“How is your spiritual life going?”  

I used to answer this question by looking at the state of my devotional activities: Did I pray and read the Bible enough today? The problem is that by this measure the Pharisees always win. People can be very disciplined, but remain proud and spiteful. How do we measure spiritual growth so that the Pharisees don’t win?  

I asked a wise man, “How do you assess the well-being of your soul?”  

He immediately said, “I ask myself two questions”:    

  • Am I growing more easily discouraged these days?   
  • Am I growing more easily irritated these days?  

At the core of a flourishing soul are the love of God and the peace of God. If peace is growing in me, I am less easily discouraged. If love is growing, I am less easily irritated. 

It was a brilliantly helpful diagnostic to assess the health of my soul.

- John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

When you tell someone not to be a Pharisee, you’re inadvertently becoming a Pharisee. And when you tell someone not to tell someone to be a Pharisee, you’re inadvertently becoming a Pharisee. And when you tell someone not to tell someone not to tell someone to …

Let’s just be careful with playing the Pharisee-card, and maybe not be one, and maybe love the Pharisees, too.

Now this you don’t see every day, even in Ukraine:

Vice speaker of Ukrainian Parliament throttles deputy

Vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Adam Martynyuk, on the right, throttles deputy Oleg Lyashko during a session in the chamber of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. According to reports, Lyashko had just asked Martynyuk to let him make a speech, which Martinyuk refused to do on procedural grounds. Lyashko then apparently called his interlocutor a Pharisee, at which point it was on.

via Boing Boing


So apparently correctly identifying the Talmud as not part of scripture, and mentioning that it says lots of blasphemous things about Christ means I’m anti-semitic.  

I guess by refusing to worship Thor I’m being anti-Anglo too.  

Oh wait no.. that can’t be right.. seeing as I am Anglo. 

C’mon guys, stop being ridiculous.  Lack of faith in the Talmud doesn’t make me anti-semitic.  (but I mean if you’re willing to accept the label of “anti-Anglo” for yourselves I might reconsider..)

Gamaliel, the Pharisee who feared God.

The story of Gamaliel has really been speaking to me. It’s found in Acts 5. The apostles were arrested by the high priest and thrown into prison for speaking in the name of Jesus. That night, an angel of the Lord opened their cell doors and told them to return to the temple and continue to preach the gospel in Jesus’ name. They did just that and were promptly rearrested. This time, the captain of the guard brought them straight to court. Here, Peter made a bold defense of Jesus and the gospel:

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32)

After hearing this testimony, the Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to stone the apostles, but Gamaliel, himself a Pharisee of high standing, stopped them:

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:34-39a)

How powerful were Gamaliel’s words! “For if this plan or this undertaking…is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

Would our witness be as powerful as that of the apostles. Would God work mightily in our lives and would no one be able to overthrow us because we are ever convinced and unashamed that God is life and that he alone can save.

why is it that christians are so obsessed with debating and being heard? why is every facebook status or unrelated question an opportunity to share how knowledgeable you are about the bible? why is it christians have become the ones to preach instead of the ones to listen, or the ones to judge instead of the ones to show grace? the pharisees were knowledgeable about the bible, and knew the law inside and out, always making sure to look good and pray loudly and tithe openly. but the real christian is the one who sacrifices all that they have, prays quietly and volunteers without recognition.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭1-12‬ NIV) According to William Barclay, the Talmud describes seven different types of Pharisees; six of the seven are bad.
- The Shoulder Pharisee, who wore all his good deeds and righteousness on his should for everyone to see.
- The Wait-a-Little Pharisee, who always intended to do good deeds, but could always find a reason for doing them later, not now.
- The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee, who was so holy that he would turn his head away from any woman seen in public - and was therefore constantly bumping into things and tripping, thus injuring himself.
- The Hump-Backed Pharisee, who was so humble that he walked bent over and barely lifting his feet - so everyone could see just how humble he was.
- The Always-Counting Pharisee, who was always counting up his good deeds and believed that he put God in debt to him for all the good he had done.
- The Fearful Pharisee, who did good because he was terrified that God would strike him with judgment if he did not.
- The God-Fearing Pharisee, who really loved God and did good deeds to please the God he loved.

What Would Jesus SAY?

A lot of the things that I write stem from conversations I have. I am finding that my interactions with other people, christian and non christian, are shaping so much of what I believe. Comparing my faith not only to the teachings of the bible but of the world I see around me has helped me to become so on fire for Jesus. It makes me want to live and act like he did.

In the conversations I have with people, disagreements happen. Sometimes these disagreements happen when I think that what the other people say does not match up with what the bible says or what Jesus taught. My first response is to call them out, and I think, to a certain extent, Jesus does this to tons of people. In my conversations with a fellow “christian” this topic came up. I was sharing about my experience in a discussion with some high schoolers and my friend did not agree with my tactic. She said things like “well did you tell them they were wrong?” and “how could you let them walk away believing the wrong thing?”. I’m beginning to realize how relational Jesus’ ministry was.

He called out people like the pharisees because of the relationship they had. The pharisees weren’t looking to learn from Jesus, but to catch him somehow doing something wrong or saying the wrong thing. Although when Jesus talked to the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus, or anybody who wasn’t jewish, Jesus didn’t call them out. He wasn’t quick to tell them how wrong they were, or that they were going to hell. He showed love, and through that love these people saw God. 

Let’s be honest God is big enough to change peoples hearts, I don’t think he really needs me. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t use us in profound ways to impact peoples lives, but instead of telling somehow how wrong they are, at least for me, I will begin to think about Jesus’ method. I don’t think it would be inaffective in today’s culture just because someone did it 2,000 years ago. We should love people first. I honestly think that if we love them like Jesus loved us, they will see God. Besides, Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself”, not “prove to everyone that you are right”.

Hypocrisy is a big sin in the Christian community and when the world looks at us, they often see double standards. Yes, we are imperfect and yes, we sin. The truth is that we cannot judge without being judged ourselves. We need to examine our own eyes before we examine others. If we are being called hypocrites, there is probably a reason for that. The best way to banish hypocrisy is to try our best to avoid sin and to let Jesus help us. Sometimes we are too busy being Pharisees and the world does not see Christ, but arrogance and self righteousness. We are called to a higher standard than this.
We're All Bad Catholics
The good news about the Catholic Church is it's like a big family. The bad news about the Catholic Church is... it's like a big family...

In short, Paul looks on the attempt to figure out who is winning the Spiritual Superiority Sweepstakes as something like the dying patients in a cancer ward vying for the title of “Least Terminal”.

“It’s not a secret that the big family called the Catholic Church is “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic” while we members of the Catholic Church are often fragmented, sinful, prone to sectarianism, and often so consumed with internecine squabbling that we have no time to be apostolic.  It’s complicated and can sometimes result in a destructive feedback loop.

So, for instance, some Catholics take an accommodationist approach to the world and become sponges for whatever the going thing is in pop culture. Stretching the word “catholicity” well past the breaking point, some will accept anything—even things flatly incompatible with the Faith such as denial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, abortion, casual rejection of the Real Presence, goddess worship, even atheism—as somehow falling under the Big Tent of our Big Family of Faith.  So we can run into the strange spectacle of people who call themselves “Catholic” while rejecting large swaths of Catholic teaching which the Church herself regards as non-negotiable—beginning with bothering to go to Mass.

…This can be very baffling to those who recognize that Jesus meant business when he said to the apostles and their heirs, the bishops, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.“ (Luke 10:16). Those who have struggled to the point where, even through agonizing pain, they feel bound to say “I believe all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims is revealed by God” can be shocked (and rightly so) at this cavalier attitude to the revelation of God—a revelation that did, after all, cost our Lord crucifixion and his Church untold numbers of martyrs.  Not surprisingly, there are strong reactions among such folk to those who treat doctrine and obedience lightly.

But sometimes there’s something else that happens as well.  As our general Western culture becomes more and more overtly hostile to the Church, there can begin to be a growing fear and even contempt for Catholics who are perceived less and less as members of the Church and more and more as fifth columnists: enemies within who are, as the phrase goes, “Catholics in Name Only”.

Catholics falling into the grip of this reaction can then begin to embrace the opposite evil from that of their lax brethren.  They can make the same mistake that some Jews did two thousand years ago when they saw their countrymen going over to the immorality and paganism of Greek culture and abandoning the traditions and customs of Israel.  They can start to regard themselves as “separated ones”–“Pharisees” is what they were called in ancient Aramaic.  More and more, a gimlet eye begins to be trained on fellow Catholics in the suspicion that they are subverting True Catholic Faith.  An insidious fear and contempt takes root as the duty of charity is replaced by the habit of searching more and more for the telltale sign of an impure heart beating in the breast of a seeming brother or sister.

…In contrast to all this, it is interesting to note that Paul does not spend a lot of time fretting about who is and is not the “real Catholic”.  That’s because Paul begins with the recognition that nobody, least of all he, is a real Catholic or a real Christian or anything other than a sinner saved by the bleeding charity of the Crucified Christ.  Therefore, of himself, he writes:

“I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:12-16)

Meanwhile, his diagnosis for the rest of us is not much cheerier:

“[A]ll men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood, in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they do not know.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Romans 3:9-18)

In short, Paul looks on the attempt to figure out who is winning the Spiritual Superiority Sweepstakes as something like the dying patients in a cancer ward vying for the title of “Least Terminal”. That’s a healthy place for anyone to start and it is something Hell is very eager to stop…  

Does that mean that Paul doesn’t care what we believe or do?  Certainly not. His letters are full of instructions about truth and falsehood, right and wrong. And when the situation really calls for it, Paul is not afraid to expel somebody from fellowship.

But note that such expulsions are extremely rare for Paul.  Also, they are done with an eye to the salvation, not the damnation, of the sinner.  And finally, they are never to be done by laypeople.  So the first thing the ordinary Catholic should note is that, as far as booting people from communion goes, unless he is a bishop or somebody acting on a bishop’s authority (in other word, not a layperson) we have no business deciding who needs to be shown the door…

Read in full.

pharisee father

is it wrong if a person does not know how to recite the rosary?

does the father have to scold his son every time he makes a mistake while reciting?

is it wrong to defend your brother while your father keeps on scolding him?

this month is the rosary month. as filipinos we have a tradition on praying the rosary together as a family. but i think it is useless because no value is shown at all. i’ll tell you isn’t it we should forgive and understand evrything? so why should he be scolding him for the mistakes and says that the whole rosary thingy is pointless because my brother does not know how to recite the rosary and keeps on moving and shaking his head and alot of things that you may consider as playing around. well, since i was a kid i teased my brother about his failure that made him cry so now that i’m all grown up i have this sense of understanding for his short comings. i just hate how my father keeps on degrading him

we were in the last mystery when my brother said holy mary instead of hail mary and then my abnormal father said stop playing around. then i said its okay he just made a mistake and then my dad said stop defending him and then said “this is pointless” and leaves. we still continued the rosary but in my head i wanted to kill him. yeah i know that was bad but come on, he started it.

after the rosary he tells me to stop defending my brother and i replied stuff about him insulting my brother. then he said he wasn’t doing it and that i missed interpreted it. our debate lasted for 10 minutes with him pointing a finger to me. this is annoying, he thinks that he is right and that no one shall go against him.

well guys, this is my father. i have been stuck with him for 17 years. if you’re annoyed right now, you haven’t heard all of it.

i swear on this day on i will be the one to end you life

most annoying father in the world

Let’s not get religious about being anti-religious. When people sing ‘Holy Spirit come’, they are really saying, 'Lord, we can’t feel you right now and we want to, please help us to feel you.’ When they say, 'we want more of You, Jesus’, they really mean 'I don’t feel loved right now and I want to’, or 'I don’t love people and I really want to’. When they sing, 'make me clean, God’, they mean, 'I feel dirty because I don’t know you made me righteous, please help me’. We can get so caught up in correcting people’s theological statements that we miss the point: there are broken, hurting people in the house, in every house, that need to feel clean, loved, wanted, and cared for. If a song doesn’t jive with your theology and that shuts you down from being able to still engage in worship with Jesus, there is a missing element to your relationship with Christ. Change the words if you have to, but continue to 'let the love of Christ dwell in you richly’.

//I am a Pharisee.

I am a Pharisee.
I am judgemental, I am religious, I follow the rules and I am proud.
I focus on what I do, not what Jesus has done.
I make my own rules and judge people by them. And they never match up to my standard, they’re never as good as me.
I think I am better. Than you, than Jesus. I think I am good enough, when really I am the worst of the worst.
It’s all about how I appear, not who I am. It’s about the outside, the show that I put on.
But looking deeper, looking to the heart level, well that’s when it all gets messy.
I don’t look that deep, I lie to myself and everyone around; that all is fine, yes I’m not perfect, but I’m not the worst, am I?
I look great outwardly, I go to all the Christian events, I have a good group of Christian friends, I go on mission teams and even wear a cross shaped necklace.
But only looking so far, doesn’t show the pride, the jealousy, the hatred, the selfishness, it doesn’t show who I am daily.

I focus more on how to look like a Christian, than how to be one.
I strive to be better everyday, but fail to see that Jesus has already been better than I could ever be. He has set the mark, and it’s far above anything I could achieve.
But I am a Pharisee, I want to earn it, I want to follow rules and let my pride take over because letting Jesus save me, letting him take my sin, is saying that there is something to be saved, and saying that I can’t do it alone.

I’m the worst of the worst.
But Jesus loves me still. But He gives more grace, and has covered my pride and jealously and hatred and selfishness, He’s covered it all with His blood. My slate has been white clean as I put on the royal robes and stand before my king.
So I will give my life to Him, all the guilt and the shame, all the sin, all the bad things, and also the good for I will live to serve and to praise him everyday of my life.

Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus told many parables throughout his teaching ministry while on earth.  Jesus taught with parables because of their effectiveness in helping the recipient remember them.  Since the beginning of time lessons have been told in story mode to enhance learning capabilities.  When Jesus wanted to teach on justification and grace, it is no surprise that he chose to do so with a parable.

Unlike many other parables, the story of the pharisee and the tax collector is only found in Luke.  The immediate context of the parable is not clearly stated.  But, from what can be deduced from the surrounding passages, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem but has not yet entered Jericho.  From what can be understood from the parable, Jesus is probably using this parable to answer a certain circumstance that has arisen or a question that had been asked.

Contrary to what many people may at first assume, the majority of the gospels are not organized chronologically.  Luke is no different.  Luke, who was a doctor, chose to organize most of his account topically.  To better understand the parable, it is fundamental to look at the surrounding context.  The parable of the pharisee and the tax collector is preceded by the following parables: dishonest judge, blessing of little children, rich magistrate, and the third announcement of his coming death.  How does this context further ones understanding of the parable? Well, in all those parables, the unexpected happens.  What would normally be the expected consequence, is not.  So is the same with the pharisee and the tax collector.  When the parable starts, one would normally assume that the pharisee was the one who was more just and upright.  But the opposite is actually true, the tax collector is the one who is more just and upright.  The themes of all these parables are also very similar.  One must “not [rely] on self but dependence on God’s graciousness” (Doran 270).

To fully grasp the message of the parable, the characters need to be understood.  The two characters in the story are just “two types of contemporary Palestinian Jews”(Fitzmyer 1182).  They are two opposing classes in Jewish society.  The Pharisee’s in Jesus’ time were the teachers of the Torah and were considered upright and godly.  Tax collectors, on the other hand, were considered the worst Jews.  They were known for stealing from their fellow Jews.  Unlike the Jews, Luke himself had a positive view of the tax collectors.  If one looks to all the references tax collectors in Luke, one will see how Luke sees tax collectors as turning from their sin and following Christ.  For example, they swarm to hear Jesus teach (3:12), Jesus calls a tax collector to follow him (5:27), and Jesus is even called a friend of tax collectors(Doran 268-69).  Luke’s view on Tax collectors are a little more diverse.  There are positive accounts and negative accounts of pharisees.  They question and challenge Jesus (5:17), they fault his behavior (6:1), and they try to trick him (11:53).  But if one continues reading Luke, we see a more positive view on Pharisee’s.  They warn Jesus from the threats of Herod (13:31), and Jesus is seen eating with them (7:30) (Doran 269).  These characteristics of both characters are important to notice, because it shows that we cannot automatically assume that one character is “better” than the other.

The parable is a contrast between two men.  One who is essentially proud, and the other is humble.  One who is socially high, and the other who is the socially lowest.  One believes he is “good enough” for God, and the other who has nothing to offer God because he realizes he is so wretched.  One who stands and prays in front of everyone, and the other who kneels and beat his chest.  One who is not justified, and one who is (Luke).

The reaction of the original audience is not stated, but one can assume that they would have been shocked at what they had just heard.  This tended to be people’s reaction when listening to Jesus teach.  At first the original audience would probably believe that the Pharisee would be the one who was right before God, but as we see at the end it is the tax collector who is right before God.  An unexpected twist that the original audience would not have expected culturally.

Like all of Jesus’ teachings, this parable still has significance to us today.  The modern application may not at first be evident, but it is there.  Who the characters are on the outside is not what is important, but who they are on the inside is what we need to focus on.  The pharisee is comparable to someone today who believes that they are able to be accepted by God for their works. The pharisee went over and beyond what was expected by God (he even tithed on what he bought), but he believed that because of that he was justified.  The tax collector, on the other hand, was described as being in complete humility.  He understood that he had nothing that he could offer God, and would therefore need God’s grace to justify him.

We need to approach God with the same humility and understanding that the tax collector had.  Nothing we do in our flesh will please God.  We need to understand that only the grace of God can save us.  (what we know now that the original audience did not have, is that we now have the perfect sacrifice of Christ to cover us).  No official title or position will gain us acceptance by God.

The problem with legalists is that not enough people have confronted them and told them to get lost. Those are strong words, but I don’t mess with legalism anymore. I’m 72 years old; what have I got to lose? Seriously, I used to kowtow to legalists, but they’re dangerous. They are grace-killers. They’ll drive off every new Christian you bring to church. They are enemies of the faith. Other than that, I don’t have any opinion! So, if I am trying to force my personal list of no-no’s on you and make you feel guilty if you don’t join me, then I’m out of line and I need to be told that.
—  Chuck Swindoll
those who humble themselves

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:10-14