Faithfully Thinking: Is it true God only blesses you if you give money to the church? Can God be bought?

I was listening to a sermon Sunday and the sermon was good until the guest pastor got a little too excited in his bid to convince people to give to the year-end offering the church holds and said “Are you not getting a breakthrough (the new Christian buzzword, in case you don’t know) or aren’t seeing the blessings you think you should? Maybe it’s because you aren’t tithing (In Christianese this means giving to the church) what you should be.”

He went on to suggest people need to give money to the church or they will remain stuck in their negative situations. This rubbed me the wrong way, of course, not because I don’t think we should give money to the church. On the contrary, I do believe in tithing and I do believe that God provides us with our money and we should, therefore, give it back to him. What I don’t like is when pastors link that giving to receiving blessing or answers to prayers, from God.

Are they suggesting God can be bought? That God can be manipulated into doing what we want because we give money to his church?. And is it really his church if pastors are telling people they can only be blessed if they pay cash (or they accept VISA and MasterCard too.)?

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It reminds me of these clickbait emails I get from a well-known pastor with subject titles like “Do this one thing and your prayers will be answered.” Or “Five steps to get your healing.” I never even open those emails. That whole vending machine mentality, as I’ve said before, drives me crazy.  It’s like: “Slide this ritual in and get an answered prayer out.”

Is this really what Christianity has become? Some vapid, self-serving, misleading lip service to get clicks and social media rankings? Does God really only answer our prayers if we pray this way or worship that way or give our money to a specific church? I don’t remember reading in the Bible that God only provides if you write a check to a well-known, internationally reaching church, though I do feel giving to the church (as a whole, not a specific one necessarily) is important, especially in a day and age of such absurdity and craziness going on.

My big worry is someone hearing what this pastor said and starting to believe that if they give all their money to the church their cancer will be healed, their husband will stop cheating, or their father won’t be an alcoholic anymore. What happens when their cancer progresses instead? What happens when their husband tell them he wants a divorce? What happens when their father dies in a drunk driving accident? Despite the money they gave.

Will they feel they didn’t work enough, do enough, spend enough to have their situation changed?

What message is that sending? “Come all you who labor and are heavy burdened…but bring your wallets because only then will God give you rest.”? I’m pretty sure that’s not what Matthew 11:28-30 says.

It says: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

His burden is light. He doesn’t want to put more burden on you. He wants to help make what you carry through life easier. So why is the church heaping more burdens, in the form of guilt, on its people?

The Church preaches that Jesus died on the cross for everyone and the salvation that his sacrifice provided us is free. They’ll say that you don’t have to do anything to earn that salvation, to receive it, or God the Father’s love, but in the same breath, they’ll hinge your healing, your life change, your unanswered prayers on whether or not you gave money to the church. Something about that doesn’t sit right with me. There has to be a better way to explain that the church needs financial support, so it can continue to help those within and outside its walls without attaching guilt to it.

Oh, wait, that was it. Just say that. Just say: “We need your financial support to help reach those in need and spread the gospel. Give what you can, when you can. Prayerfully consider what you can give and give what you feel God wants you to.”

Remove the guilt. Remove the contingencies. Remove the false teaching that God will not bless you if you don’t give to the church during their once a year giving session. Remove the month-long sermon series to sway listeners to give you their money. It smacks more of manipulation than honesty to me and many others.

Don’t manipulate your church into giving money by acting like you can manipulate God. Don’t lay down little pieces of bread of life-supporting goodness in your sermon just so you can tie it all up with a reminder that next week is the week to open your pocketbooks.

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The one good thing the pastor who spoke this weekend said was to give only what you can give – though he ruined it by adding whatever was given needed to be a sacrifice, which to me still sounds like he’s suggesting church members should give beyond their means if they want their blessing or their “breakthrough.”

We, as a church, need to stop hinging blessings and breakthrough on performance.

We need to stop hinging healing on writing a check.

We need to stop acting like we can buy God off.

No, we shouldn’t stop telling the congregation the church needs them to give and that God does want them to give so the church can continue its work. But when people start believing their illness, their loss, their difficult situation is based on what they didn’t do or didn’t say, we have a communication problem.

I don’t think that’s the message God wanted pastors to pass on — that they didn’t do enough or weren’t enough to be healed, to be saved.

God does love us and he does want to provide for us and it delights him to answer our prayers but we don’t have to do anything for him to do that.

We do not have to be saved by our works because Jesus already did the work for us.

Give to your church what you can give, support their ministries and make giving money a regular act, but never feel that if you are stuck in a situation it is because you didn’t give or do enough.

God never asks us to do or be enough because he is enough through us.

When you are in the darkness keep your mouth shut.

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Here is some advice I could have used before I rambled too much on my blog about this period of loneliness I’ve been in.

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. — Oswald Chambers

My favorite line of this quote, which I first saw in the Jan Karon book I’m currently reading, is “Watch where God puts you into darkness and when you are there keep your mouth shut.”

Keep your mouth shut.

Ouch.

That one hurt because I know I haven’t done it.

I certainly plan to read this quote over a few hundred times and chew on it for a bit. It was very timely for me and interesting because I almost didn’t read from that book due to being too tired.

If you feel so moved, tell me what you think of this quote. Does it fit where you are now or where you once were? Let me know in the comments.

 

It’s not all just ‘in my head’. It’s in my uterus. But thank you for dismissing me.

I once had a couple of people (who most likely were well-meaning) tell me the anxiety I had, the worry, the exhaustion, the muscle aches, the overall body weakness – everything I had – was in my head and due to my doing the Christian thing all wrong. I didn’t pray enough. I didn’t pray right. I didn’t rebuke right. I didn’t “take authority” over the demons attacking me right.

So, listen, I know that part of the anxiety I deal with is ‘in my head’ but guess what – the anxiety I deal with is also in my uterus. It’s hormone related. How do I know this? Because one week out of the month I barely have anxiety, I’m not exhausted, my muscles don’t hurt and I don’t feel weak all over. The rest of the month I’m a total mess. It’s definitely a pattern and definitely follows a “cycle”, like a menstrual cycle – get it?

For two weeks out of the month, which, yes, means almost the entire month, I am weak, I have brain fog, my muscles hurt, I’m severely dizzy, I have heart palpitations, my legs feel heavy, my skin feels weird and my brain tells me I’m going to die at any moment or my family is going to be taken away in the blink of an eye. I also feel like I can’t eat. I feel like I have morning sickness when I don’t. It’s a nightmare and I become agoraphobic. Leaving the house is a battle.

Every day is a constant mental battle. During those weeks I am a shell of who I used to be. I am afraid to take photography jobs because I don’t want to pass out or have a low blood sugar moment. I’m afraid to take my children anywhere. I’m afraid to live my life and many days I just don’t.  I don’t do what I want to do because I know one of the weird physical symptoms I have is going to limit me. I’m afraid even when I know I shouldn’t be afraid.

But this week? This is a good week.

This week I got up without anxiety gnawing at my gut. This week I went to an anniversary dinner with my husband and I didn’t think I was going to pass out at the restaurant. This week I took my dog to the vet with my kids and didn’t think I couldn’t breathe or I’d pass out or my legs wouldn’t be able to hold me up.

I don’t understand why I have these symptoms one week and not another. I am almost certain it’s a hormone thing because of some other signs, which I will not share here (I know you’re thankful for that!). I am also almost certain it’s a hormone thing because I’ve met women online who are having the same symptoms

“Go to a doctor!” a family member likes to tell me, (which is perfectly fine advice, don’t get me wrong.)

I did. The doctor looked at me and said: “You’re too young for that..see you in six months.” So right now I am on my own to figure it all out and I am finding things that are helping, some days anyhow, so for that, I’m grateful, but on the days I can’t seem to control it all, I wish I had people in my life, beyond my mom, who had taken the time to understand instead of simply dismissing me as “not enough.”

While I don’t know what exactly causes the hormonal rises and falls and haven’t yet pinpointed a definitive way to manage the swings, what I do know is the worst thing that has happened to me is being told it’s all in my head.

If I had cancer, maybe I would have been treated differently, and not like I was less than for battling these physical symptoms along with the mental. If I had a heart issue, maybe I would have been treated differently and not looked down on. I don’t know and I don’t want to find out.

But because I am a Christian and I have anxiety that is not all from Satan and not all from me being “weak and faithless” I am not worth the time of many other so-called Christians.

If you are a Christian and you have anxiety – don’t let anyone tell you that it’s because you’re not a good enough Christian. Don’t let them tell you that you don’t pray enough, you’re not faithful enough, you don’t rebuke enough. Some of those things may be true, at times, but they aren’t always true. Sometimes there is something physical going on in your body creating these symptoms.

Trust in God to walk you through the physical and the mental trials facing you and tune out the Christians, (some of them well-meaning, with no ill intent) who are telling you that you are experiencing these trials because you are doing something wrong. Maybe you do need to pray more, read your Bible more or tell the spirits of infirmity and anxiety and depression to get away from you, but your physical ailments should never be referred to as a punishment from God.

Maybe you are doing something right by holding on to God as he leads you down a difficult, challenging, heartbreaking path that will eventually prosper you, not harm you.

 

 

Why praying for the president – no matter who he or she is – doesn’t make you a bad person

You know the United States has reached a new level of crazy when Christians start flipping out on other Christians for praying for another person.

It’s been happening for three years but I saw it again a couple of Sundays ago when a pastor in Virginia prayed for President Donald Trump. I mean – what a jerk this pastor is. What kind of pastor prays for another human being? His church should be taken away from him. It sounds absurd right? But see, we are in the most hyper-partisan time in history. It started under Barack Obama’s last four years and blew up when Trump was elected. Hatred gripped this country and while fingers pointed at Trump for the reason, half the country followed right along with the man, following the example they said he had set and shooting hate right back at him.

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I’m not sure how some who hate Trump think they are better than him when they act just like they say he acts. Martin Luther King Jr said it best: “Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Does that mean you should show love to someone you think is filled with so much hate? I hate to tell you but if you are a Christian, it actually does and I don’t like that any more than you do. Still, it’s what Christ did for us and does for us every day. He looks at our darkness and our hate and he loves us anyhow – hoping to draw it out of our hearts.

Just because a person prays for the president of a country does not mean they endorse all that he says or does. Five or six years ago I was at a National Day of Prayer service and the leaders of our county, state and country were prayed for. A separate prayer was given for then President Obama and it was not a condescending “Oh Lord, fix this idiot,” prayer even though some in the crowd may have disagreed with his policies. The prayer was heartfelt and asked God to give him wisdom and to protect him. It didn’t stop at political lines, just as it hadn’t for other presidents that were prayed for over the years.

Are there many Christians who support a politician and never mention their bad attributes? Yep. Indeed there are, just as there are those who aren’t Christians who also look over some glaring bad points of their candidates. Are there some Christians who act like our presidents are actually Christians because they say something that sounds Christian in one breath and swear in the next? Yep. And I don’t agree with that.

What I do agree with is praying for, over and with our presidents. In the Bible it actually calls for us to do so:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 2 Timothy 1.

I mean, come on, supporter or not – look at the current guy – he needs the prayer. We all need prayer. We are called to pray over our leaders even as we struggle to respect them.

As Christians, I hope we will pray for our president – this one and the future ones to come. It’s what God wants us to do and there are times we must do what we don’t want to for something greater than political ideology.