Bible Study by Pastor Don 9/13/06
Pastor Don mentioned the Time Magazine article that is currently in the news about the new Prosperity message in the Church.
He pointed out that we can judge the validity of what God is doing by what the world attacks. If God is doing something that threatens satan’s reign, the world will attack.
What has been happening today is that the prosperity message is being spread outside of the faith churches. satan wants to stop this message from reaching many people. To do this he has to attack the heart of the message, and get the church into division. There are those who feel that prosperity message is heresy, and others who hold to the doctrine.
Pastor Don pointed out that there are times when our talent takes us to places that our character can’t sustain. There are those who misuse the prosperity message. The reality is that God can use all of us, mistakes and all to advance his message.
The Christian life is a good thing.
We can’t expect the world to give us a fair accounting in the news reports.
In the Christian faith there are two aspects of prosperity – there is financial prosperity and spiritual prosperity. God wants us to prosper both ways.
Many people put a premium on their suffering for Christ, claiming that sickness and challenges are life are suffering for Christ. Not so. The only way that we can suffer for Christ is like He did, for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus did not suffer poverty, sickness, spiritual defeat, or other examples of a broken down Gospel.
Money is a tool in the hand of the believer. Jesus worked in his father’s carpenter shop as a child. There is no record in the Bible that Jesus was ever a beggar. He had enough finances for His mission. His garment was a seamless garment, so valuable that the Roman Soldiers cast lots to win the garment instead of tearing it into even pieces.
Wherever Jesus went he drafted disciples. He did not have only the twelve disciples, but hundreds of disciples followed Him. We can prove this because in the beginning of Acts they picked a disciple to replace Judas, and the criterion was that the person had to have been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.
Jesus’ disciples were also not poor – they owned fishing fleets, they were tax collectors. He did not recruit beggars. It cost money to travel the way they traveled, to do what they did.
There is a tendency in some churches to keep the Pastor poor – feeling that the pastor should not have too many worldly possessions. While some in the Catholic church like St. Francis chose to give their money to the church, the truth is that the Church takes care of their own and it should take care of its own.
If you look at the Old Testament you see that the priesthood of the Jews – the Levites – were taken care of by the people. There were sacrifices and offerings that belonged to the Levites, and even though they did not own property, they had all the things they needed. They were cared for from the offerings of the Temple/Church. And in the modern church there is often a rectory to provide housing for the Pastor, so that the pastor can concentrate on the needs of the church.
God’s promises are for us – whether good or bad promises. They are not just for the Jews, but for those who are the sons of Abraham (spiritual sons). We can only claim the promises if we have the faith of Abraham. Abraham believed God and God accounted it for righteousness. The Jews did not think it out of context to believe that the promises were for them, that the promises can be claimed by them. As they can be claimed by us, who are the sons and daughters of the faith of Abraham. This unfortunately also applies for the curses if we step outside of God’s will.
Jeremiah 29:8-9 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.
Everything that you dream is not of God. Some dreams are from the input into the flesh, and are not truth. They portray fleshly fears and desires. Other times the dreams are true prophecy. Pastor Don pointed out that one time a family brought their little son to him thinking that the nightmares the child was having were from demonic forces. Upon questioning the child, he realized that the nightmares came from what was being input in him. Turns out that his older brothers were watching scary movies like Jurassic Park, and the boy was too young to handle the scary images and they came out as nightmares.
God sends prophetic dreams in the form of visions, but they are not the same as a dream. A dream fades pretty quickly, but a vision will last longer – some visions a person never forgets. We usually know what the message is that God is trying to portray, as he gives a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom. You are usually left in awe of God. Visions change you life.
Jeremiah 29:10-11 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Most people stop with the promise of verse 11, not realizing that there is a condition. The context of this verse was the upcoming exile of Israel to Babylon – and God wants to give the people not evil, but something good, a future (not early death but long life) a hope for something in the future that is better than what you have now. He promises us that what we are going through is for good, not evil.
But people forget the conditional part of this promise:
Verse 12-13 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
We need to call upon God, pray to God, be searching for God with ALL OUR HEART. Most of us do not do that.
Verse 14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you in the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
We have been captive to things in our lives. Captive of doubt and unbelief, captive of perversion, captive of drugs and alcohol, captive of strife, captive of sickness and disease, captive of distress. When we are captive we are focused on who we perceive we are, not focused on God.
This regathering of the tribes happened back in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, but it is also happening today (in Israel).
How does God give correction? If you commit an iniquity God will, through the rod of men or circumstances, come to us to give correction. It could happen through a difficult and adversarial relationship and it’s purpose is to cause us to change. God will not strike us with a disease to correct us, but he may remove His hand of protection from over us and leave us open to sickness from satan. God will correct us the way a loving father corrects his child. Sometimes we have to go into captivity, much the same as Israel went into captivity, to get our attention. Not only will God use others to correct us, but if they get carried away in their correction of us like Nebuchadnezzar did, God will correct them.
Sometimes the way a passage in the Bible reads, it seems as if God is causing the problem, but that is because we don’t realize that in Hebrew there is no Permissive verbs. So a passage may read “I will put you” instead of “I will permit you to experience this”. God did not put the plagues on people, he did allow them to affect people.
When we receive correction from the rod of man the immature Christian will respond negatively to the correction and maybe turn aggressive. The Mature Christian will say “Oh, this hurts so good.” They will realize that the correction is done in love to help them grow spiritually.
God will keep teaching you the lesson until you get it.
Correction can come through positive and negative messages. Pastor Don explained that just because someone makes a comment to you it doesn’t mean that what they are saying is accurate. It is up to you to take the comment to God and find out if it is an accurate critique. He used me as an example. I love long denim skirts, and he said that if a brother in Christ came up to me and said that my skirt was too short, that it was provocative. I could listen to the critique and realize that it is in error – for my skirt touches my ankles and unless a person had a foot fetish, my skirt was not too short.
God can use a false report of error as a correction for us too. He may be wanting to see how we react to that false report. Do we jump down the person’s throat, do we worry even when the report isn’t true, or do we listen and then respectfully point out to the person that they are in error. God may be wanting to change our response to the false report. So even a false criticism can be a learning rod in God’s hand.
God will use whatever it takes to get you from point A to point B. And if you don’t get it the first time, he will keep sending it. It is up to us to check out the reports, against the Word and against what the Holy Spirit is telling us.
Pastor Don gave the example of David, when he danced before the ark in a very unroyal way, to praise and worship God. His wife mocks him, and her womb is closed. David had a choice how to handle her mocking. He could have agreed with her and been shamed – something that would have affected his kingship from that time forward, he could have tried to back pedal and make up for the shameful behavior. Instead he realized she was in error, that what he did was pure worship for God. The shutting up of her womb need not have been from God – it could have happened naturally. David could have avoided her or she could have avoided sleeping with a king that was an embarrassment to her.
God does not always have a direct hand in our correction – natural man often is His rod of correction, or natural disasters such as earthquakes, plague, or famine. God, when He created the earth knew the end from the beginning. Much of what happens here was already set in motion when God spoke creation. John, in Revelation, talks about major disasters like earthquakes worse than ever before. God has those scheduled, and He does not have to take His hand and shake the earth. He spoke of these things from the beginning.
Pride in and of itself is not a bad thing. We need to be proud of what God has done in us, proud of what we are doing for God’s glory. Pride becomes bad when it is mixed with conceit, for then it becomes negative arrogance.
THE BLESSINGS OF GOD
They bring us peace, joy, future hope.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 (see above) the people needed to have the response of calling on God with ALL THEIR HEART.
We also see this principle in the New Testament when Jesus talks to his disciples about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and then instructs them to seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you.
Jeremiah 29:16-19 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to a trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth–to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not heeded My words, says the LORD, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the LORD.
This passage is also written without the Permissive verbs – so this was I will allow them to be sent, etc.
When people speak of prosperity today they quote Jeremiah 29:11, but they will not have those blessings without Jeremiah 29:12-13 – to call out to God with their whole heart. (Heather’s note: I can relate to that, for so often I hold back parts of myself to God – when I first got saved I remember talking with Pastor Don about how God can come here and here in me, but not there. Pastor Don told me that God will patiently wait until I give Him permission, he won’t storm my fortress, he isn’t an abusive father. I now seek God with more of my heart than ever before, but there are still areas that I need to let Him in.)
What was prophesied here in Jeremiah is again about to happen. Israel has returned to their land, but many of the Jews are secular – God will keep allowing circumstances in the surrounding countries to drive more and more to seek God with their whole heart. Also, we as the Church, are also dealing with this prophecy – for we are spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, and as such can claim this promise. Are we seeking God with our whole heart?
Verse 10 of Jeremiah 29 points out that God was going to have them brought to Babylon for 70 years. Daniel will be there at the time – and even though he was captive of Nebuchadnezzar, he and his three companions did not give in and worship an idol, they did not follow the luxurious ways of the court – they kept pure and worshipped God. After the 70 years was up, Daniel reminded God that now was the time for them to return to their land. An angel answered his prayer, and the people were allowed to return to Israel with possessions and riches. They were blessed by God, but not all of them chose to go back.
Jeremiah 29:20-23 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes. And because of them a curse shall be taken up by all the captivity of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire”: because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in My name, which I have not commanded them. Indeed I know, and am a witness, says the LORD.
The blessings are only effective if the people qualify for them – seeking God with their whole heart. Here we see that Israel did not do this, they chose to believe lies, and committed adultery (sought other idols).
Jeremiah 30:1-3 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: “Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,” says the LORD. “And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”
This is the blessing of God – and it is true today. But God will also punish those who oppressed Israel, Jeremiah 30:17-21 “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,” says the LORD, “Because they called you an outcast saying: “This is Zion: No one seeks her.”‘ “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; the city shall be built upon its own mound, and the palace shall remain according to its own plan. Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who make merry; I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as before, and their congregation shall be established before me; and I will punish all who oppress them. Their nobles shall be from among them, and their governor shall come from their midst; Then I will cause him to draw near. And he shall approach me; For who is this who pledged his heart to approach me?” says the LORD. You shall be My people and I will be your God.'” (Heather’s note – what I love is that even in captivity God gave them words of hope and promise, and he did not back off from being their God.)
God has placed His Word above Himself. He has to keep His promise. We need to be careful not to let satan try to talk us out of what God says he has planned for us. Don’t let satan tell us lies. We have to fight satan’s lies.
We need to obey God. If we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, God will not bless us. If we are seeking prosperity for greed and self gain it is the wrong use of money. Prosperity will not happen. God will not prosper someone who will be a poor witness.
Whether or not we like President Bush, he has done some good things for God. Because of his presidency, there is an opening for the church to get its message out. A window of opportunity before the new world order shuts that down. Because of the US involvement worldwide the gospel is reaching places it hasn’t reached before.
Don’t be afraid of prosperity teachings, don’t buy into the anti-prosperity lies. Remember that prosperity is not just financial but also spiritual prosperity. We can be in better health, better mental condition, physical condition, and financial condition. As Paul says, he has been both rich and poor and rejoices in both. There are times when God puts us on the mountain top, other times we are in the valley. We are to praise God wherever we are at the moment.
I am hoping that God prospers you today, and that you are blessed beyond your wildest dreams.
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