I want to apologize, in advance, for departing slightly from my column’s format so that I might get something off my chest.
Several years ago, I walked into a big chain store and saw, on the first shelf as you entered the store, a set of Biblical action figures. The sight of these Barbie-sized dolls set off a very visceral response in me.
There was something disturbing to me about a Jesus action figure. After all, the Savior of the World was not a toy standing twelve inches tall and meant to be taken home only to be put in a toy box next to GI Joe and a stuffed dinosaur named Barney.
Personally, I found the Jesus Action Figure very distasteful. I realize I might suffer some backlash from people who feel differently. However, being true to myself, I only write what is on my heart. Which brings me to today.
I awoke on this beautiful morning with the windows opened allowing the sights and sounds of nature to flow through my bedroom. As I lay in bed contemplating my day and enjoying the cool summer breeze, I made the fateful decision to look on Facebook.
The first thing I saw was an advertisement for a diet plan. “What would Jesus eat?” was the tag line. It intrigued me and I opened the ad only to be sucked into a 20 minute sales pitch.
The whole time the founder of this miracle diet talked the more disenchanted I became. She claimed God directed her to the teachings of the Bible to show her how Jesus would want you to eat to lose weight. I only kept listening because I was curious about the foods and eating plan she claims to have discovered.
Numerous times she would say how God guided her to the Bible passages so she could help others see the most effective way to lose weight and improve their health. In fact, she said this very thing over and over again for the whole twenty minutes, yet, she never revealed what God’s plan was.
I listened to her go on and on about how it was her Christian duty to share the information she obtained from the Biblical principles only to find out, she would only share it for a fee. Shocker! Apparently it was “God’s plan” for her to charge forty-seven dollars to everyone so they can be healthy. It reminded me of another time I was turned off by someone selling Jesus and it sent chills up my spine.
The first time this happened was in the hospital room where my 49 year-old mother lay dying of cancer. The television was on and the televangelist, Robert Tilton, was preaching. He said that he knew there were people out there sick and dying and if they sent him their prayer requests, he would lay hands on the requests and, through the power of Christ, heal them. He then went on to say that in order to fulfill God’s desire for a healing you needed to be a faithful servant and send money along with your prayer request. Tilton accepted cash, check or credit card. After all, how else would God anoint him with the healing touch?
By the way, this was also how this prosperity preacher claimed you could get rich. In essence by sending him money God would grant you wealth.
How dare he, I thought to myself. My mother doesn’t even have enough time left to send you a check. I was much younger and way more hot-headed than I am now and I wanted to throw the doctor’s clip board at the TV screen. Knowing it would have done about as much good toward healing my mother as sending him the money, I refrained. By morning, my mother had died, a date that is etched in my brain forever. September 6, 1991.
Do I believe that God wants us to be happy, healthy and prosperous? Absolutely! Do I believe money given to a televangelist or a creator of a diet will do that? Absolutely not! After-all, hasn’t the price already been paid?
Forgive me if my tone is less than inspirational and if the statement above bothers you. I never want to offend anyone, but I write what I feel is in my heart and I don’t charge you for it.
The Mystery Unfolds
This story could easily just be a rant about how I feel when people use God and Jesus to sell products or services, but, as it turns out, it actually is a ‘Life is Mysterious’ story.
It was a little over two months after watching and getting mad at Robert Tilton request money from sick and dying people that I saw another television show.
Now, November of 1991 and sitting in my living room, still in devastating grief over the recent death of my mother, I watched a TV show featuring the televangelist Robert Tilton.
This time it was Diane Sawyer and “Primetime Live” in a story exposing the televangelist as a fraud. They showed how all those prayer requests were mined for the money and thrown out into the dumpster never to be seen or prayed over.
One can only imagine how I felt when I watched this news story. I will tell you this, it forever solidified my feelings on this type of preaching.
But that is not the only mysterious event surrounding this televangelist and story.
The Rest of the Story
What if I told you that 20 years later, and after I moved to Greeneville, Tennessee, I made friends with and am still very good friends with a gentleman who worked on the news show Primetime Live? Furthermore, he was very instrumental in the story that Diane Sawyer did on Primetime Live exposing televangelist Robert Tilton. What are the odds?
To think while I was watching that news cast and feeling vindicated that Robert Tilton was being exposed as a charlatan, behind the scenes was my future friend. A man I would come to know, respect and love.
Some might just chalk it up to a small world, but I say… life is mysterious.
2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Mathew 7: 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.