The Pharisee Shield

I read an article in a magazine I get the other day about Pharisees. The majority of the article I can;t say i really agreed with, but his overarching premise was one of I have pondered for a very long time. His main point was that Christianity if full of people who know very little about what a pharisee is, but feel they are fully capable of labeling someone as a pharisee with their very limited knowledge. The result is much false labeling of pharisees.

I see this happen a lot. I think it is becoming a bigger problem in the church today. It has almost become one of the latest witch hunts within the church. Anyone who resembles anything close to pharisee and legalism is stoned with verbal abuse and shunned by others. They are judged for being supposed judgers. It’s ironic really. When someone feels judged it is often because they are backed into a corner. They realize they have no real Biblical argument to make in their defense so they twist whatever Scripture they can by judging the other person in saying they are being to judgmental. What? Have we really become this petty? I am afraid so.

Legalism is a legitimate problem. The pharisees had some real issues. Jesus had not problem speaking out against their behavior, but Jesus also spoke an awful lot about holiness. He spoke an awful about turning form your sin. He spoke an awful lot about living like a Christian is supposed to live. Jesus cared about your actions. He just cared that your heart and your actions lined up. They both had to be in sync.

That is the problem though. The pharisees cared about the actions, but the heart issues were never dealt with. There were still issues of pride. There were still issues in the thought life. There were still issues of rage and malice. They acted the right way, but their heart was really messed up. There is a flip side though. If your heart is in the right place then you will live out your life a certain way. Don’t mistake this for living perfect. To many people hear this argument and think they are being told to live perfect. We do sin. It happens. How do we respond in our sin though? How do we respond when someone confronts us on our sin? Do we call them a pharisee? Chances are we are being the bigger pharisee in that moment then.

Christ didn’t ignore the issues on the outside. He didn’t ignore the issues of our actions. He just started from the inside and worked his way out. One affects the other. I have to wonder how Jesus would feel about our witch hunt on legalism today. I get that it exists. I get that it is a problem. I don;t like legalism. It gives us a bad name. Legalism is not confrontation of sin though. It is not when one believer sees a genuine sin in the life of another believer and helps him to be aware of it. Let’s stop playing games. You can’t hide behind the pharisee argument. You misquote Jesus in those moments. I don’t know about you, but that is a mistake I would not want to be making.

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Timeout.

Remember playing tag? I’m not talking about that game of tag you played last week as someone who is way to old in college to play tag, but rather the games of tag form childhood. You would run like something out of the wild free of caution and fear. You ran out of instinct. Every turn you made was made in the moment rather than out of any strategic placement like a game of chess. These instinct turns inevitably put you in a predicament of being trapped against a wall with your opponent clearly prepared to strike with zero hope of escape for you.

Out game the dirtiest trick in the book. “TIMEOUT!” Maybe it was an imaginary piece of dust in your eyes, or that rock from Neverland stuck in your shoe that just had to come out in that exact moment. The timeout would give you the opportunity to restrategize and catch your breath’ You could restart the game at a moments notice to get the edge for your daring escape. Yes, the timeout was the most powerful tool in your arsenal.

We grow up, and often discover that life ends up feeling like one giant game of tag. We often continue to run around out of instinct as we did as children. We often eventually found ourselves trapped by circumstances. That attractive and insanely inappropriate girl starts to flirt with you and get your mind going in directions it has not business going. Where is my timeout? That “idiot” who just can’t stop being immature and pushing your buttons after a very tiring and long night. Where is my timeout? The kids just wont go down and your temper is flaring up. Where is my timeout? That church member gets a self righteous attitude and needlessly rebukes you for what feels like the countless time. Where is my timeout.

I could go on and on with examples that people face everyday, but the point is clear. We all find ourselves in situation where all we want to do is just call a timeout. We want the pause button. We want to stop things to give ourselves back an edge. Life doesn’t work that way though. We are often forced to react quickly to our circumstances.

How actively are you placing God’s word in your heart? We don’t always get a timeout to reassess the situation. Sometimes we need to be able to respond in the moment. I find this to be difficult for me lately in regards to my temper. Without a timeout in situations I find myself more irritable then I should be at the circumstances around me. This is a problem. This puts me in a position of responding in the wrong way.

We don’t always get a long time to rely on God’s strength. This means we can’t just wait until the quick moments hit to walk with Him. Walking with Christ isn’t just a daily task. Walking with Christ is a step by step task. It’s time is not merely filled by days, but by moments. So what about you? What will happen when you can’t call a timeout?

The Outsider

My posts have been far to scattered lately. I’m still trying to sort out my new routine s I am in training for work. My time in God’s Word has thankfully been able to keep up though, and I would like to share what ahs been on my mind from that lately.

I was listening to the book of 1 Thessalonians the other day. The first two chapter really jumped out to me this time around. It was not so much one specific verse as much as it was an overall theme. It is a them I think we see all throughout Paul’s letters. It is also a them that I believe goes largely ignored by people who talk about Pauls’ letters. It gets ignored because its application requires vulnerability. It requires opening yourself up to others in a way that makes use feel uncomfortable. The them is a pretty simple one really. What I find in these two chapter is just how much joy there is in investing in people.

How often do we hear that concept today? How often have you thought about the joy and importance of investing in people? We hate that concept. People are unreliable. They hurt and gossip. They slander us. They betray us. They break our hearts. People are ones who run into schools and shoot children, fly planes into buildings, bomb innocent people, and are simply all around evil. How are we supposed to invest in a race that is plagued with depravity?

This is exactly what Paul did though. He remained heavily invested in people. sometimes this lead to painful heartache, but it also made way for opportunities of immense joy. It came down to the method in which Paul invested in people. He didn’t invest in just the person. He also invested in the potential use God had for them. Paul invested in what God could do in their lives.

We don’t like this idea of investing in people because it requires community. It requires exposing ourselves in ways that aren’t comfortable. This is especially difficult for men I think. People have asked me what the hardest part of marriage is for me, and I think maybe that answer changes form time to time. I know in the beginning the hardest part was being willing to open myself up to my wife more. We don’t like being exposed because that means we are making ourselves vulnerable.

Community requires sacrifice. It requires us to tear down our barriers and leave everything on the floor. If you’re not careful you can become incredibly cynical. That is why you see so many cynical attitudes in ministry and the church. People keep getting burned to much. The environment requires us to expose ourselves, but the results are often painful.

I think we can l say we have been given reasons from experience on why we should not invest in people. We have been given reasons to believe we should stop opening ourselves up to others. Our experience would make it very easy for us to shut ourselves off from the world, and even from the church. many have done so and never looked back. I believe this is a mistake though. It is true there is great risk in community, but there is even greater reward. Sharing life amplifies its purpose and pleasure. Community gives us opportunities to weep with those weeping and rejoice with those rejoicing. It enhances our experiences.

What can the church body do to make investing in people and community the experience it deserves to be? I think it starts by opening itself up. The church wasn’t meant to be a bunch of cliques. It wasn’t meant to be distinguish by single viewpoints or childhood friendships. Church didn’t use to be like that. Church used to be for the outsider. It used to be for the person who was burned by the whole world for believing in the death of a man who claimed to be a Messiah, and was even crazier to believe that this proclaiming Messiah rose from the dead. It was for the outsider who was hated by the world because he believed in the consequences of sin. He believed in the failure of false gods. He believed in true redemption. He was the outsider.

It was ok though because the church was made up of outsiders. It was made up of murderers, liar, thieves, rapists, gossipers, poor, rich, and al the like with one single common denominator. They all believed in Jesus Christ and were hated by the world for doing so. It was ok to be an outsider because there was still a place of belonging. You didn’t need to grow up in that small town to be able to find a place of community. You didn’t need to know the right people in order to feel like you belonged. You didn’t need to know anyone to still feel like you were at home. Your were with family.

What are we going to do to get back to that point today? How are we going to get back to making church a community rather than politics, cliques, rules, and such? There are many church bodies who have realized just that, and have invested in actual community. What will we do as an individual thought when that outsider walks through the door? Will they leave still feeling like an outsider?

A Kingdom Without Walls

We hear a lot about the walls surrounding the New Jerusalem. We hear all kinds of things about the gates and majesty of this new city. We rarely hear about an element to this city that often gets me just as excited. We rarely take about a quality that is absent in heaven. We rarely talk about the walls that are missing.

It’s not surprising really. We don’t hear it being discussed because it makes too many of us uncomfortable. Walls provide security. They give us boundaries. They provide a clear definition of territory. Neighbors have fences to clearly outline where one person’s property ends and another’s begins. Walls provide identity.

We don’t discuss this though, because where we are going these walls are absent. We have done so well here on earth to build these nice big walls. The walls of the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Assemblies of God, etc. These walls make us feel more comfortable. They are a clear way to distinguish the differences between us.

We are in for a surprised in the new kingdom. There are no walls inside the new kingdom. There are no fences to spate neighbors form one another. There are no districts to separate people of opposing views from their earth life. It’s going to be a melting pot.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking this is not that big of a deal. Unfortunately I feel this will come as a shock to many in Christ’s church today. It would be like in the days were racism ran rampant in our country and a white man found himself being forced to live in the same house as a black man. It would throw him off. He would think it is wrong. He would believe it was justifiably unethical.

Denomination hatred is the churches new racism. We’ve built these walls to clearly distinguish from each other. Don’t dare go across those walls. It’s unacceptable according to your district. We are all in for a shock in God’s kingdom.

The hope is that this attitude is slowly changing. We have generations cropping up who see the folly in this method. We have old leaders hungry to unite as God’s church to bring change to this world. We have people in these churches who want to make everyone their neighbor including those of opposing denominations. We have people who are ready to tear down these walls.

“Mat the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 15:5-6.

God’s a Boss

I was listening to this chapter yesterday to get a little boost of energy form God’s Word. Funny how often you can go through a book, and the suddenly discover a chapter in it. Maybe it was because this might have been the first time I heard this chapter being read, or maybe I was simply just looking for something in it this time, but this chapter really jumped out to me.

Psalm 29 can only best be described in three simple words. God’s a boss. I don’t mean to that irreverently. I always try and avoid along and things of that sort to describe God, but in our culture today this phrase best describes this Psalm to me. He is incredible. He is overpowering. He is terrifying. He is beyond it all. God is just all around a beast.

Let me use it ins words that the more traditional crowd will be comfortable with. God is powerful. he is almighty. He is Lord. He is sovereign. He is awesome. He is amazing. He is immortal. He is beyond our comprehension. God is just incredible.

I keep using different words to say the same thing, but that is really because Psalm 29 does the same thing. It really pumped me up yesterday. Then you get to verse 10. “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood”. Hold up. What did David just write? This statement really jumped out to me from this chapter. It struck a deep chord with me. Many scholars would say that “he flood” referred to in this chapter is the big one with Noah. That is the only situation in which it has been used up to that point in Scripture, and it would seem to fit well enough.

David is saying that God sat enthroned over the global flood. That flood that killed mankind aside from Noah and his family. The flood that wiped things out on earth in order to start over. God was enthroned over that. It was His call to make. It was his choice to cast out judgment on the earth. What you get out of this chapter is that God is powerful enough to do anything. We are insignificant next to Him. Nature itself is incapable of disobeying His will. God is the ruler.

The psalm ends with a hope of God blessing His people. It seems weird, but before this I had never really thought much about what compelled the psalmists to ask for God’s blessings. Have you? Have you ever considered the motivations of people to pray to God for blessings? I’m not talking about the superficial motivation based out of their desires to be blessed. This is something much deeper. It is like when a child goes to his parents for something. maybe it is a toy, or maybe something much more basic like food or water. perhaps help getting to something. Why does the child ask them? Why not ask the dog? Why not ask another child? The child understand that their parents have the power to grant their request. They are capable of doing what is needed.

Why does Psalm call out to God for blessings? I suppose some could look at it form the angle of fearing God, and the end of this Psalm is a simple hope that God will be on their side in order to avoid His wrath, but I think the reason is much sweeter and innocently childish in nature. David is calling for blessings from God because he knows God is capable of delivering.

If we are having trouble calling out to God for help then maybe this is where we need to start. We need to remember that just as God has the power over nature and to bring floods, he also has the power to meet our needs. God’s capable of answering us with what we need.

Enjoying Life

Watching fireworks is a common event for the 4th of July. My family and I were able to see a fireworks display to celebrate another 4th full of the heat of summer and hamburgers. I have many memories of past fireworks. When I was a boy we used to go into D.C. to watch an absolutely spectacular fireworks display on the 4th. It was always quite a site to behold with the intense fireworks, empowering music, and a finale that would make your ears ring for the rest of the night. I’ve always enjoyed watching the fireworks.

This year has been a bit different. I’m a dad now, and like many thing, fatherhood changes your fireworks viewing experience. I found myself spending much less time watching the fireworks, and far more time watching my son watch the fireworks. It was a different and even more enjoyable experience then the past fireworks displays over the years. Seeing the look on his face throughout the display filled me with a sense of happiness. There were moments of fear for him, but for the most part he was thoroughly enraptured by it all. He was enjoying himself, and I was enjoying watching him enjoy himself.

I think God operates very similarly with us. Scripture tells us over and over that God is out heavenly father. He possess many of those qualities, traits, and impulses that any other father would. I can’t help but believe that he enjoys watching us enjoy life. He finds satisfaction in our enjoyment of what He has given and done.

This is not to say there will never be times of fear, strife, crisis, and trials. Those moments in life also serve a purpose, but I think it can be easy for us to forget that God wants us to actually enjoy the life we are living. Enjoying life is honoring to God. It pleases him. What loving child does not want to please his father? The funny thing is that this is one of the easiest ways we can please our heavenly father, but we so rarely do it.

What keeps you from enjoying life? Is it those hardships and trials? Is it bitterness that ahs snuck into your heart? Have you allowed pessimism to sit on a throne in your heart? Have you just grown weary and tired? Have you become apathetic? What is keeping you form enjoying life? To be more direct, what is keeping you from pleasing your heavenly father?

Ezra fireworks

A Lesson From Egypt

This post will be short, and sweet as my mind is tired, and probably does not have much capacity for witty thinking. Most of you have probably heard at least a little bit of the craziness currently going on in Egypt. The military has given their new president an ultimatum. News stations are talking heavily about another uprising that will overthrow the government. We were just here though weren’t we? Didn’t we just witness this story in Egypt?

Maybe some of you are thinking the same thing I did when I first heard. Let’s hope they pick the right guy this time. They have been under horrible oppression. Their last leader needed to be removed. That realization reached critical mass to the point where a whole nation stood up and cried out in defiance. Their anger and hatred over something that legitimately deserved to be hated swallowed them up into a crowd prepared for action. The only problem is they did not seem to look to far ahead. They failed to look to much past the future of a tyrant ruling over them. This left a hole that needed to be filled. It was filled by what seems to be another tyrant.

We can’t really blame them though. We do this all the time with sin. We become so obsessed with a particular sin we have that we engage all of our power and ability to removing that sin form our lives. We end up with an empty hole. If we are not prepared to fill that emptiness properly then it will just get filled with another sin. We need to be replacing the holes in our life with Christ.

I hope Egypt looks past their anger this time, and looks to see how they can go beyond removing a problem and actually replacing it with a healthy solution. I pray even harder for a Christ’s church who is full of people in a rage towards their sin that their obsession with its removal only opens the door for more opportunities for Satan. Let us look beyond the battle, and fight strategically to survive the war.