“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!””
(Luke 11:5–13 ESV)
“Keep a knocking but you can’t come in
Keep a knocking but you can’t come in
Keep a knocking but you can’t come in
Come back tomorrow night and try it again…”
Last night Chester missed dinner.
He was out doing whatever it is that cats do and didn’t come home until the wee hours of the morning.
Miss Kitty and I were sound asleep, but that didn’t remove his hunger.
He howled and yowled until it sounded like he was gargling and he did so until I woke up, got up, and fed him.
Chester was impudent and received the reward for it.
That’s a nice little real life allegory to this verse.
Unfortunately, it’s not very comforting these days.
What if…instead of getting up and feeding him… I got up and tossed his sorry tail out the door and turned on some noise to drown out his howling,yowling, and gargling?
Let’s be honest.
Some of us have asked until we’re hoarse, sought until we’re exhausted, and knocked until our knuckles bled.
All without response or without help.
What do you do when it seems like the Scripture is an empty promise and God has put you outside the realm of His goodness?
Some reinterpret the text to mean that God is only giving “spiritual” gifts.
If so, then manna was unnecessary and God only thinks you need spiritual things.
He told you to ask for bread…bread is real.
Don’t play that game.
Your need is real and your God is real.
You are not outside the goodness and love of God.
Don’t stop asking, knocking, or seeking.
He told me to remind you…so you could remind me.
Make your own application…
There are rumblings out of Florida that Bob Coy is back and planning to start a church there again.
I have few details at this point, but it’s been clear to me from the day he stepped down that if full disclosure of his sin were made that he would be disqualified for life.
We’ll try to fill in the blanks as we go…
Perry Robinson has a lot to say that needs hearing…
This guy needs to go away and and get a job in the car wash with Joe Mixon…
Finally, a word for Calvary Chapel pastors who may be invited to speak at a CC conference.
If you’re going to lift most of your material from a commentary, don’t use Warren Weirsbe.
Warren Weirsbe has been the commentary de jour for CC pastors for years and your peers will recognize where you got your material.
Then they send me emails about it…
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ” (John 20:24-29)
Most of you are familiar with Thomas’ nickname, Doubting Thomas. That nickname is a bit of a misnomer, however, because on the Sunday following Easter, Thomas was no doubter, if by that term we mean: “uncertain” or “lacking conviction.” To the contrary, Thomas was in a state of stubborn unbelief.
To face his closest companions with the absurd challenge, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”, Thomas was calling the other disciples a bunch of fools. His heart was so hard that Thomas would not believe the witness of ten other disciples, nor the women. He would not believe even if he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The only thing that would satisfy Thomas, so he said, would be to grope around inside Jesus’ wounds.
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14)
The cross and Jesus bodily resurrection go together as two non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith. Paul puts them together succinctly: “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4:25) By raising Jesus from the dead, God vindicated the claims Jesus made about himself and declared His death on the cross to be atonement for the sins of the world. The Good News or Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the history of Jesus’ earthly ministry, death and resurrection and the application of the forgiveness of sins through its proclamation for you in the present.
The first gift the Gospel bestows is faith that Jesus died for your sins and was raised for your justification, through which God declares you to be righteous (or justified) in His sight. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no atonement and our faith would be in vain. On the other hand, without faith in the Gospel, Jesus’ atonement would not apply to us and we would remain in our sin. Therefore, we have both Jesus’ resurrection and faith side-by-side in the following confession: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ ” (John 20:27)
Without faith in the risen Christ, Thomas was in real trouble. If Jesus had not rescued him, Thomas would have perished in unbelief and been condemned in his sin. But for our sake Jesus allowed these events to happen, so that through the testimony of John’s gospel we might believe that Jesus is a kind and forgiving Savior, who desires to bless us with faith in His resurrection, and through faith that we would join with Thomas and the whole Church who confess: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ ” (John 11:16)
As one of the original 12 disciples, Thomas witnessed the authoritative teaching and miraculous works of Jesus first hand. Thomas witnessed Jesus raise three people from the dead. When Jesus decided to return to Judea to raise Lazarus (despite prior threats to His life from there), it was Thomas who exhibited more courage and devotion to Jesus than any other disciple: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” What then happened to all his faith?
Jesus was arrested, mocked and spit upon, tried and condemned, flogged and crucified, died and was buried.
Thomas saw the great miracles that Jesus performed for others, but Jesus did not save himself. Could He not save himself? Thomas, along with the other disciples, did not yet understand that Jesus was giving His life as a ransom for many, but He would rise again, just as He prophesied: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17)
But there was the shock and cruelty of His crucifixion; there was the fear that Thomas, as one of Jesus’ disciples, might meet a similar end; and there was the passage of three days since he last saw Jesus alive. All these things appear to have sapped Thomas of his faith in Jesus. Similar to how the Israelites in the wilderness, who in times of testing quickly lost faith in the Lord despite His previous mighty works on their behalf, by our own strength we cannot believe in Christ and His resurrection. We are either too arrogant, like Pharaoh and Caiaphas, or we are too despondent like poor Thomas.
“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27b)
Everything depends on Christ. As Paul wrote (quoting from Exodus): “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Rom 9:15) Jesus will come to Thomas to reveal His resurrection and give Thomas saving faith in Him: Thomas, “put your finger here….Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)
Jesus had mercy on Thomas and restored his faith in Him. But in so doing, He spoke a word to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There is a blessing for those who have not seen and yet believe. That blessing is the Holy Spirit who comes to us in the proclamation of God’s Word and Gospel, and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and dwells in the hearts of all believers. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). The Holy Spirit gives us the saving faith to confess: Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” “[F]or he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Amen.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31) Amen.
One of my life long escapes from reality has been comic books.
I learned to read with them and more importantly, I learned values from them.
Captain America was one of my favorites.
The character created by two Jewish men to represent “American” values, whose first book cover was of him smiting Hitler…was now a fraud and bad guy from the beginning.
Before this rewrite Cap was ethical, conservative, moral, self sacrificial and decent…he knew right from wrong and did right.
He was trustworthy.
Evidently, such cannot be allowed to endure anymore.
One gets the impression that the corporate owners of this character hate the hero that has made them millions because of the values he represents.
Marvel has been trying to get rid of the fictional Steve Rogers for years, replacing him at various times with other men to fill the suit and even killing him off.
He was resurrected when there was movie money to be made.
Now, to be blunt, I don’t consider myself to be a “patriot”.
I don’t think the “America” that Captain America represents ever existed anymore than the the character did…but oh, how I wish it were so.
Cap has been an enduring cultural symbol of what we could be, what we should all aspire to be.
We need symbols in society that show us a better way.
We don’t need the ones that have served us well defiled beyond recognition…especially in a culture that constantly serves young people perverse symbols of depravity as a constant diet.
Somewhere out there is a lonely kid who is learning to read and learning values from comic books just like I did.
His values will be different from mine…because without heroes to read about, you won’t aspire to be one yourself.
Maybe that’s the whole point…
The city’s Parkway will be showcased as draft activities will be set up and take place over the stretch from the captivating Franklin Institute to the acclaimed Art Museum, with the main stage built at the top of the very steps that Rocky once ascended. The weather forecast looks promising and reportedly everything will be in place for a great event.
Many collegiate football players will have their dreams come true as their names are announced as a draft pick of one of the 32 NFL football teams. Beside the possible booing that could occur with an unpopular Eagles pick and that will inevitably accompany every Cowboys pick, there should be much expression and feelings of joy and happiness and relief taking place over the next several days. While some of the lower draft picks will still have to battle to make their respective teams, just having the opportunity to make the NFL will bring great exhilaration.
That brings me to Joe Mixon. Mixon is an especially gifted running back from the University of Oklahoma who would be considered a first round draft pick, if not even upper first round, based on his talent alone. However, it is not known when Mixon will get drafted because of this video. (Warning: The video shows disturbing violence of a man perpetrated against a woman; watch at your own discretion.)
That one punch resulted in multiple facial fractures for the woman and a lifelong big black mark against Mixon. While many other football players have committed domestic violence, few have had it recorded on a video which became public. This very ugly incident is now engrained in the memory of the millions of people who have watched it. Many other players with domestic violence accusations, both those who have not gone beyond allegations and those who have been convicted in a court of law, have gotten off relatively easily in the court of public opinion. They may have dropped a little bit in the draft or got a little bit of grumbling from their team’s local community, but didn’t suffer much beyond that. That doesn’t make their cases any less worse, but it’s just the reality that Mixon’s case is different because everybody can see with their own eyes what he did.
Joe Mixon is now a lightning rod. Seemingly everyone who is aware of situation has a strong opinion, or at least strong feelings about him and the possibility of him being drafted. Especially when one considers that the team they root for may draft him. The image in their memory of what Mixon did stands out in an atrocious manner. It is hard for many to stomach seeing that video of Mixon playing in their head and then cheering for the same man each Sunday he suits up in their team’s gear.
I have been through something similar once before. Back in 2009, my beloved Eagles shocked the football world when they signed Michael Vick not long after he had been released from prison. Vick, of course, was infamous for his integral role in a dog fighting ring where hundreds of dogs were grotesquely abused and killed. He was convicted of his crimes and spent close to two years in prison, while also entering into bankruptcy because of the loss of his huge contract with the Atlanta Falcons and previous mismanagement of his earnings.
When the Eagles announced the signing, I was dismayed. I did not want such a man on my football team. I certainly didn’t want to have to cheer for him as he played out on the field for the Eagles. I wasn’t necessarily against giving him a second chance in the NFL, but I certainly didn’t want my team to be the one giving it to him.
Some of my fellow fans were all up in arms in protest against him being on the team, but then were able to quickly forgive and forget once Vick was performing very well on the field. As for me and some others, however, the thinking was different. We still would rather have had someone else to cheer for, but as time went on, we came to accept this second chance for Michael Vick. The man carried himself well, proving over time that he was a changed man. Perfect, no, but much different than the man who had committed those heinous crimes. And unlike many other athletes, and sometimes even “regular” people, who get off from their crimes with just a slap on the wrist, Vick had paid a significant penalty to society. His time had been paid and how much longer should we continue to try to punish him?
The situation with Joe Mixon is different than the one with Michael Vick, but there are some parallels. At what point are we willing to give a second chance? Vick paid a significant penalty for his crimes. Mixon, seemingly got off relatively easy with a sentencing of community service and counseling and suspension from his college football team for one season. Does society need to punish Mixon further since many think he wasn’t punished enough in the first place? Vick showed himself to be a changed man. Mixon is quite questionable in this regard, with allegations and rumors and even documentation of other bad behavior, both before and after this videoed domestic violence incident. How much good behavior (or lack of bad behavior) do we need to see before we’re willing to give a second chance? And is it a “privilege” to be able to play in the NFL that NFL officials and team owners can rightly guard, or is it unfair discrimination to keep out a man who can legally and capably perform the job? Just because the occupation of professional football player brings one much more fame and money than most other professions, is it right to prevent a man from making a living in the thing he is skilled at, when we may not have the same standard for other jobs?
And as Christians, do we, or should we approach this subject different than society? Because after all, isn’t our faith based on receiving second chances….. second chances that we don’t even deserve and would lose if not for the eternal grace of God? With the ability to receive forgiveness and reconciliation. With the opportunity to be reformed and rehabilitated into something better. Yet also with the volition to hold to God’s laws and decrees and justice and righteousness. How does our faith and our personal relation with God overlap into how we interact with and handle other people in these types of circumstances in life?
In our individual lives, we may not happen upon a person with the fame (or infamy) of Joe Mixon, but we very well may encounter other people in similar situations. People who committed some sordid acts in their past and now are looking for a second chance in life or career or relationship or even in the church. Some who may seem like totally different people now, some who may not seem much different, and others who are somewhere murkily in the middle and we’re just not sure what to make of them.
Each and every circumstance is likely different to some degree and so we just can’t lump them all together and handle them with a cookie-cutter response. But what are our guiding principles? What are the ideas and precepts that help us discern what to do? Whether it be speaking out on a public situation like the drafting of Joe Mixon or dealing with a personal situation that very few others know about, how do we fare?
May we remember to stand for justice and righteousness and protection of the innocent, but also remember that we’d be in big trouble if it wasn’t for a God who gives us an eternal second chance.
(Note: Just as I finished this article, another player, Gareon Conley, who was expected to be drafted in the first round, possibly even by the Eagles, was accused of rape. We will see how that situation plays out.)
Huge thanks, as always to EricL for the help…support his business at top right…
“One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.
It is well worth reading. In the article, Beinart, explores the demographic shifts in faith and culture and the way in which they have impacted the current political scene. According to Beinart, the key to understanding what is taking place is not by how people self-identify, but by what they actually do. In practical terms, this means that the key factor is not whether people self-identify as “evangelical” or “Roman Catholic”, but rather the more basic question of “do you attend church?”. When the question is put in these terms, everything changes. As Notre Dame’s Geoffrey Layman put it, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church”. He might have added, that Trump did best among Roman Catholic men in rust belt states who only see the inside of a church when attending a funeral or wedding.
We are becoming an increasingly secular society. Of that there can be little doubt. It is a secular society, however, with memories of better times. We remain nominally attached to certain values such as church, family, and community, but in reality these have become only abstract ideas to which many only pay lip service. This has led to a conflict between the ideal and the real. As W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia wrote, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives”. Of course, the same could be said of white Roman Catholic men in many of the rust belt regions of America as well. Divorce rates, opioid addiction and financial uncertainty are all blind when it comes to denominational affiliation.
It is easy, however, to point to “them” as the problem. “They” don’t go to church. But, how about us, do we go to church?
Recently on a friend’s social media feed, I saw an astounding statement – “Podcasts are my church this year”, with a listing of the podcasts they listen to on a regular basis. My friend commented, “Have said the same myself, and heard it said by so many others…” There seems to have been a progression in recent years. Originally, we were participants in a community of faith. Then, something happened… or, maybe, many things happened. Perhaps there was an issue with the pastor (that’s always a favorite one), or we perceived something in what was being taught that seemed at odds with our understanding of the Bible, or history, or theology. Maybe it was the new praise band or the new worship leader. It might even have been the people in the congregation – they were too conservative, too liberal, too rich, too poor… Regardless, we take ourselves elsewhere. No longer feeling connected and not really wanting to be a participant, having been burned, hurt or disappointed, we find a place to be a spectator. A mega-church works well for this, as do many liturgical churches. All you have to do is sit in your seat and watch the action. Yet, when once you’ve been a participant, it’s hard to be a spectator. Anonymity has it’s price. It’s difficult to make friends. You begin to wonder if anyone cares if you’re attending or not. Besides all of that, the preaching and/or teaching leaves much to be desired and you’re really getting more spiritual sustenance from a video series you’ve discovered, or a blog site, or even, a podcast. Not only that, you can pick the ones that agree with your way of thinking. You don’t have to engage, unless it’s in an anonymous comment, and you can do all this in isolation, comfortably, on your schedule, from your home or office. You can even confess your sins and have others in the comment thread tell you that you’re forgiven… all without leaving your chair. It’s church… or is it?
It is not church.
Friends, church is hard. Firstly, you’ll not find a perfect church, and if you do, it won’t be perfect after you join it. That’s just the way it is. Secondly, you’ll never find a perfect pastor. Setting aside those who are in ministry for all the wrong reasons – narcissists, abusive personalities, etc. – generally you’ll find a person who is really trying to do a good job. Not only are they trying to do a good job, they are generally sacrificing a great deal to do that job, especially in terms of family and financial security. Even the small perk of the respect that was once automatically given to clergy by the outside community is pretty much a thing of the past. It’s a tough job to do well. Moreover, they will make mistakes – some big, some small – and it will be up to you to extend grace to them as you would wish for grace to be extended to yourself.
Church is a place to know and be known. Church is the first place in which we are called to live out the precepts of Christ in a common life with others. For some, such as myself, Church is the place where I partake of Communion – in communion with both Christ and those kneeling or standing beside me. It is not a solitary act. Baptism is to be buried with Christ and raised to new life. It is also taking one’s place with all the baptized, through all the ages. It is not a solitary act. When we equate teaching that we hear online, or blog sites we participate in, or videos that we watch, with “church”, we have missed the point. Not only that, we also run the risk of a gnostic spirituality that denies the physical in favor of an ethereal abstract ideal known only to ourselves. In terms of “spiritual health”, we may be the ones creating a crisis, not only for ourselves, but for the Church itself and perhaps society as well. Salt is a compound, not a singular element. Light is a diverse combination, not a stand alone phenomena. If we’re to be salt and light, we need what others bring. We need church.
So, find a church, even if it’s imperfect. There’s a wide selection to choose from these days. Find a church that aligns with your theological understanding if you can, but find one! Then, be faithful – in attendance, in learning, in service, in giving, in prayer.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages.