"Pastors in Nigeria are actually very rich. They have lots and lots of money."
These words are not mine. To be honest, I would have never really suspected such a statement to be true. But these are the words that came from a guy who recently began attending my church, having come from Nogeria to America to study at a local university.
This young guy seemed almost eager to tell me this about his homeland, probably having realized that many Americans are oblivious to the fact Africa is more than huts and hunger.
But as we were talking about this, I could tell where this came from. I could tell what this meant. I could tell that this was the prosperity gospel.
The prosperity gospel all at once sickens and saddens me.
It is garbage that is wrapped up nicely in spirituality, driven by greed and idolatry, and delivered by America. It has infected many churches (or rather, people in churches) and caused the name of Jesus to be misrepresented and made a servant of selfish desires.
I recently heard and read about Rev. David Cho, who pastors the largest church in the world, embezzling $12 million and being charged with three years in prison.
My heart couldn’t help but sink.
I was sickened at the thought of a man with such influence using God for his gain, giving reasons for skeptics to doubt, and potentially harming the faith of possibly millions of believers.
But as I pondered more, I realized that I am no different. The same thing could happen to me. I just have a smaller influence.
I’ve thought much about money in my life. I hear people say that we should be poor like Jesus was on earth and give everything away. Or that we should be rich like Jesus is in heaven and get everything we can.
Frankly, I don’t want either of them in this life.
I find much comfort in Proverbs 30:7-9:
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
And also in 1 Timothy 6:6-8:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Again in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
And also in Matthew 6:11:
Give us this day our daily bread.
The bible seems clear that the desire to be rich is dangerous, deadly and damming (Luke 18:25; 1 Tim. 6:9-10; Matt. 6:24).
Though, it should be understood that being rich is not ungodly. It’s the reason for the pursuit of riches - the power, fame, authority, happiness, security, hope, status, identity - that reveals the root of idolatry and incomplete satisfaction and trust in Jesus.
As I feel it, being rich seems to be more naturally desired than being poor. I think that it why it is more spoke of and warned against in the bible.
…or for poorer
But poverty is not the aim of Christianity either. For being poor could be from lack of planning, being lazy, being codependent on others (including the government), or a sense of self-righteousness.
Poverty can also mildly inhibit one to freely give as the Spirit draws the heart to a need.
the heart is the matter
Ultimately, money is a heart issue. It conveys who our God (or god) is.
It’s not about being rich or poor, but about being so fully satisfied in Jesus on this earth that any life condition is met with contentment.
It’s not about seeking to find satisfaction through a financial state, but showing our satisfaction in Jesus regardless of our financial state.
In living with such belief and trust in Jesus regardless of our financial condition, especially in the current economic times, the world will see our peace and pursuits and wonder, “how?” and “why?”
contentment in Christ
Contentment in Christ unshackles the chains of being rich or poor.
Contentment in Christ reveals the value of Christ to the world.
Contentment in Christ is the key to truly rich life.
I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to be poor. I want to be content.
I often wonder what kind of society my future children will reside in.
Sometimes that thought excites me. But other times it frightens me.
It’s no secret that America, with all it’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, is going through a drastic shift in what is normal and what our national mantra means.
The new normal is, there is no normal. The new mantra is, whatever you want.
But why? Why the sudden shift?
I firmly believe it is an identity crisis.
I look around everyday and see people (especially young people) who don’t know who they are so they either, a) create an identity for themselves based on their past behavior, or b) live through someone else’s identity to assume like behavior.
But this goes against our very design as humans.
As humans, we are fashioned to live from our identity, not for our identity. We are human beings, not human doings. We are to act based on who we are, not base who we are on how we act.
When we shift this reality of humanity, the consequences are devastating.
Without an identity to live from, people live feeling empty, unfulfilled and meaningless. We feel defeated, hopeless and abandoned by the world. And so we find ways to have an identity through being different, that we may somehow stand out and be noticed.
The problem is, the “being different” envelope is constantly being stretched.
What was once considered “very different” is now just normal. So new boundaries have to be breached. This creates a people who do quite unthinkable and, often times, sickening things.
As a Christian, I believe Jesus came, not to simply change our behavior, but change our nature - that is, our identity. We are born again into a new creation.
He doesn’t want us to merely act like Him, but to be Him. He didn’t come for those who can act like Him, or already mildly resemble Him, but those who can’t and know they need help to change.
Consequently, with this change in nature, we do act like Him. But the difference is that it’s not rooted in who we want to be, but who we are.
That is where we find our identity.
Unfortunately, many people today look down and away from Jesus.
They only see Him as a guy who brings rules and judgement - the enemies of this freedom-obsessed culture.
This leads me to my next related post: america’s freedom crisis.
"What I believe in my heart must make sense on my mind." - Ravi Zacharias
Contrary to many beliefs, the Christian faith is not blind faith.
It is based on historical evidence that God spoke to mankind through his son, Jesus Christ, when He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died an undeserving death, and resurrected back to life, all to redeem and ultimately restore the world.
This truth has been most fully documented in a book call the Bible, written by numerous eyewitnesses who gave their accounts of this story through the written word of their time. (Though, many disregard it.)
So just as I believe Christopher Columbus existed because of historical evidence, I believe Jesus Christ existed.
The faith part of Christianity comes in believing if Jesus was who He said He was, He did what He said He did, and He means what He said He means.
And if that’s true, everything changes.
That is what I believe in my heart. And that makes sense in my mind.
To be sure, that doesn’t mean I understand everything. But I do have a foundation to rest all my life on and built upon.
As Christians, we can’t be fearful of being unconvinced of our faith. It’s not to say we go looking for other answers or truth, but we evaluate why others believe what they believe, how our faith answers to it, and guide them to the Truth as we grow deeper in ours.
I feel that many times we shelter and surround ourselves with only Christians out of fear rather than love, or out of comfort rather than commitment.
We fear we’ll have to make decisions that will make us stand out. We fear we’ll have to answer hard questions. We fear we’ll fall into sinful habits. We fear we may find another answer to life and leave the faith.
And that is wise in some cases. We may need to depart from or not entertain certain people, places, or things.
But the truth is, Christianity is not just a matter of the heart, but a convincing of the mind. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). We must articulate what we hear with our mind to understand it and believe it in our heart, and apply it with our hands.
To be clear, Christianity is not just an exercise is intellectual ascent. It involves emotions and actions for sure. But it does not bypass the mind. We use it to love God more fully through growing in our understanding of him and becoming more like him (Matt. 22:37; 1 Pt. 3:17-18).
So to the fighting Christian: Use your mind, but don’t let it use you. Grow in God. Learn about him. That’s how we love him more as we joyfully become more like him.
To the lukewarm Christian: Pray. Pray for the desire to read the pages of life that awaken stagnate and weary souls. And pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a heart to feel the weight of his glory.
And to the non-Christian: Does Christianity make sense in your mind? Why? Why not? What do you need to be convinced? Do you want to be convinced? Are you afraid you may be convinced? Do you use people as a excuse to reject Christ? I challenge you to get to the source - the bible. Start in the book of John. It will change your life.
Additional reading: Acts 17
At this point in my life, I’ve taken a number of math classes. By requirement, I took one every year from elementary school all the way through high school. Then in college, I took college algebra and finite math.
Although I learned a lot in these courses while I was taking them, there’s very little I can currently recall from them. (Of course, that’s probably primarily due to the fact that I don’t practice the complicated details of math everyday - or any day for that matter.)
But there is one thing that I’ll never forget. The basics.
I’m talking addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.
These are the essentials, the building blocks, the foundation, on which all math rests (at least I think so). No one who practices math will every really move beyond these rules, only move deeper into them as they grow in their understanding of them and how they apply to other areas of math.
I’ve found this to also be true of the cross of Christ.
Often times, I think we get so caught up in the seemingly never-ending doctrines that exist within the Christian faith, or the way we live our life, or the things we do for God, or the new things we can learn and know, that we forget to cling to the one thing that is central - the cross.
In his book, “Living The Cross-Centered Life,” author C.J. Mahaney puts it well:
"In our never-ending desire to move forward and make sure that everything we think, say, and do is relevant to modern living, too many of us have stopped concentrating on the wonders of Jesus crucified. (pg. 18)"
The cross is where the wisdom of God and the love of God and the justice of God and the mercy of God collide into a wondrous and mysterious and amazing explosion displayed by the shattered and mangled body of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, for all to see.
The cross is where we find the forgiveness of our sins and the relentless pursuit of God for his people.
The cross is where we find our way to God, through the Mediator, Jesus Christ, whom is called worthy in heaven.
There could never be enough said about the cross and what it means for us from now and through eternity. And one simply cannot read the Bible, especially the words penned by the Apostle Paul, and not see Jesus and his sacrifice in the cross for the salvation of his people as the climax, apex, and hope of our faith.
Just as we don’t move beyond addition in mathematics, we don’t move beyond the cross in our Christian faith. We are anchored in it. We only go deeper in it, as we extend to other areas. We, as Martin Luther once said, live as if Jesus died yesterday.
To be sure, we never forget or neglect that Christ was raised. We absolutely live in light of that powerful truth, on this side of the cross, that enables us to live a life of celebratory worship as we are united with God.
But we would be wise to remember that if Jesus hadn’t been brought down into death, he would not have been able to rise up in victory for us. As teacher and theologian Knox Camblin noted, although both the cross and the resurrection are of first importance in the gospel, it is the cross that remains central.
So, yes, we grow deeper in our faith through reading and learning the word of God. Yes, we study doctrines. Yes, we live faithful lives of humble service.
But, absolutely yes, we do all this in the shadow of the cross.
May God, through the Holy Spirit, give us grace to grow in our understanding of the cross, that our affections for Christ may be stirred, and we may live a joyful life of thankful response in worship.
I find there to be today an odd obsession with the profoundity of our faith rather than the substance of our faith.
It’s good and necessary that we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. In fact, many measure Christian maturity by having the right answer.
But God has been showing me more and more that Christian maturity is not just knowing the right answer, it’s living the right answer - that is, taking what the Bible says is true and really living in light of that.
We could talk all day about soteriology, justification, sanctification, election, predestination, ecclesiology, free will, the nature of God, or any other theological topic, but if we do it without love, or all we do is talk about it, then what good comes from it? What or whom does it benefit besides our pride?
True Christianity is tangible. It’s growing in and wrestling with the truth of God in everyday life through knowledge that stirs up proper affections of the heart that moves our hands into biblically-grounded, gospel-driven action.
Let’s not get so distracted by what we know to be true of God that we live as if it weren’t true. Let’s not just get theologically fat. Let’s truly live what we read in Scripture, even if it is a seemingly simple truth.
Let’s ask the Spirit to search our hearts for where we lack trust and confidence and fill us with faith and power. For this is the will of God - to be like him, in the knowledge of him.
what is worship?
-worship is worth-ship (Gen 1:1, Is. 6:1-5; Ps. 115:3; Matt. 17:1-6; Ps. 24:1-3)
In my previous post, I discussed how love is intrinsic to worship as described by God in himself. We worship what we love most. So then, worship begins with the position of our heart, not the position of our hands. Worship begins internally, not externally.
The word worship comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which combines two words meaning, “ascribe worth.” So worship is giving value or worth to something or someone.
With this in mind, we can see that what we love is what we find worthy of our life and devotion. The more satisfying something is (whether truly or deceptivly), the more we worship it.
This is because we love what brings us satisfaction. We are dependent creatures. Our nature is to be satisfied by something greater than ourselves. And that something is intended to be God.
It’s not self-serving to love God because he completely satisfies our soul, for that is how we were designed (for more on this, read John Piper’s book, Desiring God).
Recall that God is the beginning and center of worship. He sees himself clearly and perfectly as he is. So he can and does see how worthy he is, thus, displays perfect worship. The Son worships the Father, The Father adores and exalts the Son and the Spirit is celebrated and celebrates the others.
Our life is one of constant worship. We are always setting our gaze upon what we love and find worthy of giving our time, resources, and abilities to for satisfaction and joy.
What we must ask ourself is “what or who do I find worthy of my worship?”
what is worship?
-worship starts with God (Gen. 1:1; 1 Jn. 4:8)
Too often when we hear the word “worship,” we automatically begin thinking about ourselves (e.g. our singing, our praying, our bible reading). But we are not the beginning of worship, God is.
In the beginning there was God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. He has always existed in perfect communion – equal, yet distinct – with himself. And since God is love, it is true that in the beginning there was love - perfect agape love.
Norman Geisler provides this helpful statement of the different nuances of the different types of love words: “Erotic (Eros) love is egoistic. It says, ‘My first and last consideration is myself.’ Philic (Phileo) love is mutualistic. It says, ‘I will give as long as I receive.’ Agapic love, on the other hand, is altruistic, saying, ‘I will give, requiring nothing in return.’”
Love is the nature of God (God is love vs. God is loving). Yes, God is loving, but that is because of his nature of love. This love is selfless and finds joy in the joy of another. And what we find the most joy is what or who we worship.
It is crucial to understand that about God because it plays a huge part in worship.
As I was preparing for a message at my church’s young adult bible study, the Spirit really opened my eyes to the unity in God’s will for our lives and our lives of worship for God.
I’ve been thinking much about Romans 12:1-2 and reading an excellent book titled Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper. These have been essential in the Spirit’s illumination on this subject.
Being a Christian, and especially being on a worship team, I’ve always known that God’s will for our lives is for us to worship him. But there is much more profundity in that truth that spreads beyond our “lifestyle of worship.”
The series will essentially be based on Romans 12:1-2, but will dive into a few other texts.
I hope and pray that any and all readers would be encouraged by the Spirit as I was and live in a deeper relationship with God.
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.