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.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mark: Transfiguration, man with a demon, me musing on autism again

Mark 9:1-24 in which Jesus goes up a mountain with three friends, gets transfigured to what he looked like before he left heaven, scares his friends, and then he comes back and gets ready to heal a man with a demon.

I wrote the following a couple years ago as I still try to develop a theology around special needs.  My brother has autism, and so I have a huge heart for autism and aspberger's and anyone on the spectrum.  It is different in everyone and ranges from people who mostly function in society independently to folks like my brother who probably will not do so.  It is not to label or offend people: just to muse.

One specific Bible account displays a young man who could have autism.  In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus meets a man with a demon possession.  Here are words Matthew Henry uses to describe him: “possessed with a dumb spirit”, he cannot talk, “is speechless”, “the spirit tears him”, “he foams at his mouth and gnashes with his teeth,” “he pines away, is worn to a skeleton, his flesh is dried away.”

Andrew relates to this guy because he does not talk.  For most of his life, he never had a seizure, but in 2015 he began to have them.  He does not waste away.  He eats plenty and gets good exercise.  If he had no restraints, he would probably walk out into traffic or into a proverbial fire.

Matthew Henry wisely explains that the demon-possessed man and Andrew are no different than anything else.  The man’s father told Jesus that he has had the demon since childhood.  “We are all by nature children of disobedience,  and in such the evil spirit works, and has done so from our childhood.”  He quotes Proverbs 22:15, “foolishness is bound in the heart of the child.”  “Nothing but the mighty grace of Christ can cast it out.” 

All people play with demons and follow into sin.  All sickness is a result of Adam and Eve’s fall.  You called Jesus to come heal a more visibly sick man, but you and the whole human race need healing, too.

John MacArthur preached a sermon on this passage.  It is archived on  He titles the sermon “All Things Possible.”  Jesus told the man’s father that, “all things are possible to him who believes.”  The dad tells Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

People live in a world where God is invisible, inaudible, and all they can see are the calamities, catastrophes, and tragedies brought about by death and destruction.  It takes divine intervention for people to believe that God has a plan, planned this from the beginning of creation, and will bring it to perfection in his timing.  I praise God for his patience as people ask him if he can heal knowing fully that he can.  The grace poured through Jesus helps people to believe in the most hopeless circumstances.

MacArthur cites many verses.  2 Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith not by sight.”  Galatians 2:20, “We live by faith in the Son of God.”  Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

That last verse convicts because before God saves us, we do not have faith, and we cannot please God.  We must ask Jesus to supply our belief, or we will never please God.

It is good to note that this episode in Jesus’s life immediately follows his trip to the Mount of Transfiguration.  This was the first time Jesus enjoyed the privilege of seeing his complete heavenly home since Mary gave birth to him as a baby.  He had not seen his home in more than thirty years, and now God the Father granted him the privilege to bask in an environment free from sin and imperfection before he made the trek toward his gruesome crucifixion.  He also got to talk to glorified saints: Moses and Elijah.  In his mercy, Jesus allowed Peter, James, and John to experience this glimpse into perfection.

In Chapter 8, Mark recalls the episodes where Jesus had to rebuke his disciples for their hard hearts.  During their days of learning under Jesus, they still struggled with trying to be the greatest and not believing that Jesus could feed 4000 even after he had already fed 5000.

He took Peter, James, and John, and opened up the heavens for them to erase any doubt from their minds that any of them would ever be as great as Jesus.  He brought them down the mountain only to see that the rest of his disciples still argued about being the greatest.  On top of that, a distraught father wanted them to heal his son.  In their self-perceived greatness, they could not do that, and they gave the Pharisees present more reason to doubt their Messiah and his power.

Here we are again, in Jesus’s absence.  He lives in heaven.  Many people who love Jesus have gone with him to enjoy that world.  We are left here to help the sick and cure people from their demons.  We cannot do that because we do not believe that Jesus can heal them, and we keep trying to look to our own greatness, and greatness that we do not have.  We do not have the faith to please God. 

I know in my own life that I have never healed Andrew.  Like the man’s father, I doubt that Andrew will find healing before Christ returns to earth.  When Jesus does come back, I know that he will bring Andrew to perfection.  Until then, I interact with Jesus’s followers.  Some do try to help but look to worldly methods for answers that only God has.  Others sit by and count Andrew as a mistake and useless to society.  Everybody knows Andrew, even if he goes by another name and even if it is not the same person that I write about.

In conclusion, the people who do work to help people with special needs should ask Jesus how they can look to Him in their quest.  How can we do that?

The people who do not see the least of these as worthy of their attention, especially ones that claim to follow Jesus, need to reevaluate their relationship with the Lord and see that our perfect Savior takes time for these people.  His true follows do the same.  Why do you not value life and consider yourself any less disabled than those?

John Calvin said, “God will never forsake us, if we keep the door open for receiving his grace.”  ( I hope that those words will encourage everybody who reads this.  God’s grace is available for both the Pharisee and the well-meaning disciple.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Lice or Louse: Because Truth Matters

Earlier this year a girl at the school was wearing a funny visor with googly eyes at the end of antennae.  I asked her what she was supposed to be and she said she was a lice.  I corrected her and told her "lice" was plural.  The singular is "louse".  She is a louse.  I hated calling her that because to me, she is anything but a louse.  But we argued if it was lice versus louse.  Well, I'm in my 30s and know a thing or two because I've read a thing or two.  Lice is plural for louse just like mice is plural for mouse, even though two houses are not hice.

Whether English is consistent or not, I continued my "lousy" point because the truth matters.  It may seem like a silly matter, but it is important to distinguish between a childish mistake to call oneself a lice and to admit that alone, one is just a louse.

It is important because of OED's word of the year: post-truth.  Now, I don't really take the Oxford English Dictionary seriously anymore because "w00t" was also a word of the year once, and spell-check still doesn't recognize it.  It also considers "selfie" and "binge-watching" to be words.  More and more we have a society that wants to be free from God and all truth because they want to redefine words and concepts their way.

But freedom from God and his wonderful salvation in Jesus just brings stronger bondage to sin and an eternity suffering God's just wrath in hell if life should end while a person is still in rebellion from God.

Indeed, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8:32.  It could be a simple truth like the distinction between singular louse and plural lice.  Or it could be a grave truth such as marriage is only between a man and a woman, and sex is to be only within the legally recognized marriage union.  It could be an enormous truth such as there is no other name under heaven and earth in which someone can be saved from their sins but under Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." John 14:6.  If Jesus uses the word, "the," then that is an enormous truth that matters.  It is a major distinction from the common error which says that people can come to God any way they want, even as atheists.  No, everyone has only one way to come to the Father, and it is by Jesus.  God did not have to provide his Son, but he did.  We must come to Jesus to be saved, and when you are saved, don't worry about your previous life.  The Holy Spirit will change you so that you don't desire your favorite sins any more.  It will be a life-long struggle, but he carries you the whole way until this life is ended.  Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lightlings plus more

This week, I did music with the children at break week, which means school is out at CCS and parents still work, so we still watch their kids and I still do music.  Since I have five days in a row to do something, I decided to turn The Lightlings, a children's book by RC Sproul, into a script and have the kids act it out.

I love RC Sproul like any good Reformed woman, but there is one thing missing in this book that I have loved for many year: any allegory pointing to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Sproul tells a fanciful tale about fairies, or lightlings, who turned their backs on the King of Light and made the world dark and how the King sent his Son as a baby lightling to save the world and bring light back.  But then, he just ends the story.

I think today, when I'm done with all the plays, I usually just do Hangman with the kids.  I will include lines from "Immortal, Invisible" by Laura Story which are so powerful.

"Immortal, yet you once died for me to pay my debt, to set me free.  Invisible, you will not always be 'cause you're coming to reign as our King."

The baby always existed as God the Son and will always live, yet he still became a man and gave his life for my sins so that I could receive his righteousness as a gift and be saved.

God also can't be seen by sinful humans or we will die, but God the Son was a visible human and we will see him again when he comes back to reign and to put an end to all sin and anyone who refused to love him by keeping his commands.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Heaven lesson from Sunday

Has anyone ever been to Disney World? 

At this point I ended up asking two boys and two girls to describe Disney World.

Does anybody doubt that these two people are telling the truth?  If you’ve been to Disney World, do you believe this person has as well?  Is there anyone here who does not believe that Disney World exists?

We believe in places like Disney World, even if we have never been.  We believe because we’ve seen photos and heard stories from friends.

Has anyone ever been to Heaven?  Have you seen pictures or talked to anyone who has been there?

Heaven is a real place.  The Bible tells us that it is real, but how do we know?  We’ve never been there.  No one alive has been there.  How can we trust that when we die, that we will see Heaven?

If you are a Christian, then you do know someone who has been there.  He’s there now, and he is preparing a place for all who believe in him.  Not only does Jesus live there, but he is the king and our creator.  We can believe heaven is real because we believe the truth about Jesus rising from the dead.

My mother had a baby girl when I was three who lived less than a month.  I knew and thought about death at a young age.  When I was about 7, my mother had mentioned something about heaven when we were watching a movie in Sunday School.  I asked if it was real, and she said yes.  So I believed so that I could see my sister someday.  I also believed in Jesus so I could go there.  When I was about 6th grade I began to believe in Jesus because I loved Jesus and it brought me through many friendship heartbreaks in school.  It also kept me going when my mother passed away 8 years ago.  Even though I am still sad, I have hope.

1 Corinthians 15:12-22

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Paul had written to a group of believers who doubted that people would rise from the dead.  Paul assured them that the dead will rise again.  We can believe this because we know Jesus rose from the grave.  Because Jesus lives, we know that we can live again.  And when God raised Jesus from the dead, he gave us the ultimate proof of the existence of heaven and himself that could be seen and touched by people.

All people, whether they believed in Jesus or not, will rise from the dead, and the ones who believed will live with Jesus not in heaven, but on the new earth when Jesus returns.  Those who did not give their lives to Jesus will suffer in hell forever.

As for now, Jesus is preparing a place called Heaven for believers who die.  There is no sin there; nobody will ever disobey God.  Also, there is no sickness or dying.  It is the very good creation that God made before Adam and Eve sinned.

Not everybody will be in heaven, but I hope that all the people in this room will be.  If you happily believe in the Lord Jesus and that he came and died and rose from the dead, then you will live with him forever when you die.  If you would like to know more about Jesus and how you can believe in him, you can always talk to me or Mr. Mike or Erica or Amy or any adult leader, and we will be glad to talk and pray with you.

Do you know one of the best things about heaven?  If you believe, then God has sent you his Holy Spirit to live in you.  You have access to Jesus, and you experience heaven now and don’t have to wait until you die.  No, you can’t see your dead relatives yet or live in a sin-free world, but you still have heaven now and must work to make this world more like heaven until the day you die or whenever Christ comes back.

Some people refuse to believe in heaven because they cannot see it.  You cannot find it on a map.  You can’t sail to it beyond the stars like they do in Star Trek.  How can we trust that Heaven is real?

Have you heard of air?  Can you see it?  How do you know it is real?

You can’t see air, but you can see what it does.  It makes bubbles in the water.  You can feel it move if the wind is blowing.  It can destroy houses if it becomes a tornado or a hurricane.
Why don’t people believe?

How can we know about heaven?  Romans 1:18-23
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

This passage says that God will judge people who refuse to believe in him because God has made it obvious that he exists through creation.  Mountains, oceans, stars, and people with their complex biological systems could not have come from nothing.  God made everything and made it for his glory, and the reason we don’t see him now is because Adam and Eve sinned and we have all been born in sin.  Sin separates us from God because we will die if we come to our perfect Lord on our own.  People refuse to believe in heaven because they love themselves and their sins and want to do what they want to do and not what God wants to do. 

Thank the Lord that sent Jesus as a baby who grew to be a man that lived the only perfect life ever.  Because of that, only he could die for our sins and live again.  And it is only through Jesus’s blood that we can come to God and not die in our sins.  You must believe in this to be saved from hell.  And when you believe, you will have the Holy Spirit who will change you so that you do not love your sin anymore and will want to obey God more.  Once again, I will be glad to pray with you and so will Mr. Mike or Mark or any other adult leader.

God’s not in the sky

In 1997, a band called Zilch wrote this song.  I would like to play it for you.

I thought about it for a while, and let in questions for the asking,
She asked if God was just a slob like us,
Maybe something there is lacking.

My God's not it the sky; he's here with you and I,
Just ask me if I die; my God's not in the sky.

Let me tell you all my thoughts on God, 'cause I just met with him this morning,
He gives me peace, so I can wear a smile while others drown in melancholy, bitter, sadness - all this man is.

My God's not it the sky; he's here with you and I,
Just ask me if I die; my God's not in the sky, yeah,
My God's not it the sky; he's here with you and I,
Just ask me if I die; my God's not in the sky.

And I know you feel the need to know for sure,
You want to find him; he will find you.

My God's not it the sky; he's here with you and I,
Just ask me if I die; my God's not in the sky, oh yeah,
My God's not it the sky; he's here with you and I,
Just ask me if I die; my God's not in the sky.

At the same time, there was a song called “One of Us” by a lady who does not love Jesus who asked, “What if God was one of us, a slob like one of us?”  It’s a very insulting song.  She totally missed the point of Jesus.  He was God, and he was completely human and was one of us.  Through the Spirit, he is still among us.  And that way, heaven is not in the sky but all around us.  We aren’t in it, but we experience it every day if we are Christians.  We can praise God every day that he did not leave us to die in our sins but sent Jesus to save us.