Friday, 28 December 2007

`Gospel of wealth' facing scrutiny

This piece is worth reading, especially as we trace our way back to biblical principles. It is time for us to stop preaching and stop our ears from hearing teachings that tend to put all about our faith on the things that this life can offer. We have to go back to the preaching about heaven and hell - preparing ourselves for heaven and living in holiness to avoid going to hell. It is written by By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer in Yahoo News

The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.

And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.

"I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them," she said. "I'm angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don't watch anyone on TV hardly."

All three of the groups Fleenor supported are among six major Christian television ministries under scrutiny by a senator who is asking questions about the evangelists' lavish spending and possible abuses of their tax-exempt status.

The probe by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has brought new scrutiny to the underlying belief that brings in millions of dollars and fills churches from Atlanta to Los Angeles — the "Gospel of Prosperity," or the notion that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches.

All six ministries under investigation preach the prosperity gospel to varying degrees.

Proponents call it a biblically sound message of hope. Others say it is a distortion that makes evangelists rich and preys on the vulnerable. They say it has evolved from "it's all right to make money" to it's all right for the pastor to drive a Bentley, live in an oceanside home and travel by private jet.

"More and more people are desperate and grasping at straws and want something that will alleviate their pain or financial crisis," said Michael Palmer, dean of the divinity school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson. "It's a growing problem."

The modern-day prosperity movement can largely be traced back to evangelist Oral Roberts' teachings. Roberts' disciples have spread his theology and vocabulary (Roberts and other evangelists, such as Meyer, call their donors "partners.") And several popular prosperity preachers, including some now under investigation, have served on the Oral Roberts University board.

Grassley is asking the ministries for financial records on salaries, spending practices, private jets and other perks. The investigation, coupled with a financial scandal at ORU that forced out Roberts' son and heir, Richard, has some wondering whether the prosperity gospel is facing a day of reckoning.

While few expect the movement to disappear, the scrutiny could force greater financial transparency and oversight in a movement known for secrecy.

Most scholars trace the origins of prosperity theology to E.W. Kenyon, an evangelical pastor from the first half of the 20th century.

But it wasn't until the postwar era — and a pair of evangelists from Tulsa, Okla. — that "health and wealth" theology became a fixture in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin — and later, Kenneth Copeland — trained tens of thousands of evangelists with a message that resonated with an emerging middle class, said David Edwin Harrell Jr., a Roberts biographer. Copeland is among those now being investigated.

"What Oral did was develop a theology that made it OK to prosper," Harrell said. "He let Pentecostals be faithful to the old-time truths their grandparents embraced and be part of the modern world, where they could have good jobs and make money."

The teachings took on various names — "Name It and Claim It," "Word of Faith," the prosperity gospel.

Prosperity preachers say that it isn't all about money — that God's blessings extend to health, relationships and being well-off enough to help others.

They have Bible verses at the ready to make their case. One oft-cited verse, in Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, reads: "Yet for your sakes he became poor, that you by his poverty might become rich."

Critics acknowledge the idea that God wants to bless his followers has a Biblical basis, but say prosperity preachers take verses out of context. The prosperity crowd also fails to acknowledge Biblical accounts that show God doesn't always reward faithful believers, Palmer said.

The Book of Job is a case study in piety unrewarded, and a chapter in the Book of Hebrews includes a litany of believers who were tortured and martyred, Palmer said.

Yet the prosperity gospel continues to draw crowds, particularly lower- and middle-income people who, critics say, have the greatest motivation and the most to lose. The prosperity message is spreading to black churches, attracting elderly people with disposable incomes, and reaching huge churches in Africa and other developing parts of the world.

One of the teaching's attractions is that it doesn't dwell on traditional Christian themes of heaven and hell but on answering pressing concerns of the here and now, said Brian McLaren, a liberal evangelical author and pastor.

But the prosperity gospel, McLaren said, not only preys on the hope of the vulnerable, it puts too much emphasis on individual success and happiness.

"We've pretty much ignored what the Bible says about systemic injustice," he said.

The checks and balances central to Christian denominations are largely lacking in prosperity churches. One of the pastors in the Grassley probe, Bishop Eddie Long of suburban Atlanta, has written that God told him to get rid of the "ungodly governmental structure" of a deacon board.

Some ministers hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works. Atlanta-area pastor Creflo Dollar, who is fighting Grassley's inquiry, owns a Rolls Royce and multimillion-dollar homes and travels in a church-owned Learjet.

In a letter to Grassley, Dollar's attorney calls the prosperity gospel a "deeply held religious belief" grounded in Scripture and therefore a protected religious freedom. Grassley has said his probe is not about theology.

But even some prosperity gospel critics — like the Rev. Adam Hamilton of 15,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City, Mo. — say that the investigation is entering a minefield.

"How do you determine how much money a minister like this is able to make when the basic theology is that wealth is OK?" said Hamilton, an Oral Roberts graduate who later left the charismatic movement. "That gets into theological questions."

There is evidence of change. Joyce Meyer Ministries, for one, enacted financial reforms in recent years, including making audited financial statements public.

Meyer, who has promised to cooperate fully with Grassley, issued a statement emphasizing that a prosperity gospel "that solely equates blessing with financial gain is out of balance and could damage a person's walk with God."

The story is from here.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Called to Serve

This is a true saying, if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1Timothy 3:1-7)

The man of God that leads the Church today in our circle is the Pastor. Paul says this unique man desires this work. The work of shepherding men and women, equipping them to grow and serve, is s tremendous task. It is very fortunate for us that God would have the qualifications explained in the Bible. These qualifications are in 3 categories:

Leader in spiritual discipline
leader in managing God’s ministry
leader in evangelism to those outside

This person should be self controlled and blameless. Blameless does not imply sinless perfection. To be blameless is to follow the scripture perfectly as one understands them. Living what one preaches and preaching the whole counsel of God is one task of the Pastor. If a person desires this tremendous office, they have to live according to the lofty standards required.

Furthermore, every Christian should live a blameless life. This is the name given to us who believe – Christians. We are to be like Christ. Some Pastors are failing in the Church today in America, as our brother Christian had previously enumerated in some of his previous exhortations. The scripture says that they (teachers) will have a stricter judgment. The job of a pastor is not an easy one, so remember to always pray for our Church leaders.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Dr Martin Luther Jnr Quote

I love this quote. It encourages me and sets me into action for what I ought to do now I am alive and strong.

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be.
And one day, some great opportunity stands before you
and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle,
some great issue, some great cause.
And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.
You refuse to do it because you want to live longer.
You’re afraid that you will lose your job,
or you’re afraid that you will be criticized
or that you will lose your popularity,
or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you,
or shoot at you or bomb your house;
so you refuse to take the stand.
‘Well you may go on and live until you are 90,
but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90.
And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You refused to stand up for justice.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not”
delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church November 5, 1967.
He was assassinated five months later on April 4, 1968.
From here

Friday, 21 December 2007

The reason for Christmas

When I look around this period, I see a lot of movements. Everybody seems to be in a hurry to shop. For some people, it's a time to spend all they have made for the year. For others, it's a time to go to the village and show the people how far they have gone through the year. They compare and compete and receive chalenges from their mates for next year's target.Many people make unnecesary expenses and travls they are not supposed to make ordinarily. There is increase in greed and crime. This is the time that your kids put pressure on you, if you did not start early to work on their value system. Incidentally, even some wives too. The price of things and transport go up so high that when the year comes, many of them do not come back to former prices. I agree this happens majorly in third world countries, where there is no price control. People suffer a lot during Christmas period.

Is this all that the season is about?

We commemorate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is our Messiah and our God. He was born into one of the poorest of families at that time and in a manger, where you feed sheep. It's not as if they did not look for a room to sleep, but they couldn't find anyone. Joseph and Mary helped themselves around the Sheep pen while the baby Jesus was laid in a manger. The information about his birth did not go the king's palace, it was given to some poor shepherds in the field. We ask ourselves, who was that perosn in the manger?

He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Saviour of the whole world. Isa 9:6-7 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."(KJV)

Phil 2:5-11 "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

He humbled Himself and took the sinful human form because He loves us and wants to save us. From this, we learn that for us to affect our generation and accomplish the purpose of God for our lives, we have to humble ourselves. Yes, we should celebrate but let's not lose sight of the purpose of Christmas and the lessons we learn from it.

I wish all my friends Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Happy Christmas - The place for myspace comments, glitters, graphics, backgrounds and codes
Myspace Chistmas Comments & Graphics

God sent His Son into this world to die for us. We appreciate Him for what He did and completely dedicate ourlives to Him. We will live for Him as long as we live until we meet Him in heaven to part no more.
Remain Blessed!

Monday, 10 December 2007

A Christian killed in Kano

This is a prayer issue, let us keep praying for the persecuted saints all around the world. The only thing the Main Stream Media heard about this case was that there were riots in some parts of Kano State after the polls without knowing that Christians have been targeted again.

Religious motives underlie voter tensions; Christian’s lead at polls triggers attack.

Danyaro Bala
Danyaro Bala
KANO, Nigeria, November 26 (Compass Direct News) – Christians said violence over elections in the Sumaila area this month included a strong religious element, with Muslims killing one Christian in an attack on a Christian settlement.

Eyewitnesses said violence broke out in the Gani electoral ward of Sumaila on November 17 after news reports showed that the Christian candidate for councillor for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Zara Gambo, was ahead in the polls, signifying the first ever victory for a Christian in the area.

As a result, they said, Muslims attacked Christians in Gani town and in Gani Mission, a Christian settlement in the area, injuring several of them, destroying their houses and shops and killing elementary school teacher Danyaro Bala. He is survived by a wife and 11 children.

Sani Duma, Bala’s younger brother, told Compass that he believes Muslims killed the local church elder in order to cow area Christians into submitting to Islam.

“Religion is at the center of this attack on us and the killing of my brother,” Duma said. “The selection of only houses of Christians and their shops for destruction shows clearly that Muslims were out to force us into submitting to their hold on political leadership.”

Duma said that area voters are all Hausas who speak the same language.

“We are of one tribe, Hausa,” he said. “The only thing that divides them and us is religion. While we in Gani Mission are Christians, they in Gani town are Muslims. Religion is therefore the prime motive behind the attack on us, as only houses of Christians were burned.”

Read more of the story here and here.