Over the years I have really grown to hate this word; hypocrite.
What does it mean to be a hypocrite? Who qualifies as a hypocrite? What are our hang ups when it comes to hypocrites in the church? Why do we so quickly point fingers at others to call them this, without acknowledging our own hypocrisy?
The very definition of the word, hypocrite, leaves me believing that absolutely every person on this earth has played the role of hypocrite more than once in their lives.
: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
We are human beings who learn from our mistakes, sometimes after the first one, but often after many. And during that learning curve, people can sometimes see us stumbling.
What is it about our human nature that feels the need to point out others in their failures, faults, and stumbles, while we too struggle with our own battles? What is it about finding flaws in others that makes us feel better about ourselves?
On top of being flawed human beings, destined to make and even repeat mistakes, most of us are also human beings who do not wish to inform absolutely everyone of our mistakes, flaws, or internal struggles. Are we all living under false pretenses? Perhaps, to strangers or acquaintances who stumble upon our flaws, it would appear so. In reality, most of us are just trying our hardest to put our best foot forward. Most of us are trying to be the person we portray to the world, but still stumbling along the way.
One great example of groups of people who are constantly trying to do better, but often still stumbling, even while trying to help others, are support groups for addicts. When addicts stumble along their journey to sobriety, or have set backs, big or small, we call it a disease. Society tries to react with understanding as these people try over and over again to clean up their lives. We often applaud them for seeking the help that they need.
Listen, we are all born with a disease of the heart. We are all born with sin. Not a single one of us will ever, ever live a perfect life. People attend church and Bible studies, and even lead church or Bible studies in one way or another, still struggling with their own sin! We are not a group of perfect people, nor are we a group pretending to be perfect. We are a support group for sinners. The person who greeted you might be struggling with addiction. The person sitting next to you might be struggling with adultery. Just as an AA sponsor has a history, and might still have set backs, the very leaders of your church might be struggling in their own sin.
Pray for them!
We have it in our heads that our leaders are above the need for prayer, that our leaders have figured this all out already, that our leaders have a direct line to Jesus which we don't. FALSE! And when we put them on this pedestal of perfection, we are setting them up for a fall, not them. They didn't place themselves there. We did.
Think about this; what if we all wore our sins on a post-it note stuck to our foreheads? What if we were completely transparent with our faults? Would that make any of us less of a hypocrite? Maybe not.
But if we knew that we were walking around with our own mistakes visible for all to see, maybe we wouldn't be so quick to judge the mistakes of others.
When I began 2 weeks ago with Marvel at the Maker, I didn't know I would be doing a whole three-part series on being thankful, yet here we are! Last week we discussed what it means to have a grateful heart; being thankful for what God has already provided, no matter what else we might wish we had. We talked about how we shouldn't get wrapped up in the desires of the world, but what does that really mean? What does it mean to be truly thankful? What does it mean to have a thankful heart? What does God mean, saying that He will give us the desires of our hearts?
Let's explore that a little deeper.
This is actually so much simpler than many of us may realize, but let's be clear. This does not mean that God gives us whatever we want. Most of us have learned that already. Many of us have found ourselves in positions of crying out to God, desperately, for something that we really want in our lives, only to have that prayer go unanswered. I cannot be the first person to realize how much better off I was with those unanswered prayers. Man! Some of the things I asked for, especially in my youth, would not have been good for me! Even though my heart desperately wanted it at the time, God, in His infinite wisdom, knew better.
So many lines throughout Psalm 37 begin like this:
Trust in the Lord...
Delight yourself in the Lord...
Commit your way to the Lord...
trust in him...
Be still before the Lord...
Turn from evil and do good...
Wait for the Lord...
This isn't actually about our desires, is it? Not really. What happens when we delight ourselves in the Lord? What happens when we commit our ways to Him? Trust Him? Turn from evil?
When we do these things fully, we align our heart's desires to the will of the Lord. Our hearts become changed. Being given our heart's desire takes on a whole new meaning, once your heart aligns to God's will for your life. Our desire becomes to be in HIS will.
And what a glorious place that is to be!
Last week we discussed our inability to appreciate God's gifts when they are right in front of our faces. My point last week was about His creations, and how we take for granted the extraordinary beauty of this universe He created for us.
Similarly, we often live our lives, oblivious of His daily blessings. We often lament on what we do not have, rather than rejoice with what we do. For example, my family has kind of (most definitely) outgrown the town home in which we live. We often complain about a lack of space, lack of storage, tiny yard...and the list goes on and on; when not all that many years ago, this home is exactly the home we prayed for. How often we do this! We pray, we get what we want, and so quickly forget how God answered that prayer! We are so quick to become greedy and ungrateful, when LOOK! Look what God has done!
Last week, most of us heard about Build-a-Bear, and the deal (steal) they offered. They were hosting an event called Pay Your Age, in which your children could pay their own age for almost any stuffed animal in the store. For my family that would have meant $10, $9, $5, and $3; a total of $27 for four different toys and a fun experience for my children.
Unfortunately, my children have a very naive mom, who couldn't possibly imagine that people would begin standing in line for these bears, hours before the stores even opened. Silly me, I thought we could roll through around 11am, after my son's soccer camp, and have some fun. But by 11am the local stores, which had only been open for all of ONE hour, closed down entry for anyone else. There were people in line all day, many people in line for hours and still turned away.
Upon seeing this information on the website, my friend and I promptly turned to plan B. We grabbed some prepackaged lunches, and took the kids to a local playground, where instead of standing in a line all day, they had hours of fun. I then went home later that day, and downloaded my complimentary $15 coupon from the Build-a-Bear website to use for a later date. Would that deal have been nice? Yes! Taking all four of my children there to create their own toys, on a normal day, is not in our budget. It would have turned an otherwise unaffordable event, into a great memory with my kids. I don't fault anyone who wanted to get there early and wait in line to do that.
But, we made memories anyway. We had fun anyway. It was a gorgeous day with great company, and lots of laughter. What I found sad to see later that day though, were the amount of people who took to Build-a-Bear's social media pages to complain. I would speculate that the likelihood of them ever offering up this deal again, is slim to none. Adults behaved in such ungrateful ways, when this store was just trying to do a nice thing.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.
~1 John 2:15-16
It is difficult sometimes, in such a busy world, to not want more, to not desire more for our lives, our children's lives. And God does tell us to ask Him for our heart's desires. But maybe, just maybe, we need to better align our heart with Jesus, so that our heart's desires align with God's will, and not our own. Let's practice thankfulness for all that we have, patience for that which we're waiting, and faith in a God who knows exactly what we need.
Last week, we talked about where our confidence should be placed; in man or in Jesus? This week, I'd like to elaborate more on how others can effect our own walk. Every now and then I have a conversation with someone who doesn't share my faith, about why they don't believe. Every now and then I also have a conversation with someone who does believe, but doesn't like church; their church or church people in general. And it is interesting how similar those conversations are.
More often than not the reasons come down to one simple fact. People have failed them.
Humans have a way of doing that. Church members, church volunteers, church staff, even pastors are human. They are held to a higher standard, and perhaps they should be, but they are still human. They will fail you. It's not a matter of when or if, but if you spend enough time there, it will happen. They might say or do something you don't agree with. Or they might have an opinion about something that offends you. They might even be having a bad day, and behave angrily in such a way that does not reflect God at all.
How do you respond?
Because the thing is, you don't have any control over their behavior, and no matter how much you want them to be, they are not going to be perfect. You can only control your response. Are you going to let their humanness effect your life? Are you going to allow their mistakes to lessen your faith.
It's not about them. Your faith is not about anyone else. Yes, God places people throughout our lives to help us in our journey of faith. That is certain, but because of our humanness, and free will He does not control us. He knows our decisions, but does not dictate them. So when people act out of His will, when people make mistakes, when people hurt or disappoint us, that is not God. God did not fail you because a person hurt you.
And when we allow their actions to turn us away from Jesus, we are showing Jesus that our faith lies not with Him, but with man. Our relationship with Jesus is and should always be our own. Our friends, our families, even our church should not have such a stronghold on it, that when they stumble, we do too. When one person falls, we should not all collapse like dominoes, and yet, I have seen this exact thing happen within churches, time and time again.
Put your faith in Jesus, your trust in His Word, and then, when those people fall from the pedestal you've placed them on, instead of falling with them, you could lift them back up.
Have you ever wondered why an all-powerful God who can do anything He wants, chooses imperfect people to do His will, instead of just doing things Himself? I know I have. I have prayed, and wondered why; why Moses? Why David? Why Saul? The list goes on and on throughout the Bible, of men and women alike with sordid pasts, huge flaws, and obvious sins, chosen for a God-given purpose.
Like last week, I am going to use Moana as an example, because I feel the imagery is so powerful. There were a couple of scenes between Moana and Maui, that really spoke to me. The first one, when Maui asks her why her people sent her, Moana responds, "My people didn't send me. The ocean did."
Maui's response is both sarcastic, and interesting; "Makes sense. You're what? Eight? Can't sail? Obvious choice." He begins here, to plant seeds of doubt, where Moana has otherwise had great faith, by pointing out her flaws. She is young and unqualified.
David was also young and unqualified when God asked him to face Goliath. But God equipped him.
Moana remains faithful, and responds, "It chose me for a reason," to which Maui continues with, "If the ocean's so smart, why didn't it just take the heart back to Te Fiti itself?"
I know that the Polynesian and Christian theologies are very different, but in this film, what appears to be the god-like being, is actually the ocean. The ocean brought the heart (or the calling) to Moana. The ocean did not make her take action. It could have picked her up and thrown her out to sea, but it didn't. She felt the call, she responded with faith and obedience to what she felt was asked of her, and as a young, unqualified, mere mortal, she set out on a dangerous journey, in faith. It occurred to me that none of these feats, these acts, these miracles; would have been nearly as impressive had the ocean just done it, itself. Have you ever thought about that? There would be no story, no journey, no testimony if God just said, "Fine! I'll do it myself!"
No, God gets the glory, when we, mere mortals, do the impossible He has asked us to do. The miraculous happens, when God uses ordinary, flawed people, who don't have any supernatural powers at all, to do His work.
But are we listening? Do we hear Him when he calls? Or are we allowing people to plant seeds of doubt? Are we turning our backs on our callings because they seem impossible?
When Moana acted in faith, she was able to restore life to her island, feeding her people. But do you think that she was the only one to have ever been called to this task? Or perhaps the first to actually listen? We understand that the heart of Te Fiti was stolen a very long time ago. We're also told that the demonic volcano Te Kā, immediately rose up upon the theft.
The restoration here, had been needed for a very long time, and Moana's grandmother tells her of how she is just like her father; that her father felt that call to the ocean as well, but when danger struck, and his best friend died, he turned back. He then made rules against anyone traveling beyond the reef because of the dangers. Could it be that the ocean had been calling others before her as well, her father included? Could this problem have been resolved sooner? Maybe, but no one else was listening.
When Maui's seeds of doubt finally begin to influence Moana, we see her looking defeated, saying quietly, "The ocean chose me for a reason."
Maui responds, "We're here because the ocean told you you're special, and you believed it."
"It chose me."
"It chose wrong."
And Moana begins to give up. She asked the ocean to choose someone else.
Who, in the Bible, have we heard this from?
But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it."
As Moana hesitates to give up, she is reminded of how she was called, and how she got as far as she did, and a line she sings that really stands out, is "And the call isn't out there at all. It's inside me!"
She realizes that this call isn't out there, in the world, it is within her. We often search everywhere for our purpose, but right where God put it, within our hearts.
Moana acted in faith, to her calling, even though it could have brought her to her death. Moana continued to do what was asked of her even amidst doubts and fears. The ocean did not force her to her calling, but when she acted in faith and obedience, the ocean was there when she was in real danger.
Yes, this is fiction. Yes it stems from a different theology, but the parallels were too important to miss.
Real history of real people has shown us that what God is capable of doing through mere mortals is astounding, if/when we walk in faith. What has God been calling you to? Are you uncertain? Or are you scared. You're only human right? But what if you answered that call? What could our God do through you, if you only listened?
Today I pray that we all take the time to listen, answer that call, and that we act and walk in faith, knowing God has a purpose for us that's even bigger than we could imagine. What would our world be like if we all followed our calling?
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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