Making sense of our suffering

What has been your most difficult trial in the last couple of years?

Sickness, strained relationships, persecution, isolation, financial difficulties, family problems?

Today, as all through the ages, people have different responses to trials, suffering and hardship.

They may think, “God obviously doesn’t care about me.”

Or, “God has deserted and abandoned me.”

Or, “I must have done something wrong and God is punishing me.”

Or, “Christianity is just a farce.  If God really did love me this would not be happening.”

The Christians, to whom the Apostle Peter wrote the letter we know as “1 Peter”, were also suffering and facing many trials.

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For Better, for Worse

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating at a wedding in a township church in South Africa.  The marriage ceremony took place as an addition to the Sunday morning service.

The vibrancy of the singing was contagious and the warmth of hospitality humbling.

In African culture there is no such thing as RSVP!  If you attend the wedding – and all are welcome – you join the feast afterwards. And there’s always enough food.

I reminded the wedding couple, and the church, that the Bible has a lot to say about marriage.

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What are the greater works Jesus promised we would do?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Notice that Jesus’ promise applies to all Christians.  Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me.”

This promise is not just for the apostles, or missionaries, or pastors.

Whatever Jesus was referring to is normal Christianity.

Obviously, this becomes ludicrous if we think, like some people do, that Jesus promised that Christians would do the same, and even greater, miracles than him.

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Why the Prosperity Gospel is so poisonous

I’m sure you’ve heard the following:

“You are a King’s Kid as a Christian, you are royalty!  You shouldn’t settle for second best!”

 “God favour should overflow into your life as you walk in God’s anointing and enjoy health and financial prosperity!”

 “God hates poverty and illness, you should claim your victory!”

 “If you’re not walking in full victory of sin, illness and financial difficulty, you either lack faith or have unconfessed sin. Jesus came to give us abundant life!”

This is the Prosperity Gospel.  

The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is called so because it teaches that God desires all his people to be prosperous.  Physically prosperous.  Healthy and wealthy.

To put it simply, the PG is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.

The PG movement (according to Kate Bowler1, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University) has its roots in the late 1800’s in American tradition of New Thought.  That is, that positive thoughts yield positive circumstances; and negative thoughts, negative circumstances.

The American New Thought movement took a Christian slant with a Pastor named EW Kenyon, who ministered in the US in the early 1900’s.

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The dangerous theology of Spiritual Breakthrough

Many conferences and meetings, under the banner of Christianity, promise spiritual breakthroughs to take your faith to the next level.

There are books written about spiritual breakthroughs:

“Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough”

“Praying the Lord’s Prayer for Spiritual Breakthrough”

“Prayer Walking for Spiritual Breakthroughs”

“How to be patient while waiting for a Spiritual Breakthrough”

You can even buy anointed water for a spiritual breakthrough.

“Spiritual breakthrough” is a term that seems to have more in common with animism and African Traditional Religion, than Christianity.  ATR and animism teach that there are evil forces that constantly bind and oppose us and we need to break through these oppressive forces to access God’s favour.

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How does God guide us?

Christians have always been fascinated by this question and there is no shortage of weird and wonderful teachings on the subject.

We’re interested in the question because decision-making is such a big part of our lives.  We make hundreds of choices every day.

Every time we make a choice we receive the consequences of that choice – intended and unintended.

Often our seemingly most insignificant decisions have the biggest consequences.

We could make the choice to leave 5 minutes early for work and be in a terrible car accident that affects the rest of our lives.

Because we don’t know the future, making decision-making can be tough.

How should we make decisions? How do we hear God’s voice? How does God Guide us?

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Does God want to heal me?

I know this is a very sensitive question as many Christians struggle with all kinds of illness, depression, mental illness and genetic disorders.

Note that the question is not, “Can God heal me?”

We know that God can.

If God can create the universe by speaking words, he can do anything.

The reason I ask is because some churches are teaching that Jesus died to take away all ours sins and sicknesses.  They teach that physical health demonstrates a robust faith and physical weakness, or illness, demonstrates a weak faith. Health is therefore an indicator of the strength of one’s faith.

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