We're seeing more mothers killing their children, and society, or at least a fair part of it, making excuses for them.
I remember one of the arguments against abortion being that it would devalue life, particularly that of children.
Are we seeing that now?
The Double Minded Man
One Sunday, as you settle in the church to listen to the sermon, you here things that don't jibe with your knowledge of Christianity. The pastor is preaching things that don't match the Bible; in fact it contradicts the Bible over and over again. he preaches on the virtues of selfishness, of self gratification, and that feeling good is the most important quality in your life. As he continues to preach, elevating man above all else, you realize that you've wandered into a church of Satan.
So here's my question for you: Would you feel comfortable there? Would you feel welcomed and accepted? Would you believe you could make this church your home?
Or would the fact that their ideals and values were so different from your own make you leave that church as quickly as possible, never to return?
That's what I thought.
So why on earth are you swallowing the profane notion that we as believers should make make our churches more appealing to those who still serve the enemy?
Isn't it obvious that the only way to make them comfortable would be to adopt some of their values, their beliefs, their priorities at the expense of God's? Do we really believe that God is calling us to prostitute his church just to land more butts in the seats?
There's a church in Sevierville that recently raffled off cars to kids who joined the youth group, because apparently, they believe that the offer of eternal salvation isn't attractive enough. God neede them to sweeten the deal with a new ride.
The congregation is very proud of the gimmick, and rave about how many kids were saved by the pastor's creative promotion, but there's a huge flaw in this notion. I hate to be the one to break it to this pastor, but he didn't save anybody. Pastors don't save people. Congregations don't save people. LAy ministers don't save people. Apostles, disciples, ministers and saints do not save people.
Only God saves. We who are called are saved by His Grace through faith, and as Paul said, that faith does not come from ourselves, but from God. We are called to spread the Gospel, but God is responsible for the increase, and I don't think God needs us to help by handing out party favors.
Jesus said that His Father's house should be a house of prayer, and begging God to let me win that car isn't what He had in mind.
"But Rich, if even one kid was saved by this stunt, wasn't it worth it?"
First, if anyone was truly saved during this foolishness, then their name was already in the Book of Life, written their before time itself, and they were called by God to be saved, not lured there by material gain. Do we really think that greed is the road to salvation? We also have to look at the other side. While there was one winner, their were many losers. How many of them will decide that since God didn't want to give them a car, maybe He didn't want them at all. That's the problem with the Gospel of Prosperity; if you don't prosper, then God must not be with you. SO let me turn the question around. If even one kid turned away from God because of this stunt, was it worth it?
Our commission is to preach the Gospel as given, despite it's harsh truths. It is those harsh truths that give it power. When we try to sugar coat those truths, make them more palatable to the world, we've adulterated the Word, and that last time I checked, that was considered a bad thing.
The essential divide is spelled out for us by James:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The more attractive we are to the world, the less so were are to God.
I don't know what is in this pastor's heart. I don't know his intent or purpose and I won't speak to that. I can speak, though, to his actions, and the fruits of those actions and say emphatically that they are not Biblically sound. I'm not writing to sow dissension or cause turmoil but to cast a light where I believe it is desperately needed.
One Year Later
He wasn't optimistic.
But God gave me my best birthday gift ever. By the end of that day, Luke wasn't out of the woods, but the crisis had passed. They put him in a bed that kept him prone and his lungs began to heal. Seven days later, they put him back into a regular bed. A few days after that, they began to wean him from the respirator that had breathed for him for three weeks. A few days later, they began to let him wake up. We were worried about whether the hypoxia he suffered made his brain injuries worse, but when he woke up enough t communicate, he began using sign language to ask questions since the trach hole in his throat prevented him from talking.
Day by day, the extent of God's miracle became clear. From the edge of death, Luke has recovered nearly 100% and he did it with blazing fast speed. Today he works with the grounds maintenance crews at UT, spends a lot of time with his girlfriends and not enough time with his old man, but that's ok. I get a thrill every time I see him walk in the door, smile that Luke smile, and say "Hey Paw!"
Today, Luke is asking for another miracle; one for somebody else.
I don't know what his relationship to this young lady is, but Luke is asking that all the folks who prayed for his recovery to pray for Chelsea Williams, an 18 year old girl who accidentally overdosed and is now in the hospital in a coma. I watched Luke fade away in a coma, and I've watched Henry Granju's mama Katie go through the death of her child to an overdose, and I pray that no other mother or father will have to face the same fear and pain. I pray that God will be with Chelsea and her family, and that He will bring them together with Him, in Hiw will and His time. I pray that He will shower them with His Grace, Mercy, and Love, and give them the strength they need to get through this trial. I ask this in Jesus' name, the Son of God, who died for my sins so I could take this to the Father and be seen as washed in righteousness.
Why is Katie Suing?
Katie Granju has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two people she believes gave her son a lethal dose of methadone and the clinic that supplied the methadone. You can see the filing here.
And if you feel like diving into a cesspool, you can read the comments on the KNS story here.
There are people commenting who know nothing about the case, and have obviously failed to read either the filing or the article they are commenting on. Or it could be that they did read it, but were blinded by prejudice, ignorance, and/or hate. What really angers me is how many of these people who claim that Henry got what he deserved also claim to be good Christians who love the Lord.
Apparently they forget that Jesus didn't hang out with folks like them; He pretty much told them that they were headed to Hell with the Pharisees and other hypocrites. Jesus hung out with folks like Henry; sinners who had lost their way and were looking for redemption, the outcasts of polite society. If anyone bothers to read Henry's story, you can't help but see that he was looking for redemption, a way out of the trap that is addiction. Tragically, that search was cut short by two people who took advantage of him, abused him, fed his addiction, and then sat by and callously watched him suffer, struggling to breathe, waiting until they were threatened with police before finally calling for medical help.
It truly is a horrible story, yet there are many who believe that Henry got no less than what he deserved because he was a drug addict, and that his mother is filing a lawsuit to deflect guilt, his and hers, and to try and take financial advantage of Henry's tragedy.
Needless to say, I am not one of those people, and here's my response to them.
First, Henry was not a criminal. He was never arrested for dealing, much less tried and convicted. Remember the whole, "innocent until proven guilty" thing? You might want to look that up; it's kind of the basis for our entire legal system. It says you can't treat somebody like a criminal until you prove they are one in a court of law. No court ever found Henry guilty of dealing drugs; no policemen ever arrested him for it.
That being said, his mother has repeatedly and clearly admitted that Henry was using drugs, and probably selling them to support his habit. She's gone so far to write that she had hoped that Henry would get busted so that he might get the help he needed but that never happened. So much for shifting blame.
It seems many believe that he deserved to die for using and/or selling drugs, that because he made some bad choices that somehow justice was done when he was left to choke on his own vomit for 6 hours before the two "Good Samaritans" called for help. (Yeah, the lead investigator told Katie that Yolanda and Randall were just two good people trying to help a kid in trouble. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.)
All of you self righteous parents, who believe that Henry's death may have been tragic, but ultimately his own responsibility, what would your reaction be if somebody let your child die like that, refusing to call for help? Would you tell yourself that your child was using drugs, deserved to die, and then go on with your golf game? Reading some of the comments on the story, some of you just might, which tells me you shouldn't be allowed to have a dog, much less a child. I'll tell you one thing. I'm a Navy vet, like my father and grandfather, and my oldest son is in the Army and just got back from his second tour in Iraq, and the comments I've read on this story make me question whether our sacrifices were worth it. The day after Memorial Day, I wonder if all the men and women who have did in service to this nation died in vain. The hatred shown and the willingness to cast somebody off because they have a problem, or because they fail to live up to some arbitrary standards makes me sick. The worst part is that this attitude is apparently shared by the people in our government who are supposed to rise above this kind of crap and enforce the rule of law impartially, and not as some kind of perverted popularity contest.
"Did you hear? A kid was beaten severely, robbed, and then was taken by two people who gave him a lethal overdose of drugs and watched him choke for 6 hours before calling for medical help. He died a few days later."
"My God! That's awful! How did this happen? Did they arrest anybody?"
"No, apparently, the kid had a drug problem and..."
"He was a junkie! Hell, he deserved what he got! Probably saved the tax payers a bundle by just letting the whole thing go away..."
Really? Is that the way we want our law enforcement to work? One standard for people we approve of and another for those who don't quite make the grade?
The Tennessee law code, TCA 39-13-210, states clearly that anybody who gives a drug illegally to another person is guilty of second degree murder if that person dies as a result of that drug. The medical examiner's report explicitly links Henry's death to the drug overdose. In fact, the KCSO is on record as declining to prosecute the assault on Henry because he died of the overdose. They have not stated a reason for declining to prosecute the murder by overdose. Henry's mother has been forced to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court because for whatever reason, the Knox County Sheriff and the DA's office have declined to enforce, investigate, or prosecute violators of the law.
In short, they don't want to do their job, either because there may be some political ramifications, or because Henry was an addict, an "unattractive victim," as one assistant DA told Katie.
For me, I can't decide which explanation is more repugnant, and the truth is that regardless of which one they claim, they don't get to make that choice. Their oath is to uphold the law, without prejudice, and for whatever reason, political or pragmatic, they have collectively failed to do so.
The hate and intolerance, as displayed in the comments to this story, is giving them the political cover to do so. So let me ask you people something. What happens when you become an 'unattractive victim?' What happens when the powers that be decide that your rights are not worth defending because you don't meet their standards? What will you do then?
In fighting for Henry, Katie is not denying that he was a drug addict. She's not saying that he had no responsibility for his actions; in fact, she held him accountable in every way she could, even after he turned 18 and became a legal adult. They tried in patient and out patient treatment. They tried soft love, tough love, making rules, setting restrictions. In the end, she had to make the ultimate sacrifice of removing him from her home to protect her other children. Not because Henry was a danger, but because his siblings were suffering from his addiction, paying a price in fear and worry that they never should have to pay. I grew up with an alcoholic father, and I know the pain that inflicts on the family so I understand the painful choice Katie had to make.
In fighting for Henry, she's not trying to escape the burden of responsibility for making those choices; as a parent, she feels responsibility for everything that happens to all of her children and she will carry that weight for the rest of her life. Because of Henry's addiction, she had to make a brutally hard decision, and she will carry the consequences of that decision, right or wrong, to her grave with her.
She's suing because no matter how hard she's tried, nobody in the Knox County government gives a damn about Henry and what happened to him, and not only is that unfair to Henry, it means that it will happen again to another young person.
And it will keep happening again and again until somebody finally stands up and screams STOP! ENOUGH! You can't kill any more of our children!
And having stood up and said something, then that person must follow up and actually do something.
Our newspapers won't do it.
Our police won't do it.
Our DA won't do it.
Our medical examiner says she doesn't have the time or resources to do it.
So Katie and her family are doing it. Not to take the responsibility away from Henry, but to make sure that this doesn't happen again to any other family. Because Henry is not the only victim here.
For all to many people, Henry was just a junkie. But Henry was a son, a big brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, and a good kid. He was a talented musician with a desire to travel and see the world. He was a free spirit with a big heart and a bigger imagination. He was so much more than 'just a junkie,' and Katie wants us to see Henry, and not just Henry but all drug addicts, as who they are, not what they are; as brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives.
Because until we see them as people, we're comfortable as passing them off as 'just a junkie,' another 'unattractive victim' whose death is something to disregard rather than to mourn.
That's what this lawsuit is about. And that's why I stand behind Katie.
It’s Not the End of the World
First, forget about the guy leading this group, and think about the folks who followed him. They, without any doubt, were very sincere in their belief that the interpretation he put forth was correct. They followed because they believed. Can you ridicule them for that? After all, we follow our beliefs, and to an unbeliever, what we believe is every bit as ridiculous as what these folks believed. How can we poke fun at them and then get offended when atheists make fun of us?
We can't. They believed sincerely, so much so that many acted on that faith, refusing to hedge their bets. They got rid of their property, their savings, anything that could hold them back from meeting God. We're called to do the same, you and I.
How many of us have a faith strong enough to let go of everything, and depend solely on God?
I don't, and so I have admiration for those people who, even though they were mistaken, went all the way for their belief. They literally put their money where their heart is, and while they may seem foolish to most of us, I admire their courage to act on their faith, to step out of the boat onto the storm tossed waters, and believe that God will sustain them. My prayer is that they will be sustained through this trial, that they understand that it wasn't their faith that was wrong, but the teaching they followed. I pray that their faith in God withstands the pain this false teaching has brought them.
My guess is that for most of them, it will. They understand that man is fallible, and makes mistakes. We can be misled, blinded by our own pride, our intellect, or by influences of the world. While we make mistakes, some admittedly bigger and more public than others, we know that those mistakes do not reflect back on our faith, but only on our own shortcomings, our own misunderstandings.
As for the guy who led them, I don't know if he was simply wrong, or if there was more going on, but either way, his burden is heavy. The Bible tells us what happens to false prophets, both in this life and at judgment, and it isn't pretty. Millstones and oceans are involved. In short, he will get what's coming to him; I don't have to get involved in it. God will sit in judgment on him; I don't have to.
In short, these folks deserve sympathy, not scorn; empathy, not ridicule; love, not judgment, our admiration, not condemnation. They stepped out in faith, doing what we profess to do, but doing it better.
Why No Justice for Henry?
Over 100 cases, many of which include multiple victims. Don't tell me it doesn't happen here because it is happening here, and frequently. Don't tell me that the Knox County Sheriff's office is unaware of the problem because if they are, then every single member of the department should be fired.
If you really want your stomach to start churning, look at the graphic on the next page which shows the conviction rate. Knox County has no convictions for the trafficking of minors.
Not one. Over 100 cases in two years and no convictions.
Are they even trying?
As I watch Katie fight for justice for her son, I can't help but wonder what makes his case so different? Why aren't the authorities interested in pursuing it? She's found several cases, (here's the most recent) from other Tennessee counties where people who gave drugs to young people in circumstances very similar to what happened to Henry were charged and successfully prosecuted. If small counties around Knoxville are able to do this, why can't they do it in Knox County?
Maybe they aren't really trying. That's a common explanation. After all, Katie was told to her face that Henry wasn't "an attractive victim," as if justice is delivered based on our appeal to the public rather than our inherent value as a human being. As nauseating as this attitude is, it is a real part of our legal system, but it shouldn't be, and as Katie's investigation continues, bringing more inconvenient facts to light, I don't think that attitude explains the willingness of the Knox County Sheriff's office to look so totally incompetent rather than investigate Henry's death more fully.
It's almost like they are afraid of what they might find.
There's an aspect to Henry's case that we don't talk about much, because it is very painful for Katie and her family, but it is this aspect that make's Henry's case different from the drug overdose deaths that have been successfully prosecuted elsewhere in Tennessee. According to Katie, Henry told her that Y and R not only sold/gave Henry drugs, including the methadone overdose that killed him, they prostituted him and other drug addicted young men. Now, without getting overly graphic, you can't sell unless somebody is buying, which means that there is a market in Knoxville for paid sex with young men, and apparently, two low life drug dealers supplied that market. And this brings up a new character in this story, one that nobody has discussed until now.
And that is the john. We don't know anything about them because so far, our law enforcement officials have shown no interest whatsoever in going after them.
Who are these men who are willing to pay for sex with drugged out boys? What price do they pay for sex with a strung out kid from the suburbs?. And more to the point, what would they do to keep from getting exposed as a pederast?
Let me pull on my tin foil hat and see where this line of speculation takes us. Let's see if it can make sense of the facts concerning the appallingly inept investigation of Henry's death.
First, who has the most to lose if Henry's case is investigated to the fullest?
Not the KCSO; they already look callous and incompetent. Any movement on the case at all can do nothing but make them look better. Same goes for the DA's office.
Not the dealers/pimps; given their activities, it's only a matter of time before they go down for something. Since they are well known to Knoxville's young drug users, surely they are well known to Knox County law enforcement as well. Eventually, whatever protection they currently have will fail, and they'll take a fall.
That brings us to the johns and they have a lot to lose. If the truth comes out about Y and R's pimping, and they get outed as a result of the investigation, not only does their participation in prostitution become public, they will be revealed not only as gay, but as potential pedophiles, depending on the age of the young men they bought and paid for. There will be publicity, and they could lose everything, their jobs, their families, and their position in the community. Remember what happened to Larry Craig; how much worse would this be? That's a lot to lose and I'll bet that they would do almost anything to avoid that possibility.
So what happens if one of the johns happens to hold a place of power and influence in Knox County? What happens if he gets a panicked call from his pimp one day, saying that a young man is overdosing in their trailer and if he doesn't do something to protect them, his name just might come to light in a very ugly manner. What would the john do? Would he stand by while everything he worked for stands on the brink of destruction? Or will he act to preserve it? Would he use his influence to make sure that the investigation is quietly written off as just another tragic overdose? Would he apply pressure to the investigator, maybe even vouching for the two pimps, pushing the idea that they were nothing more than "Good Samaritans" trying to help a young man in trouble?
Remember, this is all speculation, a simple fantasy, but if you were the investigator assigned, and you were told by an important person, maybe even one in your chain of command that this case needed to go away quietly, would you risk your career over a brain damaged junkie, no matter how much his mother begged you? Or would you go along to get along, tell yourself that while it was tragic, the kid was asking for trouble by using drugs anyway?
What would you do?
Again, this is all speculation, just trying to find a reasonable explanation for why a young man can be assaulted, badly beaten, drugged, and then allowed to lie on the floor in a trailer choking in his own vomit for hours, and the KCSO can't seem to find a crime anywhere in all of that.
It just doesn't add up. The pieces don't fit.
On the other hand, the idea of a powerful john using his influence to protect himself and squash the investigation, well, that does fit.
It's disgusting and heart breaking, but the pieces fit.
Justice Denied: Katie Granju Posts About a Horrendous Anniversary
The horror was hers; as her son Henry was dying following an assault and drug overdose he made a terrifying and heart rending confession:
My painfully shy teenage son, hospitalized for the previous 13 days had earlier that afternoon summoned every ounce of courage in his battered body and mind, and had revealed something horrible, dark and evil that had been done to him, and was likely still being done to other young people struggling with drug addiction.
Haltingly, through tears of terrible shame, but in graphic detail, my son Henry explained to me from his wheelchair that the two middle-aged drug dealers who had nearly succeeded in killing him were also dealing in teenage boys. Henry shared with me that these two people were preying on kids in Knox County who were sick and desperate, and were pimping them out to men.
They had done it to him.
Unbelievably, the story gets worse. When she went to the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the DA with the story, they did nothing.
That's the indifference.
Because Henry was a drug user who also sold drugs to support his habit, the KCSO and DA's office apparently doesn't care that he was severely assaulted at least once, given a lethal overdose of drugs, and prostituted by the people who gave him the overdose. They don't care that these people who did all this to Henry stood by for a period of hours, watching Henry's life slip away rather than calling for help.
The KCSO and the DA are not interested in pursuing this case, and the reason is simple as far as I'm concerned. They don't give a damn what happens to drug addicts. They think of them as somehow less than human, less worthy of their full efforts.
And you know what? There's a lot of people who agree with them. Read through the comments at Katie's place and see all the wonderful people of Knox County who believe that Henry's death was justified because he was a drug addict. Their comments are hateful, and often mean, and while I'm certain that the Knox County Sheriff and the DA would never sanction such comments publicly, their actions, or lack thereof, speak just as loudly as the comments of the comment worst troll.
You might even be one of those people. You might believe that anybody who sells drugs, whether they only sell to their friends to support their habit, or sell millions of dollars worth to finance the reconstruction of Market Square, deserves to die a horrible, lingering death. You might even call it justice.
You would be wrong.
The rule of law is based on two pillars, that no man is above the law's requirements, and that no man is beneath its notice. The commitment to those principles is what gives the rule of law its power, what sets it apart from the rule of men. We can place ourselves under the law willingly, knowing that we will be treated the same under that law, regardless of our status.
What happened to Henry was a crime, one specified as such in the Tennessee Code, and it should be treated accordingly, regardless of Henry's status as a drug dealer. To do otherwise would be to exchange the rule of law for the rule of man, giving our government the authority to treat people differently based on their status. And while that may be fine as long as we agree with their judgment of the relative worth of the victim, what happens when we don't?
What happens when the guys in charge decide that if you belong to the wrong political party, you aren't worthy of the full effort of law enforcement and the legal system? What happens if they decide that you are part of the wrong religion? Or let's get even closer to Henry's case. You're driving on the Interstate, doing 70mph in a 65 mph zone and you get hit bu a drunk driver, but the government declines to prosecute the drunk driver because you were speeding.
Does that make sense?
Not to me it doesn't.
Yes, Henry was a drug dealer. Yes, he broke the law. But that doesn't mean that he becomes fair game for any predator out there, just waiting to take advantage of a strung out kid. When we make a commitment to being a nation ruled by laws, it is people like Henry that test the level of our commitment. Everybody wants to see justice done for the attractive victim; that takes no effort or character at all. It's when the victim is not attractive that our true level of commitment is measured. That's when we prove that we are ruled by laws instead of our own prejudices.
In Knox County, our law enforcement and prosecution have demonstrated that their commitment to the law is shallow, and governed by their own prejudices, and that should be unacceptable.
What’s the Fighting About?
You've seen this picture hundreds of times, and maybe you've even heard sermons preached on this eternal battle between good and evil.
There's just one problem.
That's not what the Bible describes.
According to the Bible, that battle is already over. The devil doesn't have to fight for dominion on earth because God already gave it to him! This world we live in belongs to the devil. Don't believe me? Look it up! The Bible is very clear on this; the devil has authority over all the earth.
 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.
(Luke 4:6 ESV)
It doesn't get much clearer than that, does it? The world is ru, at least for now. We know how the story ends but for now, the bad guys are in charge.
So God has allowed the devil to have dominion over the earth, so the epic battle can't be over the earth, so it must be about our souls, right? The devil is fighting to steal our souls from God.
Nope, sorry, not so. Not only does the devil have dominion over this world, he already has our souls as well. We are born into this world as slaves to sin, condemned to death and damnation, not because of what we do, but because of what we are.
This is important so I'm going to say this again.
We are condemned not for what we do, but by what we are.
Let that sink in for a few minutes because it is really, really important that you get this right because everything else follows from it.
First, let's go to the book to make sure I'm not just making stuff up.
We all know John 3:16, which says that God loves us so much that He sent his Son to die for us, so we would not perish. We also know that we are saved not through works, but by faith through the Grace of God, but I think we fail to take that part seriously enough.
 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
(John 3:17-19 ESV)
Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it because the world and all of those in it were already condemned. We are heirs of corruption, sons and daughters of Adam's sin. It isn't that we commit sin that condemns us; it's that we are sinners. Even when we do good, when we do our best, our best is not good enough. In fact, it's not even close.
 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
(Isaiah 64:6 ESV)
I don't want to get needlessly gross here, but Isaiah felt strongly enough about this to emphasize it, and I'm just going to follow his lead. The words that are translated as 'polluted garmen't more literally translate as 'menstrual rags.' Now remember, we're talking about righteous deeds, not sins here. Even our most righteous works appear to God as filthy, bloody rags.
No matter how good a life we lead, we are still imperfect sinners, and that imperfection makes us as ugly to God as the filthiest thing you can think of. That's a hard truth to deal with, but it confirms what I said earlier. We're condemned not by what we do, but for what we are.
So the world belongs to the devil, as do we in our natural state, so what is there to fight about?
well, God in His Mercy has given us a way to escape this trap, to throw off our birthright of condemnation and to be reborn as new creatures, creatures who are no longer slaves to sin but servants and friends of God. We have a way out and everything the devil does has one, clear purpose, and that is to prevent us from taking that way out. If he can convince us that he has the power to make us lose that way out, then he deceives us into wasting our energy fighting battles that have already been won for us.
When God calls us to Him, we are freed from the accuser because no matter what he can accuse us of, the penalty has already been paid for us.
Now don't get me wrong; we're still flesh. We still sin, and we still struggle with temptations of that flesh, but there is no supernatural agency required to create that temptation; it's hardwired into us. We fight against that fleshly way of living and struggle to live as spiritual beings, as children of God. That is our battle and it takes every bit of strength we have, and all the help we can get from the Holy Spirit.
In closing, there's something I want to bring up that's a little bit controversial. Not heretical or anything like that, but not mainstream thought. There's an idea being tossed around by some Biblical scholars about how Heaven is arranged, and how the Millennial reign will look. In this idea, our position and status during the Millennium and in Heaven will be determined by our works here on earth. There are a lot of verses that can be interpreted to support this view, and it raises an interesting question. We know that since our works have nothing to do with our salvation, the devil can't make us do anything that would cause us to lose what God has given us.
But what if the devil could cause us to miss out on potential heavenly rewards by influencing our decisions and actions?
That question raises some interesting possibilities that are worth considering. Again, this is speculative, and nowhere near as developed an idea as the rest of what I've written about.
It Is Finished
Today, I'm going to finish off the topic and move on.
Sunday was my mother in law's birthday, and Lissa and I went to church with her. While the sermon was on an unrelated topic, the text included John 9:1-7.
[9:1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud  and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:1-7 ESV)
Here's what is going on. The disciples are asking Jesus why the blind man was born blind. Following a common belief that misfortune represents a judgment from God, they ask whose sin brought this misfortune upon this man. Jesus answers, and I'm certain there was shock on the face of the disciples. He told then that the blindness had nothing to do with a judgment or a penalty, but that God had made him blind so that Jesus could do God's work, healing, on him.
Now I don't know about you, but I would consider being blind from birth to be hurtful. Certainly, it's not something I would ask for. Yet God made this man blind just so Jesus could heal him, showing His power and His mercy. As Jesus said, the man's blindness allowed Jesus to show the light of God's love and mercy.
So much for the idea that God's Will does not include tough times for His people. It does. Our comfort is in knowing that the suffering is for a purpose, that God works everything for good, not evil.
If you remember, that Wednesday night series was all about spiritual warfare, and the teacher was trying to prepare us to face it.
As I read, study, and pray, I'm beginning to believe that the whole idea of spiritual warfare is a deception. Here's the thing. Lucifer rebelled against God, and led some of the angel into a war against God. God won, and kicked Lucifer out of Heaven, along with about a third of the angels, banishing them to Earth.
When God wins a fight, it's over. He didn't just sorta win, or win for now, or win for this season, with a return engagement next season. Either He wins, or He doesn't, and the Bible clearly tells us He won.
That fight is over.
The fight moved to the earth, with Lucifer, now satan, waging war against God's creation. And he was kicking our butts until about 2000 years ago when God sent His Son to fight and die for us. Jesus took the weight of our failures, the penalties for our sins, those committed up to that point and every sin yet to be committed up to the end of time onto himself, and paid the price in full. Satan has no claim on us anymore because Jesus paid the price in full. All we have to do is accept His sacrifice.
Jesus' last words on the cross were, "It is finished." He didn't say it was finished for now, or mostly finished, or that this was round two of a 16 round title fight. He said it was over and done and He won the victory. He died, went to Hell and freed those who were saved in Him, tore open the veil separating man from God, and forever freed us from bondage to Satan. He didn't just free us for now; he didn't just mostly free us; he didn't free us for a round or two.
The fight for men's souls is over and Jesus won.
So, if the fight is over, why are we still trying to fight?
That's the deception. Satan wants to convince us that the fight is still going on, that we are still in a battle against him, and that unless we follow certain rules, we can lose that battle. You know what another word for rules is?
Last time I checked, once we accept Jesus into our hearts, and become Christians, we are no longer under the law. We are saved through no effort of our own, but through Grace alone. That being the case, how can we lose that Grace through action or inaction?
We can't. If we are saved today, we're saved tomorrow, and next Tuesday, and three years from now. Satan can't do anything about that. All he can do is try to keep us from making that commitment to God, from becoming His bondservants. He wants to prevent us from developing that personal relationship by telling us that we're losing too many battles with him. He ants us to believe that we must fight against him in order to be worthy of God's love.
In short, he wants us to believe that our salvation comes from our ability to resist him instead of from the grace of God alone.
He wants us to believe that we are chips in a cosmic war between him and God when the truth is that the war is already over and God won.
If I'm right, and all of this is true, then the whole notion of spiritual warfare as it's being taught is part of the devil's deception. He's trying to get us a to fight a war we can't hope to win, hoping to keep us from realizing that God has already won it for us.
That's the true battleground folks. It's not in some spiritual realm where angels and demons contend for and against us, trying to influence our decisions to win or lose certain battles. It's in our hearts and souls, as satan tries to keep us from knowing that the battle is already won; that as adopted children of God, we already share in His victory over evil.
That's what I think anyway. I'm going to keep studying on it. As always, don't take my word for it. Study it yourself.
Katie’s Quest Marches On
Since that post, Katie has been working hard gathering more clues about the events leading up to Henry's hospitalization and talking to pretty much anybody willing to listen. Her passion and persistence are paying off. Since my last post, she's been on several local radio and TV shows, and had a nationally televised interview on CNN, telling Henry's story. As a result, she now has two attorneys working to file civil actions related to Henry's case and the KCSO is finally beginning to show interest in the idea that there was more to the story than "just another overdose."
What makes Katie so compelling is that her passion begins with Henry, but it doesn't end there. She's discovering that she isn't just a voice for Henry, but a voice for all of the families who have lost loved ones to addiction and overdose. She not only wants justice for Henry; she wants to prevent tragedies like this one from happening to anybody. She not only wants the people who facilitated Henry's death ( and possibly much more) to be held accountable for their actions, she wants to make sure others who lead kids into drug abuse, addiction, and then take advantage of them to be held accountable as well.
Katie has always been bright and articulate, but until now her passion has always been directed inward, towards her family. Now that family has been impacted by predators who use drugs to steal the life away from children, and Katie is harnessing the same power and passion to stand against those predators. And not just against the predators but anybody who takes the attitude that a drug overdose is just Darwin at work, regardless of which side of the law they stand.
She's smart; she's determined; she can work the media like nobody's business; and she's pissed off.
My money's on the lady in this fight.
Her latest post on Henry's story and links to the earlier chapters can be found here.
Quick! Before Somebody Notices!
Isaac loves his job and is seeing another lovely young lady.
Sabrina is doing great and both grandbabies are fay and happy.
Erinne is back at school, Meagn and Mason are both healthy and happy.
Cassandra is back home from Adam's homecoming, safe, sound, and ready to have a baby in July.
Luke has completely healed from his injuries, is employed, and seeing his young lady on a frequent basis.
Lissa, we need to leave town and take a vacation while we can!
What Are We Afraid Of?
 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
(Psalm 111:10 ESV)
I've been living in this verse for quite awhile now.
I've always wondered about the idea of fearing the Lord. It just didn't seem right. Why were we supposed to fear God when He loves us? He's our Father and He promises to take care of us, so why should we fear Him?
What really confused me is that this warning is given to us as believers. I mean, I could understand fearing God if I was unsaved. Knowing that He would judge me based on my actions and that unless I was perfect, I would fail that judgment made it simple to understand fearing God; but as a saved Christian, what did I have to fear?
Even crazier is the second part. Fear is the beginning of wisdom?
That's not what Yoda said.
When I was growing up, I went to a Catholic grade school. I was even an altar boy at one point. My teachers were nuns, and their explanation was that instead of fear, what the Bible really meant was something more like awe. It made a sort of sense. The root word for awe goes with awful as well as awesome, so it sort of made sense. The Hebrew word means fear or terror, but also has a secondary meaning of revere, so they weren't just making something up, but that explanation has weakened over the years as I've lived and more recently, as I've learned.
More about that later.
Another common explanation is that when we ask God for help, He helps us in His own way. I have a buddy who once asked God to help him to be more patient.
Growing in patience is a lot like growing in strength; you have to exercise the muscle, tear it down and let it hurt in order to grow. In order to learn patience, God puts us in situation after situation where we can do nothing but be patient. Asking for faith can lead to similar results. You may be placed in a situation where all you have left is your faith.
I've been there; it sucks.
But I came out the other side, and I am better and stronger for the experience.
And that's why I don't think that this is a valid reason to fear God. Yes, I'm afraid of what He will do to teach me what I need to know, but at the same time, I know that if I don't ask for it, I won't get it. (Usually. Jonah had a somewhat different experience. He didn't ask to be a prophet, or to get swallowed by a fish.) When you get right down to it, when God is teaching us, or testing us, we should know that He will always give us what we need to get through the test, to gain the blessings He has in store for us. The process may be uncomfortable, but we know it is for a reason.
And that leads me to what I believe is the real reason that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
We can't always know the mind of God. What we do know is that He works His Will on the world, to a plan that only He knows. We also know that besides being a loving and merciful God, He is a just God. And finally, we know that as part of His Creation, we are subject to His Will, regardless of what that Will is. It is a terrifying thought to understand that God, in His wisdom, and according to His Plan for His Creation, has created souls that are condemned to Hell.
Paul addresses this very topic in Romans:
 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,  in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—(Romans 9:19-23 ESV)
We are God's property. We as human beings, and particularly as Americans, don't want to believe that we are property. We hold a much higher opinion of ourselves. We all like to say we are one with Jesus, and we're His brothers and sisters, and that is true, but it is also true that we are the creation of the Creator. It is our great good fortune that having labored to create us, He loves us and wants us to be with Him. But we always have to remember the nature of our relationship with God.
Which is why fear is the beginning of wisdom. If we are to be in a relationship with God as He desires, then we have to know Him for who He is, not just who we want Him to be. God does indeed have fearful power over us, and it is not through any action of ours that He chooses to love us, which means He could chose otherwise, again through no action of ours.
That's a scary thought and one that will serve us well to keep in mind so we don't become puffed up with pride in our accomplishments or even our relationship with God.
Knowing where we stand, knowing ourselves, is the first step on the road to knowing the world, knowing other people, and knowing our purpose in God's plan. And that sounds like the beginnings of wisdom to me.
The End is Nigh
So to keep things rolling along, I have to let everybody know that last night, around 8:30, I witnessed the one incontrovertible sign of the coming End of the Ages.
I ate brussel sprouts.
And I liked them.
Suffering has a Purpose
 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
What we are not as familiar with is the context. God prophecies through Jeremiah that while He has plans to prosper them, they first have to endure 70 years of exile in Babylon.
 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
(Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)
There are some very important things we need to see in this passage. First of all, notice that in verse 14, God says that He drove them out from Israel, claiming responsibility for the troubles the exiles were facing.
The next important piece we need to look at is verses 12 and 13, where the almighty God explains Himself through Jeremiah. He tells His people that they must go into exile for 70 years until they learn to once again seek after Him with all of their hearts. But God also gives them comfort, telling them that they would learn the lesson, and that he would bless and prosper them once they returned to Him. 70 years later, Daniel realizes that the time has come for the Lord to bring His people back into Israel and begins to pray in atonement. His prayer is answered by the angel Gabriel, who brings him news of the future, including Israel's restoration to the land, as well as information concerning the end of days.
God fulfilled the promise He made through Jeremiah.
There are a lot of teachers out there in the world today claiming that since God loves us, He would never do anything to hurt us or cause us pain. They tell us that if something bad or painful happens, it's the work of satan, and not God's Will.
In this passage from Jeremiah, we see definitely that this is not so. God caused the people of Israel to suffer, both for punishment and instruction.
The Bible also tells us that God uses suffering and affliction to test us.
 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:2-5 ESV)
[8:1] “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.  And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.  Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.
(Deuteronomy 8:1-5 ESV)
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
(1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV)
God will not only allow suffering, He will cause it to fulfill His purpose. Here's a question for you. If you always reward your children with love and affection, and never apply discipline, what kind of children do you raise?
We call them spoiled, and it's a good word. They develop no strength of character, no regard for the feelings of others, showing only a selfish desire to have their own wants and needs met.
To combat that, to raise good strong children who will grow to be strong worthy adults, we discipline our kids. We instruct them, and when they don't heed our instruction, we reinforce our lessons with consequences. While many of us like to believe we can reason with our children, that if we explain things in a way that they can understand, then they will always make the right choices. As we gain experience as parents, we learn that this is a pipe dream. Children don't always respond logically or rationally, and they aren't always equipped to decide the correct response.
When a child strays into a busy street, he doesn't evaluate the chances of getting hit by a car; he just wants his ball back. A long lecture won't change that. However, a swat on the rear or other painful consequence will make an impression that goes beyond logic or reason. Positive feedback is important, but there are occasions when only negative feedback will work when raising a child.
So let's look back at Deut 8:5. Moses writes that God will discipline us as a man disciplines his son. And sometimes, we require some negative feedback. Our great good fortune is that God is merciful, and HIs Grace ensures that we don't receive the full amount of negative feedback we deserve.
Whether it is to test us, to help us grow in faith and strength, to reprove us, or instruct us, our job is to realize that when we suffer, it is a part of God's plan for us, and that means that it will work for our good, even though we may not know how.
The Deception of the Prosperity Gospel
It wasn't a decision I made lightly, but the pastor is leading the church away from the Bible and into bad teaching. I posted earlier about the teacher he brought in for the Wednesday night studies on Spiritual Warfare, and how he distorted Scripture to serve his purpose. It happened again last Wednesday, and that, along with what the pastor did as the study session started sealed the deal as far as I was concerned.
To many of you reading this, maybe even most of you, the infractions or distortions may seem trivial and unimportant. I hope I can demonstrate why they are anything but trivial, as these distortions attack the heart of our faith and form a weak foundation for a believer.
The study session started with the pastor walking up on stage and talking about how great it was that we had a teacher with such a positive message. He then said something that shocked me. He said, "If you're depressed right now, it's your fault."
The economy is bad; we're about to start a third war; the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis is continuing to worsen; unemployment isn't budging; gas prices are increasing rapidly; but he says if you are depressed or worried, it's your fault. He went on to say that if you were faithful, that God would reward you with material gains. He didn't put it that bluntly, but the implication was clear. Those who God loves, he will reward with good jobs, increasing bank accounts, good health, and freedom from worry.
That was his introduction to a clip from Joel Osteen praying over his congregation, telling them that he believed that God would reward their faith with prosperity, and health, and happiness. The pastor then called his staff to the stage, then sent them out among the congregation to pray that same prayer over the congregation.
It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Believe in God and worship Him, and you'll have a nice house, a good car, a fat paycheck, and good health and security. And if you don't have those things?
Hey, it's your fault. Your faith wasn't strong enough, or you sinned and didn't repent properly, or you didn't give enough to the church, or any number of things that all boil down to it being your fault. God didn't want bad things for you, but you screwed up and gave satan access to you.
That's the message.
Obviously, the pastor didn't spell it out that way. He only talked about the good things that will happen if you have faith; he never mentioned what it means when bad things happen to good people.
When the teacher began the session, he went back into Job for a bit. I don't know if somebody from the church read what I wrote and he decided he had to respond, or if it was just coincidence, but he wanted to make sure that everybody knew that the Book of Job was all about God's never ending war with the forces of evil. He taught that God defeated the evil, but that the evil was "strong willed" which meant they kept coming back over and over again. He used the analogy of a football team defeating their opponent but having to play them again next season. In other words, when God wins, he doesn't really win; His victory is only temporary.
Not much of a God then, is He?
He backed up this interpretation with Psalm 82, quoting the first and sixth verses
[82:1] God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
He said that this clearly shows that there are other gods in the supernatural realm, lesser than God, and in opposition to Him, and that they were contending with Him endlessly.
Here again, he's altering Scripture to suit his purposes because if you read the whole Psalm, you get quite a different picture.
 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
Even if this Psalm were talking about other supernatural gods that dabble in the affairs of men, similar to the Greek pantheon, do you see any sign that God is fighting them, or struggling to contain them? I don't.
And if you look closer, you find out that the word translated as 'gods' also translates as judges. Verses 2-4 strengthen this translation, as it gives a job description for an earthly ruler, not a god.
So who is right, the teacher who claims that this is proof of other supernatural gods, or little old me, claiming that the Psalm refers to human rulers and judges?
Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for it; you can take God's Word for it.
 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—  do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
Jesus refers to this passage and clearly indicates that it is about men who have received the word of God. Not supernatural forces battling with God, not rebellious angel or demons, but simple, fallible men, given authority by God who were falling down on the job.
Psalm 82 is not a manifesto proclaiming spiritual warfare in a supernatural realm; it's an unfavorable performance review for earthly rulers.
That's what Jesus said, and He is my best Teacher.
I was talking to some of the people at my table, telling them about what I'd studied and what I'd found, and I was disturbed by the hostility I faced. Even when I pointed out that the teacher was teaching things that were completely against what was in the Bible, they couldn't hear it. One said that the errors didn't really matter, that they were learning higher truths that were independent of the mistakes the teacher was making. They said that the words he used, what he actually said, wasn't as important as what they thought he meant.
That really concerns me for a couple of reasons. First, if I hadn't pointed out the errors, they wouldn't have noticed. While the teacher told everyone to go out and buy a really good study Bible (ESV to be specific) after having everyone shake it in the air while he prayed, he put it on a shelf and it didn't come back out again. Last Wednesday, he did pull it out, but told people not to bother looking up the references he went through, that they could look them up later if they felt they needed to.
How many people do you think went home and dug into the Scripture to see if it actually said what he said it did? How many Bereans were out there?
Most would have accepted the teacher's pronouncements at face value, and any disagreements they had would have remained safely generic, unreferenced to any relevant Scriptures, and easy to dismiss as immaterial to his main points.
Second, without digging into the Scriptures, how do you know that these "higher truths" are actually truths? If you don't do your homework, and find out what the Bible really says, how can you tell when you are being mislead? The Bible itself tells us over and over again to test the spirits, to search the Scriptures, to verify teaching, all in order to separate good sound teaching from bad.
And when we find bad teaching, we are to avoid it; remove ourselves from it. When it is bad through error in knowledge or understanding, we correct the error in love. When it is deliberately bad, or deceptive, we remove ourselves from it.
The people of that church are being taught that true faith in God brings prosperity and happiness. What happens to that faith when prosperity and happiness do not follow? What happens when God asks us to give away our prosperity, strap on a cross, and die with Him? What happens when the world comes against us, strips us of our rights and citizenship, removes our ability to do business, own property, or takes our very lives? (If you think I'm exaggerating, that that level of religious persecution could never happen, just remember the Holocaust. Or pick up today's newspaper and look for stories about Christians in Asia or the Middle East. Tolerance is the exception, rather than the rule.) What happens to a prosperity based faith when prosperity goes away? What happens when the beast comes against us?
[13:1] And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.  And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.  One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.  And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.  It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.  Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,
(Revelation 13:1-7 ESV)
Now a lot of folks believe in a pre-trib rapture, and say that when the beast gets here, we'll all be gone, but obviously somebody is here to be conquered by the beasts. Who are those saints? Possibly the church at Smyrna?
 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
I don't know, but it is clear that there will be Christians who suffer under the beast, are defeated, and martyred.
 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
(Revelation 6:9-11 ESV)
 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
(Revelation 7:13-14 ESV)
We know that bad times are coming for Christians. We know that we will face pain, heartache, torture, and some of us will be murdered for our faith. Our brothers and sisters in other countries are already facing these things. I assure you they are not prosperous, but their faith is still strong. If our faith is based on the belief that God will prosper us if we believe enough, then how strong will our faith be when we are tested? When that prosperity is taken away? How many of our brothers and sisters will fall to the beast before our own faith fails, and we begin to say "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" If hardship and troubles are satan's will opposing and defeating God's Will, then how can we ever hope to stand against the beast?
We can't. Our faith will fail. We will either believe that God is unable to protect us, or that we are unworthy of protection, and we will fall. That's what satan wants. That's all he wants. He wants to take us away from the God who loves us, who created us. And this doctrine of prosperity is one of his best tools yet. It's so attractive to believe that because God loves us that He wouldn't let anything bad happen to us. It's wonderful to believe in a God of Mercy and to forget that He is also a just God. It's easy to serve a master who takes care of your every physical want and need, and who assures you that your life will be comfortable as long as you believe.
But that's not the God of the Bible. When Jesus was crucified, he had twelve men who were his faithful followers. Which of them prospered in their lives? Which of them had material possessions, and good health, and freedom for worry, and safety, and freedom from persecution?
Not a single one.
God does bless us; there's no question about that, but we have to remember that God's blessings are a result of His Grace, not our works. We don't earn them; He gives them to suit His own purposes. There is no mystical prosperity formula, nor is there any guarantee that God will not remove the blessings He's given us, again to suit His own purposes.
I come back to Job again, for the perfect statement of our relationship to God.
 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(Job 1:20-22 ESV)
We are required to maintain our faith regardless of whether God prospers us or not. We are required to know that God loves us, and that the rewards He has for us in Heaven far outweigh any suffering here on earth. We're to keep our eyes on Heaven's reward, not material things. When Jesus taught us to pray, He didn't tell us to pray for security, prosperity, safety, or health, but to "give us this day our daily bread." Please Lord, give us what we need for today. That's all. Tomorrow I'll be back again to ask that you give me what I need to get through that day, but for today, all I ask is enough to get through the next 24 hours.
How many of us live like that? I know I don't, but I also know that I should.
In a way, the preacher was right, just not the way he intended. If we're worried or depressed, it is our fault, not because God promises to prosper us if we're faithful, but because God promises to reward us in Heaven if we're faithful. That's a hard lesson to learn and I've watched people very close to me struggle with it for a long time, and I'll admit that I struggled with it as well.
After the church staff member prayed over my nephew the Joel Osteen prayer, I turned to my nephew and told him my prayer for him. I prayed that his faith would be based not on the prosperity that God may choose to give him, but on the sure and certain belief that no matter what happens, God loves him. Come what may, wealth or poverty, security or danger, sickness or health, that he would remain faithful, knowing that God loves him, and that as long as we stay faithful, then no matter what happens, it is not a victory for evil, but a victory for God.
And right now, I pray that same prayer for every one of you who slogged through this long post. Whether you are a believer now or not, I pray that you know or come to know that God does love you, that He wants what's best for you, that no matter what happens here on earth, no matter how painful it is or how bad it looks to our limited eyes, that everything is working according to God's plan, for our good and His Glory.