This post is lengthy, and may I say "thank you" in advance for taking time to read this long post?
I was laying in bed this morning, awake pretty early. Truth be told, I was up late and I had watched a movie till pretty late. So about an hour ago, as I was laying in bed trying to get to sleep, the Lord put a series of thoughts into my mind which were very compelling, toward his church, and I wanted to come out here and post them before I go to sleep, while it is all fresh on my mind.
The basic gist of what he was speaking to me is that the church today has become so caught up in its prosperity and in its abundance, that it has begun to forget God, and not only God, but also the church has begun to forget those needy people all around them who are in need of Jesus, the empty lives and the hungry hearts who the church can show Jesus through giving materially and through telling them of Jesus.
The first scripture he showed me was this one:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. - Ezekiel 16:48
I found this one to be very interesting. We always hear Sodom preached as a city full of perversions, which brought down and incurred the wrath of Almighty God in judgment. Further, if we only read the Genesis account, it would appear to us from a surface reading, that Sodom was quite simply full of perversions, end of story. However, we know that God is merciful, and it must have taken a very long time for Sodom to get to the point where the cup of God's wrath was full.
I believe, based on the Ezekiel scripture, that Sodom [before it was ever given over to perversions] was first a great city [hence the mention of its pride], a well-fed city [hence the mention of its fulness of bread], a city full of entertainment [hence the mention of its abundance of idleness], and an insulated, self-absorbed city [hence the mention of the neglect of the poor].
That Sodom was in a desirable geographic area to inhabit is borne out in Scripture when it states that Lot saw how much more pleasant Sodom appeared, and so chose that area where to move his people, pitching his tents toward Sodom. Further, Genesis states that Sodom dwelled in a very well-watered plain, referring to its beauty being "even as the garden of the Lord". Lot wouldn't have taken his large numbers of flocks to some old dry ditch. The place was very prosperous and beautiful and inhabitable.
I truly believe Scripture makes it very clear [cross-referencing the Genesis account with the Ezekiel account] that Sodom had great beginnings as a prosperous city, not only materially, but culturally, commercially, politically, and in reputation as well, but as Sodom began to grow in stature, blessed in so many ways, it began to forget God, and to forget the poor and needy which were within the city as well as within the larger metropolitan area. I believe that these people at one time had a knowledge of God, which they turned away from, because they had become so great and so large that they felt they no longer had need of him.
This scripture below shows me that in fact there was a sense of God-knowledge within the city:
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. - Genesis 18:20,21
The Lord said it right there, plain as day: there were people in Sodom praying to God for deliverance from the great wickedness in the city, so much so that He stated that "the cry of it ... is come unto me", which is indicative of quite a number of people praying within that city. He didn't say "the cry of him is come unto me", indicative of a singular sense, or of a small group of individuals, but he said "the cry of IT is come unto me", speaking of the cry of a whole city.
And we all know from Romans 1 what happens to people who know God, and extricate the knowledge of him from their minds:
Originally Posted by parts of Romans 1
21: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened... 24:Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: ... 26: For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29: Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness... 32: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
This became quite clearly evident that such was the case in the city of Sodom.
And so God judged that city.
I made the point about Sodom to demonstrate how the church is in the very beginning stages of where Sodom was before the perversions took over, and before the wrath and judgment of God fell. The Lord is speaking a warning to me that we the church have become full of prosperity and abundance, but that we have been forgetting God, and that we have been forgetting why he prospered us -- not just so we can fill our coffers with material wealth and privilege, but so that also we may be helpful to others in their time of need.
The next scripture the Lord gave me was from the parable of the sower and the seed. One of the types of soil was thorny soil. Pay close attention to the three characteristics of thorny soil.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. - Mark 4:18,19
This so accurately describes the modern prosperous church today. The word goes forth, but it is choked out of our hearts by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things. The deceitfulness of riches - if we did not learn this lesson from this economy we are in, we will NEVER learn it. Paul writes to Timothy of "uncertain riches" in I Timothy chapter 6, telling Timothy to remind the believers to trust in the Lord, and not in riches, for riches may fade, but the word of the Lord lives and abides forever.
Then, the next scripture the Lord gave me [in conjuction with the Ezekiel scripture] is this one:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. - James 1:27
Now this is very interesting.
If we as the church will visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions like we should, we won't have TIME to be spotted by the world!!! That's the key right there. If you look back at the Ezekiel scripture, it says, "this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." - Ezekiel 16:48 . If the residents of Sodom had not only enjoyed their own prosperity, but had also remembered God throughout, and had strengthened the hand of the poor and needy, neither pride nor abundance of idleness would have been found in her.
It was said "an idle mind is the devil's workshop".
If Sodom had been busy doing the business of the Kingdom, this other garbage wouldn't have crept in. They'd have been too busy helping those in need to preoccupy their minds with their own selfishness and lusts and forgetting of God. It is nearly impossible to truly care about and remember the poor and needy, but forget God. And Romans 1 says that people who forget God are turned over to ungodly lifestyles. Yet it didn't have to go that far. All they had to do was remember God, and to help others around them.
In the midst of our own struggles of this economy, we must not forget that we must still help those in need.
The deeply impoverished saints at Macedonia were credited by Paul that they gave above and beyond themselves in II Corinthians 8. Some of us are going to have to step up our giving in spite of what is decrease in our lives. That is a word for somebody. The widow had nothing but a little meal, and a little oil, and she was gathering sticks so that she could make food for her and her son, expecting to eat it and die. But when a prophet of God comes into your life, and he speaks directly from the heart of God a word of promise to you, do not hold back what is due unto the Lord. For this woman, it was her last bit of food. For the widow, it was her last two mites. It could be food, money, cars, anything. But what is precious to you, the Lord will test it.
And we all know the story of the woman, how "the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah" [I Kings 17:16].
It was because she obeyed the Lord.
It was because she thought of someone other than herself.
It was because she believed the promise of God.
II Chronicles 20:20 says, "Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper."
And God has a special promise, just for you, with your name all over it. He sits in heaven with gladness in his heart, excitedly preparing the promises and blessings of God for you. He has great joy over you, rejoicing over you with singing. [Zephaniah 3:17]
Be prepared to help those in need around you at the command or pleading of the Lord. You will be blessed for doing it.
Here's another scripture the Lord gave me:
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. - Luke 12:15-21
The key to this story is the last statement: not that the man was rich, but that he was rich toward HIMSELF, and not toward God.
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; and thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. - Deuteronomy 8:10-18
God wants us to remember Him in our prosperity, and not to forget that it was He who brought us this long way. Jude writes of those who are "denying the Lord that brought them", and Psalm 100 says "it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture". Many times, this verse 18 is ripped out of its context of the entire thought, where prosperity teachers tell us that we have the power to get wealth. But this is not the point of the passage. The point is to teach us that we did not get this prosperity by the means of our own hand, but that we must remember the Lord our God: for it is He that gives us the power to get wealth.
Finally, I would like to close by saying that the sin is not in the prosperity, but in becoming blind and deaf to God and to others in the prosperity, defeating prosperity's very purpose, which is to show both the material provision AND the merciful person of God.
II Kings 7:9 talks about how the four lepers found a whole heap of gold, silver, treasures and goods in the camp of the entire Syrian army, who had died sieging the city. They did not keep the good news to themselves, for they wanted to tell the whole city, so that the besieged city could share in the prosperity.
9Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household." - N.A.S.B.
God wants us to have prosperity with purpose, and prosperity with priority. God does not want us tossed to and fro in the prosperity debate, to focus on "not having prosperity" or to focus on "having all prosperity".
God wants us to have prosperity with PURPOSE, and prosperity with PRIORITY. God wants us to be focused on his Kingdom.
May this be our heart and desire today. God bless!!!