Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tell Old Pharaoh!

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3

Americans don’t think much of public school teachers who go on strike to get bigger salaries and leave their students without adequate education. People look down on parents who neglect their children to give in to their own pleasures and addictions. Employees have little respect for bosses who take advantage of them and overwork them in order to line their own pockets.

I’ve been thinking about Pharaoh in the Bible story of the Exodus. He was a leader of a great country. He seemed to realize the benefits of the hardworking Hebrews among the Egyptians, but cared nothing about their plight or their well-being. They already worked at the back-breaking job of making bricks. In Exodus chapter five, we read that after Moses first asked to have them released to go “home” to Canaan, Pharaoh ordered that the slave drivers make the work harder for them, but to require the same quota of bricks.

Well, you say, the Hebrews worked as slaves, not as Pharaoh’s own people. He didn’t have to treat them in the same way he would treat the Egyptians.

But, as the story progresses, because of Pharaoh’s stubborn heart, God brings ten increasingly horrific plagues on the Egyptians. Did Pharaoh at all have his people in his heart? It appears he considered only his own selfish reasons when deciding to put up a fight to keep the slaves in his country, thus making his own people pay the price.

Unfortunately, there exist leaders like this wherever we look. Especially when we hear of pastors, church elders, priests, bishops who rule with only their own agendas in mind, we react to the unfairness. God gave us the picture of “shepherds” over His people in Jeremiah 23 and other places in the Old Testament. The picture of “shepherds” continues in the New Testament. Even Jesus, the great example of the Good Shepherd, showed us how Christian leaders should treat the people in their care.

Pray for church leaders everywhere, that first of all, like Paul, they might have their people “in their hearts.” Paul calls it “the affection of Christ Jesus.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pigs and Lipstick

You’ve heard this saying: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig—meaning: You can dress up a lie all you want, but it is still a lie.

Charles Spurgeon put it more delicately when he wrote in the early 19th century: A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.

Friday, September 23, 2011

In a Hole

Will Rogers said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Why do otherwise intelligent adults seem to ignore this outlook? The farther down they dig, the less daylight they have on the situation, and the worse off they make things. They cannot even hear corrective measures from those who would rescue them and the situation they have created.

I observe that adults in this predicament primarily cannot admit they are wrong. At the first twinge of conscience or the first doubt about their actions, they should have investigated, reflected, and done an “about face.” God calls this “repentance.” But, instead, pride, or shame brings these persons to the place where they begin to “cover up” their wrongful deeds. They use a shovel to dig more dirt, and end up digging further down in the hole. The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to get out of the hole.

Sometimes people in a hole of their own making cry out for sympathy from onlookers. They try to reason that this digging is a necessary remedy, that they really do have the right idea. They dig deeper, and before they know it, others have fallen into the pit with them. They convince each other that they can get out by burrowing a tunnel or by hunkering down together.

But God has made a way for people in this kind of predicament to get out. Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” He can and will rescue us if we humble ourselves and cry out to Him. He always hears the honest prayer of His children. So, if you are in a hole of your own making, pick up the ladder of confession He provides instead of the shovel of pride. God will meet you on the first rung!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stepford Christians

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
2 Corinthians 11: 13-15

The 1975 movie, The Stepford Wives, has remained in my memory, not only as a very bizarre story, but as an example of how very like the Men’s Association our enemy, the prince of this world, Satan, operates.

The story takes place in an affluent idyllic town of Stepford, Connecticut. A new resident, Joanna, notices how strange all the women seem to appear. They are fawning wives, mindless, and perfect in every way. What she doesn’t realize is that one by one, the husbands of the Men’s Association who make it their mission to completely control their wives, have killed off their wives one-by-one and replaced them with perfectly engineered robots that look identical to the wives—without the flaws. These formerly very successful professional women now think only of pleasing their husbands in every way, and have given up any resemblance to their own personhood.

Joanna watched as one of her more “normal” neighbors seemed to go through a similar metamorphosis. For one thing, the tennis court in the back yard was dug up and replaced with a putting green for her husband. Only when her own family became victims of the Men’s Association, does she try to escape for her own life.

We would all love to be the perfect model of a Christian, not only pleasing to God, but especially to each other. We study the right “moves” and imitate them. We learn to play the game of “church” and never allow our own sinful natures to become visible. To acknowledge sin, to repent, to ask forgiveness takes too much humility. To do that we would have to admit we cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.

While it may be honorable to overlook faults in others and to look for the best in each other and in our churches, to just plain cover-up sin and hide horrific wrong-doing should never be tolerated. Christ did not die for people who pretend to be without fault. He died for sinners, and welcomes anyone who in reality comes to Him in honest confession.

The world, like Joanna, watches us. Anything that smacks of phoneyism is clearly evident to them. Why would they want to join a group of perfect people anyway, when they know their own hearts. We glorify God the most when we rely on Him for His grace to live life according to His desires, and when we willingly acknowledge and repent of our sins. Away with the plastic complexion and the nylon hair, and the mindless play-act!