Tag Archives: prosperity

Comfortable Grace

Manflu, a powerful disease.

I have heard very many, if not most, women that moan about how their significant other is a giant ball of baby when he gets sick. It’s true, when I have flu I’m completely useless. There’s that advert for some flu remedy with the background voice going “paaaaiiin, heeeaaaadache” and then the ad reveals it is actually some male ball of sick death in the bedroom crying out his symptoms to his wife. It’s a very funny ad, I think. The men scoff and deny the picture, while the women all nod their heads knowingly. I believe they secretly think it’s worse than the advert depicts. Anyway, so I think men do behave as if they are on the verge of death if they even consider any work. It’s like something came to enforce the ‘keeping the Sabbath holy’ on pain of death. But, here’s the thing. We behave like we are about to die because we are about to die. Men are stronger than women, and our immune systems are just that much stronger again, so for a bug to defeat us, it must be one heck of a super bug. It’s so powerful it doesn’t bother with the weaker adversary that is women, it just goes for the worthy foe, man. So while women get lady flu, and it is by all means bad and what not. Men get MAN flu and that is just so much worse, we behave like we are sicker because we are. The tricky thing about this is that you have to be a man to experience it. It’s about experience, not about argument. It’s not a chauvinist thing either, even though it’s really well disguised as one. It’s a matter of fact, like the fact that men are just uglier than women. Below is the proof, 2 pictures: Normal Lady Flu.

Lady virus

Lady virus bug

 Man Flu death

Please note the tactical nukes

Please note the tactical nukes

Why mention all this deep truth and biological wisdom? Man (-kind, humans, people, us) encounters a tiny, tiny bug, and there are visible signs. Verbosity of discomfort increases exponentially, noses run, stumbling about due to dizziness and tiredness occurs, throats are sore, ears ache, and there’s the coughing up of all manner of unspeakable things.

Slimer (you remember the ghost busters?) is not actually a ghost, he is the product of manflu, just so you know

So, this most long and windiest of points is that you have visible symptoms of this encounter with something tiny. Influenza brings about symptoms, I cannot claim to have it and twinkle about as if all is well and I can actually smell the roses… or anything. If I did, you would call me a liar (or possibly accuse me of only having lady flu). In the same way, Christianity is not some kind of intellectual assent to a series of questions. I don’t believe that salvation is man looking ‘up’, seeing the creator, the God of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and all that, and going “yah, ok, I’ll believe in you” and then just going about his daily life as if nothing was different. Or even doing all of the above and behaving as if nothing was different except for the expectation that blessing should now fall abundantly on said persons head. “But, now I believe in Father Christmas, I should get stuff!”

The previous blog post was about our unwarranted, and ‘unworkable for’, salvation. That it is only by grace, there is nothing we did, or can do to merit Gods love, or somehow increase it. However, in a similar fashion I don’t think it’s possible to have any kind of revelation along these lines and to remain the same. There are going to be symptoms of this salvation. It only makes sense that there will be. Many will be intangible, or complicatedly quantifiable by third parties. In other words other people don’t have any right to point at you and proclaim salvation or no salvation because they don’t see the things they expect. No one has the power or the authority to proclaim a man saved except God. However, scripture blatantly says to us that we should examine ourselves, test to see whether we have any kind of assurance of the proclamation of salvation. In many places scripture then gives us a mirror with which to introspect. Are these things true in your life, can you say that these things are happening and growing? If the answer is yes, then your assurance is great, if the answer is no then I would say that you should be seeking the answer as to why it is not the case.

When many preachers talk about these ‘evidences of salvation’ many people start to cry legalism. But it isn’t about doing those things to get salvation, it is about seeing those things happening in greater and greater measure and getting greater and greater assurance of being under Grace. This implies that there is no effort required, but I don’t think that is the case either. Often, the greatest evidence for me is a change of desire, you desire your sinful act, after being given the revelation of Jesus your desire changes. You no longer love the sin, you hate it. You genuinely do not want to commit the sin that once you might have secretly wanted to commit, while outwardly claiming not to want it. Then as we grow, we are sanctified in greater and greater measure and more and more things are revealed to us. I dislike the rather common preaching which essentially says that it doesn’t matter what you do in your life, if you said that magic mantra at any point in your life, you have been saved. Scripture does not teach this, it teaches self-examination, it teaches that those who hold firm to the end will be saved. It teaches that Grace is a free unwarranted gift, but this Gift brings about a new nature. A new creation, God has begun a work. This work has tangible effects! You cannot be the recipient of this free gift and not experience a fundamental change. The person that claims he is saved but is comfortable in his sins, that is not driven, encouraged and disciplined by the Holy Spirit needs to start to wonder why this is the case. Scripture would not teach that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves if this were not the case. If there is no discipline in a child’s life when they do things wrong, then you can say that they have derelict parents. God is not a derelict parent, you will fall under his loving discipline.

You will note the lack of specific scriptural reference, in this post, that is intentional. You must go and do the work, find the things in scripture that I claimed were there.

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My comfortable money

It’s all about the money.

I don’t necessarily want to go into prosperity doctrine and how I dislike the whole idea, but obviously with a topic like this, there are going to be a few encounters.

So, we have a few words which easily attach themselves to the word ‘crisis’;

  • Oil
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Food
  • Environmental

 There are quite a few alternative sources for fuel and energy, things that are sustainable and won’t throw us completely off balance in another area as we are doing now. For instance, the increase in energy demand can be met by more burning of old dinosaurs thereby lessening the energy worries but increasing the weight applied to the word crisis in ‘environmental crisis’. This is not sustainable, not because it is not financially sustainable, it is really the most sustainable choice if we like thinking short term and as a species we have shown a propensity for very little else. It is not sustainable from an environmental perspective. The patently obvious reason for un-sustainability is the environment. Anthropogenic climate change is not really a disputed topic anymore; it has become an accepted occurrence. Well, it is not disputed in the same way that the moon landings are not a disputed occurrence…

The more we consume, the more energy we use, the more we affect the climate. A phrase that is often used is “save the planet” however, it isn’t really the planet that needs saving. The planet could go on for quite some time, it’s the humans on the planet that will be in for a rather hard time. 

 So, we have these crisii (I can hear the screams of anger over my Latin abuse already) which when you get right down to it, are only there because the methods of solving them are expensive. I believe the detestable term to be “not economically viable at this time”. We are in a financial crisis but not in the way most expect. The mad rush for a monetary return for any service rendered is the real crisis. It’s far more complicated than that, granted. Affluent countries can’t just burst on the scene in the third world and install all kinds of water purification and magic crop growers free of charge because someone will want to take control of it, so they can make money, this usually involves a lot of shooting and dying. Handing freebies around also doesn’t really solve that many problems. You have the genuinely needy, the ones that would work and contribute if they could, but can’t. Freebies for them, to help them out are good. But then you get the others, the bottom feeders that could contribute, but it is easier to look and act helpless and just hold out hands for all the freebies. The problems are numerous, and yet the root cause is money, the passionate love of money. 

Millions will die rather horrible deaths, which are avoidable, because it is not economically viable at this point to do anything about it. Now this is where my christianese comes in, and this is where it conflicts with the financial prosperity doctrine most often preached. I can’t see how God wants me to have all the best stuff, and lots of it, which costs a lot, and takes a lot of energy to produce. I can’t see how he wants me to drive the best car, because firstly the ‘best’ cars are most impactful on the environment because of manufacturing cost and secondly because of their consumption of oil. I would concede that perhaps he does want me to have a fancy car or ridiculously large house, but if this is really the case then I think I would get that, without having to pay it off every month in huge instalments. 

The thing is that things like happiness and a prosperous life are definitions rather coloured by our culture. Everyone says that money doesn’t buy happiness, but we chase after it anyway. Indicating that the statement is made with absolutely no confidence and rather that it’s an untrue statement. A prosperous life therefore has to include money. If we are not financially prosperous, and showing it, then there must be something wrong. I mentioned a life of abundance in a previous blog post, I believe that definition is biblically accurate. Our financial and material prosperity by means of exorbitant interest rates and instalment sale agreements means that we are unable to help those around us. I’m not talking the unnamed masses, I am talking about the families in our churches, or social circles that are genuinely struggling. You can’t help them because we need to fit tyres onto our ‘blessings’ and ‘necessities’.

Define Necessity

Define Necessity

We can only pay our domestic workers a minimum wage because our 6 figure cars need paying off. Our cars often cost us monthly what many people earn in half a year! There are all kinds of issues surrounding paying your domestic a liveable wage. What happens if you move, that person must now go from earning R3000 or R4000 from her generous employer back to minimum wage, which causes all kinds of problems. So the solution is not a quick fix, it’s not sufficient to just decide to up the salary, it needs to be a rather large cultural and social change. But don’t let that be an excuse, you can still make a difference in a real way, by just being a little less material focussed.

Perhaps the problem is less money and more selfishness. I want, I need, give it to me now. Money is just a means to fulfil self. 

Anyway, zooming back out from the terrible desire to have all the nice stuff to the bigger and uglier picture. I believe we are at a place technologically where so many of the worlds crisii (there’s the screaming again) could be solved, if not for that little horrible phrase mentioned earlier. So, sorry most of the global population, sorry fellow countrymen, sorry neighbours and family members… We see you are struggling, and we would like to help it’s just that. 

It’s not financially viable at this time

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Comfortably Christian

“We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn that it is God shaking them.”
– Charles West (brought to my attention by Jonathan Barton)

To be comfortable and happy is nice. Though, not only is it nice, it is necessary. Our cars, TV’s couches and houses are there out of necessity, and it is necessary to upgrade them the moment we can afford to. This is necessary, and I can prove it because the majority of our lives are spent acquiring these things with passion and zeal. It is not an option to downgrade, to go backwards. If we can afford it, or more commonly, if we can afford the debt then the answer is to buy it. Our comfort and happiness is the most important thing. It is more important than family, it must be, because we spend more time getting and using items of comfort and happiness than we spend with family. I do not count watching TV as time spent with family, this is not quality time in any way shape or form. Our colossal drive and focus on comfort permeates everything. The easiest way to get people to give money to something is to show some disturbing pictures, plead and preach on the suffering of children and generally make people uncomfortable. What we do then is reach into our wallets, give money and use this to plaster over the feelings of discomfort. Or, if we are lucky we get an email about it, which we can then just forward to everyone in our address books, believing, or trying to believe, the bottom of the mails admonishment not to deny Jesus lest he deny us, and if we forward this mail to EVERYONE we know that somehow it will make a difference. At least it will raise awareness. So we click forward, make a mental note to find out how to give some cash to this plight and promptly forget about it. 

This drive for comfort has even permeated our religion. Christians, you need to be comfortable and happy the bible seems to be telling us. God wants you to have all the best that the world can offer. After all, Jesus came to give life, and life in abundance (to the full) did he not? Are the streets of heaven not paved with Gold? Jesus was our example, but only in a super spiritual sense, the fact that he was a materialistically poor man is not for us. It is not for us that the first example of a church was so ridiculously generous and selfless with their possessions that they went so far as to sell their property for their belief. We hear a lot of preaching on how we can be better people, more moral people, better fathers, husbands, mothers and wives. We have an incredibly popular and world renowned Pastor/preacher/minister who claims the bible can teach everyone, no matter what religion they are from, to have better lives, to live better lives and that this is the POINT of it all. The underlying idea seems to be that we must be comfortable and we must not disturb anyone else’s comfort. We must live this moral life, through this we will be blessed and happy (with stuff probably) and “holy” and as a RESULT, lost people will come to us to ask about how it is we are so happy and blessed and “holy”. I don’t see that example anywhere in scripture, with exception of some of the people coming to Jesus, the prostitute and the rich man as examples. But this is not taught with the purpose of making it a style of life. The people coming to Jesus were a result of the actions that lead Jesus to be crucified, not a result of living as inoffensively as possible. Jesus wasn’t walking around trying to make everyone comfortable. He trod on toes, gave the really hard and, oft times, offensive answers. Even to the broken and contrite heart, like the prostitute, “go and sin no more” there was only forgiveness and grace, but I still think “sin no more” is quite the heavy challenge. Please don’t think that I am implying we must charge about trying to offend everyone we can. What I am saying is that Jesus told the truth, and the truth is offensive to many people. It has to be, if it was not the case, then the Son of God telling the truth would not have been so hated, and many of the people that sat at his feet would not have been martyred horribly. If it was a comfortable, inoffensive truth then I don’t think Jesus would have warned his disciples that they would be despised and hated because of his name. 

I think to some extent we start to feel nervous about our comfort, and so we seek a church service that will challenge us in some way. We seek this difficult knowledge so that we feel fed and challenged, too feel comfortable about our comfort, but that is where it stops. That knowledge never bears fruit in obedience. Even in the simple area of finance, your own PERSONAL money… not talking about giving it away, talking about how you spend it on yourself. Trust the lord we say, “Jehovah my provider” is the wondrous cry… yet the fruit of obedience in most lives seems to imply we are saying, Jehovah Jireh, my provider of banks and credit cards and debt.

Relying on God in times of trouble is uncomfortable and difficult, relying on the wonderful system of loans and interest is comfortable, not only that, it allows us to buy what we want, when we want it. And surely it is ok, because God has blessed us with the means with which to afford all this crushing debt? 

Seeking to be comfortable is quite possibly opposed to seeking a deeper relationship with God. I can only see a pattern of greater and greater “discomfort” for the examples no one can argue with as to whether they were truly Christian or not. The weird and utterly bizarre thing, by the worlds measure, is that these examples not only started being exposed to this “discomfort” because of their passionate seeking of relationship with Jesus they seemed to embrace it and be completely joyful about it. They drew encouragement because of the “discomfort”.

Acting in obedience to the promptings of God in the true believers life often results in some discomfort and persecution.

Perhaps the streets of heaven are paved with gold because gold has so little worth in heaven. So why seek gold, and the things that gold can buy here on earth? If you do not desire to seek and spend time with God and his children here on earth, worshipping him and speaking about him and learning more about him, Why would you want to go to heaven? Learning more about the living God, I think, will be the primary activity in heaven and it excites to a greater and greater extent the truly regenerate Christian. So why keep silent about your belief, which will very likely offend many people. The comfort that the world offers of stuff and inoffensiveness brings, demonstrably, a greater sense of discontent. The discomfort that God offers, through relationship with him, brings a greater sense of joy and encouragement. I believe that this is the life of abundance, that this is what life to the full is.

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