Which Jesus do you serve?

Received the following post from the http://www.revivalschool.com/ email list and thought it would be worth posting here.

WHICH JESUS Do YOU SERVE??
-Posted by Brendon Powell.

There seems to be more than one Jesus to choose from these days.
Which one is the  true Jesus and who am I following?

·    There’s a ‘seeker friendly’ Jesus, he’s the one who will not
offend anyone in anyway. He loves everyone no mater what they do.
·    There’s a ‘sow and reap’ Jesus, he made a covenant with man
so that man could sow his seed and reap wealth and happiness on
earth and then go to heaven when he dies.
·    There’s a ‘blend in with the world’ Jesus, he wants us to look
like, act like, and be like the world in order to reach the lost.
·    There’s a ‘neverending grace’ Jesus, his ‘grace’ covers us no
matter what we do or how we live.
·    There’s a ‘just believe’ Jesus.  As long as you truly believe
in your heart, you’re saved.
·    There’s a ‘name it claim it’ Jesus.  You name it; anything and
it’s yours!  If you don’t get it, it’s because you lack faith. It’s your fault.
·    There’s a ‘carnal’ Jesus.  He doesn’t expect you to overcome
sin, he understands you’re just carnal.
·     There’s a ‘heart dwelling’ Jesus.  All you have to do is ask
him into your heart and voilà, he’s there.  You’re going to heaven!

Truth:

·    There’s the Jesus who said “Repent and believe the gospel,
the kingdom of God is at hand.” -Mark 1:15
He said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.” -Lk 9:23-25
 He said without Him you are already condemned.  -John 3:18
 He said He came to save the world -John 3:16
  He said unless you forsake all you have, you cannot be His disciple.
  -Luke 14:33
He said if we love anyone more than Him we are not worthy of Him.
 -Matt 10:37-39
  He said if you love this life you’ll lose it. -John 12:25-26
    He said you cannot serve God and money. -Matt 6:24
He said fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. -Mt 10:28
 He said be extreme in your war against sin. -Matt 18:8-9
    He said love God with all your heart, soul and mind and your
    neighbour as yourself. -Matt 22:37-39
      He said He is the light of the world. –John 8:12
He said the gate is narrow and the way is difficult and few find it.
 -Matt 7:13-14
    He said those who believe in Him but work iniquity will be
      cast out. -Matt 7:21-23
He said you’ll be hated for His name’s sake, but if you endure to
 the end, you’ll be saved. -Matt 10:22
  He said I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to
   the Father but by Me. –John 14:6

Which Jesus do you serve?

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The Greed Effect: Positive and Negative Consequences

     Well recent news certainly has brought greed and it’s consequences to the forefront. Greed is part and partial to many events in the world today. Most people are looking for continually more.  American culture pushes the lust for for and feeds greed.  It is all around us. And when greed is rampant, eventually there comes a crash, it is inevitable because that which is driven by greed will eventually be exposed.

      There are already famous greed crashes. We have the original stock market crash in 1929 and the infamous black Monday in 1987. More recently,  there is the NASDAQ crash in 2000 and scandals like Enron in 2001.  Today, we have the crash of the real estate markets and the ripple effects going out to multiple financial institutions like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, and AIG.  Today there are many signs of huge financial instability.  What got us to this point is at the core greed and the subsequent consequences.

     Now not all consequences of greed are bad. Greed can result in quality work being done, and work being done quickly to meet some reward. For example, in Minnesota the completion of the I-35 W bridge was done with a bonus for early completion. The hired company put out all stops to meet the significant bonus, and reached it.  The natural inclination of achieving for gain is a central component at times for facilitating behavioral change.  However, most change dependent on reinforcement only lasts as long as the gain is meaningful.  Also the effects of greed can result in a robust economy, as people always seek for the newer and better.  However, those positives are often short lived.

     As already mentioned, anything that is driven by greed will reach a limit.  Humans have limited capacity and as such, there is never unlimited growth.  When the limits of growth are reached, you will find what is happening today.  First of all areas of corruption and exploitation are exposed.  Then those dependent on the money derived from corruption and exploitation find that they did not stick to sound principles and essentially it all becomes a house of cards. So when falls happen the question always is how to get it restarted. In the past those driven by greed simply finding another area to seek the continual more in.  Eventually though, there is no place left for the greed seekers to go.

     We also see that when money gets easy, and the quest for more continues, that people readily take shortcuts.  Why work for to get more, if you can find a quick way to get it.  Many scams and con men gain much all related to people’s greed. 

    Make no mistake though, greed will be seen as a problem, and is seen as a problem globally. Being anti-greed is part of an underpinning to communism. It takes the truth that when people share it is benificial and twists it into some form of forced sharing that ultimately only benefitted the elite, who in turn displayed there greed.  There will come a time, perhaps soon, when folks will be pointed to global sharing as the answer.  There will be promotion of interdependence and global sharing. And while the concept sounds and looks good on the surface, it is not founded on the truth. Sharing doesn’t negate the selfishness at the root of greed.  It doesn’t address anything about the basic essence of humanity.  Sharing does have a benefit, but to focus on sharing without the foundation of the gospel and surrender of self to the messiah, it is faulty.  It is just taking the principle found in the prosperity gospel and extending it. If all share, all prosper will be what is promoted.  For example, the show Oprah’s big give whole concept was ultimate prosperity comes through sharing.

    So, how does one really combat greed.  It all has to start with the Gospel. It has to start with the answer of our selfishness and moving beyond our own self-interest and toward surrender to the King of Kings.  It involves accepting where God has us in life.  God’s word states in I Timothy 66-12(NIV):  6.But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7.For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8.But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9.People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.10.For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.11.But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.12.Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

   Contentment is clearly a biblical key to individual dealing with greed.  We all need to rest in being able to manage all things through the strength of Jesus, not our own strength as shown in Phillipians 4:12-13 (NIV):   12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

    Now we are called to share and be generous (2 Corinthians 9) and doing so is contrary to the principles of greed. It is not a compulsion with true giving being a response tothe recognition of the gift of grace, not for ultimate gain. When we are truely generous, God is pleased, because true generosity is giving from beyond our self. We are each incapable of giving beyond our own selfishness without living in surrender to Jesus the Messiah. 

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. 

Guest Commentary: Titus 1- What it teaches us about false shepherds

The following was sent to me by my brother Robert Blake:

Titus is written by Paul to a young pastor who is probably over seeing a new church.
Paul begins by laying out a structure of elders to watch over the church. He gives a clear list of characteristics these men are to have. They are to protect the church, keeping it in line with the truth.
What seems to have hit me with some interest is the second half of chapter one. Paul sets up the structure out of concern for the church, that it maintain its integrity to the truth. He goes on to explain there are false shepherds and lists their characteristics.
These characteristics will all be framed within context of truth, which is mentioned later in the chapter. The characteristics starting at vs. 10 are:

Rebellious– Indicates a person who knows the truth but decides to do the opposite. A question is if we are all rebellious as Paul indicates in other writings, how are these people different? I would say they do not have the Romans 7 struggle between right and wrong actions. They choose to go after wrong actions.

Empty Talkers– It is a ripe term, hypocritical nature is what it is pointing to. Telling people to do one thing, and they do the other. Yes, it is related to the first characteristic. But, I wonder if it is more than that? We are warned in scripture that people in the end times will want their ears tickled, words that will please over words of truth. That is also at the heart of the empty talker, providing words to keep people happy over keeping people on the path of truth.

Deceivers– It tells us that the false teachers are doing more than just wrongly teaching, they are purposefully teaching something and it is wrong. It means they know the truth but choose to teach the opposite. Related to the previous characteristic, keeping the flock happy means they choose a lie over truth, ultimately deception.

Of Circumcision– It means they are participate and are active in the church community, the body of believers. It is why Paul wants elders to protect the church.

Wrongly motivated– They are in it for their own benefit and gain, contrast with the elders who are not self-willed and genuinely care for others. They simply have something to gain and will do what it takes to get it.

Teach Traditions and Commands– Part of their strategy is to use things that appear to be good but are not the truth. The root of what they teach is earth bound appearance instead of genuine faith. Simply put, they will teach things that pull a person away from total reliance upon Jesus for salvation and upon our own actions to obtain it. It is a teaching that counts on our own ability to save ourselves through what we do or do not do. Goes on to say that these people are unbelieving. They do not trust in Christ. Stay away from any teacher who does not point people to Jesus and nothing else for salvation.

No Truth- It is the central component in all of the characteristics, but Paul mentions it specifically. They are unbelieving in the truth and turn away from it. Truth is not their guide.

It is a long list, but a clear litmus test for believers. We are to scrutinize teachers with both the list of positive characteristics and the warnings Paul identifies as signs of a false teacher. When they are applied,  things will be clear. Their are many other items in scripture that warn us about false teachers, this is just one passage that is full to the brim in practical application. Study it and apply it. Follow the recommendations by Paul, to rebuke and silence those who stray from the truth.
We live in a pluralistic age, we are taught to accept all things. Paul tells us to do otherwise, confront it for the benefit of the church so that no one is harmed.

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.