More and more Christians question New covenant tithing

Passing on the Plate: Why Your Congregation May not be Tithing
Janet Chismar, Contributing Writer

Do members of your church seem reluctant to tithe? Do you know why? For many Christians, the issue of money is a touchy one. Mark Leeson of Fontana, Calif., says he tunes out whenever a pastor discusses giving. Part of his distaste stems from hearing televangelists who prescribe giving as the way to gain riches. Too often, says Leeson, these personalities link failing to give with a lack of prosperity. “Do we really need to buy God’s blessings?” he wonders.

Marcy Peters of Nashville, Tenn., understands that giving is a biblical mandate, but she questions whether a 10 percent “tithe” still applies to Christians today. “Isn’t tithing an Old Testament concept?” she asks. “I don’t think Paul ever talked about tithing.”

Peters is not alone in her confusion. In 2006, Ellison Research surveyed 1,184 people who attend Protestant churches at least once a month. Only 36 percent of respondents said they believe there is a biblical command to tithe 10 percent to their local church…
To read the article in its entirety, click on this link:

You Can’t Take Communion

“Everyone here is welcome to participate in the Eucharist/communion today. For unbelievers it’s a morsel of bread and a sip of wine that really won’t benefit you in any way. But for the believers, it’s a beautiful sacrament. A morsel of bread and a sip of wine that reminds us of Jesus Christ and his willingness to die on a cross so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to God.”

If you heard this during a church gathering would you be freaked out? Why?

My whole life I’ve heard a prohibition from the pulpit preceding the Eucharist/communion against unbelievers participating, so I just assumed it was biblical. But not long ago, I decided to examine this prohibition, and I was surprised to find that, like the sinners prayer, it’s not in the Bible. The prohibition of unbelievers participating in communion comes from the Didache*, not the Bible.

Now some may argue that this prohibition shows love since it prevents people from participating in an unworthy manner and bringing sickness or death upon themselves (1 Cor 11:27-30). But the apostle Paul warned Christians not to eat or drink the bread and wine in an unworthy manner, i.e. treating it as an ordinary meal and using it to fill their bellies; he didn’t address whether or not unbelievers should be denied bread and wine. Furthermore, although it’s not in the context of church assembly, Paul says in the same epistle that we are not to judge unbelievers according to God’s standards and he also says that believers should feel free to eat with unbelievers.

Are unbelievers treated as second-class at church meetings, and if so, is this proper?

I’m just not sure the exclusion we see in church gatherings during the Lord’s Supper is loving or healthy. I have a hard time picturing Jesus saying, “Hey, buddy get out of line. You’re one of those unbelieving sinners.”

Unlike the ordinance of baptism, which represents both the washing away of our sins and the death of our old sinful self (when we go under the water) and our new life as a child of God (when we come back up out of the water), we are told by Jesus that the purpose of eating the bread and drinking the wine is to remember him and what he accomplished through his death. Paul says it is to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

With this in mind, why do we prohibit unbelievers in our assemblies from participating in the Lord’s Supper and not prohibit them from singing songs that remind us of Jesus and proclaim his death?

Now some of you may be thinking I have a low view of the Lord’s Supper, and if I understood that the bread and wine became true flesh and blood of Jesus once consumed, I would never entertain such heresy. And you might be right; however, I don’t see any reason to believe Jesus expected people to take him literally when he handed bread and wine to his disciples and told them it was his flesh and blood. (After all, we don’t take it literally when Jesus said, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” or “I am the vine.”) Furthermore, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples “Only those who believe I am the Son of God may eat and drink.” He served all of them, even Judas.
*Some may consider the fact that this prohibition is in the Didache, which dates from the late first or early second century, as sufficient reason to maintain it today; however, it seems tradition, even long-standing tradition, is not a good reason. Afterall, we see the church in Acts met together daily and the individual members shared all they had with each other, but I don’t know of any believers today who see this as prescriptive rather than descriptive.

Differences lie in the definitions

If you listen to Calvinists and Arminians debate, you might walk away thinking Calvinists don’t believe in free will and Arminians don’t believe God is sovereign; however, neither of these accusations are true. In fact, both sides believe humans have free will and both sides believe God is sovereign.1 The differences lie in the definitions.

Calvinists define free will as the ability to freely choose; however, the choice is determined by one’s nature which is controlled by God and outside of the human agent’s control. So God is the primary causal agent and the human is an intermediate, or secondary, agent.

Arminians, however, believe in libertarian free will, which is the ability to freely choose within the parameters of one’s nature; however, since one’s free decisions shape one’s nature, the human agent is the sole, or primary, causal agent.

When it comes to God’s sovereignty, both sides agree that God has ordained all things, and all things are under his control.

Calvinists say that because God is always the primary causal agent, he renders certain all that he ordained.

Most Arminians say that because God exists outside of time in an “eternal now,” there is no past, present, or future with him; he is able to see all and as a result, know all. Therefore he is able to ordain all things.2

If terms are not defined, baseless accusations prevent understanding and meaningful dialogue!
1Most Calvinists believe in free will; however, some deny it.
2Many Arminians are now embracing the Molinist view that says because God knew prior to creation what every person would freely choose to do in every feasible circumstance, he was able to create a world and place individuals in circumstances where they would freely choose in accordance with his master plan.

Unchurched at Church

I read an article back in October entitled The Reason You’re Failing at Making Converts. In the article, Lawrence Wilson argues that people don’t make life-altering decisions based on intellect alone. Therefore, he says, experience must precede decision; belonging must precede believing. While I think he may overstate his case a bit, he does make some good points when he talks about how “we design everything from our building to our worship experience around the needs and wants of churched people rather than creating a space where unchurched people can belong.”

So what should a meeting of followers of Christ look like? What should the building look like? Should there be songs? If so, what kind? Should there be a Bible teacher? What should be taught? Should money be collected during the service?

The local church I attend, Browns Mill, meets in a beat up space overtop a downtown business—a pizzeria on one side and a micro-brewery on the other. You won’t find 3-piece suits there, but you will find real people, a lot of smiles, good teaching, and plenty of coffee.

The music consists of short choruses, but thankfully, they don’t repeat the same lines too many times. It’s definitely churchy, but as a forty-something, I enjoy the acoustic guitar and hand drum (it probably has an official name, but as an ignorant non-percussionist, I’ll stick with hand drum).

There is no offering plate passed during service, just a wooden box back by the coffee for those who desire to give.

There is a time of listening to the pastor/Bible teacher read the passage of scripture planned for that day while the rest of us follow along in our Bibles (or in one of the Bibles intentionally scattered around the place). Unlike most local churches I’ve visited or been a part of, this one moves verse by verse through books of the Bible.

Of course, the teacher doesn’t just read; he explains what the authors were trying to convey when they wrote these passages, why they were written, and how they apply to followers of Christ living two thousand years after the time they were penned. He also reminds us every Sunday that it’s all about Jesus.

Near the end of the hour and a half meeting, there is a time of silent prayer followed by communion and a closing song.

Does it sound like unchurched people would feel comfortable here?

I think they would.

I think they wouldn’t feel intimidated by our building–no whitewash and steeple. I think they would like the warmth of the people. I think they might appreciate the fact that they don’t have to fret about their appearance–no ties or spit-shined shoes here. I think they would appreciate not being asked for money. Depending on their musical tastes, they might like the music. I think they would appreciate the fact that the pastor is just a regular guy, no robe, collar, or TV Preacher voice. And I think they would like the coffee.

That being said, I also think unchurched people wouldn’t be comfortable here.

They’d probably think the song lyrics were strange, and unless they were into karaoke, they might feel uncomfortable singing in public. The words in the Bible, and the accompanying teaching, might make them feel uncomfortable. And the time of silent prayer and communion time might freak them out.

So what’s the final verdict? What about this tension?

I actually think this tension is healthy, and if it weren’t there, I don’t think I’d be there.

Peace when making decisions…

Should followers of Christ use inner peace as a gauge when making decisions? If we have that peace, does it mean we can move forward? If we do not have that peace, does it mean we would be outside of God’s will if we moved forward? Do we have to pray to God for peace (or lack of peace) before making each decision, or is this something that operates automatically in the life of believers?

Let’s start with the first question: Should followers of Christ use inner peace as a gauge when making decisions?

I believe the answer is “yes”; we should use inner peace (or lack of peace) as a gauge—not the gauge—when making decisions. Throughout the Bible we are instructed to exercise wisdom; wisdom demands that we not discount feelings of unrest when considering whether or not we should do something. These feelings could be caused by our conscience letting us know that we are considering something that doesn’t align with God’s moral will, which is revealed in scripture. (On the other hand, since our conscience is limited by our knowledge, believers who are spiritually immature may feel peace about doing something immoral, or they may feel no peace when considering something which may not be immoral but they perceive it as such.) Feelings of unrest could also be caused by a conflict between our intellect and our desire, i.e., we want to do something but deep inside we know that it’s not the smartest thing to do. However, feelings of unrest may tell us nothing about whether or not our decision is good or bad; sometimes they simply indicate timidity, fear, or a lack of confidence. Finally, peace and unrest can coexist. We can have peace that comes from a clear conscience while at the same time being troubled by other factors: consider Jesus in Gethsemane before his crucifixion.

If my answer to the first question is correct, then the rest of the questions are irrelevant.

So, in summary, feelings of unrest do not necessarily mean you should not move forward, and feelings of peace do not necessarily mean you should move forward. Nevertheless, feelings should be taken into consideration, along with many other factors, to ensure the decisions we make are wise and pleasing to God.

WWPD – What Would Pharisees Do?

If the first statement below were true, wouldn’t the second be true as well?

1. A follower of Christ should not drink any alcohol because a person who struggles with drunkenness may see them and stumble.

2. A follower of Christ should not eat desserts because a person who struggles with gluttony may see them and stumble.

While you’re pondering the two statements above, let’s talk about Pharisees. We see in the New Testament that Pharisees added to God’s laws thinking more prohibitions would result in more holiness. According to Jesus, this was a bad idea! Well, there are Pharisees today who do the same thing. Have you ever heard statements like these:

  • Followers of Christ don’t go to movies (or don’t watch rated R movies).
  • Followers of Christ don’t smoke.
  • Followers of Christ don’t dance.
  • Followers of Christ don’t listen to rock music.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Am I saying Christians should watch bad movies, smoke, dance, and listen to rock music? No.
I am saying that where God’s word is silent, followers of Christ need to wisely choose what to let into their lives. And followers of Christ need to be careful not to legislate for God!

(In case you’re wondering, one of my favorite movies, Schindler’s List, is rated R. I don’t smoke, but a couple Bible teachers that I have great respect for, Charles Spurgeon & C.S. Lewis, did. And although I have little interest in dancing, Israel’s second (and favorite) king, King David, enjoyed it. And lastly, I love to listen to The Boomtown Rats, Billy Squier, Talking Heads, etc.)

“The Pharisees’ good intentions led them astray. They took the laws of God and added extra rules for good measure. These were called “fence laws.” Since women were viewed as a source of temptation and moral failure, the Pharisees prohibited rabbis from talking to a woman. They could not even walk along the same side of the street as a woman….They became stricter than God….Ungodliness is not always about the really bad people. Sometimes it is about the really good people who are more restrictive than God.”    ~Joseph Stowell

God will never give you more than you can handle…examined

God will never give you more than you can handle.

This seems to be a popular saying among Christians (especially on Facebook) but what exactly does it mean? Does it mean God will not let big problems come into the lives of his followers?

The Bible says God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent), but it also says that his followers will have troubles in life (Acts 14:22). Of the twelve disciples Jesus handpicked, one committed suicide and ten were killed.

Or does it mean followers of Christ can overcome every obstacle that comes into their lives?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” But Paul was unable to deflect the axe that took off his head. (If you look at Philippians 4:13 in context, you’ll see that it’s talking about Paul’s ability as a follower of Christ to be content in all situations.)

Actually, this biblical sounding phrase isn’t biblical at all, although the person who came up with it may have been thinking of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

This verse says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

So while it’s true that God tests us (Luke 22:31, Hebrews 11:17) and permits us to be tempted (Luke 22:31), he has promised his followers that with the temptation he will provide a way of escape.

So if a friend is struggling with being content, you can remind them of Philippians 4:13. And if a friend is struggling with various temptations, you can remind them of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

But if a friend is having troubles in life—relational, financial, emotional, physical, etc.—please don’t tell them, “God will never give you more than you can handle”; it’s a meaningless phrase since we have no idea what it is that God is giving, and we have no standard by which to measure how much a person can handle. Instead pray for them, and if possible help them bear their burden.

*Note: When you’re going through tough times, remember these words penned by the apostle Paul:

Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory. Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)

How’s your heart?

In the New Testament, the word “heart” (καρδία) is similar in meaning to “soul,” but often “heart” has a focus on thinking and understanding. It represents the central or inmost part and is used to speak of the seat of human thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors, understanding, intelligence, will, and character.

Although references to the heart are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, I’ve chosen to focus almost exclusively on the teachings of Jesus as recorded and explained by his disciples. I’m doing this because I feel that the teachings of God in the flesh deserve more attention than they typically receive. Quite often discussions of Christianity emphasize Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return, while saying little about what he taught for three years.

When we examine the teachings of Jesus, we see that one of Jesus’ central concerns, if not the central concern, had to do with the condition of the human heart. And examining the passages that refer to the heart, reveals seven vital truths:

1. Your heart (and the thoughts of your heart) will align with that which is most important to you.

for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:21)

2. Hearts can be trained and purified.

They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (2Pet 2:14)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas 4:8)

3. Hearts can be established or they can vacillate between good and evil.

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (Jas 5:8)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas 4:8)

4. Hearts can be humble or proud.

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. (Matt 11:29)

He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. (Luke 1:51)

5. Hearts can be slow or they can be hard.

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! (Luk 24:25)

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? (Mark 8:17)

6. Hearts can be influenced by God and by Satan.

During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, (Jhn 13:2)

The whole world wanted an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart. (1Kgs 10:24)

7. Lips (and actions) reveal the condition and thoughts of the heart.

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. (Matt 12:34)

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. (Matt 15:19)

So how should we, as followers of Christ, use this information?

We should set our minds on the things of God, which come from above, and not on the things of this earth (Col 3:2). Jesus said the greatest command is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30). This doesn’t mean that we stop caring about earthly things; rather it means God, his kingdom, and the law of Christ become our primary concern as we live out our lives here (Matt 6:33, Gal 6:2). As citizens of heaven, we must remember that treasures laid up in heaven as a result of our obedience to Christ, far surpass any treasures that we can accumulate here on earth (Matt 6:19-21).

In order to set our minds on the things of God, we must first be familiar with the things of God; this is why we read his word. Immersing ourselves in the Bible will purify and establish our hearts as we establish a firm foundation on the truths of God. This is a process of renewal that involves replacing any thoughts and beliefs that are contrary to God’s character (Rom 12:2, Phil 4:8); this process will continue until we die or Christ returns for us. Furthermore, keeping our hearts established on the things above is not an easy process, which is why we are told to encourage our fellow believers in the faith (1 Thess 5:11).

Although God’s word is our primary means of purifying and establishing our hearts, God will creatively use many means to influence our hearts. This influence is often referred to as God’s providence. However, Satan can also try to influence our hearts. Satan’s desire is for us to distrust God and harden our hearts. God is grieved by the slow of heart but he is especially grieved by the hard hearted because they refuse to accept what he has revealed to them.

With a heart established on the things of God, we will be transformed degree by degree into the image of Christ—the perfect image bearer of God (2 Cor 3:18). And we will find that the thoughts of our hearts will align with the desires of God; as a result, our words and actions will bring glory to him. For example, when we see someone in need, our first thought will be help them; and when someone hurts us, we will think, forgive them. These thoughts aren’t natural but instead are a developed second nature that is the result primarily of spending time in, and being transformed by, God’s word. And, when they pop into our heads, we sometimes feel like God miraculously planted them there, but in fact, these thoughts are the result of establishing our hearts.

We must also remember that this renewal and transformation is not accomplished solely through our efforts; God, working in us, enables us to desire first to establish our hearts and then to train our hearts to do good (Phil 2:13). This knowledge should cause our hearts to be humble like the heart of Christ, rather than proud like the unrighteous.

Finally, we must remember that God knows our hearts. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus rebuking the Jewish religious leaders for being hypocrites. He said they were like whitewashed tombs because although their words and actions were sometimes good, their hearts weren’t set on the things of God (Matt 23:27). He said they were actors simply trying to impress others with their works. God desires good works and holy behavior when it is motivated by godliness that comes from the heart (Gal 6:10).

Is God fair?

Ask this question in a room full of Christians and you’ll certainly get a lively discussion. I googled the question and found that about half of the sites said “yes” and half said “no.” Why is this? Well, when I visited these sites and read their rationale, it became clear that the differences hinged on the definition of “fair.”

Let’s take a one-question quiz:

What is “fairness”?
A. Treating everybody the same way
B. Treating everybody as they deserve to be treated
C. Treating each person appropriately according to who they are

Any of these answers could be correct.

So if you are defining “fair” with definitions A or B, you’ll likely say God isn’t always fair, and I’d argue with you that your answers are biblically sound. However, if you are defining “fair” with definition C, you’ll likely say that God is perfectly fair, and you know what, I’d argue with you that your answer is biblically sound.

So the answer to the question is “yes” or “no,” depending on how you define “fair.”

*Some will say, “No, God is not fair, but he is just”; however, I think this simply begs the question by assuming fairness and justice are not synonymous.

God’s Will & God’s Plan

Q: What is God’s will?

A: I believe the Bible speaks of two wills of God, or two aspects of his will—antecedent and consequent.

God’s antecedent will for every human is that they would know him and know his salvation. That they would be reconciled to him and enter his kingdom. And that they would live lives that honor and glorify him.

However, this does not always come to pass. God’s antecedent will is not always done on earth as it is in heaven. On the other hand, God’s consequent will, which is conditioned by the free acts of creatures, is set in stone and cannot be frustrated. This is God’s plan and it is definite. Everything that happens is predestined by this plan. Everything that happened in the past was predestined by this plan. And everything that will happen will be predestined by this plan (Acts 4:27-28).
Q: What is God’s plan for my life?

A: Well, God’s plan for each individual extends beyond death, but if we limit the question to consider only God’s plan for us prior to death, here’s the answer:

The sum of every thought that you think, everything that you do, and every interaction you have is God’s plan for you.

Before the foundation of the world God decided that you would be born, when you would be born, and where you would be born. Knowing everything you would think and everything you would do (as well as knowing everything he would do that would affect you in various ways over the course of your life), God placed you with precision so that you would complete a tiny part of his overall plan.
Q: Will God reveal my future events to me if I ask him to?

A: God knows perfectly what you will freely choose to do and all that will happen to you; he knows your future perfectly. So, will he reveal future events to you, like whether or not you will get married, where you will live, or how long you will live? Probably not. But he could, and it is possible that God will reveal specific events from your future if you ask him to.

There are some places in the Bible where God reveals specific future details to individuals and those details are unique to their lives. For example, God told Abraham that he would have a child and also that he would be the father of a great nation (Genesis 15, 17). And God told King David through the prophet Nathan that someone from his own family would bring widespread shame on him by sleeping with his wives. He also told him that his young child would die (2 Samuel 12).

And in the New Testament, Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times (Matthew 26), and later God told Paul through the prophet Agabus that he would be arrested in Jerusalem and turned over to the Romans (Acts 21).

I’m sure there are more examples but when you consider the fact that the Bible spans the whole of human history, it’s obvious this isn’t the norm.

Personally, I think I’d rather discover my future as I live it.