Monday, July 25, 2016

THE ASTOUNDING TRUTH ABOUT LOVE



God is love. He made us in His own image.

We are the objects of His undying affection.

Literally.

He would rather die than live without us and He proved that for us a very long time ago.

We were made by love to be loved.

When we receive love, we are receiving God, who is love.

To be loved is why we were created. When we are loved we are fulfilling our purpose.

This is why it is so tragic that many of us struggle with love.

We doubt that God loves us.

We deflect God’s love because we are convinced we’re not worthy of it.

We dismiss the love of others for the same reason.

Yet love is why we are here.

Without love, we are nothing.

Without the love of Christ, we can’t love others.

Without God’s love we can’t see Him or hear Him as He intended.

God is love. If we resist love, we resist God.

Here is the truth:

Love made us.

Love sets us free.

Love removes all fear.

Love reunites us with God (who is love).

Love restores our identity (as people who were made to be loved).

Love allows us to see others as they are (people who are made by love to be loved).

Love endures all things.

Love overcomes.

Love transforms us.

Love never dies.

The part of us that is loved is the part of us that is eternally intertwined with God (who is love).

Do you know who made you?

Love made you.

Do you know why?

So that you could be loved.

Do you know who you are?

You are loved.

-kg

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-21)


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Friday, July 22, 2016

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T VOTE



For most Christians the idea of not voting sounds sacrilegious. But following Jesus means turning away from the “patterns of this world” in favor of a better way – the Kingdom of God.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t vote if you follow Christ:

1. Because in over 6,000 years of human history, politics hasn’t solved any of our basic problems

2. Because politics divides the Body of Christ and creates false “us vs them” mentality

3. Because we will one day give an account to God for how we spent our time/money and investing in such an ineffective system is unjustified.

4. Because politics is about writing, passing and enforcing laws. Even God’s law wasn’t capable of creating the change we need. Why do we think we can do better?

5. Because when you have the power to change every human heart from within and make people brand new inside you don’t waste time on politics

6. Because we realize that to have a Christian nation you need to start with a nation of Christians. By making disciples we’re collaborating with Jesus to remake the world from within.

7. Because the Gospel is not spread through political actions or laws.

8. Because we admit that seeking political solutions to mankind’s problems is the same as giving up on the power of the Gospel to change people from within.

9. Because passing laws that force people to act Christian isn’t the same as making people like Christ.

10. Because our core problems, as a human race, are spiritual in nature. That means the only solution is spiritual.

11. Because politics is ultimately about compromise, power and corruption and no follower of Jesus needs to get entangled in those things.

12. Because human governments are essentially focused on gaining power and national wealth through violence and war.

13. Because politics is part of the world system we are called out of and saved from. It is one of the entanglements the scriptures call us to avoid.

14. Because the currency of politics are fame, money, power, manipulation and lies.

15. Because politics involves raising and spending billions of dollars which could better be used to build the Kingdom, feed the poor, care for the sick and comfort the outcast.

16. Because the NT portrays the enemies of Jesus as “the nations” and “the Kings of the earth”, we must stand with Jesus and work to advance His Kingdom, not promote earthly governments or leaders.

17. Because choosing between the lesser of two evils is still a choice for evil.

One of the most dangerous entanglements faced by Christians is in politics. Why? Simply because those who become entangled in politics do so out of a sincere desire to make a positive difference in the world. But rather than employ the methods that Jesus gave to us, they are attempting to change the world using the world’s systems.

Jesus did not come to give us more of the same, but with a cross on top. No, He came to show us a new and different way than anything we had ever even imagined before. This is why He started His Sermon on the Mount by urging all of us to “think differently” about everything. He had different ideas like overcoming evil with good, loving our enemies, and laying down our lives for one another.

Of course, every Christian hopes to make an impact on the world. But Jesus has the very best possible plan for changing the world from the inside out – without bloodshed or oppression or violence.

No, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the world a better place. The problem is in seeking to do so without Jesus. Or, worse, to mix Christianity with Politics.

You know what you get when you mix religion and politics? You get politics.

Jesus shows us a better way.

Let's follow Him.

-kg

Thursday, July 21, 2016

NOT MY FLAG




Many Christians love bumper sticker slogans like “Not of this World”, but strangely don’t consider what that really means.
To say you are “not of this world” means you don’t participate in the ways of this world. Some of those ways include: Politics, War, Nationalism, the Pursuit of Money or Fame, etc.

Most Christians reduce the slogan to only cover things like “Lust, Envy, Murder, Adultery”, etc., and while they are correct that Christians should not practice those sins, that’s not what the scriptures are referring to when they instruct us to “not love the world or anything in it” [1 John 2:15]

The World is just that: the World. This includes Governments, Kingdoms, Rulers, Nations and the like.

Notice that we are told not to love 2 things: “The World” and “Anything in the World”.

If we were only told not to love “anything in the World”, then we could be sure that our list would only include things like “lust, pride, envy, murder”, etc. But instead we are told not to love “The World” [which is the larger reality] and not to love “Anything in the World” [which would be the activities and practices of people within that world].

Pledging allegiance to Jesus is about submitting to His rule and reign over your life. As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, we live under His laws. We are obedient to the Nation of God which stands in total opposition to every other kingdom and nation on this earth.

Those who become citizens of Christ’s Kingdom renounce their citizenship and their loyalty to their birth-nation.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – [Romans 12:2]

The "pattern of this world" is obvious. People form tribes, establish governments, select rulers, write laws, and begin to seek the power necessary to dominate other nations around them. This is the way of the world, but it is not the way of the Kingdom of Christ. 

Our way is love. Our new pattern was established by Jesus, our King. It's not about exercising power over others, it's about exerting our power to come beneath others and love them as Christ loved us. 

Once you have become a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, your relationship with your previous country of origin shifts. You are no longer loyal to the charter of that government. Instead you are now an ambassador of Christ and His Kingdom. This means you do not participate in the politics of that country where you serve as liaison. You are now an agent of a Holy Nation which stands apart from all other nations. You now have no other King but Christ. Yes, as an ambassador you obey the laws of the nation you live in, but whenever those laws contradict your home nation’s laws, you must not obey them, even if it means suffering the consequences.

At issue is "How do we as followers of Jesus best impact our culture?" Jesus had an answer: "Go into all the world and preach the Good News of the Kingdom, making disciples and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you."

There are no scriptures about voting or running for office, but there are plenty of NT verses about not being entangled with the affairs of this world...and what's more "an affair of this world" than Politics or War?

As the Apostle Paul told us:

"No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer." - [2 Tim. 2:4]

We are soldiers in another army – the army of God. We are fighting for His Holy Nation, not the nations of this earth which only seek to gain power and wealth at the expense of others.

So, once we enlist as soldiers in His army and become citizens of His Kingdom, we look at other nations and say, “That’s not my nation.” We look at other flags and say, “That’s not my flag.”

As soldiers who fight for the Nation of God, we have to keep in mind a few things:

*Our weapons are not carnal. [2 Cor. 10:4]

*Our enemies are not other people. [Eph. 6:12]

*We do not fight with violence, but with proactive displays of Christ’s transformational love. [1 Cor. 4:9]



As citizens of a new, eternal and Holy Nation, we also must remember:

*Our fellow citizens are from every tongue, and tribe, and nation on this globe. [Rev. 7:9-10]

*Christ is not partisan. He is radically inclusive. [Matt. 28:19]

*This world is not our home. [1 Peter 2:11]

*Those who remain entangled in the affairs of worldly nations must be set free [Rev. 18:4]

*Every nation and empire on this planet is already doomed to fail [including America] and will soon be overcome by His Kingdom [Rev. 11:15]

*We cannot serve two nations or two masters. Our loyalty must be to Christ’s Kingdom alone. [Matt. 6:24]


Sadly, many Christians today have forgotten all of these things. Or, they never knew these things because they were never preached from the pulpit, or they never read the Gospel first-hand.

Instead, these Christians tearfully pledge allegiance a national flag. They proudly affirm that their nation is the best. They send their children to fight and die for the advancement of their nation’s values and corporate interests. They are more upset when someone disrespects their country’s flag than when someone blasphemes their King. They are more moved to tears at the sound of their national anthem than they are when they encounter the oppression of people that Jesus loved enough to die for.

For those Christians who are untangled from the affairs of this world, politics are pointless attempts by mere mortals to solve problems which are not political in nature.

Those who remain entangled in worldly politics can only write and pass laws. But for those who have pledged their allegiance to Christ’s Kingdom is granted the power to transform hearts and renew minds.

Those who have transferred their citizenship over to the Nation of God know this: The world is being remade from within. Even now the Gospel of Jesus is constantly making all things new and changing human hearts to be more like Jesus. When change comes to this world it will not be from the outside in, but from the inside out.

This is why we have abandoned the call to conform to the patterns of this world: War, Politics, Nationalism, Tribalism, Patriotism, Greed, Wealth, Fame, Fashion, and the like.

We understand that transformation is our King’s battle plan.

For millennia, men and women have been establishing governments and selecting kings and queens to rule over them; each time with the same results.

The definition of insanity is this: “Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”

We choose to abandon these empty and foolish patterns. We reject the insanity. Instead, we embrace transformation. We choose to love. We resolve to put into practice the commands of our King and we await the coming of His Kingdom on earth.

And when it arrives we won’t have any trouble adjusting to it, because we will have already been living under His rule and reign all of our lives.

Let His Kingdom come!

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” [Rev. 11:15]

“And the spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” [Rev. 22:17]

“Even so, come Lord Jesus” [Rev. 22:20]


-kg


Monday, July 18, 2016

Magnificent Exchange



The other day I came across this amazing statement from Jesus and it made me stop and consider something profound.

The statement comes in the middle of a long section where Jesus is praying to the Father just before he goes to the cross. It’s an incredibly moving and inspirational prayer that allows us an opportunity to listen in on how Jesus prays and right in the middle of it all he says this:

“All I have is yours and all that’s yours is mine.” – Jesus [John 17:10]

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed this verse before, and if so I certainly never stopped to consider what Jesus meant by this and what implications it might have for my own life.

Just before he says this, Jesus says to the Father:

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” [John 17:6-9]

Simply put, Jesus is praying for the disciples here. When he says “they” or “them” he’s referring to Peter, James, John, and the rest of the disciples. He says he is praying for “those you have given me, for they are yours” which means the disciples, specifically were given to Jesus by the Father and yet they still remain the Father’s. [Are you following this?]

So, the Father gave Jesus these disciples and even though the Father gave them to Jesus, they still belong to the Father. That’s when Jesus drops this last part which is what I found so interesting:

“All I have is yours and all that’s yours is mine.” [in v. 10]

That means, in context, that NOT ONLY did the disciples first belong to the Father and were then given to Jesus and yet still belonged to the Father, but now Jesus adds this last bit that says, in essence: Everything I have is actually yours and everything that belongs to me is yours, too.

It’s such an amazing display of complete and total trust, isn’t it?

Can you imagine praying this exact same prayer yourself?

“Dear Father God, all I have is yours now, and I know that all that you have is mine now, too.

That, my friends, is deep stuff.

I think it says that when we truly surrender all, we can fully receive everything that God has for us.

There’s a lot there to mediate on, actually. What is the relationship between my letting go of everything and my ability to receive everything that belongs to God?

It’s a powerful question. Maybe it means that if all I have isn’t His, then what belongs to Him isn’t yet mine? There’s the idea of opening our hands to allow God to take away or put into our hands whatever He thinks best.

What if we thought of it the other way around, though? What if the reason Jesus could so easily say “All I have is yours” is because He was already aware of the fact that all God has was his?

I tend to think of things conditionally. Like, when/if I make this huge sacrifice and let go of everything, THEN I’ll get to enjoy the blessings of all that belongs to God being imparted to my account.

But what if  it doesn’t work like that? What if we simply start with the realization of the truth that we are already recipients of all that belongs to God? Now how hard is it for you to give up your petty little objects of affection? You’re already the inheritor of “all that belongs to God”! This means you have received inexpressible joy and love that transcends knowledge and peace that passes understanding and mercies that are new every morning and grace so amazing it boggles the mind.

This is exactly what Jesus was alluding to in the Parable of the Prodigal Son when the Father tells the older brother: 

“’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” [Luke 15:31]

Whoa. How amazing is that, my friends?

To turn it around another way, try thinking of this statement from Jesus as being something He would say to you and to me: “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.”

Is that true? Is everything that belongs to Jesus mine? Is all that I have the property of Jesus?

If not, then why? This is a marvelous exchange we are invited to partake in.

If Bill Gates showed up on your doorstep tonight and said, “I’ll trade lives with you”, you’d be an idiot to say no.

Now, imagine that Jesus says to you right now: “All I have is yours and all you have is mine.”

The only rational answer is: “Yes, Lord. Thank you!”

What do you think? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below.

Peace,
-kg

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

In Christ?




A few months ago I started to notice something: Paul uses the phrase “In Christ” in a very interesting way. At first I was only aware of a few places where he used the phrase and I was often quoting his use in Romans 8:1:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..”

Over a few weeks of time I found myself reminding people that they are “in Christ” and because of that fact, this verse was true of them; they were not under any condemnation whatsoever.

Eventually, I started seeing a few other verses where Paul used the phrase, like:

“…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” [Rom.6:23]

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Rom. 6:11]

“For I am convinced that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 8:39]

“…so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” [Rom. 12:5]


What I started to realize was this: Paul had in mind a positional reality where those of us who were “in Christ” were beneficiaries of a specific set of blessings or conditions that those who were outside of Christ did not have.

To further research my theory, I searched online for the phrase “In Christ” and I found over 33 verses in the New Testament – mostly from Paul – which described what life looks like if, and when, we are found “in Christ”.

There are honestly too many verses to unpack individually here in a single blog article, unfortunately, but the truth is that Paul held a consistent belief about being “in Christ” and he constantly referred to it in his writings and teaching.

I’m not suggesting there’s some “hidden” teaching here. I’m saying that Paul believed that being “in Christ” was possible, and that it produces a specific set of realities that he plainly and very openly communicates all through his letters. What’s happened, I believe, is that we have glossed over the phrase “in Christ” as if it were some sort of religious terminology without fully taking the time to think about what Paul means by it.

Simply put, what Paul believes about the experience of being “in Christ” is hiding in plain sight. All we have to do is start paying close attention to how and when Paul uses this phrase – and he uses it quite a lot – to understand what it really means for us to be “in Christ”.

One example of this is powerfully expressed in 2 Corinthians 3:14:

“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.”

That is profound stuff because he’s letting us know that being “in Christ” opens our eyes about the old covenant and allows us to see clearly. It means that if we are not looking at the old covenant through the eyes of Jesus, we are blind. Jesus reveals everything we need to know about the old covenant scriptures. It also means we don’t try to use the old covenant scriptures to modify Jesus. Why? Because only “in Christ is [the veil] taken away”, not the other way around.

Remember this:

“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”[2 Cor.5:17]Jesus makes into new creatures – right here and right now. This is a present experience we can enjoy today, if we are “in Christ”.

As I said, this is a deep and far-reaching study that I hope to explore further in the future, but for now I encourage you to do your own study. The easiest way is to go online to BibleGateway.com and search “in Christ”[with quotations] and then write down a list of qualities that are attributed to those who are “in Christ”.

I think the results will be quite edifying.

Be sure to let me know what you learn in the comments below.

Thanks,



kg

Friday, July 08, 2016

UNJUSTIFIABLE



The shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge this week was unjustifiable.

The shooting of Philando Cortise the next day in Minnesotta was unjustifiable.

The shooting the next day in Dallas of 10 police officers, 5 of whom died, was also unjustifiable.

We cannot justify any more violence.

We cannot use violence to justify.

Violence destroys. It does not create justice.

Someone has to break the pattern of violence.

Someone has to decide to respond to violence with love.

Until then, unjustifiable actions will continue.

Love really is the answer.

We just have to put it into practice.


-kg

Thursday, July 07, 2016

BREAKING MY SILENCE



There are a half dozen other articles I had planned to write this week, but until I say this I can’t bring myself to write anything else.
America has a problem. We know that this country has several serious problems, actually, but this one is getting worse by the day and we can’t afford to remain silent about it any longer.
Black people in this country – especially black men – are routinely harassed, beaten, tased and shot to death, simply for being black.
We have to admit: Black lives do not matter in the same way that White lives do.
Please understand: Everything I say here is directed entirely at the Christian Church in America. This is not about politics. This is not about ideology. This is about what it means to follow Jesus and counting the cost.
I watched a video clip the other day from a black woman who called for White males to stand up and speak out on this issue of violence against black people. She said that it didn’t matter how many black people went and protested and marched and held signs calling for justice in front of the courthouse. They’ve done that. It doesn’t change anything.
I believe she is right.
But, if just 50 white men stood outside the courthouse in Baton Rouge and held signs demanding justice for Alton Sterling, it would create a bigger ripple than if 200 black people did the same thing.
I hate saying that, and I hate that we live in a country where this is the case, but it is, indeed, the case.
Black people in this country need advocates, and they need advocates that have power and influence and privileges that they do not – and will not – ever have. At least, not until we stand up next to them and demand that they receive equal treatment and respect.
Power in America rests in the hands of white males. We are the ultimate in privilege.
Don’t believe me? Then if you’re a white male I challenge you to seriously ask yourself if you would trade places with a black man. Would you be willing to grow up in a black neighborhood? Would you be willing to go to a black school where the quality of education is reduced? Would you be willing to grow up in poverty? Would you be willing to have people treat you differently – as “less than” a man? Would you trade all of your opportunities for advancement with someone who is looked at with suspicion? Would you trade your life with the life of Alton Sterling, or Tamir Rice, or Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown?
This is the reality for black men in America today:
Carry a legal weapon in your pocket and you’ll get shot.
Carry a BB gun off the shelf at a Wal-Mart and you’ll get shot.
No weapon? You may still get shot.
Hands in the air? Prepare to be shot.
Running away? Shot.
Toy gun? Also shot.
Twelve years old? Shot dead and no charges against the officers.
In fact, no charges for any officers in any shooting cases where black people were shot dead without cause.
These are “unfortunate accidents,” they say. These are “isolated incidents.”
Never mind that they happen every other day.
Never mind that white people point loaded guns at cops and do not get shot.
Never mind that white people shoot people to death in a church, or a movie theater, and still get treated tenderly and respectfully without getting shot and earn their day in court.
There is an inequity here that needs to be addressed.
I believe the problem is two-fold:
First, we have to admit that we are living in a culture where racism is still alive and well. We have to admit this. We have to intentionally work to change this.
Second, we need to admit that there is a problem with the way our police departments use deadly force. We need to systematically re-train our police officers to change their tactics when it comes to drawing their weapons. The training should start with the largest metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, etc., and then move on to smaller districts and counties.
Christians in America especially need to elevate this issue of police violence against minorities. We need to make it as important an issue as abortion, or religious freedom.
We have to stop standing on the side of the oppressors and we have to quit making excuses for why the oppressed “deserved” what happened to them.
We need to advocate for the oppressed, and that includes minorities, and LGBTQ, and Muslims, and victims of rape, and the poor, and immigrants, just to name a few.
There is a concept in the Bible called “Shalom”. It’s about much more than “peace”. It’s about a community  where everyone enjoys the peace of God. It’s the idea that everyone has enough food, and shelter, and peace, and opportunity as everyone else. If everyone in the community doesn’t enjoy this shalom, then no one has it.
The idea was floated in the Old Covenant, but it was never actually realized until right after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on the people of God and they began to love one another as Jesus loved them. Suddenly, they were selling their property and sharing what they had with those who had nothing. Why? Because they had been touched and transformed by the love of Christ.
The result was that “there was not a needy person among them.”
So, if we have been touched and transformed by the love of Christ, we also need to seek the “shalom” of everyone in our community. If there are some among us – especially if they are brothers and sisters in Christ – and they have no shalom, then none of us can really enjoy it either.
I’m here to tell you that you and I have brothers and sisters in the black community who are desperate for shalom. They have no rest. They have no peace. They haven’t the opportunities that you and I in the white community enjoy and take for granted.
This means that it doesn’t matter what anyone does or does not “deserve”. What matters is how we want others to treat us, and then extending that same treatment to everyone – especially those who are on the outside looking in.
I wish I could afford to fly to Baton Rouge and stand outside the courthouse holding a sign that says “Justice For Alton Sterling!” with 40 other white Christian men. I wish I could mobilize a group of white Christians willing to stand up and link arms with members of the black community and say in unison with them: “Enough of the violence against black people!”
But here’s what I can do: I can speak up. I can raise my voice. I can risk my reputation among other white people by taking a stand against this systemic racism and violence.
Here's what I cannot do: I cannot trade places with Alton Sterling, or Philando Castile, or Trayvon Martin, or Tamir Rice. Because I am white and nothing can change that.
Here's what else I cannot do any longer: Remain silent and do nothing while more people are shot and killed because of the color of their skin.
Speak up. Stand with them. 
Our brothers and sisters need us now.
-kg