Monday, March 23, 2015


The prosperity gospel is a parasite that is eating the soul out of the church.  Found this on the TGC site . . .

I have a confession. 
When I was in college, I read a book by a prominent megachurch pastor. The author told me to live like a child of God. He told me God wanted to bless me. He also mentioned that if I only believed, God would give me the nicest house in the neighborhood. That seemed to make sense.

The author explained that he once wanted the nicest house in the neighborhood, and God gave it to him. Here was a man with evidence. Not only did he have the story about the house, and other anecdotes, he also had a very nice set of white teeth (Ah, supernaturally white, I thought). 
This was my first introduction to what is popularly called the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth” gospel. At the time, the logic seemed airtight: “If it worked for him, why shouldn’t it work for me?” 
If I had dug a bit deeper, though, I would have seen the actual reason it worked for him and not for me. It’s because the prosperity gospel is a pyramid scheme. 

What’s a Pyramid Scheme?

Here’s how pyramid schemes work.
Step One: A snazzy entrepreneur wants to make a lot of money. Said snazzy entrepreneur tells two little old ladies that if they sell his “Wow-What-A-Sham 3000,” they can make some dough to pay off their cat-sitting bills. That will cost them a startup investment of $401.76. And yes, Wow-What-A-Sham 3000 is a gimmick. But that’s okay, it’s not really about selling the product anyway; it’s about recruiting more salespeople.
Step Two: These two little old ladies recruit more little old ladies, and give them the same spiel. 
Step Three: At some point, people realize no one wants to buy the Wow-What-A-Sham 3000, and no one is actually selling any Wow-What-A-Sham 3000s. All the buy-in money is funneling straight up to the top. Meanwhile, snazzy entrepreneur is up in his office, cackling, and swimming in wads of cash.
That’s a pyramid scheme. 

3 Ways the Health and Wealth Gospel Fits the Pyramid Scheme

What does this description have to do with the book by the prosperity pastor? Everything. Because the prosperity gospel is strikingly similar to a pyramid scheme in at least three ways.
1. It’s based on the deceptive success of the guy at the top. 
I was bamboozled by the prosperity pastor’s ploy in the same way people are fooled by pyramid schemes. They see the success of the guy at the top, and think: It’s working for him, isn’t it? 
Yes, it is. And that’s because someone paid for that pastor’s house. Me. I paid, when I bought the book. So do millions of others, when they bring truckloads of seed-money to his doorstep each weekend. The people who fund the prosperity pastor’s success, in other words, are the people at the bottom of the pyramidOf course it works for him. He’s at the top.
2. It’s a lie told to desperate people. 
Like a pyramid scheme, the health-and-wealth gospel feeds on the down and out. My friend Vallerian Mganga tells me that in Kenya, the health-and-wealth message is the only version of Christianity most people ever hear. My father-in-law, who mentors prisoners, tells me that he runs into this teaching routinely in the prison system. Why? Because the health-and-wealth gospel preys on people desperate for relief. 
Missiologist Paul Borthwick tells of a trip to Ghana, where he witnessed a 300-pound preacher appeal to his body as proof that God had blessed him, and would bless his listener’s seed-money as well. “When you live in poverty” the missionary with Borthwick said, “you don't want to feel loved. You want God's power to make you prosper. . . . [T]hey have been taught [that] money is the way to release the power.” 
The prosperity gospel isn’t just bad theology. It’s a form of oppression.
3. It feeds our idolatry. 
Like the pyramid scheme, the prosperity gospel doesn’t necessarily require financially desperate people. It just needs people who are sufficiently idolatrous. We don’t fall for pyramid schemes because we’re stupid. We fall for them because we want to fall for them. We want the money, health, and esteem they offer—and we want it quick. We want to believe it can all happen with the flick of a “faith” switch in our brains. We want it desperately. 
I’ll never forget the time I challenged my friend’s health-and-wealth notions with the life of the apostle Paul. She replied, “Well, Paul didn’t have enough faith.” That’s what pyramid schemes do: they compel us with our idols. Then they blind us to anything—no matter how obvious—that tells us we’re being conned.

Real Promises of Jesus

Don’t get me wrong: I believe wholeheartedly God wants to bless me. I believe God favors me. I believe he wants me to have the best possible life. But I also believe the good news of Jesus is far better than the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel climbs over people; Jesus descends to pick us up. The prosperity gospel oppresses the poor; Jesus identifies with the destitute. The prosperity gospel fuels our idol factories; Jesus smashes them with a vision of his glory.
The truly good news is this: Jesus’s dreams for us are weightier than the pursuit of health, wealth, and personal success. Jesus doesn’t offer self-esteem; he offers the esteem of God when we give up self-estimation (Matt. 5:3). He doesn’t offer positivity; he offers God’s profound comfort when we’re brokenhearted by sin (Matt. 5:4). He doesn’t offer the nicest house in the neighborhood; he offers hope in the resurrection when we forego personal power (Matt. 5:5). And he doesn’t offer “supernatural favor” from others, but instead offers God’s eternal favor when we’re despised on his account (Matt. 5:10-12).
In short: Jesus is a better God, a weightier God. He’s not a huckster standing on the top of the pile promising us worldly wealth. He’s a God who climbs down to the bottom of the pyramid. He lays himself flat in the dust and stretches out his arms at the cross, where health, wealth, and abundance are nowhere in sight, and he offers us his riches.
Nicholas McDonald is associate pastor at Carlisle Congregational Church, and is completing his MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is author of the forthcoming book, Faker (The Good Book Company, 2015), and blogs on art, culture, writing, and Christianity

Friday, March 20, 2015


Found this on the TGC site about youth ministry . . .
As a youth pastor and Christian parent, one consideration tends to dominate my mindset: am I fostering sustainable faith in Christ in my students and children? I have a limited season of special influence within these relationships, and I want to do everything within my power to cultivate enduring Christian faith. 
At the 2013 Rooted Conference, Jared Wilson opened with a penetrating question: will my children be prepared to suffer? Jesus guarantees that all Christians will encounter tribulation (John 16:33). Consequently, a critical aspect of youth discipleship involves anticipating the tragedy that awaits our children and training students in such a way that they can walk through suffering while trusting God and his goodness.

Worst Nightmare 

My theoretical rumination about preparing kids to suffer became far more personal near the end of 2013. I often worried about whether I was prepared to suffer. As a white American male from an upper class family, my life had been relatively easy, and I feared that one day something awful would happen that would shatter my faith. What would happen, if I, a person who had led hundreds of students during a 10-year youth ministry, walked away from Christ? What was bad enough to demolish my faith? 
My imagination would take me to places of utter doom as I considered the worst things that ever could happen to me. The journey always arrived at the same place, the potential death of my son. 
In November 2013, my worst nightmare came true. My wife found my 3-year-old son dead in his bed one morning. He went to sleep and never woke up. His death was classified as SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood), which is a medical term for “we have absolutely no clue how this perfectly health child suddenly died in his sleep.” 
While I expected such an event to annihilate my faith in Christ, I’ve found the opposite to be true, as the Lord has sustained my soul in the intensely dark months of sorrow that have followed his passing. God’s truth, which flows out of Scripture, has reassured me of his goodness. His Spirit has sustained me by his grace. I am a usually sad but often hopeful, joyful person who loves Jesus. 

This I Call to Mind

My consideration of how to prepare young people for suffering now has become both theoretical and experiential. For a decade I have studied, on behalf of my students, what Scripture says about surviving suffering. For the past year, I have analyzed how the Lord prepared me to survive and thrive while living in the excruciating sadness of my child’s death. But the one thing students need the most is something often underemphasized in youth ministry.
It bears saying that teaching doctrine does not constitute the trendiest fad in youth ministry. I recently read an article by a youth ministry leader who downplayed the importance of training kids with doctrine, as he sided with the greater value of experience over knowledge. And recent studies point to an alarming lack of basic doctrinal knowledge among students in youth ministry. In their College Transition Project, a Fuller Youth Institute research team led by Kara Powell and Chap Clark found that 35 percent of students did not mention Jesus in their definition of the gospel. Jen Bradbury’s national study of teen Christology, published in her recently released book, The Jesus Gap, discovered that only 44 percent of students surveyed believed that Jesus is God. In that same study, only 9 percent of participants earned perfect scores on a quiz of seven basic questions about Jesus, such as his divinity, humanity, sinlessness, resurrection, and so on.
To be sure, teaching students biblical doctrine can appear academic. Some youth pastors (like me) are tempted to validate their ministry by training kids who can give the right answers, regardless of whether they are actually repenting and trusting in Jesus. 
But as someone who continues wade through dark, foggy waters that feel like hell on earth, God continues to renew my hope by his truth. As Jeremiah said while recalling the horrors and atrocities of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, 
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end. (Jer. 3:21-22)
Time and time again, God has spoken his truth to me through his Word in such a way that has renewed my trust in Jesus and given me hope to carry on. 

What Helps the Most

I can say from the pit of deep darkness that most often the really unpopular and repellant truths of Scripture have been some of the ones that preserved me the most. 
In an individualistic society, the last thing you think kids want to hear is that God made you for his glory; your happiness and comfort subordinate to what will most magnify Christ and his kingdom. In reality, knowing that my child’s death and my season of suffering have deeper implications related to God’s redemption of the world have given me something to get out of bed for, when rising in the morning is the last thing I wanted to do.
Nobody likes to talk about full wages of sin apart from God’s mercy. Teaching the wrath due to sinners isn’t exactly cotton candy. However, remembering wrath and judgment, which I deserve and from which Jesus has rescued me, has protected me from bitterness and entitlement along the way. 
Proclaiming God’s sovereignty in all circumstances tends to provoke difficult questions from students. Knowing that my child’s death was not a random, accidental surprise to God assures me that the Lord remains fully in control of my redemption and healing in my grief. 

Best Way to Teach

In my youth ministry experience, I have found that the best way to tackle the hard truths is simply to teach exegetically through entire books of the Bible. Given the choice, most of us would love to bounce around from Romans 8 to John 10 and over to Galatians 2 and Revelation 21. It would be tempting to let Romans 9, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Luke 16 sit out a few plays at small group. But dodging the difficult texts robs us of the opportunity to prepare students for the suffering that certainly awaits them. 
May God help us to teach the Scriptures completely and accurately with the hope that the seeds of truth planted may grow into foundations of hope and assurance when the day of suffering comes.

Editors’ note: Cameron Cole will lead a workshop at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in April, along with David Plant (Redeemer Presbyterian Church) and Jon Nielson (College Church), on the topic of ”Stumbling Blocks: Preparing Students for Life in a Fallen World.” Cole and Nielson are also co-editing a book—Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (Crossway)—to which Plant is a contributor.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Task of Preaching

I started a DMin program this year and am reading through a plethora of books on preaching.  Most are not the types of preaching books I would be drawn to or naturally read so it is an exercise in discipline to read them at times.  I am learning though, especially to slow down in my own preparation and using my imagination to think through the text rather than just exercising the left side of my brain.  Here is another great quote by Thomas long in the book, Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible.  It illustrates the power of metaphors and illustrations to communicate truth.  
The biblical text is like a stone tossed into a pond.  Its immediate impact is felt where is falls - the historical situation into which it originally landed - but this impact creates ripples which flow in time across the surface.  As the ripples move away from the center in ever-expanding circles, their motion is impelled by the original event of the text, but their shape is altered as they strike objects in the water and blend with other waves.  The task of preaching is not merely to recover the text's original breaking of the surface but to express what happens when one of the ripples sent forth by that text crosses our spot in the pond.    

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Difference Between the Gospels and the Epistles

If it is true that the identity of the church's Lord was disclosed most clearly in the Gospel, it is also the case that the character of the church's life was shaped most tangibly by the letter (epistle). ~ Thomas Long, Preaching and The Literary Forms of the Bible.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Let His Kids Use iPads (And Why You Shouldn’t Either)

Here is an insightful article by  Sarah Lesnar I found here.   I have a concern over the long term use of electronics have on the way we think and read and relate to each other socially.  There is lots of material coming out about this issue. ~ David

If you fall within the Gen-Y era like us, chances are you’ve given a bunch of thought as to how you would raise your own children in this day and age (assuming you don’t have children already). Especially with technology, so much has changed since our childhoods in the 90s. Here’s one question: Would you introduce the technological wonder/heroin that is the iPod and iPad to your kids? Steve Jobs wouldn’t, and for good reason too. In a Sunday article, New York Times reporter Nick Bilton said he once assumingly asked Jobs, “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Especially in Silicon Valley, there is actually a trend of tech execs and engineers who shield their kids from technology. They even send their kids to non-tech schools like the Waldorf School in Los Altos, where computers aren’t found anywhere because they only focus on hands-on learning. There is a quote that was highlighted in The Times by Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and a father of five. He explains what drives those who work in tech to keep it from their kids. “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules…  That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.” If our current addictions to our iPhones and other tech is any indication, we may be setting up our children for incomplete, handicapped lives devoid of imagination, creativity and wonder when we hook them onto technology at an early age. We were the last generation to play outside precisely because we didn’t have smartphones and laptops. We learned from movement, hands-on interaction, and we absorbed information through books and socialization with other humans as opposed to a Google search. Learning in different ways has helped us become more well-rounded individuals — so, should we be more worried that we are robbing our children of the ability to Snapchat and play “Candy Crush” all day if we don’t hand them a smartphone, or should we more worried that we would be robbing them of a healthier, less dependent development if we do hand them a smartphone? I think Steve Jobs had it right in regard to his kids. So the next time you think about how you will raise your kids, you may want to (highly) consider not giving them whatever fancy tech we’ll have while they are growing up. Play outside with them and surround them with nature; they might hate you, but they will absolutely thank you for it later, because I’m willing to bet that’s exactly how many of us feel about it now that we are older.

Read more at:

Lighten Your Load

Theology or thinking biblically gets a bad rap among some of those who claim to follow Christ. To say that you believe in Jesus Christ is to make a theological statement! Here is a great example of thinking biblically about our sin can indeed lighten the load we too often needlessly carry around! Read and rejoice in the truth of the gospel in your life. ~ David 
One day while driving, I came upon an elderly man running. His frame was completely bent over, and each step appeared laborious. At first I thought it was his age, but as I looked closer I noticed what was keeping him hunched over—he was running with weights in both hands. Holding on to those weights kept him from running with freedom and ease.
As I watched his arduous progress, it reminded me of how often we run our spiritual race in a similar way. A variety of weights burden us in the Christian life. For many of us, we have no idea the exact cause for our ailments and struggles because we fail to recognize that we are even carrying these heavy loads. All we know is that our race seems difficult and that we yearn to run with freedom and joy.
The writer of the book of Hebrews urged his listeners: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). While many types of burdens can weigh us down, it is helpful to consider three types of unbelief that hinder our Christian race. Unbelief regarding past sin, present temptation, and future joy can overload our hearts—encumbering, distracting, and discouraging us.

Unbelief About Our Past

Past sins cling closely, threatening to trip us as we run. Old decisions drag behind us like cans tied to a newlywed’s car. They clang and shout, falsely proclaiming, “Not good enough.” Do you feel the weight of your past? Perhaps you chose to tell that lie, engage in adultery, participate in gossip, have an abortion, or steal from someone else. These sins can plague our souls, falsely declaring us unworthy to even be in the race.
The good news is truly good: 
For such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)  
In Christ, we are not defined by our sin, but by our sonship. We were sinners, but now we are saints. We were enemies of God, now we are his children. The weight of past sins can be thrown aside. Mourn them but don’t be defined by them. Instead, let us fix our eyes of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Unbelief About Present Temptation

While past sin can encumber our walk, present temptation also has the power to weigh us down in our race. Paul explained to the Romans, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:22-23). Sin still wages war against our souls. When we chose to live outside of God’s ways, we carry burdens that slow our race.
As Puritan author Thomas Brooks wisely warned, “He that would not get burned must dread the fire. To venture upon the occasion of sin, and then to pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is like one who thrusts his finger in the fire and then prays that it might not get burnt.” 
By the Spirit’s work in our hearts, we realize the weakness of our flesh and avoid playing sport with sin. Disobedience is the height of empty living, leaving us joyless and passionless in our race.

Unbelief About Future Joy

Phrases like “Time is short” and Carpe diem spur us on to chase after every earthly experience, relationship, and pleasure. While it is true that our lives fade as quickly as the grass, and it is important that we seize the day, often we misdirect our efforts in ways that weigh us down rather than lighten our load. When we forget that heaven is a future hope, we unduly burden ourselves by trying to create our own slice of heaven on earth. The false belief that this world is all there is encumbers us with unrealistic expectations and hopes to gain as many trinkets and treasure as possible.
In contrast, when we anticipate our heavenly home, we can live our days here in joyful abandon for the kingdom. Time is indeed short, and we should seize the day, not to build our own kingdoms, but to build Christ’s church. By setting our hopes on future pleasures, fighting present temptations, and letting go of past sins, we can run our race with freedom and purpose, giving thanks to Jesus, the forerunner of our faith.
Melissa Kruger serves as women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. You can follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Necessity of Perseverance in Faith and the Assurance of Salvation

Here is a follow up to Mondays post.  I found this over the weekend on Desiring God.
1) In order to be saved and spend eternity enjoying God’s presence a person must persevere in faith to the end (1 Corinthians 15:2Colossians 1:22,23Luke 8:11-15;Matthew 10:22Mark 13:13Matthew 24:13Hebrews 3:14Romans 11:20-222 Timothy 2:11,12Revelation 2:7,10,11,17,25,263:5,11,12,21).
2) An obedient lifestyle which springs from faith is necessary for final salvation (Hebrews 12:14Romans 8:13Galatians 5:19-21Ephesians 5:51 Corinthians 6:101 John 3:4-10,144:20John 8:31Luke 10:28Matthew 6:14,1518:35Genesis 18:1922:16-17;26:452 Timothy 2:19). This is not to say that God demands perfection (Philippians 3:12,131 John 1:8-10Matthew 6:12).
3) A person who has truly been born again will persevere in faith. God sees to that (1 Peter 1:5; cf. also John 6:37-3910:26-30Philippians 1:61 Thessalonians 3:11-135:24;Romans 8:1-4,28-30Ephesians 1:4,5).
4) In Scripture we are told of people who appear to be Christians and yet fall away (Luke 8:13,14Hebrews 6:4-510:26-29). John says that their falling away proves they were never Christians in the first place (1 John 2:19; cf. also Hebrews 6:9John 8:31Colossians 1:22,23Hebrews 3:6,14).
5) Should we entertain the possibility that we might be those who fall away? The answer is yes, if we are persisting in attitudes/actions that spring from unbelief.
The apostle Paul entertained the possibility that he might be disqualified if he was not careful how he “ran the race” (1 Corinthians 9:27); and he commanded the arrogant Corinthians to entertain the idea that they might be those who fall away (1 Corinthians 10:12—read this carefully in the context of 9:24-10:13).
Paul also gives warnings in Romans 11:20-22 and Galatians 5:2-21Ephesians 5:5.
The writer of Hebrews gives similar warnings: Hebrews 2:1-33:12-144:1,116:4-6;10:26-3112:25.
6) We are commanded to examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:52 Peter 1:10).
7) We are expected to enjoy and commanded to experience the assurance of salvation (1 John 5:13Hebrews 6:1110:22).
8) The biblical teaching of the assurance of salvation must be seen in the context of God’s terrible threats to those who fall into persistent unbelief, and the context of God’s glorious promises to those who trust him.
The way in which we persevere in faith and thereby maintain assurance of salvation is by taking seriously the glorious promises and the terrible threats found in Scripture (cf. Hebrews 10:19-31; also Deuteronomy 28).
Pastor John & Pastor Tom