Thank God for Sport

Came across this article today in a Dutch newspaper “De Pers”. The title is already disturbing “Fatherhood you learn on the sport’s field”, but the conclusion is even more disturbing, and that is that sport is the savior for the relationship between the father and his child, because “if there were no sports, the majority of fathers and children would probably never talk to each other”. There are some more disturbing statements in there, I will let you read the article to be the judge of that.

What a sad story, and what a sad truth! And the question needs to be raised who’s to blame? Is it the influence of sports (read: 24/7 sports entertainment at your disposal, via television and internet) on present day society? Is it because the definition of fatherhood is changing, due to cultural developments? Is it because there are different demands from children on their parents?

I don’t think so. I find it really disturbing that fathers need anything else but there unconditional love for their child for actually having a relationship with them. I find it disturbing that by using something (or especially) like sports, which in general does not bring out the best qualities in men, be the main thing that children (and especially boys) see there father, since there is an inherent desire in children (and especially boys) to be like their father, and so boys think it’s ok to scream and curse and be violent (yes, I am generalizing here), and then parents are surprised that their children are rebellious.

What is the solution to the problem? Many things probably, but the main thing is that the father from the birth of each of his children needs to be consistently and consciously involved in being a relationship with each individual child, and not wait until they hit puberty to start with this and then bring them to a soccer game (in which there is very little interaction and relationship built, as you are both watching the game) and try to make up for lost time. NO! Fathers are there to love, and instruct and admonish and encourage and discipline their children, always, from the very start.

A great little book to read on the topic of fathers is “Pastor Dad” by Mark Driscoll, which can be freely read online here.

What News Anchors Do…

WGN News anchors Robert Jordan and Jackie Bange have been together for many years. This whole thing started out really small and simple. And then along came the internet, and a video camera, and you tube, and here we are with the funniest dance routine since that scene in Big. It’s the original, What News Anchors Do During Commercial Breaks. This one has the nat sound, not cheesy music.

Acts #4 – To Boldly Go!

Peter and John Get Arrested
So, Peter is speaking at Solomon’s Portico to the men of Israel. Among those men are a group called the Sadducees. Between the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and Peter’s sermon the power within the Sanhedrin changed from the Pharisees, who were the legalists, to the Sadducees, the rationalists or modernists or aristocrats. They did not believe in the resurrection. They did not believe in the supernatural and had a strong emphasis on free will. They were very oriented in ethics, not theology, and even held the Pharisees in contempt. The fact that Peter is constantly mentioning Jesus’ resurrection is really getting to them, and so we read that they got “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming n in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). And so they arrested Peter and John and put them in custody because it was already evening and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, comes together in the morning (although they did not do so with Jesus’ trial). Yet Peter’s sermon achieves the desired result as “the number of men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). And so Luke continues cataloging the growth from 120 (1:15) to 3,000 (2:41) and now the men alone were about five thousand, suggesting that the total number of Christians would have been well in excess of 10,000. The incredible growth of the church occurred in response to two activities empowered by the Holy Spirit: the powerful preaching of the gospel message about Jesus and the “many wonders and signs.”

Before the Sanhedrin
The Jewish high court consisted of 71 members (70 elders according to the pattern of Numbers 11:16 plus the high priest as presiding officer). It was dominated by the priestly Sadducees with a Pharisaic minority, represented mainly by the scribes (lawyers) of the court. Annas was of the Aaronic priesthood, but he was deposed by the Romans, and Caiaphas was put in his place. Caiaphas was the acting high priest, but appointed by the Romans; he was not of the line of Aaron. Caiaphas was in power for the Romans, but not really accepted by the Jews. Annas is still of powerful influence, although not officially in power. When Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin the next morning, they are asked by what power or name they do their work. Again it’s Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, who takes charge and speaks up, saying that if they are being charged for doing “a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:9-10). Peter doesn’t point to himself for healing the lame beggar. He also doesn’t just point to Jesus. He makes it perfectly clear that it is the Jesus whom the Sanhedrin crucified and whom God raised from the dead. Again Peter is pointing to the finished work of Jesus Christ and also putting the finger where it hurts. He says to the Sadducees that Jesus was raised from the dead and alive as they speak. Then Peter continues by quoting from Psalm 118:22, which is the psalm the Jews sang on Palm Sunday, and is also a reference to Isaiah 28:16, where Peter points out again that the miracle is because of Jesus Christ. He is answering their question twice. A double whammy!

And then Peter tops it off by verse 12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved“. Wow, talk about directness and boldness. He is definitely not beating around the bush here. Peter’s statement that there was salvation in no other name was an implicit invitation to the Sanhedrin to place their faith in Jesus. It was Jesus’ name that brought physical deliverance to the lame man, the same powerful and exclusive name that brings eternal salvation to all who call upon him. Peter emphasizes this by saying that it is the only name under heaven by which a person can be saved. Further, there is no other name among men that saves. This echoes the words of Jesus on all sides, who said that “all things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27), and who said “I am l the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Boldness, and More Boldness
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition” (Acts 4:13-14). The boldness of Peter and John, combined with the fact that they were uneducated common men who had been with Jesus, shut the Sanhedrin up. They had nothing to say. After they conferred with each other, the Sanhedrin cowardly don’t even confirm publicly that a miracle has happened, while the lame beggar is standing right there! Instead they command Peter and John not to talk or teach in the name of Jesus anymore. Peter is really on a roll here and continues his attack against the Sanhedrin saying, “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Now when Peter and John return to their friends and explained what had happened, what do you think they did? They not only pray for even more boldness (Acts 4:29-30), but they also pray for the Sanhedrin! They are praying to God who made the very material world which the Sadducees rely upon! Their prayer for boldness in witness shows a determination to directly disobey the command of the Sanhedrin. They do not pray against those who persecute them but pray for their own faithfulness in witness. They quote Psalm 2 which is a dialogue between the world (we have no king but Caesar), God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And in light of that they define the world as Herod (the Hebrew authority), Pontius Pilate (the Roman authority), the Gentiles (all nations), and the peoples of Israel (Acts 4:27). So basically everybody. Their prayer is based on the sovereignty, wisdom, and active government of God. And what happens? The LORD grants their prayer, and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31).

The Sanhedrin was the leading Jewish authority at that time. Do you stand up against our current day authorities when the finished work of Jesus Christ is put into question? Do you pray for the authorities you have to deal with? Do you pray for more boldness to stand against any opposition to Jesus Christ? Are you expectant of being filled by the Holy Spirit and your dependence on Him? This is a call for boldness. Do you accept the challenge?

When Tolerance Goes Too Far #2 – What’s the Point?

A couple of weeks ago I preached in church on King Jehoshaphat as part of a series on the kings of the Old Testament. When reading the story of king Jehoshaphat was what struck me his apparent tolerance in dealing with the evil king Ahab. The sin of tolerance is an ever increasing aspect in the world, and Amsterdam and the Netherlands in particular.

Here is the second part of my teaching notes:

So What Is the Point?
So, what can we learn from Jehoshaphat’s life so far? It seems that overall Jehoshaphat was a pretty good guy. At the end of the story it is even said that he was “doing what was right in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20:32). From his point of view, helping out Ahab was just an honest mistake, motivated by his desire for peace. He was not trying to be rebellious or do evil. But was it “just” a mistake? He was forgetting that his dependence needed to be on God. He not only willingly helped his pagan friend Ahab in war, he even arranged for his own son to marry one of the daughters of Ahab and Jezebel. And for what?! Political gain; an artificial peace which is little more than the absence of hostility. His “honest mistake” carried much more weight than he probably realized. When we continue to read what happened after the battle we come to the key verse in the story of Jehoshaphat. The Bible says it like this in 2 Chronicles 19:1-2: “Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord.’” It is important to note here that ‘love’ denotes not emotion but the commitment to support a treaty. Here’s the point I want to make: Jehoshaphat went too far in developing a friendship with his buddy Ahab, whose lifestyle and faith opposed everything he stood for. And in that he crossed the line of legitimate tolerance into an unacceptable endorsement or approval. Should Jehoshaphat not have been friends with Ahab? Of course not, but he took it too far. It is okay to be tolerant, but endorsing it, supporting it (like Jehoshaphat did) is quite another thing.

Now, what does this mean for us? I think that we too should heed the warning of Jehu: Where do we “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord”? Where do we exercise rightful tolerance or intolerance? Where do we endorse or support or approve of sin in our friendships, and in our own lives? Where do we draw the line before our tolerance goes too far? I think the answer to that question is: where Jesus draws the line. We should be tolerant where Jesus is tolerant; We should be intolerant where Jesus is intolerant.

But let’s talk about tolerance a bit before looking at what Jesus has to say about it. Tolerance can be described as having “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own” or to have an “interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own” or to have “a liberal or broad-minded viewpoint.” It is a good word which, in one sense, implies the compromise of one’s convictions, and to yield ground on important issues. Yet, an over-tolerance (if I can say it like that) in moral issues makes us soft or devoid of a conviction, almost indifferent maybe. Think about the “gedoogbeleid” (tolerance policy) of the Dutch drug use or the euthanasia policy. Tolerance (or broadmindedness) has sort of overruled our convictions!

Jesus’ View on Tolerance
Now, Jesus was very tolerant when it came to sinners. He was actively engaged with (and loved) tax collectors, sexually-immoral people, and foreigners. His grace and mercy are evidence of His tolerance. And I love Jesus’ tolerance, because I am a sinner. We all are sinners. But Jesus still loves me. Jesus still loves us. But Jesus was also intolerant…

Jesus was intolerant about the way of salvation
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14). He plainly pointed out that there are two roads in life. One is broad – lacking in faith, convictions and morals. It is the easy, popular, careless way. It is the way of the majority, the way of the world. He said, “those who enter by it are many.” But he pointed out that this road, easy though it is, popular though it may be, heavily traveled though it is, leads to destruction. And in loving, compassionate intolerance He says, “Enter by the narrow gate… For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life

Jesus was intolerant toward hypocrisy
He pronounced more “woes” on the Pharisees than on any other sect because they claimed outward reverence for God but inward pretend. In Matthew 23, Jesus addresses 7 woes against the scribes and Pharisees (in contrast of the 7 beatitudes or blessings in the Sermon on the Mount), and each of them Jesus starts with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Matthew 23 is a great chapter to read… unless you’re a Pharisee of course (and yet we all, to a certain extent, are a Pharisee. It might be a lot closer to home than we want to admit).

Jesus was intolerant toward selfishness
To the rich young man, Jesus said: “‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:21-22) It wasn’t the giving of his goods that Jesus demanded, but his release from selfishness and its devastating effect on his personality and life. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'” (Matthew 16:24-25) Self-centeredness is the basic cause of much of our distress in life. Most of us suffer from spiritual near-sightedness. Our interests, our loves, and our energies are too often focused upon ourselves. Jesus was intolerant of selfishness. The ‘life’ which Jesus urges us to lose is the selfishness that lives within us, the old nature of sin that is in conflict with God. So, in your life and mine, ‘self’ must be crucified and Christ enthroned. He was intolerant of any other way, for He knew that selfishness and the Spirit of God cannot exist together.

Jesus was intolerant toward sin
To the adulteress Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) He forgave her because he loved her; but he condemned sin because He hates it. Some more examples: “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34, NASB). “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” (1 John 3:4-5,7-9, NLT)

Jesus is intolerant about the way to salvation, hypocrisy, selfishness and sin… but He is tolerant toward the sinner. And so should we…

What Does This Mean for Us?
As Christians we owe it to each other in love to correct on another, to rebuke each other when it is necessary, and to encourage one another in our desire to live authentic Christian lives, faithful to the Word of God. We must love the sinner, but we must hate the sin. We must recognize that we are sinners, and love ourselves, but we must hate the sin that is in us. The same is true of our neighbor. Paul says in Galatians 5:14 that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” We must love our neighbor always, but we must hate the sin that is in them. Hating the sin is necessary if we are to truly love them. If we do not hate our neighbor’s sin, we do not love our neighbor at all. If we do not hate our own sin, we do not love ourselves at all. It was perfectly fine for Jehoshaphat to be friends with Ahab, but he should have continued to be faithful and obedient to God and in that way not only be an example to Ahab (love the sinner), but also to point out Ahab’s disobedience to God (hate the sin), instead of going along with Ahab in his sin. Although being friends with people like Ahab is okay, we should aim in building our strongest friendships with people who will encourage us to obey God’s Word and follow His plan for our lives. In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul says that we should “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This verse is most commonly used in relation to marrying an unbeliever, but Paul means much more here than only marrying an unbeliever. It really applies to any environment where we let the world influence our thinking. When we are being “conformed to this world” and are not being “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2) , we are joining together with unbelievers in an ungodly way. This unequal yoke, or ungodly influence, may come through a book, a movie, a television show, a magazine, or even through worldly Christian friends. We all like to believe that we can be around ungodly things as much as we want, and that we are strong enough to resist the influence. But we must take the words of Scripture seriously: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). As Christians, we must bring every aspect of our lives under God’s control and authority. Otherwise, we can hinder our walk greatly and suffer consequences God never intended for us to experience.

What Did Jehoshaphat Do?
What did Jehoshaphat do in response to the rebuke of Jehu the prophet? He repented and starts reforming the whole country. “He went out again among the people… and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 19:4). He instructed the nation’s judges to “consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord“(2 Chronicles 19:6). He told other leaders: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart” (2 Chronicles 19:9). And then, in the defining moment of his life, Jehoshaphat demonstrates great trust in God in the face of overwhelming circumstances. When a colossal coalition of three large armies marched against Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat called all Judah to prayer and fasting and publicly confessed to God, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). We too are powerless against the sin of the world, yet we have Jesus, who died to take away our sin and give us new life through the Holy Spirit to overcome power that sin has in our lives.

Jehoshaphat wins the battle because the Lord is with him, and overall it is said that “he walked in the way of Asa his father and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:32), but ultimately Jehoshaphat made some unfortunate choices that blemished his otherwise good legacy.

In closing, let me give you three questions to think about, in light of all of this:

  1. Who or what is the Ahab in your life? Who is the person in your life which you may have let influence your choices a bit too much, and who you could serve better by being an example to instead? What is the thing in your life that pulls you away from Christ, and be unequally yoked?
  2. What is your motivation for joining in with the Ahab in your life? Jehoshaphat’s motivation was political gain. He wanted peace where maybe there shouldn’t have been. What is your motivation? What do you want to gain or achieve by this?
  3. Are you as tolerant as Jesus? Have you drawn the line of tolerance where Jesus draws it, or are there areas in your life in which you are being too tolerant toward hypocrisy, selfishness or sin?