Prosperity in Christ

The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers… (Deuteronomy 30:9)

It is God’s will to prosper us. The Bible is clear on this point. But sometimes, people hear that if they get saved, then Bam! They’re healthy! They’re wealthy! Everything’s okay!

It’s unfortunate that this misconception is out there, because it can wound the newly converted. When they don’t immediately prosper, they lose hope. “Well, obviously there’s no God,” they say. “See? Nothing’s different. They said I was going to prosper and be wealthy, but my life is just as bad as it was before.”

Don’t lose hope! The change you want doesn’t always come right away. There’s more to the lifestyle of Jesus than taking that first step. Yes, you start by loving Jesus. Yes, you embrace what He stands for. Yes, you accept His sacrifice for you. But the time still comes when you have to figure out who you want to be in Christ. You have a decision to make.

God calls all kinds of people. There are the Pauls in Christ and the Peters in Christ. The Doubting Thomases are in Christ. There are the Marthas in Christ, and the Marys, the Davids, the Josephs, and the Joshuas. They all represent a different skill set in Christ. The church needs all of us.

The Bible says we’re all part of the body of Christ. Some are teachers. Some are preachers. Some are evangelists. Some are counselors. They’re different people, just like the parts of the body are different. (1 Corinthians 12:4-12) Everybody can be who they want to be in Christ. There are so many different skills sets in the world. We all come together to make the church body work.

But you have to figure it out. You have to ask. And once He shows you, you have to commit. You have to be truly open to becoming the person you’re going to be in Christ.

It can be hard to figure it out, and it can even be scary. Once you open yourself to God, there’s a fire you have to go through. God doesn’t allow you just be whoever you want to be. You have to become who you want to be, in Christ.

That’s why people are fearful of saying, “Okay, I’m ready. Make me who you need me to be.” I understand! I don’t wish trials and tribulations on anybody. I’ve heard people say that they look forward to the fire. They say, “I welcome the trials and tribulations, because I know I need them to get to my next level.” Well, good for you, buddy! I don’t look forward to the fire. I know that when I come out of it, I’m going to be better. But I’m not looking forward to going through it.

Paul said, “Be joyful in trials and tribulations because it makes your faith stronger.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) For me, this means that I can try to find joy in the midst of trials. I can ask God to give me joy while I’m going through the fire. He will. I know He will! So I’m confident that even in times of trial and tribulation, I will be able to “be joyful.” But this definitely does not mean that I can’t wait for my next trial!

Whether you’re wary of the  fire or not, God’s love stirs in your soul. It stirs and calls to you. So you won’t be able to help yourself. You will ask Him to change you. You’ll want Him to make you into whoever you want to be in Christ, fire or no fire. And when you ask, He takes you up on it.

This is a good thing! The fire truly does make you stronger. So when you’re ready, take this step. God has so much for you in the end. He’s only waiting for you to ask.

I’ll say just a little more on this next time. See you Monday.

The Appearance of Evil

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. Obviously gluttony could be a sin. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We don’t say, “Hey, you can’t eat.” So why do churches say you can’t drink?

There’s seems a common rule among some churches that if you’re on the church staff, drinking alcohol is not allowed. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or somehow on staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at the dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why not? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that? Because of what it represents?

I’m not misrepresenting the church. Are you saying Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine? No!

People talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. The “appearance of evil” is if I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum. There it is. There’s your sin.

Simply enjoying a glass of wine with my wife is not the same as drinking to excess and losing control.  It’s not an appearance of evil. That’s just your judgment.  And it’s not appropriate to judge me or my wife, because we’re doing nothing wrong.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when the churches make this rule against drinking, they don’t do it out of fear of God. They do it out of fear of man, and that’s not a good place to live.

I feel like the churches are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will think that staff person is a bad person. They’re afraid people will judge the whole church! But that doesn’t make sense to me.  Why should anybody think you’re not good just because you had a glass of wine?  You’re not doing anything wrong.

The answer is usually, “Well, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning.” Now that really doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a nonbeliever judge me over something they don’t even believe in? Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and asks, “Aren’t you sinning?” I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” And when they answer “No,” I would say, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason for a nonbeliever to think that! It’s just a judgment. If you’re doing nothing wrong, if you’re not living in sin at the time of your alcoholic beverage, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil.

The standard is Jesus. Jesus, who I think drank wine, is the highest standard there is. The King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect.

See you Monday.

Replacing Judgment with Love

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that it is. And that’s painful!

It’s not just how one man saw it, either. I think a lot of people see it that way. Jesus would not want it to be true, so we need to do something to change it.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. Continue reading

And He Will Return

“I love you.”

I see the homeless guy, and I love him. I’m going to help him if I can. That’s being Jesus. That’s the movement I’m asking you to join. It seems simple, and you might think, “Of course, that’s how I was raised,” but most of us still don’t do it very well. I don’t do it very well. There’s so much more I could do to love my neighbor as myself. I keep trying!

The movement to love our neighbor as ourselves is stirring. It is stirring in this world. It is awesome to see.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes Americans forget that there’s any other country out there. Continue reading

Clay to be Molded, Part 2

The health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel might be a little bit mixed up.  It puts a lot of emphasis on the Bible’s promise that God will prosper you.  Unfortunately, people take that to mean that if they get saved, then Bam!  They become prosperous.

But that’s not going to work.  Just because you accept Jesus, that doesn’t mean you’re instantly transformed. So when the newly converted don’t become prosperous, they lose hope in God.  “Well, obviously there’s no God.  See, I’m not prosperous. They said I was going to be wealthy and prosperous, and my life’s still just as bad as it’s always been.”

There’s more to the lifestyle of Jesus than taking that first step.  Yes, you start by loving Jesus.  Yes, you embrace what He stands for.  You accept His sacrifice for you. But the time still comes when you have to figure out who you want to be, in Christ.  You have to decide who you want to be, in Christ. Continue reading

Beacons of Love

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20

Why do people who aren’t Christians hate us? They look at us and say “You’re just a bunch of Bible thumpers who are homophobic and you don’t love anybody.”

We’ve brought that on ourselves. We’ve got gay people out there pushing for gay rights and gay marriage, and we’ve got Christians saying “God hates you.” I get so angry because that’s not true. Continue reading

The Hole in Our Gospel

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Recently, a reader asked if I’ve read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. I have read the book, and in fact, it was the subject of my very first blog post!

Stearns’ basic point is that there would be a humongous hole in our Gospel if you pulled out all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping the orphans and widows. Stearns also says that this is basically what Christians have done. Continue reading