You’re About To Discover Which Traits Turn Christians Into Pharisees

"It Takes One to Know One"

Last week I did a little Facebook survey. I asked for one word or phrase to describe a modern-day Pharisee from personal experience. My interest in this topic stems back to the cliche: “It takes one to know one.” To whatever degree possible, do I recognize my own inner Pharisee just waiting to make an appearance whenever I give him a chance? Do I know what his ugly self looks like? Thank you to those who help us see ourselves for who we really are. 

Here is what some of my Facebook “friends” wrote: 

  • They are concerned more with how something appears over what that something actually is. Appearances are everything. Jim 
  • The sense that you will not be accepted until you bring the right things to the table. You will get the handshake and smile but little else. Opinion of one will be made, without having at least one basic conversation with you. Mark
  • They are more concerned with behavior modification vs. heart transformation. Jeff 
  • The belief that the mainstream church is “lost” and need to see the “truth.” Senator
  • Biblical truth never matters to a “Pharisee”-just their own “rightness”! John 
  • As long as you check all the right boxes, you are cool. David
  • My demands of others are always greater than those I have for myself! from an experienced “modern-day” Pharisee. Gary
  • Tradition over truth, at all costs. Christina
  • Certainty–particularly about their own positions on issues (theological, social, political…) Richard
  • The clinging to of certain politics (right or left) that would make him (the Pharisee) say, “Jesus thinks like I do!” e.g. Somewhere I saw a thing that said, “What kind of gun would Jesus own?” Not tongue in cheek either. Paul
  • I agree with Richard: certainty. Chris
  • I am always struck by Matthew 5:20. The pharisee’s zeal is to be commended it seems…and we are to go beyond?! The difficulty lies in whether his perceived truth aligns with the will and teaching of God, through Jesus Christ. Paul succeeds in this (Philippians 3:3-7) We, however, not being Paul, end up having to see our own selves as missing the mark and identifying as a pharisee. Daniel
  • They believe their works bring salvation. Because of their works they also believe they are superior to those around them. Ron
  • Those who condemn others for judging them, but do not realize they are judging when they condemn those who are describing what God calls sin and letting them know they already stand judged by God and their own will to sin. James
  • Judgemental. Tanya
  • Me, way too often. David
  • Elitist. Chris 

(I edited some of these for spelling, grammar, and name recognition.) 

Can you relate to any of these? 

In summary, from the perspective of a few folks out there, modern-day Pharisees are:

  • Overly concerned about their: appearance, rightness, behavior, expectations being met, and recognition. 
  • In possession of uncorroborated opinion, ill-informed beliefs, self-delusion, self-righteousness, a sense of superiority, judgmentalism, traditionalism, and unbridled zealousness.  
  • Not living in reality or not seeing themselves for who they really are (think they are something that they are not). 
  • Searching for certainty. Theology, politics, economics, science, and social issues must fit into a logical, systemic framework. This framework becomes an end unto itself and is defended at all cost.  

That was close. I thought surely someone would say, “A modern-day Pharisee is someone who asks on Facebook: ‘Describe a modern-day Pharisee.'” 

I’m also happy to see there are others who are part of my Pharisee society. We are a gnarly bunch, aren’t we?! We know how self-righteous we are because we so readily recognize the self-righteousness of others. We’re just swinging our beam around knocking people to the ground wherever we go. 

Friends, let’s pray for humility and for eyes to see ourselves as we really are.

Let’s walk with Jesus and let Him teach us meekness.

Let’s seek first the kingdom of God and not our own Pharisaical agendas.

Let’s readily admit our blindness and need for enlightenment.

Let’s discover the limits of our rationality and become comfortable with our heart.

Thank you to all who commented on Facebook. You have helped us know ourselves better.

Dr. K  

 

 

Evening Prayers For A Meaningful Way To Begin Your Night

A Practical Tool To Enhance Your Communion With God

A couple weeks ago, I posted some morning liturgical prayers in response to a fellow-journeyer’s desire for some practical ways to pray more effectively. As a result, many have benefitted from using these prayers in the morning. This makes me very happy!! A few days ago, another fellow-journeyer, who began using the morning prayers regularly, asked if I could send him some evening prayers as well. Love it!!

Merely saying words will not deepen your communion with God. Yet, these words can express your heart when they come from your heart. So, here goes.

_______________________________________________________________________

Begin: 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things. Treasury of blessings and Giver of life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. 

The Trisagion Prayers:

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3x)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Your name’s sake. 

Lord, have mercy. (3x) 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. /And lead us not into temptations, but deliver us from the evil one. 

Lord, have mercy. (12x)

Come, let us worship God our King.

Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God.

Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and our God.

Choose one of the following two prayers: 

(Early Evening Prayer) 

As I come to the end of the day, I thank You, O Lord, and I ask that the evening and the night may be free of sin. Grant me this, O Savior, and save me. 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. 

As I reach the end of the day, I glorify You, O Master, and I ask that the evening and the night may be free of offense. Grant me this, O Savior, and save me. 

Both now and ever, and to the end of the ages. Amen.

As I pass to the end of the day, I praise you, O Holy One, and I ask that the evening and the night may be free of temptation. Grant me this O Savior, and save me. 

(Late Evening Prayer) 

O Lord our God, if I have sinned in anything this day, in word, or deed, or thought, forgive me all, for You are good, and You love mankind. Grant me peaceful and undisturbed sleep, and deliver me from the assault and attack of the evil one. Rouse me at the proper time to glorify You, for blessed are You, together with Your Only-begotten Son and Your All-holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

Scriptural Prayers 

Then, read one of the following Psalms: Psalm 104, Psalm 1, or Psalm 141, ending with: Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

A Prayer for Every Hour

At every time and at every hour in heaven and on earth You are worshipped and glorified, O Christ our God, You who are longsuffering, most merciful, most compassionate, who love the just and are merciful to sinners, who call all to salvation through the promise of the good things to come. Accept, O Lord, our entreaties at this hour, and guide our lives that we may keep your commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, correct our thoughts, purify our ideas, and deliver us from all distress, evil, and pain. Surround us with your holy angels that, protected and guided by their host, we may attain unity of faith and the knowledge of Your unapproachable glory. For blessed are You forever and ever. Amen. 

Prayer Before Sleep

O Lord who fashioned me, You know well that my invisible enemies do not sleep, and you know the weakness of my miserable flesh, and so into Your hands I commend my spirit. Shelter me with the wings of Your goodness, that I may not sleep unto death. Enlighten the eyes of my mind with the delight of Your divine words, and rouse me at the proper time to give You glory, for You alone are good, and You love mankind.

I shall be sheltered under the shadow of Your wings, and I shall sleep, for You alone, O Lord, have made me dwell in hope. 

Into Your hands, O Lord, I entrust my soul and body. Bless me and have mercy on me, and grant me the grace of eternal life. 

Amen. 

_______________________________________________________________________

Establishing a rhythm of morning and evening prayers allows you to enshrine every day in communion with God and worship. It’s a great way to begin and end your day – with God.  

Say these together with your spouse or individually early in the evening (6:00 PM) or later (9:00PM) or just before going to bed. In a place of solitude, light a candle (light of Christ) before a picture of Jesus, and stand as you say these prayers. 

After saying these evening prayers for a while, let me know how it’s going for you. 

Dr. K 

You Are On a Journey

Everything Is In Motion

A 4th century monk took a pilgrimage to Rome. After his arrival he was told of a celebrated recluse, a holy woman, who lived every day in one small room. The monk himself was a great wanderer. So, he was skeptical of her way of life. He paid her a visit in that small room. He asked, “Why are you sitting here?” To which she replied, “I am not sitting. I am on a journey.”* This woman embodies the reality of spiritual movement. It may not look like much is happening on the outside. But, there is always some spiritual activity going on inside. 

I have two nieces that recently gave birth – one a beautiful girl and the other a handsome boy. During a pregnancy there is much unseen activity taking place every second. Every part of a new body is being formed constantly – heart, circulatory system, brain, face, muscles, bones, organs, hair, eyesight, and immune system. Yet, an outsider would never know it apart from an ultrasound and a growing tummy. 

Even solids possess particles whose molecular motion is shown in very small vibrations of the atoms. You might say, everything is moving. Even solids are mostly empty space held together by “energy” – “objects are really just clouds of tiny particles held together by powerful electrical forces.” (see article)

Could this “force” be God Himself sustaining all things in the universe? (Colossians 1.17; Acts 17.28; Hebrews 1.3) Could this “force” be God “who is everywhere present, filling all things?”  

I’m not talking quantum physics here. Reading that stuff makes my eye-balls swim! 

My point is: everything is in motion. Even that which looks like it is standing still is moving. Nothing is as it was a few seconds ago. 

You are on a journey whether you see it or not. In God you live, move, and have your being. 

So, in stillness, God is working. In darkness, God is enlightening. In uncertainty, God is assuring. In difficulties, God is strengthening. When stuck, God is moving. 

The internal, unseen, quiet, steadfast energy of God is always moving in you. He is all about conforming you to the likeness of His Son.

Are you participating in His movement? Are you internally in motion with Him? 

Are you on a journey to know God in relationship and transformation? 

“I’m not sitting. I’m on a journey.” 

For more help on being still to know God, see my ebook: A Journey to Stillness. Download here. 

Dr. K 

*P.S. I am indebted to Fr. John Oliver for this story.

A True Test of Spirituality & 6 Ways To Deal With It

What Kind of Christian Are You Behind the Wheel?

I once heard Warren Wiersbe, popular evangelical writer and speaker, say that if you want to get a true picture of the spiritual life of a prospective pastor, put him on the basketball court not behind the pulpit. I agree. The true nature of a person is best shown by their interactions with others when self-control is tested.

A Story About ___________? 

Kurt and Lisa just had a great time in church. They saw their good friends. The worship team was hitting on all cylinders with a worship set that practically made them dance. The message from Pastor Tim moved them to tears yet gave them some needed insight into their marriage. They left the building feeling really good.

That is, until they pulled out into the traffic on Elmwood Blvd. They almost rear-ended the Lexus that was for no reason stopped in the turn lane. “What’s your problem, Nancy! Asian drivers! Totally clueless!” Then, no one would let them ease into the right-hand lane even with their blinker flashing brightly. “Stupid people! Probably a bunch of churchies hustling to get to their favorite eating hole.”

But the kicker happened a few miles later as they exited the interstate to meet Lisa’s parents at Chevy’s. Obviously Fred and Ethel in the gray Marquis had never heard of the “right turn on red” rule. They must have been deaf, too. Laying on the horn didn’t faze them. “Maybe if I pull up about two inches from their massive bumper they’ll get the hint.” “Idiots! People over 105 shouldn’t still be driving.”  Finally the light turned green. Kurt really enjoyed blessing “Fred” when he meandered past the Marquis. Of course, it was the only Christian thing to do…spreading the good news of safe driving.

The church service was a distant memory. For that matter, so was God. 

Spirit & Synergy 

It’s pretty incredible when you see the Spirit work to heal someone or bring about good from disaster. Yet, perhaps more incredible is the Spirit’s work of producing the fruit of “self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23) in an ill-tempered individual. Which is more challenging – physical healing or a transformed heart? 

The ability to control your emotions, passions/desires, impulses and words is a result of the Holy Spirit transforming your heart as you cooperate with the Spirit. You can’t merely think your way to self-control. Nor is it a matter of pure will power. Self-control authentically blossoms from a bridled heart.

Simple Ways to Gain Self-Control

  • Admit how “out of control” you are. Seriously monitor your emotions, words, and actions as you drive. What names are you calling people? What judgments are you making about people? Determine to do something about it now while you can.
  • Turn from your “wicked ways.” Repent and begin moving along the path of “recovery” towards graciousness, thankfulness, kindness, and love. You know that’s what you want.
  • Be in constant prayer/communion with God. Saying the Jesus Prayer and/or “Thank you” for all things will slowly alter your reactions to what’s happening around you. Repeating “Lord, have mercy” throughout the day will shape you into a more merciful person – even to those “losers” on the road.
  • Hang out with Jesus. “Come to me…and find rest. Take my yoke (live in my relationship with the Father), and learn meekness & humility from me and you’ll find rest for your souls.” A humble soul at rest in Jesus will grow in self-control.
  • Practice fasting. The most practical way to learn self-control in all areas of your life is to fast in one area. Choose something doable like fasting from your computer or Facebook for a day. Fast from one meal a week. Fast from TV for a weekend. Do this consistently and you’ll develop self-control.
  • Let failure inspire you to keep at it. You are on a journey to Christlikeness. This means you will struggle with self-control. The struggle is where the strength comes to persevere. When you fail, humbly admit it but don’t be defeated. The effort, by the Spirit, is worth it!

In what ways do you struggle with self-control? How can you adopt one of these simple ways to address your struggle? Choose one and begin practicing it today. 

Stay controlled, my friend!

Dr. K 

10 Mega-Realities That Help You Become More Intimate With God

#10: Last But Not Least

I was standing before a tapestry of Jesus one morning in solitude and quiet when I distinctly heard a familiar phrase as if for the first time: “Come tojesus-tapestry me.” I’d studied and preached this marvelous passage (Matthew 11.28-30) from Jesus before. But this time ME was the message. “Come to ME,” Jesus was saying. “I am here. Come to Me.” “Be with ME.” “Stay here with ME.” I am a Person. I am Present. I am Real. I am Alive. There were no visions, no bright lights, no ecstasy. Only a quiet absoluteness of heart that Jesus was as real as the tapestry I was looking at. (Here’s a picture of the tapestry I was standing in front of.)

 

The desert fathers relate that they would receive a single word from their spiritual father. That word would become theirs for months and sometimes years as it slowly became a part of their life. Then, they would return for another word and so forth. I felt like that was happening to me. Jesus was giving me a single word to live into for months and years – ME. Not me (Keith) but ME – Jesus.

“He must increase, but I must decrease” writes St. John, the Theologian (3.30). It isn’t just about Jesus. It’s also about me becoming less, “self-less,” as the person of Jesus becomes more – not just in my thoughts but in my whole being – who I am. It’s about entering the struggle of repentance and faith as Jesus and I slowly become united as one. But that journey begins with a fuller realization that Jesus is a person.

So last, but certainly not least, the final Mega-Reality that will help your intimacy with the Trinity:

10. Jesus is a real person. I mean, right now, right here. He is not a concept or idea. He is not merely a historical figure to be studied like Abraham Lincoln or Joan of Arc. He’s a person with whom you have an ontological [the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality] relationship. He did not come to earth simply to teach us good morals. Nor did he come to simply die on the cross for our sins. Or give us an example to follow. He came to BE and He continues to BE.

Any relationship must be fed or it dies. Jesus invites you to the most intimate relationship of oneness when He says, “Come to ME.” Will you take Him up on His invitation?

A great way to more fully experience the reality of Jesus as a person is to have an icon, picture, or tapestry of Jesus which you look at often. You are not to worship this image, but to allow it to be a window to the real person. I rejected this idea for years to my spiritual detriment. A picture of Jesus will teach you that He is alive and real. Find an appropriate one on Amazon or legacyicons.com and make it a part of your prayer times. See what happens.

How have you experienced Jesus as a person?

What hinders you from more fully knowing Jesus as a person?

What will you begin doing to better relate to Jesus as a person?

Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

I’ve linked this before, but it came to mind as I was writing this. Perhaps it will help you see Jesus as real. Click here.

10 Mega-Realities That Help Move You Into the Mystery of God

Part 3: #7-#9

There are dozens of so-called Christians who are stuck in a 25-year-old, 100-year-old, or 500-year-old Christianity. As a result, they’ve stopped exploring the vast mystery of God. They’ve settled into a superficial relationship with Him. They’ve got their theological systems in place. They know what they believe. Too bad; so sad. God invites them to traverse the vast Mystery of Himself in a lifetime of discovery. But they settle for building sandcastles on a isolated beach where the slightest wave can reduce their structure to nothing.

I have been there and done that. Theological systems failed to draw my heart to repentance and intimacy with the Trinity. Same thing with Bible information and spiritual “models.”

Here are a few realities that have captured my heart as a part of my journey into the Mystery of God. (The first 6 are shared in my previous posts.)  

7. The Church did not begin at the Reformation. I know. I know. This sounds like a no-brainer, right? But somewhere along the journey, many of us came to believe that the church became contaminated rather quickly (really?!?). And by the time the heroes of the Reformation came riding in on their white horses to save the church, it was totally corrupt. No doubt, the Roman Catholic church needed some reforming. However, reforming was not the same as beginning. That would be taking from Jesus Christ, His apostles, and the Holy Spirit the honor due only to them. The Church began in the first century. She has existed and grown ever since. Through persecutions, corruptions, exploitations, and perversions, she remains. The Church has been around for over 2000 years. You need to become better acquainted with her development. It matters. 

8. There is a bit of monasticism in every Christian. It’s even in the Bible – Love not the world neither the things that are in the world (1 John 2.15-17). Jesus, led by the Spirit, went into the wilderness to do battle with Satan (Matthew 4.1). Jesus often separated himself to pray (Luke 5.16; 6.12, Matthew 14.23). To be like Jesus, and for that sake, to be a Christian means being with God in solitude. However, evangelicals do not easily accept monasticism. Many dismiss it as wrong or extremist. Yet, there is deep within an intuitive sense that you are to BE with God in solitude, in creation, in work, in relationships, and in prayer. It has taken me years to become comfortable with my “inner monk” due to decades of instruction otherwise – serve others, “win the world for Christ,” being alone equals being selfish, “do the work of an evangelist,” produce, perform, preach, proclaim, talk. Yet, most of what we read from the lips of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount, is best lived out in monasticism. Embrace your inner monk. He/She is in you waiting to come alive. 

9. Only Jesus is “I am.” The rest of us are becoming. I grew up being told that a sincere decision to trust Jesus as my Savior made me “good to go.” “I am saved” was the mantra of the true Christian. Then I did a sermon series in Hebrews and discovered that the word “salvation” is used in the past, present, and future tense. In fact, most of the uses of “save” in scripture are future tense. So, I’ve become comfortable with journey language – I am becoming or I am being saved. This can be applied to most “I am” statements that modern Christians use: redeem, child of God, Christian, holy, sanctify, fill, justify, or mature, humble, loving, or faithful. It is better to use the word “becoming” before each of these realities. You might think, “I am” a Christian. But if you look at how you actually live, you are more likely “becoming a Christian.” You are not “good to go.” You have a journey to travel.

These realities have challenged me to go deeper into God. I hope they do the same for you. 

How do these realities challenge you? What will you do about it? Share below. 

Dr. K 

 

 

10 Mega-Realities That Help You Know God Intimately & Break Through Any Hindrances

Part 2: #4-6

I have been on a crazy journey to know God since I was 16 years old. Being a 3rd-generation Christian, I grew up in a pretty intense Christian environment. I was born to a recent seminary grad who had devoted his life to serving God. My father and mother faithfully served God as Bible college teachers, pastors, and missionaries. My three siblings and I followed along. Most of my days included family devotions, prayer, talk about God or Christian service, and church. I am thankful for these experiences that shaped my heart for God. They helped lead me to a Christian university, seminary, the pastorate, and ministry to others in various forms. However, along the way I also learned much that stymied my journey to know God. But, some powerful yet basic realities are helping me break through the barricades. I am sharing some of those realities as an encouragement for you to continue your quest to know God more intimately. (The first three are in the previous post.) Here are some biggies! 

 

4. Intimacy (communion) with God is best cultivated in prayer. There are dozens of “spiritual disciplines” promoted by various spiritual formation gurus. But, prayer trumps them all. Yet, when I speak of prayer, I’m not talking about the type of prayer of my upbringing (or yours). I’m talking about prayer that is learned from someone who prays. Prayer that includes set prayers, silence, and solitude. Prayer that is communion with God all day long. You will come to know the Triune God as you become this kind of pray-er. Make the prayer, “Lord, teach me to pray” a constant companion throughout your day. Even the most seasoned saint learns more about prayer every day. This is part of the mystery of God into which we enter as people learning to pray.

5. Intimacy (communion) with God is ultimately union with Jesus Christ. You can’t get any closer than being one. Oneness with the Father, in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit is salvation. This reality challenges the notions that salvation is a purely legal, covenantal, or moral matter. Being in and with the Trinity in communion and oneness is the journey of the Christian. Knowing God is experiencing union with Him. There is no loftier dimension for the Christian. Visions, miracles, mystical experiences, or hearing God speak pale in comparison to real-time, “down-and-dirty” life in union with the Trinity. You are called to participate in Jesus’ communion with the Father (1 Corinthians 1.9). Do whatever it takes to see that happen. Contact me. We’ll start where you are and explore your journey in union with God together. 

6. Intimacy (communion) with God is the lifeblood of ministry and life. Jesus teaches us that loving God and neighbor is the same experience since they both proceed from God’s love (which is perfectly expressed in the members of the Trinity). There is no dichotomy of “being” and “doing.” They are to be one indistinguishable experience. Actions are who you truly are. Who you are, in union with Christ, are your actions. Ministry is you. You are ministry. If you want your ministry to be better, you become better. If, for example, as a Christian leader you want to influence people to humility, Christlikeness, and love, then the priority of your life is to become humble, Christlike, and loving (which can only truly happen as you participate in the life of Christ, see #5). It is tempting to focus on helping others with their issues or struggles and think yours are insignificant. Repent. Give yourself to your relationship with God and see the difference it makes in your relationship with others. 

These three biggies are helping navigate my way on my spiritual journey. I think they will help you, too. 

Pause right now and give each of these realities a second look.

Which one resonates most deeply with you? Which one creates a struggle in you? Which one would you like to explore further? 

Dr. K