Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Not What We Thought



It's rare, but sometimes you come across something so beautiful, so profound, and so completely exquisite that all you can do is just enjoy it, and be thankful that it exists.

I share something like this with you here, now.

David Crowder's new song, "Praise the Lord" is breathtaking and so astoundingly subversive.

It made me cry the first time I heard it and read these lyrics.

I hope you find comfort in this truth as I have:


I used to shake You like an 8-ball
I used to shoot You like a gun
I used to hold You like a hammer
Try to nail down everyone

I used to keep You in a steeple
Used to bind You in a Book
I used to take You like prescription
Without knowing what I took

But now I just don't buy it anymore
No, I've tried and I've tried to know everything for sure
But I find I know less as I come to know You more

You're not who I thought You were...
Praise the Lord!


Your love's an ocean, not a river
A symphony, not just a song
I don't think everybody's right
I just think most of us were wrong

I think that when we get to Heaven
We're gonna laugh when we can see
How hard we try to make it
And how easy it should be

If this blesses you, please share it with someone else. Let's spread the beauty of the truth in these words: 

God is not who we thought He was...Praise the Lord!



Monday, November 28, 2016

THANKSGIVING: HAPPY



On Thursday, Wendy and I joined together with other brothers and sisters in Christ to help provide and serve a complete Thanksgiving meal to our friends who live at the Motel in Santa Ana.

With a generous discount from the manager at Mimi's Cafe, and equally generous donations from a variety of people, we got to enjoy a large family meal together in the back parking lot.

We had about 40 pounds of turkey, and all the sides, plus sparkling cider and pumpkin pie for dessert. 

Overall, we served around 80 people. Some were young, some were old. Some were families with children who lived in the motel, some were loners who slept on the street. 

We've had the opportunity to do this for the last three years or so. Every time we do this, I am amazed at how the scandal of the Kingdom is expressed in stark detail.

On this day, drug addicts, prostitutes, alcoholics, and panhandlers sit down at the same table with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and pastors and teachers, and together we all share a meal of thanksgiving and bow their heads to the same God who loves them all the same.

Where else can you experience such a marvelous picture of Christ's Kingdom?

Maybe on the night of Christmas Eve when we gather in the same place, with those same people, and share hot apple cider and sing carols together under the stars?

Maybe...

-kg

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE SAVAGE SWORD OF JESUS?





Sometimes you have to switch tactics to make your point.

For the last few years I've been trying to help American Christians understand who Jesus is and that He isn't a Pro-War, Republican, Capitalist. I'm not making much progress, it seems.

But then I ran across this article about a new comic book being created called "The Savage Sword of Jesus" and it sounded like what some American Christians believe. [This is not a joke]

Here's a little about the comic from an interview with writer Grant Morrison over at Vulture Magazine:

"In an interview with Vulture, Morrison revealed his idea for this controversial take on Jesus Christ came...when he uncovered a Nazi project called Positive Christianity, which “recast Christ as a proactive Aryan rather than a meek Jew.” The title and physical look of the Messiah are inspired by a “Conan the Barbarian” series."

"Obviously, I had done a lot of research for that one, and I just came across this interesting idea that during the Second World War, the Nazis had attempted to rebrand Christianity, and rebrand Christ, specifically. Take him away from the gentle and peace-loving character of the Gospels, and to transform him into a Nordic and brutish and violent Messiah.

"The idea of stories being changed to fit a narrative rings true with Morrison, especially in this current political climate: “We’re living in a time when it’s quite clear how even the most pacifist stories or narratives that one time were a lot more positive, can be perverted to stand in as catalysts for violence and mayhem. Especially now that we live in a world where we’ve seen that lies can easily be overlooked, and where celebrity culture is more powerful than the truth, and where people can quite happily twist any narrative to suit any new narrative, and almost twist narratives into their complete opposites, which is what the Nazis tried to do with the Gospels.”

Sound familiar? To me, it sounds frighteningly familiar...

Because so many American Christians have pretty much already done this theologically. They've created a version of Jesus that is pro-war, who approves of violence, who condones torture, who turns a blind eye when we turn away refugees, and who can't stand "sinners".

Anyone who reads the actual New Testament scriptures will find that Jesus isn't any of those things.

This is why the "Savage Sword of Jesus"comic should offend anyone who truly embraces Jesus for who He is.

It should also offend Christians when someone equates following Jesus with embracing violence, oppression, war, and nationalism.

But for some reason it doesn't.

This is why I've said the greatest threat to Christianity in America is American Christianity. Because it looks so little like Jesus.

“Savage Sword of Jesus Christ” goes on sale December 28th.

-kg


**

Thursday, November 17, 2016

3 VIEWS OF HELL: A Big Surprise?



UPDATE: 11/18/16 - Since posting this graphic I've realized that this list is incomplete and in some cases not accurate. I will post a new blog soon with an updated list which more clearly identifies the verses where these 3 views are found.  For what it's worth, the Universalism list is the most accurate and the Eternal Torment section is the least. Stay tuned for that update.

-kg

**
I recently looked at this graphic [above] again and started to notice something I've never seen before about these 3 different Christian views of Hell. 

Eternal Torment seems to draw most of its evidence from Matthew and Luke. 

Annihilationism seems mostly taken from the Gospel of John.

Universalism is mostly attributed to the epistles of Paul the Apostle.

Wow. I did NOT see that one coming.

In the next few days I might take some time to explore each of these three lists and point out a few more interesting things about them, but for now I wanted to make sure I shared this first realization with everyone here.

What are your thoughts?

Any theories as to why Matthew and Luke are more into Eternal Suffering?

Any ideas why John's Gospel would be more about Anninilationism?

Want to take a stab at why Paul's letters are so full of Universalism? [And why those who seem to love Paul the most totally miss this side of his teaching?]

I'd love to hear your thoughts before I weigh in...

-kg

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How do you know if your church is really the Body of Christ?




This weekend I was blessed to fly to the San Francisco area to co-lead a weekend gathering for those interested in learning more about Organic Church.

Our event was hosted at a local pizza shop. The sign on the door said “Round Table Pizza” but on the inside all the tables were square.

To me, that felt like an appropriate metaphor of the modern Christian church in America.

We advertise ourselves as being “The Body of Christ” but then once people get inside they quickly realize that we’re not acting like a body at all.

See, when Paul uses that metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, he is describing how the Church functions in relationship to Jesus, and to one another.

Any church that doesn’t operate the way Paul describes isn’t really the Body of Christ. Sure, it might be a Church in the traditional sense, but it’s not a Body in the Biblical sense.

Simply put, Paul tells us that Jesus is the head of the Body. That means that He is in control. Not figuratively, but actually. He is in charge. He directs the members of the Body, just as your own head directs the rest of your body parts.

We also see from Paul’s description that the members of the Body all share the ministry equally.

God distributes spiritual gifts to each member of the Body for one reason: So they can build one another up into Christ.

In the round table model, everyone is equal; everyone’s voice is just as important and necessary as everyone else’s. Every member of the Body shares in the work so no one gets burned out and everyone gets to participate.

In the square table model, there is a human boss, typically referred to as the Senior Pastor, who makes all the decisions and quite often does most of the spiritual work alone rather than relying on the members of the Body to accomplish the work cooperatively. You know, like the various parts of a human body.

If you’re going to follow a square table model, that’s up to you. But please don’t refer to yourself as a round table when those four corners are so obvious to the rest of us.

For what it’s worth, both tables are useful, but one makes it easier for everyone to serve one another and use their gifts to build one another up.

If you want to keep your focus on the Lord, try putting 1 Corinthians 12 into practice.

If you want to put that chapter into practice, you’ll find that sitting in a circle makes it much eaiser.

Where you meet and when you meet matters much less than what happens when you meet.

Put Jesus in the center, gather around Him and use your gifts to build one another up in love.

That’s called the Body of Christ.

-kg


Thursday, November 10, 2016

THE GOD OF THE CLUELESS




"The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress."

[Psalm 46:4-11]

During one of our recent house church gatherings, my wife Wendy shared this passage of scripture. 

Together we talked about how it reminds us that God is with us, that He makes wars cease and how we are called to "be still and know that [He is] God."

But one thing jumped out at me during our conversation that I had not considered before: Why does this Psalm remind us twice that "the God of Jacob is our fortress"?

Why not "the God of Moses" or "Abraham" or the "God of Joseph"?

What's so special about Jacob that the Psalmist feels the need to remind us - twice - that it is the God of Jacob [specifically] who is our fortress?

I think it's because Jacob was a clueless loser who spent most of his life totally oblivious to who God was or what God's plan was for his life.

For example, God promises that Jacob will be blessed by God, even before he is born. Yet Jacob spends most of his life trying to trick his father into giving him the blessing. 

Later, God speaks to Jacob in a dream and says, "I will be with you wherever you go" and "I will not leave you". Yet when Jacob wakes up his response is to say: "Surely the Lord was in this place and I didn't know it!'

Even later, Jacob wrestles with God all night in his tent and refused to let go until God blessed him.

All the while, Jacob failed to recognize that he was holding on to God and that there could be no blessing greater than this.

So, Jacob spent his life fighting to win something that God already promised was his anyway. 

He heard God say, "I'm with you wherever you go" and yet he built an altar because he thought "God was in this place."

Then he had a chance to hold God in his arms all night long and then agreed to let go of Him on the condition that he could receive that blessing that was already promised to him before he was born.

Jacob was clueless.

That's why the Psalmist reminds us that it is the "God of Jacob" who is our refuge. Because we're often clueless too.

If he had said, "The God of Joseph" then we might despair that God was only for those who endure suffering and unjust imprisonment without once complaining about our condition.

If he had said, "The God of Moses" then we might conclude that God was only for those who faithfully and courageously defy oppressive empires and lead captives into the Promised Land.

If he had said, "The God of Abraham" then we might think that God was only for those who step out in blind faith to wander the wilderness as we await further instructions.

But he didn't say any of those things.

He reminds us to be still and know that God is near us, and that He is the God of those who are oblivious to all the blessings that are already raining down over us night and day because of His amazing love for us.

"The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of the Clueless is our fortress"

Selah.

-kg


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

5 Things I Want To Say After The Election




After the surprising results of this most recent election I felt the need to say a few things in response:

*First, I did not put any hope in Presidents before the election, and I certainly place no hope in them now that this election is over. Jesus is still my Lord and my guide.

*Second, this election serves mainly as a mirror held up to the face of the Evangelical Christian church in America. Now we know what evils may be excused in the pursuit of political favor - lust, greed, pride, racism, sexism, and everything in between can apparently be overlooked as long as you promise Christians the power they crave most. We have a lot of work to do to make the Christian church more like Jesus.

*Third, many are confused by the fact so many Evangelical Christians vocally and enthusiastically supported a man who admitted he had never asked God for forgiveness, bragged about sexually assaulting women, attacked the parents of an American soldier who died in combat, insulted an American war hero because he was captured, called for banning Muslims from entering the country, mocked a disabled man, bragged about not paying any taxes for years, scammed people with a fake university, owns gambling casinos, and created a non-profit foundation that was shut down and is now under investigation for fraud.

*Fourth, our goal now should be to show those confused people that while we love everyone as Jesus does, we do not applaud these sorts of behaviors. We should work to make it clear that we are following a leader who honors women, embraces people of every religious background, and who is not proud but humble, self-sacrificing and kind. Apologize if necessary. Let the contrasts be evident and clear. There is no one like Jesus. We hope in Him alone.

*Finally, let us continue to demonstrate the beautiful Gospel of Jesus without becoming entangled by the slime of politics. Our focus is on Jesus. Our mission to love others as He loved us. There is no room in our hearts for tribal thinking. We are not primarily Americans, or even Baptists or Methodists, or Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians. Our identity is fully and completely found in Christ and in Him alone. In Christ there is now therefore no nationalism, no sexism, no man-made division, but we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Above all, Jesus is Lord. We have to move beyond that bumper sticker slogan and begin to actually live out of that profound reality in our daily lives.

We are not looking for a nation of our own. We are citizens of another country that is from above and not built by human hands; a country whose founder and builder is God Himself.

Let's continue to be ambassadors of our King to a people who have, mostly, never seen Him or heard His message, yet oh so desperately need it now more than ever before.

-kg

RETHINKING HEADSHIP AS A METAPHOR



My youngest son is a student at Biola University. Over the weekend he attended a conference and he came home very excited about something new he had learned in one of their sessions together.

"What does a head do?" he asked me.

"Uh...it makes decisions," I answered.

"That's how we see it, but back when the Bible was written they saw the head as the source of nourishment because that's where people ate their food."

Hmm....

That's when he opened up his bible and showed me the verse in Ephesians where Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is head over the church, but then he pointed out a verse I had not noticed before:

"After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body." [Eph. 5:29-30]

Wow. 

Paul even adds in the detail that feeding and caring for the body, as Christ does for the church, is what he's talking about in context when he says that "the husband is the head of the wife".

What do you think about this?

I'm reminded that in older translations of the scriptures the spleen, or the bowels, were used as the metaphor for the seat of human emotions, not the heart. 

Is this a similar insight to that? Are we thinking of the head in the wrong way, or at least in a different way, than the first century Christians thought of it?

If nothing else, it certainly gives us something new to think about when we examine passages where the idea of a head is discussed in relation to the Body.

In a quick search of the internet I found this:

"In earlier times (Biblical and Archaic) the bowels was the source of pity or compassion and the loins the source of strength and power.
"Interestingly enough, some of the early philosophers and scientists including Aristotle considered the heart as the seat of thought as well as emotion and passion, often rejecting the value of the brain. But the Roman physician Galen was one of the first to consider the seat of passions to be the liver, the seat of reason to be the brain, and the heart to be the seat of the emotions.
"Thought we don’t often talk about the liver in reference to passion it is often said that the liver governs anger, the kidneys fear (the adrenals sit atop the kidneys) the lungs sorrow/ depression and the stomach or spleen as the source of anxiety and worry. Though these physiological responses to emotion are often obvious, modern society considers the seat of emotion and passion to be the heart and the seat of thought to be the brain.."
Fascinating stuff.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

-kg


Tuesday, November 08, 2016

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Answering Your Organic Church Questions



What are your burning questions about Organic Church? What would make your house church group better? What's the one thing you wish was different? How can I help?

Ask your questions below and I'll record a 5 minute video in response to help you find an answer.


Monday, November 07, 2016

No Stranger To Love



All of us were once strangers to righteousness. Holiness was an alien concept to us.

Then we met the One who loved us into life again.

His touch rearranged our DNA.

We began to die in that moment. Our old self was crucified, but our new self came alive.

This intimate knowledge of the Infinite conceived a new life within us.

The resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead was now unleashed within us.

Soon, disobedience to our Abba became strange to us. We became aliens to this world around us.

Who we are now is all that matters. What we once were is not worth mentioning again.

We stand now, as new creations, calling out to the Creator as beloved children made in His image.

We are remade for righteousness.

Our new nature is hard-wired to glorify Him with a clean heart

and lips that speak of grace

and voices that magnify His Holy name

and hands that comfort the broken

and arms that support the weak

with eyes that seek for truth

and ears that listen for the still small voice of One so very big.


You, oh God, are remaking us into a people who are like you,

even though there is no one like you,

and even though

“eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and no heart has yet imagined 
the things that God has prepared for those who love Him…
God has revealed all of this to us through His Spirit. [1 Cor.2:9-10]

“We have the mind of Christ” [1 Cor. 2:16]

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” [2 Cor. 5:17]

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” [Phil. 1:6]

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control....and those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” [Gal. 5:22-26]

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” [2 Peter 1:3]

-kg





Saturday, November 05, 2016

5 MINUTE VIDEO: PART 5 - How To Start A Ministry To The Poor



"You can only help people who want help, and you can only give them the help they are willing to receive."

Listen as Keith unpacks this valuable lesson.

Friday, November 04, 2016

All The Ways You Give Yourself Away



Our house church family continues to amaze me.

Every single time we get together, the Lord reveals something more exquisitely beautiful about Himself to all of us and takes our breath away.

A few months ago one of our dear sisters shared something from her journal with us. She was in a place where the voices of self-doubt and defeat were beginning to drown out the voice of the One who loves her completely.



In her journal she wrote: 

“Lord, I really do feel like I am having to constantly fight against the negative thoughts of my mind that are telling me I am alone or unwanted, or unworthy or not worth anyone’s time.”

Rather than give in to those lies, she instead stopped and prayed. She confessed her feelings and doubts and asked Jesus to remind her of who she was.

In a few moments time, literally only a few seconds, the Lord spoke out these five verses to her one at a time. She wrote them down in her journal under the bold heading:

"Things that are TRUE"

Here's what the Lord spoke to her:

“I am your inheritance”Ezekiel 44:28

“I am doing something new! Even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make ways in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 43:18

“For you alone know the human heart, so that they may fear you and walk in your ways.”2 Chronicles 6:31

“Keep asking and it will be given to you. Keep searching and you will find. Keep knocking and the door will be opened for you.”Luke 11:9

“The Lord paid attention to Hannah’s need.”Samuel 2:21

Through these five verses the Lord whispered something beautiful to our sister. He revealed to her all the ways that He sustains her, and that He is at work even if she doesn't perceive it, to make her a new creation in Christ. He showed her that He knows her heart, and that if she keeps searching, she will find Him. Then He reminded her that he is well aware of her need and He intends to fill it with all of Himself.

As she went through her day these thoughts continued to swirl around in her heart and she began to meditate on all the ways that He gives Himself away to us.

God is giving Himself away to us. He is our inheritance. All that we have is His. All that He has is ours. He intends to make us One with Him, and to make us all One with each other.

Doesn't that give you such great hope today?

God sees you. He knows you. He pays attention to you. He is working behind the scenes to make you like Himself, and to draw you into a place where all you know is more of Him.

Today I am praising God for all the ways He gives Himself away.

-kg




Thursday, November 03, 2016

GOD TAKES NOTHING AWAY FROM US




It was a perfect day. Wendy and I were celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary together, walking along Newport Beach on a Saturday morning. The sun was perfect. The sky was perfect. Her hand in mine was perfect. We found a sand dollar topped with a purple anemone. It was perfect.

As we walked along together, the sound of the waves washing over us, the sea air in our lungs, basking in the goodness of God, this thought came to me:

""God doesn't want to take anything away from us. He only wants to give us more of Himself."

That word seemed to come from somewhere outside of my own heart. I tucked it away and held it  inside the rest of the day.

Later, Wendy and I talked about this over coffee. She reminded me that the Lord does "give and take away" and that sometimes we do lose those we love; tragedy strikes; accidents happen; pain is part of every life.

So, I continued to think on that word I received earlier, when all was right with the world. I went to sleep that night thinking about all of it. It echoed in my dreams all night long.

In the morning I woke up and went into the living room to have some quiet time, and a cup of coffee, while everyone in the house was still asleep.

In the silence, just me and God, I felt like I understood the statement: "God doesn't want to take anything away from us. He just wants to give us more of Himself."

The truth is that God may remove something from our lives, or allow someone or something to be lost, temporarily. In those cases, God is committed to using that as an opportunity to fill the gap with more of Himself. He fills the emptiness with His love. He rushes into the wound and heals us with His own hands.

We may lose loved ones in an unforseen tragedy, or have to watch someone we care about succumb to death. But in those moments He is with us. He doesn't want to take anyone, or anything from us, but He will use even these momentary losses to give us even more of Himself.

In the end, we receive back all that we may have had to let go of in this life. He has promised us:

"Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times more in this age — and in the age to come, eternal life.” - (Luke 18:30)

This passage also introduces another element into the equation: What we hold on to and what we let go of.

In other words, God may not want to take anything away from us, but if we have eyes to see clearly the exquisite beauty of His Kingdom, we just might decide - all on our own - to divest ourselves of all the worthless nonsense we've held on to in favor of grabbing large handfuls of His excellent goodness and begin to feast on His marvelous presence. 

See, sometimes we begin to understand that there are things that get in the way of our having more of Him and we wisely choose to count those worthless things as dung and throw it all out with the garbage to make more room for Him. 

God doesn't want to take anything away from you. He only wants to give you more of Himself. 

Do you want more of Him? If so, you might want to rearrange the furniture to get as much of Him as you possibly can.

He's worth it.

-kg

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Part 4 - How To Start A Ministry To The Poor



In part 4 Keith warns against the temptation to "go big" because that might lead you to avoid actually interacting with the people you're called to love and serve.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Part 3 - How To Start A Ministry To The Poor



In Part 3, Keith digs a bit deeper into what God is calling us to when He leads us into service to others.

NOTE: The video cuts off abruptly but our next video will pick up where this leaves off.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Part 2 - How To Start A Ministry To The Poor

In Part 2, Keith talks about a few practical things he's learned - mostly by making mistakes - and shares some important considerations to keep in mind.