Monday, January 30, 2012

This Christian Nation


In Exodus, chapter 19, God tells Moses that He wants to make a covenant with the people of Israel. He says,

“This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel…if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:3-6)

Notice that this covenant has a condition: “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then…”

SPOILER ALERT: They didn’t keep their end of the bargain. So, Jesus came and fulfilled it for them, saying,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:16-18)

A friend once described Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Covenant by pointing out that a child is a promise of an adult. When that child grows up and becomes an adult, the promise within that child is fulfilled. In this way, Jesus came and did what no one else could do – He fulfilled the law, obeyed God fully and kept the Old Covenant. But notice something; the fulfillment of the Old Covenant unlocked a promise. What was it?

“…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6)

 After Jesus did what no Israelite could do (kept the Covenant), He made it possible for us to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This is why Peter says,

 “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5)

 And also,

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” (1 Peter 2:9)

 Who is he talking to? To the Church! We are the Israelites who are now called “a holy priesthood” and “a holy nation”. Not just Jews, but anyone who is in Christ! As it says in Revelation 5:9-10:

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

And also the Apostle Paul tells us,

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)

"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11)

So, Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant – something no one else could ever do – so that we could receive the blessing of the promise to be made a kingdom of priests and a Holy Nation of God.

Again, as Peter affirms,

“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)

To be clear, there is only one Christian Nation on the face of this Earth and it is the Church that is in Christ. Not any specific geographic land. Not any political system. Not any race or religious hierarchy. Only the one, world-wide Church – the Bride of Christ Jesus – is a Holy, Christian Nation on this Earth.

My allegiance is to that Holy Nation alone, and not any other kingdom or power of this world.
 -kg

Friday, January 27, 2012

When Judgment Comes

When God finally judges this nation, it will not be for the sins of the homosexual community, nor will it be for the women who have had abortions.

When God finally judges America it will be because those who call themselves Christian have been too proud to cry out for mercy on behalf of the poor, the exploited and the oppressed.

How can I say this? Because God says it.

"If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Who are God's people? We are. Who are those who are called by His name? Christians. Who must humble themselves and pray and seek the face of God? Us. Not "those sinners" over there. You and me.

Who must turn from their wicked ways? We must.

Looking through the Scriptures I see a disturbing correlation between God's judgment and the way His people treat the poor.

For example, in the Old Testament God says:

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things in my sight. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." - Ezekiel 16:49-52

And in the New Testament Jesus says:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
 
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” - Matthew 25:41-46

So, it seems to matter to God how we treat the poor.

He's also not very happy about when we withhold fair wages from our workers, or when we exploit people to get rich.

In the Old Testament God says:

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty." - Malachi 3:4-6

And in the New Testament the Apostle James says, 
 
"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty." - James 5:3-5

America has built her success and her wealth in this day and age largely by exploiting the resources of other nations. Our corporations send in economic hit men to coerce third world leaders - either by bribery or through threats - to allow them to exploit their people and their land. If those leaders comply then our corporations get rich at the expense of those living in that nation. If those leaders resist they are assassinated or overthrown with the assistance of these economic hit men.

John Perkins, who used to be one of these hit men before he repented, explains it in vivid detail in the documentary "The End of Poverty?" and you can listen to him yourself at this link HERE>

Our nation presents itself to the world as a Christian Nation. Whether or not this is true - and I'm one of those who would argue that we are not now, nor have we ever been a Christian Nation - it is irrelevant to the fact that we are seen as a nation of Christians. So, for a nation that identifies herself with Christ to exploit the poor in the Name of Jesus we should repent. For a nation that has amassed for herself great wealth while turning a blind eye to the workers at Foxconn who are abused and mistreated we should repent. For a nation that threatens the poorest nations of this world in order to steal their resources and impoverish them further we should fall on our knees and beg for God's mercy.

For judgment will surely come to this nation. Of that I have no doubt. It is not a question of "if" but of "when". Therefore, how should we - those who are called by His Name - respond? We should humble ourselves and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways and beg for God's mercy to fall on us and on our wicked, arrogant, overfed and unconcerned nation.

Like the Church in Laodicea, America is so confident of her great wealth and yet God looks at us and says that we are naked and blind and poor. If we will turn to Him, He will forgive us and heal our land.

When judgement comes, it will not be because of the homosexuals, or the abortionists, but it will come because God's people were not willing to confess the sins of their nation and humble themselves to ask God for mercy.

-kg

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TOUCHING BASE


You wouldn't know it from reading this blog, but I've been furiously busy the last few weeks. That's sort of why I've not had any time to post any new articles here.

After the Pacifist Fight Club a few weeks ago, I started feeling convicted by God to do something I've never done before. In fact, it's something I can't even talk about here yet. Maybe some day. But for now I've been frantically working to assemble the necessary elements for this little project and it's taken up a lot of my time.

I've also been encouraged by a dear friend (Bill Navarro) to enter the world of ebooks. So lately I've been working on collecting various articles, and series of articles into different ebooks. Here's what I'm planning to publish in the next few months over on Amazon for the Kindle.

Ebooks Phase One - These will probably sell for about $1.99 each.

*THE POWER OF WEAKNESS (This is the book-in-progress I've had on the back burner for a long, long, time now)

*HOW TO START A MINISTRY TO THE POOR IN YOUR COMMUNITY

*TIPS FOR PLANTING A HOUSE CHURCH (Unlike my most recent book, "This Is My Body", this book will be more practical and "How-To" and  will include my recent series of articles “What’s Wrong with Organic Church?” and “The Pitfalls of Organic Church”, plus other articles that address "What about the children?", "Pastoral Authority", "Hierarchy in the Body", etc.)

*THE BEST OF THE [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] - Devotional Thoughts for Radical Christians (This will be a mega-collection of my best articles from the e-newsletter, plus a few from the main blog archives).

*10 MYTHS CHRISTIANS BELIEVE (This will address topics like Tithing, Hell, Pastoral Salaries, Spiritual Covering, the Return of Christ, Why does God allow suffering? Women in leadership, etc.)

*CONSUMPTION, EXPRESS & IDENTITY (This will compile my series of articles on Christians, Culture and Consumerism).

*TRUST: The Key To Everything

*SPECIAL EDITION OF [SUBVERSIVE INTERVIEWS] (The Kindle version will feature the same content as the original edition, plus my interviews with Shane Claiborne, Thomas Crisp and Porter Speakman, Jr.).

*JESUS: THE PRINCE OF PEACE (series of articles)

*OUR IDEA VS GOD’S IDEA

BARGAIN EBOOK SERIES  (These ebooks will be offered for .99 cents or Free)
*9 Marks of a Healthy House Church
*7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Pastors
*5 WORDS NO CHRISTIAN SHOULD EVER USE AGAIN
*7 MISTAKES EVERY CHURCH SHOULD AVOID
*4 UN-BIBLICAL MODELS OF CHURCH
*6 THINGS YOU NEED TO START A TRADITIONAL CHURCH

Ebooks in the Planning Stages include:
*THE ROBERT HIGGINS STORY (This will be hard to write)
*SCI-FI LULLABIES (a collection of my various science fiction short stories, scripts and short fiction).
*WINTERMOON AND COFFEESTAIN (a collection of my best poetry and lyrics)
*MY YOKE IS EASY (Uncomplicating the Gospel)
*THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM (Simplifying Jesus) or “Jesus for the Common Man”

Free Stuff
These ebooks will most likely be offered for free:
*NUT IN THE SHELL Articles (A collection of my old comic book culture articles, plus my large interview "Manga Nation" which was used as college course material)
*SALES AND MARKETING TIPS FOR TODAY’S SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS (A brain dump of my basic marketing and social media knowledge from my day job)

So...there's a lot to occupy my time at the moment. I'm hoping to release "The Power of Weakness" very soon.

-kg

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More of Jesus

Something inexpressible happened last Sunday. I can't quite put my finger on any one thing that set this into motion, but without a doubt Jesus moved during our regular church gathering in a significant way.

All I know is that every song we sang, every scripture that was read, every quote that was shared, every prayer that was offered, burned in my heart like a tangible flame. My soul began to crave more of God. My spirit began to gasp within me for more of His presence. My heart began to ache with a hunger that only Jesus could satisfy.

I wasn't the only person in the room who sensed this move of the Spirit. Others also began to notice and to respond to God's movement among us. From the beginning our time together started off on a different beat. Instead of starting with songs of worship we started with scripture as a few of us felt lead to read and share what God was speaking to them about His mercy and goodness. Throughout our singing the songs all reminded us of God's presence and His love.

But what happened to us on Sunday was about more than a series of actions. Rather than something we could duplicate ourselves in our next gathering, the experience we shared was nothing other than the sovereign outpouring of God's Spirit on His people.

Speaking for myself, I've been sensing God's calling to seek Him more these last few months. I've started fasting from things that distract me most from hearing His voice, and I've tried to pray more often. But to be perfectly honest I've not been seeking God for hours at a time. Here and there throughout my day I've taken time to stop and listen, but it's not as if I've been spending hours in prayer or reading large chunks of scripture.

To be fair, I've been seeking the Lord a little bit more than normal, but it's nothing that I would even be tempted to brag about. In other words, I've been seeking him an inch and God has been responding to me with miles and miles of grace.

Many of us on Sunday could only stand around afterwards in silence and try to reflect on what God had done in our midst. It was beautiful. It was unexpected. It was powerful. And it was something we hope God will do in us again as we gather to set Him on the throne of our hearts, and our lives, and our church family.

Near the end of our time together I felt God wanted us to stand up and hold hands around the communion table. We prayed and asked Jesus to be our head. We remembered that he was broken for us and that although we are individual parts of His Body, we come together in Christ and take hold of Him as our Head. We remembered that although the bread is one, we each break off a piece of His Body and take it with us as we go out - and bring Him back with us as we come together again.

We wept. We rejoiced. We sang.

My wife Wendy suggested we listen to a worship song which says, "We will stand back and let you move. Stand back and let you move. Stand back and see what you will do." And that's just what we did that day. We laid everything down at His feet - our expectations, our distractions, our fears, our desires, our control - and we waited for Jesus to move. And He did. Wow. He really did.

I suppose what we learn from this is that God is so much more interested in drawing near to us than we are in drawing near to Him. He is much more interested in meeting with us than we are in listening for Him to speak. He wants so much more to touch us than we can ever know.

If we will just move an inch in His direction, He will move a mile.
If we will only begin to search for Him, He will reveal Himself to us.
If we will only ask Him to increase our hunger for Jesus, He will do it.

It's a wonderful thing to be touched by the living God. It's beautiful to let Him have His way.

My prayer is that we can all continue to seek Him this way and to know His loving leadership each time to come together in His name.

-kg



Friday, January 06, 2012

Thirsty For Greater Thirst

There’s a great line from an old Steve Taylor song that says, “Don’t you know by now why the chosen are few? It’s harder to believe than not to.”


As I’ve been re-reading A.W. Tozer’s classic book, “The Pursuit of God” these last few weeks I’ve been challenged to go deeper in my walk with God. Maybe “challenged” isn’t the right word. It’s more like being enticed by the Holy Spirit to explore the boundless magnificence of Jesus. And as I’ve been slowly pulled into this ever-growing vortex of God’s irresistible love, I’ve started to notice something strange; It’s harder than I would have ever imagined to keep Jesus at the center of my heart.


This truth sobers me, and confounds me all at the same time. I’m sobered by this realization because it makes me realize that up until now I’ve probably not been living my life with Jesus at the center. I thought that I was. In good faith, I’ve tried up to this point to follow Jesus and to listen for His voice and to obey. But, perhaps this is simply a season where God is turning up the volume a bit more. I’m not sure. I just know that there is more of Jesus to know than I have known so far, and I know that I want to know Him better.


I’m confounded by the difficulty of keeping Jesus at the center of my heart because it shouldn’t be anything new for me. Why is it so much harder now than it used to be? Have I allowed other things to creep into my heart and take hold? If so, how do I overcome this grip and restore Jesus to His rightful place?


Fasting seems to be in order here, because it allows me to cut off the source of worldly distractions and, at the same time, to open up my bandwidth to dial in more of the Master’s voice to my internal receiver.


Right now there are several stray thoughts and feelings that are floating around my heart like wisps of willow on the breeze. One thing I’m aware of is that it’s entirely possible for me to get lost in all the glorious beauty of Jesus. I want to get lost in Him. I realize that the veil around my heart that separates me from Him is paper thin. If anything, this is both exhilarating and terrifying. The Holy One is just inches away from me. I could take one step and be near Him. In fact, if I draw nearer to Him, He will most certainly draw nearer to me. We are closing in on one another like binary stars locked in a terminal orbit. It is inevitable that He and I will become one in spirit and purpose. My heart beats a little faster at the thought of breathing His breath, at the idea of thinking His thoughts, of hearing His whispering voice in my ear.


So, why is it difficult for me to keep this ever-approaching Jesus at the center of my heart? Why would I ever need to fight to keep someone so glorious and exquisite in my mind at all times? This is my conundrum. I am becoming aware of something inside of me that resists His will. Something outside of my control that constantly attempts to eclipse the beautiful light of His face. What is this? How do I stop it? Why is it there?


In the most simple terms, this thing is me. It’s the part of me that has yet to submit to His will. It’s the dark creature of sin that runs wild in the overgrown forest of my soul. The monster is me. The distraction is me. I want to look away. I don’t want to see that face, but it’s too late. I’ve already seen it before and I know it too well. It’s the same as the one in my mirror each morning.


So, what can I do? All that remains is to continue my journey towards His light. In Him I know that this dark flesh cannot thrive. The nearer I come to Jesus, the weaker this beast becomes. This is why it fights me. This is why it begs me to look away from my Lord. It wants desperately to live. So, it reminds me of all the candy-coated pleasures of this fleshly existence. It sings, it dances, it shouts, it pleads with me to slow down, or to stop and rest on my journey towards God. “What’s the hurry?” it says. But, I cannot let it distract me from my Lord. I must keep pressing onward. It burns. It bleeds. It struggles. But even as it fights me, I know it is condemned to lose. The hammer is already in His hands. The nails are already being pressed into my flesh. Together, my Lord and I will crucify this thing. We will endure this brief torture for the joy set before us when it is gone and nothing else could ever stand between our hearts.


God alone has the power to drive those nails. My part is only to confess my desire to desire Him more. I can only ask Him to give me the faith to want more faith so that I may become thirsty enough to cry out for more thirst for Him and His righteousness.

-kg 


**

"Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all."  -A. W. Tozer; The Pursuit of God.

Monday, January 02, 2012

What's New?

This is our opportunity to start again. We have a new day in which to take a different path. We have a new month in which to explore new possibilities. We have a new year ahead of us to exchange our old patterns and habits for better ones.


I am eager for something new. My hope is aroused at the thought of this unwritten page before me. What will tomorrow bring?


But the answer to this question lies in the moment. What becomes of my life at the end of this year will be determined by what I do - or do not do - today. Right now I hold the seed that will bear tomorrow's fruit. 


Thankfully, God is all about new beginnings. His mercies are new every morning. He longs to take the old and make it new. He has made a new covenant with the Earth. He has given us a new heart and a new spirit. He has put a new song in our hearts. He promises to  create a new heaven and a new earth. 


God loves to forget the past and to start over again. This is what Grace is all about. He forgets our failures. He looks forward to what we might become one day if we will place all our hopes in Him. He is eager for us to step into the new promises, and those promises are for right now. Today.


My thoughts lately have been on seeking His face more. I've been hearing Him call out to me to pursue Him more; to listen for His voice more; to put Him first in all things. 


I know that there is more of Christ to know than I have ever known before. I have yet to scratch the surface of His majesty. I have scarcely begun to explore His vast and limitless heart. There is more of Him to know than I know. But He invites me to search. He is calling me to seek Him first. He has promised me that if I will seek Him, I will find more of Him than I can fathom.


This calling on my heart does not come without a price. It will mean letting go of some things that do not matter, and some things which should not matter but sadly have become more important to me than they should. I must release my grip on those empty, broken things. But, the joy that I will find in Him is worth the loss of such worthless things. For every small thing I drop into the dirt, He will fill me with exponentially more joy and peace. This is a worthwhile exchange.


What I must lose most of all is myself. My pride. My status. My position. My ego. My dreams. My plans. My fame. All of these must go so that I might make room for more of Jesus in my heart. 


But this process begins right now. Today I have to seek Him. Today I have to let go. This is my tomorrow, right now. And it's all brand new.


-kg




"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 11:19

"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.” - Revelation 21:5