Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Cat in the Hat plus John Owen

This coming week at Winter Break, I will be at the school doing something musical with the children.  At fall break, they did Peter and the Wolf.  At Christmas Break, they did the Lightlings by RC Sproul.  This week, I think I will do the Cat in the Hat Comes Back, the sequel to the Cat in the Hat.  I'm still trying to figure out music to go with it, but that will come.  Sometimes, the kids can give good suggestions.  They did at Christmas.  Did you know the "Sound of Silence" can be a good song to go with the Lightlings?  It is.  And did you know that I can make a spiritual connection between Dr. Seuss's famous sequel and John Owen?  I can.

First, the Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  Sally and her brother are shoveling snow while mom is out.  The brother narrates and nobody knows his name, so I'll just call him Ted since that is Dr. Seuss's real name.  Ted and Sally are shoveling, and the Cat in the Hat returns, slinks into the house, and starts eating cake in the bath tub.  Ted comes in and chews the cat out.  He drains the tub only to find that it left a pink ring on the tub.

Not to worry, the Cat cleans it up with mom's nice dress.  Then he transfers the pink from the dress to the wall, cleans it with dad's shoes, gets it on the carpet, the bed, and then he gets stuck.  Then he pulls Little Cat A out of his hat and in each cats' hats, is a smaller cat all from A to Z.  They finally get the pink out on the snow but with all their efforts the stain keeps growing and growing and growing until all the snow is one pink blob and still Ted and Sally have made no dent in their shoveling.

Finally, when all is said and done, the Cat announces that he has one last solution.  In Cat Z's hat is a tiny cat named VOOM.  Voom is released and cleans all the snow and perfectly shovels a path to please the kids' mom.

Our lives have stains, too.  I read The Mortification of Sin by John Owen a few times, and really the only thing I can remember from that is his famous line, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."  Ted and Sally somehow let a cat into their house who stained everything.  Their own efforts were not getting rid of the stain.  The little cat A through Z kept trying to kill it with pop-guns and fans and brooms and lawn mowers and such, but the stain kept growing and growing.  Finally, the Cat in the Hat had to give up.  There was nothing he could do.  Just like that, there is nothing we can do about our sin.  All the penance we can do can only cause it to grow and our pride to swell until we have to give up because on our own efforts, we cannot please an infinitely holy God.  The Cat finally had to get Voom, and we have to surrender to Jesus.  Only Jesus can make our sins white as snow.  His blood is cleaner than us when we've had a shower.  And only his blood can make us perfect like him in time for God to send him back to judge the world.

In fact, he must save you before you even can make a decision to surrender to him.  Without that, you will simply keep shoveling in vain and die in your sins.  He must save you.  There is nothing you contribute to your salvation.  It is all from God.  Read chapter 2 of Ephesians.  It is by grace you are saved and not of your works so that nobody can boast.  We were once dead, and dead people can't make decisions.  But Christ has to make us alive and we have to obey him by getting the Word of God to people's ears so that the Holy Spirit can change their hearts.  He is much better than Voom.  He's real.  And he does all things perfectly.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mark: The Jesus you like and the Jesus you don't like

Mark 10:46-11:17

After Jesus got done chewing out his disciples again about trying to be the greatest, they came to Jericho.  A blind man interrupted him, and Jesus healed him.  Not without his disciples trying to get the man to shut up, however.  Jesus had to stop them so that he could heal the man.

Finally, they reach Jerusalem.  Jesus sends his disciples to get a donkey colt from a man they don't really know.  If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to say, "the Lord needs it," and everything will be fine.

Then, Jesus rides through town on the donkey.  This is what we celebrate on Palm Sunday.  When Jesus comes to Jerusalem this time, it is to die, but his disciples still don't get that.  They are celebrating Jesus, and a bunch of town people are throwing coats and palm branches in front of him like he is a great king.  And he is a great king.  They are shouting, "Hosanna" which means "God save us."  This is the last week of Jesus's earthly life and they don't even know it even though he told them that he would be crucified.

The next day, Jesus does an odd thing.  He looks at a fig tree that apparently has inviting leaves.  He finds not figs.  It is not fig season.  But he kills the fig tree.  Here, we find the Jesus you don't like.  People like the Jesus that heals blind people and the one who rides through town on a donkey that people celebrate.  But when he starts to reveal that he truly is God and not just your homeboy in the sky, then people get scared.

And truly, nobody that God created deserves to live.  All humans have betrayed their creator and done what they should not do and sinned.  We all deserve death and we all start out hellbound until Jesus saves us through is mercy and sends his Spirit to grow us in maturity and holiness.  And sometimes, to show that God does not have to extend mercy, he kills a fig tree.  He is not going to save everybody and he is not required to do so.  Mercy is a gift that God gives freely.

And next, Jesus attacks the Pharisees in the temple because they are selling sheep and animals for Passover sacrifice.  If there is anybody who suffer from entitlement issues with God's mercy, it is the Jewish religious leaders.  They are naturally-born Israelites and have the Law of Moses and follow every jot and tittle and make rules around the rules to make sure they don't fall.  But they get so bogged down with the law that they forget the God they are supposed to serve.  So, Jesus destroys their Black Friday sale, turns tables, gets out a whip, and drives them out of his temple.

People, don't ever become so confident in yourself that you feel like God is happy with whatever you do and that he owes you his love and favor.  He does not owe me anything good.  He has been so gracious to me and he wants to be gracious to you.  Will you humble yourself before the Father and accept Christ's blood shed on your behalf and allow the Spirit to teach you?  Will you put away your sins and stop defending them and let Christ heal you?  Or will you simply set up shop in God's house and act like you've earned the right to be there?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mark: They still don't get it and neither do I

Mark 10:31-45

"But many who are first will be last and the last will be first."  This is how Jesus wraps up his conversation with and about the rich young man who went away sad but very rich in worldly things.

He then tells the disciples the third of three times that he will die on a cross and then rise again on the third day.

After that the disciples still don't get it, argue about who is the greatest, and James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at his right and left when they get to glory.  In other gospels, they got their mom to ask him.

They still don't get it.  Only Jesus is the greatest.  He is "the most enjoyable, breath-taking, awe-inspiring Person you will ever know."  But they want to decide if Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, James, John, etc. are the greatest.  They truly love Jesus, yes, but they also want something from him.

And really, after reading this article by Kelly Needham, I am painfully reminded again that that is what I really want from God.  Not him, just what he can give me.  When will my heart ever be pure?  

And that leaks into my life outside of God.  Do I really love this kid because I want to be a friend and guardian angel or do I want to be a paraprofessional someday?  Do I just not want to clean deep fryers forever because I have master's degree and obviously deserve better?

Do I seek God for God or do I want him to magically move me and Tim closer to Henry county and for Tim to have a job that he earned a degree for?  Do I love Jesus because I love Jesus or do I want to get to heaven some day?

My heart will never be pure and short of a miracle, I will always want my glory and not God's.  But, I also praise Jesus that only he truly had a pure heart and can change mine every day to make me more pure.  And he can do the same for you, too.  Please, seek our Lord and ask him to change your heart to be more pure.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mark: Rich young man and the only perfect God-man, plus all of us

Mark 10:17-30

This is the story of the rich young ruler and Jesus's discussion with his disciples afterwards.  Something dawned on me this week from re-reading commentaries on this passage.  Although this passage addresses riches and idols, it is not the main point of the passage.

First, the young guy comes to Jesus and calls him "good teacher."  He asks, "what must I do to be saved?".  Somehow, the man has an idea that there are good people and that goodness can be attained through some act or deed.  Jesus truly is the only good human ever to live.  However, the man did not know that, and Jesus was helping him to consider why he would consider anybody good.

Next, Jesus names some of the commandments but not all.  The guy has kept those commandments, but he knows he still is missing something.  He has not kept all the commandments.  He loves things and possessions and influence more than God.  He has made graven images.  He has taken the Lord's name in vain.  Even the slightest sin is permanent and deserving of eternal punishment in hell.  And the man has committed sins.

Then, Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and to follow him.  He also shocks his disciples by telling them that it is easier to get a huge camel through a very small needle's eye than it is for a rich person to get into heaven.  The disciples, in their Jewish culture, grew up believing that riches were a sign of God's favor and blessing!  Even a seemingly blessed person cannot get to heaven.  Why?  Because people in their own power cannot save themselves from their sins.  Somebody else, somebody perfect has to save them and correct them into holy living.

The story is not about idolatry and riches.  It is about everybody and their desperate need for a Savior.  And there is only one Savior.  The perfect man who was also God, Jesus Christ.  Only God can forgive sins, and only a human could atone for human sins.  So only the God-man can save you.

At first the rich young man walks away disappointed.  But the story doesn't say if he came back or not.  Some traditions say that this is John Mark himself, the gospel's author.  I believe that since the text says that Jesus loved the man, that he came back and followed Jesus.  Jesus is so patient with us and always giving us chances to turn to him and to put away our idols.  Would you do that today?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mark: teachings that should cause teachers to tremble

Mark 9:42-10:16

Jesus is going through a lengthy discourse.  He had just finished telling his disciples to stop arguing over who is the greatest and encouraging them to be like children.  Then he says that if anyone should cause a child to sin, it would be greater for him to be tied to a millstone and thrown into a sea than to face whatever he will face in hell should he not repent.  This should cause teachers and ministers everywhere to tremble.  I know I have not been the best example to the kids that I lead at all times and I hope that I will never cause them to fall into disbelief or sin.

Then he talks about divorce.  The popular thing to do in that day was to take God's word that had permitted divorce to protect a woman should a man's heart get so rebellious against God and using it as an excuse to just divorce a woman because he had grown tired of her and she wasn't hot anymore and her cooking was bad.  It's just like today when teachers twist God's word around to allow homosexuality and gay marriage.  God has never approved of such things or allowed them, and he most certainly doesn't approve of people using his word to marginalize women.  God meant marriage to be permanent and only to be broken after adultery happened.  And, of course, men and women must guard against adultery in the first place and remember that when they married, it was for life.

Now, I know many divorced people and remarried people with kids from previous marriages.  What's done is done.  You can't do anything about it now.  But from now on, honor the Lord more than you honor your feelings.  I find it especially interesting that in Mark, the divorce teaching is sandwiched between teachings about children.

And now, Jesus reminds the people to let the little children come to me.  People in support of infant baptism would use this as a proof text.  I support infant baptism, but I don't see it there.  My main support is that it replaces circumcision which was done to 8-day-olds.  Certainly not old enough to understand, which is the point.  We need to start considering our children as part of the church and dedicating them, not just the parents, when they are born and long before they understand so that when they do start to understand, they're already there.  And infants are members of the covenant community along with their believing parents and need to be baptized.  And we should not treat them as a different level of existence than the adult members of the church.  I think we'd worry less about our kids and not push for professions of faith before they are ready.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunday School reflection: When you are tempted

1.    Satan told Jesus that if he was the Son of God that he should turn stones in to bread.  It wasn’t wrong for Jesus to turn stones into bread, but it would have been wrong for him to doubt his status before God.  Jesus did not give in.  When we are tempted, we need to remember that nothing can change our status before God.  He will always love, and Jesus will always intercede for us
2.    Satan took Jesus on top of the temple and told him to jump down because angels will prevent him from striking his foot on a stone.  Satan quoted Psalm 91.  The best way to stop temptation is to know Scripture, but also know that the enemy knows Scripture and people who claim to be Christians will always be leading you astray if you don’t know Scripture better than you do now.  Make time for it.  You don’t have time not to.
3.    Satan offered Jesus all the mountains and the world if he would only worship him.  But Jesus already had the world and the mountains.  He’s God.  He made them all.  When Satan tempts you, remember that you already have everything you need in Jesus. 

So when you are tempted, remember to not fight in your own strength.  If you want to be violent because, you are angry, stop and pray.  If you are tempted to steal something, remember you have all you need.  God will fight your battle.  Jesus will intercede for his elect, you need to know Scripture, and you already have all you need.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mark: I am not enough, but he certainly is

Mark 9:25-41

In this point, Jesus was about to heal a demon-possessed young man at the request of his father.  The disciples could not do it and the dad was losing faith.  He had to ask Jesus to help his unbelief.  Jesus healed the boy and then declared that the evil spirit can only come out through prayer.  Meaning, that only looking to God, can we ever hope to accomplish his will.  Not through our own means.

Next, Jesus reminds his duh-sciples again that he will die and then rise again on the third day.  They don't get it.  In fact, they ignore it and argue among themselves who is the greatest and try to hide it from Jesus.  Jesus has to tell them that the rest of the world can fight for greatness.  We as his followers are not to do that.  Then Jesus took a child and said we have to be like that.  Simple, believing, and obedient.  Not naive or childish, but childlike.

This reminds me of someone who doesn't like to lose games.  Often I will ask Tim to play a game with me, then he wins and I get mad at him.  I want to be the greatest.  I want to do things my own way and always win.  But I must remember that I am not great.  In fact, without Jesus, I am not enough.

I had to talk to someone who declared that she can't control her anger.  Was she despairing or making excuses?  I don't know.  But I know that in my own power, I can't control my anger or my thoughts.  I certainly cannot cure people of demons.  But I need to constantly pray to the Lord for his guidance and even his control.  He needs to change me so I think his thoughts after him and think less of myself.  I am not enough, but he certainly is.