Jesus was never angry, except …

As we read about Jesus in the Gospels, we see that Jesus was rarely angry. He wasn’t angry with the huge numbers of people who came to him for healing, for those who stopped him on the way to somewhere else, for the woman who was ceremonially unclean because of her chronic bleeding and who touched him to be healed, or even with Judas for betraying Him.

He had compassion.

Except for two groups of people who, we read, did anger Him:

  • the religious leaders and teachers who misrepresented His Father and were hypocritical in their love of show and the praise of men, and
  • the traders in the temple who turned his Father’s house into “a den of thieves” by their sharp practices.

There are still leaders and teacher who misrepresent the character of God, but this post is about those who engage in the marketing and sales practices of the commercial world on the back of teaching that was meant to build the Kingdom of God.

I’m sure there are many, but the reason I’m writing this today is because of one in particular that shocked and disappointed me the other day.

About a week ago, I took Lisa Bevere’s Adamant quiz which promised a free sample from her latest book, Adamant.

I received this email shortly afterwards:

Hi Stephen,

Thank you so much for participating in the Adamant quiz! The purpose of this quiz is to help you discover more about yourself and your relationship with the truth.

So, what is truth?

This has become the defining question of our time. While everyone has an opinion, truth, it seems, is getting harder and harder to find. Perhaps that’s because we are searching for something when we should be looking for Someone.

Truth has a name.

More ancient than time and more present than this moment, truth is not a river that changes with the cultural currents, but a rock—immovable, invincible, unshakeable—and the cornerstone of all we are and ever dream to be.

This is the heart of the Adamant message.

Click here to read your free sample chapters.

With adamant love,

Lisa

That’s the kind of email I would have expected from someone with her good reputation and I looked forward to reading the sample chapters.

The same day I also received another email inviting me to join the “Adamant experience”.

Hi Stephen,

I hope you enjoyed reading your free Adamant sample chapters!

I truly believe we will either continue being swept away by the cultural currents or we can stand like a rock—adamant, immovable, unshakeable.

Imagine how different your life would be (how different our world would be!) if we were able to effectively speak the truth in love.

Since no one can stand on truth alone, we’ve created The Adamant Experiencean interactive study and community of bold believers committed to standing upon truth.

I feel passionately about this message, so I wanted to do something we’ve never done before! Here’s what you receive when you join The Adamant Experience:

  • Six LIVE events with me
  • A signed Adamant book
  • I Am Adamant Gemstone Bracelet
  • The “Be that Woman” ten-video series
  • Adamant audiobook
  • Access to the Adamant community

Stephen, will you join me on this world-changing mission?

Registration closes April 16th—so don’t delay!

With adamant love,

Lisa

I clicked through to the web page to see what it was about:

There’s lots of good material it seems, so that’s great – even if I, as a man, might not want to “Be that woman” through watching 10 video lessons or wear the bracelet!

Good marketing or Kingdom financing?

Then I scrolled down the page and found the catch: there’s a cost, ranging from $49 (basic) through $75 (Premium, and – somehow already the “most popular”) to $99 for a group. These seem to be “special offers” until April 16 when the prices will go up to $149, $200 and $249 respectively. Or maybe not. According to Lisa’s email, registration will close – so what are the other prices shown on the web site as though you were getting a discount from them by registering early?

Good marketing you may say. And I could just ignore it. If I just want the book I can get it for $15, and of course there is a cost to producing all this material.

Kingdom models

So what’s my problem?

It seems to me that such  Madison Avenue marketing practices have no place in the work of extending the kingdom of God.

Why?

Here are three examples.

  • Jesus never took up a collection or charged for a seminar. Quite the reverse: he fed thousands of people who came to hear him teach – all free of charge!
  • The apostle Paul made sure that he covered his own needs by working as a tent-maker instead of relying on the churches he visited to support him.
  • In the 19th century, George Mueller received everything he needed to run his orphanages in Bristol (over $1 million in the days when that was a lot of money) without ever asking for a penny. He told God what he needed – or what his children needed – and God provided.

He prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the Orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry, but trusted God to put in people’s hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan or went into debt. And neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry.

Source: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god

These, I would suggest, are the financial models for extending the Kingdom of God.

How it might have been

I’m glad that Lisa has written “Adamant” and developed all the other materials to go with it, and I hope God uses it to accomplish His purposes. But wouldn’t have been wonderful if she had written something more like this:

Hi Stephen,

I hope you enjoyed reading your free Adamant sample chapters!

I truly believe we will either continue being swept away by the cultural currents or we can stand like a rock—adamant, immovable, unshakeable.

Imagine how different your life would be (how different our world would be!) if we were able to effectively speak the truth in love.

Since no one can stand on truth alone, we’ve created The Adamant Experience—an interactive study and community of bold believers committed to standing upon truth.

I feel passionately about this message, so I wanted to do something we’ve never done before! Here’s what you receive when you join The Adamant Experience:

  • Six LIVE events with me
  • A signed Adamant book
  • I Am Adamant Gemstone Bracelet
  • The “Be that Woman” ten-video series
  • Adamant audiobook
  • Access to the Adamant community

I am also passionate about extending the Kingdom of God in His way, so these resources are all available free of charge. It’s His work, and he will provide for it!

Stephen, will you join me on this world-changing mission?

Registration closes April 16th—so don’t delay!

With adamant love,

Lisa

I’m not angry about this myself, and I certainly don’t claim to know whether or not Jesus is angry, but I did feel compelled to write about it and am deeply disappointed whenever I see such tactics employed.

This example is not unique by any means, just the most recent in my own experience. It may be good marketing, but (IMHO) it does not honour God and is on the way to turning his house into a “den of thieves”.

George Mueller, for one, knew that this type of fund-raising was not necessary, but let me end with a quote from another great Kingdom-extender, Hudson Taylor.

“Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

― James Hudson Taylor

Oh for more of those who will rely on God to fund His work and not on Madison Avenue!

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Three chords and fire!

A few months ago I heard on the radio that Mick Jagger (frontman of the Rolling Stones, just in case you hadn’t heard of him!) was once asked what it took to be a rock-and-roll star. Apparently he replied as follows: “Three chords and fire!

So simple that it got me thinking.

What if that’s also an important part of what it takes to be a good disciple of Jesus? Three chords standing for a simple message, and fire for the passion with which it is communicated.

Now any musician will tell you that those three chords are most likely to be C, F and G. They’re the ones you learn first and are amongst the easiest to play.

(OK – A, D and E are also candidates but let’s agree on C, F and G for the moment.)

For the disciple looking for a message what could those three chords mean?

There are many answers but let me suggest the following:

  • Come
  • Follow
  • Go

Come!

Jesus said “Come” many times; often he invited people to come and follow him. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we read this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

(Matthew 11:28-30—The Message)

Is life too much for you? Come to Jesus!

I love the way his invitation is paraphrased in The Message. It’s simple and very attractive. Who doesn’t at times feel they have lost their life and want to recover or even discover it? Maybe we’ve tried religion and been burned or got burned out trying to make it work.

Jesus offers the only alternative: walking with him and learning the “unforced rhythms of grace.” And who wouldn’t like to live “freely and lightly”?

The first chord: C. The first simple message: Come to Jesus.

But what then? Once we’ve come, what comes next? The second chord, F, and the second simple message.

Follow!

Jesus’ call is not simply to come but to also to follow—to follow Him.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-20

Many people followed Jesus in his lifetime on earth—and many stopped following him when it got difficult.

But he had warned people that it would be difficult.

“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.”

Luke 6:22

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Luke 9:23

It’s a simple message: to follow Jesus, listening daily to his Holy Spirit, walking with him as the early disciples did, and learning from him. It’s simple, though we have often made it complicated, but it’s not easy.

And it’s costly.

It costs control of our lives. It costs the right to use our resources—money, property, time—as we want. It costs the right to live where we choose, to go where we want to go. It costs everything. But for those who know his love, the cost is a small price to pay. Didn’t he himself give up all those things when he came to earth to die for us? Giving our lives back to him is our loving response to his loving sacrifice for us. And it’s also a good deal! As Jim Elliot, wrote in his diary,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

And the lives we get back are not empty, stripped of all pleasure and fun. Far from it! He gives us better lives than we could have imagined if we had tried to plan them ourselves and keep them for ourselves.

And, at the end of life, no regrets!

But Jesus did not call his disciples only to come and follow him, he also trained them to go for him. This brings us to the last chord, G, and the last message: go!

Go!

Having earlier sent them out to preach and heal the sick…

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 9:1-2

… at the end of Matthew’s gospel we read that Jesus told his disciples to go and make more disciples:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Following him has a purpose: to become more and more like him, and thus to do what he did: preach the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness, and bring more followers into the Kingdom of God.

Some of us will go to our next-door neighbours and some to the ends of the earth; and many to somewhere in between. We may go to our colleagues at work, or friends at school or university. Or to friends in sports clubs or on social media. The going is limitless. It’s not about how far you go or how you go—really or virtually—it’s simply a matter of going and taking his love to those who have not yet encountered it. And there are plenty of those.

Now the chords have been played and the simple messages are complete.

  • Jesus says Come, Follow, Go!

But Jesus also warns his disciples not to go yet. Something else, or rather Someone else, is necessary. We need fire!

Once when he was eating with them, [Jesus] commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4-5, 8

Fire!

We could work up some fire, but our own zeal is not going to get us far. That fire is more likely to burn us out.

But there is a fire that burns without consuming and this is the fire that will turn three simple messages like those above into a life-changing moment for those listening.

John the Baptist said this:

“I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Luke 3:16

He was speaking about Jesus. And in Acts 2 we read about the fire arriving and settling on the early disciples in such power that when Peter went outside and preached 3000 people believed in Jesus.

“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”

Acts 2:1-4

When the Holy Spirit is present, there is the fire.

Three chords and fire: a simple message and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Resolution

Finally, the chord progression must resolve and return to where it began. Back to C. Once again the message is “Come!”

Now it’s the end of the story, as revealed to John, but the message is the same.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

Revelation 22:17

The invitation is always there. Come! Follow! Go!

Let’s spread the simple, three-chord, Good News with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

Related post: Come home, all is forgiven!