Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EPISODE 11: Dan Notti & Keith Giles: Missed Opportunities

Sometimes we miss our chance to live out our faith. Why does that happen? How can we improve our serve? Why do we have to re-learn the same lessons over and over again?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Entanglement Agenda

Part 6: Jesus Untangled Series

Christians in the first three hundred years of the faith were not tempted to become entangled with politics or to advance the Gospel by passing laws. Some say it’s because the Roman empire was so pagan and evil that no Christian would want to participate in it. But really it was no more evil than any other worldly empire. And historically there were many Roman soldiers and political officials who actually DID convert to the faith. In fact, this happened often enough that several early Christian teachers created a policy for how to respond to this trend.

As Hippolytus of Rome says: "A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God." (from "Readings in World Christian History", pp. 17-22)

And as Origen explains: “It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but so that they may reserve themselves for a more divine and more necessary service in the Church of God – the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right." (from "Origen Against Celus")

So, the early church certainly had the opportunity to take full advantage of a growing number of political converts in positions of power throughout the Roman Empire. Why not capitalize on that? Why not infiltrate the military command and turn the sword away from the throats of their martyred brothers and sisters?

Why? Because they saw clearly that political entanglement was a snare and a distraction from their main mission. Furthermore, they were unwavering in their devotion to Jesus and to His Kingdom. They stayed the course. They kept the faith.

If the early church understood who they were and what their mission was so clearly, why do Christians today find it so impossible to imagine following Jesus apart from political affiliation?

As Ross Rohde’s excellent article revealed, the Religious Right aligned itself with the Republican party to help elect Ronald Reagan. That started a snowball effect that we are still suffering from today where millions of American Christians can now no longer imagine Christianity without Conservative Republicanism.

As Ross put it, the American Church was ensnared much as a pimp grooms a new prostitute – seeking the girl who is pretty but not the center of attention. By manipulating her need to be noticed, and valued, the pimp can exploit her and get her to believe that if she keeps doing what the pimp asks her to do, “one day” she will realize her dreams.

But it’s all a lie.

However, that’s not where the pimping of American Christianity really began. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse details in his new book, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” our country’s religious prostitution began in the 1950’s.

Kruse explains how business leaders plotted to link Christianity, Republican politics, and libertarian economics tightly together. Why? To help drive a wave of public piety and create a feeling of solidarity between Christians and Corporations who might both see “Big Government” as a common enemy.

This is where our national motto, “In God We Trust” (1956), and a new line in the Pledge of Allegiance was added: “One nation under God” (1954) came from.  

And the goal was simple: to entangle Christianity with Republican politics in order to benefit big business.

As Kruse explains: “The reason they [corporations] start making this argument about freedom under God is that it’s a much more effective way to push back against the regulatory state and the labor unions. It’s no longer businessmen making the case for businesses. It’s ministers.”

And why Christian ministers? Because they were better at propaganda. “They’re very effective at making this argument that a state that restricts capitalism will inevitably restrict Christianity. They link economic restrictions with religious restrictions. It requires a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s one that they effectively sell,” says Kruse.

Other historians agree, including Kim Phillips-Fein whose book "Invisible Hands" also documents this unholy alliance between 1950's Corporations and the Christian Church. 

Both Phillips-Fein and Kruse credit a pastor by the name of Reverend Fifield - whose large Los Angeles congregation was made up mostly of millionaires - as one of the most effective ministers in the Capitalistic Christian movement. “Fifield disregards all of Christ’s warnings about the dangers of wealth,” says Kruse. “He completely disregards the injunction to look out for one another. To love your neighbor, to be your brother’s keeper. He discards all of those messages. It becomes a faith of individualism.”

In order to make it all work, the teachings of Jesus had to be downplayed. The Sermon on the Mount needed to be moth-balled in favor of more sermons about individual faith, civic duty, and paying taxes. Christianity began to slowly mirror the ideals of Capitalism, and soon enough Jesus was re-branded as the poster boy for the American Dream. 

Another minister, James Ingebretsen, President of a group known as Spiritual Mobilization (itself created by Revered Fifield to further this same cause) also admitted: “Fighting the forces that wanted to abolish the free enterprise system was my mission, not promoting Christ.”

This well-funded crusade to entangle the Christian faith with Republican Conservatism gained momentum in the 1970's and 1980's as evangelical leaders like Robertson and Falwell took the wheel. As Phillips-Fein notes in her book, one of the leading fund raisers for this movement, Richard Viguerie, affirmed that the next real major area of growth for the conservative ideology and philosophy is among evangelical people.”

And what was the result? As Kruse explains: “[This movement] had been launched to roll back the New Deal and instead it helps inspire a new sort of religious nationalism.”

Which is where we are today.

And my question for you is, "Did it work?" 

Have you bought their propaganda? Is your faith now entangled with Conservative Republican values? Are you, even now, still unable to separate your faith in Jesus with your political ideology?

I must confess that I was a victim of this propaganda. I was raised in a Republican home. I voted in every election since I was legally able to vote and I always voted "straight ticket" Republican. 

I listened to Rush Limbaugh. I read his books. I watched the Republican National Convention every election year on television. 

I cheered for my Republican President, and I griped and complained about those Liberal Democrats who were ruining our nation and threatening to bring down the wrath of God upon us.

But it was - and it is - all a lie. 

It's manipulation. Pure and simple.

We are all the victims of a well-funded, decades-long campaign to twist our faith into an easy to control voting block.

This is why it is so imperative for us to open our eyes, throw off the chains and return to Jesus – and Jesus alone – as our Lord and King.

I encourage you to read these verses with new eyes:

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..” (Hebrews 12:1)

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Tim. 2:4)

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..” (Philippians 3:7-9)

Maybe it's time for us to take out our garbage? Maybe it's time for us to finally and completely untangle ourselves from anything and everything that hinders us from following Jesus - and Jesus alone.

Here's an idea: Sit down tonight with your bible. Open up to the Gospel of Matthew. Find the Sermon on the Mount. Read it slowly. Listen to Jesus with a new heart. 

If I could, I would like to challenge you to crucify your Nationalism; crucify your Political affiliation; put to death anything that exalts itself against the Lordship of Jesus.

I challenge you to follow Jesus totally untangled from this world.


“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’ If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Peter 2:19-20)

My new book "Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb" is available now on Amazon.




Friday, April 24, 2015

Ross Rohde: How American Evangelicalism Has Been Exploited

NOTE: This guest post by Ross Rohde (author of Viral Jesus) is Part 5 in our "Jesus Untangled" series:

I have noticed, frankly, that most American Evangelicals have become so taken with the philosophy of right wing politics and American nationalism that they don't realize they've become compromised as Christians.

In my opinion the Republican party has prostituted the American Evangelical church. They own us and our thinking. We end up holding values that are counter to the values of Jesus because they've got us thinking along their paradigms rather than us evaluating everything according to the stated values of Jesus and the example of His life. The attached video shows that process in painful detail with a number of interviews from Evangelicals who were part of the process. The following is a synopsis of what happened.

We Evangelicals began to compromise ourselves because in the early 1980's the Republican Party told us we were important to them. In fact, it was Ronald Reagan who groomed the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell and Francis Schaeffer over the issue of abortion. They told us they would work towards overturning Roe vs. Wade. It's been 43 years since Row vs. Wade. How faithful have they been in fulfilling their promise? Now the same issue is happening with the anti-homosexual political agenda. Pay attention. That is losing them votes now, and they are turning against it as fast as they can; all the while still pretending to be on our side. That's grooming.

I'm going to say something harsh here, but I think it is true. In my opinion the Republican Party is treating the Evangelical church like a pimp treats a girl he has groomed. First he tells her he wants to be her boyfriend and he's in love with her. He pays attention to her and complements here. Then over time he tells her if she loves him she'll "help him" i.e. violate her morals in the name of the "relationship." Eventually he gets her to the point that she does anything he says, and thinks whatever he tells her to think, but she gets nothing out of the relationship other than her own violated morality. All the while she is thinking he's in love with her, becoming so deluded that she thinks he's protecting her.

That's were we are now with the Republican party. We do what they tell us. We think what they tell us to think, even when it is clearly the opposite of what Jesus said. But we actually get nothing out of the relationship but them telling us they love us, "Now, go violate your morals again, think what I tell you and not according to what Jesus said. Jesus really didn't say that. Or he didn't actually mean that. Now it's different. Just think what I tell you to think."

I think it's time to go back to our Bridegroom. I think the most appropriate book of the Bible right now for the American Evangelical Church is Hosea. And, before you go there, I'm not suggesting that the Democratic party, or the Libertarians or European socialism is the answer. 

Am I angry at the Republican Party? Absolutely I am, because they have prostituted the Bride of Christ. But does that mean I think some other political party will help us? NO! They'd love to prostitute us too. We need to go back to Jesus. And we need to be very careful we don't evaluate any moral, value or action based on anything other than Jesus' values and example. We need to quit thinking through the Republican and nationalism paradigms. Because if we do, all we are showing is we've been compromised.

Here is a link that shows the political grooming in painful detail, along with interviews from Evangelicals who were part of the process and saw it all first hand.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Still Embracing Constantine?

I have a little more grace for Christians who are still part of the Traditional Church when it comes to mixing politics and faith. I mean, they already accept the Constantinian model of Church with its hierarchy and professional clergy, so it’s not a mystery to me why they also embrace the idea of a Church that is aligned with the State.

But when Christians in the Organic (or House) Church movement affirm an entangled Christianity, I have to wonder what’s really going on?

Historically, the Christian church viewed the State as an adversary – at best as a necessary evil – and something that was to be “called out” from, not something to be embraced or to become entangled with.

Paul affirmed that the State served a purpose – to wield the sword and maintain civil authority – but that the Church served a higher purpose – to carry the cross and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. (See Romans 13)

The early Christian church took all of that to heart. From the earliest writings of the Apostles, through the Second and Third centuries, the Church resisted military involvement and refused engagement at the political level – even requiring new disciples to the faith who already served in public office to resign or be turned away at the Lord’s Table and disqualified from Baptism.

Of course, all of that changed when the Emperor Constantine allegedly converted to Christianity. But the form of Christianity that Constantine offered the Church was one that was fused with the State.

In exchange for a place of honor and acceptability within the public square, the Christian Church sold Her birthright and bowed her knees to the State.

Ironically enough, the Church compromised Her values so that the sword would no longer come against Her –and yet once Constantine and the Empire become entangled with the Church there were even more Christians put to death than ever before. Only now, sadly, it would be the Church Herself who would imprison and torture and put to death any Christian that opposed Her – or the State.

When the Anabaptists stood up and defied the State Church – even the Reformed State Church of Calvin and Luther – they were arrested, beaten, tortured, and put to death for seeking to turn back the clock to a time when the Church wasn’t aligned with the State.

Because of all this, Christians who today embrace the Organic or House Church model should automatically understand the importance of untangling their faith from their politics. If they truly understand that the Church went off the rails by aligning Herself with Constantine, then it shouldn’t be too hard to see that any Christian who maintains political entanglements is still enslaved to that Constantinian form of Church.

Yet this is not the case. Perhaps part of the problem is that Christians who have left the Traditional Church are still carrying some of the baggage they brought with them from the Constantinian form of Church? Maybe they have yet to fully grasp all that the Constantinian model stands for?

I do know that many within the House Church movement do not automatically reject Constantine’s Sword, for example. They still hold fast to a form of Christianity that embraces violence rather than returning to the words of Jesus for instruction on how to respond to those who want to harm us. They haven’t yet understood the power of Christ that is at work in our weakness or fully trusted in the transformational power of the love of Christ to disarm our enemies.

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.

Until we completely turn away from every perversion of the Christian faith that Constantine introduced into the Church, we will never be completely free to experience the Koinonia of the Ekklesia, and we’ll never be empowered to really “Be the Church” that Jesus designed in the first place.

A Message To ISIS: From The People of The Cross.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Do People Think I'm A Liberal?

First, let me assure everyone that I am not only NOT a Liberal, I am also NOT a Conservative, or a Libertarian, or anything else.

Secondly, I want to address why some people make this assumption about me.

Here it is: They assume that I am being political because they are primarily political in their thinking.

So, when I say, “Jesus wants us to care for the poor,” or “Jesus wants us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us,” they – being sacralists – hear that and apply it to the political realm. This is much the same as when people assume that these statements must apply to the State. [See previous post “Who Are We?”]

Out of all the reactions I receive, this is the one that perplexes me the most.

Why? Because all I’m doing is quoting the New Testament. I’m taking the exact words of Jesus and reminding my brothers and sisters that Jesus told us all to do it. And then those Christians respond by saying, “You’re a Liberal!”


And why do they do that? Because they see their faith as being entangled with their politics. In fact, most of them cannot imagine their faith apart from their politics. For example, every single time I suggest that Christians around the globe around not Capitalists, or Americans, - every single time – someone responds with “Well, they would if they had freedom!”

Which not only misses the point entirely, it assumes that everyone WANTS to be an American and a Capitalist – especially if they are a Christian.

Can we imagine our faith apart from our politics? Can we embrace a Gospel that isn’t about laws, or public policy, or social programs, or political leaders?

Better yet, can we just start taking the words of Jesus seriously? Can we simply humble ourselves before Him, die to our agendas, take up our cross, and follow Him daily?

If we can’t then we’re going to have to stop calling ourselves “Christians” because Jesus doesn’t know of any other kind of Christian than one who does what He says.

“If anyone would be my disciple, he must take up his cross daily, die to himself, and follow me,” – Jesus

So, again, for the record, I am not a Liberal, or a Democrat. I do not even vote. I do not endorse any political party or agenda or candidate for office. I place no faith whatsoever in politics or politicians.

The only hope for this nation – for this entire world – is Jesus Christ and His Gospel of the Kingdom.

His Word transforms us. His Spirit empowers us. His love compels us.

There’s a world out there that needs to be changed. Those who take His words seriously and put His commands into practice are the only ones who will ever change it for the better.

Let His Kingdom come!

NOTE: This article is part 3 in a series of “Jesus Untangled” articles.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who Are We?

Often when I write about how Christians should do what Jesus said and love our enemies, or turn the other cheek, someone will challenge me on that and ask, “Then what should we do about ISIS?” or “What should we have done about Hitler?”

The question itself betrays their confusion.

See, when I say “We should love our enemies” and “We should bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us” I am talking about the Church. That’s the only “We” I know of.

But when other Christians respond by asking “What do we do about ISIS?” they reveal that, to them, “We” equals the State, not the Church.

So, to them, they can’t understand how following the commands of Jesus might work when it comes to addressing national threats.

The reason why it won’t work is that Jesus never meant for his commands to be obeyed by national governments. He was speaking to His followers – the Church.

This came into clear focus for me recently when I was reading the book, “The Reformers and Their Stepchildren” by Verduin. In this book, the author explains how the Anabaptists and the Reformers clashed over exactly the same issue – “Who are ‘WE’?”

The Reformers said that “We” equaled everyone in a given nation. They believed in a sacral society where everyone was expected to follow the same religion under the control of their civil government.

The Anabaptists – in contrast – believed that “We” only pertained to the Church – the Body of Christ and that the State authority ended at the doorstep of the Ekklesia.

Today’s Christians are still very much in the Reformed mindset. Especially those who appear to be pushing – and pushing hard – for a theocratic form of government where the laws of our land are crafted to coerce everyone (Christian or otherwise) to act like a Christian.

They also tend to see America as a Christian Nation and attempt to “bring America back to God” – as if it were ever a nation that exalted God, obeyed Jesus or acted like Christ.

This difference in perspective is significant. It’s ancient.

It’s also deadly. Because the Christians who align themselves with the State have the power of the Sword and – historically – have used that power to imprison, torture, and even put to death any who disagree.

As you might guess, I take a more Anabaptist approach. I see a clear, Biblical distinction between the State and the Church.  [See Romans 13, for example]

The early church also stood firm against the idea that one could be a Christian and participate in the affairs of the Empire, or politics.

"I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command... Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it."
(Tatian’s Address to the Greeks)

"A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God."
(Hippolytus of Rome)

Who are we, then?

This question of identity is an important distinction.

Do we primarily think of ourselves as patriots and citizens of the nation in which we were born? Or do we see ourselves as strangers and aliens in this place and citizens of a Kingdom that is above?

If we see ourselves mainly as nationalistic people, then we will act accordingly. Politics will sway us. Wars will inspire us. Economics will influence us.

But if we see ourselves mainly as people of the Kingdom – people who are not of this world – then we will live accordingly. We will be moved by what moves the heart of Jesus. We will be concerned with the things that Jesus was primarily concerned with – love, compassion, service, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. We will be compelled to follow Him and to put His words into practice, no matter what the cost.

So, who are “we” then?

Friday, April 17, 2015

What is the Abomination of Desolation?

If you’ve ever studied any of the End Times scriptures, or even heard someone talk about prophetic scriptures about the end of the world or the second coming of Christ, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “The Abomination of Desolation”. But what is it? What does it mean?

The phrase appears more than once in the scriptures. Three times in the OT book of Daniel, and three times in the NT during the “Olivet Discourse” by Jesus which is recorded in Matthew 24:15-16, Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20.

In the three references in Daniel the reference appears to be about three different things (not about one single thing, and therefore not necessarily about the same event that Jesus is talking about in his Olivet Discourse).

First, let’s examine what Jesus calls “The Abomination of Desolation” in his Olivet Discourse which is recorded in three of the four Gospels. Each of these are nearly identical, with a few changes here and there – and this is for our benefit as it turns out.

For example, if we could lay these three passages side-by-side we would notice that all of them follow the exact same flow, except for a few sections in Matthew where he consolidates a few references from other encounters where Jesus spoke on the same topic. (This is something Matthew does often and it’s also why you shouldn’t look to that Gospel for chronological info about what Jesus did and when, but more on that in another blog).

Laying these three passages side-by-side we notice a similar flow of thought. They are, after all, the same Olivet Discourse that Jesus’ gave to His disciples regarding a prophecy about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (which would occur roughly forty years later in AD 70).

The part in the Olivet Discourse that deals with the “Abomination that causes desolation” look like this in Matthew and Mark:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15-16)

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mark 13:14)

Notice that both use the similar phrases, but Matthew adds “spoken of through the prophet Daniel” and Mark adds “where it does not belong”. Otherwise, they are identical.

Now, look at what Luke reports in his Gospel:

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...” (Luke 21:20-21)

Hmm…that’s fascinating, isn’t it? Whereas Matthew and Mark used the phrase from Daniel – “The abomination that causes desolation”, Luke instead simply explains exactly what it means – “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies…”

Mystery solved. Matthew and Mark quote the phrase from Daniel about the “Abomination that causes desolation”, but Luke plainly describes what that looks like for the reader who might not understand (as both Matthew and Mark suggest in their more cryptic phraseology).

Let’s look at the three Daniel references now. These are found in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11.

First, Daniel 9:27:

"And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate." (Daniel 9:27)

This prophecy appears to be about Jesus Himself. Notice that it says that “he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week”. Who is “he”? Let’s back up to verse 25 where the angel Gabriel tells Daniel: “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince…”

Who is the “Anointed one”? Well, keep in mind that “Messiah” means, “The Anointed One” and it will be clear that this is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah.

That means that in verse 27 the “He shall make a firm covenant with many for one week…” is Jesus, who made a New Covenant in the upper room with His disciples the week that we was crucified.
Notice also that the verse goes on to say that “he” would “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”, and that’s exactly what Jesus did since during His crucifixion there was an earthquake and the veil in the Temple was split from top to bottom. That most certainly stopped the sacrifice in the Temple as the prophecy says. What’s more, since Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross was as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, there is now no need for any other sacrifice within the earthly Temple.

The following note about one who “upon the wing of abominations shall come..(and) maketh desolate…” is most likely about the Roman armies that came in AD 70 and destroyed Jerusalem and finally put a decisive end to the daily Temple sacrifices. (And these remain so more than 2,000 years later).

The second passage, Daniel 11:31, says:

"And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate."

Many scholars feel that this was fulfilled during the reign of Antiocus Epiphanes, a Greek king who, many years before the coming of the Messiah, erected an idol to Zeus and offered a pig on the altar in the Temple.

Finally, in Daniel 12:11 we read:

"And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days."

This passage appears to be a reference to something that happens after the abomination of desolation is over, but never tells us what happens, only that the time span between the abomination and the end of the daily sacrifice will be 1,290 days…and then? We don’t know exactly.
The prophecies about the Anointed One – that’s Jesus – and the eventual Abomination of Desolation which would culminate in “the shattering of the power of the holy people (the Jews)” (12:7) and the “end of the (Jewish) age” (12:13), have already been fulfilled.

So, the references in the Bible to the “Abomination of Desolation” refer either to: A) The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, as Jesus predicted, or B) to the event where Antiocus Epiphanes profaned the temple in 167 BC.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

EPISODE 9: Dan Notti and Keith Giles: "Being The Church"?

What does it mean to "Be The Church"?
Don't we need to find out what the Church is first?
How can we work towards unity in the Body of Christ?
These topics and more are part of this week's episode.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jesus Untangled

A few days ago I received an email from a friend of mine. He was sharing with me his frustration over the apparent blindness that many Christians seem to have when it comes to following Jesus.

His experience was that every time he attempted to talk about doing what Jesus commanded us to do – like loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, caring for the poor, etc. – the responses he kept receiving were comments like, “But the Founding Fathers say…”, or “The Constitution says..”, or “Common sense tells you…”,  and so on.

This isn’t something new to me. I’ve had – and continue to have – similar conversations with Christians on almost a daily basis.

So, what’s going on here? Why is this such an ongoing problem in the American Church today? What can we do about it?

I have a few ideas.

What’s going on?

Most Christians simply do not understand the Gospel, plain and simple. I know this because – only about 10 years ago – I was also unaware of what the actual Gospel was all about. Keep in mind, I was also a licensed and ordained Southern Baptist pastor at that time.

See, I used to believe that the Gospel was about saying a prayer so that I could go to heaven when I die.

But that’s not the Gospel.

The Gospel – or the “Good News” – that Jesus came and died to proclaim is found (curiously enough) in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Here’s what the “Good News” (or the Gospel) is according to the NT:

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom..” (Mat. 4:23)

“Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mar. 1:14-15)

“But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luk. 4:43)

Wait a minute, what does this have to do with why Christians confuse America with the Kingdom of God?

Good question!

See, because Christians have confused the Gospel with saying a prayer so you can go to heaven, they’ve neglected to see the Gospel as something that is for here and now. That has led us to a Christianity that is largely about something that only starts to kick in once we’re dead – rather than a Gospel that’s about a way of life that starts once you decide to follow Jesus.

It’s also a problem because Christians today largely do not see their faith as something to be lived out. Instead, they see their faith as something that needs to be believed.

Once you reduce the Gospel as something that only needs to be believed – and not obeyed – then you can simply read the words of Jesus and say, “I believe that!” and think that you’ve done all that Jesus asks of you.

Of course, if we think a little longer about that we’ll see that this makes no sense – and that it’s not at all what Jesus says.

If your parents told you to clean your room and your response was, “I believe that!”, do you think you’d be an obedient child?

Obviously, Jesus gave very specific commands to his disciples (that’s what the NT calls “Christians”) and his constant refrain was that those who love Him obey Him, and those who do not love Him do not obey. (See John 14: 15-24)

What we have today in America is a Christian Church that is filled with people who have “prayed the prayer” and “believe the Gospel” but they do not see the words of Jesus as being for them today, nor do they understand that the Gospel is about submitting to the Kingship of Jesus in their actual, daily life.

How do I know this? Because on almost a daily basis I encounter Christians who respond to the clear commands of Jesus with a long list of “Yeah, but…” statements.

Another serious problem we have is that Christians in America have confused their faith with American Christianity. In other words, to be a good Christians means being a good American. More specifically, in my experience at least, being a good Christian means being a conservative Republican.

In essence, many Christians in America can’t untangle Jesus from their politics.

I sometimes try to help those people think differently by saying: “Imagine that someone in North Korea or Communist China hears the Gospel and repents and begins to genuinely follow Jesus. Are they now also a Republican?”

See, the fact is that most of the Christians on this planet are not American, or Republican. In fact, most of them aren’t even Capitalists.

I would take this even further by suggesting that no Christian should ever identify as a Capitalist, or a Socialist, or as a Republican or a Democrat, or as an American or any other nationality.

According to the Gospel, everyone in Christ is now a new creation. The old has gone and the new is now here. That means, in the Church, there is now no longer any Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male nor female, etc. but we are all one in Christ Jesus. [It’s in the NT, trust me].

Jesus is our life. Jesus is our king. His Kingdom is now our home. We pledge allegiance to no one else – and to no other nation – except for Jesus and His Kingdom.

This nation – the United States of America – will soon pass away. In fact, it MUST pass away in order for the eternal Kingdom of Jesus to be fully established here on earth – so must every other nation and government, and every political ideology and man-made philosophy. [And why would we want to put our energies into propping up a nation or a political system that is destined for the ash can when we could be working towards advancing the Kingdom of God?]

If we really believe these things, then it’s time to start living all of that out.

Jesus is Lord. He is Lord right now. He is my Lord. His commands are binding on me because I am already a citizen of His eternal Kingdom. It doesn’t matter what the Constitution says. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Everyone else is only a pretender to the throne.

So, let’s swear allegiance to Jesus and commit ourselves to Him and His Kingdom and begin to put His words into practice starting today.

Or, as Jesus phrased it: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, lord’ and do not do what I say?” – Jesus


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest Blog: Reflections on Indiana Law by Donna Savage

NOTE; This guest blog article was written by a dear friend of mine, Donna Savage. I worked with her for many years at Vineyard Music Group. She is a follower of Jesus, and a friend, and she is Gay. 

I ask that you, my readers, listen to what she has to share and please, dear ones, temper your comments with much love. I will post a blog here later in the week with my own thoughts and comments about this post.



I find it interesting as I read and listen to the different opinions on the whole Indiana "Religious Freedom Restoration" ordeal. The proponents for this law consistently speak of how this law protects people of faith in juxtaposition to the liberal's agenda of tolerance.

Can I just say that there are many, many liberals who are people of faith. I am a person of faith. Yet, because I am also a lesbian, am I automatically considered a liberal... with no faith? I'll be the first to say that many of my viewpoints are liberal. I, however, hold many conservative viewpoints, as well. There is a delicate balancing act I find myself in as I try to live authentically in community with both my liberal and conservative friends.

What I would like you to hear, is that as a liberal, I do not take my relationship with God lightly. If you know me well, you know that my faith in God is not only central in my life, it is based on my understanding and belief of, not only God's love for me, but his love for all of us. When I hear comments about this law that polarize the sides, as people of faith vs. the liberals, I struggle with trying not to be offended. Namely, because as I have said, I am a person of faith, as well as, a lesbian, as well as, a liberal-conservative.

If I lived in Indiana, the religious freedom law would not protect me as a person of faith. Although I have faith, I would still be penalized due to being a lesbian. Not all "people of faith" are being protected by this law. The reality is that doctrinal interpretations have now been attached to our legal system. Today it is legal to not sell to a gay person... tomorrow, will it be legal to kill a gay person for being gay? (There is an initiative being proposed for that very thing here in California! It's not as far fetched as you may think!) This subtle law in Indiana only protects a segment of Americans. It merely protects the faith or beliefs of a certain group of people, who hold a certain doctrine. In my understanding, this is discriminatory.

And this law, in my opinion, is the antithesis of the words written in our constitution, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,..."

If there are laws to keep me out of the public market place due to our differences in doctrine, than that is discrimination and I am not being treated as an equal.

Governor Pence said, "There needs to be tolerance on both sides."

The difference in our tolerance is this: the laws that enable me to marry the person I love does not ask or compel a heterosexual to become a homosexual for my marriage to take place. It merely provides me with the same civil liberties and rights that heterosexuals enjoy. I promise that if I ever get married, I will never require my heterosexual friends to become homosexuals! I not only tolerate your heterosexuality, I think it's great... for you! However, with this law, which protects business owners who hold the doctrine or viewpoint that who I am is sinful and therefore, they are not required to treat me as an equal and sell their goods to me... unless, of course, I stop sinning and become a heterosexual like them, is just... intolerant and quite frankly, ugly.

I think it is safe to say, if I should get married, and I am protected under the law to do so, you as a heterosexual, will not die. However, hypothetically speaking, every store owner in any given city in Indiana could legally hold this religious freedom restoration viewpoint and be protected by the law in doing so. If I, as a liberal lesbian, lived there and could not buy food, I could literally die of starvation. How can that ever be ok? Their faith/doctrine is now protected over and above my right to life? Exaggerated... yes, but now a possibility. In my mind, there is a huge difference between the tolerance we are asking each other to live by.

There is an ugliness that this law shadows. It doesn't protect people's beliefs, it protects their judgments.

As a Christian, as a lesbian, as an American, and as a human being, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is offensive to me. I applaud any person or organization who protests, boycotts, or advocates against this law in Indiana or in any other state in our country. Remember Martin Luther King's words, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This law is a threat to justice everywhere.

-Donna Savage

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dear Officer: We See You.

Please watch the video linked here. I want to say a few things about it and you'll need to have watched it to understand everything I'm trying to say.

Watched it? Good. Here's my response:

First of all, I agree with much of it. Honestly, being a cop is a difficult, challenging, and largely thankless job. Anyone willing to put themselves in harm's way to "protect and serve" on a daily basis is worthy of our support and respect.

There was once a time in my life when I wanted to be a cop. Largely because of what I had been exposed to in TV and Movies, I thought being a police officer would be exciting and fun.

But then I read a book that was a collection of interviews with actual, real-world police officers and that changed my mind in a hurry. These guys talked about walking into houses where people had been dead for weeks and how the smell nearly suffocated them. They talked about getting calls to dangerous neighborhoods in the middle of the night and discovering that it was a trap and there were guys with shotguns waiting to kill them when they entered the dark warehouse. They talked about cleaning the brains of their partner off their uniforms after a deadly shoot-out.

That's when I decided that I should stick to writing.

Police work is more difficult and challenging than most of us will ever - ever - know.

Having said that, there is much in this video that I disagree with. Actually, a whole lot.

Those who created this video have done so largely as a response to "those who crucify (cop's) character while minimizing (their) cause", and by that they mean people who make up the "very vocal and sparse opposition (who) flood social media with their misplaced passions and their idea of justice." [To quote the video above]

The incidents they are referring to, no doubt, include the recent shootings of unarmed black men (and women) by police officers over the last year or so. For more specifics on who those people were and how many, you can see a short summary here.

What I object to is the suggestion that those who are critical of the specific police officers who shot and killed these unarmed black people are guilty of "crucifying" the character of every other police officer.

Question: Would it be "crucifying the character" of every school teacher to criticize the few school teachers who (about every other month it seems) get caught having sex with their under age students?

Would you accuse someone who spoke out about priests who sexually molest children in their congregations of having "misplaced passions" or "wrong ideas of justice?"

Yet, whenever someone (like me) shares a link on Twitter or Facebook about yet another police officer shooting involving an unarmed black man or woman, the response is often a very vocal "Shame on you!" for daring to even mention such behavior in a negative light - much less write an actual blog article (like this one).

Furthermore, would we be ok if those teachers were caught molesting our children on video, and yet a Grand Jury decided not to prosecute them, and then they were put back into the classroom again where they could continue to harm more children? Would that be ok?

With priests, isn't it true that we hold them to a higher standard of accountability simply because of the authority and trust we put in them as people who are sworn to integrity and honor?

And when evidence of widespread abuse of that authority by church leaders comes to light, are we not outraged about that and moved to action? Don't we want those people to be put on trial, and for justice to be done and for the victims to have a voice?

So, why is it that when a police officer - someone who is equally held in high esteem and honor within our society - breaks that trust, commits a crime, or kills an unarmed person, we suddenly look down on anyone who cries out for justice, or stands up for the victims, or speaks out?

The video clip does make a few good points about policemen: Most are good, hard working, conscientious people. They love their children. They love their wives and husbands. They love their dog and they laugh and cry and bleed just like every other person on the planet.

What I would like to challenge, however, is the idea that every police officer is automatically "honorable...courageous..." and "...worthy of a nation's support".

Really? What about Christopher Dorner? He was a US Navy officer who served honorably and received several commendations for his service in Bahrain, and then went on to join the LAPD. Soon after, he was fired for attempting to blow the whistle on another officer who was using excessive force. After that termination, he went on a shooting spree and killed several innocent people until he was eventually cornered and shot.

Even the most ardent supporter of police officers would have to admit that there are some police officers who are not worthy of the badge.

And if we really want people to trust the police officers in our community, and to reasonably teach our children to do so, then we need to start seeing abuses of power dealt with and punished - not covered up and shouted down.

Not every police officer is automatically "honorable, courageous and worthy of a nation's support."
Neither is every school teacher automatically a great person, or a wonderful member of society.
Nor is every member of the clergy someone that every one should respect and honor.

The only people worthy of our honor and our respect are those who are actually honorable.

If a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed 12 year old, he is not honorable or courageous or worthy of our support.

If a school teacher sexually assaults a student, he is not worthy of our respect.

If a priest or a pastor takes advantage of a child, he is not someone we should honor.

Back to the video clip above: I won't even try to get into the fact that this video features a cast of 23 white people and only 2 African Americans, or argue with their statistic that "Every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty"  - which is totally false and can easily be refuted with a quick Google search. (Actual numbers are about half of that).

At one point the narrator says, "I wish I knew how to fix it." But what she wants to "fix" isn't the seemingly endless barrage of unarmed black people shot by police. Nope. What she wants to know how to "fix" is the way police officers are perceived in the media, and by the American public. Specifically, she wants to stop people from criticizing police officers, regardless of why they criticize them.

One idea: Start eliminating "bad cops" who use excessive force. Stop punishing "good cops" who try to blow the whistle. Start weeding out applicants at the Police Academy level who tend to be bullies who can't wait to get that badge and gun. Start putting police officers who use excessive force on trial for their crimes. Start prosecuting cops who choke people to death on the sidewalk, or who shoot 12 year olds dead in the park, etc.

Any of those ideas would be a great start. But it's much easier to just make a video.

I'm all in favor of honoring the good cops who genuinely care about the people they protect and serve. Let's do all we can to help them. We need their tribe to increase.

But at the same time, let's please also do all we can to eliminate the bad cops who give those good cops a bad name.

Why would anyone be against the idea of doing both?

Out of roughly 400 reported police killings annually, an average of 96 involved a white police officer killing a black person.

African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police.

27 police officers were killed in 2013, according to the FBI.

In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years.

In Canada — a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.