Archive for July, 2014

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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 Isn’t it a shame that the Bible is so outdated and out of touch with people!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.