Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Does God Want You To Have A Cadillac?

I'll get the confessions out of the way right off the top. One of my pet-peeves is the so-called prosperity Gospel which is being promoted from many North American pulpits. I find it morally repugnant that some preachers tell people living in one of the wealthiest societies in the history of the world that getting even richer is something that they should expect if, indeed, they are followers of God.

I've read the Bible through a number of times; I myself am a pastor and a preacher. I am at a loss to find how a balanced view of the Scriptures can lead to the conclusion that some in this movement have reached. The Bible does teach that our lives will be blessed. It does teach that if we are faithful to God He will provide all of our needs. It also says that "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9).

So, what does the Bible teach about money?

  1. There's nothing wrong with money - in and of itself. We know this because Jesus used money and commented on it. He told his disciples to look at a coin and tell him whose inscription was on it. Then he said in Matthew 22:21: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Many have wrongly quoted Jesus as saying that "Money is the root of all evil." It was actually the Apostle Paul, and what he said, in 1 Timothy 6:10, is this: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
  2. Money can be used for good or evil. Again, Jesus gives us examples of both of these. He praises the widow who gave an offering of 2 mites, each of them worth 1/5 of a penny (Mark 12:42). In Mark 12 he draws a comparison between her small gift and the seemingly more generous gifts of the wealthy. In his eyes, her gift was better because she gave all she had and the wealthy merely gave spending money. Hers was a heart gift.
  3. The management of our money is a reflection of God's place in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 8:5 Paul commends the church in Macedonia who gave "out of their deep poverty." He praises them because they "gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." Note firstly that they were not wealthy themselves; secondly, they were giving to help the church in Jerusalem, which was also experiencing hardship.
  4. Becoming a Christian does not guarantee wealth nor a free pass on the problems of life. No less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself said "In this world you will have trouble..." He also told us in Matthew 16:24 that: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The Apostle Paul, likely the greatest missionary in the history of the church, had so many challenges to overcome that he said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." It is the resurrection of the dead that provides hope for Christians - not the promise of wealth on earth.
  5. Wealth does not necessarily reflect God's blessing. A cursory glance at any list of the world's wealthiest people should give enough evidence of this. If this were true why is it that in a society which is the richest in the history of the world antidepressants are a multi-billion dollar industry?
  6. Each of us is responsible to God for our use of the resources placed at our disposal. This goes for the poor as well as the wealthy. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus gives His Parable of the Talents. Note that he expected the same faithfulness from the one who was given one talent as he did from the one who was given five.
  7. Sometimes God does reward us with material blessings. Scripture clearly teaches us that all of the good things that we enjoy are gifts from God, including things like raises and bonuses. Luke 6:38 says "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." In context, this clearly speaks to more than material wealth, as Jesus had just been speaking of the law of reaping and sowing.

Conclusion: As a general principle, the Bible does teach that if we walk in obedience to God and His Word our lives will be blessed. That blessing can, and often does, include material things. However, the Bible also teaches that the gifts we are given are meant to be used to advance God's purposes in the world. Wealth for its own sake is condemned as selfishness and sin in Scripture (See Luke 12).

As a pastor I've always had the belief that God's Word is universally true. His principles do not change whether you live in Hollywood or in a village in Africa. If it is true that prosperity always signifies God's approval, then the lack of prosperity would signify His disapproval. If that is the case then most of the New Testament Christians (most of the Christians in history!) have lived under God's disapproval. I much prefer to stand with men like the Apostle Paul, who said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Did You Know?

How fast the world changes!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

When most people think of St. Patrick's Day they think of wearing green, Ireland and green beer. But who was this St. Patrick and why do we celebrate a day in his honour?

It surprises a lot of people to discover that Patrick wasn't even Irish. He was born in Roman-occupied Britain in 390 AD. When he was 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland, where he was sold to an Irish king who put him to work as a shepherd.

In his loneliness he looked for comfort in the Christianity he'd heard about growing up. His solitude gave him time to focus on the relationship with the God he'd never had time for. In his book Confessions, Patrick said he heard God telling him "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look—your ship is ready." Risking everything, he walked 200 miles to the coast and boarded a waiting ship for home.

In Britain, he studied and became a minister, and eventually a Bishop. Thirty years later he returned to Ireland as a missionary, understanding the challenge he faced. The Irish of the time were barbarians - human sacrifice was common and they hung heads of victims as trophies from their belts.

Patrick was undaunted and eventually saw the entire country converted. In so doing, he may also have saved the future of the Western world. James Cavill writes in How the Irish Saved Western Civilization, that it was the newly converted Irish who preserved the important writings of history after Rome fell to the barbarians in AD 406.

A wave of missionary monks left Ireland for the European mainland and spread the Judeo-Christian values which provided the framework for the society we, in the west, know today. So the next time you think of St. Patrick - be thankful, he's more than just a good excuse to get drunk. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Amazing Grace, Amazing Movie - Take 2

Something happened with my post yesterday and the text was deleted - sorry. My wife and I had the chance to take in the preview of the movie "Amazing Grace." It's the story of William Wilberforce and his life-long crusade to end the slave trade in the British Empire. I'm normally a critic of Hollywood, but this time they got it right.

I know that it's hard to do justice to this type of character in a 2 hour movie, but they managed to hit most of the highlights. Wilberforce was a larger than life person (short though he was) who had as large an impact on Western Civilization as almost anyone. Yet he has remained largely unknown. Kudos to New Life Cinema for making this movie - it was truly inspirational. Be sure to take the kids.

I rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

This Sunday is quote day.

“Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself.” - Charles Spurgeon
"There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history." - Sir Isaac Newton

"Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth!" - Voltaire (1694-1778)
"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it." - G.K. Chesterton
"A great many of those who 'debunk' traditional...values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process." - C. S. Lewis

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Articles Worth Reading:

Darwinian Meltdown Over Intelligent Design - by Nancy Pearcey

Confronting Slavery in Today's World - by Kristin Wright

Global Warming Scary Movie

I'm not talking about Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" either! I now understand why all the media play about global warming. It turns out that the greatest danger to the planet is... the return of "The Blob." They just reran the movie on cable and I was fortunate enough to see SteveMcQueen's exceptional acting convince me that a creature made of either tar or molasses was going to devour the whole world!

But it was the end of the movie that sealed the deal. You see, "The Blob's" only weakness was that it couldn't stand the cold. So to defeat it they froze it with CO2. Then they transported it via military transport plane to the Arctic (why Canada allowed this I don't know). They parachuted this monster into the supposedly permanently frozen continent believing that they would never have to worry again.

Does Al Gore know about this? If so, is there another movie in the works? Perhaps he and David Suzuki should get together on this. In order to make it a more credible "scientific" movie, they could get James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici to produce it for them. It sounds like a sure-fire Oscar winner to me.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No Justice In Haiti

The young man in the picture was 19 years old at the time of the picture. He's since turned 20. He's a Canadian citizen and he's in jail in Haiti. He has not been charged, has been denied due process, and has been in a Haitian jail since July of 2006. His name is Max Charbonneau.

Max came to Haiti to visit his missionary parents in June, 2006. While there he received a call from an old school friend asking for her help. In a strange series of events he ended up being questioned by police and held on suspicion of kidnapping. Eight months later he has not been charged and the judge has presented no evidence to keep him in prison. he has not been able to defend himself in a court of law.

Here's the question of the day. How is it that a Canadian citizen can be sitting in a filthy jail cell for eight months without charges and our government has not been able to get him out - or at least be able to examine evidence? The latest word is that our Federal government is about to announce a $500 million aid package to Haiti!?! I think maybe we demand they first return him safely to Canada.

This would be a good time to get involved and try to put some pressure on our government to get Max out. The two issues to emphasize are these:

  • That Max, a Canadian citizen, is being denied justice and due process. He has never been charged and to date has never been able to defend himself in any court of law.
  • That if we are going to give Haiti financial assistance then we expect them to treat our citizens justly and fairly. Is it right to give Haiti $500 million when they do not accord our citizens justice and due process?

In addition, get your friends to phone and write the Department of Foreign Affairs and express their desire for the government to advocate for Max. Please have them copy their letters to their own MPs so that we can maximize the pressure on the government.

Here are the addresses and phone numbers that you can use:

Department of Foreign Affairs E-mail: enqserv@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Mr. Gordon Peter MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON Canada
K1A 0G2
E-mail: http://ca.f883.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=MacKay.P@parl.gc.ca

Ms. Josée Verner
Minister of International Cooperation
House of Commons
Ottawa, K1A 0A6
E-mail: http://ca.f883.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=Verner.J@parl.gc.ca

Department of Foreign Affairs Phone: (800) 267-8376

Peter MacKay: (613) 995-1851

Josée Verner: (819) 953-6238

Here is a web link that will help you to find your government representative:


To follow this story you cancheck out his parents web-site.

Friday, March 02, 2007

5 Stories You Likely Haven't Heard About

1. David Suzuki and Charitable Tax Status
During the last Federal election a number of outspoken critics of the moral stance taken by the Liberal Party of Canada received calls from Revenue Canada bureaucrats. At least one, Bishop Fred Henry, was warned that his organization could lose its charity tax status if he continued to criticize the government's stance on issues such as "same-sex marriage," abortion and divorce. Henry was critical of any and all politicians who took opposing views. He was reminded that the charities act requires that he abstain from partisan political activism.
Suzuki, Canada's leading voice for environmentalism, has been traveling the country, speaking at schools and other functions. In a Calgary school he attacked the Federal Conservatives in front of an assembly of sixth-graders, admitting he was directing his comments more to the adults in the room. The question is whether it's okay for the left to participate in partisan politics while keeping their charity status, or if they will be held to the same standard as Christian organizations. We'll let you know if Revenue Canada takes any action. Follow this link to read the original story.
This story is the height of political incorrectness and flies in the face of everything we hear about in the press. I've been told on numerous occasions that gays and lesbians are born that way and that it's genetic, etc... The evidence for that is still forthcoming, by the way.
Now we hear of Charlene Cothran, founder and editor of VENUS magazine, not only "coming out," but inviting others to join her. It's created a firestorm of criticism around her from the usual suspects, but you need to read the story for yourself. She wrote an article in her own magazine about her experience.
3. German Authorities Take Child Away From Parents Because of Homeschooling.
This story is another bizarre one, I first talked about it a few months ago. It's hard to believe, but homeschooling is illegal in Germany, under a law enacted by none other than Hitler himself. The law was designed to enable the Nazis to indoctrinate children into their way of thinking. For some reason it is still on the books, and has been used to remove 15 year old Melissa Busekros from her home and place her in an undisclosed location. Her siblings may face the same fate.
An organization named "Parents of the World" has launched a boycott of German companies to try to bring pressure on the local government to reverse its decision. It raises the whole question of parental vs. state authority. Check out the article by Gudrun Schultz on the subject.
4. Former ACLU Leader Arrested On Child Porn Charges
I include this for purposes of fairness. We all heard ad nauseum of the events surrounding Ted Haggard's fall from grace. It was featured repeatedly on all of the major networks, newspapers and news websites for weeks and became the subject of many a comedian's routine. He came under special criticism because of the hypocrisy of heading a Christian organization espousing morality while leading a private life that opposed it.
Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, the former president of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU, was arrested late last week by federal authorities and charged with receipt and possession of child pornography in violation of federal law. He has previously lobbied against internet filtering of web sites in public libraries and pushed for "maximum, unrestricted access to the valuable resources of the Internet." Easy access to pornography is fast becoming one of the greatest social problems families face. Read the full story here.
5. Iraqi Christians - Does Anybody Care?
The Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest anywhere in the world. They have survived generations of persecution and somehow learned to survive in an often hostile environment. Now there is a war in Iraq, largely fueled by the animosity between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. What both groups can agree on, though, is that Christians are a common enemy.
How bad is it? The latest figures from the UN estimate that around 3.7 million Iraqis - 1 in 8 - have been forced out of their homes by the violence since 2003. Christians, who made up only 3-4% of the population of Iraq, account for nearly a quarter of the refugee population. The number of Christians left in Iraq has fallen from 1.4 million in the 1980s to less than 500,000 now. Those who stay often face violence and/or death. An e-petition has been launched in the U.K. to help protect the rights of Iraqi Christians. For more of the story click here.
Let me know if you found this helpful - I might make hard-to-find news stories a regular feature.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Money, Money, Money...

There was a quote that I noticed in a Toronto Star article today that caught my eye. The article was dealing with the growing gap between rich and poor in Canada, and the seemingly insatiable desire for more - even among those who would be considered wealthy. It was written by Rita Daly and the quote was attributed to Kalle Lasn, an "outspoken critic of consumer excess..." He called this "hyper-capitalist" trend in society a "social virus" and thinks that "it's eating at our culture." I don't know the guy's politics; I'd probably disagree with him about many things, but I think he has a point here.

In my dealings with people I've found a growing number who find themselves falling further and further behind. I don't mean that they can't afford the latest toys; I mean they can't afford their house or apartment; can't keep up with their bills and can't keep their car on the road. In another article in the same edition, Daly and Laurie Monsebraaten quote statistics that show that the average Canadian family with children worked 200 more hours in 2004 than in 1996 yet found themselves no further ahead. On the other hand, the top ten percent of income earners worked less, yet found their salaries growing exponentially.

For example, in 1996 the 10% richest families earned 31 times what the 10% poorest lived on. By 2004 they earned 82 times more. That's quite a change - even without a careful study of the statistics. We've all heard about the incredible salaries of CEOs both in Canada and the U.S. Here's just one example: John Hunkin stepped down from his position as CEO of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in 2005. He now receives more than $1.3 million yearly in retirement benefits. He also received more than $25 million in stocks. His salary in 2004 alone was $1 million. His bonus for the year was over $3 million. That's just one example.

Now, let me first say that I believe in free enterprise. I also believe in social responsibility. In 2004 three of the big Canadian banks earned profits of: $2.2-billion (CIBC), $2.9-billion (Bank of Nova Scotia) and $2.83-billion (Royal). Yet my non-scientific poll and my personal experience reveal that customer service is actually declining. You receive no interest on deposits, high service fees and no tellers when you want service. This is only one sector of business. We could look similarly at the oil companies and others. We could also look at our own Federal government.

The point is that there is a grossly disproportionate share of resources being channelled into fewer hands, creating, soon, a permanent underclass. Perhaps the most telling symptom of this "social virus" is one that is hard to measure, because you can't see it. It's a growing sense among a generation that they will not be able to achieve their dreams. Not only that, but there's a growing fear that they cannot even take care of their own. It's been a while since our culture has known that fear on a wide scale.
I think that there's a reason (or reasons) for the insatiable greed on the one hand and the fear on the other. We've made money and things the measure of our success; yet things can never satisfy. I remember at Christmas waiting for the new toy and then merely days later forgetting all about it. The more we have the more we want. We also have advertisers telling us all of the things that we need because they will make us happy.
There is something very wrong with a culture where, even though the very poor are wealthy by the world's standards, there remains such a high level of dissatisfaction. If you're looking to be the richest on the block there's always a Jones (or a Trump) with more.
Wouln't it be great if more people lived the way that Mother Teresa lived? She said: "I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God." She understood that what really matters is not what we have, but what we do with what we have.
The Biblical word for that is stewardship. It's a recognition that God is the one who has provided for us, and He intends for us to use our resources to help others; to make the world a better place. One of the best examples I've seen of this was when Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, became a best-selling author. His book, Purpose Driven Life, has sold millions of copies and brought in millions of dollars. What does a man do with that kind of money in light of Scripture? That's what Larry King asked him. Warren and his wife decided not to buy a bigger house; to stop taking a salary from the church; to pay back the church every penny he had received in salary; to set up charitable foundations to distribute the money; to give 90% of it away and to live on only 10%. He and his wife, Kay, are now heavily involved in fighting the AIDs epidemic.
He might not be perfect - I'm sure he's not. But I think I prefer his example to that of John Hunkin. We are not accountable for what we don't have; we are accountable, however, for what does come into our possession. If each of us could keep that in mind, we could make the world a better place. Just a thought.