Michael

Jul 232016
 

God of Adam and Eve, you have formed us from the earth,
carefully shaping our bodies from the clay.
We are miracles with skin, clay that smiles.
But miracles are not always complete.
Your fishes and loaves got far, but didn’t last forever.
Your water into wine was consumed.
Our bodies, though imbued with your eternal and life-giving Spirit,
are subject to the groaning of creation.
Though in our finitude your healing is still present and active.
For those who are sick, groaning,
for the body laden with pain,
we ask for healing, wholeness, and miracle.
We ask for a holistic blessing in their body, their day’s, their web of friendships,
and all of their life’s details into a smooth pattern of peace.
Grant them the strength to work with their pain
and live in the gift you have given them.
We ask this through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jul 232016
 

Word of GodMatthew 6:9-18

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

  • Do you need help with your prayer life? Go to the Christian bookstore and look at the volumes produced just to help you pray.
  • But Jesus said, “pray like this” – why do we not do it the Jesus way?
  • This prayer is not a special formula
  • He could have said “Oh Great God, Creator of All – Oh Lord Almighty and Holder of All Power in your hands and who smote those in Sodom & Gomorra ….”
  • It would have all been true – But he said “our Father…”
  • Since he said “Our Father” – then who are we?
  • Potential sons?? – one day to be to be children? No, we are present tense His Children – Present tense His Heirs.
  • “Our” Father – is this prayer a group prayer and not an individual prayer?
  • Do we do enough in community?
  • Note the plurality of the prayer – the “our” the “us” – this is meant to be prayed in community – when the church gathers – how many refuse?

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • His Kingdom comes with or without us
  • He wants his kingdom to come to us – that he will come to you in your life.
  • Actually, the Kingdom is here already, consummated with his Good Friday sacrifice – resurrection and ascension
  • How do we say “your will be done.”??
  • Is it just an easy tagline of humble subservience or…
  • Is it a cry against Satan? It should be.
  • Is it “your will be done Lord” or “My will”? God, get in the backseat.
  • When God keeps us faithful to his promise – his will is being done.
  • When he gives us heaven– his will is being done.
  • When Christ forgives sinners – his will is being done.
  • When the old Adam is put to death by the law – his will is being done.
  • Your will be done is a confession of who I am – I am at odds with God
  • God’s will is being done in the 10 commandments
  • God’s will is being done when we protect life
  • God’s will is being done when we protect marriage
  • God’s will is being done when we treat and protect our neighbor and his property rightly
  • God’s will is being done when we use his name properly
  • God’s will is being done when we don’t have any other Gods

11 Give us this day our daily bread,

  • All of the “give us” – a little pushy? Or a claim to a promise?
  • Daily bread = everything I need for daily existence
  • God help me.
  • I need help, support, guidance, food, clothes – good weather for good crops.
  • And I trust you will provide.
  • And this is not just about our need, but where everything comes from.
  • This is like a confession of faith to God.
  • The “give us” does not need to be for us – but for others
  • Give to the Iraqi Christians …

12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

  • “…as we also…” this is the 1st stumbling block in the prayer
  • Sin is likened to debt because you now carry a debt towards God or the other person.
  • We as a nation should understand what it means to be in debt
  • This would be like China forgiving our national debt but we turn around and say “hey, Puerto Rico – pay up!” (The Unforgiving Servant of Matt 18)
  • Think about forgiving others
  • Our debt is forgiven through no deed of our own – but we always feel like our neighbor needs to work off his debt to us or at least be worthy of our forgiveness.
  • How does a Christian act? We are to be generous and reckless with our forgiveness to others.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

  • God does not tempt anyone
  • There is this unholy trinity – the world – the devil and our sinful flesh.
  • It looks like God but it is not. Who did Adam blame? “God, you made me do it through this woman.
  • Who tempted Adam & Eve? Who tempted Jesus?

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • Matthew 18:21-35 – the parable of the unmerciful servant.
  • 14 is a YIKES
  • 15 is a double YIKES
  • You might take note – there is no sugar coating with this one.
  • What are you going to do with forgiveness?

Fasting – So Jesus is still on the mountain, still talking in Red Letters – teaching with authority – continuing that ‘rabbis said – but I say.’

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

  • When you fast – fasting was expected. Was fasting a Jewish thing?
  • Do we ever see fasting taught to the Gentiles?
  • Fasting is all about self denial – how important is eating to you?
  • A friend of mine went to Cuba a couple of months ago and told me how poor they were.
  • He said “they would rather eat than get paid.”
  • I thought who would put food over money? Then I thought, Me! I eat several times a day but get paid only a couple of times a month.

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,

  • Do what it takes to look healthy and alert.
  • When you do something, anything for God, look good doing it!

18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  • What do you hope to get out of fasting?
  • Who do you fast to?
Jul 222016
 

IMG_1057He would cry when I went outside and called for Miss Kitty.

I wouldn’t always see him as he cowered in the bushes, but I couldn’t help but hear him.

His was not a weak or meek whimper, but the cry of an animal in real distress.

He was terrified and starving and was hoping someone would care about both.

Those of his kind who had already found sanctuary here cared about neither.

They knew of his presence and his plight, but preferred that he stay hidden from sight and silent.

They also know somehow that I would have mercy on him if I knew about him…and they believed that mercy was for them only.

I started by putting dish of food near the bushes he hid in…his hunger soon overcame his fear and he devoured it if I stood a safe distance away.

Soon, every morning and every evening, he would call for me and I would feed him…inching closer every time I put the dish out.

My objective wasn’t just to feed him, though that was of primary importance.

The objective was to bring him fully into the family, to feed him, love him, care for him, and give him a home where all those things are a given.

Real mercy is full mercy.

Soon, he would let me sit with him while he ate, but would run if I tried to touch him.

Then, he allowed me to scratch his head while he ate.

Finally he let me pet him..he trusted me.

His joy was almost amusing in it’s intensity…food and loving attention at the same place, probably for the first time in his life.

He thought he had found a home,a place where he belonged.

The other cats who had found mercy here soon convinced him otherwise.

They let him know that even if I felt he belonged ,that he really didn’t belong here at all.

When he finally felt the courage to walk in the house, Miss Kitty beat him…she drew blood and ran him away.

She spat at me for allowing such in our home.

My new friend had crossed the path of the gatekeeper to full acceptance.

The gate was closed…slammed in his face.

I can do as I will, but they will not allow him to be one of them…even though they found sanctuary in the same place, in the same way.

He still comes and gets fed, he loves being petted and spoken to…but he knows he’s not accepted by anyone but me.

I will always go out to him if he can’t come to me because of the gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers.

I’ve seen more than a few humans who function the same way.

They want the strays, the battered, the homeless, to stay over there, out of sight.

They will only extend mercy if it keeps them clean from the defilement of the lost.

They don’t want them in the house.

They were once what they despise now.

The owner of the house is not pleased with them.

Make your own application…

 

Jul 222016
 

For the sake maintaining an environment where discussion is at least mostly civil, I’m calling a moratorium on politics here. 

The only exception will be those discussions where we explore those places where faith and politics intersect…even then, the demand will be for civility.

After reading the Republican platform and watching some of the convention, I know that I would have the hardest time of all to not bring a flame thrower to the barbecue.

The Democrats aren’t going to make me any more irenic.

Communities, churches, and families are being divided this year by politic rhetoric…I won’t have it here.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Jul 212016
 

tshirt_design_our_fatherIntroducing The Lord’s Prayer: Who Can Pray?

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

One of my fondest memories from my youth is of my parents taking my sister and me down to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf to buy fresh live Dungeness crab from one of the outdoor crab markets. I love the taste of Dungeness crab. Unfortunately, Dungeness crab is not easily obtainable or affordable here in Iowa. On the other hand, imitation crab – a processed fish product shaped and colored to look like crab meat – is cheap and easy to find at the local grocery store and on many restaurant menus (sans the word “imitation”).

If you have never eaten authentic fresh crab meat, then imitation crab meat might fool you or at least appear as a reasonable substitute. But if you ever are fortunate enough to experience the taste of fresh crab meat, then you may decide you can no longer suffer the imitation. Often, one can only discover what is lacking in the imitation by finding (or tasting) what is present in the authentic.

So it is with prayer. Anyone can make up a prayer to a god or an idol, using words that sound pious and religious, and with sincerity and apparent spirituality; but such prayers are empty imitations because they are not commanded or heard by or pleasing to the one God who created the Universe. True prayer, by contrast, is communion with that God. In Matthew Chapter 6 and Luke Chapter 11, Jesus taught his disciples not only how to pray to God, but also how to distinguish true prayer from the empty imitation. Therefore, before we begin our meditations on The Lord’s Prayer, let us first review two important issues regarding prayer, which will help us to distinguish true prayer from the empty imitation:

(1) Who can pray? and

(2) What is prayer?

Having this background in mind will magnify our understanding of the wisdom behind The Lord’s Prayer.

(1) Who can pray?

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1a)

All true prayer must conform to the first two Commandments of the Decalogue: (1) “You shall have no other gods” (Deut 5:7); and (2) “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Deut 5:11). What this means, first and foremost, is that there is only one worthy recipient of true prayer: God who has revealed himself to us through the inspired writings of the Holy Bible.

Prayer involves the entire Triune God. Christians pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to pray to God, one must be a Christian. Similarly, a Christian, in fidelity to the first two Commandments, would not join in a prayer proffered by a non-Christian. This may sound harsh, narrow-minded or intolerant by religious pluralists and secularists. However, only Christians have a prayer-enabling relationship with God.

Before anyone can pray, the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel, must first engender faith in an individual’s heart that God has forgiven all his or her sins because Jesus took them all upon himself and into death on a cross to redeem the Christian for adoption into God’s family. Faith then receives God’s peace, grace and mercy, enabling the Christian to approach God in prayer, as a trusting child approaches his or her loving father, as Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans: you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8:15)

We should note, before moving on, that Christians do not have the Spirit of adoption on the basis of their own worthiness or merit. Their relationship with God is a pure act of grace, a gift from God made possible entirely by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To attribute any worthiness or merit to oneself would signify the absence of the Spirit of adoption in that person, because such an attitude would be a rejection of God’s grace and of Jesus’ sacrifice.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16)

Jesus is not only our Redeemer and Lord; He is also our High Priest who intercedes for us and sanctifies our prayers before the Father. Jesus’ intercession on our behalf with regard to our prayers is very important because our own thoughts and desires are disordered by sin. Left on our own, we might ask for things which are harmful to us or others, or fail to ask for the very things we actually need. Therefore, Jesus intercedes for us even in our prayers so that we should never worry about our own unworthiness to pray, or making an imperfect prayer or asking for the wrong things. Simply put, we are to draw near the throne of grace with confidence that the Father both hears and answers our prayers for our good because Jesus is always interceding on our behalf.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23b)

Jesus also gives us His name in which to pray. This reinforces our family relationship with God and signifies Jesus’ promise to us that that the Father will hear our prayers with the same affection as if spoken from the lips of Jesus himself. Only a Christian can pray in the name of Jesus, and only prayer which is sanctified by Jesus will be heard by and pleasing to the Father. Praying in the name of Jesus encourages us to call upon the Father in full confidence, at all times and for all our needs.

Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb 13:15) Amen.

 

Next week, we will review the second background question: What is prayer?

Copyright © 2016 Jean Dragon – All rights reserved.

Jul 202016
 

notificationsSo my family embarks on vacation in a few days. 

It is an annual endeavor that we have undertaken every year since my wife and I married and we thank God for providing the means and ability to do so.  It is a time we all look forward to very much.

We are going to Williamsburg, Virginia, again.  We have been there several times before and continue to go back because we have semi-regular arrangements for a stay there and we like much of what there is to see and do in the area.

Of course, we do the amusement parks for the kids as they would be quite disappointed if we didn’t.  I confess I like them, too.  Among other things, we usually do Colonial Williamsburg and this year we are also planning to take in the history of Jamestown and Yorktown.

I love going through the living history museum that is Colonial Williamsburg and seeing and learning what life was like in the 18th century.  My kids may be more enamored with playing in the mud pit at the Brick Maker or counting how many deposits of horse manure they spot in the streets while my wife longs to peruse the shops, but I savor watching the Blacksmith work his craft or learning how meals were prepared or taking in how government was conducted in the Capitol building.  I look forward to taking in even more things of the like in Jamestown and Yorktown.

 I yearn for a simpler time.  No, the Colonials did not have anywhere near the comforts and conveniences back in those days as we have today.  In many ways they worked much harder than we do these days, at least from a physical perspective.  If I had to be a blacksmith or a servant toiling over the open fires in the kitchen on these 100 degree and humid summer days, methinks my yearning would quickly come to an end. 🙂

And, yes, there were immoral and problematic issues that they dealt with that we don’t have to today.  Colonial Williamsburg does not hide the reality of slavery that was very much a part of the culture.  And the tensions and violence leading up to and through the Revolution did not make life easy.

However, I still have the yearning for that overall simpler time.  When there were no phones or tv or internet or multi-billion dollar corporations.  When we didn’t know all the ills of the world.  When there weren’t a million different activities going on at once.  When there wasn’t such constant pressure to meet the bottom line.

We’ve talked about it here before, including even a bit on my post last week. 

It often seems like we weren’t made for this.  We weren’t made to have this constant stimulation around us 24/7, with perpetual notifications that something is happening.  Where we instantly learn of innumerable tragedies that happen around the world and have manifest access to the intimate and heart-wrenching details of many of them.  Where we learn the dirt on so many of our leaders and pastors and even neighbors.  Where we run ourselves ragged getting involved in so many activities and circumstances demanded by others and our even own consciences while concurrently feeling guilty about the myriad of other opportunities that we pass by.

In many ways it’s not apparent that we were made for all of this.  Every age of time has had its challenges, some of them presumptively unique.  One of our unique challenges is dealing with everything that we can know and do nowadays. 

Our souls do not seem capable of handling it all.

And yet, this is where God has placed us.  He knew what things would be like today when He created this world.  He knew about not only today, but all the days that are yet to come before His Return.  He didn’t make a mistake and forget to return before our psyches became irreparably overwhelmed.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”  2 Corinthians 1:8-10

Our afflictions, our struggles, our challenges may be different than those of Paul. 

The cure is not.

Jul 192016
 

timthumb.phpFive ways Christians can respond to terror attacks…

The sexual revolution and the witness of the church…

Carl Trueman on the California LGBTQ curriculum…

Shame the strong or influence the influencers?

Is it time to get rid of beauty pageants?

A Chance encounter with joy…

What church does Mike Pence belong to?

Methodists defy ban, elect gay bishop…

Christian reporter tackles Ham’s Ark…

Russia, the other Christian nation…

Driscoll’s new church…

Wounded reconcilers…

MacArthur’s imbalanced view of pastoral ministry…

When a celebrity preacher killed a man in his own church…

24 years of sexual misconduct by evangelist…

The Great Exchange…

The Virgin and The Donald…

Why do I still feel guilty?

Trends in church architecture…part 1 and part 2

Josh Harris changes mind about courtship…

Religiously unaffiliated now biggest voting bloc…

The fiery trial…

The state of the world…

How do I deal with my racist dad?

11 reasons to keep screens out of the sanctuary…

The gender inclusive Bible debate…

Huge thanks as always to EricL… support him at top right.

 

Jul 182016
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. Yesterday we stopped at the skatepark before the evening service at church. There was an incident required a police officer to come and do what he is paid to do and he was doing that with a measure of grace,but also with authority.

This enraged not only the young people, but the smattering of “adults” that were involved.

They all began to use this as an example of why people do violence against police officers…some even wished they were able to do such at the time.

I was shocked and angry and began to chew the adults out with vigor…until I realized that digression was the better part of valor when you’re outnumbered 20 to one.

If we’ve lost respect for authority in this place of racial homogeneity, how much more in place of much diversity?

The center has not held and we are in difficult times indeed.

The root of this seems to me to be a rejection of authority in every sphere of culture, that begins with a lack of trust.

That lack of trust can fester into this rejection of authority that can lead to anarchy.

We’re closer than we think.

2. Modern media has destroyed almost all of the time tested means of problem solving. The objective now is to defeat and humiliate the opposition, not reach mutually beneficial solutions. Those with a differing view on a matter are no longer fellow citizens to be engaged with respect, but enemies of all that is good and holy. When we start viewing each other as the enemy, we will accept violence as a reasonable solution.

3. We in the church cannot possibly act as agents of reconciliation when we’re completely dug in on one side and long for holy war…

4. I saw a number of prophecy wonks declaring that “we are no longer in the last days,we are in the last seconds”. Our personal discomfort over the culture is not a sign of the times and pretending it is so is a distortion of the Scriptures.

5. I was successful in convincing another stray cat that he was welcome here. As I was outside petting him, the other strays I have rescued informed him that he was not welcome at all. The whole creation cries out for redemption…

6. This is a very difficult time to be the parent of a teenager…

7. The letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation have never been as applicable to us as they are today…

8. We’ve had a “global economy” ever since we invented transportation that would take us all over the known world of a given time…

9. It’s pointless to keep saying Jesus is the answer when people haven’t even started to frame a question…

10. From the book “The End of White Christian America”. “Today, white evangelicals are not only experiencing the shrinking of their own ranks, but they are also confronting larger, genuinely new demographic and cultural realities. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, white Christians (Catholics and Protestants) constituted a majority (54 percent) of the country; today, that number has slipped to 45 percent. Over this same period, support for gay marriage — a key issue for evangelicals — moved from only four in 10 to solid majority territory, and the Supreme Court cleared the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. The Supreme Court itself symbolized these changes, losing its last remaining Protestant justice, John Paul Stevens, in 2010.

A recent Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings survey shows the alarm that white evangelical Protestants are feeling in the wake of demographic and cultural changes. Nearly two-thirds are bothered when they encounter immigrants who speak little English. More than two-thirds believe that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against other groups. For discrimination against Christians, that number is nearly eight in 10. And perhaps most telling of all, seven in 10 white evangelical Protestants say the country has changed for the worse since the 1950s.”

Our options are clear…learn to live as a remnant or continue to fight and try to turn back the clock as our numbers and influence dwindle.

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

Jul 162016
 

Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.

Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment.

Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image, through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Amen.

PCUSA Book of Common Worship

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