Monday, September 25, 2006

Thank You to My Church

September 21, 2006

Dear Redeemer Family:

Last Sunday afternoon Linda reminded me that there was a baby shower at the church that we needed to go to. I had been taking a nap and, a bit groggy, got dressed and proceeded to the church.

When we pulled in the parking lot there were a lot of cars there. I said, “Wow, this is going to be a big shower!” Linda said, “There’s a big family here today.” Entering the church building, I went to the Fellowship Hall and saw tables and chairs set up and ready to go. But no people. Linda said, “Probably they are in the sanctuary doing some spiritual things.” OK.

Nobody in the lobby, either. Linda and I walked to the double doors. Wayne Harmon and Larry Poore thrust them open, and YOU were there standing and clapping… and looking… at me. I asked Linda, “What is this?” She took me down the center aisle, sat me in a chair right in front, next to her, her dad Del, my sons Josh and Dan, and Dan’s fiancĂ© Allie. I was a deer in the headlights. I had entered Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone.” I was Jim Carrey, stunned to find myself not in real life but on “The Truman Show.” Instead of being at a baby shower, I sat while ALL OF YOU watched slides of me as a baby, which is definitely NOT the kind of thing Scandinavian men like me flock to.

Now, 5 days later, I am feeling a bit emotional as I write this. How can I express my gratefulness FOR YOU? With all of my heart… THANK YOU for the entire evening, for the gifts, and for your presence there. I am a blessed man to have YOU as family. I thank God that He has given you to me. I thank God for His grace and mercy. It is now mediated, from Him, through you, to me.

Linda, Dan, Josh, Del, even our dog So-Fee, feel so blessed. So now I want to bless YOU.

I bless YOU to be a people who greatly advance the Kingdom of God
I bless YOU to be a righteous army that pushes back the kingdom of darkness
I bless YOU as healers to the sick
I bless YOU as deliverers of the oppressed
I bless YOU as raisers of the dead
I bless YOU as witnesses and proclaimers of the Real Jesus


Pastor John Piippo

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ben Witherington Against the "Prosperity Gospel"

Ben Witherington is one of our great New Testament scholars. Here is his response to the Time Magazine article on the "prosperity gospel."

This post includes Witherington's TOP TEN REASONS WHY GOD DOESN'T WANT YOU WEALTHY. I would qualify this a bit. I think God could give a Real Follower of Jesus ten cars, for example, if those ten cars were needed to advance the Kingdom of God, heal the sick, deliver the sppressed, raise the dead, and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. But then one would simply be a steward of the resources God entrusts you with.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Time Magazine on the "Prosperity Gospel"

The Time magazine that arrived today has the cover story "Does God Want You To be Rich?" The correct answer is: Wrong question. God wants "you" to advance His Kingdom on the earth, push back the kingdom of darkness, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, raise the dead, and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to others. If more money will allow you to do that, then God will provide. But for the Real Jesus it's all about the Kingdom; nothing more, nothing less.

The Time story begins with George Adams, who attends Joel Osteen's church. Adams believes that with God's assistance he will buy his "dream house." The article reads: ""Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle." "I'm dreaming big--because all of heaven is dreaming big," Adams continues. "Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us," he says. "But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It's Joel Osteen's ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?""

How sad. What a tiny vision this is. And, it is unbiblical. God wants to advance His Kingdom, not the kingdom of George Adams or any of us.

We read that, "In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money." Again, how sad. And, for followers of jesus, how disturbing. American Christians have lost touch with the Real Jesus. I agree that there are phenomenal blessings that come from being a Real Follower of Jesus. There's also possible martyrdom, which is said to be a great blessing as well ("Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake"). And if material blessing was so cool in God's eyes, then why did the Son of Man have no roof over his head while foxes at least have holes to live in?Just read Matthew, Mark, Luke and john. Read the actual words of Jesus about money. And, as you do, realize He is speaking to people who only have one-room homes and only have one cloak to wear, maybe two. The thought that Jesus would say such things to we in America is then stunning.

"The [Prosperity Gospel] movement's renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen's by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?""

I agree with Ben Witherington, who says that "we need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health--it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life's problems."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dallas Willard & the Real Jesus

Dallas Willard is one of today’s great communicators of the Real Jesus and Real Christianity. Willard has for some time been a Prof. of Philosophy at USC. Years ago, after reading Richard Foster’s A Celebration of Discipline, I read Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines – a great, deep book on spiritual transformation. today has two feature articles on Willard. One is a very interesting bio, and the other, by Cornelius Plantinga, is about spiritual transformation.

Here, e.g., is a juicy Willard quote from the bio article: "There is knowledge of God and the spiritual nature of man, as well as other types of reality (e.g. moral obligations) that are not reducible to the world dealt with by the so-called 'natural sciences.' The idea that knowledge—and, of course, reality—is limited to that world is the single most destructive idea on the stage of life today." Willard is a great scholar of German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. Like Husserl, "Willard believes that we can have direct experiences with the world that transcend cultural and linguistic barriers." Willard’s work, among other things, escorts us into the presence of God which transcednds such barriers and who is able to renovate our hearts.

Dallas Willard is an extremely valuable resource for all who are interested in the Real Jesus.