On a journey to find the silver linings

On a journey to find the silver linings

Monday, March 31, 2014

If God Gives Me The Desires of My Heart Does That Include Magic Mike?

   You have no idea how many years and in how many ways I've heard people say, "the Bible says, God will give you the desires of your heart" so you should dream big! Whatever you ask God for, He'll answer!" Argh!!! That's a horrid misinterpretation of Psalm 37:8 in which David says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." God is not some fairy with a magic wand... that you wish upon a star for, or a piƱata that you hit with the right prayer and all the goodies fly out on you.

   But it says right there, God will give you everything you desire! So ask Him for the moon, the stars, and all the stardust in-between. Go ahead and pray for for that job promotion, the perfect husband who looks like Magic Mike and acts like Billy Graham, or a ridiculously hot wife who agrees with everything you say (hubba hubba), financial abundance beyond all reason, a tax-free dream house in the Bahamas, kids that don't disobey, boobs that won't sag, an underdog win on American Idol and a Grammy soon to follow, a chicken in every pot... You get the idea. Desire of your heart + ask God = Bibidybobbidyboo.. Poof! Your wish is granted.

    Isn't that what it means? Uh, no. Work with me on this a minute, and let's check with Matthew Henry, who was a Presbyterian minister and famous for writing the AMAZING work "The Matthew Henry Commentary" back in 1708-10. Regarding this verse he says, "He shall give thee the desires of thy heart. He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humours of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him. We must make God our guide, and submit in every thing to his guidance and disposal; and then all our affairs, even those that seem most intricate and perplexed, shall be made to issue well and to our satisfaction."

    Thank you, Matthew Henry! Keep in mind that God answers the prayers of a "renewed and sanctified soul," which would be unselfish requests. The Bible also says that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" God isn't going to give us all of the crappy things in our heart that we think are good for us - it doesn't work that way. Take Hitler for an extreme example: it was the desire of his heart to exterminate every trace of the Jewish people off the face of the earth. Does God answer those prayers? No, even though "the Final Solution" was the desire of his heart! You get the point...

    God does answer our requests, the requests that, as Matthew Henry says, involve "to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him." THOSE are good desires of the heart that He will always give answer to, even if they don't come in the form that we'd expect.

    It's not bad to ask God for things - certainly not! I ask Him for things all day long. Some things I get answers to, other things are long-waiting, silent replies, other are painfully "no." I just don't sit around waiting for answers or hinge my Christian life and faith on whether or not God gives me the "desires of my heart," since I can hardly figure out my own sinner & saint heart to begin with.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Women of Faith" - I Guarantee You'll Buy the CD, 'Cause That's How They Roll

   Women of Faith's vision statement this year is "Revive your Faith, Awaken Your Spirit, Transform Your Life." Now, I've been to more than a handful of the Women of Faith conferences over the years and have enjoyed them for the most part. I enjoy it even though it seems overly rehearsed, like a well-oiled machine that does it's job in perfect timing, and I can tell the perfectly performed stories & lessons have been told dozens of times before in exactly the same way to multitudes of women who respond on cue - just like me. But all of that canned performance aside, here is my problem: what does their vision statement have to do with the Great Commission? And is it just me, or isn't it an entirely self-indulgent list?

    Gasp!! How DARE I say anything negative about this traveling band of female Christian headliners that SO many ladies in the church absolutely adore? They're funny, they're inspiring, and they're famous, so they must be right, right? Well let me ask this: Where in scripture are we taught that we revive our own faith? Or that we are to awaken our own spirit? Or that we are even supposed to transform our own lives? Isn't it God who gives us faith in the first place? Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Therefore, since faith is a gift given to us it makes no sense that we could revive it ourselves. That was kind of the whole point of the Reformation, when it comes down to it.

    I don't even know what to say about "awaken your spirit," since that doesn't even sound like something any Christian with good sense would ever say. If there is any "awakening" happening, it is only the Holy Spirit who could do it, not ourselves for ourselves. And because Scripture teaches that we are born dead in our sins, we are incapable of bringing anything to life or even awakening anything that is dying within us.

    And as far as transforming our lives, that is just the latest trendy catchphrase making the rounds in the Evangelical movement. Where in the Bible does it teach that we are to transform our lives? And how exclusive to Christianity is it if even Weight-Watchers and every other self-improvement program uses it too? Isn't true transformation something that God does in us when we are made as a new creation in Christ upon our salvation?

    See, I just don't fall for a lot of these platitudes anymore. When taken to Scripture, these lofty sounding statements always fall short. And because of that, I look at their mega popular, slick and streamlined conferences as a flashy, glitzy marketing platform for the speaker's latest books and the singer's latest CDs to get out into the marketplace. It's one giant, live-action commercial for subscribing to their Women of Faith magazine, signing up for their Women of Faith newsletters (with special deals for purchasing products online), buying their Women of Faith sweatshirts and Women of Faith keychains, and getting the newest Women of Faith tote bag filled with pretty Women of Faith coffee cups and girly Women of Faith pens. 

   Blah. It's a traveling circus/Christian bookstore on wheels. Isn't this supposed to be "all about Jesus?" When it all comes down, what you leave with is a far lighter wallet, an emotional high, messy mascara from the heartstrings that got tugged on, and a list of what you're supposed to do next to be a good Christian woman. The "to-do" list you come away with? It's always Law - no matter how sappy and emotional and well-intentioned it sounds. That list can't save you, only what Jesus does can save you. And that is enough.

    If you go to a Women of Faith conference, go with low expectations of hearing good theology or sound doctrine, and high expectations of being entertained and emotionally played. Go because you want a fun road trip with your girlfriends that doesn't involve a male strip club or hanging out at the mall bookstore. Go because you like to people-watch or sing some relatively harmless, peppy songs or hear uplifting life stories told on a loop. Just like you would if you went to see the Dixie Chicks or Barlow Girl at the Metrodome.