Monday, September 15, 2014

A Force More Powerful


When I was nine years old my Father handed me something dangerous. “It’s uranium,” he said. “Just touching it will transform you, and if you know how to use it properly, it has the power to create an explosion so powerful it could be seen from space.”
This is a metaphor.

My Father in this scenario is my Heavenly Father. The uranium he gave me is “Agape” and it not only has the power to transform us due to prolonged contact, but it can also create an explosion of change that has the potential to transform every human life on this planet – if we know how to use it properly.


I’ve been captivated lately by this image of the Love of Christ as an awesome, unlimited power that has been handed down to us by the Creator of the Universe.

Much like handing a toddler a nuclear warhead capable of transforming the landscape in the blink of an eye, Jesus has entrusted every one of us with the greatest force in the universe ever imagined: Agape Love. A love which has the power - not to destroy a city - but to transform and renew all humanity from within.
If you have experienced the inexpressible power of this love, you know what I’m talking about. It disarms you. It changes you from within. It fills your heart with unspeakable joy, and impossible hope, and complete faith that the impossible is not only possible but extremely likely.

You and I – as disciples of Jesus – have been handed the most astounding force of change ever devised. We have been changed by it ourselves, and the more we are exposed to it, the more we are changed daily into new creatures with new minds, and new hearts.
This same force within us has the power to change the world. In fact, it is intended to do so. It was designed by the One who spoke the Universe into existence to do just that.

This love of Christ has the power to transform the hearts and renew the minds and restore the souls of every person we come into contact with today. No matter who they are: Atheists, Rapists, Murderers, Drug Addicts, Prostitutes, LGBTs, Muslims, Baptists, Democrats, Republicans, Nazis, ISIS, Terrorists, Lawyers, Professors, and on, and on.
Truthfully, there is no one who is immune to the power of this love. Some may resist it. They may deny it. They may run from it in fear. But the power of the love of Christ to soften the heart and renew the mind, and transform the soul, is irresistible.

We are living proof. The more we are exposed to this love, the more we are changed. The more we are changed, the more others around us experience that love, and the cycle continues.
If you wield a force as powerful as Agape Love, I have to ask what you would want with a gun, or a knife? Jesus has entrusted us with a weapon that is mighty beyond belief. It has the power to demolish strongholds and turn murderers into ministers, abusers into healers, terrorists into ambassadors of peace – even persecutors into Apostles of Christ.

That same Apostle told us that the love of Christ was powerful beyond our imaginations. He prayed that we would have the “power to grasp how high, and wide, and long, 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.” (Eph. 3:18-19)


So, take hold of that volatile, dangerous power today. Immerse yourself in it. Let it permeate your being.

Let it transform you into a living beacon of His audacious, awesome, astounding love.

Detonate this power indiscriminately wherever you go. Let it flow through your mouth, your hands, your heart, your mind. Let it spill over the lonely, the broken, the outcast, and the hopeless around you.
Let this love change you, and then let it transform the world around you.

"Love’em all. Let God sort’em out."

-kg

**
FURTHER READING:
"Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (1 Thess. 2:8)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor. 5:17)

"He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Rev. 21:5)

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor. 13:13)


Thursday, September 11, 2014

In The Name Of Love




Earlier this week I posted a series of quotes from First and Second Century Christians about how following Jesus means turning away from violence and embracing the transformational love of Jesus. At the end of that series I said, “Early Christians would never dream of using violence, but for Christians today it’s our first response. What happened?”

You’d think that this would have inspired people to reflect along with me why the Christian church once embraced the commands of Jesus to love our enemies, but you’d be wrong. Instead what followed was a very long debate with Christians who rejected this idea of enemy love – even though it was an idea from the mouth of Jesus – and for the next few days I was asked to explain why it would be expected to obey Jesus if there was an invader in my home, or why this Jesus stuff didn’t stop Hitler, or why God seems to use violence (and therefore it should be ok for us too), and why this idea of enemy love shouldn’t be taken seriously unless I am personally willing to relocate my family to Gaza or Iraq.

No, I’m not making this stuff up.

So, once again, let me ask: What happened to the Christian faith? How did we go from unwavering obedience to the commands of Jesus to love our enemies, bless them who curse us, do good to those who persecute us, and giving food and water to our enemy if they are hungry or thirsty, to calling down fire from heaven on anyone who might dare to threaten us?

Two things happened: First, the Christian church slowly became convinced that being a Christian was more about agreement with a set of doctrines and less about actually practicing the commands of Jesus. Secondly, the Christian church – at roughly the same time – became entangled with the Empire or nation of origin. This meant that being a Christian also became entangled with being a patriot for whichever nation one was born into. Therefore the goals of the State became the goals of the Christian, and the Church began to work hand-in-hand with politicians to justify going to war with those who oppose our national interests.

I’m torn between wanting to help Christians today understand the “How we got here” part of the narrative and wanting to help them simply “Follow Jesus” apart from any Nationalistic tendencies or allegiances.

On the one hand, it’s really all about simply following Jesus in your daily life. If you take that part seriously, and if you are deeply committed to obeying Jesus today – right now – in your actual life – then you won’t need to necessarily understand how the rest of the Church got so screwed sideways. You’ll simply wrestle with Jesus’ commands to forgive others, love those who are not easy to love, serve the people around you, and yes, even turn the other cheek.

On the other hand, it’s very easy to fool yourself into thinking that you already are following Jesus if you don’t recognize the difference between what everyone else around you seems to be doing – i.e. loving those who love you back and hating those who aren’t like you – and taking a stand against that mediocrity to live a radical life of extravagant love.

Essentially, I believe what’s missing today in this entire equation is simply this: “Love”.

We are not filled with the love of Christ, therefore we cannot share the love of Christ with others.

Yes, we need to understand the importance of discipleship to Christ. That’s the mechanism that helps us to understand our mission.

Yes, we need to understand that Christianity was once something so uncomfortably loving that what passes for Christianity today would be largely unrecognizable to those early Christians.

But the bottom line is really just that we need to know what love is. We need to remember that it was the transformational love of Jesus we experienced in the beginning that opened our eyes to the Kingdom in the first place. We need to return to Jesus on our knees and ask Him to fill us anew with that same audacious love. Not just because we need to give it away to others (because we do), but first and foremost because we need His love. I need it. You need it. We all need to be transformed – once again – by His awesome love. We need to be captivated by it again. We need to have our breath taken from us again as our heart’s overflow with the love that transcends knowledge.

What if the Christian church in America were awestruck once more by the eternal supernova of unstoppable love that flows unceasing from the heart of Jesus into each and every one of us?

What if that same tsunami of love were to fill us up, and spill out all over our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends?

What if we could love the way Jesus loves? What if we could serve the way Jesus serves? What if we could forgive the way Jesus forgives?

I think that’s the point. I think Jesus is looking for a people He can pour Himself into, by His Spirit. He wants someone who will be His hands, His feet, His voice, His heart, to a world that is desperate for love incarnate and grace unspeakable.

Will we be that person? Are we interested in taking that first step into the endless deep of His love?

I hope so. It’s the only hope this world – or you and I – really have left.

 
-kg

 
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Learning How To Love Extravagantly



I can remember when my oldest son Dylan was in first grade. He came home one day and told us about a boy in his class who was choking him and kicking him at recess.

At first, I was enraged. I could only think of how to get that kid kicked out of school, or how to talk to the school principle about protecting my son. I even considered putting my son in a karate class.

Instead, my wife and I sat down with my son before bedtime each night and prayed for this boy together. We talked about what this boy must be going through at home. We prayed for his parents, and for his brothers and sisters. We asked Jesus to change his boy's heart. We also talked to Dylan about how he should try to avoid being alone at recess. We encouraged him to go to his teachers if he saw this boy coming after him again, and we explained to him that Jesus wants us to love those who mistreat us.

This process of praying for the bully at school took several weeks. Eventually, my son had a birthday party. He invited every kid in his class, including this boy who had bullied him.

During the party, this boy was included in every game. He was treated as one of my son's friends. My son, and our family, gave him the clear message - We don't hate you. We really love you.

I think this party was the tipping point, because, after this, the boy no longer bullied Dylan at recess. He didn't treat anyone else this way either. The love my son had shown him really did transform him. It touched his heart and changed his behavior.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." - Luke 6:32

Jesus takes the time to contrast the love the world has with the love that God demonstrates. In comparison, the love of the world is nothing special. The most evil among us can return love to those who are loving them. Big deal. I'm sure we could find a serial killer who loves his Mom and a rapist who loves his best friend. Even a racist loves someone. So what?

As followers of Jesus, we are called to demonstrate the amazing, unprecedented, unexpected, over-the-top kind of love that Jesus has lavished upon us. Why? For two reasons. First, so that even the most evil people can experience the undeserved kindness and mercy of God. Secondly, to teach you and I how to die to ourselves and to become more like Jesus every day.

See, the command that Jesus gives us to love our enemies is intended not only to change the hearts of sinners, but to change you and I as well.

We cannot love this way on our own. We just can't. The only way we can follow Jesus and obey his command to love those who are trying to harm us is if we take up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and throw ourselves completely at His feet and beg to be filled with His love for them. It just won't work any other way.

In the book, "The Grace of Giving", author Stephen Olford tells the story of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution named Peter Miller. Miller lived in a small town called Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and one of his dearest friends was a guy named George Washington. (Maybe you've heard of him?)

In the town of Ephrata their also lived a spiteful troublemaker named Michael Wittman, who did all he could to oppose and humiliate Mr. Miller.

One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to death. When he heard the news Peter Miller set out Philadelphia to plead for the life of his enemy.

After walking seventy miles - on foot - Miller petitioned his friend, General Washington, to spare Wittman's life.

“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

“My friend?” exclaimed the old preacher. “He's not my friend. In fact, he is the bitterest enemy I have.”

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.”

And he did.

That day, Peter Miller and Michael Wittman walked back home to Ephrata together. When they arrived home, they were no longer enemies. They were friends.

As amazing as that story is, the bottom line is that Peter Miller had a different perspective when it came to difficult people, trials and persecution. He saw those things - not as battles to win, but as opportunities to love like Jesus loves.

You and I are expected to do the same.

"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." - 1 Peter 3:9

As followers of Jesus, you and I are living examples of the redemptive, transformative power of undeserved kindness and love.

I pray that we can see difficult people and uncomfortable circumstances in a new light. I pray that in the worst of situations, you and I might crucify our flesh and bury our pride. I pray that when others insult us and mock us, we (the followers of Jesus), might be filled with the Spirit of the Living God and demonstrate to those who hate us most that the love of Jesus is truly powerful enough to change hearts and lives.

I pray this for myself most of all.

Peace,
Keith

Thursday, September 04, 2014

DUCK DYNASTY OR CHRIST DYNASTY?



Once again, American Christians have confused Patriotism and Nationalism with Christianity.

As Phil Robertson (the star of reality show Duck Dynasty) declares that he is more than prepared to meet ISIS militants on the battlefield, Christians in America scream “Amen!” and salute their flag - sadly oblivious to how far away this actually is from the Gospel that Jesus – the founder of their professed faith – came and died to proclaim.
I think the basic disconnect we have on this issue stems from whether we hold the Ten Commands or the Sermon on the Mount as our basis for living.

For example: Many Christians today opt for the Ten Commandments. However, the Scriptures tell us several times and in many different ways that the Old Covenant is a shadow of the reality to come – (the reality being Christ). 
Moses prophesied about the Messiah saying that God would send one like himself who would be a Prophet and that people should listen to him. [Deut. 18:15]

Both Peter and Stephen remind the NT Jews and Christians of this verse and add that anyone who does not listen to Jesus (the Messiah) “will be cut off from among his people”. [Acts 3:22-23; Acts 7:37-38]
Paul also tells us that “to this day when Moses is read, a veil remains” and that this veil is only taken away by Christ. [2 Cor. 3:14]

Remember the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses (who stands for the Law) and Elijah (who stands for the Prophets) appear with Jesus. Peter mistakenly wanted to honor all three of them at once and God then removed Moses and Elijah (leaving only Jesus) and says, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!”.
Furthermore, Peter tells us even the Prophets themselves didn’t know what they were writing about and that only now (through Christ) do we understand what those OT scriptures mean.

What does all this mean? It means that we, as followers of Jesus, need to interpret the Old Covenant (Ten Commandments, Mosaic Laws, etc.) through the lens of Christ, not the other way around. In other words, we never take the words of Jesus and filter them with the Old Covenant scriptures. No! Jesus is the One we are to listen to. Moses says it. Peter and Stephen say it. God Himself says it: “Listen to Him!”
So, if Jesus says “Do not resist an evil person” and says clearly, over and over again: “Love your enemy”, “Bless those who curse you”, etc. then we have no choice but to obey Him. We cannot turn back to the shadow and the metaphor of the Old Covenant scriptures and try to live our lives apart from the revelation of Christ.

In fact, I believe the entire debate between Christians over the issue of violence is simply centered on this very practice of filtering Jesus through the Old Covenant, rather than placing the Old Covenant in submission to the Supremacy of Christ – and therefore ourselves under His supremacy as well.

To justify violence you have to turn to the Old Covenant scriptures. To justify military involvement you have to appeal to Moses or Joshua. But quite simply a follower of Jesus should do exactly that: Follow Jesus and not attempt to place the teachings of Jesus (which bring life) under the bondage of the Old Covenant (that brought death).

Jesus trumps Moses. The Sermon on the Mount trumps the Law. The New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant which is “obsolete” and “fading away” [Heb. 8:13]

Chose you this day whom you will serve: A redneck reality TV star, or the Son of God. As for me and my house, we will follow Jesus.

Peace,

Keith



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Part 2: What's So Great About Constantine?


Popular Religion Internet Radio with Subversive Radio on BlogTalkRadio

PART 2 of my conversation with NT Scholar Dr.Al Baker.

Friday, August 29, 2014

[Subversive Radio] Round Table: Cole, Zens, Montgomery, Williamson


Listen To Religion Internet Radio Stations with Subversive Radio on BlogTalkRadio

ROUND TABLE DIALOG: What are some common misconceptions about House Church and What makes a House Church work?

Join Herb Montgomery, Jon Zens, Neil Cole and Kent Williamson in our first ever Round Table Discussion about House Church and Organic Church.