This blog first appeared as an column in the Charisma Magazine:
My alarm goes off at 5:50 sharp every morning, so I drag myself out of bed and head to the garage where I keep my exercise equipment and treadmill. While working out, I often turn on various TV channels to keep track of the early morning round of TV evangelists. I’ve been producing Christian television programming for thirty years now, and I’m still amazed – and often shocked – at the junk some evangelists pitch on television.
Vials of anointing oil and “miracle water” are still big, as well as prayer cloths, miracle seeds, and gimmicks of all kinds – I prefer to call it “Jesus Junk.” One TV prophet will even give you a “personal prophecy” (once you call and give him your credit card number of course).
How did we come to this? How has the historic Christian faith that defeated the Roman empire, changed nations, and transformed the Western world disintegrated to cheap trinkets and religious trash? We can always criticize the TV evangelists who pitch this stuff (and we should), but the fact is, there’s an even bigger culprit – us.
The truth is, we’ve created a generation of Christians looking for a magic bullet. That’s why people travel thousands of miles from conference to conference just to “get a word,” find “fresh oil,” “get the glory,” or “catch their blessing.” The truth is, they’re looking for the easy way out.
It’s interesting that after World II, we experienced an age of real miracles in this country. We had amazing pre-fab housing, miracle drugs, fast food, space age appliances, and instant satisfaction was everywhere. And it changed everyone. I had an uncle who experienced three heart attacks, but refused to exercise or eat right. He was waiting on a miracle drug to solve his health problems. He died soon after, still waiting.
That’s why it’s no wonder that in such a marvelous era, “miracle ministries” were born. Men and women like Oral Roberts, William Branham, Kathryn Kuhlman, Jack Coe and more exploded on the scene with amazing success. They ignited a new passion for the supernatural and the gifts of the Spirit, and re-energized the church.
But now, fifty or more years later, the pendulum has swung so far, we’ve become addicted to the feeling. We’ve forgotten how difficult living the Christian life can be, and in our pursuit of prosperity and a nice Mercedes, we’ve lost touch with the years Paul rotted in prison, Peter’s horrific upside-down crucifixion, and William Tyndale being strangled and burned at the stake for giving us the remarkable gift of the English Bible.
Yes, God calls us to live in victory, but real triumph comes from doing battle in the difficult trenches of life. And frankly, in this post-Christian culture it’s not going to get easier. But research indicates that millions profess Christianity, and yet know remarkably little about even the basic principles of our faith. As a result, we think The Da Vinci Code is true, wonder if the “gospel” of Judas should be included in the scripture, and look like fools when we feebly attempt to share our faith with others.
Do I believe in miracles? Absolutely. I also believe Acts when it says handkerchiefs that touched Paul were taken to the sick and they were healed. But Paul didn’t have them mass-marketed and used for a fundraising scheme. I even believe God prospers people. But I also believe the Christian faith isn’t about chasing a blessing or getting a word. It’s about taking up our cross. It’s about making the time to study to show ourselves approved. And it’s about – as the Apostle Paul said, “Knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
The next time that TV evangelist pitches his miracle water, prayer cloth, or other trinkets, put back your credit card, turn off the TV, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus.