Monday, April 4, 2011

I Believe in the Prosperity Gospel

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
-Jeremiah 29:11

There are alot of believers in the prosperity gospel, and alot of criticisms of the prosperity gospel. I used to fall into the latter category, but lately I have become an all-out believer in the message that God wants to prosper his children. I can't read my favorite verse above and not believe that.

However, I have come to have a different understanding of prosperity.

I have heard so many people say things like, "It's so nice to know that when I do everything right, that God will bless me in so many ways." 

This comment usually comes from someone with whom everything in life seems to be falling right into place, with no major problems or difficulties.

However, life is not easy all the time. The problem comes when people face difficult situations like sickness, job loss, personal criticism, death, or a multitude of other difficulties life tends to throw our way. It's usually during these times you will hear the same person say something like, "I don't understand what I've done to deserve this. What did I do to upset God so much that He would stop blessing me? I've been doing everything just right like the Bible teaches me."

The prosperity gospel, that everything will go just right if you do everything you are supposed to do, can be damaging to believers leading to disappointment in God, loss of faith and trust in Him, and worst of all, the loss of their entire faith in God and the Bible altogether.

I'm sure everyone has heard someone say, "I don't believe in God because why would He let my loved one suffer through such a painful sickness without healing them. We prayed, we had faith, we believed, but He still let them die a painful death. He must not be real."

The problem with the prosperity gospel is not the message, but the defintion of prosperity. As human beings we see and understand everything upside-down compared to how God created. God says to gain everything, you must lose everything. God says, the last will be first and the first will be last.

We don't understand, in our human finiteness, how God's message works.

It's like Lightning McQueen in the movie Cars. The older, wiser race car tells McQueen that when he is driving on dirt, he must turn left if he wants to go right. McQueen mocks and scoffs at the older race car calling him crazy. But in the end, he understands that indeed, turning left to go right, will work when he is driving on dirt, just as the older race car had taught  him.

God tells us quite often, that if we want to go right, we must turn left. We laugh in his face and make fun of the backwards, upside-down concept, and then drive off  leaving our dust in his face. And we keep doing what we've always done, turning right to go right, with the same result as before... failure, disappointment, and ultimately a messy wreck.

Let's look at the world's definition of prosperity.

Prosperity-n. The condition of prospering; condition or wealth. (source

Some synonyms for the word prosperity include riches, wealth, ease, fortune, luxury, well-being, good-fortune, the good-life, plenty, and affluance.

This is what the preachers of the prosperity gospel tell us God wants for us. But I believe we need to look to the Bible for God's definition of prosperity.

The Hebrew word used in Jeremiah 29:11 for the word prosper is Shalom.

Shalom- completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment, friendship, welfare, health, of human relationships, and (my personal favorite definition) with God especially in covenant relationship. (source or Strong's #07965)

In people terms, Shalom means completeness, contentment, welfare, or peace in human relationships and with God, especially in covenant relationship.

This is the kind of prosperity God desires for His people, for all people. He desires to have a covenantal relationship with each human being, lasting for all eternity. This is true prosperity.

Stick with me for a few more posts and a deeper look into God's definition of prosperity and what the Bible teaches is prosperous in the Christian life.
*Hint, it doesn't include money, possessions or anything else we consider "blessings".

May God bless you today with prosperity, or peace and completeness in your relationship with Him, and with others!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Awe Factor

I finished reading Job today. I have been trying to read the entire Bible in a year for a very long time, as long as I can remember.
And in my old age of thirty-something, I have come to the realization that not everything in life needs to work exactly like I plan. In fact, nothing will go as I plan, and just because I miss one day of my reading plan, or two, or 50, doesn't mean I can't still continue on through the Bible.

So, yes. I am behind on my reading plan, but I finished Job today nonetheless. Which was a huge success for me. I usually give up somewhere around Job (I like to go chronoligically rather than front to back, and Job comes after the first 11 chapters of Genesis, so you can see I don't make it very far).

I get to Job, and I get depressed. Who really wants to read a story about a man who loses all his family, all his belongings, and his health, all because Satan had something to prove to God... AND, here's the part I have trouble with... God LET Satan use Job to prove Himself instead!

But this time, I loved Job. I really did.

Even all the speeches from his friends, and his speeches, long and drawn out as they were, have so much in them.

But today as I finished, I felt the writer of Job should have done a better job at brining home the fantastic conclusion. Instead, there is just a paragraph, after all that talking, that is basically summed up in, "And he lived happily ever after."

Maybe it's the writer in me, but I want a big fanfare of resolution.

As I finished I sat in my little blue rocking chair that does not match my bedroom in anyway, and pondered God.

The last part of the book, God describes himself sarcastically to Job. Job defends himself up to this point, all along the way, saying, "I am innocent! Put me on trial and I will prove my innocence! I don't deserve this. What have I done to be treated so unfairly by You, God?" (not exactly his words, but rather the Amy Mykytiuk reader's digest version).

God stays silent throughout Job'scomplaining (which I totally understand and have no judgement toward Job for that), but finally in the end speaks out in sarcasm.
Summed up, God says, "Oh, that's right, I forgot. You were there when everything was created. You control everything. I completely forgot, you are omnipotent, omniscient, all-powerful, and equal to me."

Now that's not what He really says, but that's sort of his message. He's sarcastically reminding Job of who HE is.

This is my favorite question God poses to Job.

"Have you entered into the springs of the sea Or walked in the recesses of the deep?" Job 38:16

I think I love it because I truly imagine the deep of the sea to be an unreachable place. I never really imagined God strolling along the sea floor, where the undiscovered creatures roam. That's an unfathomable place.

I can imagine him in the universe, because that is sort of where we place him and heaven, out there in space somewhere. But the utter dark, cold, crushing depths of the sea?

Sunday, the pastor spoke about losing that awe factor for certain things in our life, after we have become too familiar with them. I have always felt that way about God.

I was born into a Christian family and attended church from the crib. I was always taught about who He is, and who Jesus is, and how Jesus died and rose again. The story of the Resurrection, though it is precious to me, never held that awe factor for me. It was too familiar. I do not feel that feeling of impossibility, like I would if a dead man sat up out of his coffin at his own funeral and began to speak. But I always wanted to be in awe of the miracle.

When God is finished telling Job exactly who He is, Job says,

"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth." Job 40:4

Job, gasped and covered his mouth. He had no response, no defense, nothing to say for himself. He didn't say, "Ya, ya. I know you did all that creation stuff and everything, but I don't deserve this!" (Imagine that in your most whiny voice ever).

He was awe struck. He was silenced by who God is.

I finished the story and wondered what it would take to silence me, to make me gasp at the wonder of who God is.

And then I realized. He's already done it. It's those times that He puts me on the edge of that cliff, my heels hanging off the edge and my body weight falling to my despair. Nothing can save me. I can't regain control of my life and save myself. I can only feel my body begin to fall as I wait for Him to rescue me.

It's when He puts me in those places that I have no where to go, no answer, and no salvation apart from Him, that I find the awe factor. It's when He stretches out His hand and rescues me in that completely hopeless and impossible situation, that I find myself gasp. When I know that the only way I could have made it through that "thing", is by His very hand, that I find awe.

I am alot like Job, declaring what it is I deserve. But I love Job's confession in the end, and it is my prayer when I become too big for my britches too.

"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Hear, now,  and I will speak; I will ask You, and you instruct me.
I have heard of  You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."
Job 42:2-6

What makes you stand in awe of who God is? Job 38-42 will definitely give you something to think about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My St. Patrick's Day

I had a great day, but by 11AM I told my Beloved I was going to do a blog about the funny things I saw today. We had too many big laughs first thing this morning.

To start the day off, my Beloved officiated at a sweet little wedding in town. The bride and groom wanted to elope and have a small ceremony with just their parents. We were honored that she asked Jay to be the officiating minister.

The bride had been a youth in the church we served in a while back, and she and Jay had bonded over a game of hacky- sack. Now she is a young adult, spending her first evening as a Mrs.! Yay!

As we tried to get ready for our day, we had a multitude of slightly humorous, mostly time constraining, events happen with our kids. The toilet overflowed and little Noisemaker didn't seem in too much of a hurry to let us know water was dumping out onto the bathroom floor. The little girl had to go potty at the last minute, and she loves to sit and play, a long time. I forgot to bring my slip for my dress, leaving me to duck tape and safety pin some sort of acceptable undergarment under my dress, hoping for the best. It was a rough start to an important day.

On our way to the sweet little St. Paddy's Day wedding, we had some really good laughs together. Just outside of the city, we saw a raccoon on the road. I know, that's no big deal, but this one was hilarious!

If I had had a camera with me, I would have made my Beloved stop, late or not, and take a picture so I could share it with you, even on a busy highway!

At first we thought it was a cat, because you don't really see raccoons in the daytime around here.

It was completely frozen in the middle of the left lane of traffic. It's back was arched up way high, one paw was firmly planted on the asphalt while the other one was up in the air. It stood as still as a stone statue, staring at the ground. We never saw it move!

It was the funniest thing. I really think a couple of teenagers found a taxidermy raccoon in their great-grandpa's attic and decided to stick in the middle of the road to see what happened!

But, a few hours later on our way home, the raccoon was gone. Maybe he just got really scared and tried to look really mean and ferocious to all the giant metal cars speeding around him at 70 miles per hour. I don't know.

Just a few miles down the road, in downtown, we found ourselves cracking up again.

We passed a cute little donut shop. I notice these things. I'm pregnant and hungry almost constantly, and the more fatty, sugary, higher in calories, fried and unhealthy it is, the more I want it.

As we came closer to the donut shop I began to read the small print on their sign. They advertised donuts, biscuits, pastries, kolaches... AND TACOS!

Yes, that is just what I always wanted! A donut store where I could pick up a dozen long johns AND a yummy taco!

If you don't find this post funny, I'm sorry. It just brightened my sunny little day a little more!

We made our way downtown to the sweet little wedding. My Beloved officiated a beautiful little ceremony. He talked about God's plan was for love and marriage and their marriage, my marriage, and all marriage, is a good thing.

He talked about faith, hope and love. As married people we need to have faith in ourselves to be a good spouse, to have faith in each other, and to have faith in God. We need to have hope for when the going gets tough. We need hope to make it through the tough times in marriage, because there will be tough times.

And lastly, love, the greatest of these! Love for each other, but more importantly, love for God.

I watched the bride carefully, in her vintage lace dress with a sweet green ribbon sash. She was beautiful, and the tough little girl I knew, beamed with love for her red-headed groom. His smile could not have gotten any bigger as he stood next to his beautiful bride.

I fought back the tears, remembering all the faith, hope and love my Beloved have shared over the last almost 12 years. He has had faith in me when no one else did. When life seemed too difficult, we held on to hope in our Almighty Father... together. Most of all, even when we did not like each other, we held on to the love that was sparked so long ago.

I would love to share pictures with you, but the couple still has not told all of their extended family and friends that they got married today! Tonight, they enjoy their secret, as husband and wife.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Children are Like Books

Children are like books, you can never have too many. Books are like children, to be treasured and adored.
 -Deanna Cooner


A trip to the grocery store is never my favorite activity. Whether it's to fill a basket to overflowing, or to just to pick up a few things, I loathe grocery shopping.

The best and worst part of grocery shopping is the reaction I always get from complete strangers. I must shop with four kids in tow. Some of the time they run around my buggy and drive me crazy while they get in my way as well as other shoppers. Sometimes I get wise and make them follow behind me like little ducklings, youngest to oldest. I find myself much more sane with this method.

Sometimes, a couple little kids are packed away in the buggy beneath the granola bars, milk, and bags of fruit.

It doesn't matter the method in which I attempt to contain, control, or corral my children, I always receive the same remark from at least one stranger while shopping.

"My, you sure have got your hands full, don't you?"

Yes, I have my hands full with four children. I prefer it that way. Most people just chuckle and walk away, seemingly thankful they are not me.

The other day at the store was a particularly memorable encounter with one such stranger. As we passed in the main aisle, she smiled sweetly as she made her "full-hands" remark as I call it. I proudly tapped my belly and said, "Yes I do, and #5 is on the way too."

Some people say the "full-hands" remark adoringly, admiring the children. Some people say it bitterly, as if they are personally offended by my choice to have so many kids. This lady seem to be the former of the two strangers, until I announced our upcoming arrival. Her response shocked me and left me speechless.

"Oh my!" She exclaimed. "I would kill myself!"


The idea of children really do bring out the worst in people.

I can't help but wonder why so many Christians tell me I'm crazy, or I've lost my mind. Why when they talk to me about my choice to have a large family do they act like their own children are such a huge burden, almost to the point that they wish they had never had any at all?

I look to what the Bible says about children. Does it call them a burden?

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;"
Psalm 127:3-5a

The Bible calls children a gift and a reward! One who has a quiver full of children, like myself, is blessed!

Through the instruction of the scripture, the choice to have children is never questioned, it is simply understood that one will have them.

"Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation." Joel 1:3

Instructions are given over and over again on how to raise children, what to teach them and how to teach them.

I haven't even mentioned one of the most common commands God gave from the very beginning of man.
You can find the words "fruitful and multiply" over 600 times in the Bible!

Even our traditions point to the blessing and reward of children. Today a couple might choose to have rice, birdseed, or bubbles thrown over them as they leave their wedding reception, but the tradition began with nuts and seeds being thrown instead. It was a blessing on the newly wed couple, that they might be "fruitful and multiply" or have lots of children!

Somewhere along the way, our society decided their blessings, rewards, and gifts were just burdens. It is still so natural for us to want children, but because they are such a burden we limit just how burdened we will become.

I'm not saying everyone should have a large family. I'm not even saying everyone should have children (because I believe strongly there are some that just shouldn't have many children). It truly is a calling from God to multiply your family so greatly.

What I am saying is that our attitude is corrupt. What message are we sending our children- the next generation and the ones who will be caring for us and making decision for us eventually- when we say things like, "I would kill myself,"? We are telling them,  "I would rather suffer death, than suffer with you."

I pray that my children's ears are deafened when people say such ugly things about them. I pray that even when I am having the most difficult time at the grocery store with my children in tow, I will treat them like the precious treasures they are, so that everyone will know just how valuable my children, and your children and every child in this world truly is.

Not only is our attitude toward children corrupt, but we have arrogantly made ourselves police over God's domain, and other people's choices.

For a person to be offended by my choice of the number of children I have is ridiculous! Just as it is ridiculous for people to be offended by my choice to homeschool my own God- given children. We have made ourselves the sovereign authority on just how many children one couple should bring forth into this world. God is the only sovereign authority on any one person's life and only He has the authority to say, "Just because it's raining doesn't mean you have to stand out in it and get wet."

God alone gives life and enables one to give birth. He may even close a woman's womb, but only He has the power and authority to do so.

"Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb." Genesis 30:22

He also is the only one with the power to bring forth life no matter how much we try to prevent it. Many of those babies aborted were created while birth control was in use.

It is time we return to the attitude God intended for us. Children are precious, desirable, and a treasure. Children should be protected, defended, and taught in the ways of the Lord.  It's time we stop casting judgemental eyes toward those that choose to enlarge their family and experience an even greater reward.

It is never easy, to have even one child, much less many more, but the reward for each child is truly worth the sacrifice and work that they require.