Mansions and Slums

There is a terrific disconnect today in many who follow the Lord. The Lord whom we follow lived very simply, never owned a home (“foxes have their holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head”), and instructed His treasurer, Judas Iscariot, to give to the poor. He was a man on a mission and lived life “lightly” and did not clutter it up with too many possessions but stayed focus and free.

If you believed and joined His mission you gave up most of what others took for granted – your fishing business, your family (“love me more than you love your mother or father”), your wealth (“sell everything, give to the poor and follow Me”) and lived the way He lived as you learned from Him. Disciples lived with their masters and in the same way as they lived – Jesus’ disciples were not an exception to the rule.

But today we have Christians who are living in serious luxury while their family members around the world are living without and even suffering for lack of the basics in life. They are our family, folks! One brother in Africa put it this way:

“The U.S. has built a humongous mansion in the middle of a world with a lot of slums.” Kenyan entrepreneur Ayisi Makatiani, founder, Africa Online.

He was referring to the nation. I am talking about the Christians and not just in the United States but in many nations of the world. Regretfully the ‘gospel’ being preached in many nations today is the prosperity gospel made popular in North America over the last 30 years but with its roots in a non-Christian religion that dates back many years. As this ‘gospel’ spreads so does a lifestyle not compatible with the message of the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We build manions while other believers live in the slums through no fault of their own.

This came home in a fresh way on a recent trip to Kazakhstan. On the way to that wonderful nation I missed every connection. As a result I quickly read all three books that I had brought with me. So, in Frankfort, Germany I found a bookstore that sold English books and purchased a book that traced the historical roots of the “confess it and possess it” gospel – the prosperity gospel so prevelant in the world today – no longer just in North America. Not a book for the Christian market – a business book published in the United States by an author who encounter the message while overcoming breast cancer. “Smile Or Die – How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

In the book there was one chapter on the Church … and within that chapter the following, and I quote: “Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church …has been dubbed the ‘rock star’ of the new gospel and called ‘America’s most influential Christian’ by the Church Report magazine.” The “new gospel” is the prosperity message.

Writing further about the local church he pastors the author states: “… it boasts a weekly attendance of forty thousand people and a weekly income of a million dollars. Osteen doesn’t collect a salary from his church – there are already three hundred people on its payroll – because he is apparently content to live off his royalities. His first book, ‘Your Best Life Now,’ has sold about four million copies, leading to what was said to be an advance of $13 million for the sequel, ‘Become a Better You.'”

She goes on to critique his teachings and finds them sadly lacking any mention of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the need for repentance from sin leading to salvation. As a motivational speaker Pastor Joel is successful – as a pastor he is preaching New Thought as made popular by Mary Baker Eddy and the mind over matter people of the Christian Science movement. As someone who has read both of Joel Osteen’s books I would have to agree with Barbara Ehrenreich and humbly suggest that his message is anything but Christian and definitely not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, you may be exception to the rule but generally believers seem preoccupied with what the Christian faith and God can do for us. The focus should be on what we can and should do with God – seek and save the lost, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prision; lay hands on the sick, cast out demons and go into the whole world proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and winning the lost.

As believers we seem to be sold on the idea of accumulating anything and everything our little hearts desire – and our hearts are “little” as they don’t encompass our brothers and sisters in other nations who are suffering for the Gospel and often don’t have the basics of one meal a day let alone three squares a day.

As believers we are selfish and self-centered and think that comfort, luxury (yes – we live in luxury), and having what we want when we want it are our God-given birthright as followers of Jesus.

The time is upon us when the Lord is making some major adjustments to our approach to the faith His Son died to establish. This will include a radical change in our lifestyle and focus as He brings us back to the idea of “dying to self” and “taking up our cross daily” as we “tell others the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made in our lives.” Those who are true followers of the Lord will be changed into His likeness and His focus will become our focus – His mission will be our mission – and we will change whatever needs to be changed to see His mission fulfilled in our lifetime. A radical adjustment is about to begin and it will most likely be very painful for many – but liberating nonetheless.

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