Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Prosperity Gospel or Poverty Gospel?

Sometimes we can get so caught up in all the things we want to accomplish in our short time on this earth, that if we’re not careful, we can get ahead of God. As one ambitious fifteen-year-old explained, “We should think about it, but not worry about it.” That kid wants to get his doctorate in divinity and start his own church.

For many, the ambiguity of the future can be a point of anxiety. All too often we become enamored with the here-and-now: God, when I graduate college you are going to give me a job, but not just any job, my dream job. At the very least, I expect a six-figure income and a fully furnished office with a nice window view. And while You’re at it—a wife/husband, 2.5 kids, a house, a hefty 401k, and an early retirement (My wife and I will want to do a ton of traveling). In the meantime, will that be paper or plastic?.... READY—SET—GO, GOD!!! Needless to say the good LORD doesn’t work that way. As one passionate pastor put it, “Some are in the business of telling God what to do.” Colossians 3:2 says,

Set your mind on heaven above, not on earthly things. (NIV)

A fiery youth pastor shared, “This world is just a hotel room, and we are merely passing through.” Our destination is heaven, and we shouldn’t bring just ourselves. But God, how am I supposed to make a living??? But God, you blessed Sister So-and-So. Usually when we start a sentence with ‘but God’—it’s not a very good sentence.

For the restless heart, the Bible is littered with mixed signals. In one instance, John 10:10, Jesus declares that He has come, so that we can live life more abundantly—but in another instance, Luke 9:23, Jesus says that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. When preaching on just this, the passionate pastor gracefully asked, “God, are you schizophrenic?”—and the short answer to that is no. He went on to explain the difference between context and pretext. Context is the words, phrases, or passages that come together after a particular word or passage in a speech or piece of writing and help to explain its full meaning. Pretext is a misleading or untrue reason given for doing something in an attempt to conceal the real reason; and there are entire doctrines built around bits and pieces of the Bible. God isn’t forcing anyone to live poverty-stricken lives, especially if it isn’t their calling.

However if we live just like everyone else—working our 9 to 5, grasping for the American dream—then if we aren’t careful, salvation can become an after thought. Just as importantly, other’s salvation can become an afterthought. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are called to be the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13 says,

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

Throughout the course of human history, salt has been used to season. It’s a powerful mineral substance that has the power to make what would be otherwise dull, a delicacy. As believers, we are called to do the same. We can live a mundane life amongst the multitude, or we can go about one that which we truly savor our Savior. Day to day, no matter the setting, and one person at a time, we are called to bring the world to know the joy that is Jesus. It is possible to maintain one’s mission-mindedness and while also helping oneself to a heaping portion of happiness, the key is balance.

In a general sense and relatively speaking, as Americans, we have more than much of the rest of the world. True. Should we feel guilty for all that we have? —Of course not. We ought to feel blessed. With this blessing comes great responsibility. Matthew 28:19 says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and of the Holy Spirit.

If you can go, and if you're called to go, then go! There is a big world out there, and of the world's 6.8 billion people, 2,810,640,000 individuals have not heard the gospel; 86% of this number includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (joshuaproject.net). It’s a shame to know of the Gospel and reject it—but it’s a tragedy that this many have never heard it. If we don’t go, they will never know.

For those who can't, start being missional right here in America. There are folks living on the street that are just so much as looking for something to eat. Folks pass the homeless everyday and simply grunt, “Get a job.” What if we were the ones that showed them how? What if are the ones to give them the helping hand? Or at the very least a couple of bucks, without worrying about what it’ll be used for. God loves giving. It’s not till we give, that we truly get; we get to know God a little better. Giving is the gateway to God—for the recipient, and for the giver. As believers, we have given our lives to God, for His purpose. This includes our time, money, and resources—because it all belongs to Him anyway.

For each of our lives, we ought to pray that we always be in God’s will. Somewhere along the way, prayer got swept away. Bible-anthropologists have found traces of ancient ‘prayer warriors’ dating back generations before… and come to find out, Sister So-and So’s great-great-grandmother was a ‘prayer warrior’—no wonder she’s blessed!!!! In all seriousness, in this day and age, in a society where both parents are usually working, people are just too busy to pray, and thus whole families go without understanding the power of prayer. Perhaps the all-nighter isn’t feasible when you have to be up by 7am for work, but at the very least, what about 15 minutes to start the day? What if we each prayed that we could be a vessel, used by God, answering His calling for our lives? What if we could live that out in the workplace, with our families, our friends, and even our foes? Let’s then see what thorough prayer can do for our faith.

Some can go, many can give, and all can pray.

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