Thursday, December 31, 2015

EQUAL TO


"The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." [Hebrews 1:3]


We've looked at how Jesus was "Greater Than" Moses, and the Temple, and Solomon, and everything else. We've looked at how Jesus was "Less Than" the Father, and the Angels, and became a servant to all. But now, we want to explore the equality that Jesus has with the Father.

It's one of the great mysteries of the New Testament, actually. How could Jesus be "the exact representation" of God and still say "the Father is greater than me"?

Part of this involves the self-limiting nature of Jesus in His incarnation. Jesus was "in very nature God" but decided to lay all of that aside to become one of us. This is when He became "less than" the Father, and even the Angels. In fact, this is why the Incarnation is such a miracle. The creator became the created. The unlimited willingly limited Himself. The One who lives forever took on mortality and tasted death.

Why? Because He would rather die than to live without us. So, He laid aside His Glory, and took off His great power like a robe, and humbled Himself to become a tiny embryo nestled in the womb of a poor girl in Palestine.

His identity never changed, however. He was still God, but He had taken on flesh, and thereby had wrapped Himself in a single location in space and time. This is when He became "Emmanuel" which means "God with us". This is when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." [John 1:14]

As Paul reminds us:

"[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing..." [Phil. 2:6-7]

And the Apostle John writes:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [John 1:1]

So, Jesus is "Equal To" the Father in every way, and yet at the same time is "Less Than" the Father [in a different sense] and still "Greater Than" everything - and everyone - else in all Creation.

Meditating on these three characteristics of Jesus only makes us love Him more and fall to our knees as we begin to realize the "unsearchable riches of Christ" are even more astounding than we ever imagined.

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." - Jesus [John 14:9]

-kg 


Monday, December 28, 2015

LESS THAN





In my previous post I shared how Jesus was "Greater Than" Moses, the Temple, the Law, the Prophets, the Sabbath, and everything else.

But the New Testament also tells us that Jesus is "Less Than" the Father, or at least that the Father is greater than Jesus.

"You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." - Jesus [John 14:28]
We also know that Jesus was "made a little lower than the angels" [see Hebrews 2:9] and that He "made Himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant" [see Philippians 2:6-7] which emphasizes that, while here in human form, Jesus lowered Himself.

This astounding act of humility and weakness emphasizes what Paul the Apostle refers to as "The Power of Weakness", where God's "power is made perfect in weakness" when we lay aside our own ability and abandon confidence in ourselves - trusting instead in the "power of Christ" which is released when we - like Christ - humble ourselves, empty ourselves, and rely completely on the Father for everything. [See 2 Cor. 12:9-10]

Just like Jesus, did, by the way.

Jesus affirms that he never did anything under his own power, and that he never taught anything other than what the Father told him to say:

“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24);

“For I do not speak of myself, but from the Father who sent me and commanded me what I should say and what I should speak...Therefore, whatever I speak is just as the Father tells me to speak." (John 12:49-50)

“Then Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you; the Son can do nothing of himself, but only does what he sees the Father do. For whatever things he [the Father] does, these are also likewise done by the Son.” (John 5:19)

“Of my own self, I can do nothing. I judge only as I hear; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me.” (John 5:30)

“But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I only do exactly as the Father has instructed me to do.” (John 14:31)


Jesus was our role model - our blueprint if you will - for how to live a Kingdom life. Jesus was able to turn the other cheek, pray for His enemies, love those who were persecuting Him, and everything else simply because He had totally abandoned Himself to the Father in every way. 

This is exactly how we are called to live the Kingdom life. 

Jesus compels us to deny ourselves - our own ways of thinking and acting - and to die daily by taking up our cross and following Him [and His example] to put His words into practice.

How can we possibly do this? By abiding in Christ so that Christ can abide in us. [See John 15]

Jesus became "less than" to show us how we can live as citizens of the Kingdom today.

This means we have no more excuses when it comes to putting His words into practice. He has shown us the way, and the way is to let go of ourselves and trust completely in Him for everything.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." - Jesus [John 15:5]

-kg

NOTE: Read more in my book, "The Power of Weakness" HERE>

Sunday, December 27, 2015

GREATER THAN



Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus refers to something that is "greater than" the Sabbath, the Temple, Jonah, and Solomon.

What was it?

When the Pharisees asked why Jesus and His disciples broke the Sabbath, Jesus replied:

"I tell you that something greater than the temple is here." - MATT. 12:6

And then he goes on to say that he is "Lord of the Sabbath", which means that Jesus is greater than the Sabbath, as well.

Later, when the Pharisees ask him for a sign, Jesus says:

"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here."- MATT. 12:41

Then, Jesus tells them this:

"The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. " - MATT. 12:42

What is greater than Solomon, or the Temple, or Jonah, or the Sabbath? It's Jesus, the promised Messiah.

Moses prophesied that the Lord would send a prophet after he was gone. He further warned that those who did not listen would be cut off from the people of Israel. Both Stephen, and Peter reminded everyone of this in their sermons recorded in the book of Acts.

When Jesus is transfigured on the mountain, he appears with Moses - who represents the Law of the Old Covenant - and with Elijah - who represents the Prophets. Peter mistakenly wants to honor all three of them equally, and then the Father removes Moses and Elijah [the Law and the Prophets] and says:

"This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well-pleased. Listen to Him!"

And when the disciples look up, only Jesus remains.

Jesus is greater than Moses. He is greater than the Old Covenant Law. Jesus is greater than the Prophets. Jesus is greater than David, and Solomon, and the Temple, and Jonah, and everyone else.

There is nothing greater than Jesus. Listen to Him. Obey Him. Follow Him.

"He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all." - JOHN 3:30-31

-kg

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

GUEST POST: "Priests Don't Make War" by Steven Kline, Jr.



I think all of us have read some portion of scripture and wondered why it was in the Bible. It’s usually those passages that seem boring and/or repetitive. Tell someone you are reading through the book of Numbers and you will get some strange looks because it has a lot of those passages thought to be repetitive and boring.

The first four chapters of Numbers detail the census that Moses took of the nation of Israel. It’s easy to skip over this passage of scripture because it seems really boring. What could a numbering of the people wandering around the desert possibly have to do with us? It seems to recount the same information with different numbers thrown in for the different tribes. To the modern reader it seems like the cut and paste function was used by Moses. But, of course, that wasn’t the case. And, because creating a written document was very costly in those days, to have so much repetitive information must serve some purpose.

So, what can we learn from the first four chapters of Numbers?

In Numbers 1, God speaks to Moses in the tabernacle of meeting and tells Moses: 

“Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.” (Numbers 1:2-3) 

So Moses is to count the men of Israel by their families and households. But, he is not to count all the men. God instructs Moses to count “whoever is able to go out to war” and “number them by their armies.” This is important because, while these phrases are repeated many times in the first two chapters of Numbers, the phrases are left out Numbers 3 and 4.

After giving the order to take a census, God appoints a man from each tribe to help Moses with the task. (Numbers 1:4-16) A careful reading of this list of men and tribes reveals that something is missing. The tribe of Levi was left out of this list, indicating that Moses was not going to take a census of this tribe along with all the other tribes of Israel. Why is that?

Having organized his help, Moses does at the Lord commanded him. (Numbers 1:17-19) From verses 20-46 we read Moses numbering of the people. Each tribe, except Levi, is listed with the number counted by Moses. The report is very formulaic. In each report, Moses counted “whoever was able to go out to war.” (Numbers 1:20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42) Finally, verse 44 summarizes that Moses counted “whoever was able to go out to war in Israel.”

So, Moses counted all who could to war in Israel. He counted the men that could war from all the tribes except one – the Levites. The rest of the chapter tells us why God had Moses leave the Levites out of the census.

“The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe. For the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying, ‘Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel. But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall camp around the tabernacle. So when the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the layman who comes near shall be put to death.’” (Numbers 1:47-51)

According to God’s instructions, Moses did not count the Levites in the census because instead of being men able to go out to war the Levites were to be over the tabernacle and all its furnishings. The Levites were to set it up and to take it down. They were to care for everything inside the tabernacle. The tabernacle represented God’s presence and dwelling place in the earth. So, instead of being able to go out to war, the Levites were to minister and mediate God’s presence amongst the people of the nation of Israel.

Note that Numbers 1:52 draws a distinction between all the men of Israel and the Levites. The Levites were to encamp around the tabernacle, but “the sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own camp, and each man by his own standard, according to the armies.” 

The Levites would camp around the tabernacle. But, the rest of Israel would camp in their own camps, by their own standards, according to their armies. Again, the men of Israel were men who were identified as men who could go out to war while the Levites were identified as those men that mediated the presence of God. Numbers 1:53 says: 

“But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of testimony, so that there will be no wrath on the congregation of the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony.” 

The Levites were to minister God’s presence, not to bring God’s wrath, so that God’s wrath would not fall, not on all the other peoples in the Ancient Near East, but on the sons of Israel.

In Numbers 2, we are told how the people of Israel were to camp. Numbers 2:1-2 says: 

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.’” 

While the Levites would camp around the tabernacle, the other tribes would only camp around the tabernacle “at a distance.” They would camp by their “own” standard and by the banners of “their fathers’” households.

The rest of Numbers 2 details how the tribes of Israel camped around the tabernacle at a distance. And with the recounting of how each tribe camped, there are two key phrases repeated:

·         “according to their armies” – 2:3, 9, 10, 16, 18, 24, 25, 32
·         “his army was numbered,” with “his” referring not to God but to the sons of Jacob – 2:4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30

So, the children of Israel camped according to the standards of their fathers’ houses and their armies, and they were numbered according to these armies. “The Levites, however, were not numbered among the sons of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Numbers 2:33)

Numbers 3 and 4 recount the census of the Levites and delineate the duties of the Levites. The Levites were God’s and not numbered among the sons of Israel.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle…Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine.” (Numbers 3:5-8,12)

The Levites were given completely to ministering at the tabernacle, to ministering God’s presence among the people. And, in this ministering of God’s presence, they would guard the people of Israel. 

We see the importance God places on the ministry of the Levites because their tasks and duties are spelled out in detail over two chapters while the rest of tribes were merely numbered as men able to go out to war.

The distinction of the Levites from the rest of Israel is important because today all of God’s people are priests. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 

Revelation 1:6 says that Christ loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, making us priests to God. Other passages in the New Testament make it clear that all God’s people are priests. And, there are a number of passages towards the end of Isaiah that prophesy that God’s people will one day be priests.

Today, all of God’s people are priests. These people are God’s possession. The Lord says these people are His, just like He did of the Levites in Numbers. 

Because God’s people are all priests today, God’s people are not numbered among those able to go out to war. Rather, God’s people proclaim the excellencies of Him who called out us out of darkness into the His marvelous light. 

God’s people do not do violence but minister the very presence of Christ, proclaiming the mystery of the gospel and the power of the cross. God’s people proclaim a suffering servant, Jesus Christ, that defeated fear and death through His own death. God’s people perform the ministry of reconciliation, which is not brought about through war and violence but by loving their enemies. 

This is why the weapons of God’s people are spiritual and not carnal.


by Steven Kline, Jr.

Steve Kline is a follower of Jesus. His passion is to seek Christ in all of the scriptures and share that revelation with others. Steve is married to Samatha (since September 2012) and the father of Trey (he's 15). When his first wife, Dawn, went to be with the Lord in March 2012 after a six-year battle with cancer, Steve had a direct encounter with the Lord. Also, he is one of  the fourth-generation owners of his family's publishing company where he is an economist.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2015 – THE YEAR IN REVIEW


HIGHLIGHTS:
THE BLOGALOGUE SERIES: “IS IT REALLY ALL ABOUT JESUS?” [Neil Cole, Jon Zens, Richard Jacobson, Dan Herford, and Keith Giles]
JESUS UNTANGLED SERIES [With Ross Rohde and Chuck McKnight]
Part 1: "Jesus Untangled"
Part 2: "Who Are We?"
Part 3: "Why Do People Think I'm A Liberal?"
Part 4: "Still Embracing Constantine?"
Part 5: How American Evangelicalism Has Been Exploited, by Ross Rohde
Part 6: The Entanglement Agenda
Part 7: "What Would Jesus Say About The American Revolution?" by Chuck McKnight
Part 8: "Ambassadors of Contrast"
Part 9: “AWOL Christian Soldiers”
Part 10: "The Elephant In The Church"
Part 11: "Christian American Horror Story"
Part 12: "Our True Source of Liberty" by Ross Rohde
Part 13: "Welcome To Post Christian America"
Part 14: "What Would Wilberforce Do?"

GOD BLESS AMERICA?

THE CHRISTIAN BILL OF RIGHTS

**
THE ANABAPTISTS SERIES
**
GUEST POSTS

 *
2015 INTERVIEWS 

*
*SEASON OF LOVE SERIES [CONTINUED]
*
NOT A SIN: PERSPECTIVES ON LGBTQ SERIES
*
SPIRITUAL FORMATION SERIES
*
JESUS WITHOUT RELIGION (OR POLITICS) SERIES

** 
*MY FAVE POSTS:

**
MY TOP 10 POSTS OF THE YEAR
I DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE [AND NEITHER DO YOU]
JESUS UNTANGLED 
CHRISTIAN AMERICAN HORROR STORY
UNTAMED CHRISTIANITY 
FEARLESS 
STILL EMBRACING CONSTANTINE? 
THE ENTANGLEMENT AGENDA 
NOT A SIN? 
REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER [PODCAST] 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

HAIL, THE KING OF PEACE



The birth of Jesus is God's most radical act of peacemaking. The Jews were looking for a Warrior King to overthrow the Roman Empire that was occupying their land. They wanted a Messiah who would carry a sword and lead them on to victory. They were desperate for a regime change in Palestine.

What they got instead was a baby laying in a manger. They got a host of angels who arrived, not to wage war, but to sing "Peace on Earth, good will towards all men!"

They got a Messiah who didn't carry a sword, and in fact told them to lay down their weapons. "If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight," he said.

The got a Savior who came to bring a regime change - in their own hearts - to enthrone Jesus as their personal Lord [King], not a political kingdom built on war, but an internal kingdom built on a transformation of the human heart.

They got - and we got - a King who taught us to love those who hate us, and to return kindness towards those who persecute us. Not so we can become doormats, but so that his brand of unmerited love could be fully displayed - like stars that shine in the darkest night - and his brilliant love could blaze outward in the face of even the most violent attack.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus told them. "for they will be called 'the sons of God'."

It was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah that the Messiah would do no violence, and that His Kingdom would usher in an endless reign where men would make war no more, and beat their swords into ploughshares, and pledge their allegiance to the "Prince of Peace".

Jesus rode a donkey - not a war horse - into Jerusalem and wept because his people did not know "the things that make for peace."

Even after Jesus was brutally murdered on the Roman cross, having done no violence, and even having forgiven those who nailed them there, he rose from the dead and said, "Peace be with you".

Sadly, there are some who take the name of Christ, but do not accept that Jesus came to bring an everlasting peace that began 2,000 years ago and that continues to grow and expand - like a small bit of yeast that eventually permeates the entire lump of dough. This is partly why it's taking a bit longer than necessary to fully realize the peace of Christ in our world.

Some still want a Messiah who carries a sword and who comes to vanquish their enemies with violent retribution. They want a Messiah who only loves them and not "those other people".

They want Jesus, but they don't want his message of love for enemies, or love for Muslims, or love for Homosexuals, or love for anyone who isn't just like they are.

We still need to hear the words of Jesus afresh, today. As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the King of Love, let's not forget that our Messiah came to us with the pronouncement of peace on Earth.

Let's put his words into practice and realize this promised kingdom of peace that is wide open to all who would have the audacity to believe it could be true.

-kg

Saturday, December 12, 2015

5 THINGS NO ORGANIC CHURCH EVER WORRIES ABOUT



As a response to an article sent to me by a friend that was written to leaders of small traditional churches that want to grow their numbers, I felt compelled to write my own list.

The original post identified 5 areas that pastors of small churches struggle with when it comes to growing their churches. 

I’ve summarized his conclusions in these 5 categories:

1 People believe that small churches function best as one big family. They are wrong.
2 When people who don’t hold office wield power in the church, you have a problem.
3 Pastors need to stop trying to do everything by doing less.
4 Those who want the church to stay the same need to catch the vision of what the church could be in the future.
5 Don’t add new programs/complexity as you start to grow. Do less things better, not more things half as good.

Honestly, not everything in this list is objectionable to me. I can agree with his assessment that people should let go of their expectations of what their church should be, or that people should not dwell on the past, or that adding new programs is a bad idea. But I disagree with his entire overall assumption that there should ever be anyone “in power” or that anyone should “hold office” in the church, as a basic premise.

I’ll take his list of 5 things and try to respond to each one:

1 “People who believe the church functions best as one big family are wrong”
I can’t help but wonder what the author of this blog believes the Church should be if it’s not supposed to be “one big family”? Honestly, he never really explains why the Church isn’t one big family, or why those who think it is are wrong, or what the more accurate model for Church should be if it’s not the Family of God. What he does suggest is that the larger [200+ size] churches need to gather in smaller groups and start to establish stronger relationships with those fewer people. That sounds like a good idea, but it’s not the only idea. It’s also possible, for example, for those same small groups to break off and become their own organic churches without any need for a building, a professional pastoral staff, or denominational ties. In fact, if the authors main point is that people in those larger churches really never know one another anyway, then what’s the advantage [to the congregant/church member] in belonging to a massive group of Christians that they will never actually have any real relationships with?

2 “When people who don’t hold office wield the power, you have a problem”
Yes, you do have a problem. But your problem is that people are wielding power, not that the “wrong people” are wielding the power. Where do we see anyone “wielding power” in the New Testament church other than Jesus? All authority in the Church is in Christ, not in any of us. Even the Apostles appealed to the Body as brothers and sisters, not as authoritarians who “lorded it over” the rest of the Body. The greatest among us is the servant of all, right? So, where does “wielding the power” come into play? Answer: It doesn’t. Not if you’re following the model where Jesus alone is the Head and the rest of us are members of His Body who work together to build one another up by serving one another in humility. [See 1 Cor. 12-14]

We are all called to submit to one another. As my dear brother in Christ, Jon Zens, once said: “Submission is something you grant. Not something you demand.”

3 “Pastors need to stop trying to do everything and start doing less”
Again, I totally agree. And to be fair the original post did talk about handing over some of the duties [like visiting people in the Hospital] to the members of the Body. But I would take this a step further and say that Pastors need to just stop being elevated above everyone else and everyone else needs to be taught to practice the 58 “One Anothers” in the New Testament so that the whole Body will be equipped for “works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” [see Eph. 4:11-13] In other words: Everyone in the Body of Christ needs to be deputized and empowered to put their own Spiritual Gifts into practice so that the whole Body can actually behave like a Body.

4 “Those who want the church to stay the same need to catch the vision of what the church could be in the future”

Again, I agree, “sort of”. I would take this a bit further and say that no one – even the Pastor – should be casting the vision of what the Church could be in the future [which I believe is implied in the original post].

I can’t help but remember a conversation I had once with a dear sister in Christ who was hosting a new organic church group in her home. She was concerned because everyone in her organic church family had a different vision of what the Church should look like. In a moment of rare clarity, I heard the Lord say to me: “Tell her to ask her brothers and sisters what they think Jesus’ vision for His Church is, and not to assume it’s exactly what their vision for the Church is.”

None of us should attempt to lead the Church because it’s not “our church”, it’s “His Body” and “His Bride” and “His Church”. We are all brothers and sisters in the Family of God. We are all members within His Body. He is the Head.

Honestly, my experience is so totally different from this blogger/pastor’s.

From the beginning I determined that our little house church was not "my church" and I worked hard to keep my hands off the steering wheel. Instead, Wendy and I prayed and we asked the Lord to do with us – and in us and through us – whatever He wanted.

Our house church has never worried about size, or about money [because we don't need money to operate, only money to give away to others when/if there's a need], or about anything else, really.

We've done all we can, and gone to whatever extremes necessary, to ensure that Jesus really is our leader. We don't make any decisions without seeking Him first. We don't allow anyone to take charge. No, not even me.

Certainly, we've made our share of mistakes and we've learned from those and made adjustments as we move forward with Jesus.

But it's His Church. He promised that He would grow His church. So, since that's not my job, what IS my job? I'm called to build up my brothers and sisters. I'm called to help them - as they help me - to follow Jesus daily and to let Him be the Lord of everything. I'm called to love them, and to help them love God, and one another - and also to learn how to receive love from one another and from God, too. [That last part is the hardest, I'm learning].

It’s no surprise that the guy who wrote that blog isn’t on the same page as I am, but I had to write a response just to share my perspective in contrast.
-kg