Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Episode 15: Dan Notti & Keith Giles - "Teaching and Learning"

In our pursuit of Spiritual Formation as the central activity of the Ekklesia, how do we handle teaching, listening and learning? What do we do when some of our views collide? How do we create an optimal environment for learning?

Friday, May 22, 2015

EPISODE 14: Dan Notti and Keith Giles - "Spiritual Formation"

"If spiritual formation is to be the central focus of the local congregation , the group must be possessed by the vision of apprenticeship to Jesus in kingdom living as the central reality of salvation and as the basic good news, and they must have formed the clear intention to be disciples and to make disciples, as the central project of their group." - Dallas Willard

What is the primary, central focus and purpose of the Church?

Dan and Keith discuss why "Spiritual formation in Christ" should be our central concern.


It was one of those days which can only be described as a “perfect storm” of positive reinforcement.
One after another I received a continuous string of email messages from a variety of people who wanted to thank me for my writing, or to encourage me in my ministry, or to affirm something that I had done or said.

It was glorious.

As someone whose love language involves “Words of Affirmation”, it was like a tsunami of love coming to me in a series of warm, soothing waves.

Driving home that evening, I was glowing from the inside out. That’s when I started realizing how great it is to be loved.

Not only is it great to receive love from total strangers who appreciate my writing, it’s even more amazing to realize that I am even more loved by the Creator of this Universe, every single second of every single day.

“Thank you for loving me, “ I said. “Thank you God for your incredible, unending, unmerited love for me.”

That’s when I started to hear from the Holy Spirit. He questioned my mention of the “unmerited” aspect of His love for me.

What I began to experience next was both an endless wave of His Divine love for me, and a quiet whisper that I should never allow anything to distract me from an awareness of His incredible love for me. Not even the idea that I don’t deserve it.

What followed was sort of a little movie in my inner thoughts. I began to review the various verses in the Bible about God’s fantastic and extravagant love for His people.

I remembered the verse that says God sings over me and quiets me with His love.

I remembered the verse where God says that His thoughts about me are more numerous than all the grains of sand on the planet.

I remembered the verse where God says that He loved the entire world so much that He was willing to step down from Glory, become one of us, humble Himself like a servant, and lay down and die – all because He would rather die than live without us.

I remembered the verse where God’s love is described as transcending knowledge, and that if we could just grasp how wide, and high, and long, and deep His love for us really is that we could be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

And guess what I realized next? I realized that none of those verses about God’s phenomenal love for me ever – not even once – cautioned me to remember that I was a worthless scum who didn’t deserve that kind of love.

Not once.

Let that sink in for a moment.

God loves you. He wants you to know it. He wants you to bask in it. He wants you to enjoy it.  He wants you to trust in that love. He wants you to experience it. He wants you to meditate on it. He wants you to take a deep dive into the depths of His love and to let it saturate your being, infiltrate your soul, permeate your heart and transform your identity from the inside out.

Let go of the idea that you don’t deserve it. Let it disappear in your rearview mirror.

Concentrate on His ridonkulus, splendiferous, ginormous love for you.

And then, get ready for the best part of all which comes when your tiny soul can no longer contain the vast ocean of His love and it all comes gushing out of you like a massive tidal wave of unbelievably unlimited agape.

Yes, His love for you is better than you can imagine. It’s over the top, beyond the moon, as vast as the heavens, and totally, gloriously, fantastically eternal and overwhelming. But it’s not about you. It’s about Him, the God who is love incarnate, getting into you and everyone around you.

We are empty, dry sponges that are desperate for one thing – the unending love of our Maker.

Once you realize this you start to see how “caring for the poor” isn’t the point. But loving people who happen to have less than you is.

You realize that “turning the other cheek” isn’t the point. But loving the person in front of you who has hate in his eyes is.

You realize that “social justice” isn’t the point. But loving the community around you enough to get involved in their suffering is.

You realize that “non-violence” isn’t the point. But loving everyone – even your enemies who want to kill you – is.

Being loved is awesome. There’s nothing like it in the world. Once you know how completely you are loved by God, the next step is to make sure everyone else around you knows how much they are loved, too.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Conformed To His Image

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20)

Here we have our marching orders from our Commander in Chief. This is about so much more than Evangelism. Rather, it is a framework for what every Christian community should be focused upon.

Where the Christian Church in the West has failed most, I believe, is in taking this mandate to heart and putting it daily into practice.

Instead, the Church has twisted this "Great Commission" from Jesus and turned it into a justification for building million-dollar structures, launching extravagant outreach campaigns, and publishing thousands of "How To" books, all aimed at creating converts while at the same time ignoring any call to make disciples who understand how to "obey everything (Jesus) commanded".

This is largely why the Evangelical Church in America finds Herself in deep decline today. Instead of inviting people to know God more intimately through an ongoing encounter with Jesus, and creating a church full of people who are intentionally seeking to put His words into practice in their actual lives, we have opted for a Gospel that does little more than provide an escape from Eternal Torment; leaving our Churches with nothing to do but entertain a growing crowd of un-transformed converts until they eventually die and move on to their promised "Heaven".

It also creates a world where the Church hardly resembles Her founder and causes many outside the faith to doubt the love of God and the power of Christ to transform the human heart.

This is not the Gospel. It's also not what Jesus had in mind for His Body.

Reading the New Testament reveals that Jesus expected to inspire a community of people who were called out and empowered to not only call Him 'Lord, lord', but to actually put His words into practice.

Essentially, what the Church needs today is to return to Jesus, renew their allegiance to Him, and begin to become Disciples (so that they can start to "make Disciples of all nations").

A recent conversation with my dear friend, Dan Notti, honed in on this missing element of Christian life. Specifically, the idea of spiritual formation is becoming extinct in our Christian faith today.

Not only is it slowly fading away as a concept, it is actually becoming an idea that is radically opposed by many Christian teachers who argue that the teachings of Jesus cannot be kept, and that Jesus never intended for us to try to follow His teachings or to put His words into practice.

This is flabbergasting. Especially when we cannot read the Gospels without being inundated by the words of Jesus crying out, over and over again, that those who love Him obey Him, and that those who put His words into practice receive life, and that those who call Him 'Lord, lord' but refuse to do what He says will be told "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you."

How does this happen?

Partly because, as we've already seen, the Gospel that gets communicated is the bumper sticker "Pray this prayer if you don't want to burn in Hell forever" variety rather than the "Repent! The Kingdom of God is near" version we hear Jesus proclaiming.

Another reason we see the abandonment of the Gospel of the Kingdom, however, is the rise of a more Pauline version of the Gospel which emphasizes - or rather over inflates - the message of Grace so that it begins to eclipse the teaching of Jesus.

This is not to say that Paul and Jesus were at odds. Far from it. Anyone who reads the writings of Paul, or especially the Acts of the Apostles, will see that Paul, and the other Apostles, all preached the Gospel or Good News, of the Kingdom. [See Acts 28:23; 30-31; 14:22; 19:8; 8:12; Eph. 20:25, etc.]

However, when Christian teachers and preachers overemphasize the Gospel of Grace - in a way that Paul never intended - they create the false impression that Jesus' message and Paul's message were different.

Not so. Paul preached the Good News of the Kingdom everywhere he went. Yes, he did write a few epistles where he reminded the disciples that their salvation was a work of God's unmerited favor and grace. But this was always within the context of submission to Christ as Lord - something Paul writes a lot about - and an assumption that those Christians understood the "Good News of the Kingdom" which involved complete submission to Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

One revealing verse about how Paul truly understood the concept of Grace is found in Titus 2:11-12 where he says:

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.."

Notice two things:

1) Paul affirms that the Grace of God "offers salvation to all people."

2) Paul also teaches that the Grace of God "teaches us to say 'No'" to "worldly passions and to live self-controlled...godly lives in this present age."

According to Paul, the Grace of God is about salvation, AND about living a godly, self-controlled life - right here and now!

The Grace of God isn't only an instant "get out of hell free card", it's also an ongoing, continual power at work in our everyday lives that empowers us to become more like Jesus.

That's spiritual formation, folks.

Grace, then, is like the small amount of yeast that enters our lives the day we respond to the sound of Jesus' voice [to save us from our sins], and that continues to permeate our entire being every moment after as we continually become transformed into the image of Christ.

What if our Church family was single-mindedly focused on cooperating with the Holy Spirit in this process of becoming more like Christ?

What if our main focus as Christians was to collaborate together with one another, and with Jesus, to ensure that everyone within our church community was actually on the path towards having the heart and mind and character of Christ formed within them? [Ourselves included, of course].

To me, that is what is missing from our Churches today. That is what would breathe new life and vitality back into the Body of Christ again.

As Dallas Willard has put it, the Church should be about "...transforming disciples inwardly, in such a way that doing the words and deeds of Christ is not the focus but is the natural outcome or side effect." (from "Renovation of the Heart")

Simply put, we as individual Christians should begin by falling to our knees - daily - and surrendering continually to Jesus, we should focus on abiding in Christ and allowing Him to abide in us, so that our lives can bear more fruit.

If we do that, everything else will fall naturally into place.


Saturday, May 16, 2015


If you are a Christian you need to know your rights.

According to Jesus and the Apostles, as a follower of Jesus, you have the right to:

*Give up everything for Christ: "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." - Jesus (Luke 14:33)

*Lay down your life for others: "Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (1 Jn. 3:16)

*Serve everyone God places in your path: "The greatest among you will be your servant." - Jesus (Mt. 23:11)

*Love God: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." - Jesus (Mt. 22:37)

*Love other Christians: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - Jesus (Jn. 13:35)

*Love your enemies: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." - Jesus (Mt. 5:43-48)

*Care for the poor: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" - Jesus (Mt. 25:40)

*Lose your life: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." - Jesus (Mt. 16:25)

Now that you know your rights, it's time to go out there and start exercising them.

Celebrate your freedom in Christ today!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

EPISODE 13: Dan Notti & Keith Giles - "What Every Pastor Should Realize"

Evangelical Christianity is on a downward spiral in America. Why? What can be done? How can Pastors of Traditional Churches stem the tide? What does it mean for Organic Churches?

Listen as Keith and Dan speak candidly about the challenges facing the American Christian Church today and what is really holding back the Church from the growth and vitality that Jesus intended for it.

Follow Dan Notti's blog at:

Follow Keith Giles at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Welcome To Post Christian America

A new study from the Pew Research Center has found the population of Christians in the United States is on a downward spiral.

Polling 35,000 Americans aged 18 and older, the poll found that over the last seven years, those calling themselves “Christian” has diminished by 8 percent overall. That’s about 5 million people who have moved out of the Christian faith since 2007.

This new demographic is being called the "Nones" (as in "None of the above") or the "Dones" (as in "Done with religion").

Even more eye-opening is what researchers are identifying as the cause for the ongoing exodus away from the Christian faith:

“Traditionally, we thought religion was the mover and politics were the consequence,” said Mike Hout, a New York University sociologist and demographer. However, today more and more are leaving Christian denominations because “they saw them align with a conservative political agenda and they don’t want to be identified with that.”

Other researchers, like Religion Dispatches writer Sarah Posner also points out that, “politically speaking, evangelicals, and in particular white evangelicals, have been highly politically organized for decades,” and that trend’s not stopping anytime soon.

So, while some Evangelical Christians can point to this latest report as proof that they need to “redouble their efforts in the culture war”, the truth is that they are actually to blame for creating their own problem.

Yes, it is very troubling to note that many young people are turning away from the Christian faith. But, are these people truly rejecting legitimate Christianity, or are they actually rejecting a political ideology that is only masquerading as Christianity?

I would argue the latter is more the case.

Christians in America are in effect practicing a very self-destructive form of Reverse Evangelism and not only repelling those who are still outside their walls, but alienating many of those who once considered themselves part of the team.

Yet, even as more and more people identify themselves less and less as “Christians” they are – at the same time – identifying more and more as “spiritual but not religious”. This indicates a desire to connect with God, and perhaps even with Jesus, but they seek to do so outside the typical constraints of American Christianity. Why? Mostly because this brand of American Christianity largely defines itself politically as an offshoot of the Conservative Republican party, and camps out on pet issues like Gay Marriage and Abortion while ignoring issues that Jesus seemed to care most about like Poverty, Violence, Oppression, and Exploitation of the weakest in our society.

As my friend Ross Rohde notes:

“My biggest concern is the damage this does to the Kingdom. We say Jesus is Lord, but we entangle ourselves with the equivalent of the "foreign wives" of the Old Testament. If we can't untangle ourselves from these strange infatuations, strange loves, then we really aren't following Jesus at all. We are treating Him like he is here for our salvation, our convenience, and we don't have any responsibility in the relationship. That's not treating Jesus as our Lord, it is treating him like a slave we don't respect. Jesus is Lord, we are to follow Him, not some foreign bride."

I couldn’t agree more. But what can we do about this? How can we turn back this troubling tide?

We don’t.

In fact, I would argue that no one can and we shouldn’t even try.

What we’re seeing here is a very natural reaction to an empty, man-made religion which is more political than spiritual, and that is a very, very good thing. If nothing else it shows that people are smart enough to realize when something doesn’t smell right and they’re willing to walk away from it entirely in pursuit of something more authentic and pure.

Rather than reverse this process, we should find a way to meet with these spiritual nomads and provide opportunities to address their deepest concerns and respond to their spiritual hunger for more God and less politics.

How do we do this? One idea I’ve had recently is to start a Meet Up group online for those who are interested in “Jesus Without Religion”, and to start getting together once a week with anyone and everyone who wants to learn more about who Jesus is, and what Jesus taught, and how to follow Jesus without any religious, denominational, or political strings attached.

Maybe you have another idea? I'd love to hear it. But regardless of how we go about it, the urgency is clear. The game is changing and if we don't adapt to that change, we will miss a huge opportunity to advance the Kingdom and share the Gospel.

FACT: The sooner we give up the idea of ever returning to the “Good old days” when Christianity was the norm and everyone went to Church on Sunday, and kids went to Sunday School, and shops were closed on Sunday so everyone could spend time with their Church family, the sooner we can start adapting to the actual world we really do live in right here and right now – a world where almost no one knows the Bible stories, or can sing “Jesus Loves Me”, or understands what Flannel graph is.

We live in the midst of a vast mission field where more and more people do not know the Gospel, have no idea who Jesus really is, and do not own or read the Bible.

Welcome to Post Christian America.

This is our chance to get it right.

This is our time to shine.

We were born for such a time as this.


[This article is Part 13 in the "Jesus Untangled" Series]

Read the entire "Jesus Untangled" series:
Part 1: "Jesus Untangled"
Part 2: "Who Are We?"
Part 11: "Christian American Horror Story"
Part 12: "Our True Source of Liberty" by Ross Rohde

Monday, May 11, 2015

Our True Source of Liberty by Ross Rohde

[Part 12 in the “Jesus Untangled” Series]
Many Christians feel the need to fight for their liberty. But this liberty they talk about; don't they already have that in Christ? Is some political party or political leader going to give you more of that? Is there anything that Jesus and the New Testament warns us will be taken from us if the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Democrats are in control? Will anything be taken from your relationship with Jesus if the economy goes belly up and we enter a new depression? We may not want any of that to happen, but my freedom isn't impaired by any of that. The "freedom" these Christians are talking about isn't worth a bucket of warm spit from a biblical perspective. [Excuse the graphic example.]

Too many of us are thinking through worldly paradigms. We are listening to the manipulators that are playing our fears that the boogie man is coming. Currently for Republicans his name is Obama, or Obummer, or...soon it will be Hillary. We fear that they are going to take away our constitutionally-given freedoms.

Keep in mind, the Christians we read about in the New Testament were living in a much more repressive society than any Democrat or Republican might be thinking about or planning for. Those Christians were free, even if they were slaves. Get your head out of the worldly paradigms of Republican thinking. Others may need to get out of the European Socialism paradigm or the Libertarian paradigm or the Democratic one.

As long as we are thinking through the paradigms they give us we are easy to manipulate.  

I'm free.  If I were in prison, I'd still be free.  I'm only a slave when I allow others to give me a worldly paradigm and get me thinking the way they want me to think.

Right now the American Church is enslaved to the Republicans and those who pull the strings in that party, for the most part. There are a few who are under the ether of the Democrats and some the Libertarians. Some are trapped in the Christian Dominionism nonsense of how America and its Constitution are ordained of God, and how America is founded on biblical principles so the “new saints”, our Founding Fathers, have made the United States a shining city on a hill, yada yada.

None of this points to Christ. It points to boogie men or political heroes. It points to the "right party" or the "wrong party." It points to the Constitution or Founding Fathers. None of these things point to Christ. Such people are slaves to someone else's thinking instead of being true bond slaves of Christ. But they think such things are actually going to help them.

If we don't evaluate those paradigms with the example of Jesus’ life, his word, his values and most importantly his Spirit speaking to our hearts and minds, we are slaves, thinking we have freedom.

Have we become trapped by the foundational principles of the world Paul warned us about in Col. 2:8? Set yourself free! Repent of this nonsense of worldly Republicanism and the demonic forces behind it. Yes, the demonic is lurking behind all the other political paradigms too. You can only be set free by repentance and seeking the true and ONLY Lordship of Jesus. You can't serve two masters. Not money and Jesus, not Republicanism and Jesus, not Marx and Jesus, not the Constitution and Jesus or your Lexus and Jesus. Jesus. His Spirit. His life example. His words. His values. JESUS, JESUS, JESUS. “Chose you this day whom you will serve.”

Here's a quick test to see if we are being driven by demonic paradigms or the Spirit of Christ:

Do our emotions get stirred up more when we think about something (politics for example) that looks like “the acts of the flesh”, (see Gal. 5:19-21) or that looks like “the Fruit of the Spirit”, (Gal. 5:22-23)?

If we are stirred up by anger, bitterness, fear, hatred etc. we are being driven by the demonic. If it points to anything – however seemingly good – and not Jesus, it is demonic.

Remember, the Evil one likes to present himself as an angel of light. So if holding up some fake political freedom, or some political party or some political hero or document helps him distract God's children from Jesus, he'll gladly do it and make it seem like it is the best thing since buttered bread.

But, if our hearts are stirred by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc., then that's the Holy Spirit.

Very few political conversations look like Gal. 5:22-23. Very few point even other Christians back to Jesus. They talk about some political boogie man, or their freedoms which are being taken away, or unfair taxes or the Koch Brothers (another set of boogie men). They all are intentionally stirring up fear, anger, hatred, etc. All of these are deeds of the flesh, and things that keep us from being centered on Jesus.
Are you still thinking through the paradigms that have been given you? Politics and the Republicans aren't going to fix these things. Haven't you noticed that they are moving rather quickly toward homosexual rights? And if they fix these things – these fears they've planted in your brain – then they can't manipulate you any longer; they've lost their power over you.

Roe vs. Wade was in 1973. I was in high school back then. Have they fixed it yet? They've been promising for 42 years, and if they can continue to manipulate us with it they'll promise another 42 more, or find the next thing to stir up our fears, like homosexuality, which they won't fix either.

Homosexuality was more common in Paul's context than ours is. Yet he didn't try to fix Greek culture through government. He was a Roman citizen. He had the same power in government you have right now. Instead he talked to Christians about their behavior. He didn't write a letter to the city magistrate, or the provincial governor or Caesar. He stood before those folks. He had his chances, and he talked about Christ.

This Nation has always been going to hell in a hand basket. So has every other human society. Haven't you noticed that we're still fighting the same human problems 2,000 years later that humans were dealing with at the time of the New Testament? Homosexuality, check. Taxes, check. Abortion, check. [They had it then too, but exposure of babies was more common then.]

Did the Church go complain to the magistrates about all the babies laying out among the corpses of slaves along the side of the road? Did they think government was going to fix that? No, they picked up the babies and took them home. Then they buried the bodies and didn't even say anything about it.
Government doesn't fix real, significant problems for any length of time. But they sure know how to use problems to capture your thinking. In my opinion, we are still captured. Our attitude just shows that we are running scared by stories about boogiemen under the bed that the Republicans have been reading to us at night. Are they there? Yep. But the Republicans can't help you. They really don't even want to. They just want your vote and your money.

Jesus is our answer. We keep running to the Republicans for something Jesus has told us not to even get entangled in. (See Col 2:8)

-Ross Rohde


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Christian American Horror Story

[Part 11 in the "Jesus Untangled" series]

“Can you imagine what a difference it would make if Christians ran for every office at all levels across our country – city council, school board, Mayor? We need to get involved and take a stand for biblical values and morals before it's too late. If you agree share this.” – Franklin Graham

This quote reflects the attitude of many Christians in America today. It reveals a deep desire to seize control the American Government – to take power over our enemies and to exert the necessary political pressure required to turn our nation back to God.

Of course, this is always couched in language that suggests that our nation was founded under Christian principles and that if Christians would just vote the “right way” and “take a stand for Biblical values” then our nation would be restored its original piety.

I always wonder how exactly this miracle would take place. As far as I know, no one has ever actually explained the logic of this fantasy. Once every political office in America was filled by a Christian would there be some magical shift in the collective consciousness of the American people? Would everyone suddenly stop in their tracks and all agree that it was time to become moral and righteous?

Honestly, I don’t think even Franklin Graham himself actually believes that scenario. I think that what they actually believe would transpire is purposely unspoken because of how completely horrific and insane it sounds when you say it out loud.

See, for Christians to actually gain power – and keep it – they would have to start using that same power to start passing as many “Christian Laws” as possible.  Eventually, once enough of those laws were on the books, then non-Christian people would have no choice but to begin acting more like Christians want them to act.

Sound good to you? Probably not.

What’s even more ludicrous about Franklin Graham’s political fantasy is the idea that a government comprised entirely of Christian politicians would automatically lead to national unity.

Seriously? Have you never been to a Church business meeting? Since when do large groups of Christians actually agree on anything?

Maybe Franklin Graham should join a few Christian groups on Facebook for a week. That might help him to realize how foolish his idea really is.

Christians in the same church can’t agree on what color to paint the baptistery, just imagine a Christian Congress made up of Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Charismatics and Pentecostals trying to agree on a rail system or a public school curriculum. Chaos.

As entertaining as Franklin Graham’s version of American politics might be to imagine, let’s at least agree on this one thing: It’s not what Jesus has in mind for His people.

Not once does Jesus ever suggest that His followers should attempt to control people using political means. In fact, it was Satan who offered Jesus that same opportunity during those 40 days in the desert, and Jesus refused to advance His Kingdom by political means. Why in the world would we decide to start giving in to Satan’s temptation now?

Jesus did have a plan. It’s a good one. It involves drawing near to Him on a daily basis and being transformed into people who are like Him. It involves helping people around us to come under His rule and reign to experience the same transformational love that we have known ourselves. It involves changing people – one at a time – into the kinds of people who will love God and love others no matter what laws are on the books, or what the penalties for breaking them happen to be.

What Franklin Graham and others like him want is a Christian Theocracy, plain and simple. Even our Founding Fathers didn’t want an America like that. Why would anyone want to re-write the Constitution so radically, especially if they claim it was inspired by God himself?

Like it or not, our nation was created very intentionally to be one where people from every religion – Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, or none of the above – would be free to worship, or not worship, as they desired.

Any attempt to merge the Church and the State can only end badly. Just look at the history books.

Let the State wield the sword. Let the Church carry the cross. Let the two of them never attempt to change seats.

Or, as one great Christian evangelist once wisely observed: 

“It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” – Billy Graham (Parade Magazine, 1981)

The only hope for our nation is Jesus. Let's untangle ourselves from the political nonsense and return to Him while there's still time.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Episode 12: Dan Notti & Keith Giles: "Pharisee Me" - Video Skype Podcast


When Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, he's talking to you and me.

The Elephant In The Church

[Part 10 in the “Jesus Untangled” Series]

For many Christians, the idea of separating their faith and their politics is absurd. They see nothing wrong with having an American flag in the sanctuary. They have no problem pledging allegiance to the flag before the service starts. They sincerely believe that being patriotic and Christian is perfectly fine – even normal.

For the last few weeks I have been writing a series of articles aimed at helping Christians to untangle their faith from politics. Largely, my arguments have been centered on the words of Jesus, the writings of the Apostles, and early Church history. But now I’d like to take a slightly different approach. Let’s turn our attention away from Jesus and the New Testament for a moment and take a look at the other side of our coin – Politics.

In over 6,000 years of human history, how many of mankind’s basic problems have been solved by politicians? None of them.

How many of man’s sins have been dealt with by all the greatest politicians who have ever lived? None.

As stewards who must one day give an account of our money and time, why would we invest anything in a system with such a disappointing track record for success?

Politics is about writing and passing and enforcing laws. Even God’s Law wasn’t capable of transforming the hearts of men and women. Why do we still believe that we can do better?

Do we really need more laws? Do we need better people writing the laws? Is our problem the lack of law enforcement?

What does the Bible have to say about all of that? Do experts in the Law set us free? Is the Law capable of changing us into the image of God?

“For if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Gal. 2:21)Oops. I used the New Testament again. Sorry.

Let me ask you this: What if there was something that could reform the convict? What if there was a formula for changing people into better citizens? What if there was hope for every broken marriage? What if every addict could find hope for life beyond their daily habit? What if there was a way to create an entire society of people who loved one another, cared for one another, and went out of their way to bless everyone around them?

Now, I’m not saying that there is something like that. But, what if? Just imagine it! Wouldn’t something that revolutionary – something with the power to change every human heart from within and make them a brand new creature – wouldn’t that be better than any political solution you had ever heard of in your life?

And if – just if – that sort of society-changing paradigm actually existed, wouldn’t it be foolish to waste your time on a political solution? Especially if, so far, not one single politician or ideology had ever once come close to something nearly so effective and powerful?

Several years ago I was in a Christian band. I wanted more than anything in the world to get signed to record deal. Why? So I could share the Gospel with more people, I told myself. But eventually I had to admit the truth: I wanted to get signed to a record deal because I wanted to be famous. I had to admit that if I really wanted more people to hear the Gospel, our band could play bars and clubs and street corners.

Mixing Politics and Christianity is no different. We may tell ourselves that we’re doing it because we want our nation to be more Christian. But if that’s what we really wanted, we’d spend more time preaching the Gospel and living out the commands of Jesus in our daily life.

Legislation will never change anyone’s heart. The Gospel is not spread through Political Initiatives or Laws.

Let’s just admit that when we seek political solutions to our problems it’s because we’ve given up on changing the world by sharing the Gospel and now we just want to pass laws to force people who are not Christians to act like we do so we’ll feel more comfortable in this society.

No political agenda, party, system, or politician will ever bring our nation any closer to the image of God. Only Jesus can do that.

Our core problems, as a human race, are spiritual in nature. The only solution is spiritual.
Jesus is our answer. He is the only answer.

No other additives or preservatives are required.



Tuesday, May 05, 2015

AWOL Christian Soldiers

[Part 9 in the "Jesus Untangled" Series] 
  “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4)

Every single person who is following Jesus has enlisted in the Army of God. This army exists to defend the Gospel of the Kingdom and to engage in spiritual warfare against principalities and powers of the Enemy. Our aim is to overthrow the powers of darkness and to transform people from within by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our victory is assured. Our general is unbeatable. Our weapons are powerful beyond measure. Nothing can stop us.

But, according to the Apostle Paul, there is something that can slow us down. He calls it “entanglement with the affairs of this life.”
Much like any soldier, we have to be on our guard against distractions. We cannot become too immersed in the nation we are here to liberate. We cannot allow ourselves to lay down our weapons in the pursuit of “civilian affairs”, or we risk losing ground and we endanger our fellow soldiers.

Politics is part of the world system. Therefore, it is certainly one of the entanglements we must resolve to avoid.
Honestly, the political entanglement is one of the most dangerous we face in this battle. Why? Simply because those who become entangled in it do so out of a sincere desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Of course, every Christian hopes to make an impact on the world around them. This is part of why we are so eager to serve our Lord Jesus – because He has the very best possible plan for changing the world from within – and without bloodshed or oppression or violence.
No, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the world a better place. The problem is in seeking to do so without Jesus. Or, worse, to mix Christianity with Politics as if one had need of the other.

Politics is not about Jesus. Simply put, it’s about power and influence. Nowadays it is increasingly also about money, fame, manipulation, and compromise. The follower of Jesus has no business becoming entangled in such a worldly, corrupt system.
Even if the Christian sincerely believes that they can make a difference through politics, the fact remains that the amount of good that might be accomplished in this way is often at the expense of one or more of their own Christian values. Compromises must take place. Voters must often choose between the lesser of two evils, which still amounts to choosing some option – or some politician – who is evil.

What’s more, politics involves millions – sometimes billions – of dollars in campaign spending. Just imagine if that same amount of money had been invested in the sharing of the Gospel, or in actually solving some of the problems facing actual citizens in our nation. How much better off would our world be if we abandoned the political process and simply shared our funds and invested our time directly with the people around us who are in need?

“But no political party would ever spend their money on the Gospel, or in helping advance the Kingdom, or in caring for the poor,” you might say. To which I would reply, “Then why would any Christian entangle themselves with such a gigantic waste of money and empty use of time?”
Do you know what you get when you mix Christianity and Politics? You get Politics.

As with the issue of War, we can rest assured that nations will continue to fight them. But Christians need not participate in those wars. And, yes, nations will continue to seek political solutions to the problems of this world – as they have done for thousands of years – but Christians need not become entangled in that endless, fruitless process.
We have better things to do.

We are soldiers of the King. Our army is advancing daily. New recruits arrive ready for the battle even as we speak. Our Lord has spoken. We must engage the Enemy. Entanglements only serve the interests of our foes.

One day this battle will be over. Our Lord will descend with a shout. And on that day he will look over His troops. When he comes to you, will He see one who has lived as a stranger and an alien, untangled from civilian affairs, or will he see a soldier who tried to mix Christianity with Politics and ended up with Politics?


Monday, May 04, 2015

Ambassadors of Contrast

[Part 8 in the "Jesus Untangled" series]

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20)

As followers of Jesus, we are His representatives – specifically, his Ambassadors – to the world around us. This speaks to the reality of Christ’s Kingdom being separate from the Kingdoms of this world, and of the need to bridge the gap between the two. That’s our job.
As Ambassadors, we are called to live out the customs, and the values of Christ’s Kingdom in this strange and alien land so that those who are natives here can see for themselves what life is like in the Kingdom of God.

What should people see?
They should see how we love one another. They should see how we love our neighbors. They should see how we even love our enemies.

They should see how we – in obedience to our King – handle conflict in our Kingdom, by loving, forgiving, blessing, and serving those who come against us.
They should see how we value the outcasts, how we love the poor, and how we care for those people that most everyone else wants to ignore or marginalize.

They should see us acting as peacemakers when everyone else is crying out for war and bloodshed.
They should see us living lives that are radically different than everyone who is not of our Father’s Kingdom.

Here’s what they should not see:
They should never see us pledging allegiance to another nation. No Ambassador would ever pledge allegiance to the nation to which he/she is sent. To do so would be considered treason.
They should never see us living according to the customs of the land. Violence and a lust for power have no place in our King’s heart, and it has no place in His Kingdom. 

Certainly there is a time for being “all things to all people so that some might come to know our King” and perhaps decide to immigrate – even defect – to our Kingdom. But we must always be careful to remember the values and customs of the Kingdom of God. Why? So that our lives may reflect the radical differences between these two Kingdoms. 

Our job as Ambassadors is to represent our King and to provide a constant example of the contrast between those who live in His Kingdom and those who do not.

If anyone ever looks at our lives and becomes confused about that essential difference, then we have failed in our mission.
Some may suggest that it’s possible to love two nations at once. For example, can’t someone love both France and America. Why not? What would be the problem in that? Well, on the surface, nothing is wrong with that, at least until we discover that the leaders of one nation have declared war against the other. Now what? We cannot continue to maintain loyalty to both nations in that case. Now we need to make a choice. Are we going to stand with one nation, or the other?

Make no mistake, the kingdoms of the world – and that would also include America – are man-made, self-serving political empires. They are not seeking to do God’s will. They are at war with Christ and His Kingdom. They oppose Jesus and His commands. They mock His agenda. They ignore the values of His Kingdom (love, mercy, justice, grace, compassion, service, etc.) and embrace the values of this world (war, violence, torture, exploitation, greed, lust, etc.).
The Kingdom of God and the American Empire are not congruent. They are not complimentary. They are opposing forces with radically different goals, values and ideals.

Just ask yourself: Does my nation officially devote itself to the specific person of Jesus? Does my nation acknowledge Jesus alone as Lord and King? Does my nation base any of its laws or policies on the Sermon on the Mount?
If you answered “No” to any (or all) of those questions, your nation is not Christian and it stands against the Kingdom of our Lord.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Certainly, we can decide to remain neutral and just wait to see which nation wins the war, but in our case we already know which nation is going to win – the Kingdom of God. So, we have to choose: do we pledge allegiance to our earthly nations or to the Kingdom of God?

We live here on this earth now as strangers and aliens, awaiting a better country that is from above. [see Hebrews 11:13-16]
One day, and it may be very soon, the kingdoms of this world will be overcome and obliterated by the Kingdom of our God. [see Rev. 11:15]
Our mission is to live as if that day was here and now and to occupy until He comes to sit upon His earthly throne. [see Luke 19:13]

Life under the rule and reign of our King is better by far than anything anyone could ever experience or imagine. It’s a way of life that can never be duplicated under any other system of human government. No matter how good or humble or kind their leaders may be, no one compares to Jesus, our King.
So, let us pledge allegiance to the One true King, and the One true Kingdom. We cannot serve two masters. Especially if Jesus said it was impossible.