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God Loves Hypocrites?

July 27, 2014

We just finished studying the book of Nehemiah. In chapter 10 and 13 we see that the people in Jerusalem made vows and weren’t living up to them. Isn’t it a shame that the Bible is so outdated and out of touch with people! (Note the sarcasm, please). The Israelites claimed to know God, but they weren’t living like they believed what they claimed to believe. In other words, they were hypocrites.

The Origination of Hypocrisy

I’ve been told that the Greek word translated as hypocrite originated in the Greek theatre. The same actor would play different roles and, in order to do so, he or she would wear different masks. A hypocrite came to be known as someone who was two-faced, someone who lived and acted in different ways depending on their audience; a person who held certain beliefs, but choose to deny those beliefs through their own behaviour.

Religious Hypocrites

Religious people are always accused of being hypocrites. ‘I left the church because the church was filled with hypocrites.’ That is probably true. The church is filled with hypocrites. But, allow me to ask a probing question, ‘if the discovery of hypocrites is enough to disengage from a group of people, where then do you go? To the place where there are no hypocrites and everyone is perfectly consistent?’

Really? Say ‘hi’ to the tooth fairy when you get there. Also, consider that you may ruin the place if you actually found it.

The truth is we all have ideals that we sometimes fail to live up to because we are sinners and, in that way, we are all hypocrites. I mean, when you hear the church is filled with hypocrites you shouldn’t think, ‘I’ll never go,’ that is self-righteous! You should think, ‘oh, the church is filled with hypocrites who admit it, finally a place where I can belong.’

Who Am I?

I know, I know, who am I to tell you what to think about hypocrisy. I realize hypocrites in the church have damaged some of you and that is painful and I don’t want to minimize that hurt. I know Jesus took religious hypocrisy very seriously, but why do we always assume Jesus is talking about someone other than us. Sometimes Christians seem like they are just looking for an excuse to bash the church and I want to caution us about using the accusation of hypocrisy so flippantly. After all, ‘when we point the finger at someone else three fingers are pointing back at us.’

Jesus

We are not saved and made right with God because of our consistency but because of Christ. And Christ, through the Spirit transforms our hearts, so that we become more consistent in our obedience to God and that is a life-long process and we are all at different stages on the journey.

So let’s get off our hypocrisy-bashing high horses, repent of our own sins, help one another, and seek to allow God’s transforming power to have its way in our lives.

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When it is Time to Tithe People

July 16, 2014

“Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered.” – Nehemiah 11:1-3

At the beginning of Nehemiah chapter 11 we discover something very significant. Many Jews had moved out of Jerusalem because the walls had broken down. Now that the walls were rebuilt, they needed some people to move back into the city. After all, what good are walls if there is no one living inside of them? This repopulating of Jerusalem was to promote the economic stability and safety of the city.

The above passage seems to describe people placing their names in a lottery and if their name was called they would move to Jerusalem as a family. Almost like the day of reaping in The Hunger Games. Actually, it was not like that at all, but in this day casting lots was often an attempt to discover the divine will. The book of Proverbs teaches that, “the lot is cast in the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.”(Proverbs 16:33) This casting of lots involved complete submission, on behalf of the people, to God’s will.

Change

Change can be difficult. These Jews were required to move their entire lives, leaving that which was comfortable, familiar and, perhaps, loved. This involved sacrifice and, as a result, the people who moved were commended by their countrymen. Commendation implies a willingness on behalf of the chosen people to go; if they were dragged kicking and screaming to Jerusalem they would not be admirable.

Our Lives

The Bible becomes very relevant, significant and transformative when, while reading the text, we allow the scripture to ask us personal and challenging questions. When we read about these people and their willingness to move for the sake of others, for the sake of God’s city, we need to ask ourselves a few prying questions. ‘Are we willing to go, to move and to change when God tells us to do so?’ Are we willing to move for Jesus? Change ministries for Jesus, serve for Jesus, start a ministry for Jesus, start a small group or have your small group plant a new small group for Jesus; are we willing to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable for the sake of God’s kingdom?’ As individuals and as a church?

Uncomfortable questions to ask.

Our Church

For the sake of the city in which God has placed Calvary, for the sake of more people meeting Jesus, we are sending out people from Calvary to plant a church, we are sending people away from what they’ve known, the church where they have matured and been discipled, the ministry in which they were saved, to start up and serve within a new church plant.

We are not casting lots, or pulling names from a hat, but people are praying and asking the Lord if they should go or not. Most will stay, but some will go. We should follow the people in Nehemiah’s day by commending (not criticizing) those who go.

Think back to the story in Nehemiah 11. You realize what Nehemiah institutes here? A tithe, a tithe is a tenth, but they are not giving a tenth of their wealth, but a tenth of the people in their towns.

Church planting is a mother church tithing people and God blesses that; all for the sake of God’s glory and building a city (a church) within the city that loves Jesus, loves others and lives for the good of the broader city.

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Nehemiah Chapter 7

June 25, 2014

We have been studying the book of Nehemiah and it is been a rich time in the word of God. My community group has had a lot to discuss, digest and apply to our lives over the last several months. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in chapters 9 to 13.

But I must address a grievance that was brought to my attention on Sunday. It was pointed out to me, in a friendly manner, that I had skipped the entirety of chapter 7. True. I did skip it. Why, you might ask? Is it because you were nervous about pronouncing all of those Hebrew names? No, not entirely. To be honest, I am not quite sure why I passed over it, but it is certainly not because I find it unimportant.

The New Testament states that ‘All scripture is God-breathed and is useful…’ and I believe that even applies to the long lists of foreign names found in the Old Testament. Therefore, here is one brief devotional thought on Nehemiah chapter 7:

Nehemiah chapter 7 has one of my favorite verses in the whole book. In verse 2 the scripture reads, “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.” I love this description of Hananiah!

I have heard integrity described as ‘the integration of our public and private selves.’ Who we are on Sunday is who we are on Monday, who we are at home is who we are away from home, we don’t have a parade of images we project outward depending on our audience in the moment; our lips and our lifestyles are preaching the same message. Hananiah could be trusted, he is faithful; he does what he promises to do – in short, a man of integrity.

Hananiah also feared God more than most people do. He had an awe, a reverence, a respect for God that was noticeable, that made him stick out from the crowd. Hananiah really cared about what God thought more than what other people thought. I would love to be a man who this could be written about, wouldn’t you? Could it be said of us that we are people of integrity who fear God more than most people to do?

I pray that by the grace of God, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, and by the application of the Gospel to our lives, this would be true of us.

 

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Serving in Rwanda

March 12, 2014

Hi everyone,

Click on the You Tube link below to see what one of our BGC missionaries, Jocelyn Jelsma, is up to in Rwanda. Some of the women from Calvary have been very involved in supporting her ministry.

God Bless,

Chris

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Stop Reading the Bible?

January 14, 2014

Okay, I must admit, I said a few challenging things on Sunday. I’m not, necessarily, suffering from preacher’s remorse, but I do want to make a few follow up comments. I stated that, for some of us, ‘we need to stop reading the Bible.’ This represents an intentionally shocking statement for a pastor to make, but I followed it with the comment, ‘we need to start studying it – stop reading, start studying.’ For some of us, we have read the book of Romans 6 times, but we’ve never taken the time to dig beneath a surface reading of the text.

Obviously, an  immediate objection arises, ‘Where is the time’? ‘I’m not a pastor or bible teacher!’ That is true, so allow me to help you. Let me point you towards some resources with the encouragement to redeem your commute, or your choirs around the house by combining it with learning from great preachers and teachers on-line. In addition, I recommend some theological and devotional resources below.

Podcasts & On-Line Resources

www.desiringgod.org

If you have a smart phone get the Reformed Theological Seminary App. There are free courses there.

http://elevationchurch.org/

http://northpoint.org/

http://marshill.com/

Websites/Blogs

http://www.str.org/

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/ There are podcasts here as well as good articles.

http://www.myvillagechurch.org/

http://groundedinthegospel.com

http://www.thevillagechurch.net/resources/sermons/

Theological Books

The Cross of Christ – John Stott

Doctrine – Mark Driscoll

Basic Christianity – John Stott

Created For Community – Stan Grenz

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

Hard Questions, Real Answers – William Lane Craig

Biblical Commentaries

Ephesians – John Stott (any commentary by John Stott is worth reading)

Paul For Everyone – N.T. Wright

The NIV Application Commentary

Devotional/Lifestyle books

Crazy Busy – Kevin DeYoung

Blue Like Jazz– Donald Miller

Dying to live – N.D Wilson

The Gospel – J.D Grear

Jesus plus nothing equals everything – Tullian Tchividjian

Jesus is _______ – Judah Smith

Things Unseen – Mark Buchanan

You God is too Safe – Mark Buchanan

I can lend you most of the above books (first come, first serve). But I hope the websites in particular help encourage you to dig into the word of God in a deeper way than ever before!

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Peter Helm & Church Planting

December 27, 2013

Church Planting

Our mission as a church is to glorify God by making disciples who love God, love others and serve the world. For the last several years it has been on the heart of many in our church community to start a new church out of Calvary Baptist. This dream has been discussed for years without having come to fruition. Yet, we did not lose hope; we kept waiting, praying, seeking and trusting that God would bring about the fulfillment of this vision in His perfect timing.

One of the church planting puzzle pieces we were waiting for involved a church planting couple to lead this venture. To our great joy and excitement, God has called our very own Peter and Amanda Helm to lead a core group of people in starting a new church. Peter and Amanda went through an extensive vetting process that included multiple interviews with the elder’s, a special assessment team from our denomination with decades of church planting experience, and an interview with our denominations church planting board. It was a brutal but thorough process for Peter and Amanda. The end result was very encouraging. Peter and Amanda Helm have been accepted as a BCBC church planting couple. This is great news! The question remains, however, what does this mean for Calvary? The rest of this letter will attempt to answer that question.

Peter’s Job Description 

On January 1, 2014 Peter Helm will come onto Calvary’s staff as our church planter. His salary will not impact our budget this year as we are receiving support from the BCBC and the BGC and our top up funds for his salary have already been raised. In the interest of full disclosure, here is his job description for the year:

  1. The Church Planter will be involved in teaching and preaching on Sunday mornings (approx. once a month) and other various mid-week meetings when appropriate (i.e. youth group, small groups, etc.).
  2. The Church Planter will research and write position papers on various controversial issues as assigned by Lead Pastor/Elders board (i.e. Ecclesiology, Divorce and Remarriage, Church Discipline, Homosexuality and various ethical issues, etc.).
  3. The Church Planter will attend monthly BCBC church planting meetings.
  4. The Church Planter will job shadow another church planter on four different Sundays throughout the year.
  5. The Church Planter will start to build a core team, continue to develop vision, scope out the area for the potential plant, and formulate by-laws and a church constitution.
  6. Peter will also be taking a few courses at ACTS Seminary.
  7. The Church Planter will attend a church planting boot camp in the New Year with wife and/or Core team.

As you can see, Peter and Amanda will have an exciting and busy year. As the lead pastor of Calvary Baptist, I couldn’t be more thrilled to watch and participate in what God is going to do throughout this year. Church planting will push all of us to be involved in outreach, prayer and sacrificial giving; all of which are a part of significant spiritual growth in our lives (for more information answering the question ‘Why Church Plant?’ see this year’s Missional Manifesto).

What About You?

The above job description is what we are asking of Peter, and you may be wondering what we are asking of you:

  1. Please pray for your church. I was inspired recently while teaching on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. There he prayed, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Why not consider making this prayer your own for our church?
  2. Pray about whether or not you would be on the core-team of the church plant. Count the cost. The level of commitment is high and the amount of sacrifice will be significant. This is not for those who simply want something new; being on the core-team will require much of you, but the sacrifice is worth it.
  3. Be on mission where you live. How are you stewarding the influence that God has given you in your network of relationships? How can you take more risks in sharing your faith and loving others in Jesus’ name?
  4. Be prepared to give sacrificially. This doesn’t always mean giving more. It can mean spending less on other items and diverting those funds to build the church. For example, make a list of items that you can sell this year on Craig’s list, or E-Bay, and donate all of those funds to the church plant. Though Peter’s salary is covered we will need to raise funds for equipment, website etc.

I hope you are excited. The reason the church exists is to glorify God and make disciples of all nations. This is our mission at Calvary and our mission must multiply. There is no greater joy than seeing lives transformed by the gospel.

Let me allow you in on a secret. Our vision is bigger than planting a church. In fact, you could say that we are not planting a church. We are planning to start a movement! Once Peter’s church reaches around 100, we plan to join forces with his congregation and plant another church in Pitt Meadows, which will in turn plant another church. We are also hoping that the entire BCBC grabs a hold of this vision and takes it to heart.

Conclusion

In closing, when I candidated for this position over three years ago, I was asked what I would want my legacy to be after five years of being the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist. I replied, ‘that Calvary would have planted a church.’ If you asked me now what I would want my legacy to be after 10 years, I would reply, ‘that we have been involved in planting at least four churches.’ And as the decades go by that number will increase exponentially.

God has invited us to be involved in a story that is bigger than anything we could hope for or imagine. To be involved in building His kingdom is a great honor and privilege. Join us this year in seeking God to do greater things than we could ever have imagined at Calvary and through this church plant.

Sincerely,

Chris Price

Lead Pastor

Calvary Baptist Church

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The Question of Unexplained Suffering

November 15, 2013

Loss

I recently co-officiated the funeral of a 49 year-old man who died of cancer. He left behind a wife and two children. This man was active in the community and spent much of his professional life as the principal of various elementary schools. He was esteemed and loved by many. A man who pours himself into the future is not easily forgotten – he was such a man.

The question inevitably arises, ‘How is that fair?’ ‘There are murderers who live long lives and this man, who served the community productively, while being a good husband and father, dies of cancer at 49.’ It is easy to be angry and shout to the heavens ‘why’ when you hear a story like that.

It may even be biblical to do so. Just read the Psalms.

During the Celebration of Life, I felt the stirrings of sadness and anger, as did others who worked with him. Anger that cancer crippled him so early in his life. Anger that his wife is a widow, anger that his children have to navigate the teen years without their daddy as a trusted source of love, encouragement and counsel.

Anger.

What follows is not an argument – it is an intuition. Why do we sometimes get angry when we hear stories like this? There are probably several possible answers to this question. But here is one plausible response: we are angry because it doesn’t seem fair. During the celebration of life one old friend commented angrily, ‘My friend was fair, but this doesn’t seem to be.’

It is not fair!

This is another way of saying, ‘things ought not to be this way.’ My friend shouldn’t have died, tragedy shouldn’t strike, and my dad should still be alive! My anger is a protest against the way things are, in light of how I intuitively sense they ought to be. There IS a way things ought to be, and things aren’t that way, therefore, I am frustrated, upset or furious.’

Are those emotions rooted in something illusory or real? And what worldview, what over-arching narrative, makes sense of my response to the indiscriminate nature of cancer, or the grievous wounds inflicted by injustice?

Surely, not a ‘godless’ worldview because in atheism there is no objective ‘ought’ there is only a subjective ‘is.’ This is just the way things are – accept it and move on because there is little point getting angry when a bad person lives and a seemingly good person dies. Your anger, which is deeply rooted in a sense of perceived injustice, is irrational. There is no objective standard of fairness to which our world must conform in an atheistic universe.

But, (and it is a big ‘but’) is it possible that every vote we cast, every protest we attend, and every white-hot surge of anger that arises within testifies to a fundamental biblical truth – the world is not supposed to be this way?

There is a way that things ‘ought’ to be and this circumstance or this tragedy doesn’t resemble it, therefore, I am angry.

This doesn’t answer the ‘why’ question, but at least it gives our angst some objective legitimacy. Atheism is not the answer; as a worldview it doesn’t even have the resources to validate the question.

The Face of God

In light of these tragedies many of us still believe in God. But whatever we believe about God – God can’t just make sense in the good times, or during the peaks of human experience. We need a God for the valley’s, for the pitfalls, for the unexpected illnesses and for the heartache that occasionally floods through the front doors of our homes.

In Jesus, this God comes to meet us.

I believe that in the midst of loss the only tears that can ultimately provide comfort, and shore up floundering faith, are tears on the ‘face’ of God. The other ‘gods’ have dry eyes, but every reader of the gospels has, at some point, stumbled across the wet cheeks apparent on Jesus’ visage and had their soul leap to attention in salutation of a small but significant scripture, ‘Jesus wept.’

In the face of Jesus we glimpse the character of God, and there we find traces of His tender tears shed over a broken world – we see his angry outburst at the alien intruder of death. Wipe this God away from the horizon of our lives and we lose the healing balm of His tears and keep the biting bitterness of our own. And in Him there is hope of a renewed heavens and earth devoid of sickness, death and disaster.

This world is fallen. This world is broken. God is redeeming it all. He is picking up the shattered pieces of shalom and piecing them back together through the work of His Son and Spirit and the witness of His church. The world is groaning in the travails of child birth right up to this present point, but one day, some day, it will give birth to a whole new world.

That day is not today. But I have hope for tomorrow.

Religious Experience – A Lifeline in loss?

Imagine there is a statistic that indicates 98.5 percent of Albertan’s don’t know how to climb trees. Your friend Bertha is an Albertan. The above statistic would lead a stranger to believe that it is highly likely that Bertha can’t climb trees. You, however, know Bertha and last summer you went camping with her and you spent some time tree climbing.

The fact that 98.5 percent of Albertans can’t climb trees makes it highly unlikely that Bertha can scamper ably up a pine, but your experience tree climbing with Bertha overrides the statistical probability that she would be unable to climb.

In a similar manner, the existence of what seems to be gratuitous evil (by itself) might make it unlikely, or improbable that the Christian God exists; just like the stats about Albertan’s and tree climbing make it doubtful that Bertha is an accomplished tree climber – especially to the stranger looking in from the outside.

Suffering and loss, however, is not the only thing we experience in life. In addition to the horrific suffering people endure and our experience of moral evil, there has, in many cases, also been an equally powerful sense of God’s presence, comfort and love. Our experience of God’s presence, comfort, and love can be a personal defeater of the argument from evil that the outsider looking in has no access to.

Many have testified to a profound experience of God in the midst of tremendous hardship, both within (and without) the canon of scripture. Consider, as C.S. Lewis would have us do, that the Bible was written before modern painkillers were in existence. The authors of scripture were intimately acquainted with evil and suffering – more so than modern westerners who have access to modern medicine. Why did they confidently proclaim that God was good?

I think the answer is simple – God was good to them existentially, if not circumstantial. We are invited by the psalmist to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’. Many have tasted the sweetness of God’s presence and the nearness of His love, not in spite or tragedy, but in the very midst of it.

 ________________________________________________________________

In 2005 the Washington Post conducted a large survey of Hurricane Katrina survivors who found themselves as refugees in Houston. Asked about their faith in God, “Remarkably, 81 percent said the ordeal had strengthened their belief, while only four percent said it weakened it.”[1]

How can that be? How can a tragic, natural disaster shake the faith of people who didn’t experience it more than the people who lived through its horror? I think the answer must be that alongside of the horror there is the equally real and sustaining presence of God. Those who suffered through Katrina with strengthened faith testify to this fact.

Again, how do I know that God is good in the midst of suffering? Simply, because God has shown Himself to be good in the midst of suffering and evil – both at the cross of Christ and through the comfort of His Spirit.

How does one argue with that type of personal testimony? Those who aren’t quick with a counter argument are often fast to sneer and name-call, spewing out labels like ‘religious delusion.’ Yet, reason should remind us that ridicule is not a refutation. If a person is emotionally healthy and in their right mind they are justified in believing in God’s goodness based on their religious experience, even in spite of unexplained evil in the world.


[1] Alcorn, Randy. If God is Good. Multnomah Books: Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2009. pg. 406

 

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