Jan 312017
 

We suck at Christianity, but that’s the point…

Seven ways to do political punditry wrong…

A Psalm for the refugee crisis…

The Gospels as they really are…

Are there wicked problems in theology?

When an appeal to Scripture united a divided nation…

Four things you need to know about American civil religion…

Can African Americans be evangelicals?

Calling torture by it’s name…

More devout means more giving…

What to look for when choosing a church…

A pastors deepest fears…

Doubting your doubts…

Barnabas Piper getting divorced…

Things to remember in spiritual battles…

One churches story of resettling a refugee family…

Big Denver church goes “inclusive”…

How religious groups differ in educational attainment…

What screwed me up about the Bible…

Five things to know about the refugee order…

Does knowing that “God is sovereign” really help?

Thanks, as always, to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…

Jan 302017
 

1. When our fellow citizens are viewed as enemies we’ve lost more than political battles, we’ve thrown away the Gospel…

2. It’s amazing, but true…the information explosion has created the deepest pool of ignorance in my lifetime…

3. Blessed are the peacemakers…someone send a search party out to find them…

4. Fruit flavored whiskey is one of the signs of the end of the age…

5. The divisions caused by doctrine in the church now pale in comparison to the ones caused by politics…I don’t recognize the Jesus of some as the one I worship, nor do they recognize mine…

6. When Jesus asked “when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” it used to confuse me…until lately…

7. Nothing damages real discussion more than ignoring the valid concerns of people we disagree with…we can be compassionate and careful at the same time…

8. Being “born again” is the start of the Christian life, not the end goal of it…

9. New England by a smidge…

10. I believe the Beatitudes best describe what living the Christian life actually looks like. The challenge is to make my own life resemble what I say I believe…

Jan 282017
 

Father God, Free me: From the unbelief in the truth that the only way to You is through Jesus Christ;

From the distaste of stating Your truth about this one way;

From the timidity that worries more about what others will think of me;

From the fear of rejection;

From the isolation that keeps me far from those who are far from You;

From the veiled eyes that no longer see the need around me;

From the uncertainty about my words and my credibility;

From the selfishness that doesn’t want to invest the time or energy in other peoples’ lives;

From the spiritualization that says it isn’t my calling or my season;

From the grand plans that tries to share with hundreds while ignoring the one before me;

From the indifference that affirms truth but doesn’t act;

From the busyness that dominates my life with non-essential things;

From the good and legitimate things that dominate my time;

and replace these emotions and realities, I pray, with a passionate love of one beggar pointing another to where bread may be found. Amen.

KURT BJORKLUND, American minister (1968–present day)

Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-09-27). Prayers for Today (Kindle Locations 685-694). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Jan 282017
 

Matthew 16:1-12

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

1And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.

  • To test him – their purpose is clear.
  • We are observing here what we see throughout the OT – Israel’s unbelief and putting the Lord to the test. Nothing new here folks.
  • They will not live by faith; they will not live by his word of promise.
  • “so Jesus – here is your test”.
  • Think about this – they are asking for something OTHER.
  • Jesus is the sign from heaven, but they want something else – something OTHER.

He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’

  • He praises their ability to forecast the weather – which actually is very important in an agrarian economy.

And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

  • You know how to interpret the sky, but you cannot…
  • What have we been discussing about the signs of the times????
  • The kingdom of heaven has come – Messiah is here!!!
  • They cannot even see that the ‘sign’ is standing right before them.

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

  • Evil & Adulterous speaks of spiritual evil and adultery.
  • They are seeking after a miraculous sign – one that is outside of Jesus.
  • To many people, several Christian groups included – Jesus is not enough.
  • Jesus recognizes this so he tells them the sign they will see is not now but later.
  • Remember this – those who look for signs and seek after signs are not the faithful Christian – but the evil and adulterous Christian (who is probably not a Christian at all.)
  • And he leaves them
  • Jesus once again is separating himself from old Israel – and he will go to be with an Israel created for himself. Those just hanging on.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.

  • Time for some comic relief.

Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

  • Jesus is trying to emphasize just how dangerous the opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees will become.
  • What is the leaven in this situation? Their united front against Jesus.
  • The Pharisees and Sadducees did not agree on much – other than Jesus had to go.

And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”

  • Jesus is speaking spiritual things
  • The disciples are talking earthly things – their bellies.

But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?

  • We have now gone from the great faith of the Canaanite woman to little faith of the disciples.

Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

  • Do you not understand? … obviously not.
  • Think about this – how could they forget such a miraculous time that they experienced firsthand not long ago? Do we ever do the same?

10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

  • Evidence that the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 were 2 separate events.
  • How could they not remember?
  • How do we not remember to apply these things to our day to day life situations?
  • What consumes our thoughts – the day to day or the eternal?

11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

  • Now I ask you – class, do you understand?

12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

  • Now they understand – Jesus is warning against the teaching – more clearly understood as the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees
  • Was there any common teaching between the Pharisees and Sadducees? Yes – their view of Jesus.

 

Jan 272017
 

Miss Kitty didn’t come home last night.

We have an evening routine…about 9:00 PM Chester and Miss Kitty and I get ready for bed.

Everyone is inside, has their evening snack, and then gets situated in their sleeping quarters.

Chester likes to sleep in my computer chair and Miss Kitty sleeps on the bed next to me.

Sometimes, she gets in the chair simply to confuse Chester.

 

This amuses us both… Chester, not so much…

In any case, this has been our routine for some time now.

Last night, Miss Kitty was nowhere to be found at 9 o’ clock.

Or at 10.

Or 11…

I searched for her around the neighborhood until midnight, when I had to lay down myself.

I didn’t sleep.

Couldn’t sleep.

Finally, at quarter to four this morning, the door flew open and she burst in…hungry and disheveled, but safe.

I fed her and rejoiced that my friend was home.

She’s catching up on her sleep now.

I will have to wait a while before I can.

All of this of course, turns my thoughts to God.

I was overjoyed when that door opened up and Missy bounded in.

I didn’t care where she had been or why she hadn’t come home at the usual time…all that mattered was that she was home.

I wasn’t angry with her, indeed, I opened up a can of tuna fish I’d been saving for the cats to celebrate her return.

When she was fed, I embraced and petted her until we both fell asleep.

Some of you have been separated, alienated, from God for a while now.

You think about going home, but you wonder if He even wants you back.

You need to know He’s been wide awake waiting for you.

He doesn’t care where you’ve been,what you’ve done, or what you’ve said.

He just wants you to come home, be safe, and be fed.

He loves you more than I love that cat.

He always leaves the door open…

Make your own application…

 

Jan 262017
 

Chutzpah of Faith

 “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. (John 2:1-2)

A reoccurring theme in John’s gospel concerning Jesus’ ministry is that of fullness. Beginning in the Prologue, the Evangelist describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus embodies, manifests, and bestows God’s grace (i.e., His love and favor) in superabundance. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) Why might this theme be so important?

 

The world operates by the law, a system of reward and punishment (in some cultures, honor and shame). We begin to learn this mode of operating as young children. The result is that people generally expect to pay what they owe, receive what they deserve, and often value things based on what they cost. When God enters our world bestowing His grace as a free gift, it comes as a shock to our system. Grace is not only unexpected, but often uncomfortable to the recipient who feels indebted, or offensive to the bystander who feels jealous or self-righteous.

Our experiences in the world, even as Christians, can make us timid towards God. If God’s grace is free, the thought goes, should we be not too pushy? If we do not expect too much grace, we will never be disappointed. Or an even worse thought: Should we not repay him by our own obedience? Then hopefully He will give us more grace. These are the thoughts of the old Adam who sees God, not as Father, but as a task master. However, God does not deal with us according to the pattern of the world. He deals with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins to bring us as adopted children into His kingdom of grace.

Therefore, we need to have a metanoia (i.e., a change of mind). We must think differently about how God deals with His adopted children in Christ. Christ is full of grace and from His fullness He fills us with grace upon grace. The problem frequently is not that we ask or expect too much from God, but that we ask and expect too little.

Jesus began His public ministry at a wedding at Cana in Galilee where he performed his first sign or miracle. The Evangelist John shows us not only the fullness of Christ’s grace in action, but also a model for faithful discipleship.

“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ ” (John 2:3)

Given His mother’s knowledge of the wine shortage and influence with the servants, Mary was in a position to help the bridegroom avoid the social stigma of failing to provide sufficient wine for his own wedding celebration. Therefore, she made the implicit request of her Son – “They have no wine”, without specifying how Jesus might help. Mary simply prays on the presumption that Jesus will help by doing something to change the situation.

“And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ ” (John 2:4-5)

Jesus initially rebuffed his mother’s request. At this point, who would have blamed Mary if she simply melted back into the scene as if the conversation never happened? Did she overstep her bounds for a mundane matter? How do we react when we feel rebuffed by God?

But here Mary exhibited what commentator, Craig Keener, describes as the chutzpah of Faith. Mary had the audacity to ignore Jesus rebuff, telling the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary did not know what Jesus would do or how, but had faith that He would help.

(The Bible contains other examples of holy chutzpah. A couple that come immediately to mind are Jesus’ encounters with the Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28) and with Mary of Bethany (John 11:31-32)).

“Do whatever he tells you” are the last words that we have from Jesus’ mother. They are simple yet profound words, and they apply to us today. We have God’s Word penned by the Prophets, Evangelists and Apostles. God’s Word is living and active. His words of Law and Gospel have the inherent power to convict us of our sin and engender in us faith in the Gospel. We would do well to remember Mary’s instructions.

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:6-11)

Ultimately, Jesus’ timing coincided with his mother’s request. Aware of the need, Jesus interrupted an otherwise perfectly good wedding to perform His first sign and manifest His glory. Consistent with the theme of fullness, Jesus told the servants to fill six stone water jars with water. So the servants “filled them up to the brim.” Jesus then turned the water into a superabundant quantity of high quality wine.

The characters in the story react very differently to the sign. The master of the feast looked right past the gift for the “real” story: Was the bridegroom holding out on his guests or was he merely ignorant of proper banquet protocol? The bridegroom, on the other hand, also looked past the gift, keeping silent to save face with the master. The master and the bridegroom were operating by the culture’s mode of honor and shame. However, God’s grace and truth do not fit the pattern of the world. Therefore, the master and the bridegroom received Jesus’ gift (of wine and preservation of their honor at the wedding) but did not acknowledge His grace or Him.

Jesus disciples, on the other hand were the recipients of the true miracle: his disciples believed in him.” The wine was the sign to be sure, but the real gift was faith in Jesus made in the disciples. Making faith reveals Christ’s glory. What Jesus says happens! Therefore, “Do whatever he tells you.” And, one last thing: it is okay to do it with chutzpah. Amen.

“ ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ ” (John 6:28-29) Amen.

Jan 252017
 

For several years now, we Philadelphia 76ers fans have had to endure The Process. 

We have been told to Trust the Process.  Some have done so wholeheartedly while others loudly objected.  And yet others like myself, have been stuck somewhere in the middle.  For me personally, I agree with the strategic concept of The Process, but thought some elements have been executed too extremely and foolishly.

I’ve written about this once before, but essentially The Process that the Sixers undertook starting in 2013 involved intentionally making player personnel moves for a temporary, yet undetermined, period of time which made it very difficult for the team to win many games.  By losing most of their games, they would receive high draft picks, with the hope that some of those high draft picks would turn into superstar players down the road.  Additionally, they traded for as many other draft picks as they could get, knowing that sometimes even a lower draft pick or two turns into a great player.  So the more picks they collected, the greater their chances were of hitting on another great player.

Joel Embiid has turned into what is looking like the cornerstone of The Process.  The young man from Cameroon was drafted with the third pick of the 2014 draft, and likely would have been the very first pick if not for a broken foot.  That broken foot ended up causing him to miss the entirety of what would have been his first NBA season.  Lamentably, his foot did not heal properly through that lost year and he had to have another significant surgery done on it, causing him to miss the whole next season, too.  Finally, he has healed up and in just a half of season of play, he is showing the potential of being an all-time great.  We Sixers fans collectively hold our breaths that Embiid’s foot can withstand the rigors and poundings of many NBA seasons from a 7’2″, 260 lb. giant of a man.

Embiid has personally taken on the nickname of The Process.  At Sixer games, he is introduced as Joel “The Process” Embiid.  When he goes to the foul line to shoot free throws, the crowd will often break out in “Trust the Process” chants during which Embiid will sometimes play to the crowd to pump up the chants even louder.  This will even happen on occassion on road games where there are numerous Sixer fans in attendance.

Joel Embiid has gone through The Process with the 76ers.  But he has also gone through his own personal Process, stirring him to adopt the name as his own.  During his first year of recovery with the Sixers, his younger brother was tragically killed back in his native Cameroon.  Throughout that first year, Embiid also battled with team trainers and personnel as he struggled to adhere to the instructions given to him for recovery.  These battles and rumors of an undisciplined diet and lack of fitness leaked out through the media.  His reticence to follow the instructions very well may have been the reason for his foot not healing the first time around.  Through these first couple years of struggles, while learning a new city in a country he was also still adjusting to, Embiid contemplated quitting basketball altogether.  Yet he worked through the struggles and became more dedicated to doing the things he needed to do and the fruits of his own personal Process are now starting to show.

Truthfully, we are all a work in process.  God is working in and on each one of us.  Now, I know theological arguments of what exactly sanctification is and its relationship to justification are sometimes quite popular here.  My intent is not to get bogged down in a theological debate.  Despite our varied opinions, I think we can all agree that God doesn’t save us and then just leaves us on our own.  He stays with us and loves us and comforts us and feeds us and instructs us and gives us help in following those instructions and challenges us and disciplines us and all the more.  And through it all, it is quite some process we undergo.  Often times with a collection of varying processes contributing into one big overall process.

The process at times can be incredibly painful.  Other times are filled with great joy and jubilation.  And yet other periods can feel utterly mundane and tedious.  Experiences and emotions and circumstances often spread all across the spectrum.  Some of us may recover from that broken foot and become greatly strengthened and emboldened in our faith.  Others of us may never again have full healing in that foot, or we may keep experiencing other injuries and the only way we make it is because Jesus carries us.  We may sometimes fight the process, likely only to our own detriment.  It is when we say, “not my will but yours be done” where the fruit of the process really comes to bear.

We are told to Trust the Process.  Sometimes we want to completely reject it.  Other times we may mostly agree, but still want to get rid of those things that we see as too extreme or even foolish in our own eyes.  But in our case, the process is not being executed by some smart basketball general manager who still has some faults and blind spots that lead to flaws within the process, if not even potentially causing the whole thing to fail.  No, our process is being carried out by One who is completely knowing and able and righteous and sovereign and loving.  It is not hinging on the luck of getting a draft pick right or a foot holding up to years of pounding.  The process will work for His good purposes, no matter what happens during or within it. 

Trusting the process is not always easy.  It can hurt and sometimes things just don’t seem right or we think we know better.  We don’t understand why God causes/allows some parts of the process to happen and we may never know why on some of them, this side of heaven.  Sometimes we wish God would just step in and fix everything in the current process we’re battling through.  Although it’s not a frequent occurrence, God can and has worked this way, and one day He will ultimately fix it all.  Yet His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Until God does come to fix it all, our best recourse is to trust Him and His process.  What better choice do we have?     

Jan 242017
 

God wears a mask…

More from Scott McKnight on why he is an Anglican…

Your pastor is a sinner…

Free to be honest…

Why the celibate priesthood is in crisis…

A Call to Faithfulness from Os Guinness…

Are all sins equal to God?

Why fake news makes us look stupid and harms our witness…

Why the church won’t recognize abuse…

 Hundreds of congregations have joined the sanctuary movement…

145,000 kid sponsorships shut down in India…

 The king who weeps…

God wants you to get some sleep…

Six statements that could kill a church…

Saving Calvinism…

Fraudulent Authority…

When Jesus advice is hard…lose it.

Christian identity crisis…

Does the Reformation still matter?…

Three ways churches grow without getting bigger…

Frances and Lenny…dying well.

Paula White…

How to hope in God when life gets hard…

Fear, anxiety, and the power of self fulfilling prophecies…

Praying for Christian unity…

On being a Christian and a feminist and belonging nowhere…

A plan for being a faithful citizen…

Nobody likes a jerk…

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

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