Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hypocrisy Exam #3

By scrolling below you can find the first two of the three questions that a seminary professor of mine (Daniel Doriani) once suggested we ask ourselves in order to expose our tendencies toward hypocrisy. The final question of the three is this one:

Question #3: Are you consistent?

Here I'm just going to quote Dr. Doriani: "You are probably polite to your peers and in the presence of authorities. But a hypocrite condescends to children and mistreats those who serve at restaurants and in retail stores. A hypocrite behaves differently when no one 'important' (not one but the Lord!) is looking. Or take parents who stand at the gate of an entertainment venue where children enter for reduced prices. Suppose that the price for children up to age eleven is half that of an adult. Suppose that your child is twelve, but is small enough to pass for eleven. What do you do if the attendant asks, 'How many adults?' What if the attendant simply rings the lower price? What does a hypocrite do? What does a consistent Christian do?"

Scenarios could be multiplied over & over. The internet sites we visit publicly & privately... the work ethic we demonstrate when no one's watching... the discourtesy with which we treat family members (an impatience that we would never use with strangers in Walmart), etc.

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."
~ Solomon

"Does he not see my ways and number all my steps?"
~ Job

Three good questions to expose & diagnosis where hypocrisy is taking root and growing in our lives. Spiritual practices, audience, consistency.

May we pray as that famous recovering / repenting hypocrite David did:

"Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."
~ Psalm 51

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More thoughts on friendship from Chuck Colson

Bert and Ernie
Buddies in a Sexualized Culture

August 29, 2011

Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the kid’s show, “Sesame Street,” announced last week that Bert and Ernie will not be getting married.

Bert and Ernie, two of the show’s Muppets, are best buddies. They live in the same house and sleep in the same room — in separate twin beds. They bicker, they share, they enjoy a bedtime cookie together every night.

They’re such good friends that some assume they must be gay. And one group used an online petition to ask “Sesame Street” to let the truth be known. Bert and Ernie, they say, should come out of the closet and get married. This would, presumably, teach tolerance and respect for differences — something, the petitioners note, “Sesame Street” has tried to do for years.

“Sesame Street” made it clear that Bert and Ernie are puppets and as such, “Do not have a sexual orientation.” Good point, but that’s not the only reason why their getting married was a bad idea.

Writing in US News & World Report, Peter Roff notes that there are things little children do not need to know. “[S]ome stages of life,” he writes, “for example, the years from 2 to 4 [Sesame Street’s demographic] — must be walled off from the passions of adults.”

And blogger Alyssa Rosenberg summed up the biggest objection. “I think it’s actively unhelpful,” she wrote, “to gay and straight men alike to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple . . . Such assumptions narrow the aperture of what we understand as heterosexual masculinity in a really strange way.”

Strange indeed. It teaches the ridiculous and deeply destructive idea that same-sex friendships are necessarily sexual. And that’s the last thing we want to teach our children, because it will spell the end of friendship, particularly friendships between young men.

Yet that is precisely the message that’s communicated over and over. It’s the reason gay apologists want to eroticize Bert and Ernie, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the apostle John, and Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Iliad.

Some in our culture are apparently incapable of understanding close friendship without sex. And that flies right in the face of a Christian understanding of friendship.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship,” wrote the great thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas.

As Christian brothers and sisters we are called to deep friendships with one another. And while we may be more comfortable with the word “fellowship” than “friendship,” Christian relationships marked by love, honesty, selflessness, intensity, and a chaste brotherly or sisterly passion for one another are a powerful witness to the love of God in our largely friendless world.

Bert and Ernie, in spite of differences in personality and temperament — and without any sexual overtones — are the very best of friends. And our kids need that kind of example. They need it from television, parents, and especially the Church in order to see through the hyper-sexualized fog that’s all around them.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Some good thoughts from Chuck Colson...

More than Information
Friendships in a Digital Age

August 26, 2011

A recent Toyota ad features a teenager sitting with her friends. That is, she’s on Facebook alone in front of her computer. Older people, she laments, are “becoming more and more anti-social.” That’s why she pushed her parents into joining Facebook. But despite all her efforts, her parents only have nineteen friends while she has six hundred eighty-seven friends. “This is living,” she adds.

Meanwhile the ad cuts to mom and dad who are mountain biking with other actual, live, humans. That is, they’re spending the day with their friends while their daughter stares at Facebook.

In “Faux Friends,” an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, William Deresiewicz writes, “We live at a time when friendship has become both all and nothing at all.” Husbands and wives, parents and children, bosses and employees, pastors and church members, waiters and customers, politicians and voters are all “friends.” And now thanks to Facebook and other social networking websites, people who barely remember each other from junior high school are “friends,” too.

We’ve come a long way from David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi, two classic examples of friends in the Bible. Such friendships with their emotional intensity, personal commitment, and sacrificial love are rare today even in marriage. They take time, effort, and a willingness to know and be known as you really are.

Facebook, as Deresiewicz argues, gives us the impression of friendship not the real thing. On Facebook all our friends are assembled in one place. “Except,” as he says, “of course, they’re not in the same place, or, rather, they’re not my friends. They’re simulacra of my friends, little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.”

As one woman told him, “It’s like they’re all having a conversation. Except they’re not.”

On-line you can be whatever you want to be, carefully crafting your image. Or — even worse — you can indiscriminately broadcast all your inmost thoughts and feelings, things that are better kept for private conversations with … well, with your real friends.

Of course, the problems with friendship today are bigger than Facebook, MySpace, and other sites. Friendship was in trouble before they came along. They’ve just made the situation worse.

Deresiewicz correctly identifies the idea implicit in social networking, “that identity is reducible to information,” specifically our “consumer preferences.” And social networking is, for the most part, nothing more than sharinginformation. But data tell us little or nothing about another person’s character — the most important quality of a good friend. We only learn about that as we patiently share and hear one another’s stories.

“Posting information,” Deresiewicz writes, “is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition.” Exchanging stories, he says, is mutual and intimate. It involves “probing, questioning . . . It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill,” all of which sharing stories teaches them.

While social-networking sites may have their place, Christian friendships, inspired by God’s love, have to go much deeper than digital chumminess. Indeed, we need to demonstrate the kind of relationship Jesus has with us when he calls each of us “friend.”

Hypocrisy Exam #2

Two posts down I mentioned a former seminary professor of mine who suggested three practical questions we can ask ourselves, to see where hypocrisy might be taking root and growing in our lives. In that earlier post we looked at Question #1. Moving on...

Question #2: Do you live for the divine audience or the human audience?

Consider Jesus' words in Matthew 23.5: "They do all their deeds to be seen by others."

As my professor posed the question, who do we live for? Who's our "audience"? How often are we absorbed & preoccupied with how we are looking in the eyes of our peers or our superiors? And how often do we stop to give thought to how we may appear to the eye of God? Which audience weighs most heavily on our minds?

One of the things Jesus taught his disciples is that they should not do good & spiritual things (pray, gift gifts, fast, tithe) in order to be seen by others. He taught us that we should actually hide our 'good deeds' as much as possible.

In that way the good deed done draws attention to God... not us. The glory belongs to God... not us.

Which audience has determined the choices you've made so far today?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

12 years of joy and delight.

This young lady turns 12 today (the one on the left, with the shorter ears). Named for her great-grandmother (Mrs. Callicott), everyone who had the privilege to know them says that they have the very same sweet, calm, peaceful, servant-hearted, loving, gentle, kind, gracious, considerate, thoughtful, self-giving personality.

She's a beautiful gift of God to her mother and me. I remember fondly the time when she was just a little toddler -- barely able to walk. Her big brother had busted his nose and was bleeding nicely. Her mom & I were sitting in the kitchen, gathered around her brother, trying to stanch the flow of blood. Calli looked at her brother over our shoulders for a moment, & then quietly toddled out of the room. A moment later she toddled back into the room with three or four lengths of toilet paper in her hand. She unobtrusively slipped in between her mom & I, reached up to her brother's face, and began drying his tears with the toilet paper.

That's her. Compassionate. Level-headed. Steady. Strong. Generous. Helpful. Discretely self-effacing.

Calli, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you may grow more and more in your grasp of the blessing and hope of eternal life, by your maturing knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent. John 17.3.

Do not let your adorning be external... but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
... 1 Peter 3.3, 4

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hypocrisy Exam #1

This week I've been studying Matthew 23 in preparation for Sunday's sermon. It's the "woe" chapter, where Jesus unmasks the sin of hypocrisy in the lives of the Scribes & Pharisees. It's a powerful chapter. The subtleties of this particular sin are unmasked, we are undeceived about its poisonous nature, and the danger that the hypocrite is in is strongly underlined. Powerful.

But during my study, I came across something a seminary professor of mine once wrote about hypocrisy. He suggested that there are three practical questions we can ask ourselves to test for possible hypocrisy in our own lives.

Question #1: Is your religious/spiritual practice the same in public as in private?

This is a searching question, if we're bold enough to let it do its work. And if we want to have our eyes opened to where hypocrisy is taking root and growing in our lives, it's a crucial question.

And having our "eyes opened" is exactly the way we're supposed to think about it, judging by how many times Jesus uses the adjective "blind" in Matthew 23.

The particular point that my professor highlighted was prayer. "Hypocrites pray at set times, but genuine believers pray throughout a day."

How are we doing with prayer?

G.K. Chesterton once wrote this:

"You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the pantomime,
And grace before I open a book.
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

14 years goes by way too fast.

This young man turned 14 today. What a wonderful gift of God he's been to his mother and to me. As his name is, so he is. "Yahweh has given." "Gift of God." "Jonathan."

It's a joy to see him grow in Christ as he grows in stature. At the rate he's growing, by this time next year he's probably going to dwarf me in stature. And I pray that he outgrows me spiritually as well. God has begun a good work in him. I'm usually humbled by his patient wisdom whenever I'm being impatiently foolish.

Jonathan, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you'll continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 2 Peter 3.18.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
... from Psalm 119

Basset Hound: Check!

I couldn't take any more subtle hints from my wife, so I finally broke down & got her a puppy.

Those ears are ridonkulous.

Remember hush puppy shoes? Wasn't this the symbol?

Note the black heart tattoo.

Or "Lazy," depending on pronunciation.
Both are appropriate.
Lacey Basset McFleas.

Say what?

So a few days ago my three youngest kids help me deliver a bunch of ministry fliers around the neighborhood across the street from the church. As a reward, because it was so hot, we went to the McDonald's on the Beltline -- the one that also wants to be an antique toy museum. Inside the store they have this huge portrait of Elvis Presley.

I bring the kids over to it & ask, "Okay, who can tell me who this is?"

The eight-year-old: "Oh, I know!"

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Justin Bieber!"

I knew that kid from down the street was going to be trouble.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Authentic Christian Living

Look at how a Greek philosopher described the Christian church around 1,886 years ago:

“They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that has, distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”

That's Aristides of Athens, around the year A.D. 125, observing the way the church lives.

Does it resonate?

This Sunday:
Matthew 23.1-12
The Fifth Book of Jesus Begins

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Electing Love

"Electing love is ultimate love. If God loved us because he found something better in us, then we’d always be afraid of losing his love. And we’d never find his love a total miracle. But God does not say, 'I love you because you are serviceable to me' or 'I love you because you are more humble than others.' He says, 'I love you simply because I love you.' That is perfect love. This understanding is a fountain of endless praise and gratitude and thanksgiving."

Tim Keller


The only down side (as far as I can tell) of never really watching television is that I'm usually clueless when people are making references to funny commercials they've seen.

But someone recently pointed me to the new Walmart commercials. They're brilliant! If you need to see them (and you do), click here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

IRON MEN (& boys, 10 years of age & older) PAINTBALL

This Saturday, August 13.
Phoenix Paintball Division
Athens, AL
8:00 am

Bring. It. On.

Call Tommy if you're planning to join us.

the woods field

the town field

the tire field

the hay field

the air field

"Most sorts of diversion in men, children, and other animals, are an imitation of fighting." Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745.