Thursday, July 30, 2015

CRAZY PILLS?



Many Christians today do not put Jesus’ words into practice, and in fact they find it ridiculous that anyone might suggest that they are expected to do so.

What’s going on here? I feel like Mugato in Zoolander shouting, “Am I the only one who can see this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills, here.”

Just the other day I encountered a Christian who acted as if putting Jesus’ words into practice would most likely result in cutting off your own hands or plucking out your own eyes. Presumably because they’ve heard that Jesus told someone to do that once and therefore obedience to Jesus must include self-mutilation.

Even worse, this sort of reaction is not an isolated incident. Many Christians – dare I say “Most” Christians – today are of the same mind on this. For them, following Jesus is an optional, extra-curricular activity that could possibly be undertaken but it is not necessary by any means. Being a Christian, in their minds, is simply about believing the right ideas about God and little else. Of course, one must pray a certain prayer in a certain way to be saved from an eternal torture in hell, but beyond that all that God requires of Christians is to hold the right set of beliefs.

Let me say this: If the words of Jesus are not meant to be put into practice, then Jesus is not Lord and Christianity is a dead religion. [You can Tweet me on that].

Christianity is all about discipleship. It is primarily about one person pledging their life to Jesus and surrendering everything to Christ. Apart from that you may believe whatever you like and pray whatever comes to mind, but you may not call yourself a Christian.

Jesus called for disciples to follow him. [Matt. 4:19]

He warned them to count the cost before starting out with him. [Luke 14:26-28]

He told them that it would cost them just one thing – and that was called “everything”. [Luke 14:33]

He explained that it was impossible to be his disciple without denying yourself and taking up your cross daily. [Matt. 16:24]

He complained against those who wanted to call him ‘Lord, Lord’ without actually doing what he commanded. [Luke 6:46-49]

Disciples and Christians are exactly the same thing. [Acts 11:26]

Whatever else you believe about Jesus or the Scriptures, you must not call yourself a Christian if you do not daily submit to Jesus as your Lord. [Romans 10:9]

A.W. Tozer once called those who deny this simple truth “Vampire Christians” because they only want enough of Christ’s blood to get to heaven, but have no real intention of following Jesus with their life.

Am I the one taking crazy pills here? Or is it everyone else?


-kg

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

4 Reasons Why God Doesn't Owe Any Land To Israel.






"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.." – [Genesis 15:18]

I’ve been challenged by several people to explain how this verse could be true if – as I suggest – God has no special plans for ethnic Jews or the secular nation of Israel today or in the future.

In fact, I’ve been told that this verse above is “the unanswerable verse” that cannot be explained any other way than to concede that Jewish people today are still owed something by God – namely to eventually lay claim to the geographic land mentioned here.

But is that the case? I believe the Bible itself gives us four very solid reasons to say, emphatically, “No”.

First, according to Joshua 21:43, God has already given the Jewish people all of the land that was promised to Abraham:

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Second, in 1 Kings 4:21 we are told that:

Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.”

Third, according to Leviticus 25:23, the land wasn’t given to them forever, it was conditionally promised to them for as long as they remained faithful to God:

'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” – [Lev. 23:23]

And: Leviticus 20:22 says: 

"'Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.”

And, finally, when it comes to the question of the Genesis passage above we have to ask, “Was God's promise to a race of people?”

Here's what the Apostle Paul says:

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring [seed]. It does not say, “And to offsprings [seeds],” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring [seed],” who is Christ." – [Galatians 3:16]

Paul reveals that the promises that God made to Abraham were not made to every single descendant of Abraham, but it was made to his "seed" (singular)...and who is that?

It’s Jesus.

So, in summary, that verse in Genesis where God promises the land to Abraham and ‘his offspring’ was fulfilled to the Children of Israel during the time of Joshua, and even more so during the reign of Solomon. But prophetically, the verse was actually a reference to the Messiah who was/is the actual “offspring” which God had in mind all along.

So, if we are in Christ, then we Abraham's offspring too, and we're also heirs according to the promise:

"And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." - [Galatians 3:29]

In short, God does not owe today’s Jewish people any land whatsoever, especially since they deny that Jesus is the Messiah and until they receive Him as their Lord, they are “anti-Christ” according to 1 John 2:22 and 2 John 1:7.
We do pray that they – and all nations – would come to see that Jesus is the Christ and one day place their hope in Him alone.



-kg







Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So Far, So Good.



This is my third week of hosting the "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)" meetup for Non-Christians.

So far it's been really great. We have a couple of guys with us, plus my wife and I, so the group is small, but our sessions have been really wonderful.

We started out with a basic overview of Jesus and his impact on the world and our culture. We also looked at how much "noise" we experience between the historical Jesus back in the First Century and our culture today - over 2,000 years later.

Our hope is to remove all of that other gobbledygook and - as much as possible - see and hear Jesus for who he really is and not who others have told us he is.

Last week we talked about the Gospel and how it's not about saying a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. I let our non-Christian guests in on our little secret - that even most Christians don't really understand what the Gospel actually is - and then we looked at what Jesus said the Gospel is.

Next, we looked at how the Disciples and even Paul the Apostle, continued to preach the Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom long after Jesus had left the scene and what an impact it makes when your emphasis is more on the life you live right now and not what happens after you're dead.

This week we'll take a look at the Parables of Jesus - what they were, why Jesus taught in parables, and what they are intended to communicate.

Specifically, we'll take an in-depth look at these Parables during our session together:

*NEW /OLD CLOTH/WINESKINS [MATT. 9:16-17]
*WISE/FOOLISH BUILDERS [LUKE 6:46-49]
*SOWER/SEED/SOILS [MATT. 13:3-8, 18-23]
*MUSTARD SEED/YEAST [MATT. 13:31-33]
*HIDDEN TREASURE [MATT. 13:44-46]
*GOOD SAMARITAN [LUKE 10:30-37]
*PRODIGAL SON [LUKE 15:11-32]

I've also been assigning "Homework" to everyone which is optional of course. It won't be on the Final Exam and it doesn't count towards their grade. [A little joke people].

Our homework has involved:

*Reading the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end in a single sitting [something most everyone can do in less than an hour].

*Watching the film "The Gospel of John" [which is one of the few good films about Jesus that isn't super cheesy and/or grossly innacurate].

*Watching a few video clips on YouTube.

If you're curious, here's a basic list of all of Jesus' Parables divided into categories:

FOUNDATIONAL PARABLES:
 • Parables #1-2-3-4 New cloth, New wine. Lamp on a stand. Wise & foolish builders.
• Parables #5-6 Moneylender forgives unequal debts. Lamp on a stand (2nd time).
• Parables #7-8 Rich man builds bigger barns. Servants must remain watchful.
• Parables #9-10 Wise and foolish servants. Unfruitful fig tree.

KINGDOM PARABLES:
 • Parable #11 Sower of seeds into four types of soil.
• Parable #12 Weeds among good plants. “Kingdom of Heaven”
• Parables #13-15 Growing seed. Mustard seed. Yeast. “Kingdom of Heaven”.
• Parables #16-19 Hidden treasure. Pearl. Fishing net. Owner of a house. “Kingdom of Heaven”.
• Parables #20-21 Lost sheep. The sheep, gate, and shepherd.

BEHAVIOR PARABLES:
 • Parables #22-23 Master and his servant. Unmerciful servant.
• Parables #24-25 Good Samaritan. Friend in need.
• Parables #26-27 Lowest seat at the feast. Invitation to a great banquet.
• Parable #28 Cost of discipleship.

FATHER’S HEART PARABLES:
 • Parables #29-30 Lost sheep (sheep as sinners). Lost coin.
• Parable #31 Lost (prodigal) son.

MORE BEHAVIOR PARABLES:
 • Parable #32 Shrewd manager.
• Parable #33 Rich man and Lazarus.
• Parable #34 Workers in the vineyard, early and late.
• Parables #35-36 Persistent widow and crooked judge. Praying: Pharisee and tax collector.
• Parable #37 King's servants given minas.
• Parables #38-39 Two sons, one obeys, one does not. Wicked tenants.
• Parable #40 Invitation to a wedding banquet.

JUDGEMENT PARABLES:
 • Parables #41-42 Signs from a fig tree. Wise and foolish servants.
• Parables #43-44 Wise and foolish virgins. Servants must remain watchful.
• Parable #45 Three servants given talents.
• Parable #46 Sheep and goats will be separated.

I'll be sure to post more updates as we move along. Next week we're looking closely at "The Sermon On The Mount" together.

Keep us in your prayers!

Thanks,
Keith

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What About Jesus?



In preparation for the "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)" group, I compiled a list of quotes about Jesus from a wide variety of sources. Here's how Jesus has been spoken of by various people throughout history:

GANDHI:  "I have regarded Jesus of Nazareth as one amongst the mighty teachers that the world has had…I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus." [Hingorani, p.23]

ISLAM / MOHAMMED: “Oh God, bless Your Messenger and Your servant Jesus son of Mary. Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary, (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.” [Quoted in the Quran and inscribed within the Dome of the Rock Temple]

NAPOLEAN: "I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist…It is not so with Christ. Everything in Him astonishes me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and everyone else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself.” “I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him.”  “I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.” [Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics, vol. 2, pp. 216-17]

JOSEPHUS: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. [Titus Flavius JosephusAntiquities of the Jews (c. 93–94 AD), Book 18, Chapter 3, 3]

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. “[Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71]

CHARLES DICKENS: “My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived, who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as he was.The Life of Our Lord (1849), Chapter 1, opening paragraph.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: “Jesus Christ raised women above the condition of mere slaves, mere ministers to the passions of the man, raised them by His sympathy, to be Ministers of God. - Florence Nightingale, in Cassandra (1860).

SOREN KIERKEGAARD: “There is only one eternal hope on this earth: to follow Christ into heaven. There is one blessed joy in this life: to follow Christ; in death there is one final blessed joy-to follow Christ to life!Soren Kierkegaard Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits 1847, Hong 1993 p. 229

MARK TWAIN: “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.” [1835-1910; Notebook]

H.G. WELLS: “I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.[From  'A Short History of the World']

ALBERT EINSTEIN: “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” [Isaacson, Walter (2007). "Einstein and Faith"; p.47]


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Accidental Connections



Last night, I went up to the cashier at Keane Coffee to let them know that our little Meetup group was meeting in the back patio. Just in case new people walked in and couldn't find us. 

The young girl at the register, Kaylee, was about 20-something with a nose ring and a partially shaved head on one side. "Hey," I said. "We're having a Meetup outside, just in case anyone comes in and can't find us." Kaylee grabbed a slip of paper and a pen. "What's the name of the group?" She asked me, her pen hovering over the page. 

"Jesus Without Religion Or Politics," I said. She started to write it down and then she stopped. "What's it called again?" I repeated the name and she looked up at me with wide-eyed wonder. "Wow! That really sounds great! I left my previous church because all they ever did was talk bad about Gays and Muslims and Mormons and other people."  

I nodded and said, "Yep. And THAT'S why we started this group; so Christians who just want to gather around Jesus can do that without trying to show everyone else that we're right and they're wrong." 

She finished writing down the name of our group on a piece of paper and said, "So, how's the Meetup going so far?" I laughed. "I'll let you know! We're having our very first meeting tonight."

"Well, this sounds like what I've been looking for," she said. "Let me know how this group works out. I think it sounds like something I'd be interested in."

After that, I went back to the group on the patio and we had our first meeting together. When we were done, I went up to the register again to see if Kaylee was there but, unfortunately, she had already gone home. 

Please pray that we can reconnect with her! I really believe that the Lord had us bump into her for a reason. I'll try again to drop by later in the week to share our contact info with her.

Please pray for her, and for people like her, that they can find the community of believers they're searching for. 

And please pray for our little group, that we can find more people like Kaylee around Orange County who are desperate for "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)",  because, obviously, they are out there!

We just have to seek them out.

-kg

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

[Podcast] Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics) - Preview



A new series of meetings are scheduled in the next few weeks to gather non-Christians and answer their questions about Jesus. Here's a sneak preview.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)




Dozens of surveys reveal that most non-Christians are interested in Jesus, but not in Church or Christianity. Most agree that the reason for this growing trend is due to the perception that Christians are all anti-Gay, pro-Republican, and dogmatic about their particular brand of faith.

In light of this, I have been feeling that it might be interesting to create a Meet Up group for unbelievers who are curious about Jesus and interested in learning more about him; what he taught, what his message was, what the Gospel is all about, what the Sermon on the Mount means, and other questions – without having to be coerced into a decision to join a church, or being sold a certain political ideology.

So, in about a week, on July 15, I’ll be hosting “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” for anyone and everyone who wants Jesus without all the usual baggage.

Assuming anyone even shows up to this meeting – and I’m praying at least one person will respond – the basic outline we’ll cover looks like this:

*Are the New Testament documents reliable? [Historical evidence for Jesus].
*Who was/is Jesus? [His birth, early life, family members, enemies, disciples, etc.]
*His Message [The Gospel revealed] and his Parables explained
*The Sermon on the Mount [His Manifesto]
*His influence on the culture; impact on History and the World
*Prophecies fulfilled [What Jesus prophesied and what was prophesied about him]
*His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and did the Resurrection happen?

Now, one unforeseen byproduct of this group has been that I’ve had more Christians sign up for this on MeetUp.com than non-Christians. Since I really, really do NOT want our sessions interrupted with arguments about doctrine, I decided to create a second group called “For Christians Who Want Jesus Without Religion Or Politics” which will start meeting the following week on a different night.

Honestly, I really have no big plans for this group. My guess is that it will be a wildly divergent group of Christians with varying definitions of what our group should be all about.

For example, one person who signed up to the “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” group made a comment to me about how his previous church wouldn’t allow him to teach his pet doctrines, which is not quite what I meant by “Jesus Without Religion”.

I’m very tempted to start off the Christian version of the meeting by declaring that Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat, or a Baptist or a Lutheran, or a Calvinist or an Arminian, or even a “Christian” and see who’s still left after I’m done talking.

To be frank, I was tempted to cancel the Christian meeting all together, but my wonderful wife encouraged me by pointing out that a lot of Christians still don’t understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, or what the Sermon on the Mount is about, or what the Parables mean, or even if the New Testament documents are reliable.

So, I took a step back off the ledge and decided to at least attempt to teach this same material to the Christian group and see what happens.

Please, if you would, pray for me and for both of these meetings. Please pray especially that non-Christians who are interested in learning about Jesus would find the group and show up. Please also pray that the Christians will agree not to come to the first group but stay in the second group. And please also pray that the Christian group won’t turn into a massive argument about doctrine, politics or religion.

I’ll be sure to provide updates as things progress.

Thanks,
Keith


Friday, July 03, 2015

[Subversive Radio Podcast] Star-Spangled Capitalist Christianity



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

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

EPISODE 18: "Hard Conversations" - Dan Notti & Keith Giles [Video Podcast]


When and how do you have that hard conversation with a brother or sister in Christ who needs gentle correction or rebuke?

Dan and Keith share from real life personal experience how hard it can be, and what not to do, the next time you have to sit down with someone in your life who needs to know about their blind spot.

Humility, love and sincere concern are essential. Never undertake this process unless you genuinely love and care for the person. 

Recognize your own blind spot, too, and keep in mind we're all in need of people in our lives who have permission to show us an area where we are not yet formed into the image of Christ.