Numbers, Dollars, and Sense

As I am writing this, our country; the United States of America and the world is in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID – 19 pandemic. However, the thing that is troubling me, even more than the pandemic itself is the diverse reactions and responses to it!

Even after all this time and the untold numbers of those who have fallen ill and died, there are many who are still claiming that it’s not that bad and that it is more important to get back to work to save the economy! In the state of Georgia, where I live, the governor has lifted restrictions and allowed businesses, such as hair salons, tattoo parlors, barber shops and other business where it is impossible to maintain social distancing to re-open! This is being done at a time when the rates of infection and deaths are still going up and the state is nowhere near bringing testing up to point to adequately gauge the virus spread! (One of the suggested federal guidelines stipulated that no state should attempt to reopen until there has been at least a 14-day decline in the infection rate!) The governor states that he has been listening to the medical and scientific experts, but one wonders who they are when the data suggest otherwise.

But at any rate, the thing that is so disturbing to me is that our country; the United States, is any and everything but ‘united!’ In the midst of this pandemic, which is the greatest crises this nation has faced since 911, many members of Congress and the President are obsessed with petty politics and political power! Instead of working together for the good of the country, many of our government leaders are focused on what’s good for their own political party and power base!

For the last several years, even before this present crisis, the American public and even the world has been subjected to an unbelievable display of petty, immature, and narcissistic behavior that is unmatched in the history of American politics! If someone had suggested twenty years ago that this would have been the ‘norm’ of American politics, they would have been deemed as crazy, because such levels of incompetence and the absence of human decency were beyond anyone’s imagination!

Who would have thought back then, that there ever would come a day in America when there would be a debate about which is really more valuable; the economy or human lives? Who would have thought that there would come a day in our country when people would have to actually decide, on a personal level, whether to go to work to pay their bills or stay home to save their lives?

The government leaders are saying that the economy should open when there are acceptable rates of infections and deaths. But what about the people who are actually being infected and the people who are actually dying? Is the sacrifice really worth it to them? In a country where there is already systemic discrimination in health care and benefits, is it reasonable to sacrifice the health and lives of people who were already being sacrificed and think there is some moral justification in it?

There is an effort by some to show appreciation for the health-care workers and other people who are hourly and daily sacrificing their health and lives for the sake of others, and that is good. But, would those who advocate opening up the country for the sake of the economy in spite of the overwhelming good-sense recommendations that it is too soon, be willing to make sure those and the families of those who get sick and die as a result of this premature action be compensated in some way? I think not! For those who are pushing such actions have already, by their actions, prove they value dollars over human lives!

I am not an economist, neither am I a business owner, but I do have bills to pay! Therefore, I have enough sense to know that we cannot indefinitely pause the economy! I know we cannot keep our present course indefinitely! But in the meantime, we should be willing to be patient and make some sacrifices if that means we are saving human lives! For we must all remember, the numbers we see and hear about in the discussions about infections and deaths, are not just numbers; they are people! They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, grandparents and grandchildren! Their sickness and their deaths have an immediate impact upon the lives of countless other people!

And so, I appeal to you, no matter where you stand on the issue, this is much bigger than petty politics! It’s more important than the label of Democrat or Republican, liberal or moderate, right-wing or left-wing! When a person is sick or dead, none of that matters! This virus does not care about ethnicity, race, political persuasion, or social status! The real issue is not about numbers, because even just one is one too many! It’s not about dollars because how can anyone put a dollar-value on a human life? No! It’s not about the numbers or the dollars, it’s about sense! A sense of decency! A sense of mutual respect! A sense of what is right and what is wrong! As far as the dollars are concern, I hear a carpenter from Nazareth of Galilee, asking questions that have echoed down throughout the centuries: “What good will it do someone if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or, what can a person give in exchange for his life?” (Matt. 16:26 CJB) My modern-day Miller Translation is this: “What good is it to restart the economy at the expense of human life? What profit is it to the economy if people are too sick or too dead to benefit from it?” Some one might say that it will benefit those who are left! But how cold and callous can you be to sacrifice the life of someone else for your own? Such an attitude of one of privilege and superiority, which just might be the root-cause of this debate in the first place!

It’s A Funeral; Cry If You Need To!

crying at a funeral

There is an attitude that is being promoted today by some ‘spiritual’ people in the church toward death and funerals that I don’t think is really good. I attended a funeral service (or as many from my neck of the woods, tend to call it; ‘a celebration of life,’ or ‘a homegoing service) not too long ago and one of the speakers got up and said: “This is not a time to cry! This is a time to rejoice, for another soldier has gone home to be with the Lord!” Well, I take issue with his statement and the trending ‘anti-grief’ stance at funerals for several reasons.

First of all, I think suppressing grief is harmful; emotionally, psychologically, and physically. The same Bible people ‘abuse’ to justify rejoicing and not grieving at funerals also says: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4 KJV) Well, if a funeral is not a time to weep and mourn, then when is? Now, I’ve heard some say that the Bible says (I’m not saying that it’s not in the Bible, I’m just saying that I haven’t found it yet!) that we should cry when a baby is born and rejoice when someone dies! Well, if that is the case, when was the last time you heard of someone crying or even suggesting people should be crying when a baby was born or at a baby shower? Such a suggestion or action would be deemed unacceptable or strange, to say the least! Therefore, since no one dare suggest crying at the birth of a baby (though some say that’s what the Bible says we should be doing), why only promote one half of the suggestion and insist that people rejoice at a funeral?

Now, I understand the intention (I am a preacher, after all) is to focus on what lies ahead for the (supposedly) righteous deceased, but what many people fail to understand is the fact that funerals are not really for the dead; funerals are for the living! Funerals are for those who have been left behind! There is nothing that will be said or done at any funeral that will, in any way, have a positive or negative effect on the dearly departed! While many suggest the purpose of the funeral is to celebrate the life of the person who has gone on, the actual purpose of the funeral is to be a therapeutic tool for the survivors!

I have often said: “Death can kill you, if you let it!” The meaning of that statement is that if the death of a loved-one or friend or whoever is not processed correctly, it can have an adverse effect on your well-being. Suppressed grief at the funeral service will eventually find expression in other places! It’s like trying to bottle-up steam in a boiling pot, if there is no venting, it will eventually explode! Many times the explosion will be in the form of a stroke, neurotic disorders, anxiety, dysfunctional relationship patterns, heart attacks, or psychological disorders! Whatever the case, you can rest assured that grief cannot and will not be denied expression! So, since that is the case, why not at the funeral, where it can be therapeutic and spiritually guided?

Did not Jesus weep at the grave of his friend; Lazarus? I mentioned that because it seems to be promoted by some that weeping is a sign of weak faith or spiritual deficiency! No! Crying at the death of a loved-one or crying at their funeral doesn’t mean your faith is weak; it means you are human! To do otherwise is to deny your humanity and to inadvertently abort or deny your recovery from the loss!

Grief and grieving is a process and trying to stop or deny that process is just like trying to stop the rain from falling! I understand all about honoring God, but the same God people claim to honor by celebrating instead of grieving is the One who made us with the capacity to grieve! How is God honored in attempts to suppress expressions of grief by making people feel guilty for grieving?

So, with all that being said, If I should happen to go before you; you have my permission to cry at my funeral! And, if any one should happen to get up and even suggest that your crying is out of order, you have my permission to tell them; “It’s a funeral and I can cry if I need to!”

Trying to Live Where We Are Not!

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

I once heard Dr. Tony Evans say something to this effect: He said that most people are being crucified between two thieves: The regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow! When we attempt to live our lives, burdened with yesterday’s regrets and/or tomorrow’s worries, we sacrifice the present day! Attempting to live life in this manner is stressful because it is a vain attempt to live where we are not!

Trying to live in the past is an impossible feat! It’s like trying to drink milk that has spilled on the floor! It’s like trying to stand in the same molecules of water in a river that is flowing! It’s like trying to cash a check that has already been cashed! NO! Yesterday is spilled milk! Yesterday is water under the bridge! Yesterday is a cancelled check! There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to re-live yesterday! Many people are stuck because they stubbornly refuse to let-go of yesterday. But whether it’s yesterday’s regrets or even yesterday’s victories; yesterday is gone and we will never live yesterday again!

But just as attempting to re-live yesterday is an impossible feat, so is attempting to live tomorrow before tomorrow comes! Now, we can prepare for tomorrow, but we can’t live tomorrow today! We can ‘prepare’ to cross the bridge, but we can’t actually cross the bridge until we get to the bridge! In a sense, ‘tomorrow’ will always be a day that we will never live! Why? Because, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will no longer be tomorrow; it will be; ‘today!’

Realistically and practically speaking; yesterday and tomorrow are actually days that have no real substance! Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were experiencing ‘yesterday’ it wasn’t yesterday, it was today! As stated earlier, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will not be tomorrow, it will be today! Therefore, the only day we can actually live in and do anything with, is ‘today!’ Yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is just a promissory note! The only day that we can ‘spend’ is today!

That is why the attempts to live in yesterday and tomorrow are so fruitless and in many ways; detrimental! First of all, it is an impossibility, because we can’t live where we are not! Secondly, it is detrimental, because when we attempt to live in yesterday or tomorrow, we sacrifice and waste today! In fact, many of the regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow are caused by the neglect of the present day! We don’t do what we should do in the present and that is what causes the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow! If we learn to discipline ourselves to ‘live in the moment,’ our lives would be less stressful because the ‘moment’ is the only time we can actually live!

But, in addition to trying to live where we are not, in regard to yesterday and tomorrow, there is an addition stress of trying to live in a ‘place’ where we are not! Have you ever witnessed or been part of a conversation in which a person standing in your presence is preoccupied with a conversation or even a game on their smartphone? You hear them say something, but when you respond, they tell you that they weren’t talking to you but rather the other person on the phone! The crazy thing about it is that, more often than not, just as they neglect to give their full attention to the people who are standing right in front of them for a conversation with the person on the phone, when they are standing in front of the person on the phone, they do the same thing to them by talking to someone on the phone! They are ‘here’ but they are not really ‘here!’ They are trying to live where they are not!

Have you ever been to a restaurant and notice two people or even a group of people sitting together at a table, but each and every person is preoccupied with their phone? They are present, but they are not really present! They are together, but they are not really together! Why? Because they are trying to live where they are not!

May I make a radical suggestion that just might make life a little less stressful? Instead of trying to re-live yesterday or pre-live tomorrow, why not just focus on the present moment! Focus on the only time you can actually live; the present moment! Now, I know what it is like to be worried about tomorrow! But it’s a fruitless activity! You see, when we worry, that breeds frustration. And when we are frustrated, it shuts down our ability to think clearly. Let’s just supposed that your electricity is going to be cut off tomorrow. Instead of being consumed with worry and bemoaning over what it is going to be like without electricity tomorrow, focus on what you have and what you can do right now! What can you do? You can go buy some ice and a cooler to store your food when the refrigerator will not be on! You can go to store and buy candles, flashlights, or lanterns for alternative lighting when the electricity is cut off! You can also just choose to simply ‘enjoy’ and take advantage of the hours of electricity that you have left! Finish reading the book! Wash a load of clothes! Take advantage of the electricity you ‘now’ have with an attitude of gratitude! Who knows, by tomorrow, a means to pay the bill that you hadn’t thought of before may materialize? You might be able to work out an extension with the power company. At lot of things could happen between now and tomorrow! So, the best thing to do is not cause additional stress by trying to live tomorrow today! Live today to the fullest and allow tomorrow to take care of itself!

Now, this is not to say that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, by all means, no! In fact, sometimes the best use of ‘today’ is to plan for tomorrow! But the point is to make the best use of ‘now’ and not allow the past or the future to prevent us from fully enjoying and taking advantage of the present moment! Give full attention to the people who are in your presence! To do otherwise is not only impractical, it is also downright rude and disrespectful to all three parties; the people in front of you, the person on the phone, and yourself! Starting today, discipline yourself to live where you are: Discipline yourself to consistently live in the ‘here’ and ‘now!’

Why Most ‘Blessing-Plans’ Don’t and Won’t Work!

Do you know of anybody who is always in the ‘blessing-line’ at church or at the conference? It seems like they are always seeking, but they are never able to find! They are always asking, but they are never able to really get an answer. The preacher or speaker tells them the reason their ‘breakthrough’ hasn’t happen is because, either they don’t have enough faith or it’s just simply not their time to be blessed! Consequently, just like the man in the Bible at the pool, they are waiting for the right time! After a while, they try another church or another ministry; someone with a different blessing-plan. But, may I make a radical suggestion? I would like to suggest that most blessing-plans that are being advocated today are fundamentally flawed! They simply don’t work! Not only do they don’t work, they won’t (they will never) work and there are several reasons why!

First of all, in most blessing plans, the fundamental premise is that a person needs to be blessed because of some shortage, deficiency, or lack in their life. They need a blessing or they need to be blessed because they don’t have what they need, whether it is health, wealth, or whatever. This premise is flawed because it is a direct contradiction of Scripture and what the Bible teaches about the nature of God!

The Bible teaches that we (especially believers) already have everything we need! David said in Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (KJV) The Christian Standard Bible renders it: “The LORD is my shepherd; I have what I need.” The New English Translation and the New International Version say: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 34:10 says: “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.” Psalm 84:11 says: “For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Therefore, to advocate the need to do something special, such as following a ‘blessing-plan’ in order to be blessed is a direct contradiction of the word of God! According to the aforementioned texts, the only biblical blessing plan is seeking the Lord and living according to His righteousness!

Another thing to consider are the words of Jesus. Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (ESV) How does God feed the birds? By pre-programming them with all the instinctive instructions and abilities they need for their survival. The point is this; If God has pre-engineered birds to be successful, how much more has God pre-engineered us for our success? Birds don’t die from strokes and heart attacks, brought on by stress; worrying about where their next worm is going to come from! Birds just fly around in their ‘bird-ness’ trusting their instinctive programming!

In looking at that same text, notice that Jesus referred to God as; “Your heavenly Father.” Now, if a good earthy father will take care of his children and family, how much more so will our Heavenly Father take care of us? Jesus said in verse 32 in regard to the things needed for life (food, clothing, shelter, etc.,) “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” When I was a child, I never had to ask my father to do what any good father was supposed to do; take care of his family! Therefore, when we approach God to ask for what He has already promised to provide, we are actually implying we don’t trust him to be a good Father! We really don’t need to be blessed because, even more than animals with instincts, we have been pre-engineered for success and already equipped with the blessings we need and our Heavenly Father is indeed a ‘good’ father!

The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (ESV) Most people overlooked this important verse because they don’t think Paul was saying anything important; they think he was just merely saying ‘hello!’ But look closely at what Paul said! Paul said that God ‘has blessed’ (not that God was going to bless or that God would bless) us with ‘every’ spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Now, the last time I checked, the word; ‘every’ means the same thing as the word; ‘all.’ If you were to ask me for something and I gave you ‘every’ or ‘all,’ then that means I have nothing left to give you! Most blessing plans don’t and won’t work because they imply that God has ‘more’ to give us, but God has already given us all! Now, I hear you! You’re saying; “Yes! But the text says every spiritual blessing, but I need a material blessing! I need a financial blessing!” What most people fail to understand is the fact that everything that is now material or physical existed in the spiritual first! Every thing that is now physical had its genesis or origin in the spiritual. In fact, it is the spiritual that produces the physical! For example: When does a house first exist? Most people would say; when the house is being built or is complete. But actually, the house first existed in the mind (the spirit) of the architect! The architect took what was in his mind (his spirit) and placed it on paper and it was transformed into a blueprint. Then, the builders took the blueprint and built the house according to the specifications of the blueprint. But think about it! They could not have built the house without the blueprint! There would not have been a blueprint without a concept or idea in the mind (spirit) of the architect! Therefore, the very first existence of the house was not while it was being built or when it was completed, it actually first came into existence in the mind of the architect! That’s a spiritual principle of how life works! In the beginning was the Word (the audible expression of the mind/spirit of God) and the Word was made flesh! Consequently, the real problem is not that people have a need to be blessed, the problem is that most people don’t know how to manifest the physical/material from the spiritual! They don’t know how to transfer the blessing that already exists in the spiritual into the physical where they can use it to benefit their lives! The problem is not that people need to be blessed, the problem is that people don’t know how to manifest the blessings they already have! I don’t want this post to be too long, so I will just briefly mention in addition, but not expound too much on 2 Peter 1:2-3 where, in his greeting, Peter says: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (ESV) Notice again, the tense and the totality: His divine power ‘has granted’ to us ‘all things that pertain to life and godliness’ Yes! Again I say: Most blessing plans don’t and won’t work because they advocate asking God for the blessings that God has ‘already’ given! God cannot give what God has already given and you cannot ‘get’ what you already have!

Now, I just mentioned the problem is not with ‘getting blessed’ or ‘getting a blessing,’ the problem is that most people don’t know how to manifest their blessings. Well, Jesus shared how to manifest in Mark 11:22-24. Jesus said: “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (ESV) How do you manifest or transfer from the spiritual to the physical? By using faith! You must believe you already have what you ask for! How do you respond when you have asked for something and you finally get it? You’re happy! You’re relieved! You’re satisfied! Jesus says, in order to manifest the blessings you already have, you must praise God, be happy, be relieved, be satisfied, even though you can’t put your hands on it! You’ve got to ‘act like’ you already have what you ask for and then you will have it! Now, how would you act if you already had your blessing? You certainly wouldn’t be in a blessing-line or participating in a blessing plan because that would be acknowledging that you don’t have what you have! Jesus said whatever you ask or desire, you’ve got to act like you already have it to manifest it because the truth of the matter is: you already have it, it just exist in spiritual form! It would be a good idea to read the background of this text, starting with Mark 11:12 to get the full picture! Jesus cursed a fig tree, but the effects of the curse were not seen until the next day. When did the tree die? The moment Jesus cursed it! However it took some time for the manifestation! It was in the morning when Jesus cursed the tree. They passed by that tree that evening and no one noticed any changes! It was not until the next morning, as they were passing it again, that the Bible says: “And Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” (ESV) The lesson: The spiritual cause was immediate, but the physical manifestation took time! We live in a microwave age where people are programmed for instant results. But just because the manifestation is not immediate, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happened! Just because you prayed for it this Sunday and you don’t see it next Sunday, that doesn’t mean your prayer didn’t work and you need to get in a blessing-line on the third Sunday after! Another example of delayed manifestation is found in Daniel 10:11-12 where we read: “Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,” (ESV) Daniel had prayed for understanding about a certain matter and according to this text, the Lord answer Daniel when he prayed! However, because of interference from the enemy in the spiritual realm, the manifestation of the answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed for three weeks!

And don’t ever think that just because something exists in spirit and cannot be seen with the physical eye that it is ‘less than real.’ Remember, everything that is now physical had its beginning in the spiritual! In fact, if the truth be told; the spiritual is actually ‘more real’ than the physical! The physical is actually just the residue or the final effects of the spiritual! Take a look around you! Everything that can be seen in the physical is actually in a state of decline, including your physical body! If you can see it, it’s on the way out! Speaking of the ‘reality’ of the spirit, did you know ‘the ultimate you’ is spirit? I’ve heard people say that they are not a spiritual person! What a ridiculous statement! The truth is: We are all spiritual, because at the core of our being; we are all spirits! Now if you say that spirits are not real, then you are actually saying that ‘you’ are not real! In addition to the pastoral ministry, I also work in the funeral industry. I have observed that when a person is dead, they don’t weigh any less than they did when they were alive! Yet, something that was once in them is no longer present! That something could not be seen, measured, touched or handled, it was spiritual, invisible, and immaterial, nevertheless was quite real because when it left, they died and all that remained was a body!

Another reason most blessing plans don’t work is because of the emphasis on ‘receiving’ from God! Aside from the fact that God can’t give what God has already given, the preoccupation with ‘receiving’ from God, usually is an indication of a primary concern with personal issues instead of a concern for others or the work of God. James wrote to his readers: “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3 CSB17) Say you want to be blessed? Well, why do you want to be blessed? Is it so that you can be more comfortable? Are you seeking more when you are not faithful with what you already have? It is a hard pill for many modern Christians to swallow, but God is more interested in developing our character than in making us comfortable! When God blessed Abraham, God didn’t bless Abraham just to bless Abraham! God blessed Abraham so that Abraham could be a blessing! What is your motivation? Why are you seeking to be blessed? Is it primarily for your own comfort or is it so you can be in a better position to serve the Lord? Is it so you can help others? Most blessing plans promoted today don’t and won’t work because they primarily promote selfish and lustful consumption!

This is even the case sometimes with how people approach the traditional and biblical concept of tithing! Look at what the Lord said to Israel through the Prophet Malachi: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:10-11 KJV) Most preachers and tithers place emphasis on the latter part of the statement. In other words, they promote tithing and pay their tithes because they want the Lord to ‘open the windows of heaven to pour them out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive!’ They promote tithing and pay their tithes because they want the Lord to ‘rebuke the devourer for their sakes.’ But look at the text closely again! The Lord’s purpose for the paying of the tithe was so that there may be meat in His house! In other words, the main motivation for tithing should be so that the local house of God might be able and equipped to do the work of the work of the ministry of preaching, teaching and helping people! The tithe was not designed primarily to help the tither, but rather to support the house and work of God! The benefits the tither receives are by-products! Therefore, even tithing will not work as it should if the motivation is wrong!

Now, I know! Jesus said in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (ESV) But notice the context! Jesus was not talking primarily about giving money! Notice what he says in verses 36-37: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Jesus’ point was: Whatever you give; mercy, judgement, condemnation, or forgiveness, it will be given back to you multiplied! Money was not the primary consideration. In fact, just before he said verses 36-37, he is recorded in verses 34-35 saying: “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (ESV)  Now if Jesus said ‘lend, expecting nothing in return’ from those who you lend to, it stands to reason, the same principle applies to giving! You don’t give just ‘to’ get, but whatever you give, you will get!

Most blessing-plans also advocate ‘seeking God’s hand.’ But in the Bible, we are encouraged to ‘seek God’s face!’ In the Bible, we are instructed to seek, not what God can provide or give to us, but rather to seek God! Jesus said: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:27-33 ESV) Jesus was saying that we should not worry about obtaining the basic necessities of life, because to do so is to act like people who don’t know God and like orphans. Also, to worry and seek to be blessed in spite of the fact that God is our heavenly Father is to act like God is not our Father at the worst and to act like God is a bad Father who does not provide for His children at best! But if we make the Kingdom of God (the rule and authority of God) and His righteousness (right-standing and right-relationship) our priority and main pursuit, all the things we need will be added unto us automatically!

I conclude with what David said in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (ESV) What many modern Bible readers don’t realize is that the Hebrew word that is translated as the English word; ‘follow’ in that verse is actually a Hebrew verb that literally means; ‘to pursue or chase with the intent to overtake.’ David was not saying that goodness and mercy would passively follow him, like a little puppy dog following his master. No! David was saying goodness and mercy (the blessings of God) would chase, pursue, hunt him down, every day of his life, like a ferocious beast pursuing its prey! That’s why most to the blessing-plans don’t and won’t work! Instead of running after and seeking blessings, according to the Bible, blessings are to run after and seek us!

One last thing and I’m through! Many blessing-plans don’t and won’t work because they are actually designed to bless, not the person who follows the blessing-plan, but rather the person who promotes the blessing-plan! The prophet tells you to send an offering, a seed, and you will be blessed! You do it, but you’re still not blessed! He or she tells you the reason you are not blessed (which is a lie, because the Bible says that if you are in Christ, you are already blessed with every or all spiritual blessing!) is because you don’t have enough faith! Therefore, you must increase your faith by increasing the amount of your offering! (This is another lie because the Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God! Therefore, if you want to increase your faith, you don’t have to increase your offering or enlarge your seed, you just need to increase your exposure to the word of God! Find and join a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, and Bible-teaching church! And don’t just join and be a passive ‘bench-member, commit yourself to faithfully attend worship, Christian Education opportunities and become actively involved in ministry opportunities!). But, PLEASE! In that scenario, the only person who will ever be blessed is the prophet! Truth be told; many blessing-plans today are nothing more than clever religiously disguised con-games by ‘prophet-profiteers’ designed to swindle people out of their money by offering false unbiblical and ungodly hope!

Speaking Into the Atmosphere: An Abuse of Faith and Worship

There is a serious problem afoot in the church today: Theology, sermons, and teachings are being based on songs from the top gospel hit-list rather than from a correct exegesis and interpretation of the biblical text! People are by-and-large doctrinally deficient and grossly ignorant of what the Bible really says about faith and life! The old prophetic word is coming to fruition before our very eyes: The people of God are indeed perishing for the lack of knowledge!

At the time that I am writing this post, I am on the verge of completing forty-one (41) years in the preaching ministry! A lot has changed within the church in the neck of the woods where I labor. For instance; forty-one years ago (1978), there were no ‘Baptist Bishops!’ Forty-one years ago, there was no amour-bearer ministry! And forty-one years ago, there certainly was no pervasive practice of church-people, decreeing and declaring, speaking into the atmosphere or calling those things that be not as though they were! Yes! A lot has changed in the church in the last forty-one years!

Now, as I write this post, please know that it is not my intention to be judgmental or critical, but rather to express what I believe to be biblical truth. I do not profess to be perfect or without error, but I do believe what I am sharing in this post is the biblical truth, therefore, I echo the words attributed to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15: “Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.” (NLT)

I heard in a song some years ago and now I am beginning to consistently hear it in the preaching and teaching in many corners of the church; this notion of speaking into the atmosphere! It sounds ‘holy’ and ‘pious’ but is it biblical? Is this a practice endorsed or commended in the biblical text? I would suggest that it is not! Not only that, but I would also suggest that this practice is detrimental and constitutes an abuse of faith and worship! Let me show you what I am talking about:

First of all, while our words do have the power to change conditions around us (for instance, words can create tension, anger, relief, or laughter in our communication with people), the type of change that is suggested in speaking into the atmosphere in the worship experience is mystical and manipulative! It is an abuse of faith! For instance, when this ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ is suggested, there is no disclaimer given that mentions the condition of the speaker’s relationship with the Lord. In other words, if a person is not right in their relationship with the Lord, no matter how much they ‘speak into the atmosphere’ or even ‘pray the prayer of faith’ there will be no good results; they are wasting breath and time! When we are not in right-relationship with the Lord, it effects our communication with the Lord! Deitrick Haddon is mistaken: God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer without restrictions; the only prayer God hears from a sinner is the prayer of repentance! The Prophet Isaiah reported to the ancient Israelites: “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2 KJV) King David said: “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18 NLT)

This ideal of ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ has no biblical basis. In other words, there is no biblical example of such a practice! There is no record in the Bible of people ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ in the manner it is practiced today! In fact, in addressing the practice of publicly speaking in tongues, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “So now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in other tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you with a revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? Even lifeless instruments that produce sounds– whether flute or harp– if they don’t make a distinction in the notes, how will what is played on the flute or harp be recognized? In fact, if the bugle makes an unclear sound, who will prepare for battle? In the same way, unless you use your tongue for intelligible speech, how will what is spoken be known? For you will be speaking into the air.” (1 Corinthians 14:6-9 CSB) When Paul said, ‘you will be speaking into the air’ he meant publicly ‘speaking in tongues’ is useless without accompanying interpretation. That’s the closest the Bible gets to the practice of speaking into the air! And in that context, it was used as an example of a fruitless activity!

But not only does the practice of ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ have no biblical basis, it is a well-documented practice of ancient magic and New Age mysticism! I believe there are many church-people today, who believe more in magic than they do in God and this ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ is a prime example! But even more surprising than that practice is the pervasive erroneous belief that merely saying the phrase; “In the name of Jesus” makes a difference in faith, prayer, and practice! However, the difference is not in merely saying; “in the name of Jesus,” the difference is in actually functioning in the name of Jesus! To pray, preach, or do anything without a relationship with Jesus and think by merely saying; ‘in the name of Jesus’ after or as it is being done gives it validity is as much effectiveness as saying ‘open-says-a-me’ or ‘abbra-ca-dabra!’ ‘In the name of Jesus’ was never meant to be a catch-phrase or a chant-formula to tack on the end of our prayers or actions. In the name of Jesus means to act or function on Jesus’ behalf or in his stead! It is the somewhat like our power of attorney. The one who acts or functions in the name of Jesus is one who acts or function with the authority and in the same manner as Jesus himself would act or function! It was never meant to be a ‘catch-phrase’ or an endorsement formula to justify our actions and prayers!

Now, I’ve talked about speaking into the atmosphere as an abuse of faith, in addition, it is also an abuse of worship! Here’s the reason why! Most modern worshippers are completely ignorant of the true purpose of worship! The word ‘worship’ comes from the Old English; ‘worth-ship.’ Therefore real worship is not about the one who worships, but rather about the one who is worshipped! Real worship is not about what we get, but rather about what we give! In real worship, we ascribe to God His Worth! Therefore, the person who refuses to worship is, in essence, saying; “God is not worth it!”

The focus of real worship is God; not us! Therefore, when church-people fight about contemporary worship or traditional worship, the argument has more to do with cultural and personal preferences than biblical correctness! The bottom-line is both are vain and useless if the primary focus is on the worshipper instead of the Worshipped! And that’s my problem with this notion of ‘speaking into the atmosphere’ in the worship setting. It seems like an attempt to coerce the presence of God, which is in reality, not necessary because God is omnipresent; there is no place that God is not! In addition to that fact, God is within every believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, whenever and wherever believers congregate, there really is no need to invoke, invite, or summons the presence of the God who is already there! In addition to that, Jesus said: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 KJV) Therefore, our worship should be a response to the Lord’s presence, not an attempt to ‘invite His presence!’

In thinking about the ideal of inviting His presence, it reminds me of what happened with the contest on Mt. Carmel:

“And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.’ And all the people answered, ‘It is well spoken.’ Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’ And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:21-29 ESV)

Therefore, my friends, in regard to ‘speaking into the atmosphere,’ such a practice has no biblical basis and is alarming similar to, if not the same as, ancient magical and modern New Age practices; both of which are contrary to real biblical faith! Be careful of how your theology is shaped and formed! Perhaps it is time for us to spend less time on Facebook and more time in The Book! It is well pass time for us to allow the Bible to inform our theology and singing instead of allowing popular Gospel music to inform our theology and practice!