Just when I was getting ready to send out invitations to my reflections on the year 2007 “Pity Party”, I was led to read the Apostle Paul’s list of the woes he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11. Before my invitations made it to the printer, I canceled the order because my “party” was definitely not worth attending. Reflecting upon the year now ending in light of what Paul endured on a regular basis makes my year look like a vacation in Tahiti. I have quickly revised my opinion of 2007 and instead of it being one of the most difficult years of my life; it is now classified as one of the most “interesting” years I have lived.
When Paul was breathing out threatening to the believers, he would have had ample reason to be hated and hunted like an animal. But, many years after his conversion, he was now a pillar of the church and in charge of world-wide outreach. He spent most of his time traveling to new locations where he shared the Gospel and worked to establish new churches. The rest of his time was spent going back to previously visited areas to strengthen the disciples. This was all in addition to his journeys to Jerusalem to attend Feasts and meet with the heads of the Church occasionally.
Because Paul had turned on his Jewish friends and upbringing, he was despised and rejected by the unbelieving Jews wherever he went. Their hatred was not limited to scathing criticisms of his doctrine, but also outlandish lies regarding his personal life and character. When all else failed, they acted as common thugs and beat him senseless. Hatred spurs people to do horrific things to other people. Hatred , envy and jealousy are the biggest motives behind assassinations, “mob hits” and gang violence. The Jews hated Paul more than any other Christian on earth.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul lays out a sampling of what he had endured for the Gospel’s sake:
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool), I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
Paul lived most of his life in a constant state of danger, which is what the word “peril” means in verse 26. Keep in mind that Paul wrote this epistle around A.D. 54 or 55 and the final epistle he wrote, 2 Timothy, wasn’t written until A.D. 66 directly before his death. In those 11 or 12 years he endured even worse dangers than what he wrote about to the Corinthians. All the things written in Acts after chapter 19 came after this discourse.
Some have said this section in 2 Corinthians shows Paul to be a cranky old man who was complaining to others about all his woes. Perhaps this is correct, but until another person can honestly say they have endured all the things Paul had to go through, they have no right to criticize or condemn Paul for trumpeting his ordeals. Besides, God allowed this section to be in His Word for a reason, and that is to show what someone who really takes a stand for God and His Word must expect.
Paul never won any popularity contests nor did he want to. He was perhaps one of the boldest men who ever lived and when he shared the Gospel and when he shared his heart it was done holding nothing back and with every ounce of honesty in his soul. His enemies did not like hearing the truth and being the cowards that they were; they sought constantly to silence him and his message. Does this sound familiar? It is the exact same thing these people’s parents did with Jesus Christ. They hated his message and plotted and schemed to silence him forever.
In the Old Testament God gave ample promises of physical prosperity and financial success. That is all His people had available to them for the Messiah had not yet come. With the coming of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament physical promises were replaced with the exceeding great and precious promises we have in Christ Jesus. The New Testament is full of SPIRITUAL promises NOT physical ones. God no longer needs His people to be financially rich for they are now blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
I know I am going to catch all sorts of criticism for saying this; but the time has come for me to tell the truth concerning what is destroying the Church in not only America but the entire Western world. Whoever invented the “prosperity gospel” certainly did not get such revelation from God. Nothing has done more damage to the truth than the blatant lie that Christians are supposed to be wealthy and be making millions of dollars so they and their families can live in the lap of luxury. This is a lie straight from the heart of the devil and it is destroying the true church.
Paul tried to confront this error in 1Timothy 6 and again in 2 Timothy 2. Jesus confronted the whole subject of covetousness and tried to show by his example how God wanted His people to live. This false gospel that teaches believers to consciously seek to become rich under the guise of then having more to give to the church is insane. All this amounts to is a doctrine intended to put more money via tithes and offerings into the pockets of corrupt religious leaders who need a bigger house or to put kids through college.
READ THE New Testament and find any references to the kind of financial prosperity found in the Old Testament. They are not there, and it is because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The top heavy ecclesiastical and hierarchal manner in which many churches are administered has opened the door to those in positions of leadership to exercise spiritual extortion over their congregations by threatening them with eternal punishment if they do not give more to the church. WOE unto those who lay this fear of Godly condemnation on the backs of innocent people who only want to do what is right before God.
I am sick and tired of seeing “ministers” steal from their congregations. I have grown weary of mega-churches taking in millions of dollars per week and spending millions of dollars per week on their own needs and salaries. I am very tired of watching the endless parade of people in long flowing robes tell the poor and downtrodden masses that they are not giving enough to the church when the people are already giving more than they have to give.
Where was the church after Katrina ruined the United States Gulf Coast? Many churches rushed to help and are still there helping. JUST AS MANY churches never sent a dime or one volunteer to help out. No way were they going to sacrifice any of the money needed for local church functions and clergy salaries to help an area devastated beyond comprehension. I personally saw hundreds of destroyed churches in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. In most cases, the pastor waited many months, and in some cases is still waiting, for someone to come and help them rebuild.
I have grown weary of the hypocrisy that runs rampant in so many American churches. I am tired of seeing believers sit back and watch unbelievers manifest more love than they do. I am so very tired of hearing all the rationalizations as to why individual believers and churches cannot reach out to help anyone besides themselves. I am so tired of seeing most church budgets reflect on average maybe 2% of their income going to Missions and other benevolent programs.
Yes, I am full of righteous indignation over the subject of where and how the church spends its money. I am mad at the lies being palmed off as truth in the realm of where the offerings are spent. I am angry at fellow-clergymen who see no problem in stealing the offerings of their congregations for personal luxuries and to support sins of the flesh. My heart is full of disgust whenever I read of yet another ministry going down the tubes because of the outlandish abuse of either money or people within the organization.
The Lord needs His Church to be honest and upright not to be as corrupt as the world. God needs His people to rise up as a mighty army and demand accountability on the part of “holier than thou” religious leaders who get away with crimes under the pretense of religious privilege. Woe to those who hide behind their robes and titles while committing unspeakable offences that even the world blushes at.
Yes, when I publish my reflections of the year now ending, I will not complain about any of the things that befell me this year. I count it all joy to suffer the consequences of daring to speak the truth in love. I have been censored before and I am sure I will be again. I have been threatened before and I expect to be threatened again. My life is not my own, I have been bought with a price. Anything I can do or give in this life for others reflects the very reason my Savior died for me. He gave His life so I can give mine.
HE GAVE HIS LIFE SO I CAN GIVE MINE. HE GAVE HIS LIFE SO I CAN GIVE MINE. There, I said what was on my mind. Let there be no question and no doubt as to how I feel about certain matters. I judge no man, but I do hold men and women accountable for their words and actions when they are injurious to God’s people and are for selfish gain. Please, before picking up stones to cast at me for writing this, stop and realize that it would not have been inspired to be written if it were not needed to be said.
HE GAVE HIS LIFE SO I CAN GIVE MINE. That is the message that needs to be shouted in this new year. No more of the “what’s in it for me” attitudes that have ruined Christianity. Jesus did not give his life so believers can be wealthy, live in mansions and sit around the pool all day getting a nice tan. He did not give his life so believers can look at their bank accounts and glory in the millions of dollars being stockpiled for a future life of ease. Jesus did not give his life so that those who supposedly represent Him as ministers could lie, cheat and steal from their congregations. Jesus gave his life so believers can have the joy and the ability to GIVE THEIR LIVES ALSO.
Paul suffered dearly for telling the truth; yet it did not stop him from telling it some more. Unless someone stands up and holds the current crop of religious leaders accountable for their words and actions as Jesus did with the Pharisees and scribes; the church will continue to sink into a state of being a meaningless factor in our society and a horrible failure regarding its very purpose. Let the truth ring loud and clear in 2008.