Friday, July 18, 2014

Week in Review

Tweet of the Week

An unpopular truth in our day and age. I think this is often the reason that men do not want to commit to the church. It isn't that its  boring or "not manly enough." Faithfulness to the church means faithfulness and obedience to Jesus Christ by faithfully submitting to biblical church leadership. 

To Read:

1. Being in pastoral ministry, I read a lot about it. Leadership, preaching, ecclesiology. There is a big push right now for people to understand their pastors. While this is important, often overlooked is the pastor's wife. Check out this good article on what life is like for your pastor's wife. You may be surprised. 

2. In case you've been stuck under a rock this week and somehow managed to come up and stumble on my little puddle (I'm not a news site); a Malaysian airlines passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine. Almost 300 men, women, and children were tragically killed. The international implications remain to be seen, as the investigation is still ongoing. You can find a good overview and continuing timeline here.

3. Courageous exploits in battle are not widely read or heard of in our day and age. Men of war, ready to do violence against the forces of evil, are viewed as archaic; a thing of the past. Many refuse to acknowledge the wickedness in the hearts of distant-shored enemies. They prefer to live in the blissful cocoon of safety that others shed their blood to secure. They wallow in moral relativism while heroes die, forgotten in the dark. This week, Thomas Gibbons-Neff highlighted the life of one such hero. He brings to light the stirring story of Major Zembiec, the "Lion of Fallujah."

4. A story that won't make major news headlines in our politically correct and morally bankrupt society. Another illustration that the way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15).

5. Further down the slope of moral and theological degeneracy by a "church" that long ago traded the authority of Scripture for the traditions of men. 

6. After so much bad news above, we wrap it up with the good guys at the Cripplegate. Check out Nathan Busenitz's 200 word theological tractate on the deity of Christ. Good truth to meditate on and retain to be ready for a defense (1 Peter 3:15).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Resolution 9: Your Family Wants to Kill You

Last month, I became aware of the story of Josef after seeing Al Mohler's tweet, strongly encouraging everyone to read the harrowing story of this Christian "on the run in Afghanistan." 

I read the article and was amazed. I was amazed to see the NYT highlighting the plight of a persecuted Christian. Aside from the trending "bring back our girls" campaign that most have now forgotten, the persecution of Christians rarely makes headlines. If you haven't read the article yet, you can find it here. Praise God that this testimony was seen by the world. 

The most amazing that about this story was that God's power was on display. While the NYT author didn't explicitly glorify God, the testimony of Josef's faith did. Here is a man who was willing to turn his back on his family, culture, and religion; all for Jesus Christ. He knew it could cost his life but he decided to follow Jesus. He knows he might be killed for his Christian faith any day now, and yet he refuses to deny Christ. 

That is a powerful display of the power of God in Jesus Christ. The power to take an unbelieving Muslim and change him into a follower of Jesus who is willing to die for his savior. 

Christians in the West speak of "dying for Jesus" when they give up such mundane things as too much Starbucks or eating one less cookie. Sometimes, Western Christians come a little closer to an awareness of literal death for Jesus when they go on a short term missions trip in a third-world context, or when they do an evangelistic outreach "in the hood." 

But for Josef, the reality of martyrdom is just around the corner. Literally. It's lurking behind the tinted windows of an unmarked van, in the footsteps he hears scraping the street outside his flimsy door, in the faces of the men he once knew as brothers and uncles. Josef, like many other Christians in similar contexts, might take his last breath today. 

For Christians like Josef, death is an ever present reality. I imagine that Josef thinks of his death often. When he misses his family. When he misses the comforts of home. When he reads his Bible. Death is waiting.

Resolution 9 reminds Christian men to think of their death often. This is not morbid introspection. This is salvation verification (2 Cor 13:5). Josef has counted the cost and by God's grace is ready to die for Jesus. In his own words, “My body is in prison, but my soul is free.” The soul free in Jesus is ready to die for Jesus. 

Since most of my readers are Christians here in the U.S.A., I would encourage you to read this article about Josef. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine your family wanting to kill you for your faith. Go ahead, imagine it. 

Think about your brother or cousin hunting you with a machete in his hand, ready to sever your now-infidel head from your body. Think about your parents and uncles, standing by as you are beaten to a bloody pulp for embracing Jesus. Think about death for Christ - and then pray. 

Pray for Josef and the thousands of other Christians like him who face death for Jesus on a daily basis. Pray that they will stand fast in their faith. Pray that their persecutors will come to faith in Jesus. And pray that you will be strengthened in your faith; a faith strong enough to say, "my body is in prison, but my soul is free."

Sound off in the comments: Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Honoring God with Dirty Hands

Note: This is the first of a two-part post on the false worship of hypocrisy. This first post discusses some of the dangers of hypocrisy. Next time, we'll wrap it up with some final warnings on hypocrisy and the solution of true worship that honors God.

A frequent criticism of the church is, "It’s a bunch of hypocrites." Many will give that as one of their quick-n-ready reasons for not going to church or for not believing the gospel. Yet the simple fact of the matter is, everyone plays the hypocrite. 

Everyone pretends. Everyone acts. Everyone puts up a front. It’s been that way since Adam and Eve held fronds to their figures and stammered, “It’s their fault, not mine,” hiding what they had become. Sinners. They tried to cover up the outside, when their problem was inside. They felt their dirty hearts burning with shame, so they hid when God called their name. That’s what hypocrisy is. It’s the hiding of your dirty ruinous soul behind a thin veneer of fake piety.

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, by Domenichino [PD], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus came to ransom and save sinners (Mark 10:45). Jesus continues to love the sinners he has ransomed even while they are still covered in the dirt of this earthly life. Jesus is patient toward his true followers. Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus demonstrates an uncanny patience toward his disciples. They repeatedly fail to understand the true significance of who he is (Mark 6:52), but Jesus is patient and long-suffering toward them. 

God is merciful toward sinners who realize and acknowledge their sin (Luke 18:13-14). Jesus was faithful to show that mercy and patience. But while he is patient toward repentant sinners, Jesus deals differently with hypocrites.

Jesus shows God's hatred for the false worship of hypocrisy. Even more sobering, as the Son of God, Jesus knows if you are a hypocrite. Jesus sees to the very soul of every man and sees if the worship you offer to God is genuine or not. What Jesus wants is for you to honor God with a sincere heart. You can honor God with dirty hands. It starts in the heart. The heart is what God is after. 

In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus confronts the false piety of the Pharisees who had exalted their tradition over the law of God. The Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem and seized on a perceived slight by Jesus' disciples against their accepted religious tradition. Their infraction? They were eating with dirty hands (Mark 7:2). It's at this point we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy makes good micro-managers. 

30281 Micro Manager Battle by Masked Builder
 (no changes made, CC BY 2.0
Mark lets us know that this wasn't dirty hygiene hands, but ceremonially unclean hands (7:3-4). The Pharisees see Jesus' men breaking bread together and they have a religious panic attack. Their tradition had strict stipulations for ritual cleansing, especially before any tasty morsel could touch their holy lips. But they go one further and use this to accuse Jesus. They question Jesus; accusingly implying that his disciples transgressed under his oversight.

Hypocrisy make good micro-managers

It's here that we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrites are really good at trying to control everyone else around them. They are consummate micro-managers. The Pharisees were like that. They had their tradition, and in their misguided zeal, they wanted everyone else to follow along. Whereas some dictators will offer free tacos and their love (you have to watch The Lego Movie © to get that reference), the Pharisees offered "the tradition of the elders" as their ground for authority. This had led to a heavy burden on the backs of the people. A burden so heavy that it actually kept many Jews from obeying the simple law of God (Mark 7:9-12). 

If you see "how things have always been done" beginning to burden other Christians, you might have a case of religious hypocrisy. Watch out for this attitude. If you become more concerned that everyone follow your standard, and your standard is over and above the bounds of Scripture, it's time to take a gut check. The danger is, a lot of times people will follow a hypocritical micro-manager. While almost everyone else had rolled over for the manipulative ploys of the Pharisees, Jesus did no such thing. He struck back - hard. 

Jesus cut to the chase and called them hypocrites (Mark 7:6). Jesus confronts the second danger of hypocrisy; hypocrisy makes false worshipers. When it came to attacks on God and his Law, Jesus didn't hold back. He called it what it was. He spoke the truth and confronted them for what they were, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites (Mark 7:6)." In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13 to confront the false worship and religious standards of the Pharisees. God had confronted Israel through Isaiah for their false worship of Yahweh. They professed to be God's covenant people with their lips, but their hearts were far from a true love for God (Isaiah 29:13). 

Hypocrisy makes false worshipers

Jesus sees into the hearts of the Pharisees and confronts them for the same false worship (Mark 7:6). The Pharisees professed loyalty to God, but their hearts were far from Him. Jesus sums up this deficiency of true love for God, a deficiency of true worship, with one word; hypocrite. Jesus uses the word hypocrite which in classical Greek described play-actors; their profession was pretending to be something they were not in real life. The Pharisees put on a mask of holiness, but inside their hearts were far from God. 

Ancient Greek Theatrical Mask of Zeus By Carole Raddato,

Jesus confronted the dangers of hypocrisy during his time on earth. This same hypocrisy continues today and men of God must guard against it; in their own hearts and in the church. J.C. Ryle was faithful to confront the hypocrisy he found in his church over 100 years ago.
 Think what a solemn warning there is here to all worldly and hypocritical professors of religion. Let all such read, mark, and digest these words. Jesus says to you, "I know thy works." You may deceive me or any other minister; it is easy to do so. You may receive the bread and wine from my hands, and yet be cleaving to iniquity in your hearts. You may sit under the pulpit of an evangelical preacher, week after week, and hear his words with a serious face, but believe them not. But remember this, you cannot deceive Christ. He who discovered the deadness of Sardis and the lukewarmness of Laodicea sees you through and through, and will expose you at the last day, except you repent.1)
Hypocrisy is a dangerous game. It covers up a dirty heart with a shiny exterior. It tries to make everyone else play the game and it dishonors God with false worship. The good news is, Jesus is good to those who repent. He is gracious and patient toward those who recognize hypocrisy in their lives and turn toward a God in true worship. 

Next week, Mark will show another danger of hypocrisy and I'll discuss how Christians should deal with this issue in their own lives and in the church.


1) Ryle, J.C., Holiness (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers,  2001), 279.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Best Gifts

"Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at imminent holiness. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labour to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character that we are men of science, or men of literary attainments, or men of the world,  or men of pleasure, or men of business - but "men of God." Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives; to follow Christ our grand object in time present, to be with Christ our grand desire in time to come."

Amen and amen.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers,  2001), 286.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Showing True Compassion like Jesus

By Enver Rahmanov (Own work)
Over the last several weeks, news headlines have highlighted the surge in illegal immigration from Mexico into the southern United States. The perennial debate of amnesty versus border enforcement has erupted again. As with other social issues, people are divided.

Social engineers argue that compassion dictates an open border. Many evangelical leaders have gone along with this and continue to lobby Washington to declare amnesty. They base their argument for this on Christian compassion. 

It seems for many, compassion equals social activism. But is that true compassion? How should Christians show compassion today? Does being compassionate like Jesus mean relaxing or refusing to enforce current law?

Christians throughout the years have engaged in social ministry: the orphanages of George Muller, the Sunday school movement in 18th century England, prison reform, and the abolition of slavery. All of these movements were started and carried on the shoulders of Christian churches and individuals. So what is the difference between then and now? The gospel.

True compassion comes from a response to the gospel and points to the gospel. True compassion sees spiritual depravity as man’s greatest need and the gospel as the truly compassionate answer to that need.

In Mark 6:30-44 Jesus demonstrates the nature of true compassion; a model Christians today should follow. Jesus shows his disciples then and now that true compassion sees the greatest need and then shares the greatest gift; the gospel of King Jesus. 

In Mark 6:30, the evangelist tells us that the disciples had just returned from their preaching tour around Galilee. They had been busy, night and day, with the ministry they had received from Jesus. Healing the sick, harrowing encounters with the demonic, and a heavy preaching schedule had left the disciples haggard with exhaustion (Mark 6:12, 31). At this point, Mark begins to highlight the true compassion of Jesus.

Jesus saw people's needs. He saw that the disciples were spent and needed rest (Mark 6:31), he saw that his followers needed food (Mark 6:37-44), and he showed patience for the immaturity he saw in the disciples (Mark 6:37, 38). Jesus models an others-centered life. But while these physical needs were important, they were really just secondary things. The disciples would get tired again. The crowds would hunger again. There was a greater need that everyone else was missing. 

Jesus saw deeper. He looked at the heart and he saw the greatest need of the people. This is his diagnosis, "He saw a huge crowd and had compassion  on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34)." Jesus saw beyond the hungry, milling crowds. He saw into their souls and was moved by their true plight; spiritual blindness. 

What made this appalling condition more grievous to Jesus, was that this was a very old problem. God had not left the people to themselves. He had given the nation of Israel spiritual leaders who were to shepherd God's people and lead them in God's paths. But over 400 years before the time of Christ, God had brought this charge against the men responsible for the spiritual care of his people. Their charge? Failed shepherds. Instead of leading and caring for God's people, they neglected and abused their position. And God was grieved by this (Ezekiel 34:1-24). 

When Jesus came, it had only grown worse. The people were still like sheep without a shepherd. Blind, lost, starving; sheep neglected by their shepherds. Jesus looked at what others saw as a burden (Mark 6:35-37) and saw the real need, the need for truth. Jesus felt compassion, real compassion, and then...he preached. Before Jesus set up the bread line and the soup kitchen, he preached the gospel. Mark tells us that after he looked at these forlorn people and felt compassion, "Then He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34)."

Jesus didn't give them food, he didn't give them a job fair, he didn't give a lesson in self-help. No, he gave them the greatest gift. Jesus gave himself. Jesus gave the shepherd-less sheep himself, the true shepherd. The people didn't need more of themselves, more tradition, more confusion. They needed to know Jesus. So Jesus preached. He preached himself. 

Just like the nation of Israel in Jesus' time, the greatest need of our hour is repentance and faith in Jesus. People don't need a change in income, self-image, legal or social status; people need to be convicted of their sin and turn in faith to Jesus. But that means the greatest need or our time must be met by men like Jesus. Men who will look and see the greatest heart needs around them. Men who seeing the greatest need, will come forward and proclaim the gospel of King Jesus. 

Last week, N.D. Wilson penned a call for modern-day prophets. 
Prophets must be fearless, immune to the pressures of kings and crowds, aligned only with the breath of God. We are in need of prophets now. Christians are scattered, but the world's wind is heavy and unified… Prophets must be immune to floggings on Facebook and Twitter. They must be fearless before friends and tenure committees and stadiums filled with the priests of Baal. The cool-shaming can have no sting. The world is busy applying pressure on "social issues," and Christians are busy caving left and right, trying to accept fresh cultural dogma simply so that they might be accepted. Many of us would rather be in compliance with the crowd of now than successfully image the loves and hates of our Father. But his breath rolls the North Sea and props up mountains. His words ripen fields of grain and infants still hidden in wombs' warmth. May we run parallel to his breeze alone.
This is the call that Jesus puts to all his men today. The charge given to the disciples has passed to us today (Matthew 28:18-20). Yes, the needs of many press in on the church today. But men of God must see the greatest need and proclaim the greatest answer. We need a new generation of prophets. Men who will stand fast and declare, “thus says the Lord.” You don’t have to be a pastor to do this. You just have to be faithful to point people to Jesus and his salvation. Jesus saw the greatest need and gave the greatest answer. The call is now given to you. Go and do likewise. 

John Knox Preaching, By Kim Traynor (Own work)
(], via Wikimedia Commons