Morning devotions ~ What you really need to hear

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. [Matthew 21:21-22]

Oh how these verses have been misunderstood and misapplied.
Oh how these verses have been abused and therefore have caused many people to go astray.

If you believe right and have enough faith you can get what you want and “live your best life now”. This is the mantra of the prosperity gospel (not THE Gospel of Jesus Christ). The likes of Joel Osteen have championed this theology and have garnered many adherents, thus leading many people astray. And the reason these prosperity theologians are so “successful” is that this message is something people think they need to hear.

Give me the secret to success.
Tell me how I can be happy now.
How can I feel fulfilled?
How can I live my best life now?

Everything is about this life, now, and nothing about the life to come. It’s about manipulating and controlling God to get what you want. Throw in talk of Jesus and faith and you have enough to trick people into thinking this theology is legit; from the Bible.

Lord have mercy.

But what was Jesus really teaching in Matthew 21 about faith and prayer? Was he giving us a magic formula to get what we want out of prayer?

Absolutely not!

Two things are being shown:
(1) You may have faith, but you still doubt.
(2) If you truly know God you will ask according to God’s will, not your own. It’s then that you receive what you pray for.

The big difference here is that it is not about your happiness now (your will) but your eternal joy (God’s will). It’s about aligning your will with God’s will. It’s about humbling yourself and admitting that you are a sinner. It’s about realizing that without Jesus you can not get out of this world alive. It’s about realizing that you are meant to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This life may be crappy but you still can have joy; that is if you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior.

So don’t be fooled by false prophets and self-serving prosperity theologians by trying to reach for and cling to happiness in this life now but rather place your faith in Jesus Christ and cling to the hope of the resurrection. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is about how you have faith rather than who you have faith in.

Jesus is life and salvation and therefore the source of true joy. That right there will give you peace. And THAT my friends is what you really need to hear.

Have a blessed day enjoying God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Pastor -|—

Real victory

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
[Proverbs 21:31]

Prosperity theologians like to proclaim that victory is something we can claim through a right attitude.  They claim that if we can think correctly about ourselves or look at our situations in the right light we can claim victory or “favor” [ as one particular and misguided prosperity theologian likes to say].

But the author of Proverbs is saying that we can only prepare ourselves for battle but when it comes to “victory”…well…that belongs to the Lord.  And this is a victory we are given through faith in Jesus Christ.

Prosperity theologians don’t like to specifically mention the name of Jesus because that would give Jesus the power (which Jesus already has). To acknowledge that power takes power and control out on one’s hand.  The thing is, we have no victory (or favor) in this life without Jesus.  We have no future without Jesus.  We have no life without Jesus.

So prepare your horse for battle but don’t get too cocky.  Remember who’s in charge.  Any victory you win is from the Lord.  And favor?  Yup…through faith in Jesus Christ we have that too ~ the cross is proof of that.

Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:54-56]

edh -|—

Eyes of Faith

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
[1 John 5:13-15]

A big misconception I keep running into about the Christian faith is that we can somehow get what we want from God when we pray.

If we live the right kind of life.
If we are kind to others.
If we volunteer enough.
If we serve in the church.
If we bring hot meals to the home bound.
If we are “good” people (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one).
If we ask in the right way.
Etc, etc, etc…

And when people don’t get what they want they become disillusioned  about God and the whole point of even trying to be a Christian.  The problem isn’t that God is being a bully but that we are not understanding who God is and what our relationship looks like.  We are not understanding our place in this creation and what God has called us to be.  Despite what Joel Osteen says we can’t get what we want from God if we try really hard or have the right attitude.

It’s not about us or getting what we want when we want it, it’s about giving praise and glory to God.

Scripture repeatedly talks about praying according to God’s will.  The problem is that sometimes our will doesn’t line up with God’s will.  In that case we need to pray for understanding and patience.  We need to have eyes of faith to see what God is up to.  We need to understand that we are to draw others to God and we do that by living according to God’s will.

It might not be God’s will that you get that promotion or new job.
It might not be God’s will that your child get’s into that Ivy League school.
It might not be God’s will that healing comes.

But God’s will…whatever it is…WILL be awesome, because, well…it’s from our sovereign God.

So the next time you pray open your eyes of faith and watch God do His thing.  And the more we do that the more we come in line with his will.  And what a place to be.

edh -|—

Right between the eyes

I was talking with a person a while back about a funeral they attended…and I was saddened by what I heard.  I was saddened because  it didn’t sound like the Gospel was preached.  When I asked how the funeral went they said things like:

It was a great celebration of their life.
It was very upbeat.
Fun stories were shared about him.
“He lived a very good life.

There was nothing about the Gospel.  Maybe it was preached but those comments sure don’t sound like that is what they heard.  What this person remembers are stories and remembrances of the past.  I wish I would have challenged them more but being in a public place I shied away from confronting them…but maybe I should have.

[A missed opportunity]

I also remember another conversation (by the way…I am preparing for a funeral this week, that is why these memories are bubbling up).  This conversation was with a family.  I was meeting with them but was unable to do the funeral because of a prior commitment.  Luckily they had a family member who was a pastor so they were going to lead worship.  Through the course of the meeting the daughter was talking about the service and wanted lots of stories about her mother.  I chimed in and said a funeral has nothing to do with the deceased but everything to do with Jesus and what he has done for you and for me.  This was the response I got:

Well…at my funeral you are going to talk about me!

I really wanted to argue but I decided that wasn’t the place.  Besides…at her funeral she won’t have any say what I talk about 🙂

Why am I bring this up?

As I prepare for a funeral one of the things I am keenly aware of is that there could very easily be people there who normally do not attend worship.  These people only enter a worship space on Easter, Christmas, funerals and weddings.  They go through life without hearing the Good News.  So when they do finally show up in a worship space you just can not miss that opportunity.  You have to smack them right between the eyes with the Gospel, not fun stories about the deceased.  The dead person’s past life is not going to help them.  The only thing that will help is Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection; the victory he won FOR YOU and FOR ME.

Too many people in the world today water down the Gospel with the prosperity gospel (which is NO gospel at all; not good news).  The prosperity gospel says that if you believe hard enough, are a good person and keep your nose to the grindstone, you can be successful (to have your best life now).  If bad things happen then you somehow fell short. Please do not buy into this false gospel.

Once again…that is NOT good news.

And it bugs me to no end that this message is being preached by many so called ministers out there; leading people astray.  What they are doing is simply preaching a message that people WANT to hear, not what they NEED to hear.

What people need to hear is:
–We are sinners and can not survive this life on our own.
–There is hope.
–We have a savior in Jesus.
–That through faith in Christ there is forgiveness of our sins.
–That there is NOTHING we can do to earn, merit or deserve this grace.
–God loves you!

So when I prepare a funeral sermon (or any sermon for that matter) I try to keep in mind what people need to hear…and let them have it.

So as I prepare for this funeral on Thursday I am winding up and preparing myself to smack people right between the eyes with the TRUE Gospel.  And I pray that God will use the words I say to change someone’s life.  All to God’s glory.

So if you are reading this and coming on Thursday, get ready because I will be bringing it 🙂

Praise be to God!

edh -|—