Saturday, July 22, 2017

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 on 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