Post Thanksgiving Day Musings- Being Truly Thankful

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It is a National Day set aside as a day of gratitude. For most people it is a time for food, fellowship, and football. Some may actually take time to express gratitude; others go about the day enjoying what has brought benefit. Others it is a day of respite from ongoing struggles. If you examine Abraham  Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation you will note that the proclamation came following the Civil War. It followed a time of national suffering and sought to bring honor to God for deliverance and blessing. It also advised the care of those who as a result of the events were not doing well. The celebrated first Thanksgiving was after a time of great suffering with loss of life with aide offered that helped all to survive. There was great hardship and the blessing of a fruitful harvest that was then celebrated. It was a celebration of survival and living life before God.

Somehow today, our view of Thanksgiving seems to be more a celebration of what we have, the good things in our life, the success we have made toward our achievements. We celebrate with those we care about, see to it that our hunger gets addressed, and engage in partaking in entertainment. The pattern is to really feel good and happy and thankful over whatever the gain or progress. Then that day is followed by what is now known as “Black Friday” the biggest day for engaging in consuming more, of purchasing for self and others, ever expanding and meeting varied wants and desires. It is essence a celebration of self.

There are for some a different attitude and approach. Some treat Thanksgiving as a time to give glory to God. Rather than celebrating the kingdom of self, it is moving beyond self. It is a recognizing not only of the good, but of the struggle. It is walking in gratitude. It is easy to be grateful for the good. It is even easy to be grateful when great suffering has been endured and triumphed over. It is very difficult to be grateful in the midst of suffering. The most difficult and painful Thanksgiving Holiday was the one in which my maternal Grandmother was in the hospital with death impending. We spent a lot of time at the hospital. The meal was some nearby restaurant. There was no desire to be entertained. It was simply a day to endure. Yet, each of us to the core had faith in God Almighty, not regarding whether she lived or died, but rather that God was in control and everything has time and purpose. At that time, it was a period of deep mourning, for loss was coming that was not of our will. We each were grateful to God, even if it was not evident at the time, even in the course of great pain.

True Thanksgiving comes from living in gratitude in the midst of whatever suffering we encounter. It is rejoicing in Jesus the Messiah through whom we receive eternal life. We rejoice for the sufferings of this world are but temporary. We rejoice because God is good and all good things flow from Him. We rejoice for without Jesus there is no hope and no light for any. Many miss this opportunity, not only on this National holiday, but in the day to day living of life. Walking in true Thanksgiving and gratitude is daily, moment by moment rejoicing in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for all that is of self is filth. The concern is not about the blessings or sufferings, but the focus is on God regardless of circumstance for it is in God alone and in right relationship with him that any ability to be truly blessed comes, for it is in God alone that all things are possible.

Labor Day Musings: Need for rest

Today is Labor Day. It is a national holiday in the United States since 1882 when the first Labor Day was celebrated.  According to the governmental history on Labor Day the idea of the holiday was proposed Peter McGuire who also was a primary founder of the labor/union movements in the United States of America.  The day was all about taking a day to acknowledge the American worker. It was one of many reforms to the American workplace.

Essentially labor day is centered on the principle of rest. It was recognized that Americans put in long hours for little pay and bad conditions in the late 1800’s.  Taking a day to set aside all work each year was found to be a valuable, no better way to recognize those that do hard work but to give them an extra day of rest.  And so we have this day in the United States where rest is encouraged.

It is noticeable that while the late 1800’s focus worked hard at reducing the work day and improving working conditions that people are voluntarily doing things that folks like Peter McGuire fought to change.  We care more about expanding our own personal kingdoms that we willing work long, hard hours at times even without pay. The focus is on expanding self and making sure all ends meet, and we will do whatever it takes.  Most often at the expense of rest.

Rest is important.  God rested. God in his instructions as found in the instructions of law known as Torah emphasized rest.  God even emphasized rest in the Ten commandments.  God made it clear rest is important.  God not only pointed to a day of rest from self and focus on God known as Sabbath but He also prescribed rest for land and rest for debt.  God set up a perfect system of rest designed to work in accordance with the nature of creation. Yet, those principles have not been followed. Israel failed to follow the principles of resting land and debt and part of why they paid huge consequences.   If we do not take rest, it impacts us and impacts creation. 

So the question here than is if rest is so important and God set up directives to rest what do we do.  Well, we need to build and incorporate God’s principles into our lives.  We need to take weekly rest and focus on God.  We need to take time to cease from striving.  We need to take rest important. 

The emphasis God placed on rest is really a picture of redemption. It is about not striving in self and depending on God. It is giving people  a chance at restoration when things got difficult.  Sadly God’s principles of rest were ignored and set aside while folks seek to expand self and continual seek expansion of their kingdoms.  We fail to turn our hearts and minds to God, much less seek to depend on Him.  Ongoing surrender to God is the perfect rest and is made available through Jesus the Messiah.  God made clear that work and rest need to go together and that true rest is found on dependence on him.  However, rest comes difficult so much that the majority of people reject God’s rest found in Jesus the Messiah and continue to work toward that which benefits self.  Israel paid a great price for ignoring the Jubilee and for those that reject the true rest found in dependence and surrender to Jesus, the consequences will also be severe.  Yet, the choice is for each person either continue with self-striving or turn to God’s rest.

Musings on life and death of Senator Edward Kennedy

 Senator Edward Kennedy passed on this week.  Now there are lots of posts, commentary, and articles praising and vilifying the man.  The man clearly showed care and compassion for others. He went out of his way to help those in need regardless of political affiliation.  Senator Edward Kennedy also is well known for his role at the Chappaquiddick death of Mary Jo Kopechne.  Now several accounts have pointed out that Senator Kennedy seemed a changed man later in life and heard of his friendship with Jerry Falwell.  Yet, neither his villainy, care for others, or apparent change of behavior will impact the place of his soul.  No, it is not about what he did, but about what he did with Jesus.  God only knows the truth. Now having pointed out that only God knows the true state of Senator Edward Kennedy’s heart there are things to examine further. 

In Senator Kennedy’s attempts at helping others, it is always about political power.  It is using the power he had obtained to impact others. It was about exercising the authority of the political position.  The fact is political answers and solutions have limits. Power and influence can help people and hurt people. It can be used for good and bad. Clearly Senator Kennedy has stood for both good and bad.  The fact is though we do look for political solutions.  We want equality, justice, freedom, pursuit of happiness; and so on in this life and assign the government to provide us the means and structure by which it will be accomplished.  Fact is any political answer is limited and temporary in nature.  The people in power change and what was once meant for good can be turned into evil all in the name of political perspectives.  So Senator Kennedy used his position of power well, but he did so by serving his agenda and being assured of his own importance within the political structure.  

So in thinking about this man and his so-called legacy, all that really exists is but temporary. It has no eternal value. It certainly had value in the lives he impacted for the good, just as his evil impacted the lives he touched as well.  Each of us in our own spheres of influence or power does impact people for the good and bad.  We engage in helping others, we engage in self-protection, we engage in assorted ways of self.  The fact is this life is but temporary. The good, the bad, the pain, the conflicts are but short. Yet, we focus on this life and the assorted ways to get our best life here and seek freedom from suffering for self and others.  God’s way is really not about freedom from suffering but rather freedom from the root cause of all suffering.  This freedom is only found in the work of Jesus the Messiah. It is only found in moving from the kingdom of self in its various sundry for forms and turning to the Kingdom of God which comes from self-surrender. It comes by taking any authority and power and influence I have and turn it over to Jesus. There are always two paths. One that seems right and a focus on temporary solutions to the assorted elements of the tyranny of suffering and the narrow way which involves turning to self and give power to stand and be content regardless of situation. It is the ability to have true love and joy in the midst of the travails of life.  So choose this day your path, not all paths lead to the same place. The broader path leads to destruction, the path of life is found only on the narrow path that touches lives not out of duty or obligation or a personal need of redemption but rather flows from the love that comes by surrender to the King of Kings.

Question of the week: How important is your relationship with Jesus?

In an attempt to increase content consistency on this blog am going to give assurances of some quick posts on the same day per week. The first such posting series is a weekly question. The plan is to post a question each week with the intent of challenging where you are in your walk with Jesus. A good starting point for this series is to challenge you to think about your relationship and how important it is to you.

The reason this question comes to mind is because very often in the lives of professing Christians the relationship is not engaged. Personally, I struggle with spending time just being with Jesus versus operating from my knowledge of Him. I easily set time with Jesus aside for other distractions. Recently I have spending more time having things related to Jesus going on the background. Yet, the important note is that it is in the background. Now while it helps shape the mind with what is being put in, it is not the concerted time that equals the priority I saw I place Jesus in my life. My actions often do not match up to words.

Now I know the whys and sources, strengths and weaknesses that lead up to a bunch of excuses as to why I don’t spend more time just interacting with Jesus. On this blog you will find mentioned over and over again that the source of peace and joy is found in surrender to Jesus. In order to surrender to Jesus, there needs to be time put into the relationship that is beyond the background. On this blog you will find references of moving from Kingdom of self versus the Kingdom of God. Yet, our own little kingdoms is often what takes priority. Very often it is our very self that is really most important in spite of what we say is important. So the starting question this is week is to ask you to think about how important is your relationship with Jesus, really. Take time to reflect on it. Feel free to offer comments here or at this discussion on the forum: http://www.peacebringer.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1917#p6132.

Independence Day Musings: Choice of two freedoms: Self-determination versus Self Surrender

Celebrate your In Dependence

Celebrate In Dependence

Today is July 4th. It is the day those of us who are citizens of the United States celebrate the creation of the country. It is the day which the Declaration of Independence was signed. The founding fathers sough to establish a government that represented the will of the people and valued the freedom of self-determination. The country known as the United States grew and thrived as each individual was free to set their course and pursue goals. The freedoms provided in this country have allowed the country to flourish. Yet the freedoms provided in this country are freedoms built on a false foundation.

The freedoms in the United States really are centered on the freedom of self. We can do what we choose to do without excessive restriction. Government is viewed as a contract and the laws we submit to we agree to abide by and if don’t like the laws, we vote in new representatives to negotiate changes to the laws. It is ultimately about each of us doing as we wish so that it does not interfere with others. In this country everyone is free to be independent to the point where don’t interfere with others. In other words we are free do what we want. Now many will argue that the course of freedom in the country was established on Biblical concepts. Yet, if you examine the concept further the freedom of independence is not really the Biblical concept of freedom.

Rather, the Biblical concept of freedom is that of in dependence. We are only free when we surrender self to Jesus. The Bible states in Matthew 10:39 (ESV)
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
” This involves a surrender of self, a giving up of our independence for dependence on Jesus. Only in such surrender is their true freedom. According to Jesus as recorded in John 8:32 (ESV) “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” and again in John 8:36 (ESV) “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” True freedom is not the independence of self and the right of self-determination. Rather, true freedom is surrender of self. It is turning from self to the King of Kings and living in daily dependence upon him.

It is not an easy choice. We readily accept and value our independence. We seek to grow the kingdom of self. We fall into the trap easily. We go about our lives, filling it with our wants, needs, and desires. Building our families, careers, and lives to that of our liking. We seek to avoid and diminish the suffering. Find ways to entertain self. We build quite a kingdom around us in our independence.

Living in surrender and dependence is quite difficult. We prefer to live our lives accordance to self. We don’t want to be told what to do and how to live our lives, for generally we feel we can manage on our own, until something happens. We turn to God often to meet our own agendas rather than listen and follow what God leads. A life of total surrender is difficult. Our own wants, desires, and agenda easily come to the forefront. Yet, every step of self leads to less true freedom, for all that is of self leads to destruction. We are blinded by our own agendas, desires, knowledge, and plans. We easily substitute what we want for what God wants. We often think that God does not have our best interests at heart. Even if God has promised to grant our desire, we easily lose focus and lose faith. The Bible is filled with people putting their own way of trying to bring about God’s will. Each such step resulted in consequences that still impact us today.

So today, on this day of celebrating Independence take time to examine yourself. Are you walking steps self-directed or God-directed? How is self getting in the way? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus so that you are truly free? Are you willing to pursue a life of being In Dependence rather than independent? Would you rather be free to what you want, do what is right in your own eyes or are you willing to give up self and depend on God and live in accordance with His will? The bible is clear. If you seek to hold onto that which is self, you will be lost. If you surrender self, you gain. The choice is there for each of us, every day, every moment; walk the path of self-determination or self-surrender.

Dependence on Jesus breaks the chain of slavery to self.

Dependence on Jesus breaks the chain of slavery to self.

Musings on the Life and Death of Michael Jackson

A picture from Thriller:  One man and his demons.

A picture from Thriller: One man and his demons.

Yesterday was a sad day for most Americans.  It was the day that pop icon Michael Jackson’s life came to an abrupt end.  As he was preparing for a comeback tour that hope to revive his fallen career and bring in money to attend to heavy debt load, his heart gave out.  Rumors abound about the potential of abuse of medication.  The end of this man’s life is tragic. 

In actuality the end of Michael Jackson’s life is actually no less tragic then the entire some of his life.  Yes, the man reached the acme of entertainment success. No one was more known around the global the Michael Jackson.  His music and dance touched billions.  Yet, the man was lost and haunted by inner demons.    There are lyrics in the song “Thriller” they really appear to be prophetic:

Night creatures calling, the dead start to walk in their masquerade
There’s no escaping the jaws of the alien this time
(They’re open wide)
This is the end of your life

They’re out to get you, there’s demons closing in on every side
They will possess you unless you change that number on your dial

This man impacted generations of baby boomers, generation x’ers and those younger who grew up  with Michael Jackson.  His lyrics often spoke of the cries for love and intimacy.  There are themes of having to defend self from attacks of others.  There are themes of betrayal.  His words and music fit the ethos of the culture and was latched on world over.   He was a man on stage all his life. He was always in the limelight. 

Rumors suggest that he was manipulated and abused as a child.  He was shaped to be an entertainer, and he performed that role majestically. His fall from grace was tragic.  He seems to have been a boy who never grew up. He was alleged to engage in multiple improprieties with assorted children, but the sense really seemed that Michael just never really understood fully how to relate to others.  He really probably never go the chance. Rather he was locked in his mind with his pain and self-distortions.  Clearly he was never happy with himself as  his continual altering of his body demonstrated.  He was clearly a man lost, broken, and desperate.   If his life ended through the abuse or poorly managed use of medication it is tragic and yet appropriate. For in this culture, we turn to whatever medication we can find to get through the pains of life.  Michael Jackson follows a long line of tragic deaths of celebrity who potentially have their lives cut short by turning to pain pills.  Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole Smith are just some of the many.   The thing is that fame and fortune do nothing to sooth the inner wounds.  They all did well in reaching the pinnacle of fame yet found it fleeting and empty, with their wounds ever festering. 

Michael Jackson was ever aware of his inner torment. He even wrote of his need for forgiveness and redemtion.  The lyrics to 2Bad really gives a taste of the inner struggle.

Last night, an angel came to me
I was cryin’ alone
My heart was bleeding
Last night, an angel came to me
I was cryin’ alone
My mind was dying
God have mercy
Stop them destroying me
An angel came to me
To save my life
Listen to his voice
Please hear his soul
This angel came to me
To save me
Last night, an angel came to me
I was doing wrong (x2)
Last night, an angel came to me
I was sleepin’ wrong (x2)
God have mercy
Stop them destroying me
An angel came to me
To forgive me
Listen to his prayers
Please feel his love
This angel came to me
God saved me
An angel came to me
To fulfill his prophecy
He listened to my prayers
Please feel my love
This angel came to me
I recognized him

Yet, those lyrics show that he really missed what would bring true healing and repentance.  An angel is not the answer.  It is easy for folks to think of angels as a redemptive source that can help us lead our lives better, to better build our kingdoms. Yet, no angel can save.  Redemption by an angel or a relationship is shallow and do not heal inner wounds.

The truth is their is only one true source of redemption and healing.  The healing is not one that helps us build and thrive in our kingdoms, rather it is surrendering to another.  It is turning the wounds, the pain, the burdens over to Jesus with no expectation of relief.  It is recognition that we cannot run our own life, that we are selfish and need redemption.  Michael Jackson’s lyrics suggest a recognition of the need for redemption and forgiveness but he sadly never found it.  Never has there been any report that the man turned to Jesus. Not through all the pain, the disgrace, the struggles did Jesus get mentioned once.  Rather he turned to whatever else he could find, and as is always the case, he did not get redemption.  He died a tragic death and the greater tradgedy is that he died without knowing the true source of healing and redemption. 

We can try and gain the world, like Michael Jackson did, but it comes at a great fall. The world is fickle. It builds folks up only to tear them down.  Michael Jackson was going to try and recapture the world, restore him self to his former glory.  Perhaps his performances would have thrilled the world once again, but ultimately Michael could not recapture what was lost and it killed him. 

I ask the reader to consider your life, your pains, your hopes, and your inner demons. There is only one answer for redemption. There is only one hope.  It is not angels. It is not relationships. It is not fame.  It is not money. It is not sex.  It is not anything in this world.  It is Jesus.  There is no other answer. The answer is not about relief of pain, but about turning from self and submitting to Jesus.  It is about Jesus having paid the price for all that is evil and dark and selfish.  Make a choice today, while it is not too late.  You do not have to let the demons and aliens destroy you, as they did Michael.  Rather, true life and peace is found in surrender to Jesus!

 

Gods love and peace is only found at the cross. Surrender to Jesus dispels all darkness and demons!

God's love and peace is only found at the cross. Surrender to Jesus dispels all darkness and demons!

Helpful articles: Who is the greatest prophet?

One of the ways I am going to improve the site in this new year i by rather then either posting the articles on the forum or simply linking helpful and challenging articles I am going to post them on the blog, at least until I have a more productive web portal going.  Today I received two thought provoking articles via the Revival school email  list.  Hopefully site readers will be challenged and blessed by the article. 

So the first article is titled Who is the  greatest prophet and was written by an S. Hill. The original source of the material is found here: http://www.harvest-now.org/harvest-news/n/archive/2009/april/16/article/the-greatest-prophet/

WHO IS the GREATEST PROPHET?
-by S. Hill.

Would that be Ezekiel due to the intensity of his visions? Would
that be Isaiah due to the accuracy of his revelation of Jesus?
Would that be Daniel due to his wisdom and ability to interpret
dreams that kept him at the power centers of two world empires?
Would that be Enoch who had such a powerful encounter with
God that he literally was not here anymore?

According to Jesus the greatest prophet was John the Baptist who
came preaching “repentance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.
So far as we know John never had a vision, dream or angelic
encounter. Yet Jesus called him the greatest prophet!

How many prophets do you know who are preaching repentance?

It is difficult for them to preach repentance from the practice of
casual divorce and remarriage since such would close “ministry
doors” to them and offend folks who pay for their conferences and
buy their books.  But Jesus did so in Matthew 19:9!

It is difficult for them to preach repentance from selling the gospel
and making merchandise of the people of God since most have
embraced the same values.  But in Matthew 10:8 Jesus
commanded us to freely give as we have freely received. In
II Corinthians 11:5- 21 Paul said that the  difference between the
true and the false was not in message, anointing or gifting but in
how they related to the people and money!

It is difficult to for them to preach repentance from self
promotion,  the love of position and title since most have
embraced celebrity status but Jesus did so in Matthew 23:1- 12.

It is difficult for them to preach repentance from seeking special
experiences and angelic encounters since those experiences are
their tickets to “prophetic” status in a world that values
experiences above obedience.  But Paul did so in Colossians
2:18- 19.

You cannot preach repentance from inside the camp!  You support
the camp.  You can only preach repentance from outside.  The
court prophets support the court.  The prophets from the wilderness
are free to preach repentance.  That is why Hebrew 13:13 calls us
to follow Jesus outside the camp.

Jesus said that “the pure in heart shall see God”.
The result of true repentance should be a pure heart to see God.

Once you see God the claims for revelation from the prophets will
literally be seen in a different light.  Once you see God all dreams,
visions and words will take their proper place.  That some talk
about third heaven experiences as casually as a trip to Pizza Hut
and claim to be able to teach others how to have them, shows that
they have never been farther than their own imaginations.

Maybe the fascination of the general church world with the
supernatural experiences, dreams, revelations  is simply because
few of them have ever seen God?  Maybe we put prophets in a
wrong place because we do not have God in the right place?

Maybe we would be less fascinated with “supernatural experiences”
if we understood the vision of God that Jesus presented to us?
Yes, He came to show us the Father but He also said that if we
served the least, we served Him.

He placed the face of God on every suffering child.

The pure in heart will see God and when they do the whole
religious game of status, money, recognition, book sales and
numbers will fade away.  They will see God and they will see
His face as the face of human need and they will serve.

Jesus is the greatest Prophet!
Hear Him!

The Myth of United States as a Christian Nation

Many proclaim that the foundation of the Country of the United States of America is Christianity and it was foded based on Christian principles.  However, if you examine history you will find this to be an unfounded statement.  Granted, the United States of America had many Christian influences, but the foundation of the country was based on people of varying beliefs coming together and compromising toward a set of laws that form the Constitution of the United States of America. 

     There are some people within the Church in the United States who view the country as the Christian equivalent of the nation of Israel to Jews. The arguement is that the United States of America has lost its is moral foundation and if we stopped abortions, returned prayer to school, stop gay marriages, curtail illegal immigration, and teach creationism in the schools all would be right.  Such a concept is misguided. Now all the above are good, moral things, but returning to such moral laws will not change what is at the heart of the problems in this country.

     This country was actually founded on individualism.  Individual rights trump all.  Each person has the right and ability to grow within the context of the laws legislated.  The moral changes to this country were not a deviation from the foundations, but really just where the founding principles of the country essentially lead, greater emphasis on self. 

      It is also worth noting that if all the immoral laws in this country were changed, it would not change the emphasis on self.  Take a look at prohibition for example. This is a good, moral law with many good reasons to prohibit the sale of alcohol.  It was though short sighted, because there was no change of heart or desire for alcohol, it simply grew an increase in illegal activities. 

     A push for a change in moral laws does nothing to change the hearts of people.  Rather, people still pursue what they choose, regardless of consequences.  Now that doesn’t mean moral laws serve no purpose.  It is a matter that the salvation of this nation is not about a change in moral laws.  It is essentially about whether each individual surrenders to God or keeps pursuing their own kingdoms and agendas. 

    Politics is all about increase power bases.  It is about who gets the say in the laws.  We all vote on what we think is best for us and our kingdom and our own perception of what is beneficial.  The myth of the United States of America being a Christian nation serves ultimately to sway votes and to increase power bases.  If someone feels a particular political persuasion is more righteous because of moral footings, they are mistaken.  The end result can be seeking after a political messiah who will right the wrongs. 

     On both sides of the political spectrum, a messiah is essentially what people are looking for. Someone who provides political answers to what they perceive are the problems, when the politicians are simply doing what they can to ensure they obtain position and power.

     So what is a Christian to do.  I believe a Christian needs to remember again that our citizenship is not of this world.  We are Ambassadors for Jesus.  In the United States of America, we get the right to vote for a select group of candidates.  I encourage all to vote their conscience regarding the varied political views, but make no mistake. United States of America is not a Christian nation and a return to moral laws is not the real change needed.  People need to be able to move beyond themselves and surrender to the King of Kings, Jesus.  There are and will be many fine sounding political answers to problems in the world. They will all be flawed and answers only temporary.  I encourage folks to stop focusing on looking for political answers and rather find ways to draw others unto Jesus.

Reaction to Mac Hammond’s defense

        In a previous post the situation with the IRS and Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center was discussed.  Since then Pastor Mac Hammond has issued a defense of what is going on with the IRS and the allegations.  Ultimately, through due process, they will be able to have their say and defend themselves against any allegations brought for by the investigation.

     In his defense, Pastor Hammond argues that the audit was only opened for political reasons.  He states an IRS official illegally opened the audit and did so at the behest of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington based on the perceived Michelle Bachmann endorsement.  This article isn’t really getting into delving into those facts.  It is worth pointing out again that Pastor Mac Hammond did state he would “almost welcome an IRS audit.” 

     The main concern is that a good portion of Pastor Mac Hammond’s defense is really a defense of the prosperity gospel.  He points to a national conspiracy to attack ministries involve in what he states has come to be called the “prosperity gospel.”  He even states “the gospel-the good news that God is good and our covenant of blessing will provide increase in every area of our life.”  However, that is NOT the Gospel.  The Gospel is John 3:16 (KJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth him shall have eternal life.

     Pastor Mac Hammond goes on to suggest that what is happening is politically motivated because the “enemies of the gospel” are afraid of wealthy Christians and the influence that they may weild.  He states that to limit the influence of the church, the wealth needs to be limited, and that is done by decreasing the willingness to donate.  Pastor Mac Hammond clearly delineates that “clergy” can and should be wealthy and that the media and enemies of the gospel want to keep them poor, and as such keep the church poor.  Pastor Mac goes on to state that God can do anything and that the only limits on what God can and will do is our faith.  In essence, it reads to me that our faith becomes the means by which to get God to do what we want, which usually is increasing our personal kingdoms such as by wealth. 

   The question again comes down to what Kingdom is really being built.  Do we give our all.  Pastor Mac Hammond in is defense graciously offered to sell all and give it to the church. Great, but until that happens it is just words that can make one look good.  Actions speak louder then words. Now Pastor Mac Hammond indicates he donates a large sum to the church which he indicates is how a person avoids the temptations of lukewarmness and decreased God-depenency.   The generosity is good, and praise God for that. Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond know what is at the core of the giving.  Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond truely know what kingdom he is really serving.  However, the defense Pastor Mac Hammond gives leaves me troubled, regardless of the facts. The defense is all about emphasizing prosperity and the church needs to be prosperous to influence society.

    The church is called to be salt and light to a community. But the influence of salt and light come not from the influence of wealth or from involvement in the political realm.  The influence of the church is in changing hearts and minds and drawing people into surrender to Yeshua.  It is about turning from self. There is a reason Jesus stated that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, yet with God all things are possible. 

Mac Hammond: Pride, Prosperity and the Church

Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center has found himself in a lot of trouble. He recently made the news (http://www.startribune.com/local/north/27251534.html?page=4&c=y) by being audited by the IRS.  Apparently the impetus for the audit is rooted in Mac Hammond publicly endorsing current Representative, Michelle Bachman, from his pulpit.  The endorsement resulted in those who champion separation of church and state to want the IRS involved and for the church to be stripped of their tax exempt status. According to the Star Tribune article, Mac Hammond in February 2007, apparently in response to such challenges, stated he would “almost welcome an IRS audit.”

            The response to me comes off as a challenge from pride, and like many challenges from pride, it results in being met full force.  The IRS is now auditing Mac Hammond and Living Word Christian Center but not because of direct fall out from giving Michelle Bachman time from the pulpit but rather because of improprieties seen by the IRS in how the church handled loans to Mac Hammond as well as how they managed his purchase and subsequent leasing to the church of a private jet. 

            Whether or not any actual malfeasance took place has yet to be determined but regardless of whether or not any malfeasance occurred, the very need for the investigation is troubling.  We are called to avoid all appearance of evil. So even if there is no violation of IRS code or breaking of the law, the very fact that there is an appearance of wrong doing should be troubling.

            At the heart of the matter really comes down to the concept preached of the “prosperity” gospel where you are given “increase” based on giving. Now while it is true that God blesses those who give generously, the tone of the “prosperity” gospel is that of increase in your personal kingdom. It becomes as you give you will gain increase.  Ultimately, the increase we should care about is increase in the Kingdom of God.

            Unfortunately, when scandal of any sort hits a church or a congregation, all of what they have done is called into question.  The truth when mixed with error brings confusion and damages people.  It is even more troubling when leadership engages in behavior that at a minimum has the look of impropriety.

            We all need to be careful.  Each of us easily can go down the road of building our own kingdoms. Each of us can get caught in the wanting or more.  Each of us can get caught in what feels good or right at the moment.  Temptations abound. However, the essence of “prosperity” teaching can encourage the feeding of our lusts and pride. 

            When we recognize the feeding of our lusts and pride we need to repent and turn from those paths.  I pray that in this, Mac Hammond and those in position at Living Word Christian Center be brought into awareness of a need to repent of chasing after lust and pride. Now, that is not to say that the church and Mac Hammond haven’t benefited others for the Kingdom of God but in looking at these events the question has to be which kingdom was being served in greater measure.