Tag Archives: prosperity gospel

Rejecting Reason, A World Upside Down

One of the things I just love about God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is how steady and rooted He is. The Bible tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Old Testament reiterates that God, the ancient of days, does not change in Psalm 55:19 and in Malachi 3:6 and in many other books as well. The entire body of scripture emphasizes this characteristic of God over and over again. In fact, I do not believe that we can truly understand God unless we fully embrace this aspect of Him.

When we examine humanity, although we are ‘made in God’s image,’ we are fickle and our hearts lead us astray. In no way is this more evident than when we examine the concept of truth in modern American culture. I’ve been so dismayed at how we portray truth in our society. Surely we are reaping of results of not knowing what we believe and why we believe it. We are suffering from self inflicted wounds that are perpetuated by a profound disconnect with reality.

I can remember the first time the idea that ‘truth’ was a personal state of existence whacked me from behind and took me by surprise. Brittany Spears, who was once the Disney icon of what a good girl in America looked like, had started a relationship with a wannabe named Kevin. Naturally, since they were so thrilled with themselves and their new life, they signed on for their very own television show “Brittany & Kevin: Chaotic.” One of the tag lines for the show was, “Can you handle our truth?” This quote identifies the idea that truth occurs in one’s life by fiat (I can personally dictate what is real and true) and that truth is subject to change from person to person. It does not refer to an opinion or a lifestyle. What horrified me even more was that no one in the media or in society stopped to question that concept. Not to be unkind, but whatever ‘truth’ Brittany Spears is selling is the last kind of veracity that I want. But, Americans bought the idea en masse and a veritable parade of ‘personal truthers’ has followed. I am beginning to believe that we accept ‘truth’ or ‘fact’ that is individually based because truth that is independent and external to the individual has become offensive and inconvenient. It doesn’t meet our narrative and worse it shines a light on how shallow and self serving we can be.

Let us examine the idea of Bruce Jenner’s transition from a male to a female and the rhetoric surrounding this issue. First of all, let me first say that each person has different struggles and sadness. I do not want to detract from Bruce’s pain, because it is evidently deep seated and overwhelming. The fact that this incredible, handsome man with all of his talents and God-given gifts feels that he was born into the wrong gendered body isn’t funny; it’s not something to be dismissed. Does he have male genitalia? Evidently. Are there other genes involved in sexual expression and psychosocial aspects of human sexuality? I believe so and genomic scientific evidence does suggest that there are many more genes involved in sexuality than we previously thought. That said, Bruce, like me and like you, is made in God’s image. God loves him right when and where he is. Regardless of our concept of what is real and true and good, this FACT never changes. However, at what point do we in society decide to perpetuate a falsehood in order to show ‘support’ or ‘love’ for someone? Is Bruce really a female? All of the surgery in the world will not change his basic genetic structure. Is it healthy to advocate that a person who has ‘gender confusion’ undergo the gruesome surgery of sex reassignment just to meet their feelings? Feelings are elusive, like trying to grab hold of a cloud, and they change with frequency. Is it healthy to participate in the fascade because we think being truthful might hurt feelings or leave one branded as intolerant? I’d like to suggest that perhaps we have thrown the proverbial baby out and are keeping the bathwater. As a society, we have ‘exchanged the truth of God for the lie…” Society is worshipping the person rather than the person’s creator. This is a futile endeavor

Honestly, we are to expect a frenetic search for fulfillment in the secular community. People who have not met Jesus are longing for fulfillment, just as you and I also long to be complete. What is even more troubling about these ‘new’ (really they are the same lies told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden) ideas about truth is that they are being preached from the pulpits of the Christian Church. Daily, we can see some churches selling the prosperity gospel, for a small fee of course, being preached to the broken. Naturally, turning God’s house into a for-profit model is revolting to an audience of people, many of whom visit the local food pantry just to feed their families; people who really are watching to see if Christians walk the talk. Given that Jesus aggressively addressed this behavior in the temple (Matthew 21:13), we can know that He too is filled with anger about this and there will indeed be hell to pay…literally. On the other hand, we see a gospel of law without love being taught as well. “Well I’m sorry you are in that mess. Stinks to be you and by the way don’t expect help from me!” The tragedy of these falsehoods taught by Christian pastors is that is means that WE THE CHURCH have become the Levite and the Priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. How saddened my heart is by this! And I’m guilty too!

As Christians, we are not immune to beautiful sounding lies that appeal to our innate, sinful desire to seek self and MY kingdom rather than Christ and HIS kingdom. Again, at what point is it ‘healthy’ to support these falsehoods? At what point do we as Christians stop pretending that this is okay in our churches? Are we also guilty of perpetuating a lie within the church because we don’t want to rock the boat in our own congregations? Surely a church without the truth is much more egregious to God than a lost soul who is hoping to find it in their many travels.

God wants us to want more for ourselves. God wants us to want HIM for ourselves, because in a world where genetic expression, point mutations, and human sin abound, only He is capable of saving us. Truth makes us free. It’s not something that can be found within if we dig deep enough, ‘evolve,’ or ‘find ourselves’ because at our very core is the seed of sin that we were born with. Remember, God is our Father and Christ is the Word. That is, Jesus is the truth, because He is ‘the way, the truth, and the light.’ In Matthew 8:31 Jesus tells his followers, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” I am not the creator of truth, nor are you. We do ourselves and each other a great disservice when we fail to meet falsehood with reason. God himself is reasonable. He does nothing without cause, even if we can’t see His reasons yet.

One of my favorite passages of Isaiah is in Chapter 1. Here are several verses that admonish us:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Brothers and Sisters, Fellow Pilgrims, Come Let Us Reason Together. Let us approach falsehood with the understanding that we are not immune to buying a lie that can cost us everything, even our very souls. Just as importantly, let us gently, with deep love and kindness, pursue and share the truth in a world that has rejected reason. In this way, let us reflect the light and the love that Christ died to give us. May the Holy Spirit be our companion and comforter along a path that brings us no guarantee of ease. No one can run your race for you, but you will NEVER be alone. Amen.

Joel & Jesus

There is a prominent ‘pastor’ who preaches prosperity and blessings emphasizing one’s own verbal power to speak ‘into being’ God’s blessings in a pre-prescribed fashion.  A ‘blessing’ by their definition seems to be plenty of money and often other material things and is often considered to be a result of God granting a person ‘favor’ either from God or in the eyes of man.  Based upon his sermons, one only has to have the right mental mindset to take hold of God’s blessings and achieve ‘Your Best Life Now.’  Joel is polished, bright, lean, and attractively packaged.  He and his wife travel on a private jet and have a personal net worth of $40,000,000.  In short, he is a marketing and branding superstar.

As I was reading through Isaiah 53 today, I was struck by a description of Jesus.  “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.”

Now I want to be very careful about condemning another person who says they are a Christian.  I want to be very clear that I do not stand in judgement of him, because that is God’s job.  That said, we are called to look at a person’s fruits and the Bible tells us to test the spirits.  There is an extra burden upon a teacher of the Bible to be accurate and precise with God’s word and to wield it with extreme caution.  To err in representing who God is constitutes heresy and is very dangerous both to the individual and to the body of Christ.  We must examine what the Bible says and compare it with what the individual says that the Bible says.

The depth and breadth of Joel’s preaching is focused on claiming blessings and receiving things from God as though He is some sort of karmic vending machine.  This ideology presents several problems for the church.  One of the first concerns is not just the avoidance of many of the major tenants of Christianity, but that by omission he also causes a converse dilemma, a negative space if you will.  IF someone is poor, needy, and broken then the implication is that they must not be in a right relationship with Christ.  So, the ‘haves’ within the Christian community have a better relationship with God than the ‘have nots;’ those very people who need Christ the most.  It’s important to consider that if we apply this blessing metric to Christ, He himself would have been considered an abject failure at claiming his blessings and envisioning his position in God’s kingdom on earth.  He was impoverished and despised.  His ‘favor’ among men of power and influence was severely lacking.  I wonder if Joel had met Jesus in Nazareth what advice he would offered our Savior?

Additionally, this errant theology provides its’ supplicants with an opportunity to seek their own will instead of God’s will.  It is not unlike the ‘divine right of kings’ which was the belief that a king was granted the wisdom of God upon ascending to the throne, and therefore was faultless. It is the ever so slight shift from, “I am a Christian and I am seeking His will,” to “I am a Christian therefore my will is God’s will.”  That seemingly slight degree of change is to buy the same lie that Satan sold to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:5) “You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  As humans, we are tempted to assume God’s position.  We want to know good and evil and to determine what is good and evil for ourselves, outside of guidance from our heavenly father.

Joel Osteen’s February 27th blog is entitled “Overcoming A Lack Mentality.”  Here is a direct quote from his message:  “It says in Deuteronomy that God gives us the power to get wealth. There are seeds in you right now that can bring abundance: gifts, talents, skills, ideas, creativity, favor. God didn’t leave anybody out. You’ve got to get up every morning and remind yourself, “I am a no lack person.” See yourself strong, healthy and accomplishing your dreams. Keep the right image in front of you. You are blessed. You are prosperous. You are well able. And yes, you may need some kind of assistance right now. But if you’ll have this attitude and keep pressing forward, before long, instead of taking a handout, you’ll be giving a handout. Instead of borrowing, you’ll be the lender! Don’t settle where you are; don’t settle for lack. Press forward past a lack mentality and switch over to a blessing mentality!”

I can’t think of a more troubling ‘devotional.’  “God gives us the power to get wealth?”  Where in this passage did Joel mention pursuing Christ?  Where did he ask us to run the race that God has set before us and to store up treasures in heaven?  1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Friends, our attitude should reflect Jesus Christ’s and not Joel’s.  Our life’s work as Christians should not be one of ‘what can I gain?’ but one of ‘what can I give to my Father?’  Certainly, God has anointed Davids and Esthers among us.  He even made Solomon a very wealth king all to bring glory to himself.  But, we are not all Davids and Esthers who desire to know God and to meditate on his word and his law.  God also permits Sauls and Nebuchadnezzars and I’d rather not spend seven insane years eating grass like a ruminant for God to bring me to my knees (see Daniel 4:33).

I suppose what we really need to ask ourselves is “what is my desire?”  Paul writes about desire in Romans 8:5-8. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”  Compare Paul’s words with Joel’s “See yourself strong, healthy, and accomplishing YOUR dreams.”

Jesus wants to save us from ourselves and from our sin.  Even when he disciplines us, his goal is to restore and redeem us.  What other God would have made clothes for his children so that they would be warm and covered before he meted out the punishment of banishing them from the Garden of Eden?” (see Genesis 3:21)  He has a plan for us and it is to bring glory to Him so that others might find Him also.  We can expect that if Jesus himself arrived on earth, unattractive and shabby, and that he submitted himself to persecution and suffering, we too will experience those same things.  Paul writes in Romans “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  It isn’t your dream or my dream that matters!  It is God’s plan and God’s kingdom and our trust in him that is the essence of our life here.  Because ultimately, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us and he wants us to be with him in eternity.

While Jesus submitted himself to death to save us from our sins, Joel’s ideas differ a bit.  In an interview with Larry King he said, “I want people to leave church FEELING better than they did before.”  Jesus admonished us to repent and sin no more.  But when asked about sin in an interview with Piers Morgan, Joel said, “I teach about how we can become better.  How we can overcome.”  I’m a little bit of a farm girl here folks, and I’m going to put this in country terms:  You cannot milk a bull!

Jesus is not concerned as much about our feelings as he is about our soul!  It breaks my heart to know that the wounded and the needy approach the throne of Jesus as Joel sees him and they buy that message with their tithes and offerings.  If we have first asked ourselves what we desire, then we must ask ourselves, where is our treasure?

We must examine God’s word carefully and find out for ourselves who He has revealed himself to be.  In this way, we will know the sound of his voice from the cacophony of false prophets.   In this way, we will know the difference between the truth and a beautiful sounding lie that some innate part of us longs to be true.  Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15)  I encourage you to examine the words of your spiritual leaders and the fruits of their lives to be sure that they are indeed following Christ.  We also need to examine our hearts and our own fruits to be sure that we are honoring and glorifying God with our lives.