Tuesday, February 09, 2016

ADVENTURES IN MOTEL CHURCH



I’ve talked a lot about our adventures in “Motel Church” over the years. For those who might not be up to speed, our family started serving people who live at a local motel about 12 years ago. We started out just bringing free groceries and setting up a bounce house for the kids. No one preached, no one passed out literature. We simply loved people and blessed them. When they asked us why we would do this we told them about the love of Jesus and let them know that because Jesus had loved us, and because He loved them, we wanted to share that love in tangible ways.

Eventually another church showed up [Saddleback Church] and started serving breakfast on Sunday mornings. We helped them out with that for a few years, and then eventually our partnership developed into starting an actual church that meets every Sunday morning in the back parking lot. We read through the scriptures together, one book at a time, and we share breakfast together, and we pray for one another and try to learn what it means to follow Jesus where we live.

Today, several other Christian brothers and sisters from other local churches have showed up to serve and to share to help out. It’s been really amazing to partner with these wonderful people in this Kingdom work.

For most of this time, our house church family has not been directly involved in this work. Yes, their offerings have been spent to help people in need here, and their donations have made a huge impact over this time. Several in our house church have shown up to serve now and then, but these were usually limited to our monthly Saturday grocery ministry, not the Sunday morning Motel Church services.

This was partially by design. Wendy and I, and our boys, have always felt a calling to this motel. We’ve actually been serving here longer than we’ve been doing house church! But as much as we feel called to this, we also haven’t wanted to impose our passion and calling on anyone else. So, we’ve always shared what God was doing through this ministry, and we’ve always let people know they were welcome to join us, but we’ve also gone out of our way not to make anyone feel pressured or guilted into anything.

Once a month, when I would teach at the Motel Church, our house church family would meet without us. That was also by design. We were actively trying to help everyone see that we were not “the leaders” and that there was nothing special or overtly spiritual about our home, or our leadership within the house church family. During that time it was actually great to hear what the Lord was doing on those Sundays when we weren’t there!

But about a year ago I invited our house church family to consider taking one Sunday a month and serving breakfast at the Motel Church. At first it was just a suggestion. They could have said “no”. But we talked about it and everyone was interested in trying it – at least once. If we didn’t like it, we could just say, “that was nice” and move on. No expectations were placed on anyone by anyone. So, we tried it. It was great. So, we decided to try it for the next three months and reevaluate after that. We did. Everyone loved serving, so we decided to commit for a six month window. That turned into an every month commitment.

Now, I want to tell you what just happened.

Over the last few months, I have taken a step back from my usual role as teacher at the Motel Church. As much as I do love to teach, and as much as everyone has been encouraging me to continue doing it, I really felt like I needed to give everything away. So, I did.

Actually, it wasn’t even my idea. It was my youngest son, David, who suggested it at first. We were talking about how to engage people at the Motel more in our discussion time. He suggested we break into smaller groups and get more intimate with everyone to hear what they were thinking about the scriptures and to listen to what they were struggling with in their daily life.

The first Sunday we tried that, it was great. I introduced the scripture we were going to cover and we each took turns reading verses out loud together. Then I passed out a few questions to some of our own house church family members who were each seated at various tables. They started asking the questions, and then people started talking, and sharing. I stood back and watched them listening, nodding, sharing, and even spontaneously praying for one another. It was glorious!

I even gave away the guitar playing during worship time which allowed one of our younger members to step in and lead, and people seemed to respond even more to what was happening than when I was doing it all myself.

Last Sunday I sat back and marveled as our house church family showed up early, shared the food they had prepared at home, served it to hungry people in the food line, sat down at the tables alongside everyone else, helped lead the discussion from the book of Acts, and hold hands with people at their table as they lifted up their needs in prayer. I also watched them lead worship, clean tables, stack chairs, make friends, share life, pass out hugs, make new friends and step deeper into the lives of these dear people we have come to love and cherish at the motel.

My heart is so full! We get to be the church in such marvelous ways. We get to make disciples by being disciples who disciple one another in beautiful ways.

Honestly, I am so glad I stepped out of the way so that the rest of the Body could grow into their calling and embrace their identity as servant lovers in the Kingdom of God.

This new season we’re experiencing together is really wonderful and I’m loving every minute of it!

Halleluiah!


-kg

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Love Always Protects



“Love...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” [1 Cor. 13:6]

In my ongoing debates with other Christians concerning the nonviolent, proactive agape of Jesus versus a more pro-violence and Nationalist viewpoint, the idea of protecting the innocent often arises.

I’ve already written one article addressing this, but to recap - anyone who kills to protect their family or friends is still only demonstrating the same kind of love that everyone else does. As Jesus puts it: “If you love only those who love you in return, what credit is that to you?”

Instead, Jesus calls Christians to go above and beyond this and to actually love our enemies.

I know it's a hard one to swallow, but Jesus has no commands for us about protecting others. [More on this in a moment].

So, what are we to do with a verse like 1 Cor. 13: 6 which says that “Love…always protects”? Doesn’t that prove that Jesus really does want us to protect the innocent? Well, for some the answer is an automatic “Yes!”, but let's ask a few questions first:

Do we see Jesus protecting the innocent? No, we don’t. 

Do we see Jesus urging us to protect the safety of others? No, we do not.

Do we see Paul, or any of the other Apostles, or the earliest Christians, protecting one another from danger or death? Again, the answer is no.

What, then, does Paul mean when he says that “Love…always protects?”

I think it depends on what you mean by “Protect”.  Usually, the Christians who debate this issue of justifiable force or redemptive violence translate “protecting others” as “using violence against the bad guys” and that most certainly is not what Paul means here.

But he also doesn’t mean “do nothing and sit back while people get brutalized” either.

Believe it or not, there is a middle ground between “capping the perps with your nine” and “dancing barefoot while wearing daisies in your hair.”

For those who seek to follow Jesus and to embody the practice of agape love, protection looks like stepping in front of the bullet, or inserting your body between the victim and the attacker. It means sacrificing yourself to save someone else.

I heard someone tell a story once that illustrated this kind of love perfectly.

Several years ago, my friend, [we’ll call him Joe], was visiting India as a young Christian. He wanted to save the world. He thought he could bring the Kingdom all by himself. One day he was walking in the streets of Delhi and he walked up on a circle of policemen beating an old man with their clubs. They stopped and looked at him for a moment. He was the only white man on the street. They waited to see what he would say, what he would do. Even the old man, trembling there on the street, looked up at him and waited to see what he would do next. In a moment of shameful indecision and impotence my friend, not knowing what else he could do, just kept on walking, and as he walked away he heard the beating continue.

When he got back to his room he wept and cried out to God to forgive him.

About five years later, this friend, “Joe”, was living in the home of a poor family in Santa Ana, California, as their guest. He wasn’t there to change the world. He just wanted to learn about their struggles, and to serve in any way he could. One day he heard shouting outside. One of the teenage boys from the family he was staying with was being beaten by a local gang. Immediately, he ran outside and pushed his way through the circle of bodies. When he saw his friend laying on the ground, face bloodied as he was repeatedly kicked and punched, this person didn’t hesitate; he fell on top of his friend and covered him with his own body. After just a few more punches, everything stopped. The gang leader told him to get out of the way. He refused. “You’re loco,” they told him. But he didn’t move. They eventually left.

Afterwards, my friend said he started thinking about why he had done that. The Lord showed him. “Your love compelled you,” he heard the Spirit whisper, and then his mind flashed back to that memory, years ago in India, when he had seen that old man being beaten and done nothing. He understood, at last, what the difference was. It was love. He didn’t need to think about what to do when his heart was filled with love.

As our hearts are filled more and more with the love of Christ, we also will respond as His love compels us. We will, like Jesus, lay down our lives for one another.
We will protect others, not with violence, but with sacrificial devotion.

“Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for a friend.” – Jesus


-kg

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Transformation [Not Information]



Do you think of the Gospel as being information or as a transformation?

You might be tempted to think that it's both, or that it really doesn't matter how you think of the Gospel, but I believe it matters a great deal.

For example, if we think of the Gospel as mainly information, then we become lawyers and modern Pharisees who argue semantics and debate doctrine. Salvation is seen as having the right information - the right beliefs and doctrines, in the right order. Those who have different information than we do are heretics. Those who accept our information are "saved" and those who don't are either not truly Christians or their salvation is in question.

But Jesus speaks of a Gospel that is based on an intimate relationship with himself. He talks about the Gospel as being primarily about transformation, not mere information.

He proclaims the Good News [Gospel] of the Kingdom by urging everyone to "think different" [Metanoia in the Greek; usually translated as "Repent!" in most English translations].

He points out that it's impossible for a bad tree to produce good fruit and that if you don't first "make the tree good" you'll never produce good fruit.

Through the Gospel, Jesus makes us good trees who can produce the good fruit of righteousness which is pleasing to God. [See Matt. 12:33]

Jesus says that life in the Kingdom comes when we "know God and the Christ whom He has sent" [John 17:3]

That word translated "know" is not about information. It's the same word used to say that "Adam 'knew' Eve" and that involves an intimacy; a way of knowing that conceives new life within.

So, we are called to "know God" and to "know Christ" in an intimate way that conceives a new life within us - the new life of the Kingdom that comes only as we abide in Him and He abides in us.

That's a relationship where we are daily learning to love Him more as we come to "know this love that surpasses knowledge" and become "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." [Eph. 3:19]

If the Gospel is merely information, then we don't need a relationship with a living person who transforms us. Just give me the information and I'll study it and memorize it and enforce the proper communication of that information. 

But if the Gospel is about a transforming relationship with a vibrant, fantastic being of light and love, then we will certainly receive information about Him, but this will go far beyond mere data and exponentially transcend human knowledge to explode into an intimacy that conceives something new within. 

Jesus wants to change us. He wants us to become more like himself. We should desire that, too. The way we are transformed into His image is to immerse ourselves in Him and surrender ourselves completely to Him so that He can make us into the good trees that bear good fruit. 

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." [1 Jn. 3:2]

-kg


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

PLEASE STOP TITHING



If you are in the habit of calculating ten percent of your paycheck and writing a check to your local church, please stop.

God does not want your tithe. In fact, there's only one thing Jesus asks of you and it's called "Everything".

In the OT, God asked for 10%. In the New Covenant, God gets 100%.

"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." - Jesus [Luke 14:33]

The early church called this the doctrine of renunciation. Many modern Christians have reverted back to the Tithe, or "10 Percent" model, but Jesus asks for everything.

Did you know: The Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century under Charlemagne? Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be?

To begin with, offerings in the early church were voluntary and freely given out of love. Most gave more than a tithe (or "tenth"), instead many of them sold their property and shared what they had with those around them who were in need. This offering wasn't given out of compulsion, or due to obedience to a law or a command of the Church. No, it was freely shared out of spontaneous and sincere love.

"Freely you have received; freely give." - Jesus [Matt. 10:8]

Just look at what Tertullian, a second century Christian, tells us about what the early Church did with their offerings:

“Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old…

“So we, who are united in mind and soul, have no hesitation about sharing property. All is common among us- except our wives. At that point we dissolve our partnership.."


(An excerpt from his “Apology”, taken from “Roman Civilization Sourcebook II: The Empire, p.588)

Notice how they think of this offering:
*People give "modest contribution[s]"
*They give "whatever they wish"
*They give "only if they do wish"
*They give "only if they can"
*"Nobody is compelled" to give
*Offerings are strictly "voluntary", not compulsory 

Look at what they do with the money they receive:
*They "feed the poor"
*They "bury the poor"
*It belongs to "boys and girls who lack property and parents"
*And to "slaves grown old"

Note also that there is no mention of that offering being given to pay pastors or elders among them. Hmm...

Under the New Covenant, Christians are also set free from the idea of worshiping only one day a week, which was commanded under the Old Covenant. Now, under the New Covenant, every day is holy to the Lord. 

Notice that the New Covenant Christians met on only one day of the week - Every day:

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." - [Acts 2:46-47]

Under the New Covenant, our worship is a daily undertaking:

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross DAILY and follow me." - Jesus [Luke 9:23]

There is also no longer any one Holy Place where everyone must worship [ala the Temple in Jerusalem] because now WE are the living Temple of God, where He dwells by His Spirit.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." [1 Cor. 6;19-20]


This is what we are called to.

Everything we own is God's. We enter the Kingdom by laying everything we own - our very bodies and souls - upon the cross, and then we set out daily to follow the crucified One.

When we see someone in need, we share what we have with them. If the Lord requires something from us, we let go and trust Him for our daily bread.

Because we know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us, we can freely give - even as we have freely received.

This is what giving is like in the Kingdom. God owns much more than 10 percent. He owns 100 percent.

So, stop tithing, and start sharing freely whatever the Lord asks you to give, out of love and a sincere heart.

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." [2 Cor. 9:7]
-kg

*IMAGE CREDIT: Scott Laumann

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Session 3: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]







His Teaching: The Parables of Jesus
Subversive Radio Podcast

Why did Jesus primarily speak in Parables or stories? Why didn't he just speak plainly to everyone? What were these stories all about? Why did these stories resonate so powerfully with so many?
In this podcast we examine the Parables of Jesus.
Click the link to listen in!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BETTER THAN



In the book of Hebrews, we see a recurring theme about how everything concerning Jesus is “better than” what has come before.
As it says in Hebrews 7:19:
“…(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”
And what is that “better hope”? It’s Jesus. And Jesus has also “become the guarantor of a better covenant” [Heb. 7:22] which is “established on better promises” [Heb. 8:6], and is purified “with better sacrifices.” [Heb. 9:23]
His New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant because it’s unconditional and everlasting. His promises are better because they are all “yes and amen” in Christ. [2 Cor. 1:20] His sacrifices are better because he “desires mercy, not sacrifice” [Matt. 9:13]
Because of this, we who have entered into this New Covenant can more easily “suffer along with those in prison and joyfully accept the confiscation of our property, because [we] know that we [have] better and lasting possessions.” [Heb. 10:34]
Our treasure is in heaven, where our hearts are also, and we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness rather than material gain or earthly prosperity. [See Matt. 6]
We are also “longing for a better country” [Heb. 11:6] and “an even better resurrection.” [Heb. 11:35]
These are accessible only through Jesus. He enables us to enter the Kingdom of God here and now, not just on the day we die. He guarantees a better resurrection which is eternal and sure.
The Old Covenant, which is now “obsolete” [Heb. 8:13] has been fulfilled because “…Jesus [is] the mediator of a new covenant” and His blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” [Heb. 12:24]
Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground for vengeance on his brother Cain who killed him, but the blood of Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and that mercy and grace and love are so much better than mere justice.
Yes, in all ways, Jesus is “Better Than” what has come before. Jesus gives us a better hope, a better covenant, better promises, better sacrifices, better possessions, a better country, a better resurrection and a better word – “love” – than anyone or anything else could ever give us.
What could be better than Jesus?
Nothing!
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” [Ps. 63:3]
 -kg
 **
READ THE REST OF THIS SERIES:

BONUS: 
Hebrews in a nutshell: 
Jesus is greater than the prophets (Hebrews 1:1–4). Jesus is greater than the angels (Hebrews 1:5–2:17). Jesus is greater than the priests (Hebrews 2:18–3:2). Jesus is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:3–4:13). Jesus is greater than Melchizedek (Hebrews 4:14–7:28). Jesus is greater than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:1–9:28). Jesus is greater than the Law (Hebrews 10:1–39). We must therefore remain faithful to Jesus (Hebrews 11:1–13:25).

*Thanks to Chuck McKnight for compiling this list.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Session 2: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics] - His Message







Session 2 of "Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]" examines the message of Jesus. What was his main point? What did he talk about more than anything else? What is is that Jesus himself says was the reason that he had come?

Listen in to find out.