Thursday, 23 July 2015

Are You A Berean?

I saw this cartoon on Facebook the other day and it gave me a good healthy chuckle. During his tithing sermon the pastor tells his parishioners, "Actually, the Greek word for tithe means 25%." The caption then says, "Dr. Sheldon takes advantage of his congregation's lack of knowledge of the Greek language." Too funny!

But seriously, the implication of this cartoon is that there are some pastors who are deliberately deceptive. Other than a bonafide 'Wolf in the Pulpit,' I have a hard time with that. Sure, some preachers might be deceived themselves, but I believe that the vast majority seriously believe that which they preach.

This does, however, raise another question for me from the other side of the pulpit; the pew. There is, perhaps ironically, this age-old tendency for Christians not to know their Bibles and simply be told what to believe. Granted, since the Reformation days, we're doing better, but as I look around in my little corner of the world, I still see an attitude among some believers reminiscent of those old days when Bible reading was discouraged. I wonder why that is.

I just cannot fathom why this lethargic attitude towards the Scriptures prevails. God has revealed so much of Himself within its pages that one would think that every Christian would daily spend time examining it for themselves. Unlike the suggestion in the cartoon, we don't have to have a knowledge of the Greek language either in order to know that something coming from the pulpit is true or false; there are plenty of good English versions to guide us in our quest for biblical literacy. Please understand, I do not mean this as the proverbial 'guilt trip.' This is just my own humble musing.

Getting back to the cartoon, I wonder if the Bereans old old would have fallen for such trickery. Notice what Luke tells us in Acts 17:11. In the NIV it reads,
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (emphasis mine)
The point is, the Bereans did not just blindly take Paul's word for it; they looked it up for themselves. As such, I doubt they would have fallen for "a tithe means 25%." Taken one step further, would they have believed that the tithe (10%) even had a place at all in the church if they heard a preacher trying to convince them to part with a prescribed portion of their income? Some still preach that Old Testament law today, and try to twist it into the New Testament church. And some non-Bereans still buy into it. (For more on this, see my post: Tithing: Is It Christian?)

Perhaps this explains why there are so many "dissensions and factions" (Galatians 5:20, acts of the sinful nature according to the previous verse) in the church today; some Christians are like the Bereans whereas some are not. Some test what they hear from the pulpit against the Scriptures, and some just blindly accept what they're told without question.

Are you a Berean? Something to think about. Peace.

Cartoon Source: Unknown (via Facebook)

Monday, 20 July 2015

What Are You Afraid Of?

I was thinking a little this morning about things that stir up anxiety and stress in us. It seems that there is no end to possible stressors; health concerns, finances (will I ever be able to afford to retire?), employment (both the lack of and the wrong kind), enemies (both foreign and domestic), to mention but a few.

Lord knows; we’ve all got more than enough on our plates to get our blood pressure rising!

As I thought about that, I was reminded of those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Under the leadership of Nehemiah, and despite the great opposition of the surrounding peoples, they undertook the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Imagine trying to build something and having a buddy stand guard while you do so that you don’t get killed in the process by your neighbors, people who aren’t as enthusiastic about your building project as you are. That’s essentially what the building process looked like for them. Talk about stress!

How does Nehemiah encourage the people? He simply says to them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome …” (Nehemiah 4:14). I like that. "Remember the Lord."

What are you going through today? What are you afraid of? Is stress getting the better of you? I'm preaching to myself here; it seems that there's no shortage of stress in my life lately. Still, Nehemiah’s words ring true. “Don’t be afraid of them [it]. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”

Meditate on that truth; take a moment to really think on that and let it sink in. The God of Nehemiah is the same one you and I worship and call Lord. God hasn’t changed and He still can be trusted to help us through all those anxieties and stressors, just as He helped the people rebuilding that wall long ago. Though we often tend to forget Him, He has not forgotten us.

Call on Him. “Remember the Lord.”

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Hoarding Church: Not A Part of God's Plan

Perhaps one of the most beautiful illustrations in the New Testament of the early church is that of a sharing community. People spontaneously gave from what they possessed to help meet the needs of others, and so much so that the Bible says that "there were no needy persons among them" (see Acts 4: 32-37).

Are there needy persons in the church today? (No guilt trip intended). Hmm. Maybe we'll just leave that question alone.

This attitude of concern for those in need wasn't limited to only the local faith community either; they gave to fellow believers in distant places as well. The point is, whenever and wherever there was a need, the true church responded to help meet that need. To be sure, they also had in their midst conniving spirits who were less than honest in their giving, such as the story of Ananias and Sapphira, but God swiftly judged and passed sentence on their dishonesty and duplicity. Likewise hoarding was not a part of God's plan for the church, as seen in this post's meme above.

Let's Change Gears

My wife and I have been talking lately about visiting a lawyer and renewing our Last Will and Testaments. It's not that we have a lot of earthly treasures that require a careful post-death distribution plan, for we don't, but we would rather have control over what does get distributed to whom than allow the government to one day make that decision for us.

Still, wouldn't it be something if one day, when they bury the last surviving member of this marital union, there's nothing much left to bequeath because while we yet lived, God had imparted such a concern in us for the needs of others that most of the estate had already been given away? No, we're not there yet, and maybe we never will be. Maybe this is an unrealistic utopian idea. But in the end, doesn't it all come down to our attitudes concerning our worldly wealth and riches in relation to the poor and hungry, both in the church with us, and in the communities around us? Do we really care about them and their needs? Jesus does.

What if this very night our lives were demanded from us? Then who will get what we've prepared for ourselves? (Luke 12:20). Something to think about. Peace.