The Mask

Hypocrisy is saying we believe something, then living as if we didn?t. ?Hypocrisy is preaching and not practicing.? It says do as I say not as I do.? It’s insincerity wearing a mask of sincerity.

Sincere Christians sin. ?But it’s one thing to earnestly though imperfectly pursue holiness and yet another to say we love God and willfully practice sin.

Many view Christians as hypocrites.? Some have concluded this when Christian leaders have fallen. But many have formed this opinion from personal experience with ?pious? neighbors, classmates, co-workers or parents who claim to follow Jesus yet fail to back it up with their lives.

The book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…And Why It Matters, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons records the findings of extensive research conducted over 3 years to try to discover how the younger generation of unbelievers views Christians. Here’s one of their discoveries:

?In virtually every study we conduct, representing thousands of interviews every year, born-again Christians fail to display much attitudinal or behavioral evidence of transformed lives. For instance, based on a study released in 2007, we found that most of the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non-born-agains. When asked to identify their activities over the last 30 days, born-again believers were just as likely to bet or gamble, to visit a pornographic website, to take something that did not belong to them, to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone, to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk, to have used an illegal, nonprescription drug, to have said something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did, and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.?

In other words, many Christians are no different than non-Christians in their lifestyles.

And here?s what Kinnaman and Lyons consider ?one of the most important findings? of their research:

?Among young [non-Christians], 84 percent say they personally know at least one committed Christian. ?Yet just 15 percent thought the lifestyles of those Christ followers were significantly different from the norm.?

It’s sad when people can’t see any difference between the lives of Christians and unbelievers.

Hypocrisy dishonors Christ. It says Jesus is powerless to make a difference in our lives. ?It says his death and resurrection don?t change anyone. ?Holiness means nothing.? It’s a mask, but underneath we’re just like everybody else.

Hypocrisy undermines our witness. ?It says our faith is a bunch of beliefs and practices that don?t affect our day to day lives.

Would our kids say though we are imperfect, we really do try to practice what we preach?? Or would they say we put on smiling masks of loving, patient parents in church, then take them off when we get home?

Would our non-Christian co-workers say we wear a mask of loyalty and diligence when the boss is around, but take it off to reveal slothfulness and grumbling when he leaves?? Would they say we’re truly joyful?? Would they say we’re encouragers?? Would they see any difference between us and themselves?

How we need God’s grace!? May we live sincere lives with nothing to hide.? No masks.

Free Scripture Song 1 John 1.7

Here?s another FREE Scripture Song to help you memorize the Word.? I love this Scripture:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1.7

You can listen to and download this free Scripture song here.? If you?d like more free Scripture songs, scroll down the page to the section on the right that says ?Free Resources? and click on ?Free Scripture Memory Songs.?

This song comes from Hide the Word 9, ?Walk Humbly,? which is part of my series of 9 Hide the Word albums, which have been designed to help people memorize Scripture.? If you would like to hear other Hide the Word songs, please visit my website, Forever Grateful Music.

photo by Wonderlane

Praying In Faith For Older Unbelieving Children

I?ve been reading Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani, about a family?s struggle to love and believe for the salvation of their daughter who rejected Christ.

Mr. Miller has a great insight into the challenge to pray in faith for those children who have rejected and sinned against their parents repeatedly:

?What goes on in the minds of battered [not literally, but by their children?s sin] parents when it comes time to pray? Often a sense of defeat takes over the spirit, a cloud that can descend even when the parents have forgiven the young person and have real love in their hearts. The problem is that parents often have a fixed negative image of the child. He or she is seen as unchangeable, an image that may be powerfully reinforced by the recollection of the adolescents many failings: repeated acts of rebellion, words of rebellion, and looks of rebellion.

The devil knows how to use this image to undermine effective prayer. He suggests to the unsuspecting parent that this image of cold resistance is the final vision of the child. ?This thankless child cannot be changed,? says the Master of Darkness. Listening uncritically to this voice, the praying father or mother then naturally lets the mind become fixed on the child’s stubbornness. Who can pray effectively when the mind is clouded by this picture of steely resistance?

To overcome this, simply shift the mind to the promises of divine grace found in the Scriptures. As a parent, focus your faith by meditating on a great biblical passage like Luke 15, in which you see the great images of faith. You discover the Father’s grace in action. ?Lost things do not remain lost; they are found. The dead come alive. The lost sheep is found by the shepherd, the lost coin by the housewife, and the lost son is welcomed home with almost scandalous warmth by a loving father. When you think about these things, you’ll realize that the Father loves even you, the parent, as a lost child that has been found. Will he not love your child the same way??

I agree with Mr. Miller?s advice. ?We must cling God?s promises, though I wouldn?t use the word ?simply? to describe the process of shifting the mind to God?s promises of grace. ?It?s a battle to believe God can change the hardest heart, bring glory out of devastation, and make rebels into servants. ?But God can do the impossible, even as he sought me when I was a self-centered, disrespectful, ungrateful, pleasure-seeking sinner and changed me.

Here are 2 promises (among many) to cling to and pray:

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.? (Isaiah 54:13)

?And as for me, this is my covenant with them,? says the LORD: ?My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children?s offspring,? says the LORD, ?from this time forth and forevermore.? (Isaiah 59:21)

photo by repolona

The Rapture Didn’t Happen Because…

I’ve got to admit, I’m a little bit relieved that the rapture didn’t happen this past Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been incredible if Jesus had returned. I get pretty sick of this world sometimes, and I’m eager for the day that Jesus returns and undoes all the sadness and wrongness and this-is-totally-messed-up-ness of the world. I’m ready for disease, and tornadoes, and rape, and abortion to be swallowed up by the brilliant rule of King Jesus.

But I also have lots of friends and family members who don’t yet know Jesus. And to be honest, on Saturday I was thinking about them a lot. If Jesus came back before they repented of their sins…

But the rapture didn’t happen on Saturday, and the reason it didn’t happen was because of my unsaved friends and family members. And yours too. 2 Peter 3:9 says:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The rapture didn’t happen because the Lord is full of patience. He doesn’t want anyone to perish in their sins. God isn’t some sicko who delights in inflicting pain on people. Yes, he is full of justice and will bring wrath on those who reject him, but I also believe that his heart breaks when a person dies in their sins. So he gives them more time to hear the gospel, more time to turn from their sins, and more time see their desperate need for Jesus.

The delay of Jesus’ return also gives us more time to passionately pray for the salvation of those around us, and more time to tell them the good news of the gospel. In some ways I’m grateful for guys like Harold Camping. Does he give Christians a bad name? Yes. I couldn’t help but notice the number of rapture jokes being cracked on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday. But he also reminds us that someday Jesus really will return in all his glory and splendor and judgment. I need to be reminded of that fact because sometimes I get lulled to sleep by the world.

Jesus didn’t return on Saturday, but make no mistake, he is returning. May our prayers and our proclamation burn hot until he does.

Burdened Beyond Our Strength

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. ?Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. ?2 CO 1.8-9

In Asia, Paul found himself ?utterly burdened? beyond his own strength. ?He was so weighed down he thought he would die. ?God placed him in a situation too heavy for him, beyond his own strength, far too massive for him to handle.

Why would God do this? ?Does he take some kind of sadistic pleasure in stretching us beyond our limits? ?Does God enjoy straining us to the breaking point?

God put Paul in dire straits so he?d experience God?s incredible power to deliver him. ?He stretched Paul beyond his own strength so he?d rely on God?s strength, not his own.? For Paul was a very capable man.? Before getting saved he had advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries.? He had brains.? And as a Christian, God had gifted him incredibly.? He knew the Scriptures and could debate anyone.? He’d worked miracles.? He’d seen God use him to save many.

So God so laid a weight on him so far beyond his own strength and wits he’d have to rely on God, not himself.

God does similar things with all his children.

He puts us between rocks and hard places. ?He puts us in situations we can?t escape. ?Perhaps you?re paired with someone at work who makes your every working moment miserable. ?Maybe you have several small maniacs, I mean, children, who bounce off the walls from the time they get up till bed time. ?Maybe you have an unsaved teen who causes you unbelievable grief. ?Or severe health or financial problems. ?I could go on, but you get the idea.

What do we do when we?re ?burdened beyond our strength?? ?We can keep trying to solve things on our own, or we can give up and slide into despair, or we can turn to the world for relief. ?But none of these are the answer. ?The answer is to ?rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.?

God won?t let his children rely on their own wits or strength. ?He?s determined to bring us to total dependence on him.

If you?re facing a mountain today, turn to the Lord who moves mountains. ?Cast your burdens on him. ?He gives strength to the weary and hope to the hopeless.

In Case Of Rapture, Click Here

With the current interest in judgment day and the end of the world, it should not be surprising that some Christians would be concerned for the welfare of their pets in the event that the owners are suddenly caught up to heaven.

Sure enough, some concerned pet owners have launched a website to meet such a serious need.? For a small $10 fee, which is charged only to discourage everyone but serious Christian pet owners, promises to have non-Christians search for your pets and look after them in the event you are raptured.? They promise to take care of every legitimate kind of pet, even insects that are left behind.? Yes, even your pet tarantula will be in good hands – that is, if you trust the unbelievers who will be running

We have 2 dogs, which actually look rather post-apocalyptic since we recently had them shaved.? My wife failed to specify how short to shave them, so the groomer did an extreme job, shaving every bit of hair from their bodies but their tails and snouts.? So they actually look like dog versions of the Zombies in “I Am Legend.”? I think they will probably be fine after the rapture, hiding in empty buildings and eating other pets whose owners didn’t sign them up with

Here they are: End Time Zombie Dogs

Now would be a good time to launch other end-time businesses.? After the rapture, we’ll need people to water our plants, trim our bushes and get the honey from our beehives.? What if the rapture happens while you’re barbecuing on your patio?? will come to your house, turn off your grill, remove your burgers, and give your grill a final scrape.
And who’s going to care for the wild birds in your neighborhood?? will make sure those Chickadees and Pileated Woodpeckers don’t go hungry.? will come to your house and unplug your electric razor that was left buzzing in the bathroom sink when you were raptured while shaving, as happened in the classic movie “A Thief in the Night.”? Here’s the opening scene.? Show this to your non-Christian friends and they’ll get saved on the spot.

And we all know that many Christians’ cars will suddenly be driverless when the rapture occurs, causing accidents and stranding vehicles all over the planet.? That’s why will make millions.? So will and And what airline wouldn’t sign up for to protect their customers?

The field is wide open for rapture-based websites.? What others would you suggest?

How the Heck Did We Get Our Bible?

Have you ever wondered why certain books are in the Bible and others aren’t? Why is the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, while The Shepherd of Hermas is not in the Bible? What makes one book more important than another?

If you read books like The Da Vinci Code, you might be led to think that the Bible was put together by power-hungry men who were out to create a book that would further their agenda for religious domination. Those writings that furthered their agenda made it into the Bible, while the writings that were counter to their agenda were banished. Or some sort of nonsense like that.

In his helpful book, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, Gregg Allison explains how the church fathers determined which books were canonical (scripture) and which were not:

Two key criteria emerged to determine which writings to include in the canon: (1) apostolicity: Does this writing have an apostle for its author (e.g., Paul’s letters, the gospels of Matthew and John)? If not, is an apostle associated with this writing (e.g., Mark’s gospel records the account of the apostle Peter)? (2) antiquity: Has the church historically recognized the voice of God speaking to his people in this writing? Although equipped with these criteria, the church did not set out to determine the canon of Scripture as much as to recognize and affirm those authoritative, inspired writings that God intended for inclusion in his Word.

I find that really helpful. The early church fathers weren’t seeking to determine what got into the Bible and what didn’t, like editors putting together an edition of a magazine. Rather, they were simply seeking to recognize and affirm those writings that were clearly the word of God.