True greatness

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be seen by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people’” (Matthew 23:1-7 CSB).

The scribes and Pharisees often received criticism by Jesus – and rightly so, as we can see in the opening of this chapter. Continue reading “True greatness”

Target on the back

Sometimes I think there must be a target on the back of churches and their leaders. Whenever I see someone take a shot at the church in conversation, or on Facebook, or over dinner, I want to look at the back of church leaders’ shirts to see if there is the old familiar target everyone is shooting at.

The burden of elders and preachers and congregations, too, is they must be right one hundred percent of the time else people begin to take aim. Not only must they always be perfect, but they must be perfect with the right attitude. They can’t be smug or judgmental or harsh. And if they fail on any point, at any time, the command rings out: “Fire at will! Any church, any church leader, just take your free shots!” Continue reading “Target on the back”

Separating love and approval

The Mosaic generation represents a wide diversity of values and characteristics. Yet many of these young adults share a common value which sometimes might cause them to view older Christians as hypocrites. However, before we become too critical of older adults, it would seem both sides of the generational divide could learn something from each other regarding following Christ.  Continue reading “Separating love and approval”

Woe to those who lock the door!

Jesus was finished with the Pharisees and Sadducees.

It wasn’t that he shunned them, but they decided to stop talking to him (Matthew 22:46).

The lesson of Jesus to the crowds in Matthew 23 was to beware of these religious “leaders,” since they had no desire to become any more than what they were: they were hypocrites.

A hypocrite is a person who is an actor. The word itself comes from the drama of the Greeks and refers to the false face the actors wore while performing their roles. The Pharisees wore a false face of holiness. Underneath the mask, however, the Pharisees were quite unholy.

The first woe Jesus pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13 NASB). Continue reading “Woe to those who lock the door!”

Don't be sidelined by the lyrebirds

Noisemakers in the churchby J. Randal Matheny, editor

On a narrow, winding mountain road in Australia, six vehicles pulled over in a turnout after hearing a fast-moving siren and horn of an emergency vehicle. Had another biker been hit? Did a driver have a smashup with a kangaroo?

As they waited for the vehicle to pass, they discovered that the sounds came not from a machine, but from a bird, the lyrebird.

The lyrebird has an extraordinary ability to reproduce natural and artificial sounds, be they other birds, animals, humans, or mechanical noises like the emergency vehicle on the mountain road.

Not a few lyrebirds inhabit the church.

Some of them mimic the sounds of the world and the latest fads in religion. What is last heard is fodder for this bird.

Or maybe they reproduce the sounds of sanctification and show the outward appearance of holiness, but know nothing of its workings (see 2 Timothy 3:5).

Then there are the lyrebirds who love to sing the Sunday praises, but chime a mulish self-will on Monday.

Whenever the congregational lyrebirds start their mimicry, they often sideline those who are actually headed somewhere in ministry.

The lyrebirds from Down Under are not endangered with extinction. It appears that their human counterparts will not disappear any time soon either.

How to deal with the flashy falseness of the church lyrebirds?

First, let us be the genuine article. The steady example of the faithful is always a landmark for the wavering soul to come back to.

Second, let us share the call of God to follow his pattern in faith, practice, and mission. The Lord doesn’t want us to do something, anything, but his thing.

Third, let us exercise the necessary discipline in the church that God requires. Many congregations are a mess because of a lack of discipline.

Fourth, let us fulfill God’s mission to evangelize. Churches that don’t evangelize have too much time on their hands, too much space to entertain the lyrebirds.

The lyrebirds will always make their noises. But faithful saints won’t let them sideline good works and sound doctrine.


Spies Among Us

by Tim Hall
Some are not really who they appear to be.
The arrests earlier this week of 11 individuals on charges of spying for Russia has garnered much attention. These seemed to be ordinary citizens, pursuing the American dream like the rest of us. If the charges are proven true — and there already appears to be substantial evidence coming to light — we will learn again that people can be deceptive.
According to a report released on July 1, 2010, one of those charged has confessed to his actions. Though he seemed to be an ordinary citizen, working as a photographer and a karate instructor, he has confessed that he worked secretly for “the Service”. He was born in Uruguay as he previously claimed; the house in which he and his wife lived had been purchased by Russian intelligence officials.
Neighbors and associates of those arrested are shocked at the thought that their lives intermingled with people who were living lies. The most unnerving prospect is that these people were working to undermine the ideals their neighbors held dear.
Will this cause us to look with renewed skepticism at those around us? Can we know the true identity of our next-door neighbor?
Paul wrote about some who were spies: “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)” (Galatians 2:4, NKJV). A key phrase in that verse is “false brethren”; *pseudadelphos*, brothers who were not genuine.
These of whom Paul wrote were of the Judaizing group of Christians, teaching that Gentiles must become Jews as well as Christians. The letter to the Galatians was meant to squash such thinking and to preserve the liberty they had in Christ (Galatians 5:1,13). These, however, were more set on their agenda than on serving the Lord. In some ways they resembled Christians, but they actually served another master.
This was not Paul’s only experience with false brethren. In 2 Corinthians 11:26 he wrote of some of the trials he had endured. Among them were “perils among false brethren”. They wore the name of Christ, but they didn’t follow his will.
How frightening would it be to be busted by God, exposing the fact that we were not really the people we claimed to be? Instead of being devoted to Jesus, we were instead devoted to our own comfort and happiness. The consequences of being a pseudo-disciple are serious!
This is an opportunity to examine our allegiance. Do we really subscribe to the truth of Philippians 3:20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”? Before we’re exposed in judgment, let’s come clean and be genuine.