Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Walking In The Light Of Jesus

This morning I had an informal debate, of sorts, with a friend online. 

He wanted to talk with me regarding the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" approach to the scriptures which I introduced in chapter two of my book "Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb."

At first, we were just comparing the two views, but then it started to turn into more of an actual debate when my friend said that he believed we still needed to read the words of Jesus "in the light of the Old Testament."

This set me off into a much longer exploration that I wanted to share here on the blog with all of you.

Here's how I responded to my friend:

We don't read the words of Jesus "in the light of the Old Testament" because the OT has no light. Jesus is the light that has come into the world. He is the light. He shines on the Old Testament, the Old Testament does not shine on Jesus.

Now, yes, the Old Testament scriptures point to Jesus, so in that sense it does "shed light" on Jesus, but those scriptures do not modify His teachings or His life. He modifies everything.

Jesus is the source. The Old Testament scriptures are the shadow. 
He is the light.  
We are told that there a veil that covers the eyes of those who read the Old Testament apart from Christ; a veil that is only removed when read through the lens of Christ. 

[This process is not reversed].

As Brian Zahnd says in his latest book, "The only thing the Scripture does inerrantly and infallibly is point us to Christ." 

Once we see and receive Him, then He illuminates the Old Testament for us - to show us more of Himself. But without Him we do not have light, or life. 

The Law brought death, not life. It points us to Life and Light in Christ, but it, by itself, does not contain "the Words of Life" as Jesus does."For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." - John 1:17

"Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." - John 6:68

We can agree that, yes, the OT and the NT are inspired by the same Spirit, but with different purposes and audiences in mind. 

But I would add that we begin with Christ and read those scriptures in light of who He is and how He revealed the Father to us, because no one has ever seen God at any time in the past. Only Jesus reveals the Father to us in perfect clarity. [See John 1:18]

It's about a process, I think. There are degrees of "knowing".

We know God best of all in Christ. He is the clearest picture we could ever have of what the Father is really like - and has always been like - and anything that conflicts with the image of the invisible God revealed in Christ must bow and conform to His image [not the other way around].

I think we can agree that my Flat Bible definition [in the book] isn't actually "flat" because in practice the OT scriptures are used to modify Christ's teachings [not the other way around]. 

I use that term "Flat Bible" because it reflects the mindset of the approach that all scriptures [theoretically] have equal weight, even if, in practice, they obviously don't. All too often, the Old Testament scriptures are used to modify the words of Jesus.

The question is: When there is an apparent conflict between the teachings of Jesus and an OT scripture - who overrides who? Who "wins" in that conflict ?

If the words of Jesus are not the one and only standard by which all other scriptures are measured, that [to me] is a "Flat Bible" approach. 

Or, call it whatever you like, but it is certainly not "Jesus-Centric", is it?

Does that help? If not, I have written quite a bit on this subject here on the blog.

Read more here:

Monday, June 19, 2017


Yesterday in our house church meeting, one of our dear sisters in Christ shared something that she had heard someone else share last week.

Her friend had looked up the names of the 12 Tribes of Israel and discovered that the meaning of each name actually formed part of an amazing promise when placed alongside all the other names. 

She shared it with us and it was really inspiring so I asked her to send it to me. 

The list she sent me only had the sentence, but not the corresponding name of the tribes to go with is, but I started to look it up on my own.

Here's what I found:

Reuben: See, a son!
Simeon: The Lord has heard that I am unloved
Levi: I have become attached to my love
Judah: Yahweh be praised!
Dan: God has judged my case and heard my voice
Naphtali: I have wrestled and prevailed
Gad: Good fortune has come!
Asher: I am happy and called blessed.
Issachar: God has given me my wages/reward
Zebulun: now my love dwells with me
Joseph: The Lord will provide the increase
Benjamin: [by] the son at his right hand.

All together these names read:

“See, a son! The Lord has heard that I am unloved and I have become attached to my love. Yahweh be praised! God has judged my case and heard my voice. I have wrestled and prevailed. Good fortune has now come! I am happy and blessed. God has given me my wages [reward] and now my love dwells with me. The Lord will provide the increase by the Son at His right hand."

Wow. Isn't that awesome?

I hope that blesses you today. 

If it did, why not share it with your friends on Twitter or Facebook?


BONUS: I shared this with my friend Steve Kline over at Living Room Theology and he, of course, already knew all about this and had written a post of his own a few months ago.

Check out Steve's perspective on this here>

Friday, June 16, 2017


One thing I have found very fascinating in N.T. Wright’s newest book, “The Day The Revolution Began” is the exploration on what is meant by “forgiveness of sins” in the context of the story of Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, we read over and over again how God established His people in a “Promised Land” only to have them rebel against Him – or sin – and then being exiled as punishment.

This is the consistent picture throughout the Bible story: God blesses His people – They sin – He exiles them from this good land – They repent of their sins – He restores them to their land.

This pattern is first established in Genesis chapters one and two. God creates a beautiful world, places His wonderful creatures in a garden, they sin and are exiled from the garden.

The rest of Israel’s story is simply this same narrative repeated over and over again with slight variations.

So, if we keep this in mind, then “forgiveness of sins” means the end of exile and the opportunity to return once again to the good land where the people are once again living under the rule and reign of God.

Jesus, the Messiah, arrives on the scene and proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand and the gates are wide open to anyone who wants to return to the “good land” provided by the King Himself.

Because of the death of Christ, we are no longer exiled from God or His “good land” [Kingdom] but freely encouraged to return home, once and for all.

Wright also makes another interesting point later on in his book about how Jesus was falsely accused and crucified for “our sins”. He was not a violent revolutionary, although the people of Israel certainly wanted Him to be. In fact, this violent rebellion was in their hearts – not in His heart. Yet, Jesus suffers the penalty for their sin of violent rebellion, which under Roman law was crucifixion.

Think about that: The people’s sin was that they wanted a violent rebellion against Rome. Jesus did not want this. The penalty for violent rebellion against Rome was crucifixion. The people were eager for this rebellion and in their hearts this desire for violence against Rome was equal to actually committing the sin. 

Remember Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount about how looking at a woman with lust was equal to actual adultery? The same principle is in effect here: The people wanted a violent rebellion and the wages of that sin was crucifixion on a Roman cross. But who suffered the punishment for that sin? Was it the people whose hearts were crying out for armed rebellion? No. It was Jesus, the Messiah who came urging them all to love their enemies, bless those who persecuted them and walk the extra mile whenever a Roman soldier handed them their pack to carry.

In this way, Jesus died "for their sins". Their sin was a desire for rebellion. Their penalty was crucifixion, but Jesus took their place on that cross and suffered their fate.

This act of love indicated that their sins were forgiven and that now their exile was over. They could now return home and live once more in the “good land” of the Kingdom of God where Jesus would be their King.

This is Good News. The exile is over. We are free to return home, forever. Our Abba is throwing wide the gates of His Kingdom and welcoming any and all to come and live in his “good land”.

“Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!” – Jesus, Messiah.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why I Love The Word of God

I love to read. Ever since I was very young, my parents would read to me. I think that’s why I love stories, and why I, eventually, became a writer.

When I was in Elementary school, I read anything and everything I could put my hands on. My earliest favorites were Sherwood Anderson, Ambrose Bierce, and Isaac Asimov. But soon I moved on to Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean, Alan Dean Foster and Ray Bradbury.

One day, while visiting our pastor’s house, his wife noticed I was carrying a satchel of books with me and asked me an interesting question: “Have you ever read the World’s Best-Selling book?”

I stopped to consider her question and then said, “No, probably not. What is it?”

She replied: “It’s an amazing old book full of adventure, danger, love, betrayal, war and redemption.”

“Sounds cool,” I said. “What’s the title?”

Of course, she was talking about the Bible, and based on her challenge I started to read it every night before going to bed.

My routine was to lay in bed and read whatever adventure novel I was devouring at the moment and then setting that down to read at least one chapter from the Bible before I went to sleep each night.

In just over a year and a half, I had read through most of the entire Bible.

Why so quickly? Because, first of all, I often read more than just one chapter, and second of all, I skipped most of Leviticus because it was just too boring.

But that was the first time I read the Bible.

Later, as a Junior High student I started to read the Bible because I was helping our youth pastor to lead Bible Studies. As a High School student I was leading book studies in the Gospel of Luke [which I immediately regretted because each chapter was just a marathon to get through each week], and Isaiah [because things in the Middle East were heating up and everyone – including me – was convinced that the End Times were upon us].

In college I read through the Bible because I discovered a renewed love for Jesus at a Baptist Retreat Center in Glorietta, New Mexico. Some of the seminars and workshops I attended got me interested in Spiritual Warfare so I started studying that topic on my own.

Of course, as a college student with a minor in Philosophy I quickly encountered opposition to my dearly-held faith. A few of my professors really attacked Christianity and that sent me back to my Bible to find out if what they were saying about Jesus and the Scriptures was true or not. Because of this I started really getting into Apologetics, and Young Earth/Old Earth evidences and even put together a little 4 part series of lectures about Evolution and Creation.

But all through this I read and re-read my Bible. I underlined. I circled. I made notes in the margins. I stuck notes all through the Bible on folded slips of paper. I wrote references to important verses in every blank page and white space I could find.

Eventually that Disciples Study Bible I bought in college started to fall part. First the cover began to come lose. I wrapped the spine in duct tape and kept on reading it and studying it.

About five years ago I was leading a Men’s Bible Study for some guys from Saddleback Church. They took up a collection and bought me a brand new ESV Study Bible to replace my raggedy duct tape Bible, but I honestly still use that one more often because it has all my notes and I know where to find everything in it.

I love my Bible. I really do. If you tried to come over to my house and take my Bible away from me, you’d have to cut my arms off to get it out of my hands.

But, as much as I love my Bible, I love Jesus even more. A hundred thousand million times more.

See, that book told me all about this magnificent person named Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me. It pointed me to a God who would rather die than live without me. I fell in love – not with the Book which told me about Him – but with Jesus, Himself!

I’ve told you about my relationship with that Book, but I haven’t mentioned my incredible relationship with Jesus: I haven’t told you about how He revealed Himself to me; how He called me by His Spirit; how He answered my prayers; how He worked miracles in my life; how He whispered in my ear to stop me from getting shot dead by a prison sniper while performing with my band at a minimum security prison; about how He healed my Dad’s shattered spine and re-formed his vertebrae so he wouldn’t be paralyzed; about how He provided for my family financially while I was out of work for over a year and a half [the first time] and another year the time after that; about how He fulfilled His specific promises to me during that time in ways I could have never imagined; and about how He called us to start a church where 100 percent of the offering would go to help the poor in our community; and so much more.

But if I told you about those things here in this blog article and your response was only to say, “Wow! What a glorious article!” you would have missed my entire point, wouldn’t you?

Because what’s really glorious and awesome isn’t the blog or the article about what Jesus did for me. No, what’s amazing and awesome is Jesus and the article only informs you of how awesome He is.

The Bible is wonderful. I do love and appreciate my Bible so very much. But my love for Jesus is so far and away greater and more precious to me than anything else in the universe, that I can’t even begin to compare it to anything else.

Does this mean my Bible is useless? Hardly. I will use it today and tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life here on this earth. It is very useful to me.

But my relationship isn’t with a book about Jesus – it’s with Jesus, whom the book is about!

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” – Hebrews 1:1-3

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” [John 1:1-3]

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….” [v.14]

God’s Word, at one time, was only written down on a page and bound in a book or wrapped in a scroll.

But when Jesus arrived that Word took on flesh and blood; laughed and cried; breathed and sang; taught and healed like never before.

There were some men who wrote down what they saw this Living Word do and say, but those words about that Word are not the Word. They are still words about Him, and our worship belongs to the God who is the Word – and to Him alone.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the Bible which tells of your excellent greatness. But thank you, even more, for your living presence within us that testifies day and night of your enduring love for us and causes us to cry out “Abba! Father!” and listen for your answer in the still, small voice of the Good Shepherd that every one of your sheep knows so well.

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." - Jesus [John 5:39-40]

Monday, June 12, 2017

DEBATE: The Two Kingdoms: Mark Van Steenwyck and Keith Giles

In our first ever debate on the Libertarian Christian Podcast, author Keith Giles returns to debate author/activist Mark van Steenwyk on Two Kingdoms theology and Christian involvement in formal politics. 

As he explained in our earlier interview, Giles holds that formal politics is not a proper task of the Christian life. Van Steenwyk counters that Christians must be involved in direct political activism so as to undermine oppression and promote God's justice in the world. 

Nick serves as moderator and asks some critical questions of both debaters. We haven't heard of anyone advocating for a Three Kingdom theology, but if you're such a person and are offended that your position didn't get any press here, you might consider lobbying the FCC to implement the so-called Fairness Doctrine, but as much as we'd like to see Christian libertarian thought get air time on MSNBC we still wouldn't recommend that course of action.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Word of God and the Bible

Over the last week or so I have been engaged in numerous online debates [mostly on Facebook] about Jesus being the “Word of God” [as opposed to the Bible], and Jesus being greater than the Scriptures.

Most of those arguing against these ideas are assuming [wrongly] that I take a low view of scripture. But that’s not at all what I’m saying.
My single aim is this: To point people to Jesus. If anything gets in the way of people knowing Jesus and following Jesus, then I am going to do my best to point it out and help people turn their faces and their hearts back to Jesus. 

For some Christians – not all of them – their Bible actually does get in their way. It takes the place in their hearts that should belong to Christ alone. 

But, more and more I am encountering brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot separate the book from the person that book points to.

Some have even flat-out argued that Jesus and the Bible are the same. Others have asked if there is more of God to know outside of the Bible, as if He could be bound in a book.

In response I have tried to point out that the Father gave Jesus a name that is above every name, [see Phil. 2:1-11]. If so, then wouldn't that also mean His name is above the Bible?

Now, I realize that if I simply wrote about how awesome Jesus was, most Christians would have no problem with any of that. The problem comes only when I dare to suggest that Jesus' awesomeness eclipses the Bible.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it?
Because Jesus affirms that He is greater than Solomon, and that He is greater than the Temple, and Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Jacob and Abraham.
All of that is presumably ok. [At least no one has challenged me on those claims yet].
But once I suggest that Jesus is greater than the book which was written by those guys and that points to Jesus, that, apparently, is going too far?

“Does this mean we should just throw out our Bibles?”

[I hear this all the time]

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: I think I've said this a few dozen times, and I am more than happy to say it again now: I will not, would not, could not, and do not suggest throwing out the scriptures.

I love the scriptures. I read them. I teach from them. I study them. I memorize them. I turn to them for guidance.

I value the scriptures. 

If you tried to come over to my house and take away my Bibles you would have to cut off my arms to get them away from me. 

Nowhere - not in this post, or in any of my blog articles, or in my books - never do I suggest that the Bible is worthless, or irrelevant, or that we should not read it or study it. 

That is not what I am saying.

Maybe that is part of our ongoing misunderstanding? When I say that Jesus is greater than the book, or that the Word of God became flesh and not paper and ink, what some keep hearing me say is: “The Bible is useless”.

For the record: I love, love, love, LOVE the scriptures because they point me to Jesus.

But I love Jesus a bazillion times more!

My relationship is not with a book. Even an amazing book like the Bible. 

My relationship is with Jesus. 

Yes, I would not know about Jesus if it wasn't for what I have read in scripture about Him. For that I am sincerely grateful. Very, very grateful.

But now that I DO know Jesus, I have a relationship with Him that is greater than my relationship with the book. 

That does not mean I do not continue to read or study the book. Because I do. All the time.

What it does mean is that Jesus is more amazing and mysterious and astounding than any book - even the Bible - can ever fully describe. 

Jesus is not the Bible. The Bible is not Jesus. 

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He came to dwell among us, and now He lives within us by His Spirit. 

I can hear His voice because He is the Good Shepherd and I am one of His sheep.

Does that mean I don't hear His voice through the Scriptures?

No, I do still hear His voice through the Scriptures.

But, I also hear His voice through the Holy Spirit.

I also hear His voice through other people, and sometimes through dreams, or through circumstances and events, and sometimes even music and art. 

Does any of that devalue the Bible?

No. I still value the Bible very much. [see above]

But none of that eclipses Christ Himself. He is not limited by any of those things but magnified.