Tag Archive | encouragement

Why The Prosperity Gospel Prospers, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Buddy.Condo.Livingroom

As Buddy was abused before I rescued him through Silky Terrier Rescue, I have usually rely upon the more modern approach of dog obedience: praise every time he does something correct. The only time I use more harsh methods is if he is in immediate danger, like trying to get under my legs when I’m driving down the freeway. He is generally a good-natured and sweet boy who, though willful like most terriers, is fairly well-behaved.

This is merely my opinion, but I believe that when the Church is in imbalance, it gives an opportunity for bad teaching to enter.

When the Church is overly focused on rebuking, rather than, praising/encouraging believers.

“…our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”–Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Under the Old Covenant, before Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and resurrected to raise us into new life with Him, people were made right with God through following a set of rules for living, as detailed in the Old Testament Law given to the Jewish people through Moses. This is the “letter” that “kills” referred to by Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians. The Old Covenant Law was given to show humanity their complete inability to follow it perfectly, to prove their need for a New Covenant through the blood of a someone who could totally fulfill the rules 100%: Jesus Christ, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Shortly after leaving Egypt during the Great Exodus, the Jewish people promised Moses that they would obey all that God commanded and worship Him only, but they couldn’t even keep their promise long enough to wait for Moses to return from the mountaintop before creating a golden calf to worship and dance before. They weren’t lying: they just couldn’t obey because as, unredeemed people, they didn’t have the Holy Spirit to assist them.

What I have found, after being a Christian for 30 years now, is that many pastors are very good at rebuking and exhorting the people of their congregations. But not so good at encouraging them. I think the reason is that they are eager for the people to obey God and be a positive influence in their city and culture, to stand out in a godless society to help lead others into a relationship with the Lord.

But, this is my opinion, most pastors are not trusting the Holy Spirit within each believer to lead and guide them “in the paths of righteousness”. So they tend to focus on preaching that people should obey the Law and not so much on encouragement–or how to do so.

But Apostle Paul made it clear, not only in the above verses from Corinthians, that the Law kills, but that we do not grow in sanctification, i.e. become more godly people in our walk with God–by obeying the  letter of the Law but by focusing on Christ.

One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is from Galatians, where the Apostle Paul rebukes the Galatians for trying to obey the Old Testament Law instead of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are so you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, as you now being perfected by the flesh?”–Galatians 3:1-3

Apostle Paul was pointing out that the Christian believer came into fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the Old Testament Law. They had witnessed the Holy Christ die for their sins. They received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit by believing in Christ’s sacrifice for their sin, not by following the Old Testament Law. Paul pointed out that they were to walk in faith, to trust in Jesus as their righteousness, and not in how well they could obey.

I hope you are still following me here. The prosperity preachers focus on God’s blessings and encouragement of believers because too many preachers are focused on exhortation, leaving many persons feeling dispirited and discouraged after a sermon. I’m not advocating that pastors should never rebuke or talk about God’s standards. But they need to balance out their rebuke and call to holy living with positive messages.

Many pastors focus on what the believer can do FOR God. They make the Gospel bad news because, after a person is convicted of their sin, convinced that they are unholy in their behavior, the new believer is exhorted that they have to try really hard to meet those impossible standards.

But the Gospel isn’t bad news: It’s good news.

It’s about what Jesus DID. The focus is on God and not on us.

God initiates a relationship with us and we receive it by His grace as a freely given gift (Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot earn it.

Charles Spurgeon, the great Victorian preacher in London, got the balance just right, in my opinion. His focus was not on what the believer could do FOR God, but always on what we can do BECAUSE OF Jesus. We are victorious BECAUSE JESUS has already won the victory over sin, death and Satan at the Cross. We can walk in the newness of life BECAUSE JESUS took our sins upon Himself and crucified them on His Cross.

When I was a young believer, I got involved in an ungodly relationship with a nonbeliever. The Holy Spirit made me horrendously miserable in my soul till I gave up the relationship. God also sat a pastor next to me during an airplane trip who gently rebuked me. The Great Shepherd kept His promise to keep me on that path of righteousness for His namesake. The pressure of the Holy Spirit was reinforced by the pastor, but without God’s pressure In my soul–my desire to obey God because I had become a “slave of obedience” (Romans 6:16)–the rebuke wouldn’t have “stuck”.

It’s about Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s not about us.

It’s about God keeping His promise, as our great Shepherd, to lead us and guide us.

Let the true Church get back into balance: rejecting the false promises of the prosperity teachers and encouraging the believer to walk by faith alone in Christ alone.

Let’s keep the focus on Jesus, the eternal God, and get it off ourselves.

“And, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”–Jesus, John 12:32

Lift up Jesus.

***

If you don’t know Jesus, why not ask Him to reveal Himself to you? If you are sincere, He will, because He loves you and wants you to be in a relationship with Him. How He does this is as individual as each of us are.

***

I’ve been absent for several months as firstly, I had foot surgery, then spent a week in Alaska with no Internet service, then packed and moved from Washington State to Arizona. It was an exhausting move for both Buddy and I to our new home, more so than I had expected. I hope to be back on track now.

I very much appreciate your reading my blog. I hope today’s blog is helpful to you. Though the language is more florid than we are accustomed to nowadays, I heartily encourage you to read some of Pastor Spurgeon’s sermons. Particularly his sermons on spiritual warfare. You’ll feel even more impassioned about what Christ has done for you.

Happy As a Dog, Isaiah 36:3

Buddy.Mariners.Posing..WP

Buddy always greets me with joyous rapture when I return home. And he is always excited to take a “walkie” although we frequently walk the same route once or twice a day. Unless something frightens him, his normal state is to be either contented or happy.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:

“The steadfast in mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”–Isaiah 36:3

I believe that dogs are happy because they aren’t fussing or ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. They live in the present.

God always encourages us to be thankful (contented) and to live in the present.

Not to ruminate on the past, to let it go:

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.”–Isaiah 43:19  Why?

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered nor come to mind.”–Isaiah 65:17

Because one day we will not remember our current earthly lives. You’re not only going to leave everything in the past behind–but not even remember this present life. So why keep holding onto that old baggage that’s distressing you? Drop it now. You’re not taking it to heaven (or the new earth) with you.

And, what is worry? Fretting about possible negative events in the future.

Does a dog ever sit around and think, “Good heavens! My owner may die tomorrow and I won’t get treats and walkies and belly rubs anymore? I may get chucked out of the house and have to lick spoiled tomato sauce out of old, rusty tin cans in the garbage dump to survive.” Heck no! He’s focused on what you have hidden in that napkin in your coat pocket after you returned from eating out.

Jesus says, because we can trust in God’s love for us: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him…For everyone who asks receives…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him.”–Matthew 6:8, 7:8, 7:11 from the Sermon On The Mount

In summary, you can trust God for your present and your future. Forget the past and move on because you have a wonderful future ahead of you.

“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create, For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness.?–Isaiah 65:18

God created you to be happy as a dog.

***

Ironically, while working on this post, something popped up that distressed me greatly. God brought it around for my good (Romans 8:28). Thinking about what I am blogging about helped to calm me down and deal with the situation much more rationally. God is good. What timing!

Never claimed I was perfect, just blogging about what I am thinking about or dealing with at the time.

Much love from Dawn and Buddy.

Wagging Tail, 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Buddy.Wagging

I intended to write on another topic tonight, but when I was in the bathroom this morning, Buddy joyously greeted me with a wagging tail because I had returned from attending church. He was happy just to see me and be in my company. And it made me feel good because my dog cares about me and wants me around.

It got me thinking, “Am I happy just be in God’s company? Am I rejoicing because I’m  a child of God and know that, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will be “rescued from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)? Am I enjoying God for Who He is and not just what He can give me and those I pray for? Or do in this world?

Jude says that one day I will stand before Him in the Afterlife, “blameless with great joy. (Jude 1:24).” Apostle Paul also echoes this in Colossians 1:22, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”

Because Jesus died for my sin, I don’t have to fear approaching God. He now sees me clothed in the “righteousness of Christ” and “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103: 12).” Jesus encouraged prayer and making requests of God. To see Him as our Father, our encourager and our comforter. King David often poured his heart out to God to find comfort and strength in his suffering and travails, as written down in the Psalms. Apostle John frequently emphasized in his letters that God is love and loves us: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God (1 John 3:1).”

Apostle Peter also encouraged us to open our hearts in prayer to God, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

After the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the Jewish people wept because of their nation’s sin which had caused God to allow the destruction of their city by the Babylonians in 586 BC. But God admonished them, telling them to rejoice instead. “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”–Nehemiah 8:10

I know Psalm 100 by heart. But it’s time that I try harder to apply, with God’s guidance, this great Psalm’s encouragement to enjoy God:

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing…Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Because God is good and loves me, I can enjoy His presence: through prayer and giving thanks, rejoicing in my blessings, in this beautiful world and family and friends and living in a wonderful country. Instead of focusing on the hurt and trouble and evil in the world.

Or as the shorter version of the Westminster Catechism teaches:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Have a blessed week.

***

God loves you and sent Jesus to die for your sins. You can become a child of God and enjoy His presence by admitting you are a sinner. Why must you do that? Because, when Adam and Eve ate the apple, they were telling God that they didn’t need His advice on how to live, they were going to decide it for themselves. As a result of rejecting Him, God’s Holy Spirit left the human race and so every generation has been born separated from God since. When you ask God to forgive your sin, you’re admitting to Him that you don’t have all the answers and want His guidance and presence in your life, that you want Him to be your great Shepherd and leader. Please ask Him to forgive your sins and ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit, to guide your through His Word, the Bible, on how to live this life. He’s waiting for your invitation to let Him enter into your life and heart.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to Him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.”–Revelation 3:20

Please open your heart to Him for “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

 

 

 

Happy New Year! Unexpected Blessing, Luke 2:8-11

Cute.Buddy.2017.WP

Buddy is a rescue dog from Silky Terrier Rescue. I’ll always be thankful to his foster mom for rescuing him from an abusive situation and bringing him into my life. Barb acted unselfishly as she is a Silky Terrier breeder yet she is willing to care for and place dogs that will not bring her an income.

Buddy was formerly in a bad situation where he was being kicked and mistreated. Suddenly, one day he was lifted out of that situation to dwell in a loving home where he is spoiled and much loved.

At Christmastime we celebrate the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, but it is a wondrous story that can bring joy to our new year, also.

Some shepherds “were staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night.” (Luke 2:8) To them, it was another typical night doing the same boring job they’d likely done for years. They were just another of the Nameless Unimportant doing the job that had to be done to keep their society functioning properly. The shepherds had no clue that life would suddenly change, something miraculous would occur that evening.

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” –Luke 2:9-11

You might be looking ahead to this year and thinking, “Another year. Probably be just like last year and the year before. Same old boring job, same old boring me. Probably be another typical year.”

I’ve been trying to encourage myself today. Seems I’ve been ill a long time, my artistic dreams have not taken wing, and life plods along like I’m a draft horse with its neck stuck in a collar treading the same old ruts on the same old path. But I have to remind myself that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

But some day this year Jesus may suddenly appear and your ernest prayers will finally be answered, your failing dreams may finally come true, your long held desires will be fulfilled. Just like Buddy, who had no clue that his miserable situation wouldn’t be permanent, we may suddenly find ourselves lifted out of the situation that is plaguing us.

“The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”–Lamentations 3:22

This night or tomorrow morning or some other day this year could finally be the day that your prayers are answered, your dreams come true.

Buddy’s life changed suddenly for the better. Yours, and mine, can too. Don’t lose hope. We serve an omnipotent and compassionate God.

Have a very happy and blessed 2018.

Love from Dawn and Buddy

PS. I did go to Taiwan last year which was an unexpected blessing and opportunity to serve God.

***

The best blessing a person could have is a relationship with the eternal and living God through His Son Jesus Christ. When you admit that you are a sinner and can never meet God’s righteous standards in your own power and strength, and that Jesus died for your sins, taking the punishment you deserve, to make you right with our Holy God, you become born-again. The Holy Spirit comes to inhabit you and transform your inner being. I invite you to take the first step to a lifetime of adventure and eternal life.

Please pray: Lord Father, I acknowledge that I can never meet your perfect and holy standards. I declare that Jesus died as punishment for my sins because He loves me and so do You. That God took on human flesh, dwelt amongst us and then died on the Cross and was resurrected bodily on the 3rd day. I ask you to forgive my sin and grant me the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Thank you for your kindness. In Jesus’ name, Amen

I was born-again March 7th, 1989 and I’ve never regretted the decision. Which is why I invite you to join our worldwide and eternal fellowship as a fellow Christian.

 

No Fear In The New Year: Psalm 121:7-8

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Buddy isn’t so thrilled about the New Year because it’s a war zone in our neighborhood. Fortunately, this year the neighbors celebrated for fewer hours, perhaps because it was so cold this winter or maybe they just ran short on funds after the multi-day fireworks extravaganza last Fourth of July. He spent most of the evening hiding deep in the closet under clothing or sandwiched amongst the stuffed toys stacked on my bed with just his face showing, just like ET.

Every New Year reminds me of how unknowable my future is. This year could bring great joy or great sorrow, a likely job lay-off or illness, a fabulous overseas European adventure or reduced circumstances. I don’t have the ability to predict the future, only to make my best guess.

However, whatever the year brings, I can rely on God’s promises in Scripture. One of my favorites, when facing the unknown, are these two verses from Psalm 121:7-8:

“The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”–NASB

Whether I leave a job, my home, or the old year behind, I know that the Lord Jesus will be with me, guarding me and watching over me.

Whether I begin a new job, move to a new home, or enter a new year, I know that the Lord Jesus will be with me, guarding me and watching over me.

Whether I go or come, leave or stay, He will be with me.

As you wake to each new day or rest your head onto your pillow in the evening, if you are born-again and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, remember that He will be with you.

Happy New Year from Dawn and Buddy.

PS. Due to inclement weather (high winds), this greeting was a bit delayed.