Category Archives: Heart Issues

blessed, favored and prosperous

Blessed, favored and prosperous.

Three words we (Christians) toss around loosely without understanding the oppressive pressure it places on people. We can thank a flawed prosperity theology for their misuse.

These are terms some Christians speak to each other without understanding they also carry a dangerously flawed perspective of the Christian life. I’ve been reading and meditating on the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and the three words as we have used them terribly deviate from the words of Jesus.

Some time ago, someone “spoke” those three words to me and they sounded like this:

“Gibby, you are currently in an oppressive situation with your job. You need to know that you are blessed and favored of God. He has released you to prosper financially in a new job. Then you will receive more blessing and favor.”

Let me say the person who spoke this believed and meant it. Sadly, as a prophetic type, I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. Honestly, my job is not oppressive. Like any workplace there are issues to deal with and overcome, but I don’t despise my job or my coworkers.

Three thoughts came to mind as I continued to ponder the “prophetic word”:

Blessing is deeper than stuff. My stuff does not determine whether I am blessed or not.

Favor is deeper than a job or status. My job does not determine whether God favors me or not.

Prospering is deeper than finances. My finances do not determine whether I am prospering or not.

None of those three words in their flawed meanings define me. I don’t always get this right because I usually get in my own way.  Still, I hope to find my identity in Christ Jesus and him alone.

My friend , Kevin Copeland, who is now with Jesus, said it best in a conversation we had on this issue:

I live in an area way too close to Houston, so I hear a lot of Christians talk about being blessed and highly favored of the Lord. You live close to Fort Worth, so I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. It doesn’t really take much to figure out that they equate “blessed” with “prosperity.” In fact, I know two people with “blessed” on their license tags. One drives a Cadillac and the other one a Jaguar. Oddly enough, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) And, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24) In addition, they equate “favor” with “popularity.” The way that it’s explained is that if someone has favor (popularity) among men, that it’s a direct result of them having favor with God. However, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23) And, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26) Kinda seems like Jesus and some of his followers are saying the exact opposite thing. Christians claim that the rich and popular are blessed and highly favored of God. Christ proclaimed the poor and those who are hated, excluded, reviled and spurned are blessed, favored and rewarded by God; while proclaiming woes to the rich and popular. Kind of sounds to me like Christ and some of his followers aren’t quite on the same page. Be careful pointing that out though, because you will lose your favor and become hated, excluded, reviled and spurned.

Working off of what I say above regarding being blessed and favored, how that has become synonymous with being rich and popular, and what Christ said about being rich and popular as opposed to being poor and unpopular; I would like to take this a step further. What do we so often use as metrics for success within churches? Money and popularity. I know you and I both have been to several conferences where more than one pastor has approached us and one of the first things out of their mouth is, “How many are you running on Sunday mornings at your church?” Based on what Jesus said about the rich and the popular in Luke 6:24 & 26, I’m not sure Jesus would use money and popularity as a good metric to measure the success or health of a church community. He might be more likely to shoot a warning in their direction based on this passage. Did I go a step too far?

I agree with Kevin’s thoughts and share his sentiment. Now, to be clear neither of us is saying you should go and sell everything, or that it’s wrong to have stuff. The issue is whether we have stuff or if it has a hold of us. The issue is also whether our stuff and status are used for the sake of God’s kingdom, or for our own agenda.

Sadly, many will be offended by this post and ignore the opportunity to examine themselves deeply. Many will hate, exclude, revile and spurn me. Consider this post the warning shot across the bow. Maybe it’s time we step into this issue a bit further.

Photo by La Casa Youth Ministry.

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:: break room chatter: released in Jesus name

[The names have been changed to protect the guilty and innocent]

This morning I tweeted the following:

Breakroom Chatter: Just overheard a lady on her cell say, “What the f**k do you mean you release me in Jesus name?!”

Yes, sir. It was an interesting moment in the history of our building’s break room. It definitely caught me off guard and I was just about to take a sip of my coffee. I had to leave the break room and shut the door in my office to break out into laughter. Imagine someone saying that with an East Texas twang. Yeah, it’ll make you laugh, but the rest of the story will make you upset.

Let me share a quote I posted yesterday to show you why the lady’s question is so significant:

“Bethel is the symbol of fellowship with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abram ‘pitched his tent’ between the two.” – Oswald Chambers

After I read that yesterday I spoke in a whisper, “Lord, show me how this is a reality in my world.” Yeah, the break room is that place where we can pitch our tent between our fellowship with God and interaction with the world. In missional terms it’s the third space. It’s the place where all our worlds mesh and collide. It’s where God reveals himself because we don’t expect Him to do so.

So the story continues. There was another lady who had been sitting with Marla at the time. This lady came by my office an hour later to explain what had happened and this is where the situation breaks my heart for the way some of us represent the church. She said, “I know you’re a Christian, so am I, and I just wanted to apologize for Marla’s expressiveness. She’s not a Christian, but do I care for her.” I told her there was no need for an apology because I could understand the frustration in the question. I’ve asked questions like that before. She went on to tell me the situation that caused the explosion and asked if I would pray for her to help Marla. Here is explanation, as per Marla, and it left me sad:

“Marla has a sister (Irene) who started going to a Pentecostal church after being saved six months ago. Irene’s pastor challenged all the people in the church to invite their family members to church for three Sunday’s in a row so they could get saved. When Marla didn’t show up again this past Sunday, Irene asked her pastor what to do about getting Marla in church. The pastor told Irene if Marla did want to come she needed to call her and ‘release her in Jesus name’ from her life because she would be a hindrance to her spiritual growth.”

Go ahead, scream out loud about how much this upsets you. It definitely upsets me, but it’s not unusual to hear these stories in this neck of the woods. Even so, it still breaks my heart because that is not the way of Christ, nor of his kingdom. I get a twitch in my spirit when people use “religious” or “Christianese” language with people who have no idea of its specific vernacular. So, where do I go from here with this situation? I make myself available to enter into a dialogue if it is afforded. I encourage. I love. I do my best to represent the incarnate Christ.

We can all learn from this situation. Many of us would have been easily offended by the language she used. Chances are we would immediately discount any opportunity to have a sensible dialogue with the likes of Marla. We make an immediate judgment of people without knowing the situation. I know because I do it often. Yet, the Spirit continues to remind me that I need to listen carefully when someone says, “What the f**k do you mean you release me in Jesus name?!”

Running that moment through my head still makes me laugh, but I can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a serious question with life changing answers. It may have been a lost opportunity for Marla’s sister, but her friend and I understood her angst and frustration. That’s a good thing. My hope is for there to be an update to this post with good news about reconciliation and redemption. Until then I leave you with a challenge from Isaiah:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV)

Have you ever had to “release someone in the name of Jesus” for the wrong reasons?

What does that even mean?

How do you handle stuff like that of Marla and her sister?

Have you pitched your tent in between God and the world?