Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Gospel of Prosperity

I work in the midst of a very rich community.  As "The Help," I get access to a lot of things I never would have imagined.  My favorite perk is going to the pool at the golf club where the annual membership is more than twice my salary.  There were days this summer when I gazed around the pool and became irritated by the waste, the gaudiness, the snobbery, etc., that comes along with the lifestyle of the rich.  I'm not saying they are all the same (by any means) but there is a stereotype that holds true.  And if I wasn't irritated, I was usually jealous.  I was jealous of the fact that these people could afford to just not bother with making lunch and go over to the pool instead.  I was jealous of the designer swim suits and clothes I saw.  I was jealous of the cars in the parking lot, of the houses I drive by to get there.  And what really irritates me, no, angers, me? A good portion of these people aren't even good people!  They have lied, cheated, gossiped, and slandered to get to where they are.  They treat me poorly because I'm "The Help" or they simply act like I'm not even there, they talk behind each other's backs, they're not grateful, and so on and so forth.  It frustrates me that they have "it all" while I'm the one working hard and trying to live a morally upright life while barely being able to afford a small house (which is still a lot for some, I know).

But God's word bring a new light to my irrational thinking:

Psalm 37:1-5
1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

It doesn't seem fair does it?  The "wicked" thrive while I work extremely hard to succeed.  But God has so much more for us than the gorgeous homes and sports cars of the wealthy.  He reminds us here that we should not fret (or be angry) because of evildoers, nor are we to be envious of them for they will wither away (Strong's H2734).  But those first couple of verses (1-2) do not mean "'Do not envy the wicked man's prosperity, nor wish it were yours, but solace yourself with the assurance of his speedy ruin.'  What is said is far nobler than that.  It is, 'Do not let the prosperity of unworthy men shake your faith in God's government, nor fling you into an unwholesome heat, for God will sweep away the anomaly in due time'" (Expositor's).  God does not define prosperity the same way that we do.  Money and worldly success do not equal prosperity in God's book.  In fact, if you have received the gift of Christ, you are one of the most prosperous people in the entire world!  I may not have a penny to my name but I am far richer than the agnostic pool-side high-school girl who drove her Lamborghini to the pool so she could soak up a tan in her Ralph Lauren bikini. (**Just a can be prosperous both in the world and in Christ, I am simply speaking in generalities in order to satisfy my point).

The problem is that worldly prosperity is pretty easy to see.  It isn't like I have to look hard to notice the houses I drive by are 3 or 4 times the size of the one I might be buying.  And I don't have to use a magnifying glass to see the BMW emblem on the cars in the parking lot.  Because of blatant worldly prosperity, we tend to overlook the beautiful characteristics of Godly prosperity.  When we give God what He asks of us, when we strive to succeed in His eyes, He has promised us SO much in return!

In these verses alone (3-5) He has promised to take care of us physically, spiritually, and intellectually!  He has covered the basis of humanity - head, heart, and hands.


We are intellectual beings.  As Rene Descartes put it, "I think therefore I am."  We process all of the information around us and a lot of times our finite minds cannot handle what all of that information entails.  Right now we are in the midst of putting together an offer for a house.  There is a lot of change going on right now and we have a lot to figure out.  My brain starts to take over and I'm instantly in panic mode - how will we ever do this?  What if it doesn't work out?  What if something happens?  What if we can't afford it 6 months from now?  What if, what if, what if....  But I have to remember to commit these plans to God and trust Him with the outcome, as vs. 5 states.

And what will He do in return?  He will do it.  The Holman Christan Standard Bible puts it this way, "Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act."  He knows what is best for us and if we commit our ways and plans to Him, trusting Him completely, He will guide us toward the best possible outcome.  The word 'commit' is translated from the Hebrew word galal meaning "to roll, roll away, roll down, roll together" (Strong's H1556).  Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't really make sense to me.  What does 'commit' have to do with 'rolling'?  Clarke seems to think that this is a metaphor taken from the camel.  You see, the camel, since it is so tall, has to lie down so that his load may be rolled upon him.  If we are committing our ways, our thoughts, our plans, to the Lord, we are rolling them off of ourselves and onto Him!  He will carry our load!!  I love this imagery!  And if I had not dug deeper, I would have missed it completely (see more on this subject here).  He is literally taking our worries and racing thoughts onto His own shoulders and caring for us intellectually so that we don't get burnt out or overwhelmed!


As Henry puts it, "The instructions here given are very plain; much need not be said for the exposition of them, but there is a great deal to be done for the reducing of them to practice, and there they will look best."  Vs. 4 is a well known verse, Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  Okay, simple enough right?  But what does delighting myself in the Lord look like?  How do I put these simple instructions into practice?  Well, "we must not only depend on God, but solace ourselves in Him" (Henry). defines 'solace' as "something that gives comfort, consolation, or relief."  We must turn to God at all times, He must be our source of joy!  We must "expect all...happiness from Him, and seek it in Him" (Clarke).  When we are in our most joyous moments - on your wedding day, at the birth of a child, with the purchase of a new home, etc., we must attribute those moments to Him!  And when we are at our lowest, when the world insists on kicking you while your down, we must look to God as a source of joy - we always have a reason to be thankful and full of joy.  If we do these things, He will grant us the desires of our heart.  In other words, He will nurture us spiritually. 


As noted before, worldly prosperity is not the same as Godly prosperity,  "He does not say, 'So shalt thou get preferment, dwell in a palace, and be feasted.'  This is not necessary; a man's life consists not in the abundance of these things" (Henry). Vs. 3 may not seem like it is referring to our physical state at first, but upon closer examination, and using the context of the other verses, it most definitely makes sense.  The text reads, Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Now, I'm going to include what the commentaries have concluded and let you read that again, "Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land I have given you and feed upon security."  

The first adjustment I made here is the underlying understanding that they are to dwell in the land the Lord has given them!  The Israelites, how ever many hundreds of years ago, would have understood this without having to have the added clarification.  They knew the land they were in was the land He had literally given them!  We may not have traveled through a desert for 40 years, crossed through the Red Sea, or marched around the walls of Jericho - but God has still given us the land we have today!  I think we miss that sometimes.  We forget that everything is His, He has merely given it to us for a time (this is why we tithe, after all, it belongs to Him in the first place).  

I then changed "cultivate faithfulness" to "feed upon security." To understand this, we have to examine the Hebrew.  'Cultivate' is translated from the Hebrew word ra'ah meaning "to pasture, tend, graze, feed" (Strong's H7462).  This is yet another beautiful image that we miss when just simply reading the text.  This one word implies that we are sheep and God is our shepherd!  "God Himself is a shepherd, a feeder, to all those that trust in Him" and do good (Henry).  Some commentaries leave the translation at that - we are to feed upon His faithfulness.  But, in context with the other verses, I, along with Adam Clarke believe that 'faithfulness' here should be 'security.'  The Hebrew word is 'emuwnah meaning "firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness" and could very well be translated either way.

The point of the matter being - God will provide a sense of physical security for those that trust Him and do good!  We are His sheep and He is our shepherd.  I love the nurturing and protection that this image brings to mind.  He is so good.

There you have it.  God will take care of our head, heart, and hands, our intellectual, spiritual, and physical well being!  With Him, we are the most prosperous people in the world.  We don't need fancy cars or giant mansions.  Who wants to clean those anyways!?!  ;)  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Annoying Glass Doors

Have you ever walked into a screen door or even a glass door?  I have.  Well, I tend to walk into walls and poles as well, and those are pretty visible, so I'm not sure I'm the best example.  haha.

Anyways, the point of the matter is this - sometimes there is a barrier we cannot see between where we are and where we want to be.  Even though what is waiting on the other side is good and is ours for the taking, we just can't figure out why we can't access them.  Instead, even though it's painful, we continue to walk into the glass door again and again.

Psalm 36:10-11
10 O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.

There are a few things that God has given to us, as His children.  Lovingkindness is translated from the Hebrew word checed meaning "goodness, kindness, faithfulness" (Strong's H2617).  All of those things belong to us, He freely gives them!  Right along with His righteousness!  As God's church we have access to all of that and more!

Only two things stand in our way:
  1. Our own pride
  2. The wickedness of others   
Pride is something I definitely struggle with.  I tend to think I can do it all, I don't even need God to help me.  Hubby and I had to laugh when I got sick a couple weeks ago.  We had just moved, I was still commuting an hour to my old job while trying to kick start my new business, we were trying to find a house, and so much more.  I told him that I was pretty sure God was reminding me that I wasn't super woman.  I ended up stuck in bed for 2 whole days and the rest of the week I couldn't do much without overexerting myself.  I literally wasn't able to do much let alone do it all. defines 'pride' as "a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

You see, when I accomplish something, I give myself the credit because it makes me feel important.  But that isn't what should be happening - God should be getting all the glory!  How often does pride get in the way of God?  He provides the thoughts for the sermon, He provides the choice of music for this Sunday, He provides the courage you need to stand up and speak, etc.  But how often do we give Him the credit? 

Unfortunately, "...pride is Satan's specialty.  It is the characteristic that most aptly describes him.  Pride is the issue that had him expelled from heaven.  It is still one of Satan's most successful tools...The most effective means the enemy has to keep believers from being full of the Spirit is to keep us full of ourselves...It is the enemy of genuine ministry" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).  When our own pride gets in the way, we no longer have access to His goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, or lovingkindness.  Our pride becomes the glass door we repeatedly walk into.

For some, pride is a solid oak door keeping them from ever reaching out to God in the first place, they refuse to see what is on the other side: "My heart mourns because some dear friends are too prideful to believe something greater than themselves controls their destiny" (Colin Creel, Perspectives).

The other glass door that comes between us and all the wonderful things God has to offer is the wickedness of others.  Okay, hear me out for a second, I am not saying that it is someone else's fault that you are not receiving the goodness of God.  It is still you that creates the glass door.  Wickedness is all around us.  It isn't difficult to find.  The wickedness of others runs rampant in our nation, our state, our hometown, our very streets, even in our church.  That wickedness becomes your problem, becomes my problem, when we choose to cave to temptation.  The moment I decide to participate in gossip, the moment when you start thinking about how much prettier that scantily clad woman is than your wife, the moment I choose to accept the bribe being offered - those are the exact moments when we run face first into the closed glass door.  

That choice to fall to temptation or to pride is what separates us from God.  Running into it again and again isn't going to do a thing.  We could try with all our might to run through it but it remains.  The only thing we can do to get through it is to reopen the door.  And that means we have to put forth effort.  We must repent of our sin, whether it be pride or gossip or adultery, turn away from it and turn back to God.  The door will then be open and we will, again, have access to His goodness, His faithfulness, His lovingkindness and righteousness, and so, so, much more!   

What glass door are you constantly running into?  Put forth the effort and open it today!  Don't wait - His goodness is waiting for you on the other side!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Black Ice and Snowmen

This is a little bit old school.  I remember listening to this as a child and not completely understanding.  As an adult, I get it.  You don't need to listen to the whole song (or rant maybe...) to get my point.  The chorus simply states, "We need God in America again...the only hope for our country is Him." 

Psalms 36:1-2
1 Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes. 
2 For it flatters him in his own eyes
Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.

When I first read those verses, these were the thoughts I wrote down: "No fear of God?  That is exactly what is wrong with our country."  It struck me further as I wrote down quote after quote from the commentaries - "...while he goes on in sin, he thinks he does wisely and well for himself, and either does not see or will not own the evil and danger of his wicked; he calls evil good and good evil" (Henry).  That's our country, right!?!  

But as I continued my study, as I wrote my concluding thoughts - God convicted me and I realized the harsh reality - No fear of God?  That is exactly what is wrong with me.

Yep, you heard that right.  I don't fear God...or at least I don't fear Him enough.   

Sin is that patch of black ice you don't see coming.  You step on it and slip...but instead of being able to get right back up you fumble around a bit, slip again, and eventually end up snow balling down the hill.  Eventually you stand back up and you no longer recognize the snow as snow - you're a snowman (or a sinner) and you don't even see it!  Your eyes, the windows to your soul, are dark like coal.  And your nose has grown to the size of a carrot from the lies you've told yourself and others that you are doing "right" and "good."  

Once we have sinned, we justify it to make it seem right.  We didn't actually sin.  It might seem like it but the circumstances say otherwise.  

Getting drunk is fine - I'm not hurting anyone.  And besides, it brings out the real me, which is what God wants right?  For me to be authentic?

It's alright that we live together.  At least we're committed to one another.  And I have to know if I'm going to be able to live with him/her the rest of my life before I say "I do."  God wouldn't want me to say those words and not mean them.

Divorce is the norm these days.  We both deserve to be happy.  God wants us to be happy.  It wasn't fair to the kids for us to be fighting all of the time.

It was only a silly little lie.  It doesn't matter.  No one will get hurt.  And everybody loves a good story.  After all, Jesus told stories all the time!

It's okay to look at other women.  I only looked through the window, I didn't open the door!  God created women to be beautiful and I'm just admiring His creation.

I could go on and on.  We all know someone who justifies their sin, let's be honest, we've all done it!  And once the justification starts, it is extremely hard to stop.  As noted before, there is quite the snowball effect.

But why do we think justifying our sin makes it okay?  Because instead of putting God before us, we put Him on the back burner - out of sight, out of mind.  We choose to pretend He doesn't care.  We don't fear Him.   

If I truly feared God, I would still be kind to the person who just cut me off in traffic and nearly wrecked my car.  I wouldn't yell or wave my hand or scowl (and I certainly wouldn't shout a string of expletives or show them my middle finger).  If I truly feared God, I wouldn't treat my husband or family with disrespect...even when I've had one of the worst days of my life.  If I truly feared God I wouldn't speak poorly of anyone.  

If you remember, I started this post out by talking about how our country as a whole needs to fear God.  But if we as individuals, as so-called Christians, do not fear God, how is our nation ever supposed to do the same?

If we want to see a change in our nation, it has to start with us!  Don't put God on the back-burner.  There ARE consequences for our actions, whether we choose to believe so or not.  God should be at the forefront of our lives so that we love Him and fear Him and serve Him with our all.  I challenge you today to truly fear God.  Don't step on the black ice we know as sin or you'll end up a snowman with coal for eyes and a carrot nose.  Yes, we need God in America again, but we need God in us again.  I need God in me again.