Friday, February 28, 2014
If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the anti-Christ is the Prince of War.
If Jesus heals, the anti-Christ sheds blood.
If Jesus says we should love our enemy, the anti-Christ says we should torture them.
If Jesus commands us to bless those who curse us, the anti-Christ urges us to make war against them.
If Jesus says we should pray for those who persecute us, the anti-Christ says we ought to oppress and imprison them.
If Jesus tells us to care for the poor, the anti-Christ says we should just ignore them.
If Jesus says his disciples will not fight, the anti-Christ encourages us to glorify violence.
If Jesus says we should turn the other cheek, the anti-Christ says we should destroy the aggressor.
Who does the Church most resemble?
Are we of Christ, or are we of the anti-Christ?
Let us pray.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Most Christians already own most (if not all) of these books, and if they would simply take the time to read them and put the various principles into practice, there would be no lack of true Christian "leadership" in the world today.
Sadly, most Christians do not read these 5 books in search of leadership advice, nor do they put into practice Jesus' commands to wash feet, love enemies, serve others, and place the needs of others above their own.
Instead, most Christians are obsessed with a more worldly style of leadership that involves hierarchical authority and exerts power over other people rather than exerting the "power under" form of loving service exemplified by Jesus and His Apostles.
In these 5 books, Jesus spends all of his time talking about "followership" or "discipleship". In fact, all of his best teaching on "leadership" actually has to do with "followership" since in the Kingdom of God the greatest among us is the servant of all.
If you start to notice someone talking too much about leadership and not actually doing any actual serving of others, then you're probably not dealing with a Christian leader.
Real Christian leaders do not spend all their time talking about leadership. Instead, they quietly continue to follow Jesus, serve others, and love the people right in front of them.
Someone wisely noted that "Leadership is all about making more leaders, not creating more followers" and that is the problem with "Leadership" as we know it. The emphasis is always on being the leader - or "the one in charge". Is that what we see in the Gospels? No, it's not. What we see is Jesus' emphasis on following Him, and on teaching others to follow Him, too.
The Great Commission is not for us to "Go into all the world and make leaders". Our calling is to go into all the world and make more disciples (followers of Jesus), who in turn teach others how to follow - not to become leaders.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Why did Jesus say he came "not to bring peace, but a sword?" if he really expected us to embrace peacemaking?
Keith Giles explains in this special [Subversive Radio Podcast].
Monday, February 24, 2014
Personally, I am not at all interested in a world filled with pacifists. Pacifism, in itself, is of no interest to me whatsoever.
But what I am very interested in is a world filled with people who love Jesus and take His commands seriously - including His commands to love our enemies, and practice extravagant, preemptive love to everyone within arms reach.
Pacifism implies a dedication to political peace, and while I am certainly not against a more peaceful society, the main thing that drives me is the Gospel of Jesus, and putting the teachings of Jesus into practice. These teachings and commands are explicity centered on being proactive lovers of God and lovers of people.
To me, this is not a gray area. Jesus is crystal clear. He says that we should be marked by our exceptional displays of love for one another, for the stranger, for the poor, and even for our enemies.
"But Jesus knocked over some tables in the Temple!" people shout. Yes, he did do that. But he did not do so in order to set an example for how we should behave. For that we need only turn to the dozens of commands and numerous, vivid examples Jesus gave us to follow.
Like the time he washed his disciples feet and said, "They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another" (John 13:35) Or the time when he stood up on a hillside and proclaimed loudly, "You have heard it said, 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy' but I say to you, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matt. 5:43-45) Or when he said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Don't even tax collectors do that?" (Matt. 5:46)
Following Jesus means doing what he said to do. One of those things is to love, and not to hate. Another is to bless and not to retaliate. Another is to forgive and not to take vengeance ourselves.
As followers of Jesus, we should already be very well acquainted with the concept of transformative love and the power of forgiveness and mercy to change a person from within. Isn't that how we arrived here with a cross on our back and our footprints in the sand next to His?
If so, let us not abandon the path that Jesus has laid out for us. It is a path of peace. It is a path of extravagant, proactive, audacious love in the face of violence, hate, and anger.
Our weapons, remember, are divine. Our weapons are powerful. Our weapons demolish demonic strongholds. Our weapons (which are not of this world) are mighty. More powerful than AK-47's. More effective than missiles. More explosive than nuclear warheads.
If you believe that, and if you follow Jesus, the time to start putting these things into practice is now.
Pacifism will not save us. But following Jesus will.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on Pacifist Fight Club's blog>
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
*NOTE: This article was originally written on December 6, 2006 on the [Subversive Underground] e-newsletter.
At the end of June I walked away from a job that I really loved. It wasn't something I wanted to do, but the reality was that this little non-profit ministry I cared so much about was just not able to sustain the financial needs of my family.
My departure was amicable, but I had no immediate opportunities in front of me at the time. I began doing temporary work through an employment agency while I sent off resumes and interviewed for several jobs. A few looked promising, a few were obviously not meant for me, but as the weeks turned into months I began to wonder how long this would take.
It's not as if I'm a stranger to this sort of thing, really. A few years ago I was laid off from a job I loved. At that time I was working in the Christian Music Industry and I had developed many professional relationships with some key people in the business. I was pretty sure I'd have no trouble finding work. But a year and a half later I was still doing temporary work.
During that first marathon season where I endured financial hardship and underwent a crisis of faith, I can honestly say that God revealed Himself to me and to my family in ways I could never have expected.
If you had asked me before that long season if I knew that God loved me, I would have answered "Yes". But after an entire year and a half of eating out of God's hand, and learning the true meaning of "Daily Bread", I could honestly answer that same question in ways that I could never have before.
There was one day when my wife poured the last of the milk from the carton, cracked the last egg in the pan to scramble eggs and used the last paper towel roll to clean up a spill at breakfast. We knew there was no money in the bank to purchase these items, but we had two little sons to provide for and bills to pay in a matter of days.
About an hour later there was a knock on our door. It was a dear friend of ours who "just happened" to drop by and bring us a goody basket. Inside the basket were eggs, milk and paper towels. There was also a box of Wheat Thins. The night before I had made an off-hand comment to my wife that it would be nice to have some Wheat Thins because I hadn't eaten any in years.
I just kept staring at that box of Wheat Thins and realized that God had heard me. He took my little remark about a stupid box of crackers and had provided it for me, just because He loved me.
I could tell a dozen or more stories like that. Those months of learning to depend on God for daily bread were trying, and difficult, and yet they were some of the sweetest I have ever had with The Lord. I wouldn't go back and change those moments even if I could.
About two months ago, I was awakened at around 4:30am. That's usually my cue to get up and go into the den to pray and spend time with The Lord. So, I found myself on my knees in the dark, praying about another new job, once more.
As soon as I woke up there was a strange thought in my head that went something like, "What if it takes a long time for the door to open?"
I realized that God could sneeze and I could have twenty amazing job offers that same day. So...why didn't He? Why was He making this take so long, again?
I started to rattle off a long list of "Why's" to Him. Why had He allowed us to have a miscarriage last July? Why had He allowed us to go through such financial misery for over a year? Why had He allowed us to endure the pain of leaving our church? Why had He shut down our ministry to the elderly in the local senior home? Why had He caused us to move out of our previous house? Why was He putting us through another long wait for a new job?
After I made my list of complaints I realized that, in spite of that long list of hardships, the reality of it was that our family had been great. We had not felt as much of the pain of all of that as you might expect. God had been faithful to us as we endured all of those hardships...so much so that many of them hardly seemed like real hardship in retrospect. Of course, some things were harder than others, and there had been some real pain and real tears as well. Yet, over all, God had seen us through it. We were whole. We were taken care of.
In fact, the crazy thing was our family had more peace during this time of waiting than we had when I was working for the non-profit ministry I was at before. All because of God's amazing faithfulness to provide all of our needs.
I began to pray and to tell The Lord that, if it did take a long time for us to find a new job, that I would be ok with that. I asked Him to go with us. Like the Children of Israel, I asked Him for the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. I asked Him for daily "Manna" and I asked Him to help us take everything one day at a time.
As I was praying this, I started to get cold so I reached out and took a little blanket that Wendy and I were given on our wedding day. It's embroidered with the entire text of 1 Corinthians 13. You know, the "Love" chapter?
As I wrapped it around my legs to keep myself warm I suddenly opened my eyes. There, right in front of me were the words, "Love is Patient".
I got the hint.
As of today, the word for our family is still "Wait". I have several job possibilities, but even if one of those works out we will most likely have to wait until January of 2007 before one of them actually hires me.
I have been so amazed, month after month, as God has managed to pay our rent and cover our bills even though on paper I'm bringing home about half of what I was earning before.
God is so good.
"Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up on wings as eagles"- Isaiah 40:31
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014
Jesus told a parable about the Kingdom of God that included an interesting phrase: “occupy until I come.” (Luke 19:13; KJV)
The parable is meant to illustrate how Jesus expects His followers (that’s us) to behave until He returns to set up His eternal Kingdom here on Earth. Of course, we know that Jesus’ Kingdom is already here right now. That’s part of what He meant by “occupy until I come”. In other words, Jesus has already inaugurated His Kingdom and our mission now is to occupy the Kingdom reality here on Earth until He comes to set it up in person – and in full – at His second coming.
Another way we can think of this occupation is found in Jesus’ command to abide in Him. The word “abide” can also be understood as “to live inside” or “to occupy”. So in essence, Jesus says:
“Occupy me and I will occupy you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it is occupied in the vine; no more can you, except you occupy me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that occupies me, and I him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
So, if we occupy Jesus, and if Jesus occupies us, then we can experience His presence and power – the same power and presence that is essential for us to occupy this expanding remnant of His Kingdom on Earth.
Now, our daily exercise is simply to occupy Jesus, and to allow Jesus to occupy us, so that we can occupy His Kingdom here on Earth and testify that He is the King of the Universe – and the King of our lives.
Let our lives declare daily that Jesus is living inside of us. Let the revolutionary power of Jesus overthrow the status quo of our empty lives.
Please, Lord Jesus, come live and breathe within me today. Let my life be filled up with your life. May my life be a reflection of your life within. Let your Kingdom come right here, and right now.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Note: Today's blog is written by my youngest son, David Giles.
God gave me the word “Give up” recently. It was my word of the year, but I didn’t understand it at first. I asked God what it meant and I told him I would wait a few days to make sure it was really from Him.
Two days later, I had a dream. I was running away from something, and I knew I couldn’t make it, so I gave up. I awoke and I felt like God told me, “You need to know when to give up, and when to continue.”
I thought about that, and about what else the phrase, “Give up” could mean. Some quotes came to my mind “Better to do right than to be right” and “If you love something enough, let it go. And if it comes back, it was meant to be.”
I had my dream on a Saturday night, so when I woke up, it was a Sunday and our house church family was meeting in our home. The first thing that someone shared tied into my word from God: “He who seeks his life will lose it” (Luke 17:33)
I had already planned to share this with the church, but after hearing this I had no doubt that this was from God.
After sharing this, a few other people had words for me:
I had already planned to share this with the church, but after hearing this I had no doubt that this was from God.
After sharing this, a few other people had words for me:
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” - (Philippians 3:8)
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” - (Luke 12:32)
I think that this new word ("Give up") ties in with last year’s word which was “It’s not about you.”
I know that God will continue adding to these words, and make me into who he wants me to be.
Friday, February 07, 2014
I recently read a thought-provoking post on a friend's blog that has set me off.
My friend posted a list of the Top 10 Most Influential People on American Christianity. Top of the list was Paul the Apostle and tied for last place was Jesus (and John Wesley).
This list made an excellent point, which I must say I agree with. (Except that maybe I would have put Constantine on there somewhere, but whatever). American Christians are much more students of Paul than they are students of Jesus.
How can I say this? Well, to start with, whenever I speak to people about the words of Jesus, most look at me with blank stares, or quote something that Paul said back at me to clarify what Jesus must have meant.
A few years ago I taught a series on the words of Jesus (along with two other pastors at Soul Survivor church). It was quite refreshing and, surprisingly inspiring to spend several months meditating on the parables and the beatitudes and the radical statements of Jesus, our Lord and Savior and King. His words seemed fresh and powerful and, strangely, brand new to me.
Many of those who attended these services came up afterwards to express their shock and surprise about the words of Jesus. Several had never heard a sermon on these subjects in their life. I was among them.
As I sat down last week with several of the men from our house church we discussed this subject over coffee. I asked them why they thought American Christians were so enamored by Paul and so ignorant of Jesus (the one they are supposed to be following).
One of my friends, John, responded by saying that he felt like Paul was very methodical and logical. It was his theory that Americans want answers and love details, so Paul was more within our comfort zone in a way. Jesus, he said, was much too mystical. He told stories that were difficult to understand. He expected his followers to put his words into practice. He challenged his disciples to live radical lives of inclusive love, to be agents of change in their homes, and in their communities. In short, Jesus was a little scary. Paul was someone we could study and that made us feel as smart as he was.
As we continued to discuss this I made an observation- American Christians would rather ask Paul to explain Jesus to them than to go to Jesus themselves. It's like sitting down with both Paul and Jesus and insisting on only speaking to Paul while ignoring Jesus the entire time.
Many American Protestants criticize Catholics for getting to Jesus via Mary or by praying to the Saints. Are we doing the same thing with Paul the Apostle?
I want to be careful to say that, in our discussion about America's fascination with Paul, we are not down-playing the importance of Paul or his teachings. Both Paul and Jesus are authoritative and their words are meant to be taken as Scripture, we are not cutting the letters of Paul out of our Bibles.
However, both Jesus and Paul are represented within our New Testament. Why would we skip those four Gospels and ignore the very person whom we claim to follow and worship?
Paul himself argues that it is Jesus whom we should follow and obey as our Lord in his first letter to the Corinthians:
"One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas (or Peter)"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name....For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 1: 12-17; see also chapter 3).
If we are truly Christians - which means "little christs" - and we are serious about following Jesus, then we cannot deny that Jesus is our first and main example, and teacher and Lord. Paul is a great teacher and theologian. God certainly called him and used him to shape the early church, and the development of the Christian faith, to this very day. But let us not forget Jesus. He is God in the flesh. He is the one we are called to follow and to emulate. His words should hold weight with us. We should daily seek to learn from Jesus, to seek His face, to follow in His footsteps.
Becoming experts on the letters of Paul and ignoring Jesus is like studying travel guides for exotic tropical paradises and never actually going there ourselves.
When Jesus walked this earth he called people, one at a time, to simply follow him. He laid out very clear and specific instructions regarding what it would cost to follow him, and what he expected of those who followed him, and the scriptures themselves (including the writings of Paul, and Peter, and James and John, etc.), elaborate on what following Jesus is all about.
Let us not just read about following Jesus, let us actually follow Jesus.
"This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" - 1 John 2: 5-6
I would encourage everyone who reads this to begin studying the red letters in Matthew. Let the words of Jesus nourish your soul like warm bread from the oven. Let the wisdom of Jesus refresh your life like cool water on the tongue.
Become students of Jesus. Apprentice yourself to Him. Put his teachings into practice in your daily life. Answer His calling on your life to follow after him.
"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." - Jesus (Luke 9:23)
At the end of your life you and I will stand before Jesus. Make sure that you have a cross in your hand when you get there.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on the [Subversive Underground] e-newsletter.
Monday, February 03, 2014
Special Thanks to Richard Jacobson for his amazing animations to my manifesto.