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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A Catechism for Our Day


The Word of God is always relevant.  And our hearts will be healthier when they are brought under it.

A Christian who brings Scripture and the God of Scripture to bear on his thoughts, emotions, choices, philosophy, theology, self-talk, vocation, family dynamic, behaviors, hobbies, and habits will be a Christian whose spiritual muscles and bones and organs are working properly.  This is one of the reasons Christians have historically written catechisms.  We need to know the Word and we also need to know how to apply it.

So with that in mind, let’s bring the Word to answer some questions for our day.

Q:  How should I approach and think about racial strife and protests?

A:  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Q:  What if I think our President is a terrible one?

A:  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Q:  How do I live out my Christian faith at my job?

A:  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

Q:  What does it mean to be a man or to be a woman?

A:  “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:8-12).

Q:  What is marriage?

A:  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:18-25).

Q:  What is the point of life?”

A:  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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” (Philippians 3:7-8).

60 More Seconds of Christian Comfort

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?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Matthew 6:26-30

Look around you, Christian.  God feeds birds and causes flowers to grow and makes lilies and tulips beautiful.  This is His world.  And if you have truly been born again in Christ, then the God who owns and runs this universe spent His all to adopt you.  

Look at how tender this God is with robins and finches and dandelions and grass.  And you are His child.  Trust Him!

The word Jesus uses at the beginning of verse 28 doesn’t mean just to watch.  He uses a word like that in verse 26, but in the sentence that begins verse 28 He uses a word that means to study or observe or learn from.  So, seriously:  Go outside and look.  Step into your backyard and watch the petals of a flower flicker in a breeze like a candle flame, and know that every step in that dance is by His hand.  Go look at a tree and see the odd shape and direction of its branches, gnarled like an old man’s fingers, and know that every moment from that tree’s first break through the soil to its falling back down back into it are all by the decree of the God who loves and adopted and values you, Christian.  

“Do you see that sun coming up over the horizon, over there, tracing the blue sky with its warm gold?  Do you see that bright yellow star our side of the earth is facing right now?  Study it.  Look at it.  Birds and plants and stars and sins; this is all in His hands, child.  Trust Him.”

This is a good God.  This is a King we can trust.  This is a beautiful, caring, creating, provident, kind, remaking, rescuing, adoring, wise God.  

Let us seek His Kingdom first.  

Let us trust Him.

Grace and peace.

Peace.

Let This War Kill Him


One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

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

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., Hebrews 5:14) as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.  

15 Seconds On Sin Killing Things

  
Death entered the world when Satan made sin look promising.  And death enters a life, a marriage, a home, a mind when we believe him again.  

Don’t be enticed by pornography.  Don’t be enticed by the idea of divorce.  Don’t be seduced by or attracted to the prospects of gossip, deceit, or greed.  Sin promises life but always delivers death.  Those clothed in it face God’s eternal wrath, and those who know God but tolerate it face its murderous powers in their lives.  Envy kills friendships, lust kills marriages, greed kills companies, bitterness kills families, and unrepentant sin of all kinds kills souls.  

Sin brings death.  Always has, always will, until God casts it away from His presence forever and ever, that is.  But boy, does it look good while it’s hanging on the tree and the father of lies starts whispering.  

You’d almost never know he was peddling poison.  

30 Seconds for Father’s Day

  
My Heavenly Father, the One who sent His Son Jesus to save selfish people like me, is slow to anger and abounding in rock-steady love.  He always tells the truth.  He forgives the wrongs done against Him.  He gives profoundly beautiful gifts, chief among them His Holy Spirit.  He disciplines me in order to make me the kind of man I’d want to be if I had a heart as good as His.  

Gracious, honest, forgiving, generous, and ready to discipline.  That is my Abba Father.  

And so I have a template for what to be for my three little ones.  

Happy Father’s Day, guys.  

Father.  

The word has meaning because a Father made the world.  My prayer, as I sit outside my house just about ready to go in and give the kids lunch, is that I can, more and more, have the posture towards my children that He has towards His. 

So It Stays Dead

   

In The Mortification of Sin, Puritan theologian John Owen writes that living a holy life for Jesus is something that the Holy Spirit must help you do.  Only God can truly change a person.  If you want to kill your anger or your pornography use or your self-pity so that it stays dead, you need supernatural help.  We can kill a sin by just trying really, really hard, but not sin.  If all you do is throw out your computer and your phone, you may be able to stop from ever looking at online porn again.  But you haven’t changed.  And you, my friend, are the problem.  

And me, too.  

Some of us can probably stop swearing or drinking or cheating by pure willpower, but we can’t make ourselves love and worship the right thing.  Just making a rule for yourself that you won’t look at pornography anymore won’t change your soul’s perfect north.  Don’t get me wrong:  Do that, please.  Make the rule and then stick to it.  But willpower by itself can only change behavior, not a heart.  And that’s what God wants:  our hearts.  The obedience our Creator desires is not just a dutiful one; He wants obedience that springs from hearts and minds that truly love and worship Him.  Living free from sin means living for Him, and living for Him means having a spiritually changed heart.  

True holiness and truly spiritual change have to start with Him, because the only one who can make you love God is God.  So if you want your sin truly dead or dying, you first need God’s help to make you a different kind of person.  

Owen asks and then answers the question that we’d all probably ask after reading that:  How does that happen?  How does God change us and make us holier?  And in one section of the book, he gives three specific ways:

  1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace (in other words, by lovingly giving us His supernatural power and the fruits of His own Spirit). 
  2. By weakening and destroying the root of our sin.  
  3. By giving us union with Jesus Christ, His death, and His sufferings.  

In other words, if you have trusted in Jesus then God’s Spirit helps you to change from the inside out by giving you power, by weakening your sin at its root (the root being desire, either the desiring of a sinful thing or the desiring of a good thing more than you desire God), and by placing you in Jesus, the only One who can and did crush sin.  

Giving us grace, weakening our sin at its foundational level, and giving us Union with Jesus.  

We absolutely should work out our own salvations with fear and trembling, but we should do so knowing that it’s Him whose first working in us.  Everything good starts with God, including sanctification.  

Real holiness, goodness that comes from down deep in the soul, has to be initiated by God in a person.  If we want to truly change, we should pray for God’s healing hand to help us, not just plan on sweating it out.  

Self-discipline all by itself might be enough to quit cursing, but it isn’t enough to change your heart. 

Dead sin follows a living heart, and the only One who can create either is God.  

So it’s wonderful news that He is offering to right now.