prosperity gospel – does god want you to be happy?

so the tradition i was brought up in, is big on prosperity gospel. god wants to bless us, spiritually and materially. if we keep god’s commandments, pray hard and live in accordance to god’s will, god will show god’s favor upon us. and of course, to complicate matters, the tradition i believe in now is not big on prosperity, at least not in the way most prosperity preachers would like their congregation to believe.

i just read dave sung’s blog where he asks what prosperity gospel folks would do with the passage where apostle paul asks god three times, to take the thorn away from his side and god responds to paul by telling him that god’ grace is sufficient for him (pasted from dave sung’s blog out of laziness on my part):

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

so how would prosperity (god wants to bless us – physically, materially, spiritually) gospel preachers respond to this passage?

i think the problem with prosperity gospel is that they emphasize material (wealth, health, etc.) blessing at the expense of spiritual blessing. and those who criticize prosperity gospel folks do it at the expense of limiting how god can/does bless us. granted, i know those who are pointing fingers at prosperity gospel preachers are saying they are limiting god and choosing to believe in a god who is like a santa clause – giving toys (or blessing) to those who are good (theough works, not grace). and well, i can’t disagree there! they are picking and choosing to believe in a god that does not fully capture who god is as revealed through the hebrew bible and the new testament.

but the non-prosperity gospel preachers don’t/can’t/couldn’t deny that god could bless us if god chooses to – in all aspects, not only spiritually, but materially, physically, etc. we can’t run with hebrew bible (as well as some NT) passages where god says do X and god will bless you. for instance, if you commit your works to god, or if you ask, if you have faith, etc. then god will “bless” you. now exactly what the blessing is, isn’t that what prosperity gospel preachers are choosing to focus on wealth, health, etc. BUT they shouldn’t leave out spiritual blessing. and those who are non-prosperity preachers shouldn’t just say god blesses us spiritually because god can and does bless us in anyway god chooses to.

i just realized that the distinctions i’m seeing here explain why my parents and i don’t understand each other sometimes! okay, a lot of times. wowsers.

in transit

i’m leaving korea tomorrow morning!  the trip has been meaningful.  it was a lot of quality family time. 

we spent three days in japan and we got to see our uncle, aunt, and nephew.  i hadn’t seen all of them in like two and a half years so it was great to see them again. 

i finally got to try redmango today.  the frozen yogurt was really smooth.  but the toppings weren’t as good as back in the states.  i have some pictures which i will load up when i get back home. 

man, i’m so ready to come back home.  my parents want me to spend about a year in korea.  so i said, no can do.  i don’t know why but i’m really scared to live in korea. 

my brother went with his classmates to clean up the oil spill damage.  so i won’t be able to see him before i leave tomorrow, i think.  i sure wish i could see him before i leave.

i feel good.  really good.   

christmas eve in seoul – immanuel

my mom and i had a quiet dinner because my dad, brother and sister here in korea had other plans.  i thought to myself, christmas in korea isn’t so different.  in boston, i expect to spend it alone but end up spending it with lots of friedns.  here in korea, i expect to spend christmas eve with family but end up spending it practically alone, at least christmas eve dinner. 

after dinner, my mom and i went to coex to look for some books.  when we got there we saw a huge crowd of people trying to get down to the subway station!  they weren’t in line to get on thet train or to get through the gates.  they were simply trying to get into the station!  wow.  as we were walking towards the bookstore, i noticed that people, practically everyone, were wearing red, just kidding, they were all wearing black.  i guess wearing black happens in any city?  anyway my mom and i bought a book.  grabbed some coffee at starbucks (yes starbucks is everywhere!).  then we tried to get out of coex mall and we did successfully.  but we went out the wrong exit so we had to walk for more than 30 minutes to get to where we wanted to be!

so no, i wasn’t able to check out redmango tonight to be able to compare it to pinkberry, or yoberry or berryline (both in boston area).  sorry folks.  the review of redmango is going to have to come after christmas.  i did send a fax to their main office to complain about how much trouble i had on their internet site. 

as expected, our entire family (those who are in korea) went to church today.  there was a music part – complete with little kids singing, which i unfortunately missed – and then a short service and then a performance by the choir.  the choir was great.  the solos in one part almost moved me.  🙂  it was weird, however, how we were practically the only ones standing up during the handel’s messiah – hallelujah part.  later, more people stood up.  i guess i just feel like you can’t listen to it without standing up, not because of tradition (ok maybe a little bit due to tradition) but out of reverence for the creator.

the title of the sermon was immanuel.  and the pastor preached that we are not alone, god is with us.  he said, don’t go through life as if you are alone because god is with you.  and when god is with you, all things are possible.  believe in the power of god.  believe in miracles.  have hope because god is with us.  god is with you.

what i haven’t said in my last blog was that my dad is the pastor of the church we go to.  so of course i felt like he was tailoring the sermon just to me.  i mean, sometimes i feel like a pastor is talking directly at me during a sermon, but i know that can’t be the case because they don’t know what i’m going through.  but this pastor, my dad, he knows what i’m going through.  so who knows?  maybe he did in part speak to me, directly to me.  i liked what my dad said – that we are not alone and that god is with us.  more than liking it, i want to believe it.  i want to believe it because i think it’s true.  here i think it’s appropriate to mention william james’ will to believe essay and his phrase “leap of faith.” 

i want to believe that god is with us and i think it’s true.  but i don’t know if i have the religious experience that warrants me to say i know that god is with us.  i know it in my head that god is with us.  whether a personal god or an impersonal god, god who created us and everything else, god is with us.  i’m sure of that.  so why can’t i believe it in the depths of my soul???

it felt so awkwards today to say merry christmas to the few people i said it to.  it’s too warm in seoul.  we’re not going to have a white christmas.  if we get any precipitation, we’re going to get rain.  anyway, it’s close to midnight here in korea.  so merry christmas!

in search of redmango

i am visiting my parents in seoul korea.  the one thing i was looking forward to, other than seeing my family, was to try frozen yogurt at redmango (the original frozen yogurt that started pinkberry which then started other frozen yogurt stores across u.s.).  i went to their website www.redmango.co.kr and tried to find the nearest store. 

1.  to search for a redmango in your neighborhood, you have to type in korean which is a pain for me since i hardly type in korea and can’t type in korean using my own computer anyhow.  

2. when you look up an area, it either tells you the list the stores in that neighborhood or tells you no store exists in that neighborhood.  why on earth would they not list nearby stores even outside of the specified neighborhood?

3.  so next i typed in other neighborhoods i know of.  (which i realize if you are a tourist, would have no idea what other neighborhoods to type in, if you knew how to type in korean and had access to a keyboard/program that let’s you write in korean.)  that worked.  but then the stores only had phone numbers, not addresses! 

4.  next i tried to leave a comment about the website and found that you can’t leave a suggestion unless you are a member.  and you can only become a member if you are a korean citizen who has a citizen number!  all that to say, for such a well known store, a store that i have heard of so many times, is kind of behind the times when it comes to marketing/website up-keeping!!!   so i either have to mail in my comments about their website or fax it in.  and guess what?  my parents got rid of their fax machine!!!

hopefully later tonight, i can find one of the stores.  i’ll have to call the store and ask for directions!!!

i believe – help my unbelief

wow.  time is passing by fast even when i am visiting my parents in korea.  today is christmas eve and it’s just another day, well, except that i’ll be spending the night at church.

yesterday at church, the pastor said the meaning of christmas was christ worship.  and i wonder how many people even know that’s what the word means! 

lately, i have been reflecting on whether, how much, and in what nature i believe in God.  it’s been super difficult to pray to God.  part of the reason is my recent struggles with depression.  i seem to be doing worse, not better.  and part of the reason has to do with what i’m reading/learning in my theology class.  i was brought up to believe in god who wants to bless us, loves us, and cares about us.  that is to say i believe/d in a personal god.  but the more i study theology i realize that the god i believe in is boxed in my what i want god to be, and not actually who god might be.  i mean who really knows what god is like anyway right?  but some theories sound more convincing than others, that is for sure. 

i still pray, prayers half-filled with unbelief.  i go to church but reluctantly, wondering what worshipping an impersonal god means.  can one maintain one’s faith while the conception of god which one previously held on to is going through radical change?  it seems that there is/must be a kind of a suspension in belief.  while the belief in god is going through radical revisions, it’s difficult even to know what one believes in. 

so as for the meaning of christmas, to be honest, i’m not sure what i believe or feel about it.  presents have been exchanged already in my family and tomorrow morning, we’ll rush to get to church and then head out for a family trip. 

man-doo-kuk

my mom just made me man-doo-kuk (korean dumpling soup) for lunch.  she didn’t know it was my favorite food of all time.  it was simply delicious. 

do actions speak louder than words?  i always wish that my mom would cook for me whenever i come home.  whether by chance or by fate my mom’s cooked for me during this visit more than i ever remember her cooking!  i love it love it love it!

top five new year’s resolutions

i’m determined to do the following during the year of 2008!!!

1.  lose about 60 pounds/30 kgs.  i gained a lot of weight since my last depression episode.  i know that at least one of my medicines are facilitating weight gain.  i’ve been exercising three time a week for the past six months.  i’m going to try to go to the gym 4 time a week during the new year. 

2.  by the end of january i want to quit smoking for good.  i don’t know if i can.  but i’m sure going to try. 

3.  i want to finish my program in theology by the end of spring semester.  i think i want to write a thesis on nothingness in order to fulfill graduation requirements. 

4.  i want to come off of effexor completely.

5. there shall be no 10th hospital visit!

that’s all for now.  🙂