Link: The Vatican Speaks Out About the Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel

Relevant: The Vatican Is Speaking Out About the Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel

The article, “The Prosperity Gospel: Dangerous and Different” directly calls out the idea as fake theology intertwined with the American dream and Donald Trump, and specifically references American megachurch pastors and televangelists, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen. The article mentions that the prosperity gospel has made those preachers wealthy while they spread a “pseudo-gospel” that is counter-biblical. The prosperity gospel essentially says “wealth and success as synonymous with true religious conviction, and consequently, sees ‘poverty, sickness and unhappiness’ as a lack of faith,” according to Cruxnow.com.

The authors, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, talk about how the prosperity gospel ends up being directly in contrast to social justice, salvation and the charge to love the less fortunate: “In truth, one of the serious problems that the prosperity gospel brings is its perverse effects on the poor. … In fact, it not only exasperates individualism and knocks down the sense of solidarity, but it pushes people to adopt a miracle-centered outlook because faith alone—not social or political commitment—can procure prosperity.”

I can think of few major Christian movements that contradict the message of Christ so directly as the prosperity gospel. From the emphasis on humility in the Sermon on the Mount, to Jesus’s warnings to the rich young man in Matthew 19:16–24, to His portrayal of wealthy people in parables like the Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, there is no indication anywhere that God will tie economic success to righteousness in the New Testament. None. The rain falls on the just and the unjust; and the sun shines on both as well.

The insidious nature of this doctrine comes in two major ways:

  1. It clouds our attitudes toward our own sins. If we’re relatively financially healthy, we may decide God must be pleased with us. We then do nothing to right our wrongs or seek forgiveness for our transgressions. Repentance is hard when you think everything is great.
  2. It makes us unsympathetic toward underprivileged people and groups. We then reason with ourselves that they would be better off if only they were more pleasing to God. Therefore, who am I to interfere with God’s punishment for their apparent lack of faith?

I never thought I would see the day when the prosperity gospel would escape from its niche of televangelism and gullibility, but here we are. While certain sins may have consequences that will affect your prosperity in this life, God does not guarantee physical wealth or comfort to His faithful. He promises eternal life and joy to those who faithfully endure the struggles of this world, but He does not promise us success; He does not promise us possessions; He does not promise us wealth.

Link: This is Not a Love Story

Wes McAdams: This is NOT a Love Story: What I Noticed When I Read Ruth

It would be easy to see the book of Ruth as a love story: A beautiful young woman, who has tragically lost her husband, meets a rich, handsome, and godly man who marries her and they live happily ever after. But that’s a modern fairytale, not a biblical story. Romance and beauty are important themes in our stories, but the important themes in this story are things like showing kindness to the dead and caring for destitute immigrant workers and widows (things most Christians hardly think of as important biblical themes). So, let’s take a closer look.

Link: Perfect People Need Not Apply

Timothy Archer: Perfect People Need Not Apply

But here’s the secret I want to share with you: people like to see a little vulnerability. If you come across as the skilled professional with all the answers, you set yourself apart from the person you’re talking to. If I’m talking about astrophysics with a NASA engineer, I’ll probably learn some things, but I won’t come away saying, “I can see myself being like them.” If we present ourselves as sinless saints who know everything there is to know about Christianity, we project an image that people can’t relate to.

In evangelism, we want to show ourselves as imperfect people who are trying to become like a perfect Jesus. We don’t want them to see us as perfect, or they’ll feel like they can never really join us. We want them to see Jesus as perfect and understand that they take a lifelong journey down the road to being like Jesus, just like we’re doing.

Link: It’s Submission, Not Subjection

Challies: It’s Submission, Not Subjection

We may also rebel against submission because we fail to carefully distinguish it from another term: subjection. Submission is not the same as subjection. What’s the difference between the two? Subjection describes actions taken by the one with authority where submission describes actions taken by the one under authority. When it comes to marriage, church, and our shared life with other believers, we are instructed to submit, not to subject.

Subjection is the act of a ruler to force obedience. He uses fear or force or intimidation to break the will of the people so they eventually surrender to him. They give up and wave the white flag. They’ve been conquered. They are now in subjection to this leader.

Submission is the act of someone who acknowledges legitimate authority and willingly arranges himself or herself accordingly. Submission is voluntary, never forced. It is responding to the divine order of things first in the heart and then in the life.

The church is not in subjection to Jesus Christ; we haven’t been ruthlessly conquered by him. No, the church has been won by Jesus Christ, so we willingly submit to his rule, guidance, and instruction. We acknowledge his right to govern, we acknowledge his overwhelming love, we respond to his Spirit, and we arrange ourselves accordingly.

This is a thoughtful article on a touchy subject. I recommend you follow the link to read the rest.

The Bible Project

The Bible Project: Visual Storytelling Meets The Bible

The Bible Project is a collection of visually engaging explorations or accounts, stories, and themes from the Bible. Not only is there a good wealth of well organized information here, but (as a bonus) the design quality and production values of the videos are better than I’m used to seeing.

Check it out. You might find something you can use in a future study or you might even learn something yourself.

Betrayed By a Kiss

Brian Zahnd: Betrayed By a Kiss

What was Judas trying to do and why did he betray Jesus with a kiss? Was Judas trying to force Jesus’ hand — trying to push him out of his Sermon on the Mount ethics of enemy-love? Was Judas was trying to force Jesus to resort to violence and start the war for Jewish independence? I think so. The reason Judas greeted Jesus with the customary kiss (which was also a covert sign), is that Judas didn’t so much want to betray Jesus as he wanted manipulate Jesus. Judas wanted to manipulate Jesus into launching a violent revolution. Judas wanted to remain a part of the inner-circle of disciples following a now violent Jesus. Judas acted like he was still a faithful disciple, because Judas wanted to be a faithful disciple — but only on his own terms. Judas didn’t want to betray Jesus, he wanted to control Jesus. Judas wanted Jesus to be Messiah in a certain way: Violent.

So what does it mean to betray Jesus with a kiss? It means trying to manipulate Jesus to our way of thinking. It means trying to control Jesus for our own agenda. When we try to get Jesus to step outside of his own ethics of enemy-love in order to fight our battles, wage our wars, and kill our enemies, we have betrayed Jesus. Of course we do it while claiming to love Jesus as our Lord and Savior. In other words, we betray Jesus…with a kiss.

I meant to link to this weeks ago. While I confess that brother Zahnd makes a couple of educated suppositions in this article, I think he nails what made it so hard for so many first century Jews to accept Jesus as Savior. They were looking for something else. Too often, we also try to cast God in our own image while claiming piety and devotion. We cannot let our own interests, opinions, or fears make us try to mold Jesus into something other than what He is. When we do so, we betray Him.