Wednesday, October 18, 2017

INTERVIEW: John Fugelsang Talks To Keith Giles



LISTEN: Sirius XM Radio Host John Fugelsang interviews Keith Giles about his new book "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb".

Recorded live on Tuesday, Oct. 10th, 2017 on "Tell Me Everything".

Used by permission.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Personal Mission Statement







As part of my new job, we’re encouraged to read through the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and reflect on each of the habits together in scheduled weekly meetings.

Honestly, it’s not something I would ever want to do on my own as I am allergic to all the usual leadership and success-minded literature that permeates our culture. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the principles are derived from the teachings of Jesus.

For example, the first habit involves realizing that we often allow others to control us. The goal is to move from being reactionary – where we are always being manipulated by the desires of others – to being proactive – where we are driven more by our own set of internal values. In other words, our attitudes should not be shaped by circumstances or people, but by an inward decision to be who we already are, regardless of our circumstance.

So, my joy is not dependent upon outward conditions: how much money I have, or how many people like me, or what sort of status I may have in society. Instead, my joy radiates from within and flows out of who I am inside. Because I know I am loved by God, created in His image, called by His name and adopted into His family as His child and co-heir with Christ, my happiness is fixed on this.

I can be in prison, or sitting under a tree in the park and I am content. I can be rich or poor, young or old, healthy or sick and still remain at peace within myself based on who I am inside.

This is what Paul referred to when he said that he had: learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

The second habit is to start with the end in mind. Literally, this means to begin by imagining your own funeral. Who is there?  What do they say about you? What do you want them to say? In other words, if you want people to stand and say that you were a great friend, that means you’ll need to start being a great friend. If you hope that people will talk about what a loving and kind person you are, then you should start working now on being more loving and kind to people.

Again, this concept is very grounded in the idea of sowing and reaping. If you want good fruit, then you must first make the tree good, as Jesus said. Anyone who plants an apple tree should not expect grapefruit, or vice versa. The way we behave today plants seeds for what our character will be like tomorrow.

Part of working through the book involves writing your own personal mission statement. This isn’t something I would normally ever do, but again I found the process of sitting down to think about it very inspiring.

Here’s what I came up with for my mission statement:

“I want to always remind people that they are more beautiful than they imagine and dearly loved by God. I want to use every gift and talent I have been given to reflect the love of God and point people to Jesus who is the best picture we could have of who God really is, and who we are called to be like.”

Have you ever thought about what your mission statement would be? What would you include? I’d love to hear yours if you take time to write it out and share it in the comments below.

Also, what would you want people to say about you at your funeral? What are you doing now to make sure that what they say about you lines up with the impression you hope to make on the people around you?

Share those in the comments if you can.

Finally, if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to the blog and share this post with your friends on social media.

Thanks,
Keith



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

JESUS RETURNS TODAY




Not only am I really tired of all the so-called end times prophets picking dates for the End of the World based on some obscure Bible passage, a few wonky mathematical equations, the alignment of the moon and the stars and a little bit of old-fashioned B.S. thrown in for good measure, I’m downright angry about it.

I mean, I can’t decide what’s worse: The fact that these sorts of predictions continually get promoted or that so many Christians endlessly fall for them.

What it does for our faith is to solidly prove to everyone who has never read the Bible that it must assuredly be too confusing to understand, or just flat-out filled with failed prophecies.

Either way, these end times prophecies about the end of the world based loosely on the Bible do nothing but make Christians look stupid and the Bible look untrustworthy.

Why would anyone listen to anything a Christian says about anything? If they can’t even understand their own Holy Book, what makes us think they can understand my life, or help me with my problems, or lead me to something one might consider to be “The Truth”?

With all that being said, I have something to say to all of you:

Jesus returns today.

I’m totally serious.

Today, Jesus will reveal Himself as the Lord and show His true power to the world.

Every knee will bow when they see Him.

Every tongue will confess when they hear His voice.

Every heart will melt like wax when they realize that they are in the Presence of the Holy One.

His Kingdom will descend from Heaven.

His rule and reign will have no end.

Jesus returns today.

Here’s how: You and I are carriers of His Presence.

His Spirit lives and breathes within every one of us.

There are millions of us all over the world right now.

Those of us who are in Christ will not only do the things that Jesus did – feed the hungry, care for the 
sick, stand for the oppressed – but we will do even greater things than this.

Like, love our enemies and pray for those who hate us.

Like, forgive those who have spitefully used us and release them – and ourselves – from prisons of pain and regret.

Like, serving our neighbors and demonstrating the transformative love of Jesus in every way we possibly can.

When people who have not known Jesus see this kind of love, they will see Him and they will be conquered by His affection.

When people who have never experienced forgiveness are set free from blame and guilt, they will experience His presence and be overcome with joy.

When people who have been told they do not deserve love and compassion are suddenly and unexpectedly immersed and saturated by the love of Christ that is higher, and wider, and longer, and deeper than any mind can comprehend, they will know that Jesus has returned to rescue them.

Jesus is returning today.

If you’re lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of Him when He does.

If not, that's ok. He'll be returning tomorrow, too.

But, whatever you do, don’t get left behind.

-kg



Friday, September 29, 2017

WHO'S THE REAL HERETIC?




This week I launched a brand new podcast with some friends called "Heretic Happy Hour" and so far it's performing better than we expected.

In our very first episode we talked about the word "Heresy" and where it comes from.

The actual word means "causing division" and the emphasis is on the sin of dividing the Church, not about false teaching.

Unity is a big deal for Jesus. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. He said that our unity would be a sign to the world that Jesus was actually the Messiah sent from God.

This is also why Jesus commanded us to love one another as He has loved us - which is to say - extravagantly and unconditionally.

Paul also stressed unity in his epistles to the early Christian assembly. He rebuked the Corinthians for dividing over which Apostle they like best. He reminded the Galatians that we are no longer divided by race, or status, or gender, but that we are all one in Christ. He rebuked the Romans for dividing over whether or not eating meat sacrificed to idols was right or wrong and told them to each be convinced in their own mind, but to remain in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.

He even suggested that it was ok to just allow oneself to be wronged as long as unity in the Body of Christ was maintained.

Unity was - and is - crucial. People will know that we are the followers of Christ if we have love for one another. So, it's a very big deal.

It's why Paul warned us in Titus to warn a divisive person twice and then have nothing more to do with them if they refused to stop dividing the Church.

So, the idea of dividing that Body was heresy. It went against everything that Jesus and His Apostles stood for.

Heresy, is about division. This means one could be guilty of heresy while teaching the truth.

How? By using the truth to divide the Body of Christ.

One could also be a heretic for simply saying this: "I cannot fellowship with anyone who disagrees with my theology."

Only a heretic divides the Body of Christ over differences in theology.

The irony, of course, is that people do this all the time. Hardly a day goes by on Facebook where someone doesn't say exactly this - "I cannot fellowship with anyone who disagrees with my theology" - and usually in the process that same person will accuse those who disagree with them of being heretics.

But the only heretic is the one who divides the Body of Christ - even if they are technically correct in their theology.

So, please don't be a heretic. Don't divide the Body of Christ over your own views of scripture. Don't insist that everyone must agree with you on ever single point before you'll accept them into your fellowship.

Our unity is in Christ.

-kg

LISTEN: Episode 01 of The Heretic Happy Hour: "Heresy Is In The Eye of the Beholder"

On iTunes Here>

OR, listen on Podbean here>



Monday, September 25, 2017

NEW PODCAST: HERETIC HAPPY HOUR


"Burning questions, not people."

Starting tomorrow, Tuesday September 25, the brand-new podcast I've been working on with Matthew Distefano and Jamal Jivanjee will launch on iTunes.

The first 3 episodes will post all at once, so please do me a huge favor:
*Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes
*Download the episodes [at least one]
*Leave a review or comment
*Rate the podcast

If you can do that for us, it would really mean a lot.

Also: Head over to Facebook and join the brand-new Heretic Happy Hour group we've started. It's already attracted over 450 people but there's room for a few more.

This podcast is something I'm very excited about. I do hope you'll take some time to listen and to interact as well.

We've even set up a Heretic Hotline where you can call us and leave a voice mail message (which we might play on an upcoming podcast episode] or text us a message or question.

The Heretic Hotline number is: (240) 3-HERESY or (240) 343-7379

Our first 3 episodes are:

1) Heresy Is In The Eye of the Beholder
2) Is Total Agreement Necessary for Unity?
3) What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

Future episodes are:

4) How Other Religions Compare To Christianity
5) Discovering Christ in Non-Christian Places
6) Can We Know God Without the Bible?

and more to come!

Thanks for your support!

-kg


Friday, September 22, 2017

Knowing Jesus Without Your Bible




In my previous post I asked the question: "What if no one had a Bible?"

The point of asking that question was to get us to consider what our faith would be like without depending upon what others wrote 2,000 years ago about their experiences of Jesus.

Instead, I hoped to inspire us to consider that our faith is based on our own experiences of Jesus - today.

Some people misunderstood that. Maybe it was my fault? If so, I apologize.

But let me make it crystal clear: The Bible leads us to Jesus. But what we do with Jesus after that is the most important thing of all.

People often tell me that we couldn't know anything about Jesus or God without the Bible.

But the Bible contradicts that. Over and over again.

What the Bible tells us is that we can know Jesus, and the Father, directly, personally and immediately at this very moment. [So, if you really believe the Bible, then do what the Bible says; connect with God yourself. Don't just read about Him - know Him and listen to Him and follow Him and learn to love Him more every day].

I've already written about this fact several times.

So, if someone took your Bibles away, you would still have Jesus. 

If every Bible on earth was suddenly destroyed, you and I would still hear His voice.

If no one ever read the Bible again, God would still be alive and moving and speaking and revealing Himself through His Spirit, and through His people, and through nature, and art, and music, and circumstances.

However, if your faith would be hopelessly empty without the Bible, then you just might have a much bigger problem. Maybe you don't actually have a relationship with God? Maybe you've only focused on reading a book and learning information about God, but you've not exactly come to know that God in any real way yet?

If so, then I most certainly recommend setting your Bible aside. Get to know Jesus. Spend time alone with Him. Talk to Him. Listen to His voice. Practice an awareness of His presence. Reading more Bible verses will not help you encounter Him. In fact, it just might postpone any deeper experiences with Jesus you might have.

You've read about God. You know information about Jesus. That's great. But now it's time to meet Him and to know Him in a deeper way.

God is not the Bible. The Bible is not God.

Yes, the Bible is a wonderful blessing to us all. We should be very grateful for it. But Jesus transcends and eclipses the Bible in every possible way. He is not bound by a book. He is not constricted into syllables and sentences. He is not captured on a page.

By asking the question: "What if no one had a Bible?" I am inviting you to consider moving on to phase 2 of your life in Christ.

Look up from the page long enough to listen for His still small voice.

Close the book long enough to walk with Him today.

Put the Bible back on the shelf long enough to put what you've read about into practice.

You can always come back to it later. But sometimes you need to take off the training wheels and learn to balance yourself if you really hope to enter the race.

I'll meet you at the top of the hill.

-kg

**
FOR FURTHER READING:

The Problem With Saying The Bible Is The Word of God

Why I Love the Word of God

The Word of God and the Bible

Five Times Jesus Contradicted The Old Testament




Thursday, September 21, 2017

If No One Had A Bible




Try to imagine it: No Bibles anywhere. No King James. No NIV. Not even a paperback copy of "The Message".

What would that be like?

Regardless of how such a thing might happen, try to imagine what it would be like to never have access to the Bible - ever again.

In some ways, I think our world might actually be a better place if no one had a Bible anymore. 

Maybe if we didn't depend on a book for everything we'd start to discover an inner desperation and a hunger for a deeper experience of Jesus.

Not only that, if there were no Bibles, we just might start to value listening to one another share testimonies of Jesus. Especially if there was no more need to hear from the resident Bible expert or scholar talk for an hour every weekend.

Imagine sitting around your living room with friends and listening to people share what Jesus was saying or doing in their lives that week. Imagine someone closing their eyes and quoting verses about how nothing can separate us from the love of God, or about how Jesus died for us while we were still enemies of God?

Don't you think this might help us to connect with one another - and with Jesus - more directly?

Maybe I'm the only one, but the more I think about this the more convinced I am that we might just be better off without our Bibles.

Now, I get it. I'm talking about what it would be like to first learn what the Bible says and study it and memorize it before experiencing those words in a deeper and more intimate way.

But, what if we only had our memories of scripture to sustain us? What if we could only pass on to our children the verses that really spoke deeply to us? What verses would we choose?

Probably verses where Jesus says, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" and "Love one another as I have loved you" would dominate your memory.

Perhaps you'd want your children to remember certain Parables that Jesus shared, like the Prodigal Son, or the Treasure in the Field or the Sower of Seeds.

Chances are you probably wouldn't find it all that crucial to memorize verses where God commanded His people to slaughter every man, woman and child and warned them not to show any compassion while doing so. You might leave behind the verses about how blessed those people are who dash infants against the rocks.

That, to me, would be a very good thing.

If all we had left was Jesus and our memories of scriptures that really touched us and profoundly changed us, that wouldn't be so bad.

What do you think?

-kg






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

All I Really Know



Learning to discern the voice of God is challenging, and we don't always get it right. 

Sometimes we get it very, very wrong, in fact. 

In those moments it can be difficult to maintain our trust in Him because we can assume that He misled us, especially when we had our hopes in whatever we felt like He promised us.

The most challenging time for our family was when Wendy had a dream that she was pregnant with twins. She was standing in our back yard working with her flowers and she felt like she was having a miscarriage. Her first thought was, "Oh no. I'm losing this baby" but immediately she heard the Lord say to her in her dream: "Don't say this baby will die if I say it will live."

A few weeks later she realized she was actually pregnant. 

A few weeks after that she started to lose the baby.

People came over to our house and prayed over her. They affirmed what she had heard in her dream; that this child would not die but live. 

So, we held on tight to those promises, and especially to this dream which God had given to her long before she even realized she was pregnant.

But then we lost the baby.

It's hard to describe the sense of loss and betrayal we felt.

How could God do this? Why would He give us such a specific dream and promise of life and then take it away from us? Was God being cruel? Was He playing with us? Didn't He know how we would have interpreted that dream and that promise that the child would not die but live?

There were no answers then, only questions.

We grieved. We cried. We wrestled with our doubts. We struggled to hang on to our faith in God's goodness.

Over time we began to look at all of this through another lens. Wendy had another dream later on that suggested that our daughter was indeed alive and in the presence of Jesus. She took comfort knowing that we would see her - and the other 5 children we had miscarried - one day soon.

But that experience led us to reassess the way we interpreted God's voice. Not everything was easy to discern. Not every word was to be taken at face value.

In other words, we weren't so sure about what we knew anymore. 

I recently shared this story with someone and they asked me what to do when you know that God has told you something but you're still struggling with doubts?

After thinking about how to respond I had to say this: "The list of things I 'know' is pretty short these days. I can only say that God is good and He loves me. Beyond that, I can't honestly say I "know" anything."

This is where we are. 

Our confidence in anything other than God's goodness and love for us is up for grabs. 

But because we know that we are loved by a God who is good, we can handle anything else that comes our way.

Like the man who said to Jesus, "I believe. Help my unbelief!" or Peter who said, "Lord, where can we go? You have the words of life", we can only hold tight to Him, even if we don't always understand what He is doing.

So, hold fast to these simple truths: God is good. He loves you.

Anything else is subject to change.

-kg



Saturday, September 02, 2017

BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS?



The more I talk to Christians the more I start to notice how often certain phrases reveal a belief system that’s just under the surface.

For example, the other day I shared something on Facebook about an infamously anti-Christian celebrity who had posted a video on their wall which suggested they might possibly have turned to Christ. 

Some people were genuinely excited that this man may have found faith in Christ. 

Most, however, were angry that I had shared the video at all. 

Still others doubted the legitimacy of the man’s conversion because he was not a "Bible-believing Christian” and that got me thinking about another famous person who wasn’t “Bible-believing” but most certainly was a Jesus-follower.

Gandhi, who would never have called himself a “Christian” and most certainly not a “Bible-believer,” was a Jesus-follower. By that I mean, for the last several years of his life he read the Sermon on the Mount every day and tried to put it into practice.

What would you call someone who did that? Possibly not a “Bible-believing Christian” but at the very least, a “Jesus-follower” would be an accurate description.

Now, I'm not saying that Gandhi was a Christian, or even that he placed any faith in Jesus beyond the the teachings he read in the Sermon on the Mount. 

But, the funny thing is, I hardly know any “Bible-believing Christians” who read the Sermon on the Mount every day and then try to live it out in their daily lives.

Do you?

I think we should be more alarmed at the fact that there are apparently many more “Bible-believing Christians” in the world who don’t read the words of Jesus daily or try to put His teachings into practice.

Isn’t this exactly what Jesus was talking about when he rebuked the Pharisees saying:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. [John 5:39-40]

It’s not in the Bible that we find life. We only find life in Christ. He is the One we need to go to and follow if we want eternal life.

Maybe we need to move beyond the idea of "Bible-believing Christianity" towards a "Jesus-following Christianity"?

Because believing in something is worthless if you're not actually putting it into practice in your daily life. 

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." [James 1:22]

We need more Jesus-followers and less Bible-believers.

Who's with me?


-kg

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Authority of Scripture?




“When [LGBTQ-affirming Christians] tell me that I am wrong for saying that [homosexuality] is a sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record [the Bible], and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.
"“The tree of [affirming homosexuality and transgenderism] is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures. – Rev. Henry Van Dyke

Many Christians today would agree whole-heartedly with Pastor Van Dyke's statements here. But keep in mind that what he was actually defending here was slavery and his opponents were Abolitionists. Still, his position in favor of slave-holding was very strongly supported by the Holy Scriptures. One cannot deny that he was right about the fact that the Bible did not condemn slaveholding outright.
But we cannot miss the fact that it is more than possible for someone to be Biblically-correct about something and still be very, very wrong at the same time.
The struggle for many of us is that we have been told for so long that we need to be "Biblically-minded" that we have forgotten that this same Bible teaches us to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and affirms that we have the mind of Christ.
Furthermore, the same Bible also teaches us to love extravagantly - as Christ has loved us - which was unconditionally and before we did anything to change our minds about Him, or how we live.
Here are Van Dykes actual comments about Abolitionists made in 1860:
“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures....When the Abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”-– Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.

Now, listen to what pro-slavery Christians said in the 1800’s about Abolitionists and substitute the topic of homosexuality and you’ll see that the arguments used today are exactly the same:

“[Opponents of slavery] decide a priori [in advance] what the Bible ought to speak, and then turn it over in order to see how they can make it speak what they wish…When Moses speaks the words of the God of the Hebrews, it is for us to listen, not to call into question.” – Bernard Whitman (1831), Two Letters to the Rev. Moses Stuart: On the Subject of Religious Liberty”, p. 30-42.

“If the present course of the abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were wrong.” – Charles Hodge (1860), “Bible Argument on Slavery” in E.N. Elliott’s “Cotton Is King”, p. 849.

“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures.” – Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.

“Those who oppose slavery are engaged in willful or conscious opposition to the truth…Who are we, that in our modern wisdom presume to set aside the Word of God, and…invent for ourselves a ‘higher law’ that those holy Scriptures which are given to us as ‘a light to our feet and a lamp to our paths’ must answer?”-  Episcopal Bishop John Henry Hopkins (1864), “Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery.”, p.16

Those who opposed slavery [the Abolitionists] had very little scriptural support for their position, but they were on the side of Christ all the same.

Why is it so hard for us today to see that there are times when we need to listen to the mind of Christ and the voice of the Good Shepherd in order to fulfill the law of love?

As Henry Brinton said recently: 

“An answer based only on Biblical quotations may put us on the side of Southern theologians who supported slavery and lost their way.” [Quoted from CNN, Oct. 15, 2014] [John Blake, “How the Bible Was Used To Justify Slavery, Abolitionism.”]

Sometimes, to obey Jesus we might have to admit that the Bible falls short. In those cases, we must cling tightly to the Good Shepherd and remember His command:

“Love one another as I have loved you.” – Jesus

Today, almost no Christian would argue in favor of slavery, in spite of the fact that it is quite “Biblical.”

So, the question of “authority” immediately comes to mind. Some argue for the inerrant and infallible authority of Scripture as the rule for a Christian’s life. But others, like me, suggest instead that our authority is Christ and that it is still the Holy Spirit who cries out to the Body of Christ today.

Sadly, many of us will not, or cannot, listen because we are convinced that our Bibles – and only our Bibles – have authority over us.

Are we willing to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit? Are we courageous enough to allow Jesus to be our guide?

Keep in mind that the Bible never holds itself up as our final authority. Instead, the Bible points us to Jesus and reminds us that He is the Head of the Church.

In the words of our Abba Father who thundered from heaven, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!”

-kg












Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Schizophrenic God of Inerrancy



For those who embrace – even insist – on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, there emerges a very odd version of a God who simply cannot make up His mind about things.

As an example, the infallible Scriptures are 100 percent clear about the fact that God causes evil and creates disasters:

“When disaster [literally “evil”] comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” [Amos 3:6]

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster [“evil”]; I the Lord, do all these things.” [Isaiah 45:7]

“The LORD said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” [Exodus 4:11]

These verses, and several others like them, affirm without any doubt that God is the one who brings disaster, creates evil and makes people deaf and blind.

This is an inerrant and infallible statement of fact supported by an equally infallible and inerrant Holy Bible.

However, there are other scriptures that contradict these ideas and instead say:

"God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all"  [1 John 1:5]

“His works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” [Deut. 32:4]

Jesus also affirmed that it was Satan who came to “steal, kill and destroy,” not God.

So, taking all of these infallible and inerrant verses together, we know without a doubt that God does no wrong, and doesn’t destroy or kill, but that He most certainly brings evil, creates darkness and hands out birth defects.

We also know that God was the one who commanded David to take a census and then punished 70,000 people by killing them with a plague when David obeyed. [See 2 Sam.24:1]

At the same time, we clearly see that it was Satan who incited David to take a census, not God. [See 1 Chronicles 21:1]

We also know that God never tempts anyone to do evil [See James 1:13].

So clearly these inerrant and infallible verses tell us that God, and Satan, both commanded David to take a census and then God punished David and his people for giving in to the temptation which God never tempted him with.

Does that make sense to you?

Try this one.

“Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please Him to ruin and destroy you.” [Deut. 28:63]

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked!” [Ezekiel 33:11]

So, God is pleased to destroy His people, but He takes no pleasure in their death.

One more.

“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers.” [Exodus 20:5; Deut. 5:9]

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel…he will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live, but his father will die for his own sin…the son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.” [Ezekiel 18:3;17-19]

Clearly, according to these inerrant and infallible verses of scripture, God punishes children for the sins of their fathers, but a son will not die for his father’s sins, nor share the guilt of his father, nor will the father share the guilt of his son.

Got it?

If you do, please explain it to the rest of us.

All I can see is that there are competing voices in the scriptures. Some prophets see God one way – causing evil, creating birth defects and punishing sons for the sins of their fathers – and other prophets see God a different way – not causing evil or tempting people, or punishing sons for their father’s sins and taking no pleasure in the death of anyone.

Those who insist on an inerrant scripture ignore these discrepancies, or turn somersaults to make each contradictory statement true while ignoring the very obvious fact: The voices we hear in scripture are not infallible, nor inerrant.

So, what can we do about these verses? How can we discern which ones speak truthfully about God’s character and which verses miss the mark?

According to Paul, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things” [1 Cor. 2:15]  and while quoting Isaiah’s rhetorical question “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him!?” [Isa. 4:13] responds shockingly: “But we have the mind of Christ!” [v. 17]

So, who dares to challenge and question the scriptures?

We do!

Why? 

Because we have the mind of Christ.

Paul even reminds us that we will judge angels [1 Cor. 6:3]; and who are “angels” but “messengers from God”? [The word "angel" in scripture is literally translated as "messenger of God"]

Do we have an obligation to read the Scriptures through the lens of Jesus and with the mind of Christ? 

Absolutely!

Otherwise we are left with a schizophrenic God who is both good and evil, who is both tempting and never-tempting, who both creates birth defects and heals them, who delights in destruction and takes no pleasure in it, etc.

Is God the author of confusion? 

No.

Is God the one who is confused about who He is and what He does, or could it be that those who wrote about Him prior to Christ couldn’t see Him as clearly as we do now?

If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. There is no clearer picture of Him than this.

The only way to know God any better is to know Jesus. The more you come to know Him, the more you can clearly see through the mind of Christ what God is like.

-kg








Wednesday, August 30, 2017

LITERAL HERETICS



The first real "heretic" of Christianity was a man named "Marcion" who saw the radical difference between the God of the Old Testament scriptures and the God revealed by Jesus.

But this was not his heresy. In fact, many -if not all- early Christians also saw this same radical difference between the two testimonies of God's nature.

What's more, all of those early Christians also rejected the violence of God in the Old Testament scriptures and fully embraced the radical enemy-love taught by Jesus.

There are no dissenting voices in the early Christian church when it comes to non-violence and enemy love whatsoever.

So, what was Marcion's heresy? It was his solution for responding to the differing perspectives of God between those two Testaments that got him labeled a heretic.

Marcion's solution was to literally throw out the entire Old Covenant and to claim that the God revealed in those Hebrew scriptures was actually a demon.

[Now, that's a heresy!]

When another early Church Father wrote to rebuke Marcion's extreme response, it was not to dismiss the idea that there were obvious differences between the way God was viewed in the two Covenants.

In fact, Origen agreed with Marcion that there were differences between God as Moses and the other Prophets spoke of Him and the "Abba" Father God as revealed through Jesus.

The most surprising thing about Origen's rebuke of Marcion was that he realized that the heresy was rooted in one thing: Reading the Bible literally.

The reason that is so surprising - even ironic - is that there are Christians today who insist on reading the Bible literally and yet still consider Marcion a heretic.

In other words, today's Bible Literalists see Marcionism as a heresy even though the sin of Marcionism is specifically defined by Origen as reading the Bible too literally.

What they miss is that no one considered Marcionism a heresy for claiming that Jesus was right about who God was and what God looked like.

Every early Christian embraced that idea. All of them.

The idea that Jesus was - and is - the clearest picture anyone could ever have of God was universally accepted by the early Christian Church.

This was not heresy. It was Christianity.

Origen agreed with Marcion that a literal view of God as seen in the Old Testament scriptures "would not be entertained regarding the most unjust and cruel of men" and went on to say:

"Holy Scripture is not understood by [Marcion] according to its spiritual, but according to its literal meaning" [De Principiis, Origen, 4.8-9]

In other words, Marcion went off the rails because he read the Bible too literally. By reading the Bible literally, Marcion could not reconcile the God of Moses - who commanded genocide and delighted in the dashing of infants against the rocks - and the God of Jesus - who showed love and mercy to the just and the unjust and forgave sinners freely.

Therefore, Marcion could only do one thing: He jettisoned the entire Hebrew Bible and rejected the God he read about there as a demonic aberration of Jesus' "Abba" Father God.

But, as Origen and the other Church Fathers demonstrated, there is a better way than this.

Instead of taking everything we read in the Old Testament about God as a literal fact - as if those words are dictated by God and transcribed by dispassionate observers with no bias of their own - we should read those scriptures through the lens of Jesus.

Jesus is our best and most accurate testament of who God really is.

Rejecting Marcionism needs to include a rejection of a literal reading of the Old Testament scriptures.

-kg

NOTE: Special thanks to Derek Flood's book "Disarming Scripture" for a comparison of Origen and Marcion.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HERETICS LIKE PAUL




If you and I read the Old Testament scriptures the way Paul the Apostle did, we'd be called heretics.

For example, if you read Psalm 18:40-49, the passage is all about how God will destroy the Gentiles and pour out His vengeance on them:

"I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord, but he did not answer.
"I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.

"The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
"Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name."



It's pretty gruesome stuff, to be honest. 

But notice how Paul the Apostle quotes - or rather heavily misquotes - this text in Romans 15:9:

"For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

"I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord, but he did not answer.
 "I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.

"The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.

"Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name."

Wait. Seriously? 

This is what you call "taking scripture out of context" my friends.

Paul completely takes a passage about how God will take vengeance on the Gentiles and destroy them and (mis)quotes it as a way to prove that God is actually glorified for showing mercy to the Gentiles.

Trust me: No Christian pastor or Bible teacher would ever get away with anything so irresponsible as this today.

And this is not the only example. Oh, no.

Paul does it again in the very next verse of Romans 15:10 when he radically misquotes Deuteronomy 32:43 like this:

"Again it says, 'Rejoice O Gentiles, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, He will take vengeance on His enemies, and make atonement for His land and people." 

Uh....yeah. Ok, then.

What's going on here? How can Paul do such a thing?

Is he trying to pull a fast one? Hardly. 

Instead, Paul is reading the Old Testament scriptures through the lens of Christ. He starts by knowing who God is - who He really is - by looking at Jesus.

In Christ, Paul can clearly see that the Father is NOT a God of vengeance and wrath. He understands that Jesus has subverted that Old Covenant idea of God and revealed to us a God who shows mercy, loves everyone and redeems even His enemies.

See, there was a time when Paul went by the name "Saul of Tarsus" and he went around doing what any good Pharisee did - he persecuted anyone who dared to question the authority of Scripture.

In fact, it was in the act of persecuting the Christian church that Jesus showed up, knocked him off his ass [literally] and opened Paul's eyes to the truth: God wasn't pleased with violence. 

Paul experienced mercy and forgiveness from the very people he was trying to murder. He heard the Gospel of Peace for the first time and very soon he came to realize that God was not who he thought He was. 

After this, Paul counted all of that scriptural "expertise" as manure and devoted himself to one thing: "to know Christ and the power of His resurrection" [Phil. 3:10]

Why would Paul do that? Why is it so important to "know Christ"?

Because without Christ, you and I cannot see God. There is a veil that covers our eyes if we try to understand the Scriptures without reading them through the lens of Jesus. [See 2 Cor. 3:15]

This is why Paul could now read violent passages in the Hebrew Scriptures and dismiss them as the flawed perspectives of men who had yet to know Christ as he had now come to know Him.

By knowing Christ, Paul could now clearly see who the "Abba" Father God really was: A God who looked and acted like Jesus.

As long as we continue to follow the letter of the Law, we will reap death. [Romans 7:10]

Paul and the other Apostles invite us to see God through brand new eyes: The eyes of Jesus.

Through Him, we can clearly see a God who refuses to beat His children. 

We, instead, see an Abba who longs to draw everyone to Himself and transform each of us into people who look and act like Jesus.

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." [John 1:17]

-kg

NOTE: Special thanks to Derek Flood for pointing out Paul's Christ-like hermeneutic in his book "Disarming Scripture".




Monday, August 28, 2017

BEING CHURCH IN TENT CITY



Our house church family met yesterday at Tent City - a homeless encampment of around 300 people that has grown up in the shadow of Angel Stadium, only a few blocks from my house.

We brought hot coffee, muffins, danishes and cold water bottles to share with our new friends who call this makeshift town their home.

The first new friend we met was "Fernie." He had matted hair that covered his face in dreadlocks so that only his eyes were visible if you looked through all the hair. He was wearing a pair of shorts, with no shoes or shirt, standing on the sidewalk as we made our way to the Tent City.

We said "hello" and offered him coffee and a some breakfast. He politely replied and graciously accepted all we had to share with him. He was soft-spoken, clear-headed, and grateful.

Next, we met "Gilbert" who allowed us to pray for him and his wife and kids.

The next tent we visited was home for "Angie" and "Ariana" who also received prayer along with their coffee and muffins. Several people in our house church had very specific words of encouragement for Angie regarding her son who was not with her. She wiped away tears as we prayed for her and her son and both thanked us for our prayers and our reminder that God loved them both so much.

We met "Sharon" who asked for prayer for her foot which was in great pain. After we prayed for her, "Paul," her neighbor, asked us for help finding the bus routes that she could take to go to a hospital that he had scouted out for her earlier. He was very concerned for her and talked at length with us about his ideas and vision to start a homeless non-profit.

One of our sisters took ice from the cooler, dropped it into a ziplock bag and placed it on Sharon's ankle which also helped take away the pain.

We met and prayed for a half dozen others and heard their stories: Like "Raya" who simply radiated the joy and the presence of Jesus and shared with us about what the Lord was doing in her life and how He was leading her and giving her great ideas for starting a new business so she could move out of tent city. We also heard her share about her four kids who were all very successful and blessed in everything they were pursuing - and her joy was evident as she told us about each of them.

After about half an hour of sharing coffee, water and muffins - and praying for our new friends at Tent City, we headed under the overpass to worship in the shade.

We had invited everyone to join us, but only one person - "Gilbert" - came out of his tent and came and sat beside us as we sang "Reckless Love" and "There Is No Striving" at the top of our lungs in the shade of that overpass.

One young man who was visiting with us for the very first time was sitting next to Gilbert and he started to talk to him during worship. Soon they were praying together and eventually we saw Gilbert and our visitor hugging and crying and rejoicing together as we sang.

Afterward, we all drove over to a local Indian restaurant and shared lunch together - and talked about all the amazing people we met, and how they had blessed us so much.

Wendy and I glanced at one another several times during that morning and smiled to each other. We were both so blessed to see and experience Jesus in our house church in this way.

There is now such a deep and sincere love for Jesus in our house church family now. That love has spilled out of us and is now bursting forth in expressions of love for the outcast, the homeless, the forgotten and the broken.

It is so beautiful. My heart can barely contain all the joy and wonder. Jesus is so alive in us and so real to all of us. We are truly experiencing the heart of Jesus together. He is abiding in us and moving through us to touch people - and transform us - in so many awesome ways.

We are overwhelmed in His presence.

Yesterday, sitting under that overpass, worshipping Jesus with my church family, I was overcome with emotion. It was such an honor and a privilege to be the Church in that place and to represent Him to so many beautiful people who are so dearly loved of God.

This really is the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" attached to it.

Halleiuah!

-kg

Friday, August 25, 2017

OLD BEATITUDES VS NEW BEATITUDES




Jesus is famous for his list of blessings found in the Sermon on the Mount. You know, "Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth" and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."

But the Old Testament also contains a few "blessed are" statements which don't always sound quite as beautiful.

For example, can you imagine Jesus saying something like this:

"Blessed is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them on the rocks." [Ps 137:8-9]

That's not the sort of thing we would ever expect Jesus to say, is it?

This is partly why we need to learn how to read the Old Testament scriptures through the lens of Jesus.

See, before we can understand a text, we first need to understand God - and that means recognizing Him for who He really is.

The best way to understand God is to look at Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the one who reveals the Father to us. If we have seen Jesus, then we have truly seen God because no one has ever seen God at any time except for Jesus.

So, when we read a verse of scripture in the Hebrew Bible that has God saying something like:

"Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open." [Hosea 13:16]

We need to ask ourselves a few questions first, like:

"Is this what God said?"

Or, "Is this what the author thought God was saying?"

Actually, our first question should be: "Does this sound like something Jesus would ever say?"

If not, we know that the verse we're reading isn't what God said but what the author thought God was saying.

Because ultimately we have to decide if our faith is in a Book, or if our faith is in Jesus.

In this specific case, we can see that Jesus showed great love and compassion for people from Samaria. He told parables where the Samaritans were the heroes. He went out of his way to share the Gospel with a Samaritan woman. He refused to look down on Samaritans or to treat them any differently than other people.

Jesus loved Samaritans. So, we can be 100 percent sure of one thing: Jesus would not encourage anyone to "dash in pieces" their "little ones" or to "rip open" their "pregnant women."

Not even a little bit.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible where God reportedly told people to go and kill other people.

In many of those verses God seems to command people to slaughter women, children and even toddlers and pregnant mothers.

If you think Jesus would ever do this you might want to refresh your memory a little. He is the same one who told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, forgive those who hate us, pray for those who misuse us and overcome evil with good.

In fact, Jesus tells us to do all of these things so that we can be like someone else: His Father in Heaven.

Yes, our compassion, forgiveness and radical love is patterned after the same love that God has for everyone - both the righteous and the unrighteous.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." [Matt. 5:44-45]

If God wasn't kind and merciful to everyone, then Jesus would have no basis for asking us to be like Him by showing love and mercy for our enemies.

In conclusion: Jesus reveals a God who would rather die for His enemies than kill them. Jesus shows us a God who loves all the people we hate and He wants us to love them, too.

So, the next time you read a verse in the Bible that depicts God as a bloodthirsty warrior who delights at the slaughter of women, children and pregnant mothers, just remember: That's not Jesus.

And if it doesn't look like Jesus, it's not the Father.

-kg




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Problem With Saying The Bible Is The Word Of God



Inevitably, whenever I engage with someone over the issue of whether or not the Word of God is Jesus or a Book about Jesus, the argument is always raised that “All scripture is God-breathed” [quoting from 2 Timothy 3:16] and therefore no one has any authority to question the Bible.

There are more than a few problems with this.

First of all, when Paul wrote those words in 1 Timothy, he was not thinking of the “Bible” in the same way that you and I might think of it today. 

To Paul, and to most First Century believers, the “Scriptures” were the Law and the Prophets and the Books of Wisdom, which would include the Psalms. It probably also included works that most Protestants today do not consider to be scripture like the Book of Enoch [which gets quoted in the New Testament book of Jude] and the Wisdom of Solomon and other Hebrew writings like Sirach and Tobit, that many considered to be Holy writings.

One thing for certain is that Paul was not thinking of his own epistles when he said this. It must be stressed that Paul did not think that he was writing Scripture when he wrote to the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc. He thought – correctly – that he was writing letters to various Christian communities who needed encouragement and wisdom about certain challenges that threatened their faith.

He also was most certainly not thinking about any of the four Gospels which were not even written when he said this.

Yes, we are very blessed to have copies of some of those epistles, and other Apostolic writings, but none of those people had any inkling that they were writing something that one day might be added to a book alongside Genesis, Isaiah or Malachi and considered scripture.

Secondly, the book that eventually became known as the Bible went through several wildly different forms before finally being Canonized in the Fourth Century. Before this the church referred to a fluid collection of Hebrew scriptures and First Century Apostolic writings and the various Gospel accounts for insight. 

In other words, their idea of scripture looked radically different from ours and, depending on who you were talking to and what time in Church history, you might be surprised what was considered scripture and what was not.

For example, several New Testament books that every Protestant today considers an essential part of the Bible were, at various times and by various Church Fathers, eliminated from the accepted Canon of Scripture. Books like Esther, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and James were left out of several lists of accepted books of scripture by many church leaders. 

Consequently, many other books that most Protestants have never even heard of were accepted by some as Canon like the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Book of Baruch, Jubilees and the Letter of Jeremiah, for example.

Sometime around 363 AD several attempts were made to establish an official and accepted list of which books or epistles were scripture and which should be eliminated. There was no firm consensus on the contents of that list for several decades, but eventually a group of Christian leaders – whose names the average christian does not even know – decided for the rest of us forevermore which books were to be accepted and which were to be rejected as scripture.

Today there is still no universal consensus on what is and what is not the “Bible” or Holy Scripture. 

Like the early church, depending on who you ask, and where you live, and what Christian tradition you belong to, the book you carry around and refer to as the Holy Bible might look very different from another book from another Christian community that might be called the “Bible.”

I’ve started to wonder, “How do we know those people who decided what was and what wasn’t Scripture got it right?” Furthermore, I’ve started to wonder who gave those men the authority to decide that God was no longer speaking to His people and inspiring them to write down what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them about the nature and character of God?

Why do we so blindly accept the authority of these nameless and faceless men who made these decisions for the rest of us? What if they didn’t really have the authority to make this decision? What if they left writings out, or included writings, in error? How are we so sure that they were inerrant and infallible in their process?

Ultimately, for those who insist on inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, what they are actually trusting in is the perfection of those decisions made by a group of people centuries ago about what was and wasn't worthy to be included in the Bible.

Frankly, the canon of Scripture most of us hold to today was originally compiled and assembled by people that most consider to be heretics today – namely Marcion and Origen – who were the original compilers of a canon and the basis for the bulk of what we accept as scripture, respectively. 

If we reject many of the theological assumptions of Marcion and Origen, why do we unquestionably accept their judgement regarding what is and what isn’t to be included in the Holy Bible?

Honestly, I am playing devil’s advocate here in many respects because I don’t outright reject everything that those two Church Fathers taught simply because I disagree with some of their theological conclusions. But for those who do reject those Church Fathers as heretics, I have to wonder why they have no trouble accepting their respective lists of what is and what isn’t their Bible.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Our Scriptures are a loose collection of writings by various people throughout history who were inspired by God to write down what they believed and what they experienced of God. 

Some of what we may currently accept as Scripture might not actually be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some of what we reject, or are simply unaware of due to obscurity, might actually be worth considering as a legitimate source of wisdom about God. 

But everything - and I do mean everything - needs to be filtered through the lens of Christ. If it lines up with our revelation of Him, we should take it to heart. If it disagrees with the Word of God who became flesh and came to dwell within us, we should dismiss it as being the flawed testimony of men.

Jesus is our hermeneutic. Jesus is our ultimate authority. Everything else is subject to Him and His authority.

So, before you claim that the Bible is the Word of God because Paul claimed that "all scripture is God-breathed" be sure to remember that what he considered scripture and what you're currently referring to as scripture are not the same. 

Also, remember that just because something is "God-breathed" doesn't mean it is infallible and inerrant. Humans are also "God-breathed" and we are neither infallible or inerrant. 

Yes, scripture [whatever that might be], "is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..." but determining how and in what ways scripture is profitable for us is something that must be discerned by the Holy Spirit of God that lives within each and every one of us.

This should cause each of us to cling more to Jesus and to dive deeper into Christ for wisdom and insight. 

After all, if we abide in Him then we experience Christ abiding in us, and this is the only way any of us can bear fruit.

-kg