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God convicted Josef. As a pastor he refused to glorify communist leaders and started to speak out boldly for Christ. Interrogators threatened him with death every day for six months. My supreme weapon is dying. My preaching will speak ten times louder after you kill me. We assume faith healing or medical breakthroughs can eliminate suffering and cure all diseases.
According to prosperity theology, we can declare our way out of diseases. I have clarity of thought. I have a good memory. Every cell in my body is increasing and getting healthier. I am getting better every day in every way. Of course we should seek to be healthy, both physically and mentally. But we miss out on a great deal if we fail to see God can also accomplish his purposes when we lose our health and he chooses not to heal us.
Julia was a powerful woman who flaunted her beauty and wealth. Her volatile temper and sharp tongue put people in their place and left a trail of damaged relationships. Then, in her midforties, Julia was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Despite treatment, the disease progressed. Doctors said she had less than a year to live. As this unfolded, Julia underwent a remarkable change. Her diagnosis frightened her; she sought spiritual counsel, started reading the New Testament, confessed her sins, and gave her life to Jesus Christ.
She did all she could to restore relationships with family and others. She made peace with her ex-husband, grew close to her children, and developed a loving circle of Christian friends. Several weeks before she died, Julia told her pastor that she considered her cancer to be a love gift from God. She believed the Lord had used her disease to draw her to himself. Julia said she would gladly exchange all her years of beauty, wealth, and influence for the two years of illness that taught her the unspeakable joy of loving Jesus and loving others.
In contrast to Julia, however, after a terminal diagnosis, many people spend all the remainder of their lives searching for a scientific cure or a spiritual healing, or both. Let me share some bad news: I have a fatal disease. But the news gets even worse.
You have the same fatal disease—mortality. Have you noticed there are no year-old faith healers? While resisting death and fighting for life can be virtuous, it can also degenerate into idolatry if staying alive here becomes more important than anything else. This might lead you to suffering. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.
If God has healed you, rejoice! God can and does heal, and we should celebrate his mercy. I have often prayed for healing and sometimes witnessed it. Paul had to leave his friend Trophimus behind because of sickness see 2 Timothy Another beloved friend, Epaphroditus, became gravely ill see Philippians — Those who claim anyone with enough faith will be healed must believe they have greater faith than Paul and his fellow missionaries. When soldiers took Paul in chains from his filthy Roman dungeon and beheaded him at the order of the opulent madman Nero, two representatives of humanity faced off, one of the best and one of the worst.
One lived for prosperity on Earth. The other one now lives in prosperity in Heaven. When I became insulin-dependent, I wondered who wanted me ill, Satan or God. The obvious answer? I have clearly and repeatedly seen the same in my own life.
Upon learning of my disease, well-meaning people sometimes ask whether I have trusted God to heal me. I respond that when it first appeared in , I and others did ask God to heal me. After a while, when God chose not to answer our prayers that way, I stopped asking.
When I say this, I sometimes get looks of alarm and quotes about persevering in prayer and having faith as a mustard seed. Just three times he asked—but God made it clear the affliction had come from his gracious hand. Paul had no desire to ask God to remove that which his Lord wanted to use to create in him greater Christlikeness and dependence upon God. Yet if I could snap my fingers and remove my disease—apart from some direct revelation from God that I should do so—I would not use that power.
Why not? Mental lapses that come from low blood sugar sometimes leave me with vivid memories of a confused state I suffered only fifteen minutes earlier. All healing in this world is temporary. Resurrection healing will be permanent. For that our hearts should overflow with praise to our gracious God. A centurion wanted Jesus to heal his beloved servant. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.
We deserve neither healing nor answered prayers. This understanding leaves no room for the bitterness and resentment that inevitably accompany a sense of entitlement. Jesus agreed and healed him. Note that the man did not think himself entitled to healing. Neither did he presume to take control of the situation. He humbly requested healing while leaving it to the will of Christ.
We should do likewise. Jesus backed away from people who only followed him to be fed and get healed and enjoy benefits any atheist would enjoy. We do not testify to the world that we suffer less; we testify that God empowers us to face suffering with perspective. After the man expressed no interest in the gospel, they stopped under a tree and sang a hymn together, then prayed.
I was never so moved by any prayer Words fail to describe it. Gracie Taylor died just after turning eight. Some would argue that evil and the Curse and Satan or demons , not God, killed Gracie, and to say God takes a child is to accuse him of evil. But Hudson Taylor saw things differently. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians — Did they have these issues back then? They had diseases, discomforts, financial strains, and bad weather. And did they pray for them? No doubt. Jim wrote me,. As I contemplate what it would be like to be healed of this disease, God has caused me to focus on my own sinfulness and human condition. If healed, I genuinely fear that within a year at the latest I would begin to forget what it was like to be in this condition. The wonder of being healed would be indescribable; however, I seriously question whether or not that would be the best for my soul.
Yes, Jesus will remove all disease, disability, and death from us—but in his time, not ours. He will rescue us from suffering when he returns to set up his kingdom or when we go to him in death. He also promises that, one day, leopard and lion and lamb and goat will lie down together in safety see Isaiah We live in between, post-Eden but pre—New Earth. Life here and now, under the Curse, involves suffering. How do you believe this stuff?
And read the reviews—people love these videos! You can also transfer the videos to your iPad, iPhone, or other tablet. We include easy-to-follow directions with your order. Is the Bible out-of-sync with scientific discoveries? Has the Bible undergone corruption as it was translated down through the centuries? Are the persons, places and events mentioned in the Bible mythological? Charlie Campbell has been researching answers to questions like these for more than twenty years.
In this updated, expanded 83 minute video he answers these questions as he builds a compelling ten-pronged case for the trustworthiness of the Bible:. Are the persons, places, and events in the Bible just fabrications by deceitful men? Many critics of Christianity think so, but archaeological discoveries show otherwise.
Over the past two centuries, archaeologists have made thousands of discoveries that have helped to verify the exact truthfulness of the Bible's detailed records of various events, customs, persons, cities, nations, and geographical locations. Length: 53 minutes. What about the apparent contradictions in the Bible? Charlie Campbell has been researching answers to questions like these for nearly twenty-five years.
It was his initial research that led him to become a follower of Jesus in Charlie Campbell responds to these charges and lays out a compelling case that Jesus really existed and the Gospels are trustworthy accounts of His life.
Length: 52 minutes. Is your teen prepared to survive college and a secular workplace with his or her faith still intact? Many teens are not. ABR has heard from so many parents whose kids have walked away from the Lord after heading off to college. And the parents consistently say, "We wish we would have done more to expose our kids to good Christian apologetics and evidences.
You want your kids to be prepared to stand against the onslaught of skepticism they will be confronted with in the world. But where does one begin? What subjects are the most important to address? What authors and resources can I trust? What resources will my teen be able to grasp and enjoy? Learn more here. Did the universe just pop into being from "literally nothing," as Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheists say?
Did human beings with bones and nearly muscles come into being by unguided natural causes? Searching out answers to questions like these led Charlie Campbell to abandon his atheism in In this DVD, he shares some of the evidence from cosmology, biology, philosophy, history, and the Bible that changed his mind. If you have doubts about God, watch this with an open mind! Length: 68 minutes. Apologetics Course Online, on-demand, mobile-friendly videos. Apocrypha is not Scripture.
God wants you to win. And winning can include anything from overcoming a physical ailment or disease to graduating from college to getting that new high-paying job. The "Winners Chapel" in Nigeria is one of many prosperity megachurches that explicitly links Christian faith with winning in life [source: Bowler ]. The prosperity gospel is a modern phenomenon, but its roots stretch back to the 19th-century. Next, we'll look at how a blend of positive thinking and Pentecostalism spawned a global religious movement.
The prosperity gospel didn't come out of thin air. It's the result of more than a century of self-help movements and spiritual revivals coalescing into a shiny new form of American-made Christianity. Its roots go back to the "New Thought" movement of midth century America popular with non-religious thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, which taught that the individual could exercise power over the material world with his thoughts.
One popular New Thought writer taught his followers to "See yourself in a prosperous condition. Affirm that you will before long be in a prosperous condition" [source: Burton ]. Around the end of that century, a pastor named E. Kenyon put a Christian spin on New Thought and taught that people should avoid thinking or saying things associated with sickness or poverty. Instead, they should say, "God's strength is mine. God's health is mine. His success is mine" [source: Bowler ]. Another key ingredient in the prosperity gospel is the Protestant work ethic, a term coined by Max Weber in , which introduced the idea that financial success could be tied to a certain type of hardworking Christian faith.
Calvinists, who believed that some people were predestined to be saved, pointed to outward signs like wealth to justify their "elect" status [source: Burton ]. But the two clearest influences on the prosperity gospel were two unrelated movements born after World War II. The first is the rise of Pentecostal tent revivals, charismatic roadshows of faith healing that spread out across the U.
This firebrand form of Pentecostalism placed a strong emphasis on outward manifestations of spiritual gifts. First and foremost was speaking in tongues, in which the spirit poured out of individuals in the form of a divine language. The second influential post-war movement was spawned by Norman Vincent Peale's bestseller "The Power of Positive Thinking," which introduced a modern update to the occult practices of New Thought.
Peale taught that when a person thinks positively, they "set in motion positive forces which bring positive results to pass. The first true prosperity preachers like Oral Roberts blended all of these ingredients together to create a new religious worldview that combined the focused positive thinking of Peale with the Pentecostal belief in physical manifestations of faith.
It was a short trip from speaking in tongues, to receiving gifts of physical healing through faith, to receiving gifts of all kinds, including material wealth. Roberts became one of America's first televangelists in the s, spawning a succession of prosperity preachers who used the medium to connect with growing audiences of believers who were eager to donate money to the church in return for God delivering a "seven-fold" return on the investment.
Some of today's most popular prosperity preachers like Lakewood's Joel Osteen made a conscious turn away from the crass methods of now-disgraced s televangelists like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and latched onto the therapeutic language popular in modern American life [source: Sinitiere ]. In other words, they made a break with "hard prosperity" teaching, often derisively referred to as "name it and claim it" for what might be called "soft prosperity. His followers like the fact that his message is always positive, long on love and short on hellfire.
Of course, the prosperity gospel is much more than big-name preachers with millions of Twitter followers. It's a religious practice followed by faithful believers around the world. Let's find out what that looks like. To believers, the true power of the prosperity gospel is that it offers way of taking control of their lives and their destiny. It's interesting to note that the "Power of Positive Thinking" rose to prominence during the incredibly destabilizing geopolitical climate of the early Cold War, and that the prosperity gospel has gained traction during another era of economic and political instability [source: Sinitiere ].
As we mentioned earlier, the prosperity gospel teaches that faith is much more than a passive belief. Faith is a type of spiritual "activator" that turns thoughts and prayers into reality [source: Bowler ]. The key to putting the prosperity gospel into practice, therefore, is to make your desires known to God and have faith that He will deliver.
One way to do that is through something called "positive confession. At the beginning of each and every Sunday service at the Lakewood Church, for example, Osteen leads the massive congregation in a simultaneous positive confession. They each hold up their Bible and say:. Positive confession is like a verbalized version of positive thinking. If you desire a specific blessing from God, you call out that blessing by name, quoting verses from the Bible in which God promises to deliver "ask and ye shall receive" , reaffirming your faith that that He can do all things, and then repeat for as many days, weeks or years it takes for the blessing to arrive.
The expectation, though, is that with enough faith and enough positive persistence, God will indeed deliver. The individual is back in control of their destiny. What this means, though, says Duke scholar Kate Bowler , is that the prosperity gospel has no room for the concept of luck. Instead, she says, it provides a "pragmatic, results-based In this light, adherents learn to see even everyday actions as spiritual "work" leading them closer to receiving their desired blessings, or further away.
They try to maintain a cheerful, positive, grateful and "blessed" attitude. They post relentlessly positive messages on social media. They buy books penned by their favorite preachers and dutifully donate to the church. And how do they know if the practice is working? It's obvious — they will be blessed with health, wealth and victory over their trials. But what happens when those blessings don't materialize? We'll come back to that question later when we delve into the many criticisms of the prosperity gospel.
From Africa to Asia to South America, there is no greater force in global Christianity than the prosperity gospel. The phenomenon is fueled by exploding urban populations, social and political upheaval, and a growing middle class with aspirations for greater wealth. Nigeria has been swept up by an old-school charismatic form of Pentecostalism — lots of speaking in tongues and ecstatic dancing — boosted by a prosperity message that caters to the nation's restless entrepreneurial spirit and disillusionment with government corruption.
Lagos, with a population of 20 million, is home to four prosperity megachurches with average Sunday attendance in excess of 30, people each. One even has 75, attenders [source: Bird ]. The megachurches are not only centers of worship, but they do provide essential social services for thousands of migrants who arrive in Lagos daily in search of work [source: Lenora Brown ].
In Asia, Christianity is spreading 10 times faster than in Europe, and Singapore is home to several huge prosperity congregations, including the 30,member New Creation Church led by the charismatic pastor Joseph Prince. Unlike Nigeria, where the popularity of the prosperity gospel is fueled by upward mobility, the audience in Singapore is largely young, single and financially comfortable. They're drawn in by the dynamic form of worship, which includes pop music concerts, a strong social media presence and a "wealth-affirming" theology that's in stark contrast to their parents' Buddhism.
The largest church in the world , Yoido Full Gospel, is in South Korea and has more than , members [source: Philomin ]. In Brazil, where unemployment hovers at 13 percent and millions live in the urban squalor of favelas, the prosperity gospel attempts to provide a solution to widespread economic desperation. In a nation that was once dominated by Catholicism, now a quarter of Brazilians are Pentecostal. Pastors in Brazil emphasize self-improvement through prayer, self-discipline and clean living no drinking or drugs , plus making generous donations to the church.
One of Sao Paolo's most infamous prosperity churches seats 12, and was built to resemble King Solomon's temple [source: Pulliam Bailey ]. In an interesting twist, missionaries and pastors from Africa, Asia and Latin American are bringing the prosperity back to predominantly Christian nations in Europe and even the U. Nine out of the top 20 missionary-sending countries are found in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and four of Britain's 10 largest churches were founded by Nigerians, including the Nigerian Redeemed Christian Church of God, the fastest-growing church in the U.
Scandals involving preachers and money is not just a U. The prosperity gospel and its preachers have faced a barrage of criticism from mainline Christian denominations who charge the movement with everything from theological heresy to stealing from the poor. The most vocal complaint with the prosperity gospel is that it glorifies the accumulation of money, and turns the virtuous acts of faith, giving and obedience into mere tools for "getting stuff from God" [source: Henderson ].
As we mentioned earlier, the Bible explicitly calls the love of money the "root of all kinds of evil" and Jesus frequently praises the meek and lowly of this world while chastising the rich and powerful. The traditional interpretation of Christianity is that Christ's atonement on the cross — in which he died for the sins of the world — and his victory over death during the Easter resurrection, mean that all faithful Christians can be forgiven of their sins in this life and ultimately be resurrected with the righteous in life eternal.
Critics of the prosperity gospel accuse prosperity preachers of twisting the message of ultimate victory and applying it to this life in this world [source: Piper ]. The traditional view of Christianity is that mortal life is a period of "testing," suffering and sacrifice with the promise that the faithful will be rewarded in heaven, not necessarily on Earth. This is how Christianity answers the fundamental problem of pain and offers solace to believers.
The prosperity gospel, on the other hand casts blame on the victim for not being faithful enough to overcome whatever spiritual, physical or financial "ailment" befalls them. As Duke scholar Bowler wrote in a powerful personal essay , "The prosperity gospel If a believer gets sick and dies, shame compounds the grief.
Those who are loved and lost are just that — those who have lost the test of faith. Bowler, who spent years visiting prosperity churches while researching her book "Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel," also says that the relentless focus on positive thinking can take a psychological toll on followers who are struggling with serious problems. She describes a practice called acting faith in which people with late-stage cancer walk around acting as if they're already cured, and people in crippling debt thank God for checks that haven't yet arrived.
Nevertheless, Osteen has winning moments throughout his book. He suggests that we respond to a bad day or discouragement by helping others—for in giving we receive. One way of developing the sort of attitude God blesses with abundance is by giving money away, for it shows our trust.
We have to plant seeds abundantly if we want anything to grow. Small lies accumulated until big ones became acceptable. Christian virtue ethicists would agree and so would their medieval forebears. Similar examples of good advice appear frequently in the book. Salespeople, whom Osteen often addresses, will indeed perform better with more upbeat, self-confident attitudes.
These claims are true, as far as they go. The conditional nature of these sentences is telling. This is not a gospel of grace, in which God acts in spite of our lack of faithfulness to redirect our wants. Instead this is a gospel of reward in which God does nothing until we get our act together. Rather, God comes to us in Christ when we are without merit, without ability to please God and without reason to think we can be saved or helped.
Such a view of grace is surely part of the grumpy theology Osteen seeks to upend—but it is central to Christianity. It's also striking how closely Osteen identifies wealth with divine blessing, to the point where he risks placing a Christian overlay on a pagan gospel of acquisition. In scripture, wealth is a much more mixed blessing, to say the least.
For the prophets and for Jesus, especially in his Beatitudes, it is the poor who are truly blessed by God. The rich will be measured by standards of justice that demand care for the widowed and orphaned rather than for the ballooning of their own bank accounts. Pray with faith, and that light will change.
This theology is politically quiescent, accommodating itself perfectly to an imperial age. That is, it matters not what the government is doing, or what your company does as you work for promotion within it, or where you are driving while praying for green lights.
The nature of our desires, and our potential self-deception about them, gets very little attention from Osteen. He assumes the standard set of American middle-class desires for a house, career, spouse, kids, etc. But what if I want a mistress? Or the cruel death of my enemies? If God matters little for this worldview, Jesus matters even less. His preaching could have been brightened up considerably. Osteen is an easy theological target.
He merits attention mostly as an unreflective exemplar of temptations all ministers face—to translate the charged political and theological language of the scriptures into a vague religiosity, or into more easily digestible categories of self-help and self-improvement. His unending smile also reminds us of the ministerial temptation of relying on personal charisma, an upbeat attitude or an eagerness to please rather than the more difficult claims of scripture.
That shape includes a cross and a totally unexpected triumph in the form of the resurrection. In the meantime, those who weep now are truly blessed, for they see the incongruity between the promised kingdom and things as they stand. I wonder then what my parishioner saw in Osteen, and what help he gave her.
Her husband had died decades earlier following an accident. He was severely burned and lost both arms, and he died before they could have children. She works in a fairly menial service job, and when not working mostly grumbles about co-workers and the manners of kids these days. Perhaps the dreariness of her life is alleviated somewhat by the smiling preacher, without the difficulty of encountering people in pews around her who would give her more to grumble about.
He sounds like the writer of Proverbs in some of his more chipper moments, but not at all like the somber writers of Ecclesiastes or Job, or the psalmists who hit both notes. Without both heights and depths, the gospel offered by the smiling preacher on the screen is simply the same platitude over and over.