The False Promises of the Modern Christian Church

There is a dangerous trend throughout modern Western Christianity that seeks to transform the Gospel into a “get rich quick” guidebook.  The emphasis on getting more “blessings” today that are “reserved for you” and “yours to name and claim” emphasizes a doctrine that says one can eliminate the pain and suffering of a fallen world through material gains.  Churches conduct entire services focused on worship and prayer (and sometimes fasting) to obtain blessings, by which they mean new cars, new jobs, new spouses, new homes and so on.  The focus is on getting the blessing NOW!  Making this world more comfortable NOW! Having more wealth NOW!

In reality this world and all that is in it is fallen and will never be elevated above its purpose as a playground for sin and a hospital for suffering.  There is a reason that Christ told us to come out of the world to follow Him.  He did not say fix up this world and make it a paradise for Christians; men, even faith leaders, are fallen, selfish and broken and cannot possible clean up what Satan and we (as his willing assistants) have irretrievably broken. It takes all of our effort, with prayer and fixed purpose, to save ourselves, let alone try to create a paradise of riches on earth.  Yet millions pray for a Mercedes, and a mansion while heaven awaits us with true paradise.  Sadly many preachers and pastors live a life of material wealth that rivals Solomon, calling into question their own focus on Godliness and true worship.

If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

Christianity is not a “before and after” story where one accepts Christ and then opens his or her wallet and the cash starts rolling in.  Praying harder, believing stronger, fasting for days will not of themselves bring us riches.  Christians will and do suffer…some of the most fervent believers (who ironically live outside the wealth of the West in places like Asia and Africa) endure enormous persecution and suffering despite their faith.  There is no luxury car waiting in their driveway when they return from their underground church service.  Yet they remain committed to Christ!  There is no collection plate yet the power of the Holy Spirit reverberates through their services because they have a strength of faith that transcends materialism.

Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. Isaiah 5:9 

I will tear down the winter house along with the summer-house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the Lord. Amos 3:15

Yes Christ wants the best for us and has promised to care for our needs…yet He told us not to worry or even think about them, that each would receive what he needs in this life.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

The promise of abundance is in the next life.  Why?  So we do not lose focus on Him, we do not start believing that we can create more “things” through works, that we accept unconditionally what God has for us recognizing that we are all equal in His eyes but each receive according to the purpose and plan that is unique to us.  When we think being a Christian means abundance, and that abundance does not flow as we expect our faith dissipates because it was built on a false foundation.  I know men and women who have exhibited signs of great faith and then in the face of a tragedy have cursed God or asked “where is God?”  This is a direct result of the false teachings that Christianity brings an immediate blessed life filled with earthly rewards.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

Yes Christ can and will bless his children for their faith.  But the immediate blessings are not material, they are forgiveness of signs, mercy and grace and a promised heavenly salvation filled with eternal peace and joy.  Compared to a new Mercedes…which would you rather live for?

Have a blessed day!

 

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Carry out your duties with respect for the Lord, with honesty, and with pure motives. 2 Chronicles 19:9

It is an interesting phenomenon that we live in a society that is fixated on reality TV, where so many sit glued to the television screen amazed at the transparency and forthrightness of ordinary people (and sometimes washed up celebrities) who, with nothing to lose, bare every inner secret and past indiscretion for entertainment.  The raw nature of these programs, where to their credit these folks are being open and honest about themselves, stands in stark contrast to the communications we often see in the workplace environment.  There an unwritten code exists where transparency is too often replaced with obfuscation, diversion, manipulative language, and double talk.  Corporate managers have their own jargon, with ever-changing trends that has become so obtuse and confusing in many workplaces that corporate language consultants are frequently hired to explain the latest trends, improve communication skills, and help interpret for those not up to the latest terminology.  Corporate speak, corporate lingo, business speak…there is even an online dictionary of “Ridiculous Business Jargon” addressing such nuggets as “above-board,” “action item,” “hammer out,” and the ever cringe-worthy “gravitas.”  My own personal annoyance is the overuse of the term “synergy” as in, “we seem to have a good synergy with our respective services.”

The avoidance of plain speaking and clear language, and the reliance instead on euphemisms and jargon in the business world sometimes leads to disingenuous communications and outright rudeness.   It masks truth in triteness and can be harmful to a work environment.  The inability to speak truth, to be clear and open and transparent often leaves employees confused, causes emotional upheaval, and does little to help correct mistakes, improve performance, and foster true growth.  Doublespeak with clients and peers can lead to resentment and poison or kill a business relationship.  It is oftentimes an outgrowth of pride, dishonesty, and selfish motives.

I try to approach my communications with my clients, partners, colleagues and employees with honesty and forthrightness. I explain what I am doing and why I am doing it.  I am honest in communications and transparent in decisions. I take the time to consider the listener and the impact of my words on them.  I avoid obfuscation and try to be clear about what I am saying, why I am saying it and what my intentions are. I am mindful of what the Lord expects from me: humility, honesty, truthfulness and compassion. I suspect that this is also what people we work with and serve as clients and customers expect from us as well.

The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but an accurate weight is his delight. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the unfaithful destroys them…. Proverbs 11

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Philippians 2:3

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

 

Solving Bitterness, Envy and Disappointment in the Workplace

The workplace can be a bitter, angry place filled with envy, jealousy, depression and disappointment.  It is rarely a place of refuge, or a place of joy.  For too many it is a place to be tolerated and endured for the sole purpose of paying the mortgage, a car loan and feeding a family.  I know very few people truly at peace and experiencing happiness at work.  It is a constant pursuit for more…more money, more recognition, more authority, more favor, more affirmation of self-worth and value through things.  It is never-ending and never fulfilling and does not have to be this way!

Matthew 13:3-9 talks about the parable of the seeds and highlight how the deceitfulness of riches and the worries of the world can choke the life out of man.  When men and women pursue earthly treasures and favor they are so frequently disappointed, for even those who reach their goals only find that they have been replaced with new, higher ones and the race continues.  The continuous pursuit of material wealth, position, authority and favor breeds competition, envy and jealousy and destroys lives.  It also belies the inability to recognize who we each are…that we are not all meant to star on Broadway, drive a Ferrari, play Major League Baseball, or be the CEO of a major firm.  Yet, we are all of equal value in God’s eyes.

There are blessings and riches and favor for all of us both here and in heaven.  God has created us all differently, with different skills and abilities, different personalities and purposes.  We are not all the same….our provision is equal to our purpose!  We will not all achieve the same wealth, position, power and material gain, because God has different plans for us all.  I have four children, all of whom have different levels of intelligence, different athletic abilities, different skills sets.  One is a great musician, one other a thinker, one loves books, another hates books.  One  achieves “A”s with no effort, another achieves “B”s with great difficulty.  One child has a big heart and is outgoing and empathetic, another is introverted and aloof.  One child obeys while another constantly rebels against all authority in the home.  One child needs constant love and nurturing, another shuns it. I love them all the same, the way that God loves all of us the same, but I do treat them differently…I must.  I understand that my children will bring different blessings to the world among the people they meet and the lives they lead.  So too we bring varied blessings to the world and receive varied blessings in return.  We were not made to be equal, rather we were each made to be unique!

When we start believing that we are all entitled to the same life, the same awards and rewards, and the same treatment we meet with grave disappointment and even depression.  Nowhere is this more on display than in the workplace.  The enemy wants you to be envious and unhappy and depressed…he needs you distracted from who you are and what you are to God, and instead focused on how you compare to other men and women.  Don’t get caught up in the enemies deception! Don’t you know we are all loved and blessed in the eyes of God?

Instead of looking at what the other guy has, look in the mirror at what you have.  What do you bring to the table?  What has the Lord gifted you?  Where do you fit into the grand scheme that God has assigned to you?  When you understand who you are, and accept who you are, and strive to be the best you can be and not try to grab what the other guy has, then you will find the peace and joy you are seeking at work and at home.

 

Welcoming Death

For we who love are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:11

The growth of Christian maturity is a slow and steady march towards death.  Each day we seek to kill off the vestiges of worldly sin that plague us.  Each day is a battle between good and evil, life and death, sin and salvation. Christianity is not a finger snap transformation that makes us holy and sinless.  We can never be Christ, although we can strive to be like Christ. The commitment that is required of us is a commitment to change our lives, change who we were into something new, more holy, more Christ-like than before.  We must embrace death: death to the old self, piece by piece.

One of the greatest misconceptions of the world when interpreting Christianity is the false belief (in some cases intentionally promoted) that Christians are somehow “better” than everyone else, and that therefore the failure of Christians  to live up to the “perfect” life narrative becomes proof that following Christ is either a lie or a waste of time. Of course the truth is far different.

The road to salvation is long and bumpy.  It is a race that is not won by the swift but by those who persevere. Hebrews 12:1  It means never giving up the goal of becoming something better, something new, something greater than what the world offers.  It means being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Christ told us that to follow Him we would have to die to sin daily.  Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24  The world would rather deny Christ exists and distort the truth of Christian faith rather than take that step.  Sin is addictive, alluring, pleasurable (for a time).  As believers we must not falter, must not waver, must not weaken or become discouraged.  God knows our hearts and He knows our struggles. He rewards those who strive to finish the race and cross the finish line of Salvation.

God bless you on your own personal journey!