Friday, July 21, 2017

Pax Christus vs Pax Romana




In the first century, the Roman Empire kept the peace by the power of the sword and the cross.

With the sword, they could enforce the law and with the cross they could punish those who defied the Empire through intimidation and public humiliation.

In Christ's Kingdom, peace is also maintained by the power of the sword and the cross.

But in His Kingdom, the Sword of the Spirit sets people free, transforms them into the image of Christ and separates truth from error and light from darkness.

In His Kingdom, the cross crucifies our flesh, puts to death our sinful desires and unleashes the resurrection power of Christ so we can experience His new life within.

The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and the Word of God is Christ. He speaks freedom and life. [see John 1:1; Heb. 4:12; Eph.6:17]

Pax Christus or Pax Romana - your choice.

As for me, I choose the power of Christ's sword that sets us free and the cross of Jesus that transforms and resurrects rather than the sword that kills and the power of humiliation.

What about you?

-kg

**
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." - Hebrews 8:12-13

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." - Eph. 6:17

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." - John 1:1; 14

Thursday, July 20, 2017

MERCY FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR YOU?



The news broke this week that OJ Simpson has been approved for parole.

Of course, the media, and people social media, were all quick to remind us of his crimes and his failures as a person.

As I read some of these reactions I couldn't help but remember a verse in Micah 6:8 which says:

”(God) has shown you, O man, what is good, and what is required of you; to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Most of us have no problem with most of this. We understand that we need to do justice on behalf of the weak and the oppressed. We know that we need to walk in humility with God and our fellow man.

But that part about loving mercy? That's too much.

Why? Because to love mercy you need to rejoice when someone gets a blessing they really don't deserve.

Like OJ Simpson getting paroled this week.

Our problem isn't with mercy in general. Oh no. We all love mercy - as long as it is being showered down on us. That feels so good and it speaks so powerfully of God's love for us and His kindness to us just warms us from the inside out.

Mercy is awesome.

But, when someone who doesn't deserve mercy receives it, we tend to complain. We go on and on about how they don't deserve this. We wag our fingers and shake our heads and roll our eyes. 

Do they deserve such abundant favor and mercy from God? Of course not, and neither do we when we receive mercy. 

But, we're ok with mercy shown to us. So, why are we so upset when mercy gets shown to others?

Because deep inside we still think we deserve mercy and they don't. 

But is that true? No, it's not true. None of us "deserves" mercy. In fact, if any of us actually deserved mercy then the blessing wouldn't be called "mercy" it would be called "justice" because the blessing was deserved and giving it to us was simply making everything right again.

Mercy isn't about deserving anything. It is, in fact, about not deserving a damn thing, but getting blessed anyway.

If your son or daughter got into trouble with the law, or hooked on drugs, and then appeared before the Judge and was shown mercy and given a second chance, you might weep and praise God and shout "Halleluiah!"

But if you read a story in the newspaper or heard on the news about someone who broke the law, got caught holding drugs and then got a slap on the wrist in court, your reaction to that might be very different. Maybe you'd get angry. Maybe you'd even curse a little under your breath and complain about our shoddy justice system.

But if that was your son or daughter, you'd be on your knees thanking God for the mercy and grace poured out on your family.

We all love mercy as long as it's being showered down on us. But the Lord calls us to love mercy in general; to celebrate whenever anyone receives mercy, no matter who they are or what they've done.

Mercy means everyone gets another chance to get it right.

Mercy means rejoicing with those who rejoice, no matter who is rejoicing.

The only way we'll ever love mercy this way is if the Lord Jesus transforms us from the inside out. It will take a miracle of God to help us see through the eyes of Christ and celebrate whenever any one of His children receives a blessing they don't deserve.

Are you willing to submit to the Lord in this area? Are you willing to pray and ask Him to give you a heart like His that rejoices whenever someone is shown mercy?

Until we love like Jesus loves, we'll never love mercy.

-kg


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

5 TIMES JESUS CONTRADICTED THE OLD TESTAMENT



A friend recently told me that Jesus would never contradict the Old Testament scriptures.

In response to that statement, I'd like to offer this list of specific contradictions that Jesus made against teachings found in the Old Testament:

1) According to Deuteronomy, God commands His people to swear in His name:

Old Testament: "You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." - Deuteronomy 6:13

But Jesus says that to swear by anything is "from the evil one":

Jesus: "But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." - Matthew 5:37

2) The Old Testament says that God's people should show no mercy and practice an eye for eye form of justice:

Old Testament: "Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." - Deuteronomy 19:21

But Jesus contradicts this directly:

Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." - Matthew 5:38–39

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 5:43-48

3) The Old Testament teaches that adulterers should be put to death without exception:

Old Testament: ‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death." - Leviticus 20:10

Jesus famously ignored this command when they brought the woman caught in adultery to him: 

Jesus: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground...."Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.'" - John 8:3-11

4) The Old Testament commands that no one do any work on the Sabbath:

Old Testament: "But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do." - Deuteronomy 5:14

Truth be told, no one breaks the Sabbath more than Jesus does. There are dozens of examples but here's just one:

Jesus: "Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath" - John 5:8–9

5) Right after healing this man on the Sabbath, Jesus goes one step further and He commands this man to break the Sabbath, too!

In Jeremiah 17:21–22 it says that no one should carry any burden on the Sabbath:

The Old Testament: "This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors." - Jeremiah 17:21-22

Truthfully, the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day understood that this was in direct defiance of the specific OT command:

"...and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” - John 5:10

So, does Jesus ever contradict the Old Testament Scripture? Yes! He most certainly does.

What does this mean? It means that:

*Jesus is the "Word of God" made flesh 
*Jesus as the Living Word of God has the authority to correct the written Word as-needed
*The Old Testament Scriptures are modified by Christ because Jesus is the reality these were pointing to
*Jesus - His life, His teaching, His example - are the standard which everyone, and everything [including the Bible] must measure up to and align with [not the other way around]

This also means that the Old Testament Scriptures, which were written by men, were sometimes "inspired" and sometimes not so much.

How do we know the difference?

Simple: Whenever those Old Testament Scriptures accurately point us to Christ [as in prophecies about Jesus and His incarnation, ministry, identity, etc.] we know that those are truly inspired.

But, whenever we see verses that conflict with Jesus, or His teachings, or His character, or that don't align with His revelation of the Father, etc., we can safely say that  Jesus was right and those men who write the Old Testament were wrong [at least in those cases]. 

Does this mean we can just make the Bible say anything we want?

No. Sorry. That's not what it means. [Unless what you want the Bible to say is exactly in line with Jesus and His teachings and life, then, yes].

Please note: This is not an arbitrary realignment of truth in the Scriptures. It's a Christ-centric alignment of truth, which sees Jesus as the standard. 

Why? 
Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Because Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. 
Because no one has ever seen God at any time except for Jesus. [Which means that those other people who wrote the Old Testament did not see God clearly, and certainly not as clearly as Jesus does because He is God in the flesh].

For example: In the Old Testament Scriptures it was said that God commanded His people to kill innocent women and children and even warned them not to hold back or to show any compassion on the infants or the toddlers. 

"[God Almighty says] Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" - 1 Sam. 15:2-3

"But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction..." - Deut. 20:16-18

Can you imagine Jesus turning to you and commanding you to go next door and kill every man, woman, child, and even the pets of your neighbors? Does that sound like something Jesus would say? Does that sound like something that the "Abba" revealed by Jesus would command His children to do?

Of course not. Therefore, we can conclude that verses like these are projections of God's character made by men who sometimes heard from God prophetically and at other times [like these] did not. 

How can we know this? Because we know that the God revealed to us by Jesus would not command this sort of violence against women or children, nor would He condemn someone for showing mercy and compassion on the weak and the helpless.

Jesus has shown us the Father. He is like the Father and the Father is like Jesus. 

The Father that Jesus reveals to us does not command us to kill our enemies, or their infants. Instead, He commands us to love our enemies, to bless them, to do good to them, and to pray for them.

He even tells us that when we do those things, we are also doing exactly what the Father does!

We have not yet fully embraced the idea that Jesus was the only one who has ever seen God. 
We have not yet fully accepted the idea that Jesus reveals the Father to us better than anyone else does.
We have not yet completely believed Jesus when He tells us that God loves and even blesses His enemies and that's why we should do it, too.

But, I have very high hopes that we might get it soon. That is my prayer.

-kg


Monday, July 17, 2017

Understanding Your Identity In Christ


Jesus started His ministry by saying this: 

"I have come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and it will not disappear until this is accomplished." [Matt. 5:17]
At the end of His ministry He said this:
"Father...I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do." [John 17:4]
"It is accomplished!" [John 19:28]
Now that Jesus has accomplished the Law and the Prophets as He came to do, we are told that the Law is: "fading, vanishing" and "obsolete" according to the Apostles. [2 Cor. 3:7-11; Gal. 4:24-31; Heb. 8:13]
This means we are no longer under the Law of Moses, because:
* It was a covenant made with the Jewish Nation 
* The covenant with that nation ended officially in AD 70, along with the priesthood, temple and daily sacrifice
* It was fulfilled and accomplished by Christ and now it will disappear, exactly as Jesus promised [see Matt. 5:17]

So, we who are in Christ are now only under the Law of Christ [Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21] which has an easy yoke and a light burden because:
* Christ indwells and empowers us to love one another as He loved us [John 15:4]
* Jesus is transforming us daily into people who are like Him [2 Cor. 3:18]
* The Grace given to us by Christ has given us everything we need to live a godly life [2 Peter 1:3; Titus 2:11-12]

This also means that we, who are in Christ, are now God's Chosen People because:
* Jesus is "the Chosen One of God" [Matt. 12:18; Luke 9:35; John 1:34]
* If we are in Christ then we are also "Chosen in Him" [Eph. 1:11; Col. 3:12]
* God's "Chosen people" have always been those who belong to Him in Spirit and in Truth [Rom. 9:6; Gal. 3:29]

So, please keep these things in mind:
*Jesus fulfilled the Law
*You are not under the Law
*You are under the Law of Christ 
*You are called to love others as Jesus has loved you
*Christ's Law brings freedom and an easy yoke
*You are one of the "Chosen People of God"
*Anyone who is "in Christ" is Chosen of God

Now, go and live like every one of these is true - because it is true.

-kg

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Friday, July 14, 2017

HELP HANNAH CHANGE THE WORLD



Let me tell you something about this young lady in this picture.
Her name is Hannah Dulaney and she is one of the most breath-takingly fierce women of God I have ever known in my life.
She grew up in our house church and has become one of the spark plugs that ignite our collective passions for more of Jesus.
This young lady will share Jesus with a total stranger at the drop of a hat. Her testimonies have inspired and astounded many of us on a weekly basis.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because she is about to embark on a grand adventure to share this amazing light and love of Christ with the unsuspecting people of San Francisco.
She leaves in a few months for a long-term missions trip where she will spend a year serving the homeless and the outcasts in one of the most dangerous and challenging communities to reach.
To support her in this audacious mission to carry the light of Christ into the darkness, we are asking you to buy one of her awesome, hand-made t-shirts based on a phrase I introduced a while back, "Agape Against The Machine".

*To refresh your memory, the article is here: Love Against the Machine


The shirts are $25 plus $5 shipping [US only] and every one sold will go 100% to help her complete this bold mission to San Francisco.
NOTE: Every shirt will be hand-made by Hannah herself.
We've already sold about a dozen of them, but we still have a long way to go to help her reach her financial goal.
If you're able and willing to help, and if you're interested in owning and wearing one of the very coolest t-shirts ever made [by hand, mind you], then please leave a comment below [or send me a private message with your address and your sizes and I'll send you her PayPal info.
If you'd like to know about her mission to serve in the Bay Area [or if you want to make a donation] visit her GoFundMe page here>
If you can't help out financially, please pray for her as she steps out to change the world with the love of Christ with "Apape against the Machine".
Thanks!
-kg

Thursday, July 13, 2017

THE ABOMINATION OF A CLOSE SHAVE



In the New Testament scriptures, the Apostle Paul speaks out against a trend that he sees as being “unnatural” and an “abomination” and warns that Christians need to be on their guard against this dangerous practice.

What is it?

[It’s not what you think].

See, in Paul’s day being a man meant keeping your hair short and your beard long. Why? Because women had long hair and smooth faces. So, to Paul – and many others in his day – if a man had long hair and shaved his beard off, he was accused of "going against nature.”

The Greek word Paul uses to describe this trend is “malakoi” and the best translation of the word into English is “effeminate”.

In the first century, “malakoi” was most often used to reference men who shaved daily and had no beards. These men were often ridiculed and accused of wanting to look like women with clean-shaven faces.

This term was used as an epithet against men who are not masculine enough, as in, “You punch like a girl.”

Plato, for example, in his “Republic”, wrote famously that “too much music made a man soft [malakoi], and feeble; unfit for battle.”

Aristotle also warned about the dangers of men becoming too soft [malakoi] by over-indulging in pleasures rather than balancing out their lives with acts of physical and mental discipline.

Even Josephus, the first century Jewish historian [and contemporary of Jesus and Paul] used the term “malakos” to describe men who were weak and soft through lack of courage in battle.

So, the word “malakoi” refers to being “soft”, rather than masculine, and it occurs four times, in three verses in the New Testament. [Jesus uses the word to refer to soft clothing, for example, in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25].

Now, here’s the problem: “Malakoi” is translated in most English Bibles today as “homosexual”.

Seriously.

Do you think that a man who shaves his beard and has long hair and enjoys music is a homosexual?

Hopefully not. 

Paul and others in the first century didn’t either. How do we know that? Because the word is never used to refer to someone who is homosexual. It is always used to describe a heterosexual male whose behavior is more feminine, or “soft.”

This is what Paul had in mind in 1 Cor. 6:9. In fact, if you go to the actual Greek language, this verse does not refer to homosexuals, even though most English Bibles use the phrase “men who have sex men” rather than “effeminate.”

In the Greek the text actually reads:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind..” – 1 Cor. 6:9

But the definition of “effeminate” is not the same today as it was in the first century, is it?

Back then it was “unnatural” for a man to shave his face and grow a mullet. Today, mullets still aren’t so popular, but we wouldn’t say that a person who sported one was “unrighteous” and unwelcome in the Kingdom of God. [Again, I would hope not].

The term “effeminate” is based on a cultural bias, not an absolute rule.

If you want to make it an absolute statement, then we must adopt Paul’s first century ideals about what makes a man “effeminate” and that means that all men are forbidden to shave their beards or wear their hair below their ears to be considered godly. It also means that women can’t wear pants, or cut their hair short [and who wants to be in charge of defining “short” for the rest of the Christian world?], etc.

So, do we all want to adopt Paul’s ideas about cultural norms? Are we willing to live by this rule?

“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” [1 Cor. 11:14-15]

We have to decide if we honestly believe that a man with a clean-shaven face is an abomination or not. We have to decide if guys with long hair aren’t welcome in the Kingdom of God, or if perhaps in this case, the Apostle Paul might have only been speaking to the Christians in first century Corinth about what it meant in their day to conform to cultural norms.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

If this article blessed or challenged you, please consider sharing it on social media.

Thanks,
Keith

READ MORE ON THIS SUBJECT?

*Romans Re-Examined
*Blessed Are The Eunuchs
*A Love That's Better Than Sex

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WHY JESUS IS NOT PROPHESYING THE END OF THE WORLD IN MATTHEW 24


“Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” – Matt. 24:29



The apocalyptic language that Jesus uses to describe the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem [and God’s judgment against those who rejected and killed the Messiah] is often misunderstood as being about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. 


But if we read the actual context of the conversation we’ll see that it’s not about that at all.

At the beginning of what’s called the “Olivet Discourse”, Jesus and his disciples are at the Temple. The disciples point to the stones and marvel at how amazing it is. They say “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

And Jesus responds by saying: “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

This obviously disturbs them and so they ask Jesus: “When will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

And everything after that is an answer to those two questions.

The “end of the age” is not the “end of the world”. The age that is coming to an end is the Jewish age because their priesthood, their daily sacrifice, their temple and their status as a nation is about to be wiped off the face of the earth.

In this context, the “coming of the Lord” is similar to what is said about the Lord riding on the clouds as He brought judgment against Egypt:

“Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” – Isaiah 19:1


Did God saddle up a cloud and come riding through the sky when He judged the nation of Egypt? No, that’s not what happened. 


What did happen was that armies from another nation attacked Egypt and they experienced the “coming of the Lord” who was “riding on a swift cloud” against them.

This is what Jesus intends to communicate when, in the context of pronouncing a similar judgment against Jerusalem and their Temple, he says:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” – Mark 13:26


Jesus even goes so far as to let them know the time frame of when these events will take place:

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” – Mark 13:30


And Jesus was correct. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, just as He predicted it would be, with no stone left upon another and in the lifetime of those who were hearing Him pronounce this prophetic judgment.

What about where Jesus refers to the things like the sun and the moon not giving their light? What about His prophecy about the stars falling from the sky? Doesn’t that mean the world and the universe are being destroyed?


Yes, and no.

Much like the previous use of the “fire is not quenched and their worm does not die” language mentioned above, this is apocalyptic hyperbole.

Here’s a few examples:

Isaiah prophesies against Babylon:

“For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” - Isaiah 13:9-11 


Ezekiel prophesies against Egypt:

"And when I shall put thee [Pharaoh] out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord God." - Ezekiel 30:18; 32:7-8

Amos prophesies against Israel about how the Assyrians will destroy them:

"in that day, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight" - Amos 8:9


Isaiah prophesies against Edom: 

"...Hearken, ye people: let the earth hear....All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll....For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold it shall come down upon Edom, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment....For it is the day of the Lords vengeance." - Isaiah 34:1-8
Notice anything? 

Did you see how these prophets pronounced a very real-world judgment against them and yet used cosmic destruction-language? 

Notice how they each promise that the stars will go dark, or the heavens will be dissolved and rolled up like a scroll? Notice how they foretell that this destruction will be marked by the sun and moon not giving their light?

All of that? It’s apocalyptic hyperbole. Prophetic and poetic overstatements about the cosmic-level judgment that is about to come upon them all.

Poetic, not literal.

No stars were harmed in the destruction of Edom. No moons or suns were actually extinguished when Babylon and Egypt got sacked. No heavens were actually rolled into a taco .

Hyperbole.

Now, go back and read what Jesus says about the destruction of the Temple and the “end of the age” that is coming to Jerusalem within a single generation. If you do, you’ll notice he uses the exact same phrases, and when he does the disciples understand that the moon, and the sun, and the stars and the sky will not literally turn to blood, or be extinguished, or fall, or be rolled up in a rubber band.

They knew – where we do not seem to know – that this was very common Old Testament-style apocalyptic language used to communicate a very real day of destruction and judgment that was about to come to pass.

The language is figurative, but the destruction is very, very real.

Notice a few more examples of this type of apocalyptic hyperbole:

"I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord...The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth" - Zephaniah 1:2-3 


Note: Zephaniah prophesied against Judah prior to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. God did not destroy the entire planet or wipe away everything from the face of the earth, in this event.

When the prophet Joel prophesies against Judah he says this about the armies that will be used to bring the Lord’s judgment:

“The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining…” - Joel 2:4-11


Once again, this is not a promise to snuff out the sun and the moon, or to extinguish the stars in the sky. It’s a promise to bring a cataclysmic level of doom upon Judah because of their sins.

Got it?

[I hope so]

Here’s a bonus example for you.

When Jesus says: 

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” [in Matt. 24:21]...

...you already know what he’s trying to say here, right?

Of course you do. Because in the Old Testament this sort of language was used over and over again to overstate the severity and horror of the judgment to come:

“And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations.” – Ezekiel 5:9 


This was about the impending destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Jesus applied the same language to the impending destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matt.24:21). Both events, in the common hyperbole of the day, are spoken of as if they were each uniquely horrendous, but this is simply for emphasis.

The same language is used of the locust plague mentioned in Exodus 10:14, yet the language in Joel 2:2 seems to be describing another locust plague, also uniquely horrendous and “unequaled since the beginning of the world”, etc.

But can these three events all be the worst of all time and never to be equaled again? Of course not, but that’s not the point here. The hyperbole is not literal, but the destruction is.

Similarly, Solomon was said to have been uniquely wise and magnificent, using the exact same hyperbole (1 Kings 3:12-13). Yet we know of one [Jesus] who is "greater than Solomon" (Matt.12:42).

The language of "never before, and never after" is common hyperbole, and should not be pressed to a literalness beyond that which was intended in any of its uses.

In Daniel 9:12, he says of the destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzer: 

“You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem.”

Really? Well, maybe up to that point, but certainly not for all time. 

The point – and I do think I have made it – is that hyperbole is never literal, but the destruction always is.

If any of this helps you, please let me know in the comments below and please share it with your friends on social media.

Thanks!

-kg



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

DID JESUS AND PAUL PREACH DIFFERENT GOSPELS?



Honestly, I can't believe I need to write and entire blog post to explain this one, but apparently there are Christians who really do believe that Jesus taught one Gospel and that Paul taught another.

[Hint: they did no such thing]

So, in the interest of debunking this nonsense, let me explain a few things:

First, both Jesus and Paul preached the same Gospel. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom.

What's the Gospel of the Kingdom, you ask? Well, very simply, it's the "Good News" that the Kingdom of God where He rules and reigns can be experienced today by anyone who surrenders their life to Christ as their King and begins to learn to follow Jesus in their daily life. 

Jesus talks about the Gospel of the Kingdom all throughout his ministry, for example:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” - 
Mark 1:15 
“The kingdom of God has come upon you.”- Matthew 12:28

“For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” - 
Luke 17:21
“After his suffering, he [Jesus] presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” – Acts 1:3

Paul also taught the Gospel of the Kingdom, as we see here:

“I have gone [among you] preaching the kingdom of God” - 
Acts 20:25

“We must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.” - 
Acts 14:22
"For the kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." - Romans 14:17

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Cor. 4:20

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” – Acts 19:8

“He [Paul] witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.” – Acts 28:23

“He [Paul] proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” – Acts 28:31

“Now I [Paul] know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.” – Acts 29:25

For that matter, Philip and the other Apostles also taught the Good News of the Kingdom [because there was no other Gospel to teach], as we see demonstrated here:

“But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” – Acts 8:12

See also: 

Heb. 1:8; 11:33; 12:28
James 2:5
2 Peter 1:11
Rev. 1:6; 1:9; 5:10; 11:15; 12:10

What's the big deal?

Well, the problem with believing that Jesus and Paul each had a different Gospel is that we run the risk of missing the actual Gospel that Jesus [and the Apostles] preached.

Some Christians want to say that Jesus may have taught the Kingdom Gospel, but Paul taught the "Gospel of Grace". 

This "Gospel of Grace" was for the rest of us [the Gentiles], while Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom was meant only for the Jews.

One of the biggest problems with that assumption is that we see that the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the Gentiles all the time. [See those references above, for example]

Some want us to believe that the Hebraic Epistles [like the book of James, for example] contain the "Gospel of the Kingdom" while the epistles written to the Gentiles contain the "Gospel of Grace".

Again, this isn't what we see at all. Paul speaks about the Kingdom to both Jews and Gentiles alike. 

The phrase, "Jesus is Lord", is a statement about the Kingdom of God, because, in a kingdom you need a king, or a "lord". 

Paul affirms to both Jews and Gentiles alike that everyone who confesses that "Jesus is Lord" will be saved. [See Romans 10:9]

This means that Paul understood the "Gospel of the Kingdom" and he taught it all throughout his ministry.

The confusion comes because some Christians have lost the "Jesus-Centric" approach to scripture. They major on the teachings of Paul and wrongly assume that he can't be talking about the same things that Jesus talked about.

They also get easily confused when Paul says: 

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel." [Gal. 1:6]

They think that Paul must be saying that he taught people to "live in the grace of Christ" and that there must be more than one Gospel.

But that's not what Paul is saying. Not at all. In fact, let's look again at the full passage and please notice something at the end:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." [Gal. 1:6-7]

Did you catch it? Notice that right after Paul says that people are turning away from the Gospel of Grace he refers to this Gospel as "the gospel of Christ".

Wait, what?

That's right. Paul's Gospel of Grace is the Gospel of Christ. 

And the Gospel of Christ is what Christ preached: The Gospel of the Kingdom of God. 

Keep in mind, Paul didn't think he was writing the Bible. He was writing letters to friends and fellow Christians in various places who were struggling to follow Jesus in their respective lands. 

Because of this, Paul doesn't spend a lot of time repeating the Gospel of the Kingdom to these people. He knows they already know it. In fact, many of them knew this Gospel long before Paul knew it. Remember, when the movement stared, Paul [Saul] was persecuting the Church.

But we do know that Paul was aware of this Gospel of the Kingdom because A) he preached this Gospel all through his ministry [see references above] and B) it was the only Gospel anyone in the Christian church had ever heard up to that point.

Elsewhere, Paul says we should prepare ourselves to preach the "Gospel of Peace" [Eph. 6:15], does that mean we have a third Gospel? Is the Gospel of Peace yet another Gospel competing for space with the Gospels of the Kingdom and Grace?

Of course not. There is only one Gospel. Paul knows that. The people he is writing to know that. There is no Gospel other than the one that Jesus preached. 

Is the Gospel also about Grace? Yes.
Is the Gospel also about Peace? Yes, again.

But there is only one Gospel and that is the Gospel that Jesus preached and that Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom, as found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and also in John.

Jesus and Paul were on the same page. 

We should be too.

-kg


Monday, July 10, 2017

A CONVERSATION ABOUT HELL




“I believe Hell is an eternal place of suffering,” my friend said. “If it wasn’t, I think it would make everything Jesus did for us on the cross pointless. I mean, if everyone makes it in the end, why would we need to share the Gospel?”

I’ve heard this sort of thing before. But for some reason this analogy sprang to my mind.

“What if you saw a house burning and there was a little girl crying for help inside?” I asked my friend.

“Well, I would go and save her if I could,” she said.

“But, what I could promise you that the little girl would be ok in a few months; after a few surgeries all her burns will be healed, and all of her medical bills would be paid in full?”

My friend looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. “What difference would that make?” She said.

“Well, you’re saying that there’s no point in sharing the Gospel with people if everyone ends up redeemed in the end. My analogy is the same: The little girl who is burning in the house fire will end up ok in the end. Her burns will be healed and she might even be more beautiful than she was before, and her family won’t have any huge medical bills to pay for all those expensive plastic surgeries to heal her scars. So, why would you bother saving that little girl from the fire?”

My friend paused a few moments and then nodded silently, unsure of what to say next.

I broke the silence: “I think we should share the Gospel because we want people to know Jesus the way we do, and because we don’t want them to have to suffer – even a little – for rejecting His offer of reconciliation.”

My friend stayed quiet, so I continued; “What if the little girl in that fire was your own daughter? Wouldn’t you want someone to save her life? Can you imagine anyone standing there, watching the fire burn and listening to her screams for help and saying, ‘What’s the point? She’ll be ok after a few years.’ Would that be ok with you?”

“Why would anyone allow their child to be burned alive?” she asked.

What a great question.

-kg

**
Food for thought: What if punishment in the afterlife isn’t just pointless, eternal suffering? What if there’s a point or a purpose?


God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” [Hebrews 12:10-11]

Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Friday, July 07, 2017

REGISTER TODAY: Jesus Untangled: North Carolina



EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION IS JUST $25


ABOUT THE EVENT
Join authors Keith Giles (founder of Pacifist Fight Club) and Herb Montgomery (founder of Renewed Heart Ministries) as they lead an important discussion about faith, politics and American Christianity.
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
While Herb and Keith both know and love one another - and have served together in various capacities over the years - this event will be the first time they have ever presented differing viewpoints on the main theme.
Keith's latest book, "Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb", takes the position that mixing faith and politics compromises the Gospel of the Kingdom and distracts Christians from their one true calling and purpose - to change the world by living and preaching the Gospel that transforms people from the inside out.
Herb's perspective is that Christians are called to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and to share in their sufferings - even as far as advocating alongside those marginalized voices - and working to provide solutions that are both spiritual and political.

THIS IS NOT A DEBATE
While Keith and Herb both take a slightly different perspective on this issue, they are not engaging in a formal debate. This is a conversation, and it is one that they both invite you to have with them at this special event.
In these unique and highly interactive series of presentations, Keith and Herb will communicate their views in detail and invite attendees to ask questions and engage with them on the issues discussed.
Our hope is that everyone will leave feeling encouraged, inspired and challenged to live out their faith in a more radical and intentional way.
How do we impact our culture? What is the best way to serve our community and love our neighbors as ourselves? What would Jesus call us to do as ambassadors of His Kingdom?
Can we really change the world through politics? Does the Kingdom of God advance through political means? Are justice and politics the same, or are they two different things?
These questions are important to address. Our mission as a Church is vital to the culture and to the Body of Christ.
Join us as we wrestle with these questions - and many more - on August 19th.

About our facilitators:
Herb Montgomery is an internationally recognized speaker, and director of Renewed Heart Ministries. He is the author of the book, “Finding the Father” and is passionate about following the radical, non-violent, enemy-loving example of Jesus, and that includes speaking up about the injustices faced by racial minorities, the poor and the LGBTQ community.
Keith Giles is an author, blogger, teacher and servant of Jesus living in Orange County, California. He and his wife, Wendy, and their two sons started a house church in 2006 where 100% of the offering goes to help the poor in their community and no one takes a salary and no one leads the meeting except Jesus.
He is also the founder of Pacifist Fight Club and has contributed chapters to other books, including "Simple Church:Unity In Diversity" and "Renewing The Christian Mind: Interviews, Essays and Talks by Dallas Willard".