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reports, reviews, thoughts, news (and fun) posted by Gary Ware

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The ‘Softer’ Prosperity Gospel

You won’t find too many folk supporting the most strident form of prosperity gospel.
However there’s a softer, less strident form which can find its way into gospel affirming churches.
You’ll hear Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13 a lot more often than John 3:16 and Matthew 6:33.
It’s not that the gospel is denied.
It’s that it is assumed, and in its place practical messages are preached that never explicitly ground their lessons explicitly in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection.
(A post like this won’t usually find itself linked to on our town’s Citywide Church Facebook page.)

From the 9Marks blog:

While evangelicals have traditionally decried the prosperity gospel in its “hard” form, there is a softer form of this teaching that is all too common among us. Often undetected by Bible-believing Christians, it assumes the gospel and leads its adherents to focus on things like financial planning, diet and exercise, and strategies for self-improvement. In contrast to the hard prosperity gospel, which offers miraculous and immediate health and wealth, this softer, subtler variety challenges believers to break through to the blessed life by means of the latest pastor-prescribed technique.

Here are some tell-tale marks of soft prosperity gospel.

1. Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” [even 'prospering'] over the blessed God.
2. Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
3. Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
4. Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
5. Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.

(Read more explanation at the 9Marks blog post by David Schrock.

While never being so crass as to claim Jesus died and rose again simply so local businesses could have a healthier bottom line, soft prosperity will emphasise better business results as the answer to our prayers instead of growth in more Christ-like character in adverse circumstances.

We need a biblical gospel which exhorts people to know that Jesus died and rose again to make them a transformed person, not just comfortably well off.

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Putting Prosperity ‘Gospel’ To Death

Some recent material stating again how the ‘prosperity’ gospel is not good news, and is anti-gospel.
Preaching that treats the Scriptures as a handbook to achieve health, wealth and personal fulfilment, and which treats the death and resurrection of Jesus as little more than a doorway to being able to get them is not preaching at all.
Just keep asking yourself: ‘Is this sermon focussed on what I should be doing to get things, and Jesus is really just added on?’ or ‘Is this sermon importing blessings from the age to come and telling me I should experience them now?’

From Ed Welch:

I hate the prosperity gospel or any teaching that suggests good Christians will be healthy, wealthy and happy. As a counselor I see its wretched fruit. I hate it, and I am not alone. The number of haters is reaching a critical mass, maybe even a tipping point. But I can understand why this pernicious teaching endures. In many places, Scripture seems to teach it, so there will always be a contingent of prosperity folks among us.
When I go to Africa, the preaching I hear is almost solely from the Old Testament. The preachers want vivid stories where good people get good things and bad people get bad things, and these stories abound in the Old Testament. There are exceptions of course, (Job, Daniel, and Joseph to name a few) but themes of health, wealth and prosperity are common fare in the early days of God’s people.
This is why we remind ourselves that Scripture reaches its zenith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Or, as the Apostle Paul purposefully summarizes, “Christ and him crucified.” When our attention is riveted to the Suffering Servant, the prosperity doctrines fade quickly.

Read the whole post at CCEF.

And from

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The Lesson Of Sour: You Can’t Turn Life’s Lemons Into Lemonade (via Courtney Reissig @ The Gospel Coalition)

The proverbial expression about taking the metaphorical lemons life gives you and turning them into lemonade begs always leaves you wondering where you can consistently get that much sugar.
Instead of trying to find a good perspective on a bad situation, Courtney Reissig provides the helpful perspective that sometimes Christians can only look from the sourness of life’s experiences to the sweetness of eternity.

Her conclusion:

God is not in the business of “making the best of it” when things don’t go our way. He doesn’t just sweep in and pick up the pieces after our best-laid plans fall apart. He is always working, even in our disappointments, and using those trials for a greater purpose. So we don’t deal with disappointing circumstances by picking ourselves up by our bootstraps or turning our frown upside down. Rather, we trust in the God who is always working things out for our good (Romans 8:28).
Life most certainly hands us lemons. But we need more than sweet lemonade to replace the sourness of the circumstantial lemons. Every disappointing day reminds us that this is not our home. When the days don’t go our way, we long for a better life, where there are no more tears, disappointments, sorrows, and suffering. A life where the God who faithfully promised to keep us to the end will wipe every tear of disappointment away forever. And that, my friends, is way better than even the best lemonade.

Read the whole post at The Gospel Coalition.

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Some Questions To Answer As We Plan 2014

A local church exists for ministry and mission.
It doesn’t exist to sustain programs or groupings that began with ministry and mission in mind, but which are no longer capable of achieving that purpose.
As 2013 comes to a conclusion and our thoughts turn to 2014 our planning for next year is not simply to pick up everything that was being done in 2013 and continue on.
Instead we have to be certain that what we’ve been doing is still a viable means to achieve our purpose.

Here are some questions to ask as planning for 2014 continues.
They’re from a post on the Engaging Church blog, based on work by Larry Osbourne.

What is it that drives me crazy?
What are we doing that makes absolutely no sense?
What processes and programs seem to take lots of work, but bear no fruit?
What traditions are we putting up with simply because it has always been done this way?
What is the one problem that if we could solve it, most of our other problems would go away?
What’s broken that seems to be unfixable?
What problems are we living with because everyone says, “That’s just the way it is”?