Thursday, August 17, 2017

8 WAYS TO SPOT A MODERN DAY PHARISEE


1) You magnify the sins of others and minimize your own
2) You spend more time talking about what you are against rather than what you’re for
3) You don’t feel like you have any real “serious” sins to repent of
4) You’re quick to judge others but not to listen to them first
5) You read the Bible to justify your beliefs not to be transformed into the image of Christ
6) You’re pretty sure being “Christian” is primarily evidenced by how much people act like you do
7) All your friends are Christian and believe the same things you do
8) You read this entire list with someone else in mind rather than applying these to yourself

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FROM SECONDHAND RELIGION TO FIRSTHAND FAITH



For too long many of us have embraced a secondhand religion that is based on believing certain doctrines and defending traditions of our faith.

This secondhand religion is based on what we have heard from others - our parents, our family, our church - about who God is what God is like. It defines Christianity, and the Christian life, as nothing more than believing what the Bible says [or what our denomination or church tells us it says].

But the time is ripe for us to shed this dead religion in favor of a more vibrant and living relationship with a person - not a book or a creed or a statement of faith - but a God "in whom we live and move and have our being."

This is firsthand faith. In contrast to secondhand religion, firsthand faith is about an actual relationship with the person that the Bible points to. It's about knowing God and His Son in an intimate way.

All through the Gospels Jesus urges us to abandon the perceived safety of religious information gathering to the truly abundant life found only by abiding in Him.

We are called into an intimacy with God that is scandalous and breath-taking. [Matt. 6:9]

He is our "Papa" and we are His children. [1 John 3:1]

He invites us to draw near. [James 4:8]

He wants to make His home in us. [John 14:23]

He wants us to experience an intimacy with Him that compares to the union of a husband and wife. [Eph. 5:32]

He wants us to experience a "knowing" of Himself that conceives something within us. [John 17:3]

What this intimacy conceives in us is a new life that comes only from our close connection with Himself. [2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5]

The sad thing is, too many of those who profess themselves to be Christians are not experiencing Christ in this way. They have not yet moved from secondhand religion into a firsthand knowledge of God where His voice is heard, His mind is known, and His heartbeat becomes synced with their own.

Secondhand religion leads to a life of anxiety, fear and stress.

Firsthand faith leads to a life of joy, hope, peace and confidence based on our connection to God.

If you're still stuck in a secondhand religion, I invite you to begin moving into a firsthand experience of God through the Spirit of Christ.

It can be as simple as taking some time to sit quietly alone with the Lord and whispering a prayer to Him, asking for a deeper experience of His presence; being still to know that He is God.

It won't happen all at once, but if you are serious about abandoning your secondhand religion in order to enter into firsthand knowledge of God, you will be rewarded.

"...they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us." [Acts 17:27]

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after God, for they shall be filled....Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." [Matt. 5:6;8]


"...and they shall call him 'Immanuel', which means 'God with us'" [Matt. 1:23]

Are you ready to move from secondhand religion to firsthand faith?

He is waiting to show you more of Himself.

The time is now.

-kg


Monday, August 07, 2017

10 Reasons Why Jesus Surpasses The Law and Prophets



Here’s the deal: There are at least 10 different verses in the New Testament that very specifically identify Jesus as the one and only example for what the Father is really like.

Before I share those verses with you here, let me ask you to notice a few things:

First, notice that in nearly every case Jesus is either explicitly contrasted with the Old Testament Prophets, or it is implicitly suggested that He is the superior source for information about who God is and what God is like.

Secondly, please notice that whenever the New Testament says something about Jesus, it doesn’t affirm that the Old Testament was right and Jesus confirmed it. Instead, it often either ignores what the Old Testament claims or flat-out contradicts it.

This is pretty significant, really. Because it’s not as if the authors of the New Testament were ignorant about what the Old Testament said about God. Yet, their claims about Jesus very boldly supersede those claims made by the Law and the Prophets.

To help you see this, I will point out examples of how these explicit and implicit contrasts are made between Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, just in case they are not obvious.

Ready? Ok, here we go, according to the New Testament:

Who does God speak to us through today? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:1–3, NIV)

Who is the one mediator between God and man? (Not the Law. Not the Prophets.)
Jesus.

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Tim. 2:5)

Who is the one instructor who teaches us? (Not the Law. Not the Prophets.)
Jesus.

“For you have one instructor – the Messiah.” (Matt. 23:10)

Who is the one we should listen to? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

*After removing Moses [the Law] and Elijah [the Prophets], God says: “This is my Son. Listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:4-6)

Who is the only one who removes the veil that covers the Old Testament scriptures?
Only Jesus.

“For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”  (2. Cor. 3:14-16)

Where is the one place we can go to find life? (Not to the scriptures.)
Jesus.

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” [John 4:39-40]

Who is the only one who has ever seen God at any time? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

No one has ever seen God, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known.” [John 1:17-18]

Who is the “Word of God”? (Not your Bible.)
Jesus.

“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)

Who reveals the Truth to us about the Father?
 No one but Jesus.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” (John 14:6-7)

Please note in this list of scriptures above how easy it would have been for the New Testament writers to affirm the Old Testament and exalt Jesus at the same time.

But that’s not what they do.

For example, in John 1:17-18, if the author had intended to protect the witness of the Old Testament prophets who claimed they saw God and wanted to affirm their testimony about God's character, how easy it would have been to say something like this:

“Whereas Moses and Elijah had also seen God in the past, Jesus came from God as the Word made flesh to confirm their testimony.”

But, what he wrote sounds nothing like that. Not at all. It says this:

No one has ever seen God, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known.” (John 1:17-18)

That’s pretty harsh. It's almost as if John is trying to make a point here. He wants to say that, until Jesus came, we did not have an accurate revelation about who God was and what God was like. 

Let's think of it another way: Let's say that John wanted to communicate to us that Jesus's testimony about the Father was accurate but the testimony of the Old Testament Prophets was inaccurate. How might he do that? Maybe he would say something like: 

"No one except Jesus has seen the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us because our ideas about God were less than exact."

Or...he might say it like this: 

"No one has ever seen God at any time, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known." (John 1:17-18)

Now, we shouldn’t assume that Matthew was just using hyperbole or that he had a momentary lapse of memory. Clearly, he was aware that there was something called the Old Testament and that people in the past, like Moses and Elijah, had claimed to see God and to hear from Him. 

That’s why his statement is so radical: “No one has ever seen God…”

The same could be said for every other verse above. If the authors had wanted to affirm the Old Testament, they had every opportunity to do so. Instead, they very boldly contrast Jesus with the Law and the Prophets and emphasize the supremacy of Christ.

Now, before you break out the pitchforks let me say that I do believe the Law and the Prophets point us to Christ. In fact, they do that beautifully. We should be very grateful for the Old Testament scriptures that foreshadow the coming of Jesus.

Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them, and this is exactly what He did. 

Because of this fulfillment, those scriptures have become obsolete and are fading away.

What we have now is the Living Word who is alive inside us.

He has written His law on our hearts. This is what the new covenant is all about. [See Jeremiah 31:31]

So, if anyone is to blame for pitting Jesus against Moses or Elijah, or against the Old Testament scriptures, it’s Paul, Matthew, John and the author of Hebrews, not me.

All I’ve done here is to quote those verses that they wrote and pointed out the obvious.


The rest, I believe, speaks for itself.

"For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

If I am guilty of anything, it is that I have taken those 10 verses above at face value and I have exalted Jesus above everyone and everything else. 

That's something I can live with.

-kg


Saturday, August 05, 2017

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Starting An Organic Church - Vetting [Pt.3]


Why is it important to vet new members and visitors to the group? Why is it so necessary to set expectations for new people? Take 5 minutes and watch as Keith shares some key insights into the importance of vetting those who want to check out what's going on in your house church community.

To watch, click the image above or click here>

Friday, August 04, 2017

5 MINUTE VIDEO: Starting An Organic Church [Part 2]



In this video, Keith offers advice about what to do if your spouse isn't as excited about ekklesia as you are and why you should take some time to understand what the Lord's vision is for the community.



Reading Scripture Through the Lens of Christ



Jesus is our key to understanding who God is, what God is like and how we should read the Old Testament scriptures.

This is how the New Testament authors, and even Jesus Himself, defines what it means when we refer to Christ as the “Word of God.”

Jesus begins His ministry by teaching His disciples from the Sermon on the Mount where He quite boldly contrasted His teachings with the teachings of Moses.

“You have heard that it was said…but I say to you….”

Try to understand how radical it would be if someone came to your church and said, “You have heard someone say ‘Love one another as I have loved you’, but I say to you ‘Just love people who love you in return.’”

Hopefully there would be a huge gasp from the congregation at the audacity of this person to stand up in front of everyone and contradict the words of Jesus. Who does he think he is? What authority does he have to correct the teachings of Christ?

But this is exactly the same kind of statement that Jesus makes when He quotes Moses and then corrects that teaching with His own teaching.

This is also why the people are astonished and whisper to one another at the end of His Sermon about the way He taught.

“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt. 7:28-29)

Indeed, the authority that Jesus taught with was impressive. He corrected the words of Moses and gave new and more stringent conditions for entering the Kingdom of God, even suggesting that his disciples needed to have a righteousness that surpassed the Pharisees.

This is the significance of pointing out that, at one time God spoke to us through prophets, but now He has spoken to us through His own Son, as the author of Hebrews claims.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:1–3, NIV)

So, today God speaks to us – not merely through the Bible – but through His own Son.

Jesus is what God is saying to us in these last days.

In the past He spoke to us through the Old Testament, but now, God’s message to us is found in Christ.

Remember, Jesus promised us that He would speak to us and that we could hear His voice.

Remember that Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit who would live within us and would lead us into all truth.

He even said that it was better for us that He went away so that He could send us the Spirit who could abide within us and teach us the Words of God which He would write on our hearts.

Remember also that we have one mediator between God and us and that this mediator is Christ.

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Tim. 2:5)

Our mediator is Christ.

Not your pastor.

Not your church.

Not your denomination.

Not your bishops, or elders, or deacons.

Only Jesus is our mediator.

Only Jesus stands between you and God. 

Only Jesus connects you to God. 

Only Jesus reveals who the Father is, and what the Father is like.

So, no one – and nothing – else is stands between you and God.

Not even the Bible.

This is what the Bible teaches us: That Jesus is our mediator and Jesus is alive within us and we can hear His voice.

We are also told by Jesus Himself that we have one instructor. Who is it?

“For you have one instructor – the Messiah.” (Matt. 23:10)

Jesus is our instructor. He teaches us. He leads us into all Truth by His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus tells us that He is the Way, and the Truth and the Life. [John 14:6]

This means that any scriptures that do not align with what has been revealed to us in Christ is not the Truth.

Moses even foresaw the coming of one like Christ who would come in the last days to speak the words of God and he said we should listen to him. (See Deut. 18:15-22)

On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and when Peter mistakenly assumed that the three of them should be honored equally, God removed Moses (who stood for the Law) and Elijah (who stood for the Prophets) and He left Jesus alone on the mountain saying, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!”

This is our mandate now, from Moses, from Jesus and even from God the Father Himself – “Listen to Jesus!”

This means we need to read the Bible through the lens of Christ if we ever hope to know who God is and what God is really like.

Why else would Paul tell us that “to this day a veil covers [our] eyes whenever the Old Testament scriptures are read and only in Christ is it taken away”? (See 2. Cor. 3:14)

Because, without Christ as our lens or our filter, we cannot properly understand what is truth and what is error.

But now that we have seen and known Jesus, we truly “see the Father” and we recognize the “Truth” when we see it because Jesus has shown us the “Way” to see the Father clearly.

Therefore, nothing is true unless it lines up with the revelation of Christ. Nothing points the way to God unless it aligns with the teachings of Jesus. Nothing contains the words of life unless those words correspond to the words spoken by Jesus.

As Peter exclaimed:

“Where else can we go, Lord? You have the words of life” [John 6:68]

And as Jesus reminded us:

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” [John 4:39-40]

And as John tells us:

“He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” [1 Jn. 5:12]

In the same way that without Christ we have no life, it could be said that without Christ we have no truth about God either. His unique access to the Father was one of the central claims of His Messianic ministry, as we have already referenced here.

Jesus is the Father’s preferred method of speaking to us in these last days. Not through prophets or teachers, not even through apostles or pastors, but through His Son.

Does this mean we should ignore those prophets, teachers, apostles and pastors? Of course not. But what it does mean is that if those prophets, teachers, apostles and pastors say something about God that disagrees with what Jesus has already told us or revealed to us, we must hold tight to the teachings of Christ.

For many, this is where they warn us about being deceived or remind us how easy it is to fall into error. As if our best and only safeguard against error or deception is to be found in the security of holy men rather than in the absolute authority of Christ and His Holy Spirit that lives within us.

Let us not fool ourselves. These fear-based warnings are more about a desire to maintain control over people in the Church – to ensure they don’t question the doctrines of the denomination or challenge the teaching of the pastor in the pulpit.

This is why you will never hear sermons about the priesthood of all believers, or the passages about how the average Christian is capable of hearing the voice of God apart from the approved mediators. Because to empower the people of God in this way is to effectively dismantle the clergy class and calls into question the entire status quo of traditional Christianity which is built upon coercion and control.

So, we are told to question our ability to hear God’s voice. We are told to doubt that still small voice. We’re warned not to trust our own discernment. All of this keeps the Holy Spirit of God at a safe distance from the people, only to be handled by the trained professionals in the seminaries.

How do you know if your own church community has bought into this fear of the Holy Spirit? It’s simple enough to determine. Just try to start a Bible study in your own home and invite some of your friends. See how long it takes for someone to question your ability to lead such a study by yourself. See if anyone demands to see your notes or expects you to ask permission from the leadership first.

I experienced something like this at a church I was serving at over a decade ago. A few college students wanted to start a Bible study in their dorm room with some friends. They were told they could not host this study without one of the pastors leading the study, and so they ended up cancelling it.

This astounded me. How could we refuse to allow these twenty-something students to gather and read the words of Jesus together? It was their decision. It was their dorm room. What right did anyone have to tell them they were not qualified to handle the words of Jesus without a professional clergy in the room with them?

We often act as if the Gospel and the Scriptures are too dangerous to be handled by mere mortals. As if the most likely outcome of allowing everyday people to read the Bible would result in confusion and false doctrine, not wisdom, insight and freedom.

Let’s look, once again, at what the New Testament says about all of this:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing 
teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:13-14)

"I myself am convinced, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14)

"For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Corinthians 14:31)

What I find fascinating is that, according to Jesus and the Apostles, every believer is capable of hearing the voice of God, and yet, in today’s modern church we typically find that only one, or perhaps a few, are expected to hear God’s voice and communicate His will to the Body.

Why is that?

Partly because we have embraced a false Clergy-Laity divide which suggests that only those who have attended seminary or graduated from Bible College are capable of hearing God’s voice or instructing the Body.

As one New Testament scholar, Howard Snyder, put it:

"The clergy-laity dichotomy is…a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity. The New Testament teaches us that the church is a community in which all are gifted and all have ministry.”

Essentially, in spite of the fact that the veil in the temple was torn in two when Christ said “it is finished,” we have virtually re-sewn the veil and re-instituted our own system of professional priesthood.

I would like to suggest that it is time for another reformation within the Body of Christ. One where we demolish the clergy-laity distinctions and empower every member to listen for the still, small voice of God.

It’s also very important for us to spend time reading the words of Jesus ourselves. This process isn’t accomplished in a vacuum. We need to know what Jesus says and we need to become familiar with what He taught. How else can we call ourselves His followers? How can we possibly do what He says if we don’t know what He said?

This doesn’t mean that everyone has the gift of teaching. We still need to rely on one another and trust the Spirit of Christ that is alive in our community of faith to lead us. We need to pray for, and start to develop our gift of discernment. We need to test the Spirits and hold tightly to the words of Jesus, trusting in His Spirit to guide us.

Everyone who is under the care of the Great Shepherd can hear Him speak. We need to learn to trust Him to do that, and we need to learn to trust ourselves – and especially His Spirit within us – to discern His voice.

Like any skill, this may take time to develop. But if we never step outside our comfort zones and move deeper into an intimate relationship with Jesus, we’ll never learn to recognize when He speaks.

What we often forget is that learning and teaching in the Body of Christ isn’t merely an academic process. It’s not the same as taking a class on Trigonometry or how to speak Chinese. In those cases it is necessary to have a teacher – an expert in the field – who fully understands the material and has an ability to communicate the necessary information.

But in the Church, we are not only gathering to understand information about God, are we? Hopefully not.

Instead, when we gather together the Author of the Book is always in the room with us. The main character is close at hand to answer any questions and explain Himself to us.

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

So, even if the people who have the gift of teaching are not present for one of our gatherings, it's still possible for everyone else in the room to read the Scriptures, and pray, and ask God for wisdom and insight. If they do this they should expect to receive revelation from God Himself through the Holy Spirit.

In this way, the Church is never without a teacher. The expert we require is always present.

Again, this doesn't make everyone in the room a teacher, but everyone in the room does have access to hear the Teacher and share what they learn from Him.

Therefore, it’s still possible for everyone in the Body to come together under the Headship of Christ and share the gifts they’ve received from the Holy Spirit and participate in the life of Jesus together.

We have the living God within us. He is our instructor.

Don’t you think it’s time we got busy listening to Him?


 -kg


Thursday, August 03, 2017

5 MIN VIDEO: Starting An Organic Church




 Are you desperate to find an Organic Church in your community but having no luck? Are you unsure about how - or if - you could start one yourself?

Take (about) 5 minutes and listen as Keith offers some advice about what to do if you feel all alone in this pursuit of ekklesia, community and koinonia.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

UNCHURCHING PODCAST: From Motel Church to Tent City - Keith Giles




In this episode, Keith Giles returns to the show to share some amazing stories from his house church’s motel ministry, and some insights about where they’re headed next.

LISTEN HERE