Monthly Archives: September 2006
First, let me set the scenario for you. I had already eaten at Jack in the Box for lunch. I went to a friend’s house for a going away party for my cousin who will be spending several months in Israel doing missionary work. At the party, there was plenty of junk food for my spoiled appetite to partake of. Then we went to a Baptist church service to see my brother sing (he is a singer in a band for his college) After the service it was about 7:30 and, although I wasn’t very hungry, I still wanted something to eat.
And then the woes began. First, my wife and I had to decide what we wanted. I was hungry for a cold cut sandwich so we decided to go to Subway. Normally I get the tuna sandwich but they were out of tuna. My wife does not like cold cut sandwiches so she asked for a cup of brocolli cheese soup and they were out of that as well. So we decided to go to Quiznos. We arrived at exactly 8:00 and the door was locked. Then we decided to go to St. Louis House of Pizza which was in the same plaza, but as soon as we stepped in, we discovered that it was too hot and we didn’t find anything we wanted on the menu.
After about 5 minutes of discussion we decided to go to Lion’s Choice. I decided to delude myself into thinking I was eating healthy by ordering a Turkey Club. Rhiannon ordered a cup of what she thought was brocolli and cheeze soup, but it turned out to be cream of brocolli soup, something she didn’t want. When I got my Turkey Club, I was rather annoyed to see there was no mayonnaise on my sandwich. Who eats a Turkey Club without mayonnaise? Certainly not me, so I asked for mayonnaise and was even more annoyed when the lady behind the counter produced the world’s worst substitute for mayonnaise, Miracle Whip. Yuck!
I hate to admit it, but I think we Americans are just plain spoiled. This is why it is so difficult living in America after living in a third world country. Rhiannon and I have actually seen starving children in Africa. We’ve seen children delighted to eat leftover chicken bones because that is probably all they had to eat that day. I couldn’t help but feeling a profound sense of guilt that I was so annoyed about something so trivial.
Part of the danger of prosperity is that a satisfied soul is rarely ever satisfied. Proverbs 27:7 says, “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.” What is true in the natural I think is also true in the spiritual. Our consumer spirituality in America reflects our consumer culture. We are so full that we have forgotten what it is like to be hungry. Religion is more about personal choice than a genuine hunger for spiritual truth. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Poor people are grateful for the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Rich people think they deserve the entire platter. May God teach us how to be hungry again.
I don’t normally post on Saturday’s, but I came across this article from J. Lee Grady, a writer for Charisma magazine. He speaks of an issue I think every Christian should carefully consider. I’ve always liked Grady. He writes with clarity and does not compromise on the truth of the gospel. We need more writers in the Charismatic movement who will take a bold stand for the gospel.
The Muslim world is currently inflamed over the remarks of Pope Benedict suggesting that the Koran promotes violence. Some say the Pope should not say such things. Others say he is only speaking the truth. My view is in between the two. In a time when the Muslim world is so volatile, those in religious leadership should be very careful not to provoke anger among Muslim sensibilities. The backlash would only mean harm for Christian minorities living in Muslim countries, as my Christian friends in Pakistan would confirm.
In all of this I do think there is an irony. The Muslim world seems to be in denial that the Koran advocates the use of the sword to spread their faith. Some say that the Koran only speaks of intellectual struggle or self-defence. Since I am not a scholar on the Koran, I can not make a judgment on this except to point out the fact that the historical record shows otherwise. Peaceful Muslims of the 21st century seem to be in denial that for the first 1,000 years of its history, Islam spread primarily through conquest and invasion. Yes, I know that some of the wars were of self defence and some places were Islamicized by peaceful Arab traders (such as Indonesia and Malaysia), but to say that Islam spread primarily through peaceful persuasion is living in fantasy land. Just ask Bernard Lewis, the world’s foremost scholar on Islam.
Of course, the record of Christianity also has its blemishes such as the Inquisition and the Crusades, but these sins have long since been acknowledged and apologized for by Christians around the world. It doesn’t seem that the Muslim world at large is very willing to fess up to the sins of Islam (such as the butchering of Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century) like Christians have been to the sins of Christianity.
Yes, I know that the argument can be made that those responsible for the Inquisition and the Crusades were not real Christians. And I agree with that argument since Jesus was a man of peace. But, in a sense, the argument is irrelevant. Muslims claim that those responsible for 9-11 were not real Muslims. It will be very interesting to see if the Pope’s remarks stir up riots around the world as what happened with the Danish cartoons last year. If Muslims around the world want to be taken seriously as a reasonable faith for the 21st century, instead of living in denial, they should acknowledge the sins of the past and live according to the principles of peace they claim their religion teaches them.
One thing I forgot to mention in my post on modern day Pharisees is the danger of committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. First, let me give you a definition. To put it simply, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to the Devil. This is what the Pharisees did when they accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Although I think the definition could include other things (such as a willful and final rejection of Christ), this is the immediate context where Jesus discusses the issue (Matthew 12:24-32).
Do we have a counterpart to that today? I believe those who say that speaking in tongues is of the devil come dangerously close to this. Please note that I am not referring to the average cessasionist (a person who believes that miraculous gifts such as tongues, healings, and prophecy ceased at the death of the last Apostle). Most cessasionists at least believe that Pentecostals and Charismatics are their brothers in Christ, even if they think they may be a bit misguided. What I am referring to are those who say that any miraculous healing, gift of prophecy, or speaking in tongues must be attributed to the devil. Nowadays, this is a minority position even among non-Pentecostals and Charismatics, but there are still some who believe this and I think they are dangerously close to committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Only God knows whether those who say such bold statements have actually committed this particular sin, but I would rather be safe then sorry when talking about miraculous phenomenon. When evaluating particular manifestiations, it is better to say “I don’t know” than to run the risk of attributing a genuine work of the Holy Spirit to the Devil.
Question: I was wondering if you would ever do a teaching or side by side comparison of the
Pharisees in Jesus time and the Pharisees in our time. I am very drawn to learn more
about not being a Pharisee.
Answer: Thank you for the question. I think your desire to avoid becoming a modern day Pharisee is an admirable one, but I don’t think you have much to worry about if you are a sincere Christian seeking to follow Jesus. I have to confess that in the past, I have thrown the word “Pharisee” around a little too lightly, as many others have done. It seems the word is used most often when one particular group of Christians wants to insult another group of Christians. This trivializes the word and loses sight of who the Pharisees really were and what the modern equivalent would be. Even Paul the Apostle when He was persecuting the church was not as depraved as the other Pharisees who were responsible for delivering up Jesus to be crucified (I Timothy 1:13)
First of all, the Pharisees thought that Jesus was demon possessed even though He did nothing but heal the sick and love the poor (John 8:48). They burdened people with rituals and laws and condemned people for not following their rigid demands (Matthew 23:4). They were powerful religious rulers who had married their zeal with the power of the state (John 11:48). They had a strict interpretation of the Old Testament law which did not allow for mercy. They thought nothing of stoning a woman to death for adultery (John 8:1-12). Lastly, they were motivated not by love for God, but by greed, envy, and power (John 11:48,Luke 16:14).
Do we have an equivalent in our day and age? Yes we do. I believe the religious police in Saudi Arabia and the Mullahs in Iran fit this description perfectly. Check out the book Iran: Desperate for God for a description of the Mullahs and Blink by Ted Dekker for a description of the religious police in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the Taliban would also be a fitting description of a modern day Pharisee. I would put the medieval Catholic Church responsible for the Inquisition in the same category. They used religion to condemn and kill rather than to love and save.
Yes, we have religious people with Pharisaical tendencies in American Christianity, but none to the same level as the actual Pharisees in the Bible as far as I am aware of. One safeguard against a Pharisaical spirit is to have an all-inclusive view of God’s love for humanity. It is a human tendency to think of God’s chosen as us four and no more, whether it is extreme Pentecostals who think that only tongue talkers will be in heaven (a minority view)or Fundamentalist Christians who believe that all Catholics are destined for hell for believing in purgatory and praying for the dead. Surely God is bigger than our theological squabbles! I am not suggesting that all are saved or that docrine doesn’t matter. What I am saying is the cross of Christ has far more ability to save than does Adam’s sin to condemn (see Romans 5). May we rejoice that our sins are forgiven and extend the same hope to the rest of humanity. When the gospel is such good news, who needs Pharisees?
Are Apostles for today? Some say yes. Some say no. Between these two views are a wide variety of ideas. I want to introduce my readers to a friend of mine Dr. Eddie Hyatt. He has written extensively on this subject. Please read his article here.
Tomorrow I plan on writing about Modern Day Pharisees. A friend of mine e-mailed me a question about what would be the equivalent of a Pharisee in our day and age. My answer may surprise my readers.
Have a great day.
I see trees so green, red roses too.
I watch them bloom for me and for you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Such are the words made immortal from the voice of Louis Armstrong. They speak of the beauty and splendor of God’s creation and the sense of wonder that nature invokes.
But the truth is one could also write a song that says:
I see lions and tigers
and grizzly bears too
I watch them kill
O what should I do
And I think to myself, what a frightening world.
It seems that nature is sending us a mixed message. One one hand there is order and beauty, on the other hand there is death and destruction. Why is this?
I can’t claim to know the full answer to this question, but it seems that God has instituted a cycle in nature to keep us from grasping at the temporary so our eyes can be fixed on the eternal. (see Ecclesiastes chapter 3)
Nature seems to be God’s object lesson to humanity regarding the eternal choices that are set before us. Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to life. Broad is the path that leads to destruction.”
Yes there is evil and suffering in this world, but there is also grace and beauty. Life on earth is a test. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the sum total of everything good and right in the world. The question is-which way will you and I choose? I think everyone needs to ask themselves this question. The stakes are too high to ignore.
I’ve written in the past about how Pentecostalism is taking over the world, even when it is not called by that name (see my post in July 2006 entitled “tongue talking demon smashing baptists”). Now I would like to consider the changing face of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals have long been chided for their theological ignorance and anti-intellectual bias. In the old days, to be a Pentecostal was virtually synonymous with low class and low education.
Those were the old days. Although some still cling to the tradition of cessationism (the idea that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit died with the last Apostle), most will at least concede that tongue- speakers are not demon- possessed (a mainstream idea during the first half of the 20th century). In the book Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today? four scholars weigh in on the question of the perpetuity of miraculous gifts such as tongues, healing, and prophecy.
What strikes me about the book is the level of sophistication of the scholar defending the classic Pentecostal view of Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Pentecostals have gone from arguments like “Well golly Martha, dems Apostles spoke in tongues. I guess that means we can too” to “Luke has a distinct pneumatology that need not be subjugated to Pauline distinctives” (my paraphrase). If you didn’t understand that last line. Don’t worry. I basically said the same thing that uneducated hillbillies have been saying for a century without using the sophisticated language. God has this funny habit of “choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” While stiff ivory tower intellectuals have been inventing Liberation theologies for the poor masses of the world, the poor in masses have been turning to Pentecostalism.
Lastly, what I think is most exciting is that Pentecostals and Cessationists can now bring themselves to the discussion table without accusing the other of heresy. Both sides seem to recognize now that the essential issues of the faith are what should unite us. This is a healthy step for the Christian faith worldwide. Thank you Zondervan for showing us every side of this issue. I’ll take a genuine dialogue over mudslinging any day.
I was watching King of Queens the other night when I got the idea for this post. I didn’t catch the first part of it, but what I saw was hilarious and insightful at the same time. Doug and Carrie had given a $500 donation to the local library and were supposed to have their name on a plaque under the “patron category”, but instead, they were listed under the”friend” category indicating a donation of only $50. This is where it got interesting. Carrie wanted the mistake to be corrected and Doug felt that was wrong because it would have indicated that they gave the money with wrong motives. When they consulted their local Catholic priest about the situation, he told them they should let it go.
But Carrie didn’t want to let it go. Instead, she hung out at the library and, while Doug was reading stories to the children, she was trying to persuade a young child to talk to the official in charge to correct the mistake. Doug chided her saying that she was bound for hell. Carrie, on the other hand, did not see what was wrong with wanting a little credit for a good deed. Although it was never stated on the program, the reference to the teaching of Jesus on the sermon on the mount about not doing good deeds to be seen by men was unmistakeable. This, to me, serves as further confirmation that the human conscience naturally agrees with the teachings of Jesus. We don’t think of Jesus as a moral teacher often, because we emphasize His role as the Savior. But Jesus is the perfect moral teacher and I am certain that He would have told Carrie to let it go.
But what about the question of heaven and hell? Doug and Carrie were both concerned that their hearts were not right and that they might be on the path to everlasting flames. Putting the question of the literal nature of hell’s flames aside, I asked myself, “Would someone like Carrie Heffernan really enjoy heaven?” Heaven is a place where God is supreme and all who are there want Him to be the supreme focus of their lives. It would seem to me that heaven would be hell for a person like Carrie Heffernan who is constantly focused on herself. When it comes down to it, heaven and hell are the natural consequences of our heart’s desires. God will not force heaven or hell on anyone. But He will give us our heart’s desires. The problem is that few realize the implications of where their hearts are leading them. Every person is either moving to God or away from God. As for me and my house, I choose to move to God. Knowing that He loved me first despite my sins and failures, why wouldn’t I choose Him? I invite my readers to contemplate the same question.
Today in the news is a story about legislators from Pakistan threatening to dissolve the current government over an ammendment to the current rape law which says that a woman needs 4 witnesses to prove a rape, if not, she could be accused as an adulterer and penalized for making false accusations. Although I am not in favor of making generalizations about Islam as being an evil and wicked religion (intellectual honesty forbids it) I do have to ask the question-can you imagine this happening in a Christian country in today’s society? If this does not show the difference between the values of Jesus and the values of Muhammed, I don’t know what does.