His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Prosperity Gospel – getting rich through Jesus

Have you heard? Jesus wants you to be rich. Or so it seems, according to the promoters of a different kind of “Christian” message, that critics call the “prosperity gospel.” If you have not heard of the prosperity gospel, perhaps I can enlighten you with some selected quotes from a recent newspaper article I read.

“The idea that God rewards moral people with financial prosperity – dubbed the ‘prosperity gospel’ by critics – has increasingly drawn large crowds to churches across the United States.”

“I don’t talk about money,” Joel Osteen (a “prosperity gospel” pastor who was interviewed) explained. “God wants you to be blessed. And being blessed means having good relationships, having money to be able to send your kids to college, being healthy in your body. That’s what we talk about. I believe God wants you to live a blessed life… I don’t go around talking about God will make you rich.”

“The prosperity gospel, Butler (another pastor) said, means that “God rewards right behavior not just in heaven, but on Earth.” True enough, but don’t count on God rewarding you with money. After all, money is one of the least effective tools for advancing the true gospel.

Yet Jesus didn’t promise us health, money for the college fund, or even good relationships. But before I talk about what Jesus has promised us, let’s look at what He has to say about money…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19) Seems clear: do not pursue treasure.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Think about it. Does Jesus want our heart to be focused on Him, or on our bank account?

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24) I think these prosperity gospel pastors are fooling themselves. They apparently think they can serve both God and money.

What else might Jesus have to say to these prosperity pastors?

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Matthew 19:21

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23-24)

Why did Jesus tell his disciples such a thing? Perhaps because He knows that those with wealth tend to rely on their money to help them through life’s problems, more than they rely on God. After all, why depend on God when I can buy my way out of my troubles. Have you ever witnessed the faith of someone who has nothing, and compared it with that of someone who has plenty? The faith of the poor, who have no one to rely on but God, is filled with the power of God; it’s downright inspirational.

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What kind of people are the “prosperity gospel” pastors? What motivates them to preach this different kind of gospel?

“Gilbert (another pastor who was interviewed)… said that people who live morally deserve to be compensated for it.” I’ve never seen that in the bible.

“You know why I live in a $6 million house?” Gilbert said during a recent sermon. “Because I’m concerned about what other folk live in.” (I’m still struggling to understand that quote)

Another pastor lives in a mansion in Michigan and flies around in a jet, speaking at churches across the US. And pastor Osteen spent $80 million building a sanctuary.

It almost sounds to me like these guys have come up with a new form of gospel in order to justify their own personal greed. And it pays. It’s naturally so popular that it brings in plenty of money to satisfy their material desires. But is that money going to the right place? Does Jesus want churches to spend the collection basket on $6 million houses or $80 million sanctuaries?

Osteen’s church could have fed a lot of poor people with that $80 million. They could have helped a lot of widows and orphans. I wonder what Jesus thinks about Osteen’s $80 million sanctuary. Does Jesus feel more honored by being worshipped in such a grand place? All Jesus needed was a hillside; not some $80 million mega-temple.

And check the hypocrisy in this statement:

“There is just a lot of idol worship in the United States.” Gilbert said.

It sounds like he’s the idol worshipper, putting too much faith in money. Would he still be so upbeat if his $6 million house went into foreclosure and he was kicked out by the bank?

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The current economic crisis must be amplifying the attractiveness of this new gospel. It’s an age-old evangelism technique; give the people what they want, tell them what they want to hear (with little regard for the truth), make them feel good in the midst of their daily lives. But will it last? What if going to a prosperity gospel church doesn’t pay out? What if my income doesn’t increase? “Well forget this Christianity crap. It just doesn’t pay like those preachers say it will. I’m outta here.” And there goes another lost soul.

The success of the prosperity gospel depends on man-made things. It depends on the economy, money, income, and greed. After all, it’s basic greed that draws many people to the prosperity gospel. So let me ask you this; does it sound like this prosperity gospel has the power to change people’s lives, to set them on a path that leads to holiness, to take them all the way to heaven?

There is only one gospel that can take people all the way to heaven. It’s a long journey and there’s only one guide who can take you the entire distance. Money doesn’t have the legs to make the trip. Only Jesus does. Only the Holy Spirit can take you all the way from the pit of sin, where our journey always begins, to the eternal home He has built for us.

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Yes, Jesus said we would be blessed, but perhaps His blessings go far beyond the material or physical kind. In this way, I think these prosperity gospel folks are selling God short. He promises blessings that are far more valuable than health, money and friends. Though Jesus didn’t promise an easy or bountiful life, He promises so much more. Here is what He promises to you:

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The only true gospel of Jesus Christ will provide you with a peace that cannot be attained by anything material, a peace that money cannot buy.

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Finally, to all who believe in this “prosperity gospel” I say, as Paul said to the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-10)


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Is Democracy Dead in California?

…YES, if the California “democratic” legislature has its way. According to a recent article in the local newspaper, California Democratic legislatures have submitted a brief to the state Supreme Court, requesting that Proposition 8 be “tossed out.”

The people voted, and the majority said they are in favor of Proposition 8. But apparently our elected officials do not want to pay attention to the majority. The majority votes, but the minority rules? Is that what democracy is all about? It may be mundane, but I decided to check the dictionary…

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “democracy” as:

“a: government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”

In California the election may be free, but the outcome is not. And this proposal to overturn Proposition 8 is not the first time California elected officials have ignored the democratic process and overruled the will of the majority. And it won’t be the last, I suspect.

Where is this headed? If elected officials can get away with ignoring the will of the majority, what is the point in voting? What’s happening to our civil rights?

Democracy is the foundation of our constitution. Many in the California legislature are in direct violation of our constitutional rights. In an effort to stir up some comments, try this on for size: to those in the California senate and congress who signed the brief requesting that the state Supreme Court overturn democracy, I say; you should be charged with treason!

On this blog, I normally try to stay away from politics, unless it’s a topic that is also directly related to Christianity in some way. But when I see democracy being threatened, I just cannot stay quiet. I hope you also feel the need to speak up. Our freedom is in jeopardy.


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To those who claim God hates sinners – follow Jesus

There are many loud voices in the news who declare that God hates you, and me, and all kinds of other people. To them I say come, follow Jesus.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19:21

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Forgive others as God forgives us. In all things, do as Jesus did. Speak Gods words, not our own. Jesus being both God and human while He walked the earth; we will do well to speak as Jesus spoke while we still walk the earth. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is how we should act, feel and speak, if we are to truly follow Jesus.

And this brings me to what has been on my heart. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone that He hated them? He chastised people, to be sure. But He never once told someone He hated them. Nor did He tell anyone that God hated them. And neither should we!

To those who choose to proclaim that God hates sinners, please heed His warning:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

To all at the Westboro Baptist Church and to everyone else who believes in a God of hate, please honor your savior. I beg you to open your hearts and see the truth behind your actions. But don’t listen to me; listen to Jesus, and follow Jesus.


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The price has been paid

Two of the fundamental truths about the Old Testament are these: it contains God’s laws, and it clearly defines the punishments for breaking those laws. The Lord is a God of justice, and therefore there must be penalties for breaking His laws, and those penalties MUST be carried out, or there is no justice. This may be obvious to you, but I just want to establish this as the foundation for what comes next, so please bear with me as I continue to follow a particular train of thought.

Chapter 20 of Leviticus is one such declaration of God’s punishments. These punishments seem harsh to many modern-day “believers”, and many have difficulty accepting them because of that. Some find it hard to accept death as the penalty for so many acts that are unfortunately commonplace within our society. But this does not make these punishments un-real or not true, or any less mandatory. These punishments are real and true and must be carried out, in all cases, or there is no justice. There is no sin that has been or will be committed, where the prescribed punishment of God will be reprieved.

Yet, sometimes there appear to be pardons of sorts, within God’s own words. For example: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah, 44:22)

But through Isaiah, God later clarifies that He’s not talking about a true pardon; rather the penalty has been transferred to someone else…

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

“…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

God was talking about His only begotten son, who we know as Jesus Christ.

Yet many misunderstand what Jesus taught and the meaning of His sacrifice. It seems like some people think Jesus came to negate the law and prescribed punishments, and replace it with some milk-toast type of religion. Yet as He Himself stated:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:17) As Jesus stated, the law must be fulfilled, as it is written in the Old Testament.

Now look how perfect God’s plan is: God knows there are none without sin and all deserve death, yet God promised Noah He would not repeat that punishment of old. So how could God’s law be fulfilled, yet in a way that holds to God’s promise to Noah? As you may know, Jesus brought the answer…

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'” “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36)

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

God’s laws and punishments recorded in the Old Testament would be fulfilled and carried out, in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, for those who believe and who have asked forgiveness from God for their sins, the punishments have been lifted from their shoulders and loaded upon Jesus. Jesus bore upon Himself every death penalty, for every sin where God had prescribed death. Check out Leviticus chapter 20; that amounts to a lot of death penalties.

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Now that I’ve presented the facts according to God, I will proceed to the main reason I am writing today. There are many who choose to loudly condemn sinners, such as those at the Westboro Baptist Church, of whom I have written about before.

Their rampant condemnation of sinners appears to be a blatant disregard of Jesus Christ and an apparent refusal to accept and believe in His sacrifice. Condemning a sinner who may have repented is like telling Jesus He died for nothing.

But another alarming reality is this: those who attack and condemn sinners, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, seem to assume that a particular sinner has not repented; yet how would they know that? True repentance can only be between that person and God, and it is God alone who can judge whether or not the repentance is sincere and from the heart. By taking that responsibility for judgment upon themselves, those who condemn are trying to be God!!!

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Those who condemn sinners have sat themselves in the judges seat, yet we are called to be witnesses, not judges. As Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I fear for the souls of those at the Westboro Baptist Church, and others who share their hate. They appear to set themselves up as judges, against the will of their savior Jesus Christ. On top of that, they appear to ignore the cross; the fact that Jesus has already taken upon Himself the prescribed punishment for every sin, for every sinner who believes and who has repented. They appear to ignore the reality of Jesus Christ Himself!


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It doesn’t matter what California says, re: same-sex marriage

As I write this, the outcome may be inevitable, though the polls have yet to close. The votes for California proposition 8 are being cast, and the numbers against it may have already surpassed the threshold. But whatever the final outcome, it doesn’t matter. California may change their definition of marriage (if that’s how the votes tally), but they cannot change Gods definition.

I’ve made my decision and mailed in my ballot. The only other decision remaining to me is this: if the vote goes against Prop 8, which definition of marriage will I choose to honor, Gods or California’s.

As Peter boldly proclaimed when brought before the judges of his day, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19) I choose God.


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One final word about same-sex marriage – Calif. Prop. 8

God defined marriage…

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5)

Who are we to think we can change what God has established? Same-sex couples in California already have the same civil rights as married couples. But apparently that’s not enough. I’m not gay, but I am sympathetic. If I were deeply in love with someone of my own sex, I too would want to marry them. But that doesn’t make it right.

It’s never right to think we can overrule God. But tomorrow we will find out just how arrogant California really is.