Saturday, January 30, 2016

Session 3: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]

His Teaching: The Parables of Jesus
Subversive Radio Podcast

Why did Jesus primarily speak in Parables or stories? Why didn't he just speak plainly to everyone? What were these stories all about? Why did these stories resonate so powerfully with so many?
In this podcast we examine the Parables of Jesus.
Click the link to listen in!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


In the book of Hebrews, we see a recurring theme about how everything concerning Jesus is “better than” what has come before.
As it says in Hebrews 7:19:
“…(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”
And what is that “better hope”? It’s Jesus. And Jesus has also “become the guarantor of a better covenant” [Heb. 7:22] which is “established on better promises” [Heb. 8:6], and is purified “with better sacrifices.” [Heb. 9:23]
His New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant because it’s unconditional and everlasting. His promises are better because they are all “yes and amen” in Christ. [2 Cor. 1:20] His sacrifices are better because he “desires mercy, not sacrifice” [Matt. 9:13]
Because of this, we who have entered into this New Covenant can more easily “suffer along with those in prison and joyfully accept the confiscation of our property, because [we] know that we [have] better and lasting possessions.” [Heb. 10:34]
Our treasure is in heaven, where our hearts are also, and we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness rather than material gain or earthly prosperity. [See Matt. 6]
We are also “longing for a better country” [Heb. 11:6] and “an even better resurrection.” [Heb. 11:35]
These are accessible only through Jesus. He enables us to enter the Kingdom of God here and now, not just on the day we die. He guarantees a better resurrection which is eternal and sure.
The Old Covenant, which is now “obsolete” [Heb. 8:13] has been fulfilled because “…Jesus [is] the mediator of a new covenant” and His blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” [Heb. 12:24]
Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground for vengeance on his brother Cain who killed him, but the blood of Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and that mercy and grace and love are so much better than mere justice.
Yes, in all ways, Jesus is “Better Than” what has come before. Jesus gives us a better hope, a better covenant, better promises, better sacrifices, better possessions, a better country, a better resurrection and a better word – “love” – than anyone or anything else could ever give us.
What could be better than Jesus?
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” [Ps. 63:3]

Hebrews in a nutshell: 
Jesus is greater than the prophets (Hebrews 1:1–4). Jesus is greater than the angels (Hebrews 1:5–2:17). Jesus is greater than the priests (Hebrews 2:18–3:2). Jesus is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:3–4:13). Jesus is greater than Melchizedek (Hebrews 4:14–7:28). Jesus is greater than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:1–9:28). Jesus is greater than the Law (Hebrews 10:1–39). We must therefore remain faithful to Jesus (Hebrews 11:1–13:25).

*Thanks to Chuck McKnight for compiling this list.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Session 2: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics] - His Message

Session 2 of "Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]" examines the message of Jesus. What was his main point? What did he talk about more than anything else? What is is that Jesus himself says was the reason that he had come?

Listen in to find out. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Session 1: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]

Why was Jesus so hard on the religious class and so friendly towards the outcasts and the sinners?

Why is the Christian church so different?

How could Jesus have such an impact on our world with only 3 years of ministry?

Who was Jesus? What was he all about?

Join us for our first session of Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics].

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Early Christians and War by Ron Sider

"The extant historical data make two things perfectly clear. First, as early as 173, there were at least a few Christians in the Roman army. By the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, their numbers were growing substantially, although we lack the data to say how many there were. And second, every single extant pre-Constantinian document by Christian authors that discusses the topic of whether Christians dare ever kill or join the army says no. Shean and Iosif have not produced any evidence to the contrary. As a result, their effort to show that only a few "rigorist" teachers in the pre-Constantinian church were opposed to all killing is based on speculation, not historical data."

 - Ron Sider​


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Cyprian Influence

For most of his life, Cyprian was a distinguished and wealthy pagan who lived in a luxurious villa which sprawled across much of the hillside of Carthage where he was born, in the late 3rd century.

Born Thascius Cyprianus, he later took the name Caecilius in memory of the man who introduced him to the Christian faith. Due to his great wealth and influence in the pagan community, Cyprian was ordained as a deacon in the Christian church soon after his baptism and in very short order he was named as Bishop of Carthage, to the protest of many of the faithful in that region.

In spite of the very vocal opposition to Cyprian's fast track to Bishop-hood, which continued to plague him throughout his tenure in that office, his talents as a pagan orator and teacher of rhetoric, along with his great wealth, afforded him great influence within the 3rd century Christian church.

Early in his career as Bishop of Carthage, Cyprian was ordered to offer sacrifices to the Emperor or face persecution. He fled to a secluded village and maintained contact with the Church via an appointed contact. As more persecution came upon the members of his church, many others fled as well. However, Cyprian felt very strongly that the Church should not welcome back those Christians who escaped the sword by running away, as he had done. Instead he argued that they should be treated as unbelievers and not be welcomed back into fellowship.

Of course, when he eventually returned from hiding to resume his public office, he wrote a compelling letter explaining why his escape into seclusion was for the strengthening of the Church and that he should, therefore, be allowed to continue as Bishop of Carthage. None of the other Bishops opposed his return to his diocese and he was allowed to continue as if nothing had transpired.

Cyprian's greatest influence on the Church was introducing the concepts of priest, temples, rituals, altars and sacrifices to the faith. Until his writings, the Christian church had operated under the New Testament system, largely influenced by Jesus and his Apostles, which held firmly to the notion that the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifice were fulfilled in Christ at His Crucifixion and further that His Followers were also the temple of God, the royal priesthood and that their sacrifice was expressed in the way they lived their lives each day.

Because of Cyprian's skill as an orator and his prominence as a Bishop in Carthage, his pagan ideas of worship were given serious acceptance within the larger Body of Christ. In his writings Cyprian argued for a return to Old Testament Jewish practices which closely mirrored the concepts he had grown up with in a paganized culture.

Sadly, the Christian faith adopted Cyprian's ideas of spiritual covering, the special clergy caste, the importance of ritual and the need for a temple and sacrificial system of worship within one generation, effectively undoing the revolutionary concepts of Church found in the New Testament.

Inspired by Jesus, the Apostles established a community of believers; a church, based on the revolutionary concept of People-as-Temple and a corporate body which depended not upon a special clergy class, but upon the Holy Spirit Himself.

"...the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." - Jesus (John 14:26)

Under this radical new concept, the Church was built upon the foundation of Christ as our ultimate priest and sacrice and temple so that each of His followers could also become a temple of the living God, a daily sacrifice and a priest of God.

No one was more vocal about this concept of a living temple of God than Paul the Apostle who wrote prolifically on the subject in nearly every single epistle.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" 1 Cor 3:16

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." 1 Cor 6:19

"What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 2 Cor 6:16

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." - Eph 2:19-22

Peter himself was also very clear on the concept of a living temple made up of people who were also the new priesthood and the daily sacrifice.

In his first epistle he clearly outlined this very concept to those early Christians:

"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:4-5

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." - 1 Peter 2:9-10

Sadly, in the third century, Cyprian came on the scene and unraveled the tightly woven tapestry spun by Jesus and taught by His Apostles in the New Testament by someone who clearly did not fully understand the genius of this design.

Jesus himself spoke clearly on this subject when asked by the woman at the well about the location and method of proper worship to God. His response was that the temple in Jerusalem was no longer the "special" place to find God. Instead, one could find and worship God wherever they stood, as long as God's Spirit was within him or her.

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." - Jesus (in John 4:23-24)

The very fact that the early followers of Jesus did not adopt a system of priesthood, or continue to offer daily sacrifices in a special temple bears witness to the fact that, as evidenced in the Apostolic writings, there was a new temple, priesthood and sacrifice now, and they were it.

Under Christ, the priesthood was now more than just one man overseeing a congregation of several hundred people, the priest was now every single one of those people. It was an exponential multiplication of priests who were also temples of God's Holy Spirit where a daily sacrifice of will and self took place.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
- Romans 12:1

"Then (Jesus) said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Luke 9:23-24

When Cyprian used his influence to undermine the New Testament and introduced his own ideas about temple, priest and sacrifice, he effectively introduced a virus into the Church which continues to pervade our concepts of worship and church to this very day and hour.

But, what if we could return to the ideas of the New Testament? What if we could learn to live as if God's Holy Spirit lives within every single follower of Jesus? What if we could begin to think of ourselves as priests of God who daily offer themselves as living sacrifices so that Christ could live through us?

What if?


Monday, January 11, 2016

I Won The Lottery!

Why do people dream of winning the lottery?

Obviously, it’s because they dream of a life without worry and stress.

We all want that, don’t we?

Of course, most of us believe that if we had millions – or even billions – of dollars in our bank account, we’d have nothing to worry about. We’d be set for life.

But, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we already have that assurance from Jesus.

Jesus tells us that our daily bread is secure and He has our today – and our tomorrow – under complete control.

In Matthew 6, Jesus confidently informs His disciples that if they will change their perspective to align with the Kingdom of God, they can enjoy the peaceful, stress-free sort of life they’ve always dreamed of:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" [Matthew 6:25-26] 

So, according to Jesus we already have all we need for our life today. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask and He has already taken care of everything in advance.

Jesus also tells us that we do not need to worry about tomorrow. Why? Because God has everything - absolutely everything - under complete and perfect control:

"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." [Matthew 6:31-34 ]

Of course, if God is in control that means that you and I are not.

Here is where most of us really struggle, honestly. 

We want to enjoy a life without worry, but we also want to be in control of our lives. Somehow we think we are in control, but we’re not. Control is an illusion. Only God is in control, and if we rest in the reality of His unending love for us, we can let go of that steering wheel with joy knowing that He knows what He’s doing.

Without trust, our lives are filled with anxiety and strife. But if we can let go of everything and trust that God is good, that He really loves us, and that He really only wants what’s best for us, then trusting Him is the only response that makes sense.

Are you in Christ, Jesus today? Then celebrate your great fortune! You’ve just won the most incredible lottery of all time. You’re rich in all the things that matter – and many more things that don’t.

You have no cause to worry about anything, because God has your whole life in His capable hands. You don’t need to have concern about what tomorrow holds, because you know who holds tomorrow.

The truth is, worldly riches don’t really bring us peace, or comfort, or joy. Just a glance at the news or the tabloids will confirm this for you. No, peace, comfort, joy and life are only found at their source. Jesus is our peace. He is our comfort. He is our joy. He is our life.

You and I are already over our heads, swimming in the deepest depths of an ocean of blessings found only in the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is no greater treasure than that.

“I have 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 ]

Some people are so poor, all they have is money. You and I have been adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God, who created the Universe and owns all things. This same God has invited us to call him "Abba" or "Poppa" and He assures us that it is His good pleasure to give to us the Kingdom. 



Friday, January 08, 2016


I'm not someone who makes New Year's Resolutions to lose weight, or eat healthy, or what have you. It's my understanding that those who do almost never follow through with their plans anyway. So, I've never felt the need to follow that trend.

But the other day my dear brother in Christ, Dan Notti, asked me to help him keep a few promises he's made to himself this year. After reading his list I was inspired to create one of my own.

Based on what I was already hearing the Lord whisper to me over the last several weeks, I wrote down these goals:

  • To abide in Christ more and more.
  • To let love be my dominant response to others.
  • To spend more quality time with my wife, Wendy.
  • To spiritually mentor my sons.
  • To write at least one book and possibly a second book before year's end.

The calling to abide in Christ more and more stems from a simple realization that I need more of Jesus in my life. Everything else I might desire flows out of this.

If I hope to love more in the year ahead, it will only happen to the degree that I allow Jesus to live and breathe in me on a daily basis.

My attention to my wife's needs, and to my son's spiritual development will only emerge if I am connected to Christ and abiding in Him.

Writing my books might not seem to be necessarily dependent upon my experience of Jesus, but I would certainly prefer to be led by His Spirit as I write these books so that what He wants to be communicated is what I publish.

So, please don't call this a New Year's Resolution. It's nothing of the sort. It's simply my decision to lean more into Jesus today and to continually do so until I see Him face to face.


Thursday, January 07, 2016

The New Jerusalem Has Already Come Down

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” [Rev. 21:1-3]

John kicks off this chapter by declaring that the New Jerusalem – which is the Bride of Christ – has come down from heaven in fulfillment of the promise that “The dwelling place of God” would be “with man” and that God “will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” [Rev. 21:3]

I know that many are tempted to read this passage – and certainly this entire epistle of John – as if it were entirely futuristic. But there are some problems with that, I think. Especially when it comes to the New Covenant, which the prophet Jeremiah foreshadowed and Jesus proclaimed as being inaugurated on the night before his crucifixion at the final Passover supper with his disciples.

“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” Jesus said. That New Covenant is simply this:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” [Hebrews 8:10]

Keep in mind, the old city of Jerusalem which existed at the time of Christ, and before John wrote Revelation, was destroyed in AD 70. Its destruction was the “End of the Age” and when it was destroyed, so was the Old Covenant system.

Out of the ashes of that temporal city arose the new spiritual Jerusalem, and with the destruction of that Old Covenant Temple there was constructed a new, living Temple of the New Covenant, which is the Church.

Later in the chapter, John says:

“Then came one of the seven angels who…spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…” [Rev. 21:9-11]

The Church is the Bride of Christ, and as John tells us in Revelation, the New Jerusalem has already come down from Heaven [by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit] and now grows to cover the entire earth.

Then John goes on to say:

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And they city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and her gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” [Rev. 21:22-27]

Within the Church – or the New Jerusalem – there is no temple other than Jesus Himself. He abides within us, and we abide within Him. We are the living Temple of the Holy Spirit where Christ lives, and Christ is the living Temple where all of us “live and move and have our being.”

Christ is our light, and because of this, we are the light of the world.

"You are the light of the world--like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” – Jesus [Matt. 5:14]

The Bride of Christ is here now. We are the Incarnation of Christ in the world now. He is our Head, and we are His Body.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” [Rev. 21:3]

Has God not made His dwelling among men? Isn't this what Jesus, and Stephen, and the other Apostles proclaimed over and over again?

The New Jerusalem has already been planted like a seed on the earth. Now it continues to grow daily, and the Lord is adding to Her number daily, as His Kingdom advances and His rule and reign expands.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” [Isaiah 9:6-7]

[Image Credit: Moebius]

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


I love when I see something brand new in a passage of Scripture that I've never noticed before.

Recently, while reading the final chapter of the Gospel of John, I saw an incredible parallel of the life of Peter playing out before me.

First, John does Peter a great honor by closing out his Gospel with this touching portrait of Jesus' tender heart towards the formerly-boisterous disciple in his hour of humiliation.

Peter decides to go fishing. A handful of other disciples go with him. They fish all night and catch nothing, much as they had done on the day that Jesus called Peter to become a follower three years earlier.

Jesus stands on the shore, but they don't realize it's him yet. He calls out and asks if they caught anything and when they say, "No", he tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat and they haul in a huge catch of fish - again, just as they had done on that day when Jesus called Peter to "Follow Me!"

That's when they realize it's Jesus. Peter then steps out of the boat. Just like he did that night in the storm when Jesus called him out on the waves and he sunk like a stone after looking away from Jesus.

When Peter gets to shore, Jesus already has fish, and bread, cooking on a fire. "Go and bring some of the fish you just caught," Jesus tells him. Much as Jesus did when he fed the multitudes saying, "bring your loaves and fishes to me" right before multiplying their small portions to feed not only the thousands around them, but with leftover to feed the rest of the disciples, too.

Once everyone else arrives from the boat and they sit around the fire, Jesus takes bread, and fish, and begins breaking them into pieces and passing them around to everyone. Just like he did that day when he fed the thousands, and just like he did that night in the upper room saying, "Take, eat, this is my body, broken for you."

Surely they noticed the repeating of these actions. Certainly, Peter did.

Around the fire, Jesus asks, "Do you Agape [Perfectly love] me, more than all the rest?", much as the girl around the fire asked Peter, "Weren't you with this Jesus of Nazareth?" that night when Peter betrayed him.

Peter is only able to answer, "I Phileo [Brotherly love] you."

Jesus says, "Feed my lambs", much in the same way as he had told Peter and the other disciples when they wanted to send the multitudes away, "No, you give them something to eat."

How could Peter feed all of Jesus' followers? He had only just pulled in a catch of 153 fish, which was a lot for his family, but not enough for all of those who were following Jesus. However, Peter certainly realized that the 3 loaves and two fish were more than enough for thousands that day, and his 153 fish would be more than enough for the hundreds of thousands who would soon gather around Jerusalem and beyond, because Jesus would make it enough, as He always did.

A second time Jesus asks, "Do you Agape me?" and Peter says, "I Phileo you, Lord" and Jesus again responds, "Feed my sheep."

The third question grieves Peter, because it pointed to his three denials of Christ that night, but here Jesus changes his question: "Do you Phileo me, Peter?" and then Peter says, "You know all things, Lord. You know that I love you like a brother."

"Then feed my sheep," Jesus says.

And then he adds, "Follow me," which is exactly what he said to Peter that first day when he called him to become a disciple after the miraculous catch of fish nearly sank his father's boat.

There, in the space of about an hour, Jesus put Peter through an instant replay of their last 3 years together; from Peter's first calling, to the miraculous feeding of the multitudes, through that night before the crucifixion and the last Passover supper they ate together, to Peter's embarrassing denial of Jesus a few hours later around the fire.

Like all of us, Peter got distracted by what another disciple was doing. "What about him?" Peter asks, pointing to John. "What is that to you?" Jesus responds. "Follow me!"

And with that Peter's spiritual resurrection was complete. He remembered who he used to be. He remembered who was in Christ, now that Jesus had restored their friendship. He understood that his primary focus was his own obedience to Jesus' commands to follow, and to feed His sheep, without worrying about what anyone else was doing, or not doing.

I love this chapter. I'm so grateful to the Apostle John for including it there at the end of his Gospel, to remind us that Jesus understands our weakness, and that if the best we can say is "I love you like a brother", it's a good enough place to begin our journey with Him.