Richard Exley Ministries


Is material prosperity a legitimate spiritual goal?
Posted on November 28, 2007

 Earlier this week Richard Roberts was forced to resign as President of Oral Roberts University amidst allegations and lawsuits alleging financial improprieties. Although I am grieved by what is happening I am not surprised. When we emphasize the wrong things it is only a matter of time until we reap what we have sowed. For nearly three decades Charismatic ministers have been preaching prosperity and it is finally catching up with us. We have developed an attitude of entitlement. It is our ministry and the assets are ours to do with as we see fit with only our conscience to guide us.

That's a precarious place to be in and few of us can manage it. Over the years I have observed a deadly progression.  We start out accepting the "perks" that go with our position.  Then we expect them, then we demand them and finally we abuse them.

Is this what happened at ORU? It would appear so, especially if the allegations of a stable of horses for the Roberts' girls and a $39,000 shopping spree for Lindsey Roberts on the University's tab are any indication of what really happened. This does not make Richard and Lindsey bad people but it certainly makes them misguided ones. With the University $52 million in debt and the campus desperately in need of repairs frugality would seem to be in order.

Where did we go wrong -- not just Richard Roberts but the Charismatic church as a whole?

1) It was a mistake to make giving a means to an end rather than an act of worship. The Bible does not teach us to give in order to get but as an act of obedience.

2) It was a mistake to teach people to be "need" centered in their giving rather than God centered. While we should be sensitive to the "need" our giving should be prompted by the Spirit not simply by a perceived need. Spirit directed giving will minimize our vulnerability to manipulation.

3) It was a mistake to make prosperity a goal.  The Bible clearly teaches that prosperity is a consequence and not a goal. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33).

4) It was a mistake to teach God's people to believe for material things or to concern themselves about them. Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them" (Matt. 6:25, 32).

Please note two things. First, Jesus said it was the pagans who run after material things. In other words it is pagans who are concerned about material things, not Christians. If we are striving (that is using our faith to believe for) material things what does that say about us?

Secondly, Jesus says that our heavenly Father knows that we need material things in order to survive so we don't need to concern ourselves about them. "Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" (Luke 12:27-28).

The reason the Bible is filled with so many verses about divine provision is not to make us materialistic but to assure us of the Father's unwavering concern.  He has repeatedly promised to take care of us so we don't need to concern ourselves about such things.  We can focus our faith and our prayers on more important matters.

 A few days ago I was channel surfing through the religious channels when I heard a high profile minister brag that he had purchased a private plane "out of his pocket." He went on to say that it was capable of flying at altitudes of 43,000 feet and had a maximum speed of 550 mph. Without blushing he continued to brag about the buildings and properties he owned and that he was in the top 3% of all taxpayers in the United States.

He's obviously a financial genius and by all accounts a generous man but what grieves me it that he has replaced the gospel of Jesus Christ with the gospel of prosperity. In the early years of his ministry he was one of the most effective evangelists I have ever heard. Thousands of people came to Christ under his ministry. Unfortunately I haven't heard him preach Jesus in years and he is just one of a multitude of Charismatic ministers who apparently "...think that godliness is a means to financial gain" (1 Tim. 6:5).

Even the most cursory perusal of "Christian" television will reveal an inordinate emphasis on prosperity. Should you happen to tune in during one of the annual Share-A-Thons prosperity is virtually all you will hear. Apparently it is the most effective way to get viewers to give. Promise them a "hundred fold" return and the phone lines light up.

The question I am wrestling with is not whether it works or not but is it Christian.  Or to put it another way, "Is material prosperity a legitimate spiritual goal?"

I hardly think so. The apostle Paul writes, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction...Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:9-11).

Category: Perils of Power

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How Does Anyone Stay Married for 50 Years?
Posted on November 08, 2007

During the closing months of WW II, the man who was to become my father began exchanging letters with a beautiful, but timid, eighteen year old girl named Irene. They could hardly have been less alike. She was a true innocent, having never traveled more than ten miles from her birthplace in Northeastern Colorado, while he was a Navy man having spent much of the war stationed in Hawaii.  As the war was winding down in the fall of 1945 he was transferred to the Naval base in Corpus Christi, Texas, and given a two week furlough. Making his way to Sterling, Colorado, he determined to find out if that dark-eyed beauty was as pretty as her picture

  Not surprisingly it was “love at first sight” and after a whirlwind courtship they were married on November 7, 1945. For sixty-one years, three months and one day they remained completely devoted to one another -- a devotion that seems all the more amazing given the social climate in which we now live with its throw away marriages. When it became impossible for my father to leave his bed during the last week of his life mother remained by his side, taking what little food she ate sitting up in bed beside him. Hour after hour she lay beside him, propping herself up on one elbow so she could look at Daddy. Although we urged her to take a break she refused, saying over and over again, "I promised Daddy I would never leave him and I'm going to stay right here." And that's where she was when Daddy took his last breath and went to be with the Lord.

Had Daddy lived, today would have been their sixty-second wedding anniversary and I can't help but marvel at the love they shared. Following their fiftieth anniversary reception the entire family returned to their home where we shared memories and family stories late into the evening. Finally my nine year old niece snuggled up on the couch beside her grandmother and when there was a pause in the conversation she asked, "Grandma, how does anyone stayed married for fifty years?"

Her question was raw with the pain caused by her parent's recent divorce and an uneasy silence settled over the room. Pulling her close my mother said, "Honey, Grandpa and I were able to stay married all these years because we could always talk about everything."
That's the key isn't it?  Communication -- the ability to talk about everything. Not just the easy things but everything -- your secret dreams, your hurts, your hopes, your disappointments and even your fears. By talking things through instead of blaming each other and retreating into silence they kept the channels of communication open and strengthened each other and their marriage.
Don't think theirs was an easy marriage for it wasn't, but it was a good one. During their sixty-one years they had some tough things to talk about, the kind of things that would have done a lesser marriage in. Things like financial pressure. Shortly after the folks married Dad went into the water well drilling business but he could never make a go of it.  He was under capitalized and his ancient equipment was badly worn and kept breaking down.  The thing that finally did him in was a job related injury that laid him up for weeks.  Without insurance or worker's compensation it put him out of business. Refusing to declare bankruptcy, Dad and Mom spent the next several years digging out of debt.

Just weeks before their tenth anniversary Dad and Mom suffered their most devastating blow. Their fourth child, our long awaited baby sister, was born severely hydrocephalic. At birth Carolyn's head was larger than the rest of her body. She wasn't expected to live and even if she did the Doctor's said she would never be normal.

It seemed each day brought some new disappointment. Soon we realized that Carolyn was both blind and deaf and her head continued to grow more and more disproportionate. With a pain that lingers still, I remember watching Mother day by day as she bathed Carolyn tenderly, then carefully measuring her head to see if, by some miracle, it was any smaller.  It never was.  Mama would bit her lip then, while silent tears ran down her cheeks as she carefully put away the cloth tape measure.

Carolyn died in her sleep, at home, early one morning. Our family doctor and Aunt Elsie arrived at about the same time.  He, to make the official diagnosis, and Aunt Elsie to cook breakfast, which no one ate, and to see after us boys. A short time later, the mortician came and took Carolyn's tiny body away, and the gray December day passed in a maze of necessary activities.

When a child dies it often sounds the death knell for the marriage. Not so for my parents. Although their grief was unspeakable it did not drive them apart. Instead they clung to each other, finding strength in their love. I was reminded of this in the weeks following my father's death. As you might imagine Mother grieved terribly. Once she told me that she didn't think she could make it. In an attempt to encourage her I asked, "How did you make it after Carolyn died?" Without a moment’s hesitation she replied, "I had your father to help me. He listened when I needed to talk and when my grief was too deep for words he held me."
Eighteen months after Carolyn's death God blessed Mom and Dad with another child, a beautiful little girl, healthy in every way. But their troubles were not over and in the summer of 1959 Dad severely injured his back while working for Baker Oil Tools, Inc. When it became apparent that the damage was permanent the company gave Dad the choice of transferring to the home office in Houston, Texas or being terminated. That may seem like a no brainier but complicating things was the fact that mother was an only child and the sole caregiver for her elderly mother who was crippled with arthritis. How could she move a thousand miles away and leave her?

Dad suggested that Grandma sell her place and come to Texas with us. A suggestion Grandma quickly vetoed saying, "Dick, there's no house big enough for two women."
To mother she said, "Your place is with your husband. Go to Texas with him. God will take care of me."

So Mom and Dad headed for Houston on a Sunday afternoon in December, 1959. That tearfully parting is forever etched in my memory. I see Grandma standing by the gate, leaning on her two crutches as she watches us drive away. Dad's back injury is so painful that we have made a bed for him in the back seat of the Buick so he can lie down. Mother is driving and depending on me to help with the younger children.  I am only twelve years old but I am the oldest so I must carry my share of the load. I can only imagine the things Mom and Dad talked about late into the night as they prepared to make the biggest move of their lives not knowing what the future might hold.

There's more. In the years ahead Mom and Dad would suffer as two of their children endured the trauma of divorce and all that entails. Dad would undergo two open heart surgeries and suffer from fibrosis of the lungs. Mother's hearing loss, first experienced when she was barely thirty years old, would continue to deteriorate until she could barely hear at all. Because of the fibrosis Dad could only speak in a whisper. They had always talked about everything but now Daddy couldn't talk above a whisper and Momma couldn't hear so they gave up talking for touching. Anytime Momma was within reach Daddy reached out to touch her and she was always caring for him. Truly theirs was a marriage for the ages and an inspiration for those of us who are following in their steps.

When I come to the end of my life I want to have a marriage like that, I want to be more in love with Brenda than ever before. But it won't just happen. A marriage like that is almost always the culmination of a lifelong series of smaller, daily decisions. And as such, it challenges each of us to examine the choices we make each day and the way we relate to each other.

Richard Exley Ministry
PO Box 54744
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74155
(918) 459-5434
www.RichardExleyMinistries.org

Category: Marriage

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I wouldn't Do it for Anyone but Jesus
Posted on November 01, 2007

I've been home just over forty-eight hours and my body clock is still upside down. The Philippines are thirteen hours ahead of the time here in Arkansas so my body is shutting down when I should be waking up.  Of course the nights are no better.  While Brenda sleeps I am up reading or roaming the house.  I'm tired too.  I was gone fourteen days and three of those days were travel days, the shortest being eighteen hours and the longest almost thirty hours.  During the other eleven days I preached twenty-one times.  As I told Brenda I wouldn't do that for anyone but Jesus!

As you have probably guessed I hate the travel but I love the ministry. While in Hawaii I preached the District Ministers and Wives retreat and in three different churches on Sunday. Their hospitality and generosity was overwhelming.  From there I flew to Manila where I preached a one day retreat for all of the International Correspondent Institute workers. ICI has published five of my books for the Philippines so ministering to the team was extra special.  On Friday I preached four times at a national pastor's conference and the Lord moved in a powerful way encouraging and renewing pastors. On Saturday I preached three times at a national youth conference. In the final session twenty-nine young people answered the call to full time ministry. On Sunday I preached in a local church and the altars were filled as people responded to the invitation to receive Jesus as their Lord and savior!

I want to thank all of you who supported the ministry with your prayers.  Although it was a grueling schedule the Lord gave me special strength and I am convinced it was a direct result of your prayers. We are co-workers together with God and I couldn't do it without you. I have four more engagements before Thanksgiving and I covet your continued prayers.  Please check the web site (www.richardexleyministies.org) for our schedule so you will know how to pray specifically.

Speaking of the web site I hope you have had a chance to check it out. We have had some challenges with the bookstore but it should be up any day and as soon as itunes gives us approval you will be able to download the pod casts.  If you haven't yet recommended the site to your friends please do so.  You might even consider sending an invitation to everyone in your email address book. We have invested enormous amounts of time and energy in developing the site but the ministry it provides will be wasted unless we get people to come to the site.

One final prayer request.  I am working on a small book titled "The Gift of Gratitude --    Living with a Thankful Heart" and I covet your prayers. I hope to finish it by year's end and then I will start working on the sequel to "The Alabaster Cross."

Thanks again for being my friends.  I would love to hear from you.

Category: Ministry

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