Aug 312017

Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.’ ” (Luke 18:9-14)

“Two men went up into the temple to pray.” Here we have two men, both circumcised Jews. At some point, their paths diverged radically. One man, a Pharisee, dedicated his life to Torah and the traditions of his people. To pursue the path of a Pharisee meant tremendous dedication and discipline. Pharisaic Judaism was highly esteemed by the Jewish people.

The other man, a tax collector, dedicated his life to the values of the world, abandoning both Torah and the traditions of his people, to serve mammon. He chose to make his living by extorting and oppressing his people on behalf of his Roman employers. Tax collectors were considered manifest sinners by the Jewish people.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray.”

Both men were of the people of God, but which one would make a suitable candidate for election to church council or elder, or appointment as a Sunday School teacher or small group leader? What do we look for in a person?

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ ” (Luke 18:11-12)

The Pharisee had an awesome résumé. He did not commit a laundry list of outward sins. He would not bring embarrassment to our church. It would be safe to leave our children alone with him. He is super committed, even going beyond what the Law requires in his lifestyle. Notably, the Pharisee was a tither.

True, the Pharisee comes across as prideful. But, then again, no one is perfect, and his positives far outweigh his negatives, do they not?

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ” (Luke 18:13)

The tax collector, on the other hand, had a spotted résumé, to say the least. He worked as an officer of Roman occupation, in an office which was notorious for dishonesty, extortion and oppression. Would he be welcome as a member in good standing in our churches? Could he serve as an elder or on church council, or teach Sunday School?

True, the tax collector might be one of the good ones, like Zacchaeus, but how would visitors know? True, the tax collector admits his sin and demonstrates remorse, but has he really repented? What proof do we have that he has forsaken his dishonest practices? He seems a bit risky to embrace, does he not?

What is Jesus teaching us?

(1) “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous”

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men….” The Pharisee thought he was better in the eyes of God than other men. He even thanked God for making him a better man. Since in his mind he was righteous, the Pharisee had no need of God’s mercy. He trusted in himself and His works.

The Pharisee actually was much worse off than the tax collector, who had not a shred of righteousness to offer God in his short prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” With respect to our standing before God, our holy living avails us nothing.

No one is righteous before God, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom 3:23-25) By trusting in his own holy living, the Pharisee rejected the righteousness of faith, which the tax collector longed to receive from God’s mercy.

Jesus never says that living a moral and holy outward life is sinful or bad, but warns us against placing our trust in our own works. The righteousness of faith is always the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by God the Father for the sake of His Son who gave His life for us. In other words, our righteousness is not our own, but is outside of us, received by faith in the Word of grace proclaimed for us: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Rom 5:8-9).

(2) “He also told this parable to some who … treated others with contempt”

The Pharisee despised his neighbor. He was quite pleased to stand aloof with his prayer and his good deeds and condemn the tax collector to judgment and hell. If the Pharisee truly understood the meaning of the Law, he would have known that love fulfills the Law: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Gal 5:14)

Conversely, without love, our works are worth nothing. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:-3)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:10)

Christ died for God’s enemies, that is: you; me; the Pharisee; the tax collector; racists; leftists; the LGBT community; etc. If Christ gave His life for the whole miserable lot of us, then we who confess Christ as Lord cannot despise him or her who Christ has died for. If Christ is our Good Samaritan, then are we not to be the good Samaritans of our enemies?

  • Could the Pharisee have prayed for, rather than against, the tax collector?
  • Could the Pharisee have asked if the tax collector would like someone to speak with?
  • Could the Pharisee have offered to help the tax collector with a plan of restitution for anyone defrauded by the tax collector’s prior practices?

“I tell you, [the tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

The Pharisee in the parable missed his chance that particular day to receive God’s mercy, but Jesus is a merciful and forgiving Savior. Perhaps God humbled the poor Pharisee while there was still time for him to repent.

As for us, may the Lord humble us, keep us from the errors of the Pharisee, repent us when we fail, and above all, teach us to trust solely in the grace of God for our salvation, as it is written:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:8-11) Amen.

Aug 312017

For reasons I’ll write about when I’m able, yesterday found me at animal control, otherwise known as “the pound”.

I do not ever go to this place as I do not have the emotional filters necessary to conduct myself as a reasonable adult on the premises.


To be blunt, I begin weeping when I walk in the door and that weeping becomes sobbing and I embarrass myself and those who accompany me.

All those cats and dogs waiting in cages for someone to love and care for them overwhelms me and whatever dignity I think I possess.

The tears flowed within the first minute of being inside when a cat that looked just like Miss Kitty ran the length of his cage to greet me.

“He’s been here for months”, a kindly volunteer offered…

As I struggled to get a grip on my emotions, two burly Hispanic men holding a large box hurried in through the door.

They had found this cat and this cat needed help and they were hoping they had brought it to the right place to get help.

I looked inside the box and the cat was close to beyond help…it had been mangled by a dog and it’s wounds were horrible.

The little guy was frightened, but with a strange peace…he knew he was badly hurt and at the mercy of strangers for life.

I began to cry and pray over the cat…it was all I knew how to do.

A volunteer explained to the men that the cat would have to be assessed by the veterinarian and that due to the extent of its wounds it may or may not be euthanized.

They had the option to take it to a vet themselves, but treatment would be at their considerable expense.

They left the box on the floor and departed.

I tried to comfort the kitty, finished my prayers, and stood up to continue the business I had come for.

As I said “amen” the door opened, the men returned, and one picked up the box.

They would take the cat to the animal hospital themselves.

I was no longer the only one in tears.

The events of the rest of the day have left me utterly shattered, but I wanted the world to know about two men who left work to rescue a helpless creature and chose to save it because it seemed right to do so.

God knows their names and may He bless them abundantly.

They also gave me a clearer picture of what ministry should like like in a world where we’re all broken…we just carry our cages with us.

It all begins and ends with sacrificial love and mercy unearned.

Now, if I only cared about people as much as I care about cats…



Aug 302017

If you’ve ever considered supporting the work we do here…now would be a good time.

You can donate directly through PayPal with this link or click the button on the left sidebar.

It all helps and it’s all very appreciated.


We can always be reached at

Aug 302017

Last week I wrote about the recent ugliness that took place in Charlottesville.  This week we have the horrific disaster of Hurricane Harvey that continues to get worse and worse.  A bit previous we have had the terrorist attack in Barcelona and Typhoon Hato and North Korea firing more test missiles and more high level resignations/firings in the Trump administration and O.J. Simpson gaining parole and so and so on.  There is a constant stream of news entering our consciousness, some of it more consequential than others.  And much of it seemingly leaving us feeling distraught, whether from natural disaster or man-made calamity.

It is important at times that we are aware of these things and sometimes even engage within them, whether the actual event itself or the culminating aftermath ensuing the circumstance. Certainly Texas and the surrounding areas are greatly in need of help and people taking action right now. 

Other times we need a break. 

We just cannot take it all in or preoccupy ourselves with every situation that vies for our consideration.  We all have our own personal circumstances that contend for our needed attention, and then there is everything else happening in the world that comes into our field of view.

We have so much incredible access to all the world’s information and knowledge and data these days.  Along with that, we often get almost instant notification of news throughout the world, much of it not being good.  And our hearts and minds get taken for a constant ride.

There are times we are compelled to take initiative, to get involved, to provide insight, to provide help.  Compelled by God and/or by our sense of doing what is right.  Sometimes compelled by our own compulsion to get involved in and/or adding our opinion to everything.

Be still, and know that I am God.  Ps. 46:10

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matt. 11:28

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.  Ps. 23:1-3a

I relay these Scriptures as much for my own benefit as yours… and we can find many more like them.  I am not good at multi-tasking a few activities at once, let alone taking on a million different things and life can sometimes feel overwhelming, even when some of the things going on are good. Whether it is taking a moment among the midst of our craziness or in taking an intentional structured break, it sure helps to remember where we can find rest and peace.

We were not built to take on everything in the world.  We were not designed to handle all the world’s activity and to process all of its woes.  We were not made to do it all on our own.  May we remember to call on the Lord and find rest and peace in Him.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil. 4:7         

Aug 292017

I wrote this last year and it upset a lot of people.

Therefore, I repost it this year.

After 16 years of dealing with some of the most despicable people I’ve ever encountered who are acclaimed as “saved”, I’ll go ahead and hope that Jesus has mercy on a noble pagan.

“Tomorrow is the worst day of my year and will be every year…tomorrow is the second anniversary of the day Bowden’s heart finally gave out.
Some people like to talk about the day the music died…I mourn the day that truth died.
No one seeks the truth as in better times…reporters like Bowden would not take your money to tell your story…he’d tell your story if it was true and hoped people found the truth valuable enough to pay for it.
They didn’t…he told the truth anyway.
When I speak of him the pious always must ask me if he was a Christian.
I suppress the desire to curse at them.
Most of the time…
It is as if the worth of his work and veracity of the truth he told depended on whether he had spoken acceptance of a particular doctrinal formulation.
He did not.
His work and his legacy are still about the truth and they are priceless and immense whether you count him as a candidate for sainthood or not.
I do.
What he did was feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison… and he told the truth.
Some people think he was killed by the CIA, some by a battered, shattered, and broken heart…broken by what he witnessed, the truths he told, and the deaf ears it fell on.
His writing was profane and gruff, poetic and lyrical, gentle and utterly terrifying.
It was always true to what he knew, what he saw, and what he felt.
It all rang holy to me.
My guess is that he got into the pearly gates by a loophole, because God couldn’t find a Christian that committed to telling it like it really is…”

Aug 292017

What is porneia to a first century Jew?

The rise and fall of the Christian bookstore…

Open letter to Francis Chan…

What is inerrant?

Why can’t there be organizations just for boys?

When kids are abused in church…

Joel Osteen won’t open his Houston church….

Communion, a counter monument…

Don’t tell hurting people that God is in control…

Dear church, I’m gay…

The Nashville Statement on human sexuality…

A missionaries call to the Psalms and deeper emotional intelligence…

What I wish St. Augustine would have said…

Chrysostom and the philanthropic God…

Osteen responds…

Did God command genocide in the Old Testament?

Former 700 Club producer spills the beans…

Where is God in our pain?

What the Christian life looks like…

Faith Groups already moving to help (Baptist News, Vineyard USA, LCMS, ACNA, SBC)- notice that this is NOT what GMA and other mainline media focus on

Thanks to EricL for getting us started this morning…support him at top right.


Aug 282017

1. Thanks to all for the prayers concerning my surgery. It went well and I’m recovering…hope to be back to full strength soon.

2. The terrible aftermath of hurricane Harvey leaves us wondering about the sovereignty and goodness of God. Is God in charge and if so, what does this say about His care for His kids?


There is mystery here…we dare not say that He is not sovereign and we dare not question His goodness. We look only to Jesus who came to suffer and die and see in Him the fullness of the Godhead…

3. Raising any attribute of God above another will always lead to confusion and despair…

4. When I turn on the TV, it looks like the world is coming unglued. When I go outside,it looks like just another day on Gods country. The solution to some stress is obvious…

5. I’m tempted to drop a couple incendiary words about political stuff…but I’ll best serve us all by focusing on Christ here. I’m spending most of my time trying to figure out the best ways to do that…

6. I’m absolutely stunned at how far and how fast the online discernment ministries have fallen off the radar. The prophecy sites have done likewise. I wonder if they think that Trump has ushered in the kingdom or if the lack of theological depth has finally caught up with them…

7. Deut 29:29 is the end of all systematic theology…

8. I’m sure I’m an Anglican because Anglicans have a limit on the things they have to be sure of…

9. My faith is in God and the vast American middle that is too busy to brawl in the streets…

10. I do fear those who think they’re passionate about issues when in reality they are just addicted to rage…but they are outnumbered by people like those who are responding to the crisis in Houston. Our better angels have not wholly departed…



Aug 262017

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Faithful and steadfast God,
nourish your people in this wicked world,
and, through prayer and the Scriptures,
give us our daily bread;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Aug 262017

Matthew 25:31-46

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

  • First point is that Jesus is the judge.
  • Second point – yes I guess it’s true in opposition to all those who would say Jesus is not coming back – Jesus IS coming back as he promised.
  • Note how the Creed has it right as it states properly – “Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
  • We need to pay attention – even people like me and you live as if this will not happen.

32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

  • More separation Jesus style. Jesus is thought of as a great ‘uniter’, but he is by far a better divider.
  • Note the ‘all nations’ and how that connects to Matt 28. We are to make disciples of all nations – and we see in Revelation the redeemed of all nations, tribes and languages.
  • Note that the separation is made before any judgment is announced. This troubles many that see the last day judgment and the result of it based upon our works and our behavior.
  • In fact it is not at all. The separation takes place and there are those who believe in him and those who do not.
  • Sheep = Believers — Goats = Unbelievers
  • Wise Virgins = Believers – Foolish Virgins = Unbelievers
  • Faithful Servants = Believers – Unfaithful Servants = Unbelievers
  • Proper Wedding Garments = Believers – Improper = Unbelievers
  • Wheat = Believers — Weeds = Unbelievers
  • Wise Builders = Believers – Foolish Builders = Unbelievers.

33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

  • This separation to the right and left is solely based on faith.
  • Blessed – just like the Beatitudes
  • How much work does one do to be in line for an inheritance? None
  • The inheritance = the Kingdom was prepared for YOU from the beginning – not potentially for you – but in reality for you.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

  • Note that Jesus only commends those on his right.
  • They are living the life of faith that can allow only good works to flow through.
  • These sheep are sinners and Jesus does not mention anything about forgiving them – Why?? Because they are already forgiven at the cross and it is applied to us in our baptism.

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

  • Note the total surprise – ‘what are you talking about Lord?’
  • This is the sign of living life by faith alone – it does not do work looking towards reward. It just continually produces fruit and is not aware.

38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

  • Do you have this same lack of awareness towards your good works?
  • If someone approached you and said – the other day you really blessed me – would your response be “when did I bless you? – How?
  • Or would it be “I am glad you noticed.” Or “what to so long for you to thank me?”

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you did it to me.’

  • From faith in Jesus works will naturally flow and the works done are pleasing in God’s sight because they come out of faith.
  • We will see a little later that those who do not believe in him, the goats did not do works that were pleasing in God’s eyes – therefore it’s like they were (1) never done and (2) never done onto Jesus.
  • Looking at John 15 (which we will not do here) – the branch / vine etc.
  • The braches connected to the vine bear fruit – in fact much fruit.
  • What of those who are not connected to the vine – to Christ? They simply do not bear good fruit.
  • Now this is the point for all of us – we see Christ in the neighbor – it also shows us that believers (I will refrain from saying ‘true’ believers) do not trust in their works for either salvation or sanctification…
  • Not even to get into heaven.
  • See how this ties in to the previous parable ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ Who has simply taken what was given and made use of it.

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

  • We get a couple of things here – #1 Jesus seems to be upset with people.
  • People are told that they are cursed and to depart from God – no negotiations, no ‘I hate to do this guys, but please leave.’
  • People get sent to hell – which is eternal – and we find the origins and purpose of hell.

42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

  • Jesus runs them through the same list but on the negative side.

44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’

  • Note the similar surprise as those on his right. Not the “when did we do this?” but the “when did we see you”
  • There objection was “Lord if we had seen you we would have taken care of you – but all we ever saw were the unwashed masses, who got in the way of our Scripture studies looking for messiah.”

45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

  • But we all know that we see Christ in our neighbor – or we should know.
  • Just remember, God does not need nor want our good works – but our neighbor does.

46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

  • You really have to twist words and meaning to deny hell and deny the fact that it is eternal.
  • Based on the language, if heaven and all its glory is eternal, then hell and its punishment must be so.