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Hey, Christian reader. You may already know this, but you can become anything, achieve anything, if you embrace your vision, your dream, and find your purpose. You need a vision, of course, because “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).1 Don’t think too long about that verse. Just get a vision because it’s good, and everybody needs one because we don’t, um, want people casting off restraint. You’ve gotta find your purpose because, well, everybody knows that God has a purpose for your life, right? Like Stephen who was stoned to death in Acts 7, or James, the apostle John’s brother, who was beheaded in Acts 12. Speak positive things over and in your life and stop confessing things that are negative like, “James was beheaded!” because Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). You don’t want to be an evil person, do you? So, don’t say things like, “I’m sick.” Eww. Really? Don’t you believe that Jesus heals people? Don’t say things like “My asthma.” Really? You possess asthma? Well, it’s yours, then. When people say, “The flu is going around,” say, “Well, it’s going around me.” Get it? If you get your vision, find your purpose, stop saying and thinking negative things, and keep believing, with God’s help, nothing is impossible for you because God is on your side and with Him, all things are possible, like Jesus said: “‘Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:24–26). You can be prosperous and wealthy. Stop confessing your poverty and saying you’re poor, because “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:10). Look. God wants what’s best for you. Jesus came to the earth, lived, and died so you could have an abundant life. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). How on earth is being sick or poor living a life of abundance? Listen. Once early in our marriage when we were struggling financially, our pastor asked for a special offering. I only had five bucks in my wallet, but I gave it. The next morning, a man showed up at our door with $5,000.00. That’s what happens when you’re faithful.

The paragraph above is a satirical narrative about how to live a life of Christian victory within the word-of-faith and prosperity-gospel world. But it’s a dangerous world to live in. Why?

First, the Word of God is twisted and abused. If you can’t tell how the passages above have been twisted, I encourage you to find out. You are vulnerable.

Second, the focus of your life with the Lord moves from Him to you. If you speak positively, if you confess your healing, if you give, God will supply for you. The focus is on you, what you say, and what you need, not the Lord God Almighty who faithfully provides all things to those who ask, who promised that if we seek His kingdom first, all things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).

Third, the word-of-faith and prosperity doctrines are deadly legalistic. The narrative implies that if you’re not experiencing health and prosperity, you are doing something wrong or inadequate. “Stop the negative confessions! Begin positively confessing your healing and prosperity!” Can you imagine being in a fellowship where you felt you could not say you were sick because if you did, the people would chastise you? I’ve experienced this. What bondage.

We should ask questions like, “Who taught this in Scripture? When Jesus healed people, did He challenge them because they had negative confessions and said they were sick? Did Paul or anyone else in the New Testament instruct Christians to confess their healing or their prosperity?”

We are to pray about sicknesses. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). We are to pray about our needs—“Give us today our daily bread”—believing that God knows about them and will provide for us in time of need. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31–32). That is the biblical model. It’s humbly presenting ourselves to the Lord who loves us. It’s relying on a loving Savior. God gives freely by His grace. All things we ask for are not given us, but we trust in a God who knows all things perfectly, who can do all things—after all, He created the universe and all that is in it—and who knows what is best for us. Ours may be a life of deprivation at times. Of more-than-adequate provision at times. Sometimes times of sickness; sometimes of health. The endgame is not what or how much was freely bestowed upon us or not, but what we did with what we were given and the condition of our hearts when we did or did not have possession of it. Read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, or the account of Job, the quintessential truth of gain and loss.

Lord, please open the eyes of Christians to the truth of Your Word. Keep us from error and legalistic bondage.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com.

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I am disappointed that I was so ignorant about reading the Bible in context for such a long time. That is not to say that at present I am learned and competent. Not at all. I have such a long way to go. Should I blame that early illiteracy on my teachers who quoted scriptures out of context when they preached? I can’t blame them for my laziness and inattention. It’s all on me. As for them, the Lord is their judge, not me. My elders didn’t teach me to be a foolish Christian. I was able to do that all by myself.

Quoting scriptures out of context in not necessarily bad in and of itself. For instance, this verse from Isaiah is well-quoted out of context: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).1 However, this one, taught to us in our early years, is potentially dangerous when quoted out of context. “And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick’”; (Isaiah 33:24a). Can you imagine how you would censor your speech about your physical illness if you were in the presence of an influential pastor who taught this? This verse engenders bondage and was part of the positive confession nonsense—perhaps it still is. However, if one reads the portion of Isaiah in context from which this verse is taken, he or she will discover that it speaks of a glorious time to come. “Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” (Isaiah 33:20). In other words, there will be no sickness in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.

There are many examples of verses that have been taken out of context from the Bible, and some are so common that even the secular culture has appropriated them; and they have the same meaning for unbelievers as they do for Christians. This is a famous one: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).2 I have addressed the false understanding of this verse before, but I invite the reader to investigate it himself. It may not mean what you think it means.

It’s sad when we bungle along in ignorance of the precious words of God.

Another truth that the world has appropriated—part of it, anyway—is in these two passages: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

So, quick quiz. Which one of these verses can be applied to keeping our bodies in good health and used to admonish people to lose weight, exercise, or stop smoking because their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?

The answer is, “Neither of them.” Why, then, we should ask, do so many Christians believe this untruth? I don’t know. Me-centered, evangelical Christianity? The passage from 1 Corinthians 6 is perhaps less vital to our growth in understanding God’s Word because the Lord is commanding men to “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and not to join themselves to a prostitute because he becomes “one body with her” and the two become “one flesh.” I say it’s less vital because Christians are commanded in other places not to be sexually immoral, and Proverbs is packed with warnings about prostitutes.

Our ignorance about the other, from chapter 3, however, is much more troubling. Do you know what Paul was addressing in those early chapters of 1 Corinthians? Believers attaching themselves to dynamic speakers. Paul told the Corinthians that because they had done this, they were “infants in Christ,” “people of the flesh,” and “merely human.” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 4). They were boasting in men (vs. 21). The price for this infantile behavior is that it was dangerously possible that they were destroying God’s temple and in danger of being destroyed themselves (vs. 17).

I trust I don’t need to explain to the reader how pertinent this is for evangelicals today. It’s not enough that many of us have skimmed over these texts in 1 Corinthians 3 and 6 like a flat rock skipping over a smooth pond, thinking that the Bible was telling us to take care of our physical bodies because we are temples of the Holy Spirit, but that we have been blind to the danger of boasting in and attaching ourselves to dynamic speakers and leaders.

Lord, please open our eyes to see the truth of Your Scripture.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, unless otherwise noted.

2The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

 

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It came to my attention recently (This is not new news. I’m a bit behind on some things contemporary church-ish.) that a worship song was offered at a megachurch in the Dallas, Texas, area containing the following lyrics in a song about racial insensitivity and racism in the Church:

Broken mirrors give us all a false perception

Broken systems teaches us all false lessons

And the evil one so crafty in all of his deception

To keep us divided is to keep all of his lies protected

So you can’t see that your treated as superior

While I’m left fighting off the lie that I’m inferior

We’re the precious children born into this world where lies are taught as truth

Father, we need our minds to be renewed by You

Cause it’s a daily fight to remind myself that I am worthy

When microaggressions lie behind every other corner lurking

We been hurting for a long time, weary souls

Why’s it seem like my brothers in Christ can’t understand it though?

(I don’t know)1

I do not, never have, and never will disagree with the necessity for people of all races to be treated equally as Christian brothers and sisters. I speak as someone who has taught, mentored, and lived among Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Papua New Guineans and loved them as deeply, if not more deeply, than my Caucasian brothers and sisters. It is clear to me and I should think to all believers, as the song indicates (The complete lyrics are available on the link at the bottom of this article), that’s the Lord’s intention for all people, and tribes, and languages:

And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ (Revelation 5:9–10).2

(By the way, for those who are obsessed with being “empowered” on this rebellious sphere, please note in the above passage that all the Christians who will be gathered before the Lord will “reign upon the earth” one day. Your quest for empowerment in this life is a biblically misguided, impoverished, and worldly endeavor.)

What I don’t get from the song quoted in the beginning of this article is that people who have been mistreated should fight to remind themselves that they are worthy. I don’t get it because none of us are “worthy” in His sight. Here’s my personal experience with this unbiblical notion, from the book, Deeper: A Call to Discipleship:3

One night, about a year and a half after I resigned as pastor, Laurie and I were worshiping with the people at the commune. Another single woman, Linda, asked if everyone would pray for her. Linda was someone that I considered my elder sister, especially since I was going through this difficult time and the commune had taken us under its wing.

As we began to pray, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, ‘Go tell her that just as I raised Lazarus from the dead, I will raise her from the dead.’ Well, I hadn’t had a particularly sparkling day walking with Jesus. And worship that night? I could have phoned it in. I said, ‘Lord, you know about my day and my worship tonight. I’m not worthy to give this word to Linda, my elder sister.’ He answered back quickly, ‘You will never be worthy enough to speak My words.’2

There is only One who is worthy, and it ain’t you:

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:11–14).

I suggest that readers scan the New Testament and discover who is worthy, concerning God’s view of things. I think you will find, as I did, that most of them have to do with how we walk with the Lord. Here is one to chew on:

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— (2 Thessalonians 1:4–5) (emphasis added).

Please, Christians, please megachurch in Dallas, do not be swayed by the powerful but anti-biblical voice of the culture of the United States. Seek the truth of God.

 

1https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/music-videos/walk-with-you

2All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

3Deeper: A Call to Discipleship. Jim Thomson (2011).

 

 

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In 1969, Credence Clearwater Revival’s song, Bad Moon Rising, reached number two on Billboard’s top hits. Despite its title, people heard the line, “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” as “There’s a bathroom on the right.” The entire song is about bad events on the horizon. The title is Bad Moon Rising. In spite of the title and context of the song, people heard, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Did Peter have a vision for his life? Was his life purpose-driven?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Did Jesus say, “Go, therefore, and change the world”?

No. Not only did He not say it, no one in Scripture says it or advocates it.

Then why are Christians exhorted to do that?

Read the rest of this entry »

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In last week’s post, I maintained that vision-casting is a non-biblical, deceptive teaching. I wrote that in this erroneous teaching, the word “goal” had been transformed into the word “vision.” Setting a goal for one’s self, business, or organization is a good idea. But a goal is not a vision. One has an earthly origin, the other a heavenly one. (Please tuck this goal vs. vision truth in the creases of your brain somewhere, because it will come up later.)

The next issue we must deal with is the primary genesis of this false belief. It is just one verse. In truth, it’s half of one verse.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Did Jesus say, “Go therefore and cast your vision”?

Or, “Go therefore and make vision-casting leaders of all nations”?

Read the rest of this entry »

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My wife and I watched the movie Risen the other night. All things considered, we thought it was a helpful film for Christians, at least. Two things stood out to us. First, the film reminded us how faithless the disciples were about what Jesus had plainly told them.

I trust you can relate, if you’re a Christian.

The second helpful thing was how crazy it would have seemed for people to believe that a dead man was walking around and alive, if you hadn’t seen him yourself. That’s when you look at the one who is proclaiming such a thing and say, “Yeah. Uh, huh. Wow. How about that?”

Giving voice to such a reality would make it seem like you are crazy, deluded, simple-minded, or some combination of the three.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the crazy things Christians think. The topic I’d like to address this week, however, is not only a crazy thing Christians think but a sad one.

It has to do with what we call communion.

Read the rest of this entry »

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