them a heritage of permanent war against the “infidels.” In a short time after his life, Muslims conquered the Middle East, Northern Africa, and eventually conquered parts of southern and eastern Europe, forcing non-Muslims into second-class status under their rule. In contrast, Jesus was a man of peace, who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace, and allowed His life to be sacrificed to forgive sins. He said, “Put away your sword” (Matthew 26:52), and “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In a short time after His life, Christians spread their peaceful message all over the Roman empire, without fighting any wars, at all.
2) To have a fair discussion, we should look at things in balance. It is a fact that the followers of Muhammad, be they misguided or not, sought to conquer the territory of the known world, and nearly succeeded. It is also a fact that the misguided Crusaders sought only to conquer the Holy Land. (See the map below.) The Crusades and other wrongs done by people in the name of Christ are inexcusable, but they are not the norm of the Christian faith, nor can they compare with what was done in the name of Muhammad.
3) To have a fair discussion, we should not blame people today for what their ancestors have done in the past. When I meet a Japanese person today, I do not hold him personally responsible for the attack at Pearl Harbor, which happened less than a century ago. Obama wants to blame Christians for the Crusades that happened ten centuries ago, but does he see roving bands of fundamentalist Christians beheading people, flying planes into buildings, and conquering vast sections of territory today in the name of Jesus? No? Does he see anybody doing anything today in the name of Muhammad? Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said it well: “The medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please look out for the radical Islamic threat today.”
Copyright 2015 by Bob Rogers
The high standards of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, have encouraged millions to live a better life, while at the same time the sermon has left many discouraged, feeling the bar is set so high, they can never reach it. Who is able to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love their enemies, and forgive those who mistreat them? Then, to top it off, Jesus said, “be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount is found early on, when Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). This statement must have made the disciples catch their breath, because the scribes and Pharisees were considered the holiest people in Israel. Yet Jesus said his disciples must surpass the scribes and Pharisees, or not enter the kingdom of heaven at all! How could this be?
Immediately after this breath-taking statement, Jesus launched into his explanation. The scribes said not to murder; Jesus said not to be angry. The scribes said not to commit adultery; Jesus said not to lust. Jesus was zeroing in on the real issue: faith is a matter of the heart.
This theme of focusing on the heart continued throughout the sermon. Instead of legalistically saying it is okay to hate our enemies as long as we love our neighbors, Jesus called on His disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them. This can only happen with a changed heart. Instead of showing off our religion by giving, praying and fasting in public, Jesus called on His disciples to do it in private. Repeatedly, Jesus said that God rewards those who don’t do it for show, and He labeled as hypocrites those who practiced their faith for show. Why? Because giving, praying and fasting in private comes from a pure heart, with no desire for earthly praise. Jesus told His disciples to look at the log in their own eyes before trying to judge their brothers by removing the speck from their brothers’ eyes. Again, this turned the focus back to self-examination– of one’s own heart. Near the end of the sermon, Jesus said that many will say to Him on Judgment Day, “Didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Jesus’ reply was astonishing. He said that He would tell many of them, “I never knew you,” and send them to Hell. Why? Because if people have not given their hearts to Christ, it doesn’t matter how many good deeds they have done for Him.
If we have hearts hot with a fire to follow Christ, then we will surpass the scribes and Pharisees, for our faith will be an expression of what is inside of us, not an outward show of religion.
But what about that pesky phrase, “be perfect?” The word used in Matthew 5:48 is the same word used by Christ on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). It is a word for completion. Just as a baseball player can throw a “perfect” game even though he may throw some balls and even walk some players, we can “be perfect,” if we completely, and wholeheartedly build our lives on Jesus, “the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
Copyright 2015 by Bob Rogers
“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
Our world is in a mess, but Jesus Christ told us exactly how to change our world in the Sermon on the Mount, when He said to be salt of the earth and light of the world. Jesus told us what to be and what to do.
1. What you should be: salt and light. Why did Christ pick the illustration of salt and light? Salt is used as a preservative and to flavor food. Likewise, we should influence our world. Paul gave an example of this in 1 Corinthians 7:14, saying that the believer who remains married to an unbelieving spouse can influence them toward salvation. Light reveals and reflects. Likewise, we should reveal truth, glowing with the glory of God in our lives. Interestingly, Jesus said here, “You are the light of the world,” but in John 9:5, He said, “I am the light of the world.” This is no contradiction; Jesus is the source of the light, and we can merely reflect His light. We have no light within ourselves; we only get it when we are plugged into the power source through a relationship with Christ Himself.
2. What you should do: keep your saltiness and shine your brightness. Jesus said in this passage, that if salt loses its taste, it is no longer any good. A lot of Christians are sassy but not salty. We need to keep the saltiness but lose the sassiness. Jesus also says in this passage that nobody puts a lamp under a basket, but he puts it on a stand so everybody can see it. A wise person once said, “The best way to deal with change is to create the change.” Too many Christians are reactive instead of proactive. We have good news! We have hope! Spread it around and let it shine.
3. Why should we be salt and light: to glorify God. Jesus concludes by saying, “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” The reason for us to be salt and light is not so that others will look at us, but so that they will look at God.
Acts 17:6 says that the people in the city of Thessalonica were so stirred up about the influence of the Christians that they said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here, too!” The early Christians changed their world. So can we.
Copyright 2015 by Bob Rogers
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins with eight blessings in Matthew 5:3-10, often called “Beatitudes,” because they are blessings on those who have these attitudes. Jesus shows His deep connection to the Old Testament in these blessings. It’s structure is like the Ten Commandments, which begin with four commandments about our relationship with God and end with six commandments about our relationship with people. The first four Beatitudes relate to God, and the last four relate to people. His third blessing, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” is nearly a quotation of Psalm 37:11, “The humble will inherit the land.” The entire passage has echoes of Isaiah 61:1-9, a passage that Jesus read when He inaugurated His ministry at Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-21). Like the Beatitudes of Jesus, Isaiah 61 mentions good news for the poor (v. 1), comfort for those who mourn (v. 2), possession of the land by the downtrodden (v. 7), and the passage ends with how “they are a people the Lord has blessed” (v. 9).
Why would there not be a seamless connection between these Old Testament passages and the Beatitudes? The same Divine Mind inspired both. Now come in flesh, Jesus the Messiah spoke His distinctive message into the Beatitudes. As in His parables, He begins and ends with a reference to the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, 10). These are the attitudes of citizens of the kingdom, under the Lordship of the King of kings, Jesus Himself:
*those who are poor in spirit
*those who mourn
*those who are gentle
*those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
*those who are merciful
*those who are pure in heart
*those who are peacemakers
*those who are persecuted for righteousness
What a radically different kingdom this is from the world we know– yet one that is declared “blessed.”
I loved Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, Unbroken, about the amazing life of Louie Zamperini, so I was excited to hear that a movie version was being made. However, I was concerned when I heard reports that director Angelina Jolie had cut out the story of Zamperini’s Christian conversion.
The life of Louie Zamperini was made up of three inspiring stories of redemption: athlete, war hero, and Christian servant. Any one of these stories would make an great book or movie. The first story is how he was changed from a troubled boy into an Olympic runner through the inspiration of his big brother. The second story is how he survived air battles with the Japanese, a crash and 45 days afloat in the Pacific Ocean, and horrible torture in a Japanese P.O.W. camp through his personal determination. The third story is how he was saved from alcoholism, post-war trauma, a broken marriage, and bitterness toward the Japanese when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the Los Angeles evangelistic crusade in 1949 that made Billy Graham a world-famous preacher. The book tells all three of these stories; the movie tells the first two.
When I went to see the movie, I knew the conversion story would not be told, so I went with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie did include the same foreshadowing of his spiritual conversion that is found in the book: the Christian message he heard growing up in an Italian Catholic home with a praying mother, and the promise he made to God when adrift in the ocean that if God would save him, he would serve Him the rest of his life. The movie ends with his homecoming after the war, but the text on the screen briefly tells the viewer that Zamperini “made good” on his promise to serve God, and that he returned to Japan to forgive his captors.
So the story of Zamperini’s faith is not omitted from the movie, but it is greatly abbreviated. The movie itself is very well done. The acting, filming, musical score and drama is top-notch and faithful to the story found in the first two parts of the book. If you have read the book, you will still enjoy the movie. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to see the movie and then read Laura Hillenbrand’s book to get “the rest of the story.”
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
What do you do after Christmas? What happens after you take down the tree, put up the lights, and put away all the wrapping? You do as the shepherds and Mary did: promulgate, meditate and celebrate!
1. PROMULGATE. In a previous century, they called missionary-sending organizations a Society for the Promulgation of the Gospel. In this century, the need is as great as ever to spread the good news. “After seeing them, they reported the message… about this child” (Luke 2:17). Ask somebody how their Christmas went, and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you to know Christ as your Savior.
2. MEDITATE. “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” (Luke 2:18). Spend some time quietly reflecting on the miracle of the Virgin Birth, and the Incarnation, God coming in flesh.
3. CELEBRATE. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.” (Luke 2:19). You probably went to church before Christmas. Sadly, the Sunday after Christmas is often one of the lowest in attendance of the year at many churches. But the shepherds rejoiced and worshiped AFTER the birth of Christ. So should we.
Below is a “True/ False” Christmas Trivia Quiz, developed by the chaplains at the hospital where I work. See how many you get right. Click on the “Comments” below to read the answers in the first comment.
1. John’s Gospel names Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.
2. The name, “Jesus,” was not prophesied in the Old Testament; rather, it was given to Mary by the angel for the Christ-child.
3. The Bible does not provide any clues as to when Jesus was born.
4. Jesus was born in the year 1 A.D.
5. Gabriel was the angel who informed young Mary that she would miraculously conceive a child through the power of the Holy Spirit.
6. According to the Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel told Joseph to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife.
7. The Bible says that Mary rode to Bethlehem while pregnant with Jesus on a donkey.
8. Angels announced Jesus’ birth to shep-herds in the fields nearby.
9. The Magi, or Wise Men, brought gifts to the newborn King on the night of His birth.
10. According to Matthew’s Gospel, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
11. According to the Bible, Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day of his life.
12. Simeon was the name of the righteous man who blessed Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem.
13. Herod was the evil King who ordered all male children under the age of 2 in Nazareth to be slaughtered in an attempt to kill Jesus.
14. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt in the middle of the night after being warned by an angel in a dream.
15. Early Christians did not celebrate the birthday of Christ.