Thursday, December 01, 2016

Jesus Came To End War



Over the last few years, I've debated and argued and reasoned with many Christians on the subject of non-violence.

I've tackled all the usual arguments - what about Cornelius the centurion, or when Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple, or when Jesus said he came to bring a sword, or when Jesus told the disciples to go and buy a sword - and I've recorded podcasts, made videos, hosted events, and written blogs and books to answer all of those objections to the idea that Jesus really was anti-war and pro-peace.

But here's another angle on the whole subject:

Jesus is the Messiah.

The Messiah is called the "Prince of Peace".

It is prophesied in Isaiah that he would "do no violence".

His mission is to "teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths."

His "path" leads the nations to "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" so that "nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

When Jesus arrives on the scene, he comes as a baby, not a warrior.

His birth is announced by angels who proclaim, "Peace on earth!" and goodwill to all men.

His message was that we should love one another, and turn the other cheek, and bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us.

After saying that he added, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?"

He rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven against another person saying, "you know not what spirit you are of".

He wept as he entered Jerusalem - the city of peace - on a donkey saying, "If only you had known the things that make for peace."

He disarmed Peter saying, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword."

He told Pilate at his trial, "My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my disciples would fight."

He prayed for those centurions who nailed him to the cross saying, "Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing."

He rose from the dead, appeared to the disciples who abandoned him and denied him and said, "Peace!"

He disarmed a zealous Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus who was going around having Christians arrested, beaten and stoned to death saying, "It is hard for you to kick against the pricks" - meaning that violence against his children was physically painful to him as well.

This same Pharisee denounced violence and began to preach "the gospel of peace" wherever he went.

He reminded us that "our weapons are not carnal" and that our enemy is "not flesh and blood."

He urged us to "overcome evil with good" and reminded us to "feed our enemy if they are hungry and to give them water if they are thirsty."

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. 

His Kingdom is here now.

His purpose is to overcome evil with good; to disarm hatred with love; to transform this violent world with proactive agape.

This is not a fringe teaching. It is not an addition to the Gospel. 

It IS the Gospel of Jesus.

-kg


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Not What We Thought



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

I share something like this with you here, now.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Monday, November 28, 2016

THANKSGIVING: HAPPY



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe...

-kg

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE SAVAGE SWORD OF JESUS?





Sometimes you have to switch tactics to make your point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for some reason it doesn't.

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

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

-kg


**

Thursday, November 17, 2016

3 VIEWS OF HELL: A Big Surprise?



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

-kg

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

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

Annihilationism seems mostly taken from the Gospel of John.

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

Wow. I did NOT see that one coming.

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

What are your thoughts?

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

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

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

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

-kg

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s called the Body of Christ.

-kg


Thursday, November 10, 2016

THE GOD OF THE CLUELESS




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

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

[Psalm 46:4-11]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob was clueless.

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

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

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

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

But he didn't say any of those things.

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

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

Selah.

-kg