30 Seconds On the Kingdom


And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’ And he said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything

Mark 4:21-34

Let the Word examine your heart, here, and bring you to repentance if you need be.  And show you what to repent of.  What’s your attitude about the Kingdom?  When you see lost people doing what lost people do, how does your heart respond?  When you see the church, with all her imperfections and all her beauties, what is your first reaction?  Does your heart beat in time with Jesus’?  Do you want to see the Kingdom grow out and grow up?  Do you love the lost enough to suffer for them and enough to serve her?

Pray for laborers, He said.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

May I be on both ends of that prayer:  The one who asks and the answer to it.  

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Long, Long Shadows and A Light


Sin never stops where you think it will. 

Your repeated anger leads to latent bitterness which leads to relationship-destroying gossip.  

Your pornography-viewing leads to unmarital sex which leads to one parent raising a child in isolation which leads to crippling resentment.  

Unchecked sin always spreads, and kills where it does.  Like cancer.  

But one of the beautiful mercies of God is that He has given us a community where sin and its scars can be dealt with.  

The church.  


Churches are little cities of imperfect people, people who have been miraculously remade and who, by the grace of a very real and very compassionate God, continually confess and continually turn from the sins they still commit.  They know who they were (spiritually dead evil people), they know who they are (spiritually alive people being slowly made more and more like Jesus), and they know who God is (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who love to save sinners).  And because of these 3 things, these little collections of Gospel people are able to bring wicked and broken and scared and angry humans into their midst and minister to them.  Serve them.  Help to stop the bleeding in their lives.  

The world is home to all stripes of sinners who are in different stages of the pain or disarray or death that sin brings along as its trail.  And there is no one else who can get to the root of the chaos or who can apply supernatural salve to the wounds of all this sin like the church can.  She has been given the Good News that can heal and can save people from their evils, and from the evils that were committed against them.  She can rescue them from the worst of the violence and the trouble and the affliction of this world.  

Which is great, because this is not Mayberry.  This is a world of adultery and ulterior motives and hearts who will cast those they love aside for pleasure or power.  This is a world where sin has left some long, long shadows.  Sons deserted by their fathers, marriages in flames because of selfishness, grown men and women who don’t know how to be men or women.  And there in the heart of this world stands the church, giving the hope and the truth and the life that only she can give.  

This world needs her.  The single mothers and the heroin addicts and the workaholics and the shallowest of womanizers need her.  She is a city on a hill.  

She is where they can come for possibility.  For hope.  For adoption into a forever family.  She is where they can sojourn for all of the things that only Jesus can hand over.  

For everyone trapped in what sin has spoiled, churches are households of transforming mercy.  They are families of forgiveness.  They are little peoples of honest confession and honest love and honest Gospel.  

This is a world of long shadows.  Because sin never stops where it whispers it will.   Sin never keeps that promise.  

But the God of the Cross has given a light that can beat those shadows back.  His church holds that light in her hands, for any and all to come see.  

What Your Opinions Say About You

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Our opinions and our decisions don’t come out of thin air.

What you think about a recent death in your city resulting from an altercation between a police officer and a suspect or about the Super Bowl halftime show or about a new policy at your workplace will come from somewhere. And every big decision you make about romance or employment or friendship comes from somewhere.

If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, I am exhorting you to let His Word and His reign be the governing factors in your decision making. Let your love of Jesus and your belief that His way is best be the undercurrent of your choices and your convictions. I have known many people over the years who claimed to know Christ but whose lives showed virtually no consideration of His teaching, His Bible, or His Gospel. How they spent their free time and how they spoke with their friends and what they spent their money on and who they pursued romance with were not in the slightest influenced by the Word and heart of Jesus Christ.

This is just a quick reminder that your thoughts and impulses and worldview, and mine, are always being shaped by something. What we think is constantly being formed by something. So take a quick minute and examine: What is it? What is currently the chief influence over how you look at the world and yourself? Pixar? Your favorite TV show? Your friends? A college class? Your favorite television or radio talk show pundit? Or is it the God of Jesus Christ, through His Word, His Spirit, and His people?

Imagine a friend who played golf and said that every single thing he did on the golf course was governed by Tiger Woods and his fantastic instructional golf book (I have no idea if there even is such a book; if there is, I’d make it to about page 10 before passing out from boredom). This buddy of yours told you that his golf game was a Tiger-like one, and that he had learned how to drive and put and even carry his clubs from the master. Then suppose you found out one day that this friend of yours had never even read the Tiger Woods book. It just sat on the bookshelf next to his computer. And he had never watched a golf tournament in which Tiger Woods competed. Turned out your buddy owned a set of clubs, had gone to a driving range once or twice, and had taken the Tiger Woods putter to the putt-putt course in town. He wore the Nike brand Tiger Woods golf apparel all the time and he knew facts about Tiger Woods’ life, but it turned out your friend spent no time actually learning from (albeit indirectly) the man he claimed.

You would be a little perplexed, wouldn’t you? Why would this guy claim to be a follower of someone whose instruction he wasn’t actually taking into consideration and whose skills he never actually bothered to learn or imitate?

It’s just an analogy. Jesus is not merely our teacher; He is the risen Messiah who offers to bring our dead souls to life by grace through faith. But the heart of the analogy is one I stand by, and it’s this: It is both foolish and false to claim Jesus Christ and not have the slightest interest in reading Him or obeying Him.

Or, as the Apostle John put it in 1 John: “If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Our worldview, opinions, and our convictions are always being shaped by something or someone. If we claim to be Christians, let it be the One whose Name we bear.

The Opposite Problem

In 21st century America, Christians often think the problem with our churches is that their gatherings are not appealing enough to the felt needs of unbelievers. And even that they are not musically, aesthetically, or programmatically appealing enough to Christians.

I often fall into this consumeristic approach to church. Me. I’m not just calling others out, here. I need to repent of it and love God more, glitz less.

Unlike the tens of millions of Chinese Christians meeting in illegal house churches, the thousands of Nigerian Christians being persecuted by Boko Haram, or the Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee their homes, we often desire, or want to sell, entertainment. And we are befuddled or irritated when the ekklesia, the called out people of God, doesn’t give it.

Rather than the New Testament’s teaching of church as a body we are grafted into to serve and be served, we think in terms of finding a church that will appeal to our senses. We want to shop for the store in the church mall that most suits our needs. And we think, quite often, that that is what our churches should be for our unbelieving neighbors.

The most appealing store in the church mall.

Nowhere in the New Testament will you see that.

Instead, in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus you will see the local church presented as the outpost of the Kingdom where the Gospel is proclaimed, and which individual Christians have been adopted and grafted into.

A faithful family of committed members whose adoration for Jesus spills over into devotion for each other and for the lost.

The Word preached, unbelievers repenting and believing, believers living in obedience and then mobilizing for the Kingdom.

Quite different from an Apple Store, isn’t it?

A.W. Tozer said it far better than I ever will (as quoted in “He is Not Silent,” by Al Mohler):

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“We have the breezy, self-confident Christians with little affinity for Christ and His cross. We have the joy-bell boys that can bounce out there and look as much like a game show host as possible. Yet, are they doing it for Jesus’ sake?! The hypocrites! They’re not doing it for Jesus’ sake at all; they are doing it in their own carnal flesh and are using the church as a theater because they haven’t yet reached the place where the legitimate theater would take them…

“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, the maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments…

“Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total commital to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is ‘no.'”

Real churches made up of real members offering the real Gospel spells real hope.

I should desire and pray for that more, and look for what will suit my fancy less.

If we want to create true worshipers we must worship in truth.