Friday, June 26, 2015

UNCONDITIONAL



On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a landmark decision regarding the definition of marriage for the entire nation.

What should we do about that?

Well, we could start by following Jesus. We could go out into all the world (not just this nation) and start to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to everyone. We could begin to teach people to obey everything that Jesus commanded. We could participate and collaborate with the Holy Spirit as He transforms people into the image of Christ. That's our job and our mission as Christians – regardless of what our Government does.

How should we treat LGBT individuals?

We should love them.

We should open our hearts, and our homes, and, yes, even our churches, to embrace them and welcome them and love them.

Forget the politics. Let the politicians do what politicians do, but please, let the Body of Christ do what She is called - and commanded - to do.

If we're successful in our endeavor, it won't matter what laws they pass.

Besides, if Christians were as concerned with loving everyone as they are with "being right" the whole world would have known Jesus' love by now.

It’s time to get our eyes on Jesus, and to start doing what he told us to do, and begin loving with the kind of extravagant love he expects us to be known for.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - Jesus (John 13:34)

Think about that verse for a moment. "As I have loved you," Jesus says, "so you must love one another." 

How has Jesus loved you? Did He love you because you did something first? Or did Jesus love you as you were - unconditionally?

Unconditional love is what brought us here. Unconditional love is what transforms us. Unconditional love is what Jesus pours out on us, and it's what we are commanded to pour out on everyone else.

What does "Unconditional" mean to you?

Love like that and I think we'll not only please our Father in Heaven, but we'll be demonstrating that we love our Lord Jesus. 

"If you love me, you will obey what I command." - Jesus (John 14:15)


"You are my friends if you do what I command"- Jesus (John 15:14)

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." - Jesus (John 14:21)

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching." - Jesus (John 14:23)

"He who does not love me will not obey my teaching." - Jesus (John 14:24)

"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.." - Jesus (John 15:10)
  
BONUS: 
For those of you who are fearful that America is falling away from previously held Biblical values, please remember that our faith was born under cruel, anti-Christian Roman Emperors who tortured and killed the followers of Jesus for sport. If America ever gets that bad (and I doubt that it ever will) we'll still be ok as long as we continue to follow Jesus and obey Him.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and continue to seek first the Kingdom of God. We are not called to become entangled in the affairs of this world. We are called to love people as Jesus loves them and to demonstrate the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus to the world around us.

And maybe, who knows, maybe in the process we might discover that we are the ones who are just as much in need of His transformative love and grace as anyone else in this world.

Amen?



-kg

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Subversive Radio Podcast] Still Embracing Constantine?



So, many House Church practitioners only disavow the Hierarchy model that Constantine introduced into the Church, but do not yet feel comfortable letting go of the Church/State political entanglements that he infused at the same time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Love Conquers Hate



On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV entered the West Nickel Mines School house holding a loaded gun. He proceeded to shoot ten girls, between the ages of 6 and 13 years old, and killed five of them.

Eventually he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

While stories like this are all-too-common in our world today, the reaction of the community was anything but.

This shooting had taken place in the Amish country of Bart Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The families who lost their daughters were filled with grief over the loss of their children, but they were also filled with the love of Christ.

This is why, instead of responding out of their despair, they followed the Prince of Peace and found the faith to act out the loving example of Jesus.

Just one week after the shooting, the same families who lost their daughters in this senseless and selfish act visited Marie Roberts, the wife of the man who had pulled the trigger and taken his own life.

They boldly, and sincerely, offered their complete forgiveness to her. They invited her to attend the funeral services for their slain daughters. They shared all relief funds sent to them with Mrs. Roberts and her own children who had lost their father that same day. They even attended the funeral of Charles Roberts and offered their loving support to his widow and his children.

This is love. This is true forgiveness and Christian compassion.

We saw this same brand of radical love and forgiveness a few days ago in Charleston, when the families of those who had lost their loved ones to the senseless shooting came face to face with the killer and sincerely forgave him.

Where do we find that kind of love? Where does it come from? Are these people just being religious? Are they pretending to love the one who killed their father, or mother, or sister or brother?

Or is it possible that the sort of love that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount is actually real?

Out of hate, love can conquer. Out of despair, hope can rise. Out of tragedy, forgiveness can overcome and transcend human emotion.

Jesus empowers those who follow Him and put His words into practice. He fills us with real life, and real love that most people can only dream about.

In times of great darkness and despair, this love shines like the sun and puts Jesus on display for everyone to see.

This is why we're called to love our enemies. This is why we are expected to overcome evil with good. Not so we can be door mats, but so that we can demonstrate to the world that the Gospel is real and that His love transforms us into people who can love in the face of tragedy and forgive even the greatest evils.

The message of the Gospel is subversive. It goes against the grain. It makes a real, dramatic, powerful difference at just the right time, and when no one could possibly even expect it.

This is what we are called to, as followers of Christ. We are called to love extravagantly and to forgive inexplicably, and to demonstrate to the world that Jesus is alive inside of us.

Let the Kingdom come.

-kg

*Updated 6/23/15

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anabaptists and Evangelicals: The Differences




By Nolan Martin

What are the distinctive beliefs of Anabaptists? The first difference, and perhaps the only difference many Anabaptists would mention, is their belief in nonresistance, which Evangelicals do not hold. 

Although this visible divergence is a significant difference, it springs from deeper doctrinal differences. The most basic of these differences lies in the interpretation of Scripture. Although both groups believe in the authority of Scripture and would even use similar methods to interpret Scripture, Anabaptists approach the Bible with some different presuppositions that lead to vastly different outcomes.

First, an Anabaptist interpretation of Scripture is centered on the teachings of Christ and his call to discipleship. The rest of Scripture is then viewed through this lens and interpreted so as not to contradict the teachings of Christ, the head of the church. This produces different conclusions than when interpretation is centered on the writings of Paul as often seen in Evangelical teaching. A Christ-centered interpretation maintains that Christ's teachings can be followed with God's enabling grace and must be followed if an entrance into the kingdom of God is to be gained. A Paul-centered interpretation tends to overemphasize man's sinful nature and makes man utterly helpless in the pursuit of good. Consequently, many of Christ's teachings are considered unattainable in the present. In fact, some who interpret the Bible this way postpone the validity of Jesus' teachings to some future time. God's mercy and forgiveness is emphasized in this system rather than careful obedience.

Second, Anabaptists believe the New Testament takes precedence over the Old Testament. They believe the Old Testament points forward to Christ, whereas the New Testament is the final and ultimate revelation of Christ. On the other hand, many Evangelicals have a "flat Bible," putting the Old and New Testaments on the same level. Except for Jewish ceremonial and dietary laws, Evangelical morality closely resembles Jewish morality. Oaths, accumulation of wealth, participation in war, and divorce and remarriage are acceptable for Evangelicals because they were acceptable in the Old Testament. For the Anabaptists, the New Testament teaching on these issues trumps the Old Testament teaching.

Third, Anabaptists believe the Bible is best interpreted when the believer is committed to obeying it. Early Anabaptists were concerned about how the learned of their day “twisted” the Scriptures to get around the force of a command. Anabaptists today reject the common distinctions made between New Testament commands on the one hand that are binding both in form and spirit upon Christians for all time and those on the other hand that are to be observed only in spirit. Many hold that to the former class belong such items as baptism and communion, whereas to the latter class belong such commands as to greet one another with a holy kiss, to wash one another's feet, and to anoint the sick with oil. Anabaptists hold that these New Testament commands as well as communion and baptism are to be observed by all Christians everywhere until the end of the age. Mennonite theologian J. C. Wenger said, "There is no exegetical consideration against the observance of feet washing, for example, which would not also bear against the observance of baptism."

Read more at:


Monday, June 22, 2015

My Moment Of Terror



I experienced a moment of sheer terror last week, and it made me realize something profound.

You may know that I’m in the planning stages for a proposed series of meetings that would provide 
an opportunity for non-Christians to come and learn more about who Jesus was, and what he taught, and why he’s still relevant today, but without all the typical baggage – politics, religion, etc. – that seems to follow him around.

Part of the inspiration came after writing the fourteen part blog series, “Jesus Untangled”, which makes a strong case for separating our faith in Jesus from our politics. But that’s not the only thing that spurred me to take this next step. It was also the excitement I felt after reading a book by Carl Medearis called “Muslims, Christians and Jesus”, which of course is focused primarily on sharing Jesus with Muslims, but still makes a strong case for giving people Jesus apart from doctrines, denominationalism, Western culture, or political dogma.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time lately trying to design the curriculum for this class, which I’m calling “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)”. I’ve worked out a nice place to host the sessions, and I’ve picked out a tentative date for when we’ll start, and I even know where and how I’m going to recruit the people who are most likely to resonate with the subject matter and approach.

Everything really seems to be coming together so far, but a few days ago, as I was sort of imagining what those meetings would look like, something wonderful happened – I had a mild panic attack.

My heart started racing. I began to breathe faster. My nerves were on edge. Everything I had put together so carefully for these meetings suddenly began to appear weak and foolish and totally worthless. “What if I screw this up?” I thought. “What if no one shows up? What if they do show up and I don’t measure up to their expectations?”

That’s when I did the best thing possible – I abandoned my self-sufficiency and I went down on my knees to pray. “Lord Jesus,” I said, “please, show up and take control of this. You know I don’t know what I’m doing. Help me, Jesus, to just point everyone to you. Give everyone eyes to see you and open their ears to hear your voice. Help me to get out of your way – and to stay out of the way – so they can do that.”

Amen.

That’s my prayer. I know that the best I can do is hardly enough, but I do trust that if I listen carefully to Jesus and allow Him to take control, everything will be alright.

Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics) will start on Wednesday evening, July 15th, at 6:30 pm here in Orange County, at a business park in Irvine, CA.

I appreciate your prayers for me as I listen for God’s voice and wait on Him to lead me one step at a time into the great unknown.

Please also pray especially for the people who need this meeting the most. Pray that they will hear about it, and that they will have the courage to show up with their questions, and pray that the teacher will have the good sense to get out of the way so that Jesus can introduce himself to each and every one of them.

Thanks.

-kg


Friday, June 19, 2015

The Family That Love Built



After the horrific church shooting in Charleston, many are calling for Christians to start carrying weapons to church. One GOP Presidential candidate, pastor Mike Huckabee even said, “It sounds crass, but frankly the best way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a weapon that is equal or superior to the one that he’s using.”

While we can applaud Huckabee’s conscience for admitting how crass his statement sounds, we must also point out how decidedly anti-Christian it is, too.

Thankfully, we don’t have to look much further than the Christians who were the victims of this shooting for a better example of how an actual follower of Jesus responds to violence.

“No matter how much hate there is in the world, it's no match for love" Chis Singleton, son of slain Sharonda Singleton, said. “Love is always stronger than hate.”

And the daughter of Ethel Lance, addressing the killer directly in court, said, “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her ever again. But I forgive you." 

She added: "You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you." 

Anthony Thompson, husband of the slain Myra Thompson, echoed Lance's daughter's words. "I forgive you, my family forgives you," he said.

Felecia Sanders, the grandmother who shielded her 5-year-old granddaughter from the gunfire, but lost her son in process, told the killer that the parishioners "welcomed you Wednesday night at our Bible study with open arms."  

She continued, fighting tears: "You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know… And it will never be the same. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you. May God have mercy on you."

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel Simmons, said: "Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate…everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live on.”

"Hate won't win," she concluded firmly.

A relative added, "I am a work in progress and I acknowledge that I am very angry. But we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive."

While Christians like Huckabee can only suggest bigger and more powerful weapons to solve problems like hate and violence, these dear followers of Jesus – the ones most directly injured by the murders – have demonstrated what the most powerful weapons against hate really are – Love and Forgiveness.

Now, imagine a world where Christians carry guns to church. Imagine a scenario like the one in Charleston where the killer enters and is shot to death by a minister of the Gospel of Jesus. What sort of message would that send? Certainly not one of mercy, and grace, and love. How would that bear witness to the power and the truth of the Gospel? Not at all.

The pastor who lost his life in Charleston can stand before His Lord and Savior in Eternity and hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” because the evidence of the Gospel he preached is now on display in the midst of this tragedy for the entire world to see.

This is why Christian nonviolence makes sense. This is why Jesus commanded His followers to overcome evil with love, not with more evil.

The killer wanted to start a civil war between the races. If Christians listen to people like Huckabee, the killer will get exactly what he wanted.

But if Christians listen to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then the killer and everyone else will, instead, experience the uncommon, otherworldly, extravagant enemy love that only Jesus can teach us.

May the whole world take notice of what a real follower of Jesus looks like in America today. They are the loved ones of those who were gunned down by hate, but they are also the family that love built, and they have no room for hate, only for love.

Thank you for showing us what the love of Jesus looks like in the real world.

-kg



Thursday, June 18, 2015

OUR ONLY HOPE



Once again our daily news carries the headline that more unarmed black people have been killed. This time not by racist police officers, but by an armed white supremacist who sat for an hour and listened to a Bible Study before pulling out his weapon to gun down nine innocent people.

It hardly matters whether these dear people were killed by a white cop, or by an angry white man. They are still dead.

It really doesn't matter how they were killed, by a handgun, or a rifle.
They were still murdered.

It doesn't even matter where they were killed, in a church, or a park, or a department store.
They are all still gone.

What does matter is that, in our nation, this sort of thing still happens on a regular basis.

What does matter is that it will continue to happen, more and more, unless we decide to do something about it.

No doubt some will use this as an opportunity to push for stricter gun regulations.

Others will use this to encourage more open dialog between people of different races and backgrounds.

Still others will exploit this tragedy to raise money for their campaign, or advance their agenda, or to demonize their opposition.

But make no mistake here, none of those things will improve the situation.

None of those responses - even if they are successful - will do anything more than make it harder to kill someone you hate with a particular brand of weapon.

Here's what will make a difference: The Gospel.

Only Jesus can transform us from the inside out.

Only Jesus can teach us the power of love over hate.

What should we do about the horrible news today?

We should pray.
We should love.
We should tell others that there's only one hope for our nation.

His name is Jesus.

-kg