Sep 302016

12961625_1323775127649325_3371414975691280532_nThey pull in every afternoon in their Mercedes SUV festooned with homemade political signs and carrying custom made bikes.

They long for the day when there will be no skatepark here, when there will just be a lovely park with a bike path that good and holy people like themselves can enjoy without having to deal with the unwashed masses.

She, in particular, hates the kids.

You can occasionally hear loud profanity from the young ones as they engage in the rite of passage of learning to curse.

They don’t do it well, but they can do it loudly.

This offends her Christian sensibilities.

The fact that most of them are either drop outs or on the edge of dropping out doesn’t bother her.

The fact that you can hear story after story about how their parents broke up doesn’t bother her.

The fact that some have to spend as much time keeping their shoes intact from completely disintegrating as they do skating doesn’t bother her.

The fact that a couple of them slept here last night doesn’t bother her.

What bothers her is seeing and hearing the “scum” when they come to the park.

I’ve tried to help her understand, but understanding would ruin the narrative she holds dear.

Because I’m usually the only adult there, she holds me responsible for all she loathes.

“If you were a decent parent you wouldn’t allow your boy to be here. You wouldn’t sacrifice your child for the good of scum.”

I reminded her that if another Father hadn’t done exactly that we’d all be go to hell.

I felt good and holy and much better than her for saying so.

That’s when T skated over and asked if we could give one of the most troubled kids a ride to pick up some stuff.

No, I thought to myself…he’s bad news…he’s sc…

That’s when I thought I heard thunder.

Hypocrisy is a tight fitting garment and one size fits all.

The boy was much appreciative of the ride.

I was thankful for the sacrifice of the Father, without which I’d be sharing a condo in hell with a mean woman and her bike.

Maybe she’s covered too…

Make your own application…

Sep 292016

14_c_n_combined-400wWilliam Cowper was born in England in 1731 and died there in 1800. His mother died when William was six years old, and this tragic loss affected him until the end of his life. After her death, William’s father sent him to private schools, where he studied until he was seventeen.

He was a prolific hymn writer and poet, and is regarded as one of Great Britain’s greatest poets.

He wrote the well known hymn “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” and created the expression, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”

But that is only part of what makes Cowper’s life so noteworthy. What’s remarkable is that God used this man in such a way despite the man’s troubled and tortured mind, for William Cowper suffered from severe mental illness. Despairing of his very life, Cowper even tried to commit suicide several times and was admitted to a mental asylum, which is where he found Christ. His life did change after his salvation, but his bouts with mental illness continued to torment him for the rest of his life. There were many times he thought his soul was damned, though he was a Calvinist, for he could not see His Savior’s grace for himself.He became a close friend of former slave ship Captain turned minister John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace.” Newton was a true friend and pastor to Cowper and the two wrote a book of hymns together, know as “The Olney Hymns,” named after the town where the two men lived.

In 1780 Newton moved from Olney for a new ministry in London, where he served for the next 27 years. He did not forget his friendship with Cowper, and the two continued their correspondence through letters.

They remained close friends until Cowper’s death in 1800. There is no evidence Newton ever chastised Cowper for his infirmities. John Newton accepted and loved Cowper as he was, warts and all. More than a pastor, Newton was kind and patient with his friend.

What lessons can we learn from the lives of William Cowper and John Newton?

What would your reaction have been to a man like Cowper suffering from such deep mental illness? So deep the person was suicidal and attempted suicide? Would you befriend him and accept him, as Newton did, or shun him as unvaluable to the Body of Christ? Would you advise him to just read his Bible more and pray more believing these things would take the mental illness away?

Do you see mentally ill people as valuable to the Body of Christ? Paul gives us an insight in 1 Cor. 12:21-26, where he speaks of the weaker parts of the body as having greater honor.

Do you struggle with mental illness yourself? God sees you as very valuable to Him. His plan for you includes this illness He has allowed you to struggle with. Yes, God can heal us, but He doesn’t always do so as we all know.

Those who are mentally ill are full members of the body if they have believed, and can be used greatly by God to “confound the wise.” I Cor. 1:27. William Cowper was an example of this. Do we really accept people with these infirmities, as Newton did, or do we see them as just another chore we have to put up with?

The next time you deal with a mentally ill person, you might be talking to another William Cowper.

Sep 292016

tshirt_design_our_fatherIntroducing the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come – Part 2

“Thy kingdom come.”

 Last week in Part 1, we explored the nature of the kingdom of God. This week, let us explore how His kingdom comes.

We do not pray that we may come to God’s kingdom; His kingdom comes to us by grace. Jesus made this point in his conversation with Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Augustine’s commentary is helpful here:

“‘Come,’ therefore, is to be understood in the sense of ‘manifested to men.’ For in the same way also as a light which is present is absent to the blind, and to those who shut their eyes; so the kingdom of God, though it never departs from the earth, is yet absent to those who are ignorant of it.” (Augustine, 354-430 A.D.)

Therefore, the kingdom is present, but it must come to those who would enter it. Let us look at three of Jesus’ parables, which illustrate how the kingdom comes to us.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matt 13:31-32)

This first parable contrasts the kingdom’s small beginning with its large future. The kingdom begins small from a human perspective, appearing insignificant and going unnoticed – like a tiny seed. But it grows naturally and when it reaches full maturity, the kingdom – like a mature tree with many branches – will be large and everyone will take notice. God’s kingdom spreads throughout the world through the proclamation of the Word, by which the Holy Spirit calls people into the kingdom by giving them repentance and faith.

Here we pray: Father, may your kingdom come to us, that we may be counted among those who keep your name holy and live according to your will. Grant us faithful churches and pastors to proclaim your Word and Gospel in purity throughout the world, that your kingdom may come to others.

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matt 13:33)

This second parable focuses on the hiddenness of God’s kingdom. Leaven is a small amount of old fermented dough (reserved from a previous baking), which is added to new dough. Both the leaven and its process are hidden in the new dough. There, the leaven works its way through the new dough until the entire batch is leavened.

Jesus, previous to that parable, taught his disciples about the hidden nature of the kingdom:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children….no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt 11:25, 27).

The kingdom of God is hidden from the human faculties of wisdom and reason. Paul refers to the “word of the cross” as the “foolishness of God” and the “weakness of God” (1 Cor 1:25), because the message of Christ crucified appears foolish and weak when viewed through the lens of human wisdom and reason.

Therefore, the spread of God’s kingdom is hidden. Those who enter the kingdom share two attributes in common. First, the kingdom must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit working through God’s holy Word and Gospel. Second, we must receive the Spirit’s revelation like children (i.e., by faith, not according to human wisdom and reason).

The devil, the world and our flesh use human wisdom and reason to attack our faith in Christ (to make faith appear foolish). Here are a few examples: The inspiration of the Scriptures is undermined by text critics; naturalism is promoted rather than a creator God; the message of the Gospel and church practices are polluted by leaders employing spiritual entrepreneurship; and churches surrender the moral teachings of the Scriptures in favor of progressivism.

If human wisdom and reason get the upper hand, then God’s wisdom becomes foolishness. If that happens to us, we become like the seed that was sown along the path: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” (Matt 13:19)

Here we pray: Father, keep us in your Word, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit our faith in our King and His kingdom may daily increase. Let Christ reign in and through us, that we may bear fruit of a healthy tree. Protect us from all attacks and lies which threaten to undermine our trust in your holy Word and our faith in the Gospel of your Son.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matt 13:24-30; see also Jesus’ explanation in verses 36-43)

This third parable teaches us that God’s kingdom of grace comes and grows in the midst of a world which also contains evil. God’s children and the devil’s children will co-exist in the world until Christ returns. In the meantime, Christians will suffer from the continued presence of evil and sin. However, Christ promises a harvest, which only Christians hope for. At Christ’s return, Christians will inherit eternal life, while the devil’s children will receive eternal judgment.

Here we pray: Come Lord Jesus and crush Satan under our feet. Deliver us from this evil age. Let no sin or evil rule over us. Remember us in your kingdom, and make us fit to enter your everlasting kingdom of glory. Amen.

Next week we will continue with the third petition: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Copyright © 2016 Jean Dragon – All rights reserved.

Sep 282016

racial_justiceNote: This is not addressing any one specific incident.

Another killing.

Another predictable reaction. Except the bullheadedness and venom and violent tendencies appear to get ratcheted up a notch. Seemingly on each successive occurrence.

“Another unarmed innocent black man has been killed by police by no fault of his own.” Except that said victim didn’t seem to be all that cooperative and brought some risk upon himself. And except some of the details are sketchy and it’s hard to determine for sure what exactly all happened and how innocent or not innocent the victim really was.

“Another contrived story by the media to play the race card and make an issue out of nothing and to guilt white people for their supposed white privilege.” Except the story is not nothing. Except a black man may have very well just lost his life because a police officer acted wrongfully and reacted to him in a way they wouldn’t have reacted to a person with white skin. Except that there are some very real circumstances in society where white people are better off (even if there is nothing an individual white person has personally done wrong to bring about those circumstances).

“Another situation that Black Lives Matter is just trying to exploit.” Except that beyond whatever political or superficial or disingenuous fluff that may or may not inhabit BLM, at its heart is a crying out about the injustice of black people wrongfully killed or discriminated against. Except that racism is still real in this society and it can’t just be assumed to have had nothing to do with the current situation.

“Another murderous shooting by the racist police.” Except that the large, large majority of police officers have never committed such an act, and most likely never would. Except that the police officers are daily placing their lives on the line and when in an intense situation it is often difficult to tell the difference between a false move and a potential real move of aggression when the interpretation must be made in a matter of seconds or less.

“Another time where they should be worried about all the black-on-black crime, rather than these individual cases where a white police officer kills a black man.” Except that no matter how much “black-on-black” crime there is, if a black man is wrongfully killed by a white officer, it is still wrong and unjust. Except that we can’t just pretend the problem doesn’t exist, no matter how many other problems there are.

Another opportunity to put forth our political assertions and pronounce how obviously superior we are in our thoughts.

Another chance to show how stupid and ignorant and corrupt the opposition is.

Another tragedy to mourn and grieve. Except why would we do that? Because if people just listened to us, these things wouldn’t happen anymore.

Another occasion where we could listen and try to understand the hurt and concern of others. Except why would we do that? Because it’s their own fault these things happen.

Another instance where we could stop and think through and possibly even put into action real ways to help others. Except we’ve got to first bestow our wit and wisdom onto everyone and post our loutish memes on social media.

Another time, where if Scripture was still being recorded, we very well may see the words, “Jesus wept.”

Sep 272016

timthumb.phpN.T. Wright redefines sin…

Is the Bible foundational to Christianity?

Faithful to the end…an interview with Eugene Peterson.

The Reformation was a triumph of sacraments…

Why so many pastors leave the ministry each month…

Building a Luther library…

Don’t know much about church history…

Singing man…

They just “stop believing”…

Discipleship doesn’t work…

The inconvenience of loving wisdom…

The freedom of losing it all...Tulian Tchividjian

Rules without reasons…

Evangelicals rally to Trump…

Muslims more unpopular than atheists in U.S.

The Bible never mentions a building called church…

Ex Mormons find home on Reddit…

4 evangelicals,4 different ways to consider Trump…

The political magic of C.S. Lewis…

Bach and the church year…

The astonishing power of small churches…

The pain of hosting a party…

Surprised by evil…

Standing as loving accomplices on a front porch surrounded by police…

We’re never alone in the dark…

When sin works…

Voting for God’s kingdom…

The “solemn assembly” shrinks…

Why people reject Christianity…

Huge thanks to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…

Sep 262016

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:16–21 ESV)

If I believed that people could lose their salvation, I’d say that social media is filling hell at the fastest rate in recorded history. It’s as if all biblical standards of conduct have been suspended until after the election. No matter who wins in November,the church has sustained massive loss in relationships and holiness that will cripple us for years. It doesn’t seem to matter…

2. While we’ve split into camps accusing each other of being devils, the real Devil laughs at how easily he has swayed us all…

3. My family is always the clearest reflection of the state of my soul…

4. What fools we are if we are counting on someone or something outside of the church to bring about the ways and will of God…

5. I always rooted for Arnold Palmer…he was the quintessential American sports icon…and he wore iconic very well.

6. Whenever I post numbers that show the decline of the church in this country,the church declares themselves blameless or the numbers inaccurate. This is called whistling in the graveyard. We seem to have the institutional blindness that refuses to see until the institution has fallen. The gates of hell will not prevail,but the institutions will fall.

7.T organized his class to write a letter thanking the local police for their service. He was concerned that all the negative press has eroded their morale. Evidently, I did something right,sometime…

8. There is no such thing as “the media” anymore. Just another straw man to burn in the face of someone who disagrees with us…

9. In the providence of God, Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee, requiring the Vikings to trade for Sam Bradford and the Eagles to promote Carson Wentz. God works all things together for good…for everyone except Teddy Bridgewater,evidently…

10. Hope in Christ is the hardest sell in the church right now…and by far the most needed. Hoping in the capture of the White House and Congress is not the same thing…and if it happens will not change a single heart. It is the heart we are supposed to be concerned with. I’m very concerned about my own…



Sep 242016

Lord God, heavenly Father, I ask and would be assured that my petitions shall and must be nothing less than yea and amen. 

Otherwise I will not pray nor have intercession made for me. 

Not that I am righteous or worthy, for I know very well and confess that I am unworthy. 

I have earned Thine eternal wrath and hell fire with my great and many sins. 

But in this that Thou dost command and constrain me to pray in the Name of Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, I am still somewhat obedient. 

Upon this challenge and consolation of Thine infinite goodness, not on account of my own righteousness, do I kneel or stand before Thee, and pray what is upon my heart concerning those who are in need of Thy help. 

If Thou dost not help us, O Lord, Thou wilt offend and dishonor Thy Name. 

Thou wilt surely spare Thyself, lest the world would say Thou wert an ungracious and dreadful God.

Preserve us from such a misfortune. 

Remember, dear heavenly Father, how Thou hast at all times supported and helped Thy people.

I will not cease to knock but will continue to cry aloud and to plead to the end of my life.  Amen.


Sep 242016

Christianity tourism destinationsMatthew 9:27-38

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

  • Jesus moves on – onward in his mission
  • Odd, blind men following – but perhaps not at all – people with infirmities, with shortcomings – those who know by experience that they cannot help themselves are the ones who follow in faith.
  • Those who are strong and still think they can pull themselves up by their own boot straps – well they have a problem admitting they need help.
  • Son of David- They know who they are addressing – who he is and what is to be fulfilled – 2 Sam 7 (see end note to this lesson)
  • The prayer of the blind men should be our prayer – “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

  • Do you believe? See John 11:21-27
  • 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
  • 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
  • 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
  • 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
  • 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

  • Again, just his touch
  • No works associated – just “according to your faith”

30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”

  • I am sure this is one of those immediately things.
  • Why did Jesus continually tell them not to say anything?
  • Only after the resurrection then say of me; “I am the risen crucified savior” – not just I am the latest local healer.

31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

  • It seems like many times the first ‘post’ salvation act is disobedience J
  • But our salvation story, whether you remember it or not, should be so powerful, that you cannot keep it in – even under divine command.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him.

  • Everywhere Jesus goes he is confronted with the wages of sin
  • Romans 6:22-23 – “22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • I wonder if he felt like General Custer surrounded at Little Big Horn – surrounded by demonic forces – and all of the demons thinking they are going to get him.
  • Or how about this – the army or police training camps where they go house to house and the bad guy pops up?
  • This is what is happening to Jesus – satan is throwing all these people with sin dripping off them to confront Jesus and Jesus just touches them – heals them and forgives their sin.

33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”

  • Right straight from Isaiah – right straight from what Jesus told John’s disciples – the blind see and the mute speak.
  • Something new is happening.

34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

  • The crowds are impressed – the leaders not so much.
  • The leaders do not deny the miracles / healings – but how?
  • Yes – we know Jesus is doing all these things – but he has the devil on his side.

This ends the 10 deeds – the sign of the perfect messiah

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

  • The Jesus same old – same old.
  • The work of Jesus and continual – even to this day.

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

  • The recognition that we are lost, harassed by the devil and can’t help ourselves.

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

  • When Jesus calls, who is he calling? Us
  • Chapter 10 will be the fulfillment of this call – the calling of the disciples.