Tag Archives: Pharisee

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for Perfection?

God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.

They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  

They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!

 

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Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View

Barriers to Church Growth, #6 (Selfish Prayer)

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss several of these.

People think of prayer as being for themselves (Matt. 6:5).

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” – Matthew 6:5

Recently I preached from Romans 12:1-3 and verse 12. There is a great need for prayer that is not self-centered, but sacrificial and “other” focused.

The Hypocrite Prayer

It should always be considered a great honor to be called upon to lead a congregational prayer. When this happens, what is not needed is a long, drawn-out speech meant to make everyone else think the one praying is practicing for an oral theological exam. However, there are those who use this opportunity to do almost that.

How many times have you been in a church service when some “godly” gentleman was asked to give the closing prayer, the result being you fell asleep and hit your head on the pew in front of you? Many times the reason for a prayer like that is simply to make the one praying sound righteous. Is that not what the Pharisee did (Luke 18:11)? His intent was to be heard of men, not God.

On the other hand, if the intent is for God to hear, do we think He is going to be impressed with our seminary-level language? More often than not, when somebody goes on and on in a public prayer, God is no more impressed than the people in the audience…nobody is fooled. Fancy words can never hide a faulty character.

The Selfish Prayer

What I believe is more dangerous than the hypocritical prayer is the prayer that focuses only on one’s personal needs, not the needs of others. The reason these prayers are dangerous is that they cause us to be narrow-minded and self-centered. They are the opposite of sacrificial prayer.

Does anyone seriously think that Christians pray as much as they should? And when we do pray, how often do you think we pray for the needs of our neighbors, our friends, or even our enemies before we “name-and-claim” our own desires? My friends, this is a barrier to church growth. The lack of prayer is far more deadly to the church than the few who “stand in the corner of the streets” to be heard.

Sacrificial Prayer

In the first verse of Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begs us to “present [our] bodies” as living sacrifices. “Living sacrifices” don’t care about self, only the glory of the One to whom the sacrifice is made. And when we are transformed by “the renewing of [our] minds,” we have the mind of One who would lay down His own life for the sake of others.

When we look further down into this chapter it becomes obvious that we not to think of ourselves as better than others, but to minister to their needs as our own. With that in mind, when we come to verse 12, what kind of prayer should we be continuing in?

When we become more like Christ, our prayers become more like His. We don’t know every prayer Jesus prayed, but of the ones we have a record of, how many included requests for better jobs, a better car, a nicer home, better health, etc? More often than not, He prayed for the Church, for unity, for His Father to receive glory, for His Father’s will to be done.

How awesome it would be if we all spent more time on our knees in prayer? How powerful would it be if we sacrificed our time in prayer for self and focused on others within the body? What would happen if we would just spend time praying, not just for our own congregations, but for the Church, the body of Christ?

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity

Perfection Not Required

Jesus Said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

The Perfect Candidate

Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting.  They walk in, introduce themselves, and compare resumes.

pharisee and publicanWhich one do you think would be offered the position? I believe it would be the one who meets the average preconception of what every Christian fit for service should be. I believe the Pharisee, the one with the perfect resume and appearance, would be the first considered.

But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Unfortunately, there are many men and women in the church who feel inferior and useless because of their sinful and broken pasts. They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed in the past, but want to be forgiven and start new.  

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?

Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family – with all their problems – to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!


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Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Used

Two Men Prayed

You know the story of the Pharisee and the Publican, don’t you? Jesus told the story, as recorded in Luke 18:10-11

pharisee and publican“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

Imagine that instead of the temple, they walked into a search committee meeting.   A meeting of people designated with the task of finding, let’s say, a new pastor for a church (at least that’s the way we do it in the Baptist denomination).   They walk in, introduce themselves, compare resumes, and one gets the job.  Which one?  The one that fits the picture of what every Christian fit for service should be – perfect.

But God doesn’t just use perfect people; He uses those who’ve made mistakes, REAL people.  

However, within many churches there are men and women who feel inferior and useless because of  sinful and broken pasts.  They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to start anew.  

They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made.  They’re not Pharisees.

Dysfunctional Forefathers

Have you ever considered how dysfunctional the characters of Genesis were?

I read through the book of Genesis last week in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer, or TrueTV look tame!  

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.  This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.  Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.  Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.  Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.  Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.  The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.  It just goes on and on.  

Messed up, I am telling you!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3  “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can SURELY use ANYBODY!


4 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized, World View

Legalistic Fasting

I thought I’d make today a “flashback Friday.” Back in 2011 I wrote about something that is on a lot of people’s minds right now…fasting. One point I was trying to make back then, and one that is still applicable, is this: fast if you will, but don’t be legalistic about it.

Another point I was trying to make is that we should not be guilted in to doing something that is not entirely biblical. Fasting might be a great thing, but do it according to biblical standards and don’t just take the word of someone promoting a new diet book.

Now, I’m not infallible, so I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment below.

“…if we are hungry enough for God we won’t need anyone to tell us when or how to fast.”

Don’t be legalistic about fasting.

There, I said it. It’s off my chest. I can sleep better, now.

You see, a lot of folks in the Christian community act no differently than the Muslim community during the month of Ramadan. They treat fasting as something necessary to gain favor with God. They think fasting is somehow required to be spiritual. I disagree.

Matthew 6:16 is a verse commonly used way out of context.  In that verse Jesus said, “when you fast.” It was not a command, but a prelude to a command. He said, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.” Jesus wasn’t commanding anyone to fast, only to not be like the hypocrites who make themselves look all pitiful.

When Jesus said “when,” He was speaking on the assumption that fasting was a common practice with those in the audience. However, we must be careful to take note that it was not a command to fast, nor one that gave instructions. All He said was that when you do fast, don’t be as one of those who seek attention from men.

Lest we forget, there is nothing that we can do to earn the favor of God. His grace is unmerited. His love is not based on the prerequisite of starving one’s self once a year, month, or week. There is nothing wrong with fasting, but there can be serious flaws with our intentions.

False Biblical Examples

It is evil to teach formulas for health, wealth, and happiness based on select passages of Scripture. A good example would be the Prayer of Jabez teaching that says, “Pray this prayer and you will be wealthy.” But examples of fasting in the Bible are also used for exploitation. The first one that comes to mind is the Daniel Fast.

If you remember, in the first chapter of the book of Daniel, Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.” Because of Daniel’s courageous stand, based on his faith in God and the dietary laws given to Moses, God chose to work a miracle and honor the Hebrew children, in turn bringing glory to Himself.

Sadly, there are those who look at what Daniel did and say, “Hey, if I just eat vegetables and water (because meat and wine are obviously evil), then I will be guaranteed health, wealth, and favor.” This is a classic example of misapplication.

True Biblical Examples

When I read the Bible, there are 3 things that seem to be common with true fasting: 1) Desperation, 2) Mourning, and 3) God’s glory. Nowhere do I see it taught that it should be used as a way to become a better person, a more spiritual saint, or a healthier individual. Nowhere do I see it taught that if one did not regularly fast, then that person should be considered spiritually inferior.

What I DO see are examples of people who, when faced with insurmountable trials, impending defeat, or crushing repentance, found food to be the least of their concerns. I think of David when he was praying for his dying son (2 Samuel 12:16 & 17). I think of Nehemiah when he heard of the broken wall (Nehemiah 1:4, 6).  I think of Queen Ester faced with the annihilation of her people (Ester 4:3). I think of Ezra, who, fearing the name of the LORD would be tainted, called the people to a fast before God (Ezra 8:22). These are the common examples.

Too often we take something from Scripture and cheapen it to the point that it becomes a simple 4 or 5-point how-to bestseller. In our slightly inconvenienced world we resort to claiming the only thing truly desperate people had at their disposal. We say, “if you do this, then that will happen.” More often than not, when people in the Bible fasted, it was not because they wanted to – they couldn’t do anything else.

Modern Legalists

Then there are those who like to flaunt the fact that they are disciplined and spiritual – the modern “hypocrite.” They look with derision upon the one who has not fasted once a week. They proudly proclaim “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12), when in reality their fasting is nothing more than a supposed means to a selfish end. Because of their judgmentalism, they force others to be like them. They create a law to which they hold all others accountable, while in the darkness the truly humble is beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

One Last Thing.

There is no denying that we probably do not fast enough. As a matter of fact, according to Jesus (Matthew 17:21), many a spiritual battle has been lost because of a lack of fasting and prayer. That is the key – prayer.

Fasting without prayer is nothing more than scheduled Anorexia. The whole point of fasting is to seek the face of God, laying all other allurements aside, such as food (even marital relations – 1 Cor. 7:5). It is not that we need to fast; we need God. If fasting is what it takes, then that is what we should do. But one thing is for sure, if we are hungry enough for God we won’t need anyone to tell us when or how to fast.

Let me know what you think. Do you fast? How long? Why? Results? 

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Filed under Food, God, legalism, worship

Did I Preach That?

How many of you remember Steve Urkel? He was a fictional character on the ABC/CBS television sitcom Family Matters. Aside from being annoying and always capable of messing things up, he had a unique catchphrase: “Did I do that?

UrkelI was reminded of Urkel when I happened to listed to a sermon I preached last year. You see, I had asked Siri to randomly play music on my iPhone while I was driving (I wasn’t talking). After a few random songs came and went, a sermon I preached a year ago queued up.

I posted this message a while back, but I am going to do it again. As I listed to it I almost had the feeling of listening to a totally different person – not me. It was almost like, “Did I preach that?” But, that’s how the Spirit works sometimes. I may have not needed that message for myself until just yesterday.

The following sermon was recorded while we were remodeling our sanctuary. We held services in our gym. This sermon was second in a series through the book of Ephesians. The part of the sermon that really spoke to me this time was the part towards the end…”But God…

“The Holy Spirit in Ephesians”

To bring you up to date, I am now doing a study through 1 Corinthians on Sunday evenings at Riverside. The following was preached  on March 23, 2014.

1 Corinthians 2 (Mysteries)

As I see it, I may never be able to travel the world preaching God’s Word, but as long as we still have the internet I’m gonna take advantage of this opportunity. I’m not the greatest preacher, and certainly not the only one you can access online, but at least I’m getting the “message” out to some, right?

God bless you, friends. Have a great Lord’s Day!

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Filed under Preaching

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for a Pastor

Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting (like we have in the Baptist denomination).  They walk in, introduce themselves, compare resumes, and one gets the job.

pharisee and publicanWhich one do you think would be hired? Answer (typically): The one that fits the picture of what every Christian fit for service should be – perfect.

But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.  They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!


4 Comments

Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View