How Can We Know That The Idea Of Jesus’ Deity Is Not Simply An Idea Borrowed From Ancient God Myths?

I recently watched a BBC Documentary ‘The Dark Ages: An Age of Light’, hosted by Waldemar Januszczak, a television documentary presenter and British art critic, who pitched a startling idea. He claimed that Jesus is simply a deity borrowed from the mythology of the ancient Egyptian god Horus.

We may recoil in horror in response to this claim; however, this isn’t a new idea. There have been a number of skeptics over the years who have similarly claimed that Jesus was nothing more than a copy of popular dying-and-rising fertility gods in various places – Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria, Attis in Asia Minor, and Horus in Egypt. As Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code, “Nothing in Christianity is original.”

When the comparisons are made though, I must admit that, taken at face value, the similarities are astounding and can cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus (especially young believers who encounter this objection while in University).

A significant portion of the claims made about the similarities with ancient deities though are simply false and lack any archaeological or historical support. Sloppy research in the least and outright lies at the worst are often used in a ‘straw man’ attempt to bolster the effort of some atheists to make these deities (Horus in Waldemar’s case) look as much like Jesus as possible.

But serious research shows just how weak these claims are. Here are only three examples borrowed from J. Warner Wallace’s blog.

Claim: Horus was born in a cave, his birth announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds.
Truth: There is no reference to a cave or manger in the Egyptian birth story of Horus. In fact, none of these details are present in the ancient Egyptian stories of Horus. Horus was born in a swamp. His birth was not heralded by an angel. There was no star.

 Claim: Horus was baptized in a river at the age of 30, and his baptizer was later beheaded.
Truth: Horus was never baptized. While conspiracy theorists often point to “Anup the Baptizer” (claiming he was later beheaded), there is no such person in Horus’ story.

Claim: Horus had 12 disciples.
Truth: Horus had only four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’), but at some point, in his story there is reference to sixteen followers and a group of unnumbered followers who join Horus in battle (called ‘mesnui’).

(You can find many more claims and the corresponding truth by clicking here): 

There are many more examples, but even with only using three ‘claims vs. truth’ we can quickly see just how weak the attempts to discredit the authenticity of Jesus’ claim to be God really is.

What does the Bible say?

Still the question remains… Just what was Jesus’ claims about himself? Did he actually claim to be God and does the Bible shed any light on this question? To answer these questions let’s look at what Jesus himself says. In the gospel of John, he says “I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30.

At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God, however, look at the Jews’ reaction to his statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:33. The Jews understood Jesus’ statement as a clear and loud claim to be God. What’s even more interesting is that later on in the following verses, Jesus never corrects them. He doesn’t put up his hands and say, “whoa, just hold it a minute guys, I didn’t actually claim to be God, you dudes got me all wrong.” The reason? Jesus was actually declaring himself God when he said, “I and the Father are one”. Jesus knew very well what he was saying and he knew how it would be received.

In John 8:58 we’re given another instance: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!”

Here again the Jewish leaders get all up in a huff, and again get ready to stone him because of his ‘blasphemy’. Jesus’ announcing his identity as “I am” is a declaration, claiming the Old Testament name for God found in Exodus 3:14 (remember the burning bush story?).

John starts off his Epistle with “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, and then in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” Jesus is identified as the ‘Word’ and so is clearly being acknowledged as God. Following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” – John 20:28. Jesus doesn’t correct him, rather accepts the worship only God can receive.

We see the apostle Peter describe Jesus as God, “…our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 1:1. The apostle Paul does the same thing, “…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13.

Also God the Father himself said the following about Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” – Hebrews 1:8.

And then we discover that Old Testament prophecies of Christ, announce his deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks, who were immersed in mythological deity worship, never tried to claim that Jesus (or his followers) borrowed ideas from current or former deities or mythologies. The reason they didn’t was simply because they never perceived there to be any similarities. They in fact confirmed that Jesus was unique and not mistaken for any other god when Paul spoke with them.

“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’ – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean’.” – Acts 17:18-20

The point is that if Paul was just rehashing stories of other gods, the Athenians wouldn’t have referred to his doctrine as a “new” and “strange” teaching. If dying-and-rising gods were plentiful in the first century, why then, when Paul preached Jesus rising from the dead, did the Epicureans and Stoics not remark, “Ah, just like Horus and Mithras”?

Why is the question important?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God?

in his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes the following:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

In attempts to explain away the words of Jesus, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to him and as we have seen people like Waldemar do – even trying to bolster their claims by relegating Jesus to a borrowed ‘God Mythology’.

But who are we to argue with God’s Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can an art critic, “scholar” or documentary presenter, two thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus himself?

C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be only a good teacher isn’t an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If he is not God, then he is a liar, and so not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. Jesus has to be God because if he is not God, his death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ deity is why he is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity is why he proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6

If Jesus is simply a myth among many myths, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, godly man, or even real, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. But if he does exist as God then we must recognise that we are responsible to him and in need of forgiveness from him. “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20

I truly hope and pray that men like Waldemar discover this truth and declare Jesus as Thomas did, My Lord & my God, before they meet him as their Judge.

Is It Possible To Have A Deep Relationship With Jesus Without Doctrine?

There is a growing trend to devalue doctrine for Christian living and make the teachings of scripture irrelevant or unimportant. I have repeatedly heard statements like, “Doctrine is not important in Christianity. Nothing is important but having a relationship with Jesus”.

This can be made to sound good if presented with passion and is packaged right, but it’s a completely false statement. In fact, it is impossible to have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ without doctrine because doctrine is about knowing him.

A young man who meets a young girl and finds his heart going all twitter pated, naturally wants to know everything about her. If you love hunting you naturally want to know everything about hunting, same with sports or baking. Jesus says the same thing about knowing him. In John 14:15 he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Then also in verses 23 & 24, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

Bottom line is this… if you do not know the word, you can’t keep the word.

If you do not keep the commandments of scripture, you do not love God regardless of how emotional we get and how spirited our time of worship becomes. Keeping the Word of God is the evidence that the love of God is in our hearts.

If you do not know God’s word, how can you keep God’s word? If you do not know God’s word, how can you know God? Sound doctrine is critical because it reveals to us how to know and relate to our Creator and Saviour.

Paul tells Titus to “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1. Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. In fact it’s so important that it’s the last command given by Jesus before he left earth.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Later on, we see how the apostles followed through on that command of Jesus’ in Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Doctrine Is A Sacred Trust

In Titus 2:1; Matthew 28 & Acts 2 we see a command of God’s to teach doctrine because he wants us to know him. If that’s true then doctrine is a sacred trust.

The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined by the word of God itself: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, [and] that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This is the clear-cut good news that we are to share, and Paul says it is “of first importance.” Change that message and the basis of faith crumbles and shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing and then acting on that message.

A sacred trust is defined as something not to be violated, criticized, or tampered with. That means we dare not tamper with God’s communiqué to the world. Truth is, we are the couriers of the message, not its editors. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it.

Jude was so insistent that the church defend sound doctrine that he uses the word ‘contend’: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” – Jude 1:3

To “contend” carries with it the idea of strenuously fighting for something and to hold nothing back in the struggle, to give it everything you’ve got. A contender in boxing is someone who has worked hard for a shot at the title and will fight through pain to get it.

Are you known as a contender for the doctrines of God or are you more known as a lover not a fighter? Love Wins is applicable only in that someone else contended and died for us first. God now wants fighters and defenders for his truth. The question is… are we?

Doctrine is such a sacred trust that scripture includes a warning about tampering with God’s word. Revelation 22 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we are to receive what has been passed down to us, keep it, contend for it and pass it on.

Doctrine Affects How We Live

We also need to understand that doctrine is a statement of faith which articulates our orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief’). Belief is only the beginning because what we believe affects what we do.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul clearly associates proper belief (sound doctrine) with right behaviour. Writing to slaves he says in 1 Timothy 6: “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honour so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against.” – 1 Timothy 6:1

If a Christian slave dishonoured his master in any way by disobedience, by acting disrespectfully, by speaking shamefully of his master, the worst consequence would not be the beating he would receive but the curses he would cause his master to hurl at this slave’s God, his religion, and the teaching he had embraced: “So that is what this new religion teaches its converts!”

Instead of bringing honour to the true God and the gospel, as every Christian should be anxious to do, this slave would bring about the very opposite.

With that in mind it’s of interest then that the history of the early church reveals that Christian slaves generally commanded a higher price on the slave market than unbelievers. If a master knew that a certain slave on the auction block was a Christian, he would generally be willing to pay more for that slave, since he knew that the slave would serve him faithfully and well.

This is high tribute to the Christian faith and the soundness of the doctrine that this slave embraced. What this slave believed inside himself, affected how he lived outside himself.

Here’s a question for all of us to consider. If you were put on the “slave market” so to speak would you “command a higher price?” The purpose of doctrine is not to simply inform us intellectually of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but to challenge us to live out our faith in life and practice.

Behaviour is an extension of theology and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act, between belief and behaviour.

Let’s look at it another way. If you believe that you’re invincible you can easily make foolhardy decisions. For example, two guys stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he can’t. Their next actions and ultimate results will be quite dissimilar.

In the same way, someone who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently than someone who believes in well-defined moral standards.

Paul says, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” – 1 Timothy 1:9-10

Isn’t it interesting that here Paul lists sins like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading and then concludes with “and whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” I think Paul thinks sound doctrine is kinda important don’t you think? In other words, Paul’s saying “listen, bad behaviour is out of sync with true belief”. Sound doctrine curbs corrupt conduct.

So ask yourself, “Are my actions before my family, in school and at the workplace giving clear testimony to the reality of the doctrine of Christ in me?”

Hey Enlightened Culture! Who Gets To Decide What Is Evil Or Good?

On Sunday June 25, 2017 the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, marched in the Toronto Pride Parade. It was the second year in a row that he’s marched as Prime Minister – showing the world his acceptance of, and determination to make the LBGTQ life choice (yes, I said choice on purpose) accepted as an integral part of the Canadian cultural identity and showcasing this resolve as a top priority for him personally.

If that is Justin’s personal belief that is one thing, one I don’t happen to agree with, however along with his personal belief comes a worldview that says that if you don’t accept a person’s behaviour you mustn’t be tolerant and thus not love that person. The conclusion most often made with that view is that true tolerance and thus loving others mean that we can then never determine what is evil or what is good – for them or anyone else… “If it feels good to you than who am I to say that it is wrong?”

Interestingly enough, based on their own worldview, most who hold to this belief determine that I am wrong because I choose to disagree with them. By that admission they are automatically intolerant of my personal worldview and thus I can only surmise that they must not love me… obviously a self-defeating philosophy of thought which of course they can’t or won’t recognize.

There are many who contend that no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

Among those who would believe along those lines is Richard Dawkins who wrote in his 2006 book ‘The God Delusion’, that God and belief in God are misconceptions. Belief in God, says Dawkins, subverts science and knowledge, breeds ignorance, foments bigotry, and abuses children. All this happens for the simple reason that God is a delusion.

However I would contend that God is not the delusion; atheism is. Instead of a god-delusion the apostle Paul tells us that the human race in general is lost in sin and self-delusion.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

The denial of God is the true delusion  that extends to the atheist’s view of humanity as “good,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. A sober assessment of human beings recognizes that we lie, cheat, steal, lust, complain, envy, hate, and forget and that we are careless, ruthless, disrespectful, resentful, and loveless.

We are all these things naturally from birth. This is what God means when He says, “There is no one who does good” – Psalm 14:3. We are so obviously sinful that it is silly to claim that human beings are “good.”

Nobody teaches kids to lie; and yet they do it quite naturally almost like they’re presupposed to it. Nobody teaches teenage boys to lust; they do it naturally and almost without being conscious of it at times. Nobody teaches us to resent our boss or spread malicious gossip about someone we don’t like in the next cubicle; we do these things naturally. Nobody teaches the wife to overly criticize or the husband to neglect his wife; both do these things naturally.

Yet in the sixth chapter of The God Delusion, entitled “The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?” Dawkins states (despite the fact that apparently there  is no God who can define what is “good”) just why human beings are good, which he does based on nothing more than his own opinion.

Later in the ninth chapter of The God Delusion called “Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion” Dawkins replies to a question about clergy sexual abuse: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Christian in the first place” (page 317).

What?!?

In fairness to Dawkins he later claimed that it was an off the cuff comment to a question he had been asked at a conference in Ireland. However my push back is that we are responsible for those ‘off the cuff’ comments we all make from time to time because those comments are indicative of what we truly believe.

Dawkins was essentially saying that human beings are “good” and that even (minor) sexual abuse they (priests or others) perpetrate is better than a religion that tells them they are not “good”. All of that comes out of his belief system where he can’t or won’t accept the idea of God, and the subsequent accountability to God for our actions. How he explains the heart of “good” people sexually abusing children completely escapes me I must say.

At the end of the day it isn’t you or me who get to answer the question of who is evil or who is good, rather it is God and only God who get’s to decide.

We humans do evil because our hearts are evil. “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” – Matthew 12:35.

A few years ago (2010) Christian Apologist Gregory Koukl was asked a very important question:

“While giving a talk at a local Barnes & Noble, someone asked why it was necessary for him to believe in Jesus.  He was Jewish, believed in God, and was living a moral life. Those were the important things, it seemed – how you lived, not what you believed. To him our message depicted a narrow-minded God pitching people into Hell because of an arcane detail of Christian theology. 

How should I answer? Remember that the first responsibility of an ambassador is knowledge – an accurately informed message.  What is our message? One way to say it is, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to Hell.  If you do believe, you’ll go to Heaven.” That’s certainly true, as far as it goes.  The problem is it’s not clear.  Since it doesn’t give an accurate sense of why Jesus is necessary, it makes God sound petty. So how do we fix this? Here’s how I responded to my Jewish questioner.

I asked him two simple questions. “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?” 
He thought for a moment.  “Well, since I’m a prosecuting attorney…yes.” 
“So do I,” I agreed.
“Second question: Have you ever committed any moral crimes?” 
There was a slight pause.  This was getting personal. “Yes, I guess I have,” he admitted. “So have I, ” I confessed, agreeing with him again.
“So now we have this difficult situation, don’t we? We both believe those who commit moral crimes ought to be punished, and we both believe we’ve committed moral crimes. Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news.”

In less than 60 seconds I had accomplished a remarkable thing with this approach. I didn’t have to convince him he was a sinner. He was telling me. I didn’t have to convince him he deserved to be punished. He was telling me. I was tapping into a deep intuition every person shares: knowledge of his own guilt. And I didn’t do it arrogantly or in an obnoxious, condescending way. I freely admitted I was in the same trouble he was. Now that we agreed on the problem it was time to give the solution.

“This is where Jesus comes in,” I explained. “We both know we’re guilty.  That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. But it’s on His terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s answer because He personally paid the penalty for us. He took the rap in our place. No one else has done that. Now we have a choice to make. We either take the pardon and go free, or refuse it and pay for our own crimes.” 
https://www.str.org/blog/cross-examining-attorney-0#.WVKohWjyvIU

So back to the original question i posed at the start of this post. Many, like Richard Dawkins contend that at the end of the day no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

No they are not. So then who gets to decide what is evil and what is good? The answer is… Jesus Christ. And the truth and hope for the world is that we can be made new creations in Christ, otherwise mankind will continue to do evil because it is their natural inclination. “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’.” – Romans 3:10-11

5 Key Dangers That The Prosperity Gospel Presents To The Christian

I’m not a fan of the prosperity Gospel, and in fact I believe a lot of it is just plain false teaching. But I’m also not a fan of the idea that all Christians must be poor… that’s just poor theology.

God can bless his children, and I have the greatest respect for those who are wealthy and who still have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, because I think it must be one of the hardest things to do in life.

Christians can be blessed with riches, but we must remember their limitations. Money can buy a bed, but it can’t buy you sleep. It can buy a house, but not a home; medicine, but not health; pleasure, but not peace; amusements, but not joy. Just remember its limitations!

There are many reasons I’m not a fan of the prosperity gospel, more than I am sharing on this blog post, however allow me to share 5 key dangers that the prosperity gospel presents to the Christian. I’m sure that you’ll agree that even only 5 reasons will be enough to keep us away from that false teaching.

1  The prosperity gospel presents the Holy Spirit more like a ‘Force’ to use than a ‘Person’ to love

A major problem I see with the prosperity gospel is that the Holy Spirit is seen more as a power to be put to use for whatever the believers heart desires – if of course you have enough faith. After all didn’t Jesus actually say that we would receive the desires of our hearts? The understanding is that the Holy Spirit’s pleasure is to fulfill the desires of our hearts immediately if you have enough faith. The problem with that process of thinking however, is that the Word of God does not teach anywhere that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to act as a force that will fulfill the desires of my will and heart but is instead a ‘Person’ who empowers the believer to do God’s will.  “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has He wills”. – 1 Corinthians 12:11

2  The prosperity gospel becomes more a matter of what we say than in whom we trust

The prosperity gospel (Word of Faith) teaching presents us to a God who is not truly Lord of all, because in that teaching, he can’t work until we release him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not humble and submissive trust in God; rather it’s a watered down formula by which we may manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. Truth is though that our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith. “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:20-22

3  The prosperity gospel is about pursuing material wealth and health over of the presence of God

In Numbers 13 & 14 we are introduced to an intriguing drama regarding the children of Israel and their choice of a lifetime. When they were about to enter the promised land they faltered because they feared the giants in the land and so chose to run away. God punished them by denying them access into the land flowing with milk and honey because of their sin.

Here’s the question, what was their sin? Their sin was believing that the birthright was about the material goods – the land flowing with milk and honey. Think about the fact that the pagan nations who already inhabited the land weren’t enjoying the blessing of God and yet already possessed the land for many generations. enjoying it’s bounty.  Truth is that the Israelite people’s birthright wasn’t about the flowing milk, honey and olive trees – their birthright was about the Glory of God being manifested in their lives no matter what.

God had been with them throughout the Exodus and was going to be with them as they took possession of the land. but they forgot all about that and only saw giants guarding grapes. The prosperity gospel emphasises the gaining of money and possessions in this life, even going so far to declare that as children of the king it is a birthright. But if that was the case why would Jesus say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” – Matthew 6:19

Also the Bible warns against pursuing wealth. Believers, especially leaders in the church, are to be free from the love of money. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” – Luke 12:15

Our lives need to be nothing less than the manifested presence of God in our lives so that the world who watches us may glorify our God in heaven, not our god in our wallet.

4  The prosperity gospel does not prepare the saints for tough times

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:19

When a crisis strikes, as it always will in our flee bitten sin diseased, sin cursed world, how are we to handle those times of trouble? I’m not sure what the Word of Faith folks say to the fact that we are called upon to suffer not just persecution suffering, but body-wasting-away, and disease-type suffering, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16 

Sadly what happens however, is that Christians in prosperity churches are often unprepared for the day when a tragedy happens in their lives.

Our hope rather should be found in and through the gospel message of renewal and transformation. This damaged world will be made right one day. Jesus will return and make things new. Knowing this helps me to look to God when I have been diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse loses his or her job, or when bankruptcy is declared because of circumstances beyond our control.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” – 1 Peter 1:3-6

5  The prosperity gospel can only lead to discontent and unsatisfied hearts

The teaching of the prosperity gospel belittles the true gospel to earthly betterment such as material goods, better health or better relationships. This though only leads to discontent and unsatisfied hearts. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5-6

The word ‘content’ here in verse 5 literally means ‘to be enough’, ‘to be sufficient’, ‘to be adequate’ on a continual basis. That means we come to Christ first and for Jesus’ sake alone. That means that Christ is enough even if the added things never get added.

Even if my marriage is terrible I can still find deep satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If I am to remain single for the rest of my life I can find complete satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If my job is a dead-end job or the boss treats me terribly, my satisfaction is complete because I find contentment in Jesus. Even if I never get that candy apple red Jaguar, or if I get sick or my child gets cancer and dies, or it seems that there’s always more month than pay-cheque. We must come to Jesus because of Jesus, Jesus is sufficient. God is enough.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” – Psalm 73:25-26

God absolutely does want his children to prosper and in fact we are promised prosperity. However the promise is made for the day we enter glory. So it’s a timing thing really. One day we will undeniably be healthy & wealthy – just not necessarily today.

In the end we must know and believe that though we rejoice in suffering now, there will be great joy in the prosperity of Christ’s coming. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:13

Is Marriage Just An Old Fashioned Idea that Has Run It’s Course?

Our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. We live in a world that says we should get what we want any way we can get it. In fact, marriage today is often mocked as an archaic institution that has lost its relevance.

It is important to realize that marriage is not a man-made concept, rather its a God made institution, and as such is relevant today for all people. God created Adam in his own image, giving him everything he needed to be content. And yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” – Genesis 2:18. So God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The first marriage occurred when God created a woman to complement the needs of the man so that, when joined in covenant, they become one flesh. The idea of “one flesh” implies an unbreakable seal meant to last a lifetime.

The truth is that this covenant relationship brings with it certain privileges that are unique to the marital relationship itself. Even coming from out of the secular academia it doesn’t take long to discover what they are discovering about marriage. Research suggests that the conventional wisdom that married people live longer and are healthier than singles may be true. In fact studies have shown that married people, especially us guys, are less likely to die early and are less likely to die from a heart attack. Yes, us guys are pretty wimpy without our wives.

Other studies have even shown that there’s much less risk-taking and substance abuse when couples marry – even less than if they just move in together. [1] It’s because marriage brings two people into an intimate relationship who add moral, spiritual, social and emotional support and companionship together into what could otherwise be a lonely and unhappy life. Being unhappy and alone could lead to depression and a neglecting of one’s health. Of course this doesn’t mean single or divorced people automatically are depressed or neglect their health, and in fact can be very happy and balanced in their lives. But it is interesting what these studies are beginning to show and so shouldn’t be dismissed readily.

The benefits[2] continue in a marriage. Marriage can bring faithfulness, companionship, communication, spiritual unity, and a freedom of sexual intimacy, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. God designed sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage.

As Christians I think its important to revisit the privileges and benefits of marriage. I began this blog by saying that our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. The sad truth is that the loss of understanding isn’t only happening in the secular culture, it is beginning to be lost in the Christian culture too.

For example, 20-30 years ago it would have been uncommon to hear of unmarried Christian couples living together before marriage or even travelling alone together on vacations. But today it isn’t only common but is at a place where those who speak against it are viewed as old fashioned prudes. But are there any biblical reasons why we need to rethink these ‘freedoms’?

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Should Christians Live Together Before Marriage

I have had a conversation or two over the years regarding the question of (Christian) couples living together (or not) before marriage. I’m not speaking here about living together as room mates – rather I’m talking about living together as a ‘couple’.

The argument has been made that marriage as we know it today is simply an outdated public declaration of a commitment already made before God to love the other member in the relationship so why the need to ‘publicise’ it through a ceremony? A challenge often made is to show where in the bible it says that living outside of marriage is actually living in sin. To be clear, the Bible makes no statement to definitively answer that challenge. Perhaps the reason is that the arrangement of unmarried people living as husband and wife was relatively rare within the Israelite culture of the first century.

Even still, while the Bible seems silent on this issue, we can still glean the principle that any sexuality outside the marriage of one man & one woman is quite clearly sin by looking at the totality of God’s word. Several passages from God’s word declare God’s prohibition of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7).

Since the only form of lawful sexuality is the marriage of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5), then it goes without saying that anything outside of marriage, whether it is premarital sex, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or anything else, is unlawful, in other words, sin. And living together even as a ‘committed couple’ before marriage definitely falls into the category of fornication – sexual sin.

Hebrews gives us  the honourable state of marriage: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4

This verse draws a clear distinction between that which is pure and honourable – marriage – and that which is sexually immoral, which would be anything outside of marriage. Since living together outside of marriage falls into this category, it is definitely sin.

Should Christians Travel Together Before Marriage

In the New Testament we read a very telling passage, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” – Romans 13:23. So what is Paul saying here? If you think this is speaking only about a doughnut, then you’re not reading it in its context. The principle here is that if there is any doubt whatsoever whether an activity is right – in our case travelling together as a married couple though unmarried, or even as a couple who may be attracted to each other thus putting themselves in a position of temptation – it should be avoided.

My dad used to say ‘if in doubt – don’t’. Unfortunately it seems that more and more Christians aren’t considering the doubts or for that matter haven’t even thought about the fact that there should be some doubts. Instead they are finding it easier to buy into the non-Christian philosophy of individual freedom trumping moral obligations and so haven’t considered the ‘don’ts’ and instead just go ahead and do the ‘do’s’. However, just suppose for a moment that there might be a doubt or two… if that is true even a little, should that not morally obligate us to at least consider what those doubts are?

For Christians, an unmarried couple who engage in ‘pre-marital’ vacations is a scenario that must be weighed carefully. If it includes travel to a location where they will be alone as couple, then some heart searching questions must be honestly asked: What message is being sent to others? What temptations are being presented? What said or unsaid messages are being passed between the couple themselves? What expectations may be understood or misunderstood between the couple? Are there certain privileges being shared in any way that should be reserved for marriage, even if they are none sexual in nature?

Am I just being an old fashioned prude? I don’t think so because of what Ephesians tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” – Ephesians 5:3 (NIV).

Ultimately, anything that even “hints” of sexual immorality is inappropriate for someone who claims to be one of God’s holy people. The question then becomes what may be that ‘hint’ in your life or mine? If there is even a hint then we should heed the instruction of Paul, “And flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22

The goal of a christian marriage is to help the other grow more and more into the image of Christ – the greatest benefit of all. The question needs to be asked then, whether you’re pre-married or have been married for 75 years… Are my actions and decisions getting in the way or are they aiding in making that happen in their life?

_____________________________________________________________________

[1] Christopher Fagundes, PhD, psychologist and researcher at The Ohio State University (http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/relationships-marriage-and-health)

[2] (for more complete information regarding the benefits of marriage check out my friend Dr. Dave Currie’s web site @ http://www.doingfamilyright.com/)

Assisted Suicide: Blessing or Curse?

Mary Kills People’ is a Canadian TV series set around the life of Dr. Mary Harris, an overworked single mother and ER doctor who also moonlights as an underground angel of death – working outside the law assisting patients who want to die on their own terms. The story follows Mary who has managed to stay under the radar but business is booming, and her double life is getting complicated.

It’s too early to see how popular (or not) this television series will be as it only aired its first show January 28, 2017, but the cultural move to accept assisted suicide is gaining momentum. If that’s the case then it won’t be very long until many, if not all of us, will be faced with the option of assisted suicide in our own lives or at least with someone close to us.

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Proponents of assisted suicide contend that this ‘right’ allows the patient to leave this earth with dignity, save their families from financial ruin, and relieve them of insufferable pain. They claim that giving competent, terminally-ill adults this necessary right is to give them the autonomy to close the book on a life well-lived.

Those opposed come back with arguments that say that assisted suicide endangers the weak and vulnerable, gives societal approval to killing, pressures dying people to end their own lives, and potentially turns doctors into killers, as former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop alluded to, when he warned that the practice of medicine “cannot be both our healer and our killer” – (KOOP, The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor by C. Everett Koop, M.D., Random House, 1991).

The fact remains however that we are living in a day and an age which is sometimes referred to as a “culture of death.” Abortion on demand has been practised for decades and even some are seriously proposing infanticide. Now assisted suicide is being presented as a viable option to be embraced in society.

Understandably it is not easy to broach this subject with someone who is suffering and sees death as a release. The truth is that death is an unnatural ripping apart of body and spirit, so of course there will be strong emotions and opinions one way or the other and endless positions in between. But it is important to not solely choose our ‘position’ based on sympathy or empathy, we must also consider what the word of God says about life along with considering where assisted suicide will (potentially) lead as well as begin to grasp just how God’s sovereignty fits into all this.

1)  God’s Word must be considered

The word of God tells us clearly that life is a gift from God. Adam became a living being by the breath of God. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

Since life is a gift to mankind it is then clear that life belongs to God. In other words we mortals do not have absolute autonomy over our own lives but are stewards of the life given to us by God. That being the case it means then that the lives of all humans, both their own and others’, need to be valued and protected. Consequently, the person who takes the life of another will be held accountable. The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13 is clear about this.

This focus on death as an answer to the world’s problems is a total reversal of the biblical model. Death is called an enemy that will be destroyed, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26 and throughout scripture it is presented as a curse. On the other hand, it doesn’t take long to read in the scriptures (Genesis 2:7) that life is a sacred gift from God. It’s quite clear that assisted suicide spurns the gift while embracing the curse.

2) Societal consequences must be considered

Not only are there biblical considerations, there are also societal considerations. In countries where assisted suicide has been made legal, euthanasia (different from assisted suicide in that a doctor directly acts – such as via lethal injection) has expanded in a way that was unpredicted when they began. The number of “mercy killings” in Belgium rose 27 percent in 2014, to five killings per day on average. Belgium also allows terminally ill children of any age to request to be euthanized.

In due course someone has to decide who can choose to die and many questions will need to be raised in the process. Who should be included; children, the mentally ill, those physically disabled? Only those who are terminal, what about those who aren’t terminal but aren’t enjoying a certain quality of life (& who deems what level of quality is acceptable)? Should the cost to our medical system of keeping someone alive become a factor in determining whether they should be allowed to die? When Britain was considering assisted-suicide legislation, Dutch ethicist Theo Boer reportedly told the House of Lords, “Don’t do it, Britain. . . . Some slopes are truly slippery.”

3) God’s sovereignty must be considered

If we believe that God is merely an uninterested force or deity in our day to day lives then there is no need to submit to his (or its) non-existent plan. However if we believe in a God who is active in the lives of mankind, is in control over the affairs of history, and is in fact is seeking our very best with a plan to renew a lost relationship with him, then we can trust what he says about life and death and about the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Death is inevitable for us mere mortals. Of course, allowing death to occur naturally in a terminally ill person is not necessarily wrong, but actively hastening death is. Beginning to understand God’s sovereignty is an opportunity to learn to trust him. In the end, God alone is sovereign over when and how a person’s death occurs. “I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living.”- Job 30:23. And, “No man has power over the wind to contain it; so, no one has power over the day of his death.” – Ecclesiastes 8:8.

It’s a tough assignment to speak up against society’s move toward assisted suicide. Those conversations we have with coworkers in the lunch room are often clouded by the emotion we share: sympathy for people facing terminal illnesses. We don’t want them to suffer and in fact want to help. But the truth remains, choosing suicide at any point is the same sin Adam and Eve committed in the garden: the pride of wanting to be (like) God. Ultimately, assisted suicide is another way that man attempts to usurp authority from God, but if you are one of those (as I am) who believe in the sovereignty of God and in his word to direct our choices, then we can only come to the conclusion that God must be the one to have the final say over death.

Transgenderism – Identity Crisis Or Identity Lie?

Who would have suspected, even as short as 15-20 years ago, that the clear separation of the sexes would be questioned. Today, however it is not only questioned but the idea of transgenderism (or transsexualism) is being championed by many as a new normal.

If you haven’t seen on the news or heard about Bruce Jenner, now identifying as Caitlyn Jenner, then you must have been living on the moon.  Interestingly enough, the now Caitlyn (formally Bruce) was reported to be having second thoughts about  the transition from male to female according to author Ian Halperin. He says that the former Olympic decathlete may de-transition in the next few years and come out as Bruce once again. Apparently Caitlyn is still attracted to women and his transition has created problems for the former Olympian to meet the right woman to settle down with.

To be fair, I don’t know if Halperin’s claim is accurate or not, however the facts are that if someone is confused of their gender before hand, who’s to say they wouldn’t be confused after they transition? In many cases the identity crisis they are experiencing doesn’t come as a result of wrong gender, rather it comes as a result of not knowing who they are as an individual in their very being.

BTW… to be clear, I’m not addressing the world of a hermaphrodite, that is a whole other issue, rather I’m speaking to the issue of one clear gender self identifying that they are now, or wish to become, another gender.

I admit that the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism or describes anyone as having transgender feelings, however the Word does say plenty about sexuality. First off, we’re told that God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

That may be what a disciple of Jesus believes but that doesn’t stop the argument coming today from the mainstream media that those who disagree with and/or speak out against transgenderism are nothing short of hate criminals at the very worst, or uneducated bigots in the very least. After all, how can you not feel for someone who is ‘trapped’ in a gender that does not match their ‘true’ gender?

So am I bigot or a criminal because of my convictions? Personally, I feel for Caitlyn and for the thousands of others who are struggling with their gender identity. The question I think begs to be asked is just how do we respond to those struggling in this area? For that matter how do we respond to those who are in our families or places of work or friendship circles who may feel they are no longer struggling and seem to be quite happy following their transition?

If gender matters to God then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. And then to listen carefully with those whom God may place in your life who are transitioning or have transitioned as you build an authentic relationship with these very real people. It’s only then that we are in a good position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18.

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

We must lovingly point people to Jesus Christ because it is only through Christ where we discover that our identity is not in our gender, our colour, our jobs, or our societal roles, but rather it is found in being chosen by God for an amazing purpose.

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“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

When we become a disciple of Jesus Christ we are now forever owned by him and no longer a part of the world, or for that matter ourselves. We’re set apart and now exist for God to make us into his holy people, to share his holy character – which is now our identity. These new identities mean that we now have an active role in the presence of this amazing, holy God. Our life is now about priestly service and so never out of the God’s presence as his royal priesthood, no longer in the neutral zone of life but always in the temple courts. This means then that if we act in an unholy way we are acting out of character and working against our true identities. We are either finding our identities in Christ or we are out of character if we’re not.

We were created to discover our identity through a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ but when we try to find it elsewhere, whether that be in other things, other people, or in what I do or who I am, well then, it never measures up. That’s because all these other measurements are temporary. I may get a face lift but eventually age catches up with me, I may change my gender but I am still the same person deep inside. We simply can’t find eternal satisfaction through the temporary.

Yet people still keep trying, believing the lie from Satan that we don’t need God. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against the church, and he uses his tactic of deceit effectively to separate people from their heavenly Father and the truth. He tries to convince people that God is not the answer and that our identities are found in any other place rather than in Christ. He is passing on the same identity lie he began in Eden. The lie that we find our identities apart from God. And he continues to do so because his success depends on people believing his lies because quite frankly, the more the world hears these lies the more they believe it and Satan knows this. Adolph Hitler, a man who learned how to lie effectively, once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

But the damage caused by listening to Satan’s lies and by trying to discover our identities without Jesus can be seen in the pain and suffering evident in people’s lives. Just look no farther than the billboards on our streets or the ads on TV. Women driven to fulfill the western world’s ideal of beauty – the dream woman, sometimes to the point of eating disorders that destroy not just the body but also the soul. Women and men, caught up in a never ending cycle of disappointment and heartache day after day because they just don’t measure up to the world’s idea of beauty or satisfaction or identity. It is only when a man & woman, put their hope in God, will they become a deeply settled & strong person who knows who they are.

Out of all the things in this life I don’t know, here’s what I do know. We’re all “trapped” in bodies that we need deliverance from. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:24. That’s why Jesus came: to deliver not just Caitlyn Jenner but also people like you and me from the hold of sin and failing disordered bodies, in order that we may be given glorious, powerful, confusion-free resurrection bodies.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

6 Ways To Support Your Pastor

I remember watching a great movie a number of years ago, with actor James Garner in the lead role. The title of the movie was “Support Your Local Gunfighter”. James was the new guy in town and was viewed by the local folk as their answer to the ‘bad guy’ problem. Almost as soon as James rolled into town he was recruited by the mayor to take on the role of Sheriff. It wasn’t until later that the ‘new’ sheriff noticed all the tombstones (including a made to measure coffin being readied for him). After inquiring about the tombstones he learned that they were the burial sites of all the former sheriffs over the past year. It seems that the sheriffs were hired by the townsfolk to solve their problem, but they were not supported by them. Whenever the gang of hooligans came to town, they pretty much could have their way because no one would stand up to them – except for the poor sheriffs who would be subsequently shot and killed. The movie centred around the sheriff gaining the support of the reluctant townsfolk and winning the town back in the end.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what we do to some of our pastors. Do we have a number of tombstones of former pastors in our pasts? Do we rally around our pastors or do we leave them to take the fiery darts alone? Do we hide behind them when the bad guys come but then have the casket ready once the shooting ends? I know of a great many people who love their pastors dearly and would hate for them to be hurt, however I know a great many times where our pastors are viewed as the  hired professional and little if any thought is given about supporting them.

I would venture to guess that many of us don’t even know our pastors – I mean really know them as a real person. What do they love to do during their time off? What is their favourite sport or hobby? Do you know what hurts them or do we just view them as almost a non-human, a type of super-human? What makes your pastor tick? Does he love cinnamon rolls? Does he struggle with issues that we need to support him in? Do we expect them to be perfect? Maybe its not that we view them as saviours, but then again perhaps we don’t think about them at all until Sunday morning or when an issue arises.

Pastoral ministry is tough, draining, and emotionally taxing. There is an emotional and spiritual intensity that is not experienced in most professions. Unlike most other careers, a pastor doesn’t just leave the issues at the office, rather carrying the weight of leadership around the clock while being expected to be a strength for the flock under his care. It’s a 24/7 calling, definitely not for the faint of heart and it requires a unique combination of battle toughness and fatherly tenderness. A pastor is closely connected to the lives of the people he serves, and vicariously experiences both the joy and heartbreak that his people experience. 

So how can you support your pastor? Here are 6 simple ways.

1  Pray for your pastor

The most important thing you can do to help your pastor be fruitful and effective in his role is to pray for him daily and pray with him as opportunities arise. which might mean heading to meet him at his office early in the morning or late at night (check first when it works best in his schedule).

  • Pray the Lord will give him wisdom in his various responsibilities.
  • Pray for his role as both husband and father (if he is married and has children).
  • Pray for his wife and children
  • Pray the Lord will protect him in the area of sexual purity.
  • Pray he would be able to strike a good balance between his ministry, family and personal life.

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2  Support your pastor’s leadership

This doesn’t mean that you blindly support your pastor, no matter what decision he makes. I am not suggesting, nor does the Bible suggest, that you submit to ungodly or abusive leaders. If your pastor says that there is no need to challenge his spiritual leadership, that is probably the cue to do just that, just make sure you do it in love, gentleness and with Godly council. However, the Bible is clear on the topic of being willing to submit to the authority in the church you have chosen to be a part of.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” –  Hebrews 13:7

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13

It is an awesome step to accept God’s call to be a pastor and to take seriously the roles and responsibilities that such a call entails. You should be able to trust, believe in, and submit to those the Lord has placed in authority over you. If you can’t do this, you need to address this issue, and in extreme cases, leave if you can no longer respect and trust the leadership over you. 

3  Encourage your pastor

Lots of people will criticize and find fault. They will both email him and talk to him (and about him) in discouraging ways. But choose to be one of those who look for ways, and reasons, to encourage him — to camp on the positive, not the negative.

Tell him what you appreciate about his ministry, and be specific. What has he recently done or said that you have profited from? A pastor’s teaching or preaching help many, but few tell him specifically how he has been a help and blessing. Every once in a while, write a personal note or even text him, telling him you are praying for him and how you were blessed by what he said or appreciated something he has done. When you have the opportunity, thank your pastor personally face to face for specific aspects of his leadership.

4  Get to know your pastor

A pastor has a lonely job. Most people seem to ‘take’ from the pastor and forget to give. The folks under his care take his time, his energy, his resources, his wisdom and his counsel. And so, it is refreshing and encouraging to know that people in the church family really care about him, pray for him, and sincerely want to get to know him, not so they can take, but so that they can give.

Why not schedule some time with your pastor and offer to take him to the next football game or out for breakfast or lunch at his favourite restaurant? Ask him to tell you his story, how God saved him, how he met his wife, how he was called into ministry. I’ll guarantee you that he will appreciate this and be a better leader as a result of your initiative.

5 Talk honestly to, not about your pastor

If there is something that you honestly have a problem with – some decision he made, something he wrote or said that you disagree with – please talk to him, not about him.

This is one of the big sins in the body of Christ. It’s like we have been given permission to be passive aggressive in our dealings with each other. We seem to talk about people easily if we have an issue with them, but talking to them about that issue face to face is hard if not impossible. As a result, the foyer after the worship service in some churches has been known to be full of smiling faces on the outside but angst ridden hearts on the inside. That is unhealthy in so many ways and a barrier to unity and spiritual growth.  

From personal experience, I can tell you that most pastors want to hear from people who have issues or questions with something at the church. Really – they do. Most relish the opportunity to both genuinely listen and share concerning your issue so the two of you can have a mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Talking about others rather than talking to others is gossip pure and simple, and it never makes things better, only worse. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with a simple babbler.” – Proverbs 20:19

6  Don’t forget his family

Don’t forget about his wife (and children). She needs to know she and her family is loved and cared for as well. Make sure that she is spoiled by the love of the women in the church, prayed for and blessed in ways that bring joy to her life. They are in ministry together, even if she isn’t as visible as he is, and will often feel the sting and pain of ministry as deeply as her spouse, in many cases even more intensely if the painful moments are directed at her husband. When she is loved (goes for the kids too) it becomes a blessing for your pastor as it frees him up emotionally to know his bride is cared for so well.

These six ways are only a start. There are many more ways you can support your pastor but even if you began with only one of the ways suggested it would make a world of difference to your pastor (and his wife). Even the Apostle Paul needed to be encouraged and he wasn’t afraid to point it out. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1: 3-8 (NIV)

Paul was encouraged and strengthened when he knew that he had the support of his friends and ministry partners. It meant so much to Paul that he tells them that he ‘longs’ for them. To ‘long’ for someone speaks of a pretty intense relationship. It smacks of a need to receive as in ‘I need you because I know that I will receive immense value from you”. Does my pastor ‘long’ for me? Does your pastor ‘long’ for you, or are we more of a burden/discouragement to them?

I figure that if Paul needed to be supported and encouraged, then I don’t think that it’s a stretch to think that my pastor needs to be encouraged and strengthened too.