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Friday, August 24, 2018

Hypocrisy vs Honesty


It is painfully evident that we all struggle with sin  - but does that make us all hypocrites? 

Whether it’s non-believers accusing the Church of being filled with hypocrites or believers feeling the burden of their own sin and shortcomings – this is a question worth looking at. 


Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is defined by a deliberate, deceitful and (most importantly) unapologetic act or attitude. 

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus, and only Jesus, uses a special term for the religious hypocrites of the day – “hypokritēs”

Vines Dictionary of Greek words gives us some insight into the use and meaning of this word:

"A stage-actor;" it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice; hence the word became used metaphorically of "a dissembler, a hypocrite."

In this sense there are hypocrites throughout the world and, yes, in the Church. But the tired excuse of “I don’t go to church because there are hypocrites there” – is, just that, tired.  As Christians though, it is true that we must be always on the alert that we do not find ourselves under this definition by Jesus. This prideful hypocrisy can be subtle and sneak up on us before we even know it. That’s not what we want the Church to look like. 

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector



Honesty

But let both non-believers and believers be reminded of the difference between being what Jesus referred to as a hypocrite (a stage actor, wearing masks and augmenting the voice) and the person who is honest - sincere in their faith and motivation but still struggles with sin in their daily life. 

A sincere struggle with sin is different when we are honest about it (with ourselves and others) and, being remorseful, seek to be different. Our spiritual motivation is to be more like Christ but our human nature, what the Bible often refers to as “The flesh”, fights hard against us. 

Jesus reminds His disciples of this in Matthew’s Gospel: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (26:41)

Later on Paul the Apostle elaborates on this dichotomy of the regenerated Christian. 

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin… 
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:14, 18-20

To be a hypocrite is to pretend or “act” to be something you are not (i.e. perfect or sinless or above others). To be a redeemed sinner is to be full of admitted short comings but also filled with a genuine, sincere and honest spirit seeking to obey God and be more like Christ each day. Perfection is not the opposite of hypocrisy nor is wallowing in your sinful nature.

If you want to avoid being a hypocrite look to the grace of God - it is the antidote to hypocrisy and pride. So take off the mask today and stop play-acting. Admit you’re not perfect, that you are, in fact, irreparably broken -  then dive into the grace of God as He saves you from your sin and then transforms you each day into the likeness of Jesus. 


"For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace..." Hebrews 13:9

Sunday, April 22, 2018

My Top 20 Most Influential Songs

At 40 years old I've decided to gather my top 20 favourite/ most influential songs of my life (The old hymns would have their own list). I think each one has a story but I won't bore you with that. Check these out and let me know what some of your most influential songs have been... 

In no particular order:

On Fire -  Switchfoot
Grace - U2
Shepherd Is the Lamb - O.C. Supertones
Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac 
Agnus Dei - Third Day 
How Deep the Father's Love - Sarah Sadler
Farther Along - Josh Garrels
Gotta Serve Somebody - Bob Dylan
Sick Cycle Carousel - Lifehouse
Zombie - The Cranberries
Rest - Skillet
Boldly I Approach - Rend Collective
The Cure For Pain - Jon Foreman
Cry No More - Crossmovement
Alive In This Moment - Starfield
Wheat Kings - The Tragically Hip
Irene - Tobymac
Every Mile Mattered - Nichole Nordeman
Where I belong - Switchfoot

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Personal Note To You About Me

My Mental Health and How It Affects Me

Well if you’re reading this I must trust you to some extent and want to open up a bit to you about my mental health issues and how they affect my life. I want to do this because you’ll probably end up wondering at some point anyways and for me it is important that people understand my integrity, work ethic and values. As a Christian, it’s important to me that God is glorified in me and that I do not sully His name because of misunderstandings in our society. If you want to hear my personal story then you can watch this 20minute youtube video I originally made for a conference at my church on mental health.


What is My Medical Diagnosis?

When I was younger and quite proud I used to not believe that there was any such thing as mental illness. I thought it was either a cheap excuse or that it was all just spiritual warfare. If you watch my testimony you will see how God humbled me. When I was finally ready to admit I had a problem I was diagnosed first with Clinical Depression and then a few years later with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which can take on spiritual characteristics and attack one’s sense of conscience (this is called Scrupulosity).

My depression is not the kind that is just about being sad for a while – it is a chronic illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Likewise, my OCD is not the kind that we often joke about (i.e. “I like everything super organized therefore I have OCD”.) but rather a debilitating anxiety disorder that tremendously affects all areas of my life. Many famous persons have suffered with these things throughout history. Winston Churchill and Charles Spurgeon struggled heavily with depression (see Spurgeon’s testimony here). Martin Luther, (known for sparking the Reformation) and John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress, an English Lit classic) suffered from OCD.

How Does It Affect Me?

In short – a lot. These things are a disability like any physical one and I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say it is on or near the scale of being in a wheel chair or of having a broken leg that never heals. What I would love you to know is that I have always been a reliable, hard working person and feel a deep responsibility to provide for my family. My character hasn’t changed but my mental health has affected how I am able to perform these characteristics. At this point my wife has the paying job in our family and works very hard for us – fortunately she also enjoys both being a mom and having a career. I struggle with not providing financially but I have come to learn (the hard way) that there are many ways to provide for your family – including being the “homemaker”, parenting, and emotional and spiritual provision.

Some specific ways this ailment affects me are an inability to commit to long term things (or sometimes even short term things). I need to have “a way out” so that my anxiety does not overtake me. Travelling has also proven very difficult – I can do a road trip of about 4 hours max and sometimes, if I’m lucky, can do airplanes. While we all experience stress and anxiety to some point, this is a whole other ball game. Sometimes instead of saying I don’t have the “time” the more honest answer is that I don’t have the “energy”. If energy were money then I would live in poverty – there’s only so many times I can access my “bank account” before it is just plain empty. People often say to me that they would have never guessed I have these struggles and that I look fine. It’s true that I can put on a pretty good show but once I get home I usually crash in bed for a couple hours… or if it’s really bad, a couple of days.

How Do I Manage It?

>  Medication - I’m on it and probably always will be. I have no problem with this or shame in it. Just like insulin to a diabetic, the right medication can restore what is naturally lacking in your body and brain. Too often people refuse to try medication for mental health because they are ashamed or think it will change their personality - in reality it can restore it.

> Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Response Therapy. I won’t go into the details but these are common sense, scientifically proven, ways to deal with OCD

> Counselling – I talk to my psychiatrist or a counselor of some type on a regular basis as this helps keep me “tuned up” – kind of like taking your car in for regular maintenance. Talking to professionals and having a support group of family and friends is absolutely necessary to manage this.

>  Proper sleep, diet and exercise – I try my best to keep on top of these things although the illness makes it very difficult for me to exercise.

>  I control my calendar. Sherry and I work hard to control our schedules as much as we can so that the stress or anxiety is kept in check.

Is There a Cure?

If someone tells you that there is an easy cure to either depression or OCD they are either uneducated about the topic, lying or trying to sell you something. There are many things a person can do to help and manage OCD ( like the things I mentioned above) and every person has their own story but for me – this is probably a lifelong struggle.
Can God heal me? Of course He can but I also know that God does always choose to heal his children (see Job, Paul, Timothy…). For me I believe God has prepared me to be in this for the long haul but if He changes His mind  - that’s cool too :). I’ve come to deeply identify with Paul when he says:

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10

Although I continually struggle I also believe that God allows me to walk in the same type of victory that Paul did.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps us to understand each better and deepen our relationship. I am always open to questions and discussion.
God bless,


Joe