Encouraging words for our walk with the Lord

by Marla Bentien

How to Be a Pharisee

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
—Romans 12:3

I ran across an article the other day with an intriguing title that both drew me in and repelled me. “You might be a Pharisee if…” by pastor/author RT Kendall lists 25 ways to tell if you may have a religious spirit. Oh, I probably should read it to find out about all my friends who certainly fall into this category. I’m sure I wouldn’t be included! (Oops, that’s #25 on the list: calling someone else a Pharisee.)
What’s a Pharisee anyway? They were religious leaders during Jesus’ time who focused on the outward form of religion, which included lots of rules and ceremonies. They wanted to be noticed for their deeds, and also believed everyone else should do things their way. These leaders may have been sincere (many people are sincerely wrong!), but their religion was shallow, being mostly an outward pretense — and Jesus often rebuked them.
So…I don’t want to be a Pharisee. In our world today, you can choose a religion, any religion. However, only the Christian faith offers a relationship with the One True God, Creator of the universe! Can you imagine? Such a reality is mind-blowing if you try to let it really sink in.
Well, I read the article in spite of myself. Here are a few highlights from the list of 25:
“You might be a Pharisee if…”
You don’t practice what you preach
You take yourself too seriously
You judge by outward appearances
You care more about people’s opinions than God’s
You want people to know about it when you give, pray or fast
You feel righteous by comparing yourself to others
You find ways to excuse your own disobedience
Ouch, ouch and ouch. Not one of us deserves salvation, so we shouldn’t act like we do. Salvation is given because God’s mercy and grace have been showered upon us. So we should act like it.
Lord, help me focus on You and Your truth; and at the same time, please give me a heart for people and help me to see them through Your eyes. Amen.

Just a Fairy Tale?

“They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
—Revelation 22:4-5
I can’t speak for the boys, but most of us girls like those fairy tales and love stories that we heard or read when we were growing up. Whatever happened as the pages were turned —whether comedy, tragedy or high adventure — we knew that the best was yet to come. We were eager to get to the very last page, the very last line: “And they lived happily ever after.”
Oh, how wonderful that sounds. Not knowing any better, we really believe it for a while…until life starts pushing us around and the disappointments pile up. Even still, deep down we carry a hope that perhaps it really is true, for someone… somewhere…somehow.
Why would we hold on to such a fantasy when reality clearly slaps us in the face and tells us otherwise? Maybe because God has put it in our hearts. Most people have at least a vague sense that there is something beyond this life. Even unbelievers somehow expect to see their loved ones again in “the next life.”
Some people may cling to a blind hope, a deep longing, or perhaps a wishful dream, but Christians have a promise. The Bible tells of many joys that await us in Heaven, but the very last chapter of the very last book tells us that we will see His face (Revelation 22:4). For those who belong to Christ, we really will  live happily ever after…with Him!