For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, September 29, 2008

On Being a Hypocrite

Anyone who has done much biblical study or has sat through enough sermons knows the origin of the word “hypocrite.” It is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), which has to do with the idea of “playing a part,” and at first denoted stage actors. We have since come to apply the term in a negative sense to someone who pretends to be something they’re not, i.e. saying one thing and doing another.

Jesus obviously had some nasty things to say about such folks. The word “hypocrite” was one applied repeatedly to the Pharisees; usually in conjunction with phrases like “whitewashed tombs” and “blind guide.” So it’s safe to say that most of us would not like to have this particular word applied to us. However, I find myself in that category.

I don’t know about other pastors, but there are many times when I stand before the church on a Sunday and say things about the Christian life and holiness and so on, and in my mind I’m thinking “what a hypocrite.” It’s not that I strive to hold others up to a higher standard than myself, it’s just that in proclaiming the “ideal” I often realize just how far I fall short myself.

This was especially true last night. We were dealing with 2nd Corinthians 12 where Paul is discussing his “thorn in the flesh.” I was focusing on some of the lessons Paul learned from this episode which helped him to find the confidence and contentment that we read in this text as well as in others. And I couldn’t help but realize that I was preaching to myself more than anyone. I, above all, need to learn these lessons. I could hear my heart screaming, “Hypocrite!”

Now I have to say that I never try to present truths such as these in a hypocritical fashion. I never say, “I’ve figured this out, so now you do it as well.” In fact, on occasions such as last night I make a point of confessing my weakness to our fellowship and let them know up front that these are issues God is dealing with me about in my life. Yet, I still feel like such a hypocrite.

I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things in direct violation of the Scriptural command to “not be anxious about anything.” I know it’s disobedience. I know it’s lack of faith. And yet I struggle. So where do I get the right to stand before our fellowship and talk about contentment in spite of circumstances, resting in the sufficiency of God’s grace, and so on. I believe those things with all my heart. I just struggle with actually living them out.

So I guess I’m writing this as some sort of cathartic confession. And I guess that an ulterior motive is to seek the prayers of as many friends and family as I can, asking you to petition the Lord on my behalf. Pray that I would be more faithful. Pray that I would trust fully in the sufficiency of God’s grace. Pray that I might be able to say with Paul, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” instead of saying “this is how we ought to live even though I can’t seem to do it myself.” And above all, may God be glorified in all things.

Thanks for bearing with me in my catharsis. Hopefully the next entry will be a bit more useful.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Word

This past Sunday, my lovely daughter sang a song during our morning worship service that extolled the virtues of God’s Word. It was a wonderful song, I think recorded by Christian singer Sara Groves, focusing on the eternal nature of the truth of God’s Word: The Word was, the Word is, and the Word will be. As I sat listening to that song, I was reminded again of how foreign the whole concept is to our world today: to base our faith and lives on God’s Word; the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the truth.

A couple weeks ago Voddie Baucham was interviewed by CNN regarding the whole Gov. Palin issue, especially the issue of why Evangelicals would support her nomination for Vice President even though they wouldn’t allow her to preach in their pulpits. Dr. Baucham was quick with a comeback about most people supporting her simply because they fear the socialist regime that Obama will usher in. But I digress…

The discussion turned to the role of women in the culture vs. the “narrow view” some in the church have. To that, Voddie said: “We’re about the gospel. The culture doesn’t dictate truth. The gospel dictates truth. My job is not to be a political pundit or political activist. My job is to be a pastor and proclaim the truth of the gospel as clearly as I possibly can.” The Word was, is, and will be.

The other guest on the interview, a more liberal “evangelical” speaker began making comments about today’s “modern families,” and how the biblical idea of the of husband as the head, etc. doesn’t “translate into many working class families today.”

Again Voddie’s response: “You know my job is not to translate into working class families, my job is to be honest with the text, and the text says in Titus chapter 2 and verse 5 a woman is to be the keeper of the home. Now I will not violate the teaching of the text in order to somehow sound more appropriate for the culture. I am a herald of the truth of the gospel, and my job is to teach the gospel, according to what the authors have said, not according to what I think the culture wants to hear.” The Word was, is, and will be.

It seems this is a fading voice in contemporary American Christianity. The focus these days is on relevancy, not truth. However, Greer Boyce once stated in a Canadian Journal of Theology article that “faithfulness to the text is not to be sacrificed for the sake of what we presume to be relevancy.” And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

That quote was included in John MacArthur’s Rediscovering Expository Preaching. In that book, MacArthur also says that “God gave His true Word to be communicated exactly as He gave it. It is to be dispensed precisely as it was delivered, without altering the message.” The Word was, is, and will be.

I know that godly-minded individuals will occasionally disagree about this or that Bible passage. But it scares me when we are more concerned about “relevancy” and what “translates into modern families” than we are about faithfully communicating the text.

Let’s give God some credit. When He inspired the authors of the Sacred Text, He was well aware of what “modern families” would be going through. Because He makes “known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come,” (Is. 46:10) He knew what would be relevant both then and now. Let’s stop trying to “correct” and “update” God and let Him speak. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) and the God who is unchanging has given us a Word which is unchanging as well. It’s time for the church to stop worrying about fitting in with modern culture and simply “preach the Word, in season and out of season.” (2 Tim. 4:2)

The Word was, the Word is, and the Word will be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Was I Wrong About Palin?

OK. This is always hard for me. I'm a bit fixated on being right all the time. But I have to admit that maybe I was wrong in my last post in which I spoke so glowingly of Alaska Governor and GOP VP Nominee Sarah Palin.

This has nothing to, per se, with the recent political attacks from the left. Nothing they have said will change my mind. However, in rush to embrace anyone in this election who shows even the remotest interest in moral values, etc. I was quick to overlook some very key issues.

Leave it to a prophetic voice like that of Voddie Baucham to point this out. Instead of simply repeating his arguments and so on, I'll simply encourage you to read these articles (just click on the titles):

The Evangelical Two-Step

Many will see these as "radical" articles, and they are. But Voddie has reminded me that we are meant to be radicals in this world. The Gospel is radical. The Christian Life is radical. Maintaining a prophetic voice is radical.

As much as I hate to admit it, I find myslef among the "sheeple" Voddie speaks of. I was so quick to find anything hopeful that I was willing to dump some of the very things I've been trying to preach to our own church for the last few years: namely, the importance of the family in the raising/discipling of the next generation, the supreme value of both motherhood and fatherhood, and the need to resist assimliation of culture and maintain biblical values. I repent in dust and ashes.

So where does that leave me on the political front. I'm not sure. I need to do some more praying on it. Maybe I'll go back to my original plan to write in Mike Huckabee. I don't know. But whatever happens, I'm grateful for Voddie Baucham's unwaivering commitment to the biblical family and his intelligent response to all of this. Again, I encourage you to read these articles and give them prayerful consideration.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin For President

I confess. Though I try to keep up with politics, and have been known to share my opinion in that area whether folks want to hear it or not, the truth is...I hate political speeches. Always have. And for the most part, I don't even watch them. Oh, every once in awhile I might tune in for bits and pieces of a State of the Union address or something. But for the most part, when I look at the on screen TV guide and see every major network carrying some political speech or another, I start looking for re-runs of Andy Griffith.

Last night was an exception. Readers of this blog (both of you) know that I was a staunch supporter of Mike Huckabee during the primary race. And quite honestly, I've never been real enthused about John McCain. But when I heard who he had chosen for a running mate, I found myself just a bit more encouraged. So to be sure, I tuned in last night to hear Gov. Sarah Palin's speech at the RNC. (In case you missed it, you can read a transcript here)

OK, I know this is all show. I know she has speech writers like any other politician (although I'm convinced the "hockey mom" joke was off the cuff); still I was impressed. This lady is a genuine conservative; someone who seems to not mind stating her mind regardless of what the liberal media thinks.

Palin seems to be genuinely convicted on issues of life, smaller government, American patriotism, 2nd Ammendment rights, etc.; all issues that us "common folks" in the Heartland seem to care about. They don't seem to be political issues to her; they seem to be honest convictions.
Certainly no one is perfect. We've already had some of this family's "imperfections" shoved down our throat by the liberal media (see my previous post for a response to that). But I found myself genuinely liking this Alaskan Governor.

Actually, there was only one real point of disagreement all night (other than her glowing recommendations of McCain, who I still have reservations about). At the end of her speech, Sen. McCain came out holding a microphone. After greeting the whole Palin family who had come on stage, he turned to the crowd and said something like "Don't you think we made the right choice for the next Vice President of the United States?" To which my wife, ever the wise one in our home, replied, "No you didn't. She should be running as President instead of you!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Finding Forgiveness on Fox News

I confess that I don’t know much about Fred Barnes beyond the basics of his professional journalism resume. I know that he is firmly conservative. I know that I agree with him many times when I’ve heard him opine on a variety of issues. Beyond that, I know nothing of his personal life or faith.

However, based on one short set of comments heard tonight on Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, I have become a huge Fred Barnes fan. I didn’t know this was something I would be writing about, so I didn’t tape it or record it in any way. So, I may not be quoting him exactly. But I will hopefully get at the core of his comments.

Everyone knows by now of the unfortunate situation with Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin and her pregnant teenage daughter. The liberal media was quick to jump on anything negative they could find and they’ve made this a bigger headline than Hurricane Gustav.

The issue was brought up during the panel discussion segment on Special Report, and I will remember Fred Barnes’ response for a long, long time. He quoted from a Washington Post article which said that this situation would be “a hard one for the Republican family values crowd to swallow.” Barnes’ response to that inane comment was priceless.

In essence he said: Of course this won’t be hard to swallow. This is what the values crowd is all about…forgiveness. We know that we are all sinners. That’s why we’re Christians. That’s why we need Jesus Christ.

I admit that when I heard those words I jumped out of my recliner yelling and laughing. The whole family rushed to see what was “wrong” with dad. I just couldn’t believe I had heard the words “we need Jesus Christ” from a journalist on a news show, even if it was the more conservative Fox News channel.

Again, I know nothing of Mr. Barnes personal beliefs. But those few comments did my heart good. The liberal folks just don’t get it. Of course we hold to a higher standard. Of course we would be disappointed by a teenager getting pregnant outside of marriage. But that doesn’t mean that we would condemn the individual without mercy.

While it is wrong to look the other way and say as one of the other panelists did, “this is no big deal, it happens all the time;” we also congratulate the whole family for taking responsibility and “doing the right thing.” It’s refreshing to see the family standing by their daughter, pledging to raise the child with unconditional love, seeing the couple married, etc. That’s a far cry better than Obama’s comments earlier that he supports abortion because he wouldn’t want his daughter’s “punished with a child.” At least this family sees children as a blessing and is willing to protect the child’s life when the “politically expedient” thing to do would be to “make the problem go away.”

So a healthy dose of respect to the Palin family for standing up in a difficult situation. We should all pray for that girl and her child. And big time kudos to Fred Barnes for giving us a little lesson in forgiveness on the evening news. I already sent an email to Fox News thanking Mr. Barnes for his comments and I hope lots of others do as well.

We are indeed all sinners in need of Christ. Even the evening news said so!