Psychic Sylvia Browne is "Dead Wrong"

Sylvia_brown_1I hate the negative approach of putting people down, making fun of them or proving how wrong they are in order to make yourself look right. Most people don't respond well to negative spin, except in some sick or perverse manner. Not that I'm above these base tactics, it's just a cheap shot. There certainly is nothing attractive about putting people down or "putting them in their place" in front of others. Negative people might be attracted to negative reporting, but that doesn't mean every once in a while you shouldn't blow the whistle, expose the lie, or just "say something!"

Sylvia Browne is a phony, is dangerous, does not bring hope to people and must be stopped.  On Saturday, January 27, 5 PM eastern time she will be doing a live presentation of her "Predictions for 2007." Her predictions are more than just parlor games, tricks, fun or educated guesses.  Her predictions are sorely wrong, hurtful and dangerous to people looking for hope. She ought to be banned or at least boycotted on a large scale. SHE IS DANGEROUS TO THE EMOTIONAL, MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.  Stay away from her!!!

Consider how hurtful these "predictions," "psychic vibrations," and "pronouncements" are. (Click the underlined links to read the stories.)

* She told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck (the boy missing for four years and recently found with another abducted boy) that their son was dead! How creepy is that?!?!  It was on the Montel Williams show that Browne originally told the parents that Shawn's body was near two large boulders in the woods. After telling them he was dead she offered to help find the body for $700 a half hour. Her response to authorities after finding the boy was that she is right enough times for it to not make difference. Right, Unless, you're the family! Not to mention she told a national television audience he was dead! Watch here for some discussion on Fox News about Sylvia's wrong assertion that the boy was dead.

* Based on a "strong psychic feeling" she convinced people to give her money to invest in a mining operation. One young couple gave her $20,000 and rather than invest it in mining, she invested it in her own "Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research." She was indicted on grand larceny charges. She plead "No Contest."  She said she failed because her psychic abilities don't work for herself. Well, they didn't work for the young couple either!  Here's an article titled, "Sylvia Browne Failed to See Her Own Criminal Conviction"

* She predicted a cure for breast cancer by the end of 1999

* Watch here as she tells parents their daughter was shot.  The parents tell her, "No," the girl just collapsed in her bedroom.  This stuff is utter foolishness.

* She stated the Sago Miners were all alive and then changed that after the news came out that they were all dead.

* In 1999 she told a grandmother that her abducted six year old granddaughter was not dead, but had been sold into slavery and was in Japan.  Later that year a convicted sex offender was charged with her death and her body was found 13 miles from the home.

* She predicted the troops would be home from Iraq in 2004 and then in 2005 and then in 2006.  How awful to hold out false hope like this to families that have loved ones in the line of fire day after day.

* She is also the founder of her own church.

* For the stupidest thing you'll ever see in your life, watch how Sylvia Brown on Montel Williams tells a girl that lost her firefighter boyfriend on September 11th that he died from drowning, "just like that girl in Aruba."

The Bible tells us to beware of false prophets and prophets whose prophecies don't come true.  Beware of Sylvia Browne, she did not bring any comfort to the families involved in the stories mentioned.  Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice."  Listen to Him. He will never leave or forsake you!  And he certainly won't sell you bad information!

(the picture of Sylvia Browne is taken from her website.) 

The Internet: "Do You Who is Talking to Your Kids?"

Internet_safety_with_directions_2Mark Gomez of Clearfield, Utah will be bringing his presentation on "Internet Safety: Facts and Critical Information" to Southern New England, February 11 - 18. The presentation is geared primarily for parents and teachers, but is suitable for social workers, law enforcement and all those working children, adolescents and young adults.

Gomez's presentation is an expose of online victimization techniques and a profile of who is most at risk to online predators.  He includes the "Six Steps Predators Use to Lure Children." The presentation prepares adults to protect children and themselves from predators that are entering our homes through our computer screens.

Detective James McLaughlin of the Keene County Police Department has coined new term, Technophilia, to define a new level of crime associated with the increase of online communication and networking. It is now believed that one in five children are sexually solicited or approached on over the Internet in a one year period of time. Online availability has lead to a new category of crime and social corrosion. You won't want to miss this presentation. Bring a friend that needs this vital information with you.

Martin Luther King Day 2007

Martin_luther_kingI can't say that the assassination of Martin Luther King had much of an impact on me when it happened. I was 13 in 1968, and frankly I was pretty much out of touch with it all.  When I was in college some of my instructors were huge Martin Luther King fans and had us read his material. I was stunned.  Not only by the material, but by his life.  Prior to being a spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement King was a pastor. In 1954 he took the pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King was amazing in every way.  King was prepared for what life had for him before it happened. He did the hard work. He overcame his obstacles, he educated himself. His overcame the temptation to hate. When destiny came calling he was ready!

I taught a preaching class a few years ago and I used King's famous August 28, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. as an example of one of the finest speeches in history. Not only is it -in my opinion- one of the most inspiring speeches in American history, it very well may be the best constructed speech ever. Most people have never heard it or read it in its entirety. Do yourself a favor, become part of American history, become part of the solution, be inspired to true American ideals built upon the foundation of the Word of God. Make yourself familiar with King's speech this year. His speech and life changed a nation and it still has the power to change our lives and thinking 44 years later! The text of the speech is included below, as well as the audio and a download at the bottom of the page. Listen Here:

The text of "I Have a Dream" Martin Luther King's, August 28, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is included below


I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Download martin_luther_king_speech.pdf

Was President Gerald Ford a Born-Again Christian?


Was Gerald Ford a born-again Christian? By all accounts yes.

Ford grew up religious in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but as he moved into politics in his adult life most of that had subsided.

He did however make a genuine re-commitment to Christ, which he nurtured and continued into the presidency and continued after he left office.  It was Billy Zeoli, now president of (the parent company of Gospel Films) that helped Ford get back on track when Ford was a Congressman. Zeoli brought Ford a Bible, but he says it was at a chapel service for a Cowboys verses Redskins game that Ford recommitted his life to Christ.  Zeoli was involved in ministry to professional athletes. Ford shared with Zeoli a passion for sports. 

When Ford became president Zeoli wrote a weekly devotional for him and conducted regular Bible Studies throughout Ford's tenure. Those devotionals are available in book form with an introduction by Gerald Ford in a book called, "God Has a Better Idea."

Gerald Ford's son Michael is today an ordained minister who attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area. When his son graduated in 1977 Ford gave the commencement address and spoke of his own faith.  Ford also spoke at Wheaton College.

President Ford can be seen confessing his faith before thousands of young people by clicking the video embedded at the end of the text of the prayer of commitment reproduced below:

Gerald Ford: "I pledge my life recognizing I am no longer my own, belonging to God who has called me to lead the world.

I pledge my character, understanding that it is the cornerstone of leadership. I make God's word the final authority directing my motives and actions.

I pledge my service realizing I am chosen by God, not by men. I will give my life away to serve others.

To this end, I will stand for the hurting, the hopeless, the unloved. I will say what others refuse to say. I will reach the world without losing sight of the neighborhood. I will walk upright, speak the truth, and live above reproach. I will not be ashamed to fall on my knees, to cry out to God, to shed tears for the dying, to [live] a life worthy of a leader, to stand up and lead my generation that all may know that Jesus Christ is alive."  To see the video of Gerald Ford reciting this pledge click here.

Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary?

Saint_angela_jolie_1 Angelina Jolie as a saint?  As the Virgin Mary?  Yikes!  That's taking celebrity worship and celebrity charity to a new height. I guess that's supposed to be the point of a painting by Kate Krentz hanging in a Florida Gallery that is making quite a stir. She says it is to draw attention to celebrity worship. I don't exactly get it, but I do know it's not good to worship celebrities.

Right now Angelina Jolie is coming out publicly against Madonna's very public adoption of a little boy from Malawi calling it "illegal."

I recently saw an interview with Angelina Jolie about her adoptions, her work as a United Nations Ambassador of Goodwill (she pays for all trips) and her work in poverty stricken countries. She seemed sincere enough and motherhood is definitely changing her (it has a way of doing that!) But as a saint?!? As the Virgin Mary?  Yikes!  Of course she didn't paint the picture of herself, but it sure does show that we have lost our spiritual footing.

Her work with orphans is definitely admirable.  There is an increasing population of them, especially on the continent of Africa.

You can get involved in supporting orphans through a number of great organizations, including our own ministry "Willing Hearts, Helping Hands" where 100% off all support goes directly to the orphans.  Compassion International is also a great ministry.

Jesus Christ: King of Poland!

Jesus74Jesus Christ King of Poland!  Some legislators in Poland are proposing a law to make Jesus Christ the official King of Poland.  Pretty good, since He is the King of Kings.  As expected there are those that do not want Jesus to be crowned the king of their country. In this case it is the Catholic Church that doesn't want Jesus as the King of Poland. Oh well stranger things have been done. Merry Christmas!

Will the Real Jesus Stand Up?

Who_do_men_say_i_am_1Jesus. That's one pretty powerful Name! Which explains why so many have used the name to promote themselves, their agendas and their weird ideas to a hungry and desperate public. Some have even claimed to be Jesus!  The most recent claim being Jose Luis Jesus Miranda, who preaches from a warehouse in Florida.

JesusThrough his numerous interviews he has given we can begin to piece together his beliefs and his history.  Jose is 60 years old and born in Puerto Rico.  He says he used to be an evangelical.'  Prior to becoming an evangelical he was a heroin addict. The way the story goes is that he previously ministered in a drug rehabilitation ministry in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  After some years of ministry he began to be disillusioned with the church.  In his more desperate moments he claims that Jesus Christ came to visit him one night.

When Jesus visited him, he says that Jesus disappeared and Jesus disappeared into him. This was, to him, the second coming of Christ. Jesus was now living in him.  By his own testimony he was a bit slow figuring out what happened at that moment and used to consider that he was the apostle Paul. But after growing some, he finally came to realize in 2,000 - the year he says many were waiting for and looking for Jesus to return - that he was Jesus returned.

One of the "proofs" Jose Luis Jesus Miranda gives that he is Jesus is that he does no signs and wonders. Since the Bible says that false Christs and prophets will perform signs to deceive, Miranda claims that he does no signs and wonders as a 'proof' that he is in fact Jesus Christ.

You know what?  Yawn!

There is only one Jesus who is 'the way the truth and the life' and it is not Jose Luis Jesus Miranda!

Al: Man of the Year

Friday morning I was eating breakfast with Al Serino in a San Diego hotel when Steven Slosberg called my cell phone. Al and I were at a conference upgrading our skills and credentials to do disaster relief more effectively. Steve Slosberg has always been pleasant with me, but I discovered it wasn't really me he wanted to talk to (although he did ask me a few questions) but he wanted to talk to Al.  It was a kick to come home Sunday after church and read the column (reproduced below, with appropriate links) where Slosberg names him as his "Man of the Year."  I definitely agree with Slosberg that Al needs to get rid of that "Jesus Is a Red Sox Fan" tee shirt. Time for a new chapter on that one. Here's the article.  I added the picture of Al overseeing teams in a field kitchen in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi right after Katrina hit. Enjoy!


A Standup Guy Deserves to Take a Bow       by Steven Slosberg (The New London Day)

Al_in_bsl_kitchen_1 Tis the season for honoring people of the year, and I've found my man living out by Oxoboxo Lake in Oakdale, though he's been spending much of his time in the muck and ruin of the post-Katrina wasteland along the Gulf Coast.

If Al Serino were to accede to this conceit, and take a bow, he'd call it a blessing. In any event, he's out in San Diego just now, working to get his ministry certified and federally recognized as a disaster relief organization.

He'll tell you that his church, Calvary Chapel in Uncasville, where he is outreach pastor, and his Willing Hearts, Helping Hands ministry, do this hammer-banging and human-kindness intervention all the time, be it orphan support in Central America, dispensing food and water at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, or, where I got to know him, raising houses from the barren slabs and ashes in Mississippi towns essentially blown off the map by the water, winds and tornados otherwise known as Hurricane Katrina.

Albert J. Serino, who is 58, has the organizational qualities, the big-laugh temperament and the hands-on confidence. He can corral groups of volunteers, many of them hapless but earnest college students on spring or winter break, and keep them healthy and fed as they labor to do good. That he is a Massachusetts-bred Red Sox loyalist, the kind who offers no quarter, does not diminish — well, maybe a tad — his leadership gifts or innate worthiness.

Before moving to this region 15 years or so ago, Serino worked in management for General Electric and then as a consultant to troubled businesses looking for a turnaround. Here, he was a vice president for the former United Nuclear Corp. in Montville. His first wife, the mother of his two daughters, was killed in an auto accident when the children were young. Serino married again, and divorced, and lives today with his third wife, Amy, whom he married seven years ago. They moved to a circa 1930s cottage at Oxoboxo Lake three years ago, and restored it. They were in Niantic before that.

All of his work, Serino will tell you, is in praise of Jesus. Raised a Catholic, he was born again at age 40. His work, irrefutably, is inspired. After Katrina struck the Gulf Coast at the end of August 2005, Serino, in discussions with Calvary Chapel's senior pastor, Joe Paskewich, began organizing relief teams through the Willing Hearts, Helping Hands ministry, which the church created for such emergency efforts.

The volunteers started in a month or so later, housed, with other volunteer groups, on cots and in sleeping bags, and on the rare mattress, in the dank basement of a Baptist church in the Mississippi hamlet of Diamondhead, about a 45-minute drive from New Orleans. For the next year, Serino would spend at least two weeks every month in Mississippi, specifically in the Gulf towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, leading crews in the mucking out of vanquished homes, and then the rehabbing of those that were salvageable and the complete rebuilding of others.

Serino's church team solicited donations, tried to get big-box hardware stores to supply materials (the best he was offered, he says, was a 50-percent discount) and kept recruiting more volunteers. In the end more than 80 houses were cleaned out and made livable again by the Calvary Chapel crews, and, among those, 14 were built anew.

When I visited the Mississippi sites with a Calvary group in late March, I saw other decencies in Serino, such as offering a bed in the church to an itinerant plumber from New London, who'd overcome his troubles here and made his way south after the hurricane. He volunteered at housing sites in the evenings in exchange for his bed and meals. Serino knew him from here and trusted him. That meant as much to the plumber as shelter.

I won't badger you to take a bow, Al, for all that you and your crews did this year. But, please, at least change that wretched Red Sox T-shirt.

To read the article onliine or to hear Steven Slosberg read this article by click here.

Slosberg_s_c_1  This is the opinion of Steven Slosberg.

Polygamy: Today in History, September 25, 1890

Wilford_woodruffThat's a picture of Wilfred Woodruff, the fourth president of the Mormon church. He's the one that made the proclamation on September 25, 1890, that plural marriage or polygamy would no longer be allowed in the Mormon Church or be a Mormon practice. But the polygamy issue just won't go away.

Although, the Mormon church put aside polygamy, under tremendous pressure. many Mormons know that polygamy was the original practice of Mormonism ans that it is the real Mormonism. When Mormons that practice polygamy are called fundamentalist Mormons' it is a correct description. They are the ones that are building their lives on the foundational and fundamental practices of Mormonism. The Mormon church through its young history (it's not even two hundred years old) has had a policy of one prophecy or proclamation from God being over-written by another. A rather convenient doctrine.

But polygamy is back and it looks like the battle is going to rage.  HBO has a show about a polygamous family called "Big Love."  Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints recently ended up on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted List"  along with the likes of Usama bin Laden. I don't think the name Jesus Christ should be the mane of his church, but this is America and you can do that if you want.   

Look for this battle to come to the forefront as we as a culture of dialog and individualism become increasingly confused about how to think about issues like marriage. 

When I do pre-marital counseling with couples moving towards marriage I asked them this question, "Who invented marriage anyway?"  You be surprised the number of people that have never even asked the question. The answer of course is that God created marriage.  If you want to know how marriage works, we'll have to ask him in the pages the scripture.  As Francis Schaeffer was fond of saying, "He is there and He is not Silent."

Does God Want You Rich?


The cover of Time Magazine last week asked the question, "Does God Want You to Be Rich?"  The article was mostly about Joel Osteen, the 43 year Houston preacher with one of the fastest growing churches in America. Joel is pretty popular, not just in Texas where everything is big, but he was able to bring 43,000 people together over two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

All in all the article was pretty balanced, sort of pitting Rick Warren, of 'The Purpose Driven Life' fame, against Joel. Warren is quoted as saying, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? Baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self worth by your net worth."  You go Rick!

But Osteen, came out with an equally powerful quote. "Does God want us rich?" Osteen asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it.' "Rather," he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think He wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative isn't it?"  Hmmm..

The plot thickens when Christians are polled about their beliefs on Wealth, Handling Wealth and Giving it Away. When asked "do you agree God wants people to be financially prosperous," 61% of Christians answered yes.  But when asked if "material wealth is a sign of God's blessing," 73% said no.  More people agreed than disagreed that Christians don't do enough for the poor.

While the debate and the issue is spreading around the world, it is mostly an issue in the United States and where it exists in other parts of the world, it is there as an American Church export. So which is it? Rich or poor? And why is the debate so continent-bound?  I have a theory. Feel free to correct me and inform me. OK, here we go.

Over the last thirty years or so there has been a lot of rewriting and explaining of American history.  Books on "America's Christian History" flooded the scene, as did books to discount the Christian contribution to the building of our society. On the one side are those that say folks came to America to start new lives and to seek economic prosperity.  One the other side, with equal passion, historical quotes and antidotes, are those that say America was founded on purely Christian principles to bring glory to God.  Each adamantly states their case and neither will give any room or accommodation to the other.  Personally I don't think we can understand the "Prosperity Gospel" or where we are at in today's "Culture Wars" without examining our history.  The truth - in my opinion - is that both 'Christian America' and 'America: Land of Opportunity' grew up side by side, constantly interacting, sometimes colliding with each other, but ultimately each effecting and shaping the other.

I live in New England. There is no doubt that many, if not most, of those that originally settled in that region had religious freedom as a prime motivator. Certainly this is true of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, preachers like Roger Williams and William Penn.  But there were other settlements that  were built more on a desire for newfound wealth. 

Much of what went on in the Virgina colonies falls into that category of seeking newfound wealth. These were folks that were eager to bring their families to the New World for a new start and the hope of economic advancement. In response to that, some say, "Yes, but the Virginia colonies were also dedicated to God."  Perhaps, but it was the God of the British Empire, and those colonies stayed loyal to the crown not aligning themselves with the Puritans or the Pilgrim 'free churches.' They stayed loyal to the Church of England.  Indentured servants were common in these colonies.  Tobacco became the center of the Virginia economy, even being used as currency. In 1617 the first slaves arrived on a Dutch ship. Enslaving human beings for personal economic advancement is a part of our national history. Personal economic prosperity was driving force in many sectors of the emerging nation, while freedom of religion was a driving force in other sectors. America has a dual history of the drive for economic prosperity and the yearning for the free practice of pure religion. (As an aside, I often wonder and am still exploring how and when the 'Bible-Belt' shifted from New England to the South and the "Financial Centers" shifted from the South to the North. If you have some insight, let me know!)

The glue that tied the two together was 'freedom.' Freedom to succeed and freedom to practice religion as one wanted to without government oversight. The combined contribution of the colonies north and south created an atmosphere of unbridled economic opportunity, seen a right, and unrestricted worship.

The tension that exists in the Time Magazine cover article is the same tension that has existed for 400 years in America.  The tension between a life that revolves completely around Christ and His Kingdom or a life that pursues economic prosperity.  The Puritans had it as close as anybody has ever achieved in the United States.  The Puritans have a misunderstood reputation in American history. Most people think they were called the "Puritans" because of a dour and sour morality and lifestyle that eschewed any enjoyment of life. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were "Pure" in their doctrine and their desire to be "free" from State Government controlling the church. But they were industrious, innovative, life-affirming, prosperous and fearful of being too entangled with a world that is passing away.  They were not afraid of possessions, but they knew to not hold on too tight.

Back to the article. Does God want you to be rich? Well, let's ask it another way. Does God want you to be poor?  One of my favorite characters is Tevya, the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof. His monologues with God are priceless. In one, he looks up to heaven and says to God, "I know it's no great sin to be poor. But it's no great honor either." He captures the essence of the dilemma. It might be that Time Magazine used the wrong phrase to frame question.  A better question might be "Does God want you to prosper?"  My guess is that properly defined most people would agree that God does want us to prosper. Prosperity by definition does not need to be locked into strictly economic parameters.  Prosperity means to thrive, to be successful. In that regard I want to prosper. I would think this would be true for most of us and would define God's will for our lives.

I can be a successful parent without being rich.  I can be a successful husband without being rich. I can be both and be poor. I want to be a successful pastor, not so I can boast at pastors conferences, but because God wants success in our ministries. I want to see transformed lives and people coming to Christ on a regular basis. I want to try and create an atmosphere that promotes spiritual growth and has the best fed, most loved congregation anywhere. Why not? Doesn't God want us to pursue things on this level?  When people come to a worship service, they should be coming to a table that has been set thoughtfully, carefully and lovingly. I think God wants our congregations to thrive, however that might be defined by a local fellowship.  He doesn't want us full of pride, arrogance or off on our own looking down on others. Those are un-Biblical, anti-Biblical and sub-Biblical characteristics.  So the issue isn't rich or poor, but it may be a question of prospering, thriving, succeeding.  If success is defined as being faithful, than success can come without many results.  It is possible that prosperity is defined in quality and not quantity.

It's no wonder that in America we have birthed the "health and wealth Gospels." Some came here for the Gospel, some came here for wealth. We've been building on that foundation for nearly 400 years.  No wonder we have Crystal Cathedrals, extravagant television studios, prosperity preachers and Elvis shooting out a television with Robert Goulet on while holding a Bible in the other hand. As a culture we're as conflicted as Elvis floating between the Bible and spiritual life and accumulating more stuff. This is America. It's always been America. We were built on a foundation of money and God and we've been struggling with it ever since.

In the midst of the growing debate some twenty years ago, Paul Cho, pastor of the world's largest church said, "Prosperity is accomplishing God's will for your life."   I can buy that one.

Maybe the argument isn't, "Does God Want You to be Rich," but, "Does God Want You to Prosper."  I'm going to go out a limb and say, "Yes, God does want you to prosper."  As a mom, he wants you to thrive.  As a husband he wants you successful. As a salesperson, he wants you honest and helpful.  As a delivery person, He wants you to get it there on time and in one piece. As a pastor, He wants you to teach the Bible. Teach the Word of God, not your opinions. He wants you to feed the sheep. As a pastor, He wants you to do the work of an evangelist, even if you're not one. As a student He wants you to keep your nose in the books. He's not looking at grade point averages, but at faithfulness. You keep your nose there and He'll help you get in to the next grade. As a single person, He wants you to live sexually pure. As a parent He wants you to instill a sense of right and wrong and drive foolishness out of your children before they drive a car.

Is rich better than poor? Not if it causes you to live in fear or lose the most valuable relationships you have. Does God want YOU to prosper, to thrive, to be successful. You bet! 

I pray you have a great day, a good week and a prosperous life! And if you get a lot of money in the midst of it, remember where it came from, remeber money is not prosperity or success, remind yourself it is not going with you and use it to bless others they way you've been blessed. 

God told Moses to tell Aaron to pray for the people this way, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You, the Lord Make His Face to Shine Upon You and Give You Peace!" Amen!