rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgThis Thanksgiving, if you are a part of the righteous branch of Christ, you have something to give thanks for. The prophet Jeremiah says, “The day is coming when I (God) will raise up David a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” The righteous branch from David’s family is believed to be Jesus Christ.

Christ says in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine” and “God (His Father) is the gardener.” Christ also reminds us we are branches of righteousness. He goes on to say, “God cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, and further every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.”

 All righteous branches should be giving thanks for this, because we’ve all been saved from the dominion of sin, saved from guilt and saved to allow our souls to dwell in peace.

We are saved from the dominion of sin by good preaching. The primary concerns of Jeremiah (23:1-8) spring from the teachings of the false prophets. These bad shepherds were destroying and scattering God’s sheep and their false preaching made the people bold in their sins. These bad shepherds practiced what they preached and made others believe it OK to sin the way they were doing.

One of today’s many reality shows is The Preachers of L.A. For some it is intriguing and for others disgusting because of its teaching. It appears to many to be based on “prosperity thinking.” The show reveals much of the preachers’ teachings and some believe that the starring pastors and many of their followers are doing no harm by participating in the show. Time will tell.

It is obvious the preachers do practice what they preach. Many believe in and follow them as they preach primarily a “prosperity theology” and think it all right to do so. I am not judging them but, to me, prosperity preaching and teaching is a very tricky subject.

The true prophet’s teaching and example save us from guilt and lead all to repentance, faith and righteousness. The false prophet’s teaching leads followers to follow their own notions, practices and interpretations of God’s word and to rest in, and be quiet about, their sins.

We should all thank God for Jesus, whose teachings as the righteous branch convince and convict sinners, particularly those of us who may feel the guilt of sin in our conscience, especially those of us who have seen it within ourselves and know of our need for righteousness and the worth of salvation in Christ.

The righteous branch is ready to give thanks, for we are tired of unfruitful living and we do desire to be fruitful. The idea of fruitful living is an attractive one to everyone, especially those attracted to prosperity preaching. But “fruitfulness” is a relative term, for in “prosperity preaching” fruitfulness has strong material overtones, which is only partially true.

Let us be clear. The Bible does not speak against wealth. In fact, wealth is one of its many promises. Wealth is also a relative term (physical, spiritual, and emotional wealth).

Thankfully, Christ carefully directs us on prosperity thinking. In Matthew 6:33, He says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Christ’s teaching implies there is a specific “wealth achievement process” to use in the acquisition of wealth. His process, if used, can save us from sin and free us of the guilt brought about by the acquisition of wealth.

Further, Timothy tells us in I Timothy 6:10, “For it is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil.” Note he does not say money itself, just love of money.

Something else to be thankful for is the true vine, who is Jesus, who saves the righteous branches in order to allow our souls to dwell in peace. Christ’s gospel breaks the materialistic yoke of Satan and institutes the perfect rule for Holy living which prunes every branch of His righteousness.

In Colossians in 1:9, Paul says, “For this reason he gives thanks and prays for them, so that God will fill them with knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing in His sight.” Now that is something to give thanks for.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or