Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 3 of 3)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

 

In recent weeks, we have seen North Carolina take a beating in the press with regard to House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill. The latest in the vilification of North Carolina has been actions by the NCAA, the governing body of college-level athletics, and by the ACC (the Atlantic Coast Conference), whose headquarters happen to be within the borders of North Carolina in Greensboro. The Atlantic Coast Conference is made up of member schools, Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, Wake Forest University, Virginia Polytechnic & State University, and the University of Virginia, and member in all sports except football, Notre Dame University. The conference, headquartered in the heart of Tobacco country in Greensboro, NC has decided to join the ever-increasing bandwagon of sporting events that have been removed from North Carolina by removing all of its conference sports championships that had been planned for the next year in the state.

 

Although I am a Clemson fan and have been proud of our heritage as one of the few schools (in this day and age where schools change their conference affiliation like I change underwear) that has remained in this conference since its formation in 1953, this decision is so disheartening. Clemson has had chances to leave the conference on two occasions but has decided to stay because of loyalty to the conference. Although I think it would be better from a football standpoint for Clemson to join the SEC, they have remained loyal. I often defend the ACC to my SEC friends. I am angered when the level of competition in our football is questioned. Although the ACC has four teams ranked in this week’s Top 25 rankings and three of those are ranked in the Top 10 (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville), we still must defend the strength of our league. Although we rank only second to the SEC in the number of NFL draftees over the past five years, we still have to defend our league. And, I have done so with passionate fervor. However, I must say that I feel betrayed this morning by the very league I often staunchly defend.

 

The irony of it all is that the ACC, as well as the NCAA, do not seem to grasp their own hypocrisy in this situation. Although the ACC has come out in favor of unisex bathrooms in catering to those with claimed gender identity crises, it remains committed to holding separate men’s and women’s sports championships in sports common to both sexes. If you go to their website, www.theacc.com, and click on the “Sports” link at the top of the page, you will note the blatant segregation of men’s and women’s sports. The same would be found in a browse of the NCAA’s website. So, it seems that the objections of the ACC from the get-to to HB2 is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally hypocritical. Why not allow men to compete in women’s sports and vice versa and just remove the labels of men and women altogether. You and I both know why. It is because of safety concerns not only on the field but off it. Women could easily be gravely injured by competing with men. And, certainly, women would, in general, desire not to be required to undress in front of men.

 

The motivation for this removal of sporting championship from the state where the conference is headquarted is nothing more than political bandwagoning. If the ACC is so committed to principles to which it says it was committed to yesterday, why not move the ACC headquarters out of North Carolina? Would that not show how committed they are to the unisex concept? The ACC owes much its heritage to the tobacco industry that has long supported its core North Carolina member institutions. Why not protest that, too, by moving out of North Carolina? As Franklin Graham said yesterday, why not drop Dr. Pepper as title sponsor from the ACC football championship game. Dr. Pepper readily and willing operates in countries where transgenderism and homosexuality is actually a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. Why not put your mouth where you money is, ACC? The hypocrisy is astounding. Standing on wagon with tobacco on it while on one side of the wagon saying you boys have your championships over here and you girls have your championships over there, and then turning around and taking a gulp of Dr. Pepper and shouting that inclusiveness is our thing so we disdain the very state in which we are headquartered and have no intention of leaving. It’s all about gaining political currency as well as seeking to maintain actual currency. This has less to do with conviction and more to do with perception. I am dismayed. North Carolina actually had the common sense to make state law that would supersede a city ordinance passed by its largest city, Charlotte.

 

Jumping on the bandwagon, ACC, and caving to what you perceive as the populist wave does not make what you did yesterday morally correct. God did create us as men and women for a reason. If He had wanted us to blur the lines between manhood and womanhood, he would not have made the division so distinct. Such sexual identity crises should be met with loving and compassionate counseling not glorifying it as normal behavior. However, we are glorify and normalizing what we have no idea how it will impact society for years to come. It is like though we have the capability to create nuclear weapons we as society have chosen to not use them anymore. Just because we CAN be transgender does not mean we SHOULD not only from a God-ordained standpoint but also simply from a social chaos standpoint.

 

Yet, here we are, the bandwagon of lunacy and hypocrisy grows larger each day. North Carolina will be vilified to the point of having to repeal their law. The bandwagon pressure will grow and grow but as the bandwagon falls of the cliff, they will say they are supporting liberty and quash anyone who has a different opinion. The bandwagon was joined by the ACC yesterday, the biggest hypocrite of all. My dad used to say to me that “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” That’s the very question that I ask here.

 

It is that idea of having to choose between popular opinion and that which is of God is the thing that I thought of when I read this rather extended passage for the third and final time today, Numbers 16:1-50:

 

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

 

4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

 

38 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

 

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”

 

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

 

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

 

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

 

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

 

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

 

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

 

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

 

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

 

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

 

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

 

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

 

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

 

The Israelites were told to not even touch the belongings of the wicked people. In this case, doing so would have shown sympathy to their cause and agreement with their principles. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were directly challenging Moses and God. Moses clearly stated what God intended to do the rebels. He did this so everyone would have to choose between following Korah and following Moses, God’s chosen leader. When God asks us to make a fundamental choice between siding with that which is not of God and that which is of God, we should not hesitate but commit ourselves 100% to the Lord’s side, no matter the ramifications of public opinion.

 

We should choose God’s side over human opinion each and every day. When we begin compromising our beliefs to make our beliefs more palatable to the world then we begin destroying the integrity of the Christian faith. At the same token, we are not to blow up buildings and such things to get our point across. We are simply to choose God’s way in peaceful and loving ways. We cannot jump on the bandwagon and say this thing that the Bible said is OK now in the 21st century but that has been wrong eternally. God does not change. What He says was wrong a million eternities ago is still wrong today. Just because we now call a gorilla a kitten does not mean the kitten is not fundamentally and in every way still a gorilla.

 

I do not wish to sound harsh here but the bandwagon mentality has taken over our country. We as Christians must lovingly stand against the tide of public opinion and stand with God. We must stand with North Carolina in a very public way. We must stand with them and not cave to public opinion and fear of losing corporate dollars as the ACC did yesterday. May we have the same conviction to the principles of God and with the same love for others as Jesus did when He died on the cross. That loving necessity meant pain and suffering and public ridicule but He was executing the Father’s will and that was the most important thing to Him. May we stand with Christian principles with the same conviction knowing that God loves the very people that are spitting in our faces.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 23:13-36

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

There is a country song that comes to mind when I read this passage. It is “How Do Ya Like Me Now” by Toby Keith. It is a song a boy who was in love with a girl in high school but she was too popular to notice him and he was a fringe kind of guy. He was one of those artists that marched to his own tune and she was the prom queen type. She made fun of him when he left to go to Nashville to become a country singer. Now, she is married to a wealthy man she never sees and spends most of her time alone with her small kids. She hates what her life has become. Now, Toby Keith’s song is playing on the radio and he has become a big country music star. How do ya like me now? Although the song has nothing to do with the passage, the title of that song is what I want to play with today. How do ya like me now? Keep that question in mind when you read this passage, Matthew 23:13-38:

 

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [a]

 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

 

 Wow, Jesus really laid the wood to these guys! No holes barred! Tell it like it is. This is like a preacher on fire and not caring about hurt feeling. He is laying the truth on them. It’s like a hip-hop artist speaking truth and dropping the microphone on the floor as he says his last word and walks off stage. It is Toby Keith saying, “How Do Ya Like Me Now?” Jesus was not holding back in this scene. He was laying down truth track by track, woe by woe. How do ya like me now?

Being a religious leader in first century Israel was very different from being a preacher or religious leader today. Israel’s history, culture, and daily life was centered around their relationship with God. The religious leaders were the best known and most powerful people in Israel. Jesus made these stinging accusations because these leaders were more concerned about maintaining or gaining more power, money and prestige than they were about leading people into a better, deeper relationship with God. He blasted them for their religiousness. They were so caught up in the details of their own laws and regulations that they completely missed God, to whom our need for His mercy is brought out by the Law. A religion requires performance and outward signs of obedience while missing the need for inner renewal and humble submission to God. Jesus was saying that they were outwardly appearing to be clean but they were full of pride and were not submitted to God on the inside. Jesus condemned them for outwardly appearing upright and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed. They were putting on a show but there was no life change on the inside. How do ya like me now?

Many today want Jesus to be the easy Jesus. We want Jesus to be all love and forgiveness and not any judgment. What do you do with this passage if you think that way? We want our Jesus to accept everything that we do as OK. We want to keep seeking the things that we want to seek and we want our Jesus to be OK with that. We want to continue to pursue our own desires whether it is wealth, possesssions, behaviors that are inconsistent with the totality of Scripture. We don’t want our Jesus to judge us for anything that we do. We just want a “stoner” Jesus who just says, “whooooaaaaa, duuuude, it’s your party maaaaannnn!” We just want a Jesus that lets us live our life the way we see fit and He will forgive us for it. We can continue to pursue things that we think are important. We think that just because we are doing it, that makes it OK in Jesus’ eyes. He is all love and no judgment! But what do you do with this passage? Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders for not seeking to obey God but rather pursuing their own desires and justifying it as OK through their rules and regulations. They made outward appearances more important than the soul. They made justifying their behaviors as being OK with God because of x, y, and z. Jesus might as well be preaching the woes to us today because are we not just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Are we not a society that wants to justify our seeking our own desires as being OK with God because we want a Jesus who accepts and forgives everything. We have to rip these pages right out the Bible if that is the Jesus we believe in! Woe to us for the things that we think are important. Woe to us for not living for eternity. Woe to us for saying that God’s Word can be a pick and choose thing. Woe to us for trying to change God’s Word to fit the new cultural norms. Woe to us for separating the God of the Old Testament from the Jesus of the New. Woe to us for justifying our lifestyles as OK because the Bible was written for a people and a time that does not apply to current culture. Woe to us for being just like the Pharisees! Let’s keep on living like Jesus will accept and forgive our continued sins in the areas of our life that we do not want to submit to His authority. One day we will see judgment in Him for those who try to justify our behaviors while seemingly, outwardly being “good people”!

It reminds me of the end of the movie, Schindler’s List, where the war is about over and he is saying God by to his dear friend and accountant. He hugs him and cries as he looks at his watch. Schindler says that He could have saved another Jew with that watch. He looks at his car and says I could have saved ten Jews with that car! Why did I care at all about any of these things? None of it matters. All that matters is that I could have saved more Jews than I did. If only I did not care about these things. Although Schindler saved countless thousands of Jews from certain death during World War II, he could not be consoled for the ones that he could not save. Are we so concerned with things of this life and our own desires that are in opposition to God’s commands that we miss the real deal. We miss the truth?

One day, one of two things are going to happen. We will meet our death and receive our just judgment at that time or Jesus will return in the eastern sky and the game is up for all of us! We will meet the moment of truth. We will meet our Savior and He will judge us for our relationship with God. Did we humbly obey Him or did we try to justify our behaviors as being OK. There will be no wiggle room on that day. There will be the moment of truth. Jesus will judge us. That’s right. Jesus will judge us as to whether we gladly submitted our lives to Him. No justifications. No excuses. Just the truth. That will be the real Jesus that we have been trying to avoid. How do ya like Him now?

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples

Have you ever had someone just get up in your face and tell you the truth? Often, it is the truth that you do not want to hear? When other people either won’t tell you the truth because they fear it will hurt your feelings or they just want to avoid the conflict. But, there is that one friend. You know! The one who really cares about you and is willing to risk your friendship to set you straight. Jesus is being that friend in this passage. He is in our face. He is telling us the truth. He is willing to risk our friendship with Him to set us straight.

As we draw to the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets more and more direct and to the point with his commentary. No parables. Just straight up, in your face words of spiritual reality. Words of authority and his place as judge. In this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me: you evildoers!’

What is Jesus saying to us here? Let’s bottom line this thing. I think Jesus is saying one central thing…only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter God’s Kingdom on judgment day. This passage is all about obedience to God, the master of the universe. As Matthew Henry says in his textbook series, “Commentary on the Scriptures”, when speaking of this passage, “He shows, by a plain remonstrance, that an outward profession of religion, however remarkable, will not bring us to heaven”…

Henry goes on to say, “He is an excellent Christian on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun shines upon the earth on the first day of the week, all his religion is awake, but, alas, he is a very queer Christian on a Monday, and a remarkably bad Christian on Saturday nights. Many people keep their piety folded up and put away with their best clothes, and they only give it an airing on the Sabbath. Their Bible is to be seen under their arm on Sunday, but on a Monday, where is that Bible? Well, not at the man’s right hand, as a perpetual companion. Where are the precepts of Scripture? Are they in the shop? Are they in the house? Alas the golden rule has been left in church to lie dusty in the pews until next Sunday. Religion is not wanted by some people on a weekday, it might be inconvenient. Many there be who sing psalms of praise to God but confine their praises to the congregation; as to praising Him in their heart at home, it never occurs to them. Their whole religion lies inside the meeting house walls, or comes up at certain times and seasons during the day, when the family is called in to prayer.”

Wow, can’t put it any plainer than that. After reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary it is very clear that Jesus is saying that we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Jesus is saying that only the only who does the will of my Father will enter into heaven. There is no list here of things you have to do in life. No need for flashy public displays of your “love of Jesus”. Do the will of the Father. That’s it. Plain and simple. Without that, you are not in the Heaven club!

How do we do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? I think that we must answer the second question first and answer it this way. The will of the Father is different from our own human fleshly will. Thus, to do the Father’s will is to give up our own will. To give up our own will, our own control over our lives, is an act of obedience led by faith. Just as a child obeys his parents out of his faith that his parents will not let them come to harm so is giving up our will to that of God. The will of the Father is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to do more for others than we do for ourselves, love without expectation of return, loving the unloveable, being selfless instead of selfish, serving others without expecting a reward for it, never being ashamed of placing God at the kingship of our lives, being willing to die for our belief in God. These are the things of God’s will. These are the things of a full-on commitment to God. These are the hard things.

Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian, wrote this on the subject, “Do believers ever always do God’s will? Sadly the answer is no. We are not yet glorified. We still possess the fallen flesh. Clearly, genuine believers from time to time choose their will over God’s will, but when they do, as disobedient children of God, they subject themselves to the disciplining hand of their Father. In contrast, those individuals that Jesus is describing in this passage continually, habitually and as their “normal” pattern of life choose their will over God’s will. In short, what Jesus is describing is not “perfection” but “direction” of one’s life as evidenced by one’s daily thoughts, words and deeds – believers while not perfect (perfection) in this life are headed toward heaven (direction), although from time to time they do live like they are headed in the opposite direction!”

Taking Spurgeon’s thought a little further, if we are from fallen flesh, then what hope do we have to continually do the Father’s will. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, then we are hopelessly unable to complete a life of doing the Father’s will. Going back to Romans, Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, as our parents punished us for living outside their will, we suffer the results of our own living out of alignment with their will. We suffer the results of our sin. However, through the redemptive love of Jesus who died for our sins, we can be reconciled to God. Just as our parent’s wipe our slate clean and reinstate us to their favor, so does the redemptive grace of Jesus.

So, what does all this mean? To me, it means intentionality. It is choices. It is a mindset change. We must intentionally seek to do the will of God. To intentionally seek to do the will of God, we must give up our will. Willful children suffer when they purposely live their lives outside the will of their parents. So, we as God’s children must give guidance of our lives up to God. We must willingly seek His favor and His will. It is only when we see how lucky we are to be given good standing with God through Jesus’ redemption that we willingly take our own will off the table. We want to do God’s will. We live our life in that direction. Our actions of compassion, love and forgiveness and mind choices that demonstrate that direction. Any child no matter how angry and willful ultimately wants their parent’s approval and will glory in it when they get it. So, are we as God’s children! We willingly submit to his leadership of our lives. We want to represent him in the world. We want the world to know that through the covering of His Son that we have new life. We are so happy in that we want to do more, we want to be more for God. So happy in the new lease on life we have been given – taking us away from the life of selfishness and the pit that it dropped us in. Just as the Prodigal Son found himself in a pit with pigs (willing to eat the husks that people had rejected) realized that he could return to his Father. When he returned to his father, he was willing to be a lowly servant to just be in his dad’s house. His father rather gave him his place back in the house as his son. Although the Bible does not go on with the Prodigal story, but can you imagine the immense joy felt by the son who days before was in the pit. That’s how we feel as a true Christ follower, yes, father I want to do your will … anything you ask I will do … whatever you say I will follow it … I know from my life experience that you know best for me.

Those who say, “Lord, Lord” but yet live in a different direction are deluding themselves. We may think that going to church at the coolest church in town is enough. We may think that listening to and singing along with the most modern music with concert quality sound systems is enough. We may think that listening to a message by the hippest pastor around is all we need. However, if there is no salvation, there is nothing. If there is no life change, there is nothing. There is an old saying that goes, “They praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Just sitting in church on Sunday at the “in church” in town without life change, without salvation, without living a submitted lifestyle is just saying “Lord, Lord” and Christ will say He never knew us. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we do this? We must truly accept Christ as our Savior and He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Nothing can replace or imitate salvation. The Holy Spirit then puts on His work gloves and begins to work in us daily. We must begin daily, hourly, minute by minute, make the mental choices to listen to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our mind. We must make choices that are consistent with God’s will as expressed in His Holy Word. It is hard work, this renewing of the mind thing. Sometimes, our flesh cries out against the Holy Spirit and it is a real struggle to do what the Holy Spirit says. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirits says for us to do is so very much in contrast to our nature and our culture! It is a choice to follow the Holy Spirit. It is a renewing of the mind. It is submitting our will to the will of God. How hard it is to let go of our will! There is no list or prescribed checklist here. Our faith is not about doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things. That is legalism. That is meaningless in God’s eyes. What God wants is our heart, our allegiance, our undying devotion to Him, our willingness to give Him glory and not ourselves. What God wants is all of us. He wants us leave our will at the door and follow Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes a hard dose of reality is what we need. That is what Jesus gives us in this passage. It is not hard to figure out. It is not a story that we must figure out the meaning. Jesus could not have put it any plainer. Even a child could figure out what Jesus is saying to us here. Direct language. Plain and simple, Jesus is direct. He says it straight out…do the will of my Father in Heaven and you will be there when your time comes! Do the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father will show through our Prodigal son-like thankfulness for having been saved from the pit. Doing the will of the Father, Jesus says, is more than public displays to be seen by other men…it is actually living a life that is actively seeking to do the things that the Father wants us to do…really wanting to. As they say on American Idol, we need “to be in it to win it.” In it to win it…all in…thankfully joyfully seeking our Father’s favor by doing his will… His will not ours…Plain and simple.

Matthew 6:5-15
Blueprint for Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer)
All throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been telling us about the model Christ-following life and much of it unbeknownst to us in our day was spoken for its shock value and to get the listener’s attention. Jesus sets off the explosion to get his listeners to really listen to him. Then, he takes that and says, this is what you should really be doing if you truly believe in God and see me as the way to Him. For example, our last passage, Matthew 6:1-4, used the shock value comment of “be righteous in private” to open it up. People milling around at the Sermon on the Mount probably went, “What did he say? Did he say we are not supposed to be righteous in public anymore?” Shock value for sure. Jesus got our attention with that one! He then went on to the real meat of why he said that. He told us about checking our motives at the door. He asked us to analyze why we are Christ-followers. Is it really to be a humble servant or is it to get some type of public recognition? Our motives for our prayers should be examined as well. Do we pray using meaningless words and phrases but having no heart? Do we pray so other people can hear us and so we use all the latest, churchy phrases? Or do we pray, both privately and publicly, with the intent of earnestly seeking to praise God, give Him thanks, and lay our souls bare before His throne?

Here he says,

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Today, we will focus on the first half of this passage. The first half of the passage is about what should not be. Tomorrow, we will begin to look at what prayer should be when we break down the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer should not be for public display of our religiousness. When we pray, it should not be so that we impress others with our command of phraseology. Sometimes, I find myself being jealous of others with “the way they pray”. Some people just seem to have this smooth, fluidity to their public prayers. I go, “Man, I wish I could pray that way!” But is that really what it is all about? Maybe, the fluidity of someone’s prayers is because they do indeed have a consistent and productive prayer life. Maybe, the lack of fluidity in my public prayers is the fact that, often, my prayer life is lacking. Do you pray because you feel like you have to? Do you pray as you are doing other things and you find giving specific time for prayer is awkward? Often, it is the lack of a good, private prayer life that leads to a poor public prayer life. We pray poorly in public because we pray poorly in private. Often times too, our prayer life in public is just so people can hear us pray. That is not prayer. That is pride. If you are praying for people to hear you pray then you are praying for all the wrong reasons. When we pray in public, it should be just a public version of our private prayer life. Close your eyes and be intimate with God. To me, a good public prayer is one that is the intimate groanings of a Christ follower who happens to be praying in public. Maybe, if your prayer life is lacking as I often consider mine, maybe, you should consider verbalizing your private prayers. That way, we must put together thoughts. It will require us to concentrate on what we are praying about when we verbalize it. When our prayers are simply in our mind and not in verbalized words, it is easy to encounter the “squirrel factor”. We can easily get distracted by other thoughts in our mind like whether we turned the coffee pot on or not or what we need to do at work. Verbalizing our private prayers can lead us to the discipline of thought after a while where have then learned to push out the distractions. Concentrated prayer in private can then lead to greater intimacy with Him. Greater intimacy in private can lead to honest and fluid prayers in public that have meaning and are for His glory and not for those who are listening to us pray. It will become that they are simply public parties to a private prayer between us and God.

Prayer should not be repetition of catch-phrases or repetition of mantras. Saying all the right words. Stringing together groups of catch-phrases or mantras is not real prayer. These kinds of prayer are meaningless stringing together of the right words and phrases. It is like when I went to a seminar about how to take the Certified Internal Auditor exam many years ago. The professor who was running the seminar told that on the essay questions, which were a huge part of the exam, that we needed to use as many of the “buzz words”, as he called them, about the subject of the essay question as possible in our answers to that question. He said that when we used these buzz words that it would demonstrate to the grader of the question that we had an understanding of what we were talking about. He said it was the old “fake it til you make it” principle. If we used all the right phrases in a question, it does not matter than you may or may not have a great command of the subject matter but it will sure sound like you do. Isn’t that the way it is in our prayer life. We can have no intimacy with the Lord in our life at all but we can sure sound like we do when we use all the right buzz words of prayer. God gets bored with these kinds of prayers I bet! God probably says to Himself, “Oh no, here we go again! Mark is going to say the same old tired phrases again. He is going to say a lot without saying anything at all!” How seriously do you take your prayer life? How seriously do I take mine? Is your prayer life full of currently popular catch phrases of Christianity? Is your prayer life void of any real, serious thought? Is my prayer life done to satisfy a checklist mentality and has no real heart to it? It is kind of like having a conversation with your wife while watching a football game. Are you really there in the conversation? Are we really there in our conversations, our prayers, to God? He wants you to be present in your prayers? He wants you to be fully engaged. He wants be to pay attention to what I am doing. He wants full-on focus from us in prayer. He doesn’t want half-hearted prayers. He wants more than just catchphrases. He wants all-in, fully engaged, reveal your guts kinds of prayers. He wants the heart and soul of us to be revealed in prayer. Catchphrases are meaningless. Groanings of the core of our soul revealed is what He desires from us in prayer.
Prayer should be intimate. As you and I know or we should know, prayer is the intimate part of our relationship with God. It is that deep down intimate, lay yourself bare, part of our relationship with God. If your prayer life with God is not honest, humble, and laid-bare, then the rest of our relationship with God is affected. We become estranged and drift away from him without that frequent intimacy. Prayer is the glue that holds our relationship to God. Prayer to God is like, at least to me, the intimacy that there is in marriage. In marriage, for it to be the effective thing that God wants it to be, we must lay ourselves bare. We must allow our husband or wife to see us for who we really are. Just as when a husband and wife make love, they are naked and exposed to one another. There is no hiding at that point. We are completely vulnerable at that time. The rest of our relationship with our spouse is like that too. Although making love is a visual testament to our laying ourselves bare and wide open, our relationship with our spouse should be open, honest and real. Without that humility of openness and being real about our flaws and mistakes, marriages become dysfunctional. The same is true is our relationship with God. Since we cannot physically see or touch God, our intimacy with him then becomes our prayer life with Him. We are to be honest with Him. We are to open up our heart and our emotions. We can be angry. He can deal with it. We can cry from pain. He can deal with it. We can shout for joy at an answered prayer. He can deal with it. We can question. He can deal with it. He wants that real, honest intimacy with us. When we are honest, intimate, and real with Him, He begins to reveal to us what we need to know. When we cut all the pretense, When we are serious about our prayers, it means that we are seeking His will not just praying for sake of praying. When we see prayer as the way to be intimate with the Father, then, the white noise of life clears away when we pray. When we concentrate on being intimate with the Father, He will begin to guide us toward His will and the answers from Him that we seek. Intimacy is the glue of marriage. Intimacy is the glue of relationship with God. When we pay attention to our spouses, the benefits are astounding. When we pay attention to our prayer life, it is astounding how close we start becoming with God.

Now that Jesus has established prayer our intimacy, our realness, our placing Him above ourselves through our prayer life to God, Jesus now steps into how we should pray. Let us begin a close examination of the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow. But for today, let us remember that our relationship with God becomes oh so much more intimate when we invest in our prayer life, when we see prayer as important and not just something you do by rote meaningless phrases or just so people can be impressed by our prayers.

Luke 20:45-47 — Why are we at church? What are we doing here? What is our purpose? Are we here to make political connections? Are we here to be at the trendy new place so we can be considered cutting edge? Are we here to be seen? Why do you serve? Will you go to men’s bible study in May this year because the pastor is leading it but will go no other time? Do you serve at community events because everybody else is going to be there? Do we serve at the soup kitchen because my life group is there or do you do it because you have a genuine concern for the poor? Do you give God the first 10% or more of your income, or do you give what you happen to have left in your wallet but yet count yourself among those who tithe when such things are mentioned? What are we here for? Why do we do this thing called church?

This was the question that Jesus asked of the religious leaders. In most of Luke 20, the religious leaders have been trying to trap Jesus into saying something that would discredit his popularity among the people or get Him in trouble with the Romans. Jesus, being God in the flesh and possessing all knowledge, skillfully and perfectly answered all their questions and did so in ways that could not be disputed or used against Him. Now, it was His turn to turn the tables on the puffery of the religious leaders. He warns anyone who will listen about the hypocrisy of the leaders. They love their position. They enjoy all the benefits that accrue to these leaders. The finest seats at public festivals and banquets. They pontificate great public prayers. They say all the right things. They do all the right public displays. However, at the same time, they compromise their beliefs to ensure that the Romans do not remove their ability to run Israel. They live lavishly off the contributions and taxes of the temple. They manipulate temple revenue to make sure that they have everything that they want. If there was a choice of providing for the poor and providing for or increasing their already lavish wealth, they would cheat the poor in a skinny minute. They had the appearance of holiness and respectability but inside they were deceit and greed.

As we read this passage here in the 21st century, we sit and say, “Yeah, what Jesus said! Go get ’em Jesus. Rip ’em a new one! Those hypocrites!” Before we arrogantly and piously condemn the religious leaders of Jesus’ day when we was physically here on earth, what would Jesus say if he walked into our churches today? Would he find anything different than in this scene from the Temple some 21 centuries ago?

Jesus would probably find a lot of the same things. Many of us pick our churches for what they can do for us and our kids rather picking a church because it speaks the truth of the gospel and lives it out. Many of us choose our churches because of the political or business connections that we can make there. Many of us clamor for the preacher’s favor because it somehow gives us greater stature within the church when we get it. Many of us increase our giving only when the pastor mentions it because it is important to be seen responding to what the preacher says but when the spotlight is off, we return to our normal anemic giving, the leftover 20 dollar bill in our wallet. Many of us serve on Sunday to be seen serving. Many of us won’t serve in any kind of continuing ministry during the week because it is only serving on Sunday that people see us serving. Are we any different when we choose to live off 110% of what we make so that we can have the appearance of “having it all” rather than giving God the glory by living off of 90% or less than what we make? Are we any different when we attend church on Sunday but walk right by the homeless man on the corner? Are we any different when we drive to church in our BMW but fail to help out the single mother that we know is struggling? Are we any different when we choose a fancy vacation and use the excuse that we don’t have the money to go on a mission trip to help spread the gospel? Do you love going to life group because of the fellowship and the Bible study but are conveniently absent when it is time for the “off the couch” project at the orphanage, the soup kitchen, or sharing the gospel? Do we spend time studying and writing about the gospel in life group but yet never tell a soul at work about Jesus Christ? Do we say we want to serve the Lord but miss the opportunity because it would involve giving up the house, the boat and the cars? Where are our hearts? Where are our hearts? Where are our hearts, oh God? We are a shameful generation. Are we any different than the religious leaders of the first century that Jesus condemned for their puffed up pride and greed?

Let us examine ourselves. Help us to be real. Help us Father to have real and honest hearts. Help us to see that we are here to give you praise and glory. Help us to see that we are here to serve you. Help us to see that we are here to make your name famous. Help us to see that we are here to tell others of the love that you have for them and the outright danger they face in rejecting you. Help us to have a heart for you. Help us to see that regardless of what we do and how much we serve in public displays no matter how much we try, we are just sinners. We are incapable of being perfect. We are indeed incapable of gaining access to heaven by our deeds. We are lost and always will be even we try to differentiate ourselves from others by our charitable acts and by our attendance at church. Nothing we can do is with merit in the face of our sins. We need Jesus. That is why we are here. Our service to Him is our thanksgiving to Him no matter who is looking. We give to the church because we know that it is God who gave us the talent to earn the money we make. We give 10% or more in thanksgiving and not caring who knows that we do. We do in thanksgiving for our salvation. We know who we are and that’s why we are here. We serve because it gives honor and glory to our Savior and we do it out of the overflow of thanksgiving in our hearts. That’s why we are here. We want to give Him glory for saving us. We serve Him because we are just so interested in others being drawn to the same Savior that we know. We witness because we can’t help it – others need to know the same joy that we know in our salvation. We serve when no one is watching because it is in our DNA to want to serve our Lord. Let our service to you oh Lord be real and not for show. Let us serve you when the job is thankless and no one will ever know we served you. Let us serve you because we love you, Jesus. Let us give you glory in everything that we do. Let us give you our all. Let us be all-in all the time even when no one is looking. Amen. And Amen.

Luke 12:1-12 — This passage has much to discuss. First, there are the signs of hypocrisy. Then there is allowing fear to cause us to deny Christ. Next, there is acknowledging Jesus even when it will cost you something, and, finally, there is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Today, let’s look at the signs of hypocrisy.

Many non-believers list this one thing, hypocrisy, as the main reason that they do not attend church. My favorite professor from my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) program is Bill Cashion​. He recently posted on Facebook one of those catchy little poster thingies that you see on Facebook quite often. This one said, “Saying that you don’t go to church because of all the hypocrites is like saying that you don’t go to the gym because of all the people that need to lose weight” or something to that affect. Sure, all of us who are Christ followers are hypocrites in one way or another. The key is where you heart is. Sure, we as Christ followers make mistakes in judgment and that can be perceived as hypocrisy by non-believers. However, a true Christ follower is convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sins, his hypocrisy, and will repent and turn away from it whereas a true hypocrite is a non-believer who claims to be one. What are the signs of such a person?

Jesus said beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast when you put it in dough spreads throughout it to make the dough rise. It changes the form of dough such that you can make bread. In this instance, Jesus is saying that the sickness that is the Pharisees is like putting yeast in dough. It permeates the dough and changes it. What once was something good has been altered and permanently changed for the worse. The Pharisees had changed Judaism into something that it wasn’t intended to be – a dizzying array of rules and regulations. Things are not much different in today’s world. We may condemn the Pharisees for not seeing Jesus as the Messiah and for contributing to the death of Jesus’ earthly body, but we are not much different today.

One of the signs of hypocrisy of a non-believer who claims to be one is to say that you follow Jesus but do not obey His Word. These are those who go to church on Sunday but live like hell the rest of the week as the old saying goes. These are the people whose Bible, if they have one, gathers dust on the coffee table. These are the people that attribute things to the Bible that are not even in it because they have never read it. These are the people who say they are Christian but bear no fruits of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Another sign of hypocrisy is living a self-serving life. People may desire to be in Christian leadership positions but they want the position so that they can be seen or have their name called out rather it springing forth from a need to serve others. These are the folks that attribute the success of a church project to themselves rather than to the work of the Holy Spirit. Even believers can get swallowed up by pride at times in this way. So often we claim to lead people to Christ when it is the action of the Holy Spirit that does that. We are just the vessels through which He works. A non-believer though sees nothing wrong with taking personal credit for something that is solely because of the action of God. They desire leadership roles in churches so that they can make a name for themselves. Score brownie points in the checklist religion they live. Some even desire to be at church because it is politically and professionally to their advantage to be at this or that particular church. I know of several people to attend a specific church because many of the big wigs from their job go to that church. Their attendance there had nothing to do with Jesus but everything to do with advancing their career.

Another sign of hypocrisy and lack of genuine conversion to faith in Jesus Christ are those who reduce Christianity to a set of rigid rules. People can end up worshiping their rules about what they think God wants instead of worshiping God himself. You know these types. If you do this, you are a heathen. If you do that, you are not worthy of our church. If you are divorced you are automatically disqualified from being a leader in our church, particularly a pastor. If you are a recovering alcoholic, you are always an alcoholic and not to be allowed in our doors. If you broke any of the rules, you are no longer worthy of Jesus Christ. Pharisees! If you have a past that everyone knows about, you are not welcome here. Is this what Jesus Christ died on the cross for? He came to redeem those who have a past. He came to reclaim us from the ash heap. He came to set us on our feet again. He came to tell us that that love is what should be our motivation not setting up rules and barriers.

Although many of those who read my daily blogs are Christ followers and we are convicted by the Holy Spirit when we are acting hypocritically, we must also examine ourselves, you and me. We are not perfect ourselves and only will be when we arrive in heaven at the end of this life and are joined with Christ. Only then will we be perfect. In the meantime, we must examine our lives constantly for hypocrisy. It is one of Satan’s greatest desires is to tear down Christ followers and make them ineffective. He tempts us constantly looking for our weak spots. We all have them. Satan’s lie is that our sins are not really sins and that it is OK. That’s when hypocrisy creeps in. Thinking something that is a sin is not a sin is how he wins. This is where we can be stumbling blocks to non-believers. Let us examine our lives constantly for those things that are not of God. Let us focus ourselves on ridding ourselves of those things that are not of Him that can be used by a non-believer as an excuse to further reject God. Let us not try to be perfect but rather seek guidance from our father as to the things that grieve His Spirit about us. Let us seek to please Him in all we do because of the grace that He has shown us. Let us not be the people that are the excuse for someone running away from Jesus.