I’ve been waking up late every morning.
This is not because I’m lazy or indulging some other character flaw, it’s because the cat won’t let me sleep.
Every night, twice a night, Miss Kitty wakes me up at 12:00 AM and 4:00 AM.
She comes offering praise and adoration, standing on top of me weaving the blankets and purring loudly.
If that fails to wake me she begins to groom my hair and bathe me.
That always does the trick…
She wants a snack and because of her efforts, she gets a snack.
I get to try to fall back asleep.
As I was washing cat spit off my face at 4:15 this morning I was musing over the hardest part of being a pastor.
For me, it’s not the sermon prep, or funerals, or any of the normal issues that are common to the vocation.
The hardest part is representing God and speaking the Word into difficult and sometimes impossible situations.
What if…He doesn’t come through?
We tell people facing foreclosure “don’t worry” because God says so.
We tell people desperate for provision that God will provide.
We tell sick people we believe in healing as we anoint them and pray.
We don’t always believe what we’re saying…
““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)
““Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?””
This brings me full circle to Miss Kitty.
She asks and she receives.
If she doesn’t ask, she doesn’t receive.
She’s learned to ask until she does receive.
Go and do like wise…God loves you more than I love my cat.
You won’t have to lick His face, but praise is a good opener.
I need a nap..
Make your own application…
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.’ ” (John 6:1-15)
Out of all of my friends and acquaintances, I have one neighbor in particular who stands out by the way she reacts to virtually every problem or opportunity. Whenever an issue comes up in conversation, whether it is personal to her, to me or concerning someone else, her first impulse is prayer. She wants to pray about it. She will pray with me or for me; she is not particular. And I trust she is sincere. Often my silent reaction is: “Yes! Pray! That is exactly what we should do. Why didn’t I think of that?” Regrettably, my first impulse to an issue is usually more like that of Philip and Andrew in this week’s passage than that of my neighbor.
“Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:7-9)
In Matthew’s Gospel, right before Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He said to them: “Do not be like them [who heap up empty phrases], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:8) In this week’s passage, we see this teaching enacted. Before anyone else raised the issue of hunger, Jesus anticipated the need: “Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’ ” (John 6:5)
But when Jesus put the question to Philip, he answered with his reason (actually ignoring the “where” question): “We don’t have enough money.” (my paraphrase) Philip got right to work with his mental calculator and gave Jesus a financial report. Any diligent non-Christian could have done likewise. Andrew, on the other hand, found a boy with five loaves and two fish; but Andrew too ultimately fell back on his reason: “what are they for so many.” Without faith in Jesus’ promises, both Philip and Andrew provided only rational human answers. It was as if neither of them remembered what Jesus accomplished for the wedding guests at Cana or in His other miracles.
Unless I am sitting in church or am reminded by someone else, all too often, especially during urgency or anxiety, I forget what Jesus has done for me and fail to make prayer my first impulse when faced with a need. (Maybe I am like the adolescent boy who no longer wants to hold his father’s hand when crossing the street.)
It is not that we should despise work, other people’s help or available resources when there is a need, and sit back waiting for a miracle from above; that would be putting God to the test, as Jesus taught by his second temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4:5-7). But Jesus commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) Therefore, just like we are commanded to pray for our daily bread, we also are commanded to call on Him when we are in need. And when we do, we have his promises, including for example: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt 6:26)
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:10-11)
Matthew tells us that Jesus put the question to Philip to test him (John 6:10). Philip and Andrew obviously failed the test – the test of faith. However, Jesus does not berate His disciples, for their weak faith. Instead he deals gently with them, while performing a miracle (i.e., feeding the crowd) by which their faith and ours might be strengthened and encouraged.
Jesus enacted what he preached to the devil in the wilderness, when He passed His test on our behalf:
- He turned a pittance into abundance, showing that: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)
- He did not despise, but multiplied the ordinary means that God provided to feed the crowd that day, showing that “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matt 4:7) and
- He gave thanks to His Father for providing the loaves and fish that day (John 6:11), showing that “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matt 4:10)
May we also be strengthened and encouraged by Christ’s faithfulness to pray to our Father in heaven for all our needs, calling on Him in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Moreover, may we deal gently with those of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are weaker in faith (like Christ deals with us), encouraging them with patience and interceding for them with our prayers. Amen.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps 50:14-15) Amen.
While the percentage of the population who have dealt with the condition of feeling like they are the gender opposite of their biological sex likely has always been a small minority, it probably can be safely assumed that those with gender dysphoria have always been with us. The difference is that for most of the history of our Western Culture, and likely for most cultures in world history, having feelings of identifying opposite of one’s biological sex was not something that was to be readily admitted or discussed. It was a taboo that many probably have kept hidden, and if they did share their feelings, it was done so with a very small circle. Most people with these types of feelings have doubtlessly long lived in fear and shame.
Today, most assuredly there are those who still live with this fear and shame. However, we also know that there has been a strong movement that has come about the last so many years that is contending for those with gender dysphoria and telling them and everybody else that what they are feeling is perfectly acceptable and right and normal. This movement is proclaiming the needs and rights of the transgendered. The mantra is that those with these types of feelings should be able to identify with whatever gender their emotional/psychological/mental state tells them that they are, regardless of their biological sex… and that the rest of society should accept them in whatever way they identify and should accommodate them according to those self-chosen identities.
I am not a psychologist or any way formally trained in a manner to understand the state of those who have gender dysphoria. I have never had an inkling of a feeling myself where I thought I was a woman or really felt feminine in any way, and so I can’t personally identify with those who have these types of feelings. I’m not going to give some kind of psychological diagnosis or say that I know what those with gender dysphoria are feeling. How to equitably and compassionately handle this condition is more than worthy of discussion, but that which I won’t be venturing into here.
I have written about the transgender topic once before, but it continues in the headlines and keeps my concern. It is seemingly everywhere nowadays in one form or fashion. There is a constant push in our culture and media for LGBT rights. There has been the bathroom law in North Carolina and potential other ones in other states. There has been the uproar of the Target situation, and lesser so of Starbucks and others. There is the Trump administration recently revoking the Obama administration’s previous guidance to allow school students to use the restroom or locker room of their choice, according to their gender identity.
Even more recently, and the one that brought this topic to mind again for me, there is a legal case in the national news from my hometown area where a male student is suing his school district for allowing a transgendered student who is biologically female to use the boys locker room. Still yet, the past two Linkathons here at this blog have had articles addressing transgenderism. The list of examples could go on and on.
Even though I do not personally know and/or am aware of someone who is outwardly transgendered or who has strong feelings of gender dysphoria, I am concerned for those who live with these things. I imagine that life in some ways must be a living hell for them. Between the struggle of their own internal feelings and the way that some people undoubtedly treat them poorly or condescendingly or like wackos, life cannot be easy. I wish that people didn’t have to suffer through such things.
I am also concerned with the potential harm we could now be bringing to others. The first people I think of are my wife and school age daughters, and it extends out from there, throughout society. We are placing many at harm’s edge when we attempt to accommodate the feelings of a very small minority in a fashion that exposes far, far more to potential danger. To one degree, there is the discomfort and loss of dignity and innocence, especially with younger children, that comes with being exposed and having to dress and undress in the same area as those of the opposite biological sex. To a still greater degree, you have those sexual predators (who are unlikely to be the transgendered) who will take advantage of relaxed restroom/ locker room/ dressing room rules, making it all the more easier for them to carry out their voyeuristic and even sexually assaulting activities. If a sexual assault happens even one time because of someone taking advantage of the relaxed rules, this is one time more than what we should have ever allowed for.
As has been written here before, allowing people of the opposite biological sex into the opposite rest room or locker room is not even a Christian or religious issue. It is an issue of common sense and common decency. At least it should be. We shouldn’t have to bring God or Christianity or religion into it at all. From a perspective of common law and logic, we should be able to say that letting biological men into women’s restrooms and locker rooms is not a good idea because the potential of bad things happening is too great. Yet, less and less of the population see things that way anymore.
All this makes me wonder. We once lived in a culture where many more used to claim the title of Christian. Many still will claim that this is a Christian country, or at least it used to be, and we need to get back to the way things used to be. Of course, we’ve been down that road plenty of times, too, here at this blog, questioning how truly “Christian” the country has been or how a nation can even be “Christian” or what exactly it is that we need to get back to. But at the very least, we lived in a culture where Christianity held much more respect, at least for traditional, orthodox Christianity.
In years past, if Christian pastors and leaders or even Christian laymen had spoken up and said that this is not a good idea to let biological men and boys into the rest rooms and changing room of women and girls, they would have been respected and would have had a significant influence on the culture. Just as today, they wouldn’t have even needed to bring Christianity or religion into it. They could have spoken simply from a standpoint of common sense and decency and their words would have carried much clout. Nowadays, they are more likely to be besmirched by many in society as bigots and religious lunatics who are suffering from some kind of immoral phobia, than they are seen as any kind of valued cultural influencers.
Why is this?
Part of me thinks that the church has brought this on themselves. While certainly far from all have been guilty, there still have been too many Christian pastors and leaders and laymen, when they did have more significant cultural power over the years, who have acted terribly toward those who were the “wrong kind” of sinners and “wrong kind” of people. All the while often protecting those whose wrongdoings were more acceptable or more strategically beneficial to be overlooked. The regular and hypocritical demonization and outcasting and lack of compassion for some is now coming home to roost. Even as segments of attitudes have improved in the church, it has been a case of too little, too late, as the church is now stuck with a stigma in society. Add to that the portions of the church that have eschewed Scripture in favor of cultural morality and we’ve got a hot mess.
On the other hand, I wonder how much of where we have come to in our culture was inevitable, even if Christians were more consistently faithful in acting in a Christ-like manner? We are cautioned many times in Scripture that we are not going to be accepted in this world. That we can expect persecution and hatred (II Timothy 3:12, John 15:18-19, Luke 6:22) and will live as exiles (I Peter 2:11) and that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven and not of this world (Philippians 3:20). The troubles we have experienced in our Western culture are very little compared to what countless others have experienced in other cultures and over the history of time. Yet, without a doubt, the tide has changed and continues to worsen in regards to how traditional, orthodox Christians and Christianity are viewed in our culture. And maybe that was bound to happen, no matter how perfectly Christians acted. And who knows how much worse it may become as time moves on.
Navigating our current world is not easy. For many Christians, it already is and may become more difficult still than in time periods past. We pray that things would change for the better – not for the sake of Christians to have more “power” per se, but that they would have more opportunity to influence the culture to be more righteous and just and Christ-like for the sake of the gospel – to see more souls saved and also for more souls to be treated better and more justly and more compassionately during their time on this earth. But if our culture is not to change for the better, we pray that God would give us wisdom as to how to journey along our increasingly rocky paths. On our own, we don’t fare so well.
Huge thanks as always to EricL…support him at top right…
1. I just finished the audiobook version of “1944” by Jay Winik. It’s an historical narrative of that year in American history focusing on FDR and the Holocaust. I’m again convinced that any theology or political ideology that isn’t informed by what happened in German extermination camps is hopelessly ill informed.
The Holocaust isn’t simply a horrific event that happened in Germany, it’s an event that informs us of what any system or people is capable of …
2. If your “Christian worldview” doesn’t demand that you filter everything through the witness of Scripture, it’s just another political worldview among many… and no more righteous than any…
3. The “purer” your political ideology is,the less likely it can be imposed without bloodshed…
4. It’s a historical fact that Lincoln freed the slaves…and then intended to ship them back to Africa. Let us not pretend that racism isn’t ingrained in our culture and we don’t have a very long way to go in changing that both in the church and the culture…
5. As long as “biblical morality” is defined purely by sexual mores, we will never come close to being a biblically moral people…
6. A culture that can no longer decide what is true, that can no longer verify information or trust the sources of it, is always going to be one big lie away from destruction…
7. Your neighbor will either be a person to love or a scapegoat to blame…the choice will determine what kind of society you live in…
8. This is what happens to my mood when it’s too cold and too wet for too long…
9. The most odious form of arguing online is to find the most foolish looking representative of the other side of the debate and act as if that fool represents the whole of the group…
10. Oregon made the Final Four…and thankfully, gave me a way to end this…
O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.
Anonymous (2010-07-01). Puritan Prayers (Kindle Locations 477-478). . Kindle Edition.
In this section Matthew 19 – 20:16 – Jesus deals with 3 topics; marriage, children and property. Hmm, this is the neighborhood in which we usually live.
Teaching About Marriage / Divorce
1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.
- Jesus is on the move
2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
- Always the large crowd and Jesus responds to their needs.
- This is another sign that his kingdom has arrived – look who Jesus is hanging with;
- Those who have been cut off from the worship life – the unclean, the down and outers.
- He not only takes their sin upon himself, but also sets them free.
- These healings are object lessons and not a prescription to ask “Why didn’t you heal my son?”
- What is the biggest object lesson for the Christian? The Resurrection!
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
- Note that they come to “test him” – not to learn out of curiosity.
- “For any cause?” It is said that a man could divorce his wife for burning the toast.
- They want to trap Jesus with a loophole – something that relieves them of their sin. “Ah Ha! Caught you teaching against God’s Law!”
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
- Holy smokes! He takes them to the scriptures. “Jesus, we can all read the scriptures, but we want to know what is Right… or, we want to know what you think is right.”
- But Jesus will not be “loopholed”
- WC Fields when observed reading the Bible said he was “looking for loopholes” as were the Pharisees … even as we do.
5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
- I think this also goes to the proper parts fitting together.
6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.”
- Jesus adds his own divine commentary to the Genesis passage.
- Jesus is saying, ‘so whose sermon are you going to listen to? The sermon of your own mind (and don’t we do that most of the time?) or the sermon of the creator of all things?
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
- They have their own sermon to preach – they want Jesus to Amen their sermon.
- In real life, how many going to the pastor for a family problem, perhaps an impending divorce think they are being judged vs being given God’s word.
- Will we listen to the word of God or are we just looking for the pastor to amen our side of the story?
- The keys get mixed up – the binding key gets loosened and the loosing key gets bound.
8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
- I wonder if Jesus smiled at them and said “yes, Moses did make that allowance – do you know why? Because you are sinners.
- They probably think the divorce allowance was because they we righteous and they deserved a way out – – no, Sinners.
- From the beginning – Go back to v.6 “let no man” – is Moses God or man?
9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
- This is what the people hear and then say “the pastor / the church are judging me. We don’t want to be a part of a church like that.
- But … until we recognize our sin, forgiveness cannot be granted.
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
- No – marriage is messy, just like the church because both are fully populated with sinners.
- Marriage has obligations and much denial of self.
- Marriage is a divine institution and is not man made. The Church will continue to come under pressure over the definition and practice of marriage
- So what do you confess and how would you go?
- Jesus said deny yourself and pick up your cross – In America I do not think we have a clue what Jesus means – but we may be called on to find out.
11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.
- It is important here to remember the original question – ““Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
- One cannot approach this text from the question the Pharisees are asking – under what circumstances is divorce OK – because this is not a text that answers this question.
- The Pharisees would never accept his answer – so his answer is really to the surrounding crowd.
- The answer – God’s design for marriage is simply a permanent joining of the two – one man, one woman as a husband and a wife, which has been described as one flesh.
- When is it lawful to divorce? Jesus pretty much answers NEVER!
- But we live in a twisted world.
- But to the question of “it is better to not marry” – well that is limited to a select few – only those to whom it is given.
- 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
- The “onlys” here seem to be “eunuchs”
- What is a eunuch? Castrated – some who do it as an obligation to God – perhaps some with no libido.
Let the Children Come to Me
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,
- Folks bring their children to Jesus to be prayed for by Jesus
- The disciples hear previously about Jesus and children, and they still rebuke the people and play the role of bouncer.
- “Folks, please keep your children away from Jesus, he has more important things to do.”
- Don’t we do the same thing when we keep the children out of the Divine Service and put them in a separate classroom? How many times I have heard, “well the children will cause a disturbance and someone who really needs to hear the message will miss it.”
14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
- Jesus sets them straight. The kingdom of heaven is specifically for the children – are you “a children”?
- “do not hinder them” – Acts 8 uses the same word for hinder by the Ethiopian “what should hinder me from being baptized?”
- In a Lutheran service, this verse or the corresponding one in Mark are read at a baptism.
- What does this verse have to do with baptism?
- Jesus is telling them “I have come for the children too. Do not prevent children from entering the kingdom – How dare you!!”
- Why do some people / churches refuse to baptize their babies?
- They don’t sin? They are “in” based on their parent’s faith? They need to choose on their own? There is an Age of Accountability?
- What is said about the age of accountability? I think we find it right there in scripture – there is an age of accountability – but the clock starts at birth. Psalm 51.
15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
- Jesus does what he came to do and moves on.