Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You May Ask Yourself, Where is That Large Automobile?

I am going to disclaim this blog that this will fall under the very recent times of Church History, as in the past few weeks, months and a years. But, I feel that this is appropriate, since it is something that I have been thinking through lately.

There is a particular Pastor, who lives in Texas, who has a perma-grin on his face and rather puffy hair, that has published a few books and made a tidy profit in this world that we call Religious Publishing. A couple of weeks ago, his latest book has come out about how to find wealth, health and a good life in these rough, poor economic times. I will say this, I have not read this book, nor any of his other writings. I saw a televised interview about this particular book, and I gathered from that interview and the book-flap what this book is about. So, please, take what I have to say with a grain of salt in that I am NOT the expert in this particular time of Church History; but also know that I do understand the basic gist of what he and others like him are saying.

Now, my question is should we expect that our time as Christians be filled with any sort of wealth, health, prosperity and/or general riches that accumulate in the world? If these books and their titles reflected that the best life that you can have starts now because Jesus is saving you from this world, the sin, the corruption, and the worldly riches, I might blog about something else. However, there is a misconception here that once you become a Christian, you can have some sort of better, worldly life. God is going to "bless" you with wealth, with a healthy body, with a basic desire to do better and better in this world.

Here is a list of just a few biblical passages of why I do not think that becoming a Christian means that we will have a better earthly life from the world's perspective:

John 15:18-25
Acts 7:54-60
Acts 14:19-23
2 Timothy 3:12
1 John 2:15-17

When we become a Christian, should we prepare ourselves to be blessed with earthly riches, wealth, healthy lives? Is that the peace and joy that God promises to us? I really don't think so. There is one story in history that I believe will shed some light on what a Christian should do to prepare. I once read this book by Noel Piper called Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. If you enjoy John Piper, then I assure you that you will LOVE Noel. This book is wonderfully beautiful in its storytelling, extremely humbling in its honesty by the author, and really a treasure as we discover more about faithful women throughout Church History.

One story from this book, which can also be found in several other books as well, is about Esther Ahn Kim. This Korean Christian woman spent six years in a Japanese prison during WWII. The amazing thing is that when she became a Christian, she did not start preparing for an abundance of wealth and health to come her way, but she began to prepare to become a martyr. Her mother and herself moved into tighter quarters to begin to prepare their bodies for the cramped space of the prison cells. They ate old, discarded food so that their bodies would become accustomed to eating the garbage that the prisoners were fed. They spent their time and energy memorizing whole portions of Scripture, great hymns of the faith, and other wonderful truths about their Savior.

So, when Esther Ahn Kim was imprisoned, she was prepared for this life. Her teeth fell out during this time. The guards thought it was fun to torture the prisoners by giving them old, mushy apples that were quite disgusting for a normal human to eat. But since she had prepared her stomach for this food, and since her teeth were already out - a mushy, old apple that had been discarded in the trash was all she could have eaten anyway! If the guards had really wanted to torture her, they should have given her fresh, hard fruit, but they didn't know! During her nights, she would often recite the Bible and sing hymns aloud to the other prisoners and the guards. While other prisoners were being driven mad by their own minds not knowing enough, she was able to express fully her faith and grow in this faith in the midst of persecution. I won't tell you all the rest, because I think that this whole story is really a wonderful thing to discover on one's own.

Here is my point though - we as American Christians will have a lot to answer for on the final day. We live in a place where religion can be freely expressed and conversed about, where one will not be arrested for expressing their beliefs. Sure, people will laugh, argue, and even slander you; but I really doubt one is going to be beaten for saying that they believe in Jesus. And if they are beaten, then maybe we should be thankful for the news coverage that story will get, because it will shed a light on Christianity that is not filled with sayings of hypocrisy.

Should we expect wealth? Should we expect health? Should we expect God to give us great riches of this world? I sure hope not. We should expect persecution. We should expect to be disliked. We should expect to one day face our Lord and Savior and to have Him say, "You answered the call, I sent you; well done, good and faithful servant."

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