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!”

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!

Facebook Theology

When I woke up this morning and checked my Messenger app, I read this message entitled: “30 Second Prayer.” 

It said: “Lord, thank you for this Great Day! I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me, my Family, my Home, my Work, my Friends and my special Loved Ones, Amen.” The message went on to say: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 People. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am. Someone will call you be phone or will talk to you about something you were waiting to have. This is not a joke. Do not break this Prayer. Miracles do happen.”

Well, when I read this, I was immediately struck by the selfishness of the prayer! But then, we do live in a selfish and self-centered culture! We are so selfish and self-centered that we think Christianity and faith is all about what God can do for us! Now, I am going to say this now, so you can decide whether or not you want to continue reading the rest of this post: Much of what we read and see on Facebook and other social media platforms is not representative of real Christianity or real biblical faith! Much of what we see and read falls into the category of what can be called; Facebook theology or media theology.

Like the folk theology of yester-years, Facebook or media theology is theology that is constructed, not from a correct study and exegesis of the biblical text, but rather from a cursory reading of the Bible, that produces swallow and often non-sensical theological thoughts and concepts. Because we are living in the “Google Age,” most people don’t take the time to do in-depth Bible study for themselves, they just look up what someone else has said on the Internet. They think that just because it’s on the Internet; it must be true!

But let’s dissect and analyze this prayer to illustrate my point. “Lord, thank you for this Great Day!” So far, so good! We should all be thankful for any and every day we’re on top of the dirt and the dirt is not on top of us! And, every day is indeed a great day! But the prayer goes on: “I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me . . . . .” Here’s where the real issues are: The prayer acknowledges a love for the Lord, but immediately moves to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! No acknowledgement of the Lord’s majesty or sovereignty, it immediately goes to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! But then, it is ‘a 30-second prayer!’ But the prayer asks the Lord to come into my heart to bless me, my family, my home, etc. Well, many people might be shocked to know that the primary purpose of the Lord coming into our lives is NOT TO BLESS US! Salvation or the Lord coming into our life IS THE BLESSING! Our primary quest should not be for what God can do for us; our primary quest should be for God Himself! In the Bible, we are not instructed to seek His blessings; we are instructed to seek Him! The reason for that is because when you have Him; you already have all the blessings you will ever need! The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians 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) Note the tense; he didn’t say ‘will bless,’ he said ‘has blessed.’ If you are in Christ, you don’t need to be blessed, because you’ve already been blessed! Now, I hear you! You’re saying, “That’s sounds good, but Paul was talking about ‘spiritual blessings in the heavenly places’ but I need material blessings in the earthly realm!” Well, you have to understand that everything material is produced from or has it’s genesis in the spiritual! It is the spiritual that produces the physical. If it is not produced by the spiritual in the spiritual realm, it will not be manifested in the material or physical realm! The Apostle Peter wrote to his readers in 2 Peter 1:2-3: “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) Again, note the tense: “His divine power ‘has granted’ to us ‘all things’ that pertain to life and godliness. . . .” My point is this, if we are in Christ: Every blessing we need; we already have! We don’t need to pray for God to bless us because God already has blessed us with every blessing God has to give! God cannot give us what God has already given to us! No! We don’t need to be praying for God to give us more blessings; we need to be praying for the wisdom and understanding to manifest the blessings we already have!

Now what really got me was the message said: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 people. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am.. . .” I understand the Old Testament Prophet told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times, but I think much of what is happening today is not Divine instructions but rather superstitious bent toward on luck or chance! In this case, the prayer is not enough, I must send it to 20 people in order for something good to happen at 10:30 am! Well, when you think about it; if you wake up in the morning, something good has already happened, long before 10:30 am, unless you are a late sleeper!

But do we actually think we can be blessed and be right with God by simply saying a prayer and sending it to 20 people on Facebook Messenger? Seriously? I’ve even received chain messages that imply if I break the chain and don’t pass it on; I won’t be blessed and I don’t love the Lord! Seriously? I tell the members of the church I serve: “Your best witness for Jesus at your work-place is not sending out Facebook chain prayers or messages when you should be working! Your best witness for Jesus on your job is to do your job with a spirit of excellence!

Facebook and other social media platforms can be excellent tools for spreading the Gospel, but we should make sure we are indeed spreading Gospel and not religious folk-superstition! The Apostle John said in his context: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV) If he were writing today in our contemporary culture and context, he would write: “My friends, do no believe, pass on, or repost every Facebook or Messenger posts you receive. Read and study your Bible to make sure the message is biblically sound and theologically correct first! For there are many who are posting today who have not read or studied the Bible and are not of God!”

The Difference Between Peter and James

I was reading some time ago and I came across in interesting passage in Acts. In Acts 12:1-3, I read: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)” As I read further on in the text, I discovered that although James was killed, Peter was delivered from prison in a miraculous way! It was at that point I started asking myself questions: Why was James killed and Peter delivered? Did Peter have more faith than James? Did the church pray for Peter’s deliverance and failed to pray for the deliverance of James? What was the difference between Peter and James? 

Now before I go on, I think it would be well to caution that it is usually bad hermeneutics to formulate any doctrine or principle based solely on the Book of Acts. The reason is because Acts is a record of the beginning of the church. There are things that happen in the “beginning” that don’t need to be and can’t be repeated! The doctor may have had to slap our butts to get us to breathe the first time, but after that, there was no need for a continuous butt-slapping! So, there were things that happened in Acts, at the inception of the church that have not been and really have no need to be repeated. For instance, there are some who teach today, based on Acts, that we should tarry or wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the reason the disciples waited, per Jesus’ instructions, in the Book of Acts for the coming of the Holy Spirit was because, prior to that time, the Holy Spirit had not come to dwell within men. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would come upon a person to empower them, but after the task was completed, the Holy Spirit would leave. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promised that after he had left, the Holy Spirit would come, not only to be with the disciples, but to be “in” them. So, the waiting on the Day of Pentecost was for the fulfilling of that promise. However, there is no need for the believer to “wait” anymore for something that has already happened! The Holy Spirit came to indwell within believers on the Day of Pentecost, but He did not leave! He’s still here! So, there is no need to wait for someone who is already here! The Holy Spirit is NOT the Second Blessing or some additional blessing from God for the believer. He is essential and fundamental to the believer’s relationship and standing with God. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:9: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (KJV) Having or being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not optional or additional; it’s basic and essential! Every believer has or is indwelt by the Holy Spirit! If the Holy Spirit is not in them; they are not a believer or they are not saved at all! But, I digress, so let me get back to my point! I just brought that out to illustrate the danger of formulating doctrines or principles solely from the Book of Acts.

Was it a matter that Peter had more faith than James? I think not! I think it was just a matter of God’s sovereign will! There are those who teach today that faith can overcome any obstacle and that faith has the power to overcome any negative situation. But, faith cannot and will not, change, circumvent, or subjugate God’s sovereign will. Now, we need to understand that when it comes to the will of God, there is God’s sovereign will and there is God’s permissive will. We could look at it this way; God’s sovereign will is God’s overall and unchanging purpose. God’s permissive will is the minor flexible details of His sovereign will. God’s permissive will is subject, to a certain extent to our faith and our actions, but God’s sovereign will is steadfast, unchangeable and uninfluenced by our faith or actions.

The killing of James and the deliverance of Peter was a matter of God’s sovereign will. And in like manner, there are things that happen in our lives that are beyond the scope of our faith and actions. They are beyond our ability to influence by our faith or actions! I know there are some who teach today that people can control what happens to them by their faith, but that’s not completely true! Often those same people will use Hebrew 11 as a “proof-text” to validate their point. They cite the first thirty-five (35) verses as proof of over-coming faith. There is a summation of “over-coming” faith in Hebrew 11:33-35a, where the author wrote: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. . .” I stopped at 35a because that’s where most of the “faith-teachers” stop! But beginning at 35b, we have, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story! Beginning at 35b, the rest of the chapter reads: “. . . and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:35-40 KJV) Were the believers cited in the first 35 verses more faithful than the others cited in the last five verses? No! Not according to the text! All were faithful; but some were delivered and some weren’t!

The difference between Peter and James was that, through His sovereign will, in Acts 12, Peter was delivered like those in Hebrews 11:1-35a, but James was numbered among “the others” mentioned in Hebrews 11:35b-40. But in the end, the difference between Peter and James was not of any real ultimate importance, because (for the record) Peter was eventually killed also! By the way, whether or not we are presently delivered or healed from some affliction or disease is not of ultimate importance in the grand scheme of things (It is to us because, naturally, we want to be delivered and healed). In the end, we will all leave this world! Faith might heal us of a disease or illness presently, but faith cannot and will not cancel our eventual death! Because of his prayer, repentance and faith, God’s permissive will added fifteen years (15) to King Hezekiah’s life (1 Kings 20:1-6; Isaiah 38:1-5), but after that, Hezekiah died! What was the difference between Peter and James? James died then; Peter died later! What is the difference between believers who are healed and those who are not? It’s a matter above all of our pay-grade! It’s a matter of God’s sovereign will! From a purely human point of view, the only difference is; some die now and some die later, but eventually; we all will die!