Wednesday, April 30, 2008


[Subversive Underground]

Suffering and The Kingdom of God
by Keith Giles

"What do we do about Suffering?" Larry asked.

My good friend Larry has been part of our house church now for over a year. In this time I've seen him grow spiritually and take radical steps in his faith. Recently he started meeting early on Sunday mornings to disciple a co-worker and on Tuesday's he helps to lead some of his family members in weekly Bible Study. The discussions spinning outward from these have sent him back to his own Bible to understand more of God's Word and to answer the hard questions being thrown at him.

As we sat at a local coffeeshop one night, Larry admitted that he really didn't have an answer to the question of suffering in the world today. "It seems to be one of the hardest things to explain to people," he said, "Because they wonder how God could be good and still allow innocent people to die."

Larry is right. The problem of suffering is one of the most difficult questions to answer for most of us who believe in and follow Jesus. For some the question is a smokescreen. They really don't want an answer to the question, it's more of a challenge to a faith they've already dismissed as irrelevant. To them the question of suffering is more like a slap from a leather glove across a believer's face, intended to end any further discussion of faith in a personal God.

For others, the question of suffering is a serious stumbling block. They want to have faith in a God who loves them and is good and who has a wonderful plan for their lives, but the suffering of innocent children due to poverty, or natural disaster or violence leaves them puzzled and full of doubt.

There have been numerous apologetics written to address this problem. Most point out that no one is truly innocent, or that God has an eternal perspective that transcends our finite, mortal existence in this physical world.

While I do acknowledge that suffering is difficult to endure, on some level I have to confess that it's always puzzled me why people get hung up on this question so often. Part of me wants to ask what world they were born into? Don't they live in the same world we all live in? Aren't we all very acquainted with the fact that people die, accidents happen, sickness is real and tragedy strikes all of us sooner or later? Why do we expect God to step in and prevent every accident, tragedy and act of violence? What has given us the idea that this is God's job function?

As Larry and I discussed this I realized that our desire to have God intervene in our suffering, and the suffering of others, is connected to the eternal Kingdom of God itself. Why? Because for us to live in a world where God prevented every accident, healed every sickness and averted every natural disaster on every continent twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, we would have to live in a world where God was the absolute ruler and King of every minute detail of our lives.

When people genuinely cry out for a world where God prevents suffering and manages natural disasters and eliminates pain, they are revealing an inner desire to live in the Kingdom of God itself. Any world where God plays the role of cosmic policeman and perpetual rescue worker is also one where we are fully submitted to His rule and reign.

Of course, it is doubtful that most of those who complain the loudest about the problem of suffering would really want to live in a world ruled completely by God, and obey His rules and submit to His absolute authority. If they did, then they would have already submitted their lives to Him and placed their hope in God.

Yet, this is the sort of world that Jesus invites all of us to enter- a world where God is our King and His perfect will is always done in every aspect of our lives. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God and his message, his good news for all of us, was that we could enter this Kingdom immediately, on the spot.

Admittedly, the world we live in today is not a pain-free world. Suffering is part of our daily experience and reality. But this does not mean that God isn't working, even now, to bring mankind to a better reality. He really does have a plan to take us to a place free from suffering.

It has been said that all of creation is from Eden to Eden. In the beginning God created an Eden where He and mankind were co-laborers together in the creation, where He was King and there was no sin, or pain or death. At the end of the story we see that God will bring everything back again, ultimately, finally, eternally, to a place where we are co-laborers with Him in His renewed creation, and He is King and there are no tears, and there is no pain or death.

In the meantime, we are invited to step into the story and join with God in His plan. We can become co-laborers with Him in advancing His Kingdom here and now. We can submit to His rule and reign in our actual lives today.

When Jesus announced the Kingdom of God at the beginning of his ministry he invited those who were ready to enter to follow him. He provided the blueprint for all of us who were eager to enjoy the Kingdom reality. His message, his Good News, was that this Kingdom was at hand, even near enough to reach out and touch.

Sadly, even those who call themselves after his name today are largely unaware of this message. In churches across this nation, week after week, this message of Jesus is rarely spoken. Many who consider themselves followers have yet to take up their cross daily and pattern their life after the teachings of Jesus.

If those who are most familiar with Jesus are ignorant of his message, we should hardly be surprised that no one else has heard the Gospel.

The world we live in now is one where suffering and pain and evil are continually present. As we live our lives, day by day, we wait for God to complete His plan and establish His Kingdom in every heart, and in every nation. Until then, we can take heart that God has a plan to use even the suffering we endure as a tool to shape our faith and inner character after that of His own son, who was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with suffering. We can even partner with God to comfort those who are suffering and extend to them the compassionate heart of Jesus in the midst of their pain.

My wife and I have been through a lot of suffering over the last few years. We've endured financial hardship, persecution, miscarriage, and uncertainty. Yet, even as hard as all of that was for us, I wouldn't take any of it back. God taught me things during those times that I could never have learned from a book, or a sermon, or a seminar.

Better still, God has taught me about suffering and enduring hardships so that I can help and encourage others who find themselves in similar places.

"But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;" - 2 Cor 1:16

So often the popular Christian message is that God wants you to be wealthy and healthy and happy all the time - but when we discover that this isn't the Gospel, and that God's Word actually teaches that God works through our suffering and pain to make us like His Son, we can more fully understand why God allows pain and realize that He is "the God who is with us" in the midst of our suffering.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4

So, I just wanted to encourage each of you today that your pain isn't for nothing. It's meant to give you a faith that won't let go, a perserverance that will cling to God in all things.

No matter what suffering and pain you've been through, all of it is (in some strange way) part of how God reveals His love to us. (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

During the darkest times of my own personal suffering, I have often repeated these words to Jesus in the dark, remembering the words Peter spoke when he felt the urge to abandon his faith, "Where else can we go Lord? You have the words of life."


TODD HUNTER - "Three Is Enough" MP3
Todd's talk last Thursday was very inspiring and it's now available online now as an MP3 download at [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] PODCAST on ITunes.

You can find it on ITunes under [Subversive Underground], my podcast page (which also has all 3 Non-Con messages). Whether you use IMac or Ipod or PC it will work on your computer. You might have to download ITunes first, but there's no charge.

In this message Todd has some great things to share about the state of Christianity in America and his vision to help people to re-imagine their daily life in a Kingdom perspective. Worth a listen to two.

We can get so hung up on the signs of the times and our version of the Rapture, the End Times, etc. that we forget to live our lives here and now.


Why did the Church allow a man who held the title of High Priest in the Pagan Temple to influence the way they worshipped and practiced their faith?

Maybe it was because he was their largest financial supporter? Or because he ended the brutal persecutions of his predecessors? Or because he gave them non-profit, tax-exempt status in the Empire? Maybe it was because he promoted several of the clergy to high-ranking offices within the Empire? Or because he built large temples for them to worship in?



Thursday, April 24, 2008



by Keith Giles

I recently read a thought-provoking post on a friend's blog that has set me off.

My friend posted a list of the Top 10 Most Influential People on American Christianity. Top of the list was Paul the Apostle and tied for last place was Jesus (and John Wesley).

This list made an excellent point, which I must say I agree with. (Except that maybe I would have put Constantine on there somewhere, but whatever). American Christians are much more students of Paul than they are students of Jesus.

How can I say this? Well, to start with, whenever I speak to people about the words of Jesus, most look at me with blank stares, or quote something that Paul said back at me to clarify what Jesus must have meant.

A few years ago I taught a series on the words of Jesus (along with two other pastors at Soul Survivor church). It was quite refreshing and, surprisingly inspiring to spend several months meditating on the parables and the beatitudes and the radical statements of Jesus, our Lord and Savior and King. His words seemed fresh and powerful and, strangely, brand new to me.

Many of those who attended these services came up afterwards to express their shock and surprise about the words of Jesus. Several had never heard a sermon on these subjects in their life. I was among them.

As I sat down last week with several of the men from our house church we discussed this subject over coffee. I asked them why they thought American Christians were so enamored by Paul and so ignorant of Jesus (the one they are supposed to be following).

One of my friends, John, responded by saying that he felt like Paul was very methodical and logical. It was his theory that Americans want answers and love details, so Paul was more within our comfort zone in a way. Jesus, he said, was much too mystical. He told stories that were difficult to understand. He expected his followers to put his words into practice. He challenged his disciples to live radical lives of inclusive love, to be agents of change in their homes, and in their communities. In short, Jesus was a little scary. Paul was someone we could study and that made us feel as smart as he was.

As we continued to discuss this I made an observation- American Christians would rather ask Paul to explain Jesus to them than to go to Jesus themselves. It's like sitting down with both Paul and Jesus and insisting on only speaking to Paul while ignoring Jesus the entire time.

Many American Protestants criticize Catholics for getting to Jesus via Mary or by praying to the Saints. Are we doing the same thing with Paul the Apostle?

I want to be careful to say that, in our discussion about America's fascination with Paul, we are not down-playing the importance of Paul or his teachings. Both Paul and Jesus are authoritative and their words are meant to be taken as Scripture, we are not cutting the letters of Paul out of our Bibles.

However, both Jesus and Paul are represented within our New Testament. Why would we skip those four Gospels and ignore the very person whom we claim to follow and worship?

Paul himself argues that it is Jesus whom we should follow and obey as our Lord in his first letter to the Corinthians:

"One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas (or Peter)"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name....For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 1: 12-17; see also chapter 3).

If we are truly Christians - which means "little christs" - and we are serious about following Jesus, then we cannot deny that Jesus is our first and main example, and teacher and Lord. Paul is a great teacher and theologian. God certainly called him and used him to shape the early church, and the development of the Christian faith, to this very day. But let us not forget Jesus. He is God in the flesh. He is the one we are called to follow and to emulate. His words should hold weight with us. We should daily seek to learn from Jesus, to seek His face, to follow in His footsteps.

Becoming experts on the letters of Paul and ignoring Jesus is like studying travel guides for exotic tropical paradises and never actually going there ourselves.

When Jesus walked this earth he called people, one at a time, to simply follow him. He laid out very clear and specific instructions regarding what it would cost to follow him, and what he expected of those who followed him, and the scriptures themselves (including the writings of Paul, and Peter, and James and John, etc.), elaborate on what following Jesus is all about.

Let us not just read about following Jesus, let us actually follow Jesus.

"This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" - 1 John 2: 5-6

I would encourage everyone who reads this to begin studying the red letters in Matthew. Let the words of Jesus nourish your soul like warm bread from the oven. Let the wisdom of Jesus refresh your life like cool water on the tongue.

Become students of Jesus. Apprentice yourself to Him. Put his teachings into practice in your daily life. Answer His calling on your life to follow after him.

"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." - Jesus (Luke 9:23)

At the end of your life you and I will stand before Jesus. Make sure that you have a cross in your hand when you get there.


Photos are online now from last Saturday's opening night with Scott Laumann, Heather Wright and Bill a few surprises.


by Keith Giles

The Kingdom of God is the present reality which breaks into this illusion of ours intermittently, like very bad cell phone reception. It's God's way of saying, "Can you hear me now?"


Read Brant Hansen's Amazing Blog


by Keith Giles

The truth is, all anyone can do is to join the movement, no one can actually start one. At least, not on purpose anyway.

Most of the time, whenever you hear someone say, "I want to start a movement" you can bet on one thing: They will not start a movement.


By Keith Giles

Why did the Church allow a man who held the title of High Priest in the Pagan Temple to influence the way they worshipped and practiced their faith?

Maybe it was because he was their largest financial supporter? Or because he ended the brutal persecutions of his predecessors? Or because he gave them non-profit, tax-exempt status in the Empire? Maybe it was because he promoted several of the clergy to high-ranking offices within the Empire? Or because he built large temples for them to worship in?

Whatever the reason, Constantine was allowed to dictate to the Church how and when and where they would worship God.




Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Feed My Sheep

[Subversive Underground]

Feed My Sheep
by Keith Giles

"We've never heard these things," he said sheepishly, adding quickly, "Before today, that is."

Everyone in the room quietly agreed with his sad confession. The facilitator's mouth dropped open in shock for a moment, and then closed silently as her eyes moved around the room.

I involuntarily clenched my teeth from the back row and nodded silently to myself. It was true. Thousands of people in churches across this nation are ignorant of the basic message of Jesus and the Gospel that he came and died to proclaim.

We were in our final session of the Non-Con and Jackie Pullinger, who had flown in from Hong Kong, by way of London, was sharing with all of us about the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and how the call to care for the poor in our midst was woven into the very fabric of His message. Most of those in the room, just over 100 people from all over the United States, had never heard this message before.

In my mind I went back over my own Christian experience. Raised in the Church after my initial conversion experience at age 10 and eventually licensed and ordained as a minister of the Gospel at age 22, I myself had been largely ignorant of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed and had no concept of His heart for the poor or how my love for others reflected my love for God.

After spending over thirty years as a pastor, teaching others the Scriptures, mostly regurgitating what I was fed to others, being careful to stay within the bounds of doctrine and acceptable religious language, my own epiphany had come with a shock that literally took days to recover from. Now, years later, at 41 years of age, I am like a new convert to my own faith. Learning for the first time what was there all along in the Bible I kept at my bedside table.

How can it be that we have become a nation, and a generation, of Christian Americans who have no idea what the Gospel is all about? How can it be possible that we can be good Christians and yet still not be familiar with the teachings of Jesus or the basic elements of his message?

Can you imagine a Muslim who knew nothing of the teachings of Muhammed? Or a Jew who wasn't familiar with the words of Moses? How then can we be a generation of Christians who are unfamiliar with the words and the teachings of Jesus?

If our pastors across this land are not preaching about Jesus, are not communicating the Gospel of the Kingdom as He did, then what are we preaching?

A quick flip through the television stations and you'll know. It's mostly about getting what God wants to bless you with. It's about giving your money to this person or that ministry so that God can adorn you with money and success and material wealth.

What shocks me the most is when I hear these televangelists take the words of Jesus and twist them completely around with a great big smile on their faces. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," Jesus said, as the Rich Young Ruler walked away from him, head down, ashamed of his inability to let go of his great wealth in order to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus.

"With man this is impossible," says the televangelist with the best-selling book and the largest church in America, "But with God all things are possible." He then proceeds to explain how this proves that God will grant your every wish for a new car, a better job, a larger bank account.

These words from Jesus are meant to give us hope that, with God's help, we can find the grace and power to let go of our material wealth in order to follow Him with our whole life. These words are not meant to express God's desire to load us up with even greater riches and material goods.

What are teaching today from our pulpits if we're not teaching people to follow Jesus or to study his teachings?

Our churches are full of people who are taught to know the right information, and to stand against evil (as defined by the pulpit), and to invite others to attend the weekly gathering. But are we taught to know the words of Jesus? Are we encouraged to daily place our actual lives in His hands? Are ever told that unless we daily die to ourselves and take up our cross we cannot follow Him? Are we familiar with the parables of Jesus or the Gospel of the Kingdom? Do we know that we can enter the Kingdom of God anytime we want? Do we know that God only wants our entire life to be surrendered to Him?

I can't tell you how many times I have heard pastors demand that their flock should feed themselves. "They have Bibles, don't they?", "They can study the Word of God for themselves," they say. But Jesus didn't say, "Teach my sheep to feed themselves" he said, "If you love me feed my lambs". That means it's our job to make sure the people in our pews (or on our couches) know the Gospel and understand the message of Jesus.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" - Jesus, from Matthew 28:19-20

A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Obedience is built into our marching orders.
More and more I am becoming convinced that to be a "Christian" in our culture today, and being a follower of Jesus, are not the same thing at all.


"Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage."
--C.S. Lewis


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You're Invited!

[Subversive Underground]

You're Invited!
by Keith Giles

An invitation is a very personal thing. It means someone is thinking of you and they want you to be with them for a special celebration or gathering.

Yesterday I attended a marketing seminar on social media. The presenter made one interesting comment and I wrote it down. Here's what she said, "It's easier to get people to attend a real, physical event than to get them to show up at a virtual, online (social media) discussion."

As someone who has tried, more than once, to assemble an online community I've learned the hard way the truth of that statement. Even when I attempted, most recently, to create an online community for [Subversive Underground] I only managed to attract four people (including me) out of a possible group of 225 subscribers. However, when I recently invited people to join us for an all-day open dialog called "Non-Con" I sold out a month in advance and had to manage a stand-by list for those who didn't make the deadline for registration.

I've been thinking pretty hard lately about the invitation that Jesus offered his disciples. "Follow me" was his only tag line. Simple and to the point, Jesus invited people, personally and to their face, if they would consider living their lives after the pattern he would establish. Those who responded did so with their feet, with their actual lives. They stood up, dropped their nets, left the money on the table, abandoned family and friends, and dedicated three years of daily, continual following after Jesus.

Of course, all but one of them extended that initial three year commitment into an endless, day-by-day surrender of their entire life to follow Jesus to the very end. Thousands more followed their example and soon there was an overwhelming flood of people who were actively following Jesus with their actual, every day lives, and teaching others to do the same.

Sometimes I wonder why we make the invitation so complicated. We invite people to attend our meetings, or to join our club, or to wear our t-shirts, listen to our music, put our bumper stickers on their car and adopt our slang. But all Jesus ever did was to invite people to follow him.

We must respond to this same invitation. Jesus called people to be his disciples, his followers, and his life was a blue-print for each of us to emulate.

When we consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and especially when we feel compelled to invite others to do the same, let's keep it simple. Just ask people if they're interested in following Jesus too. Then you can both follow Jesus together, teaching and encouraging and inspiring one another to obey his teaching, to serve others as he did, and to learn to love people with your whole life.

You're invited to a wonderful new pattern of life. I've just started down this road so it's not too late to join me and catch up. We can follow Jesus together, if you want to.

Are you coming?

This Sunday afternoon, after our house church gathering, I'll be having lunch and sharing with another local house church about what poverty looks like in Orange County. It's always a privilege to speak to fellow followers about what poverty looks like in our community, alongside what God's Word has to say about His heart for them, and His expectations of us as His Earthly representatives.

Pray for me as I lead this interactive, artistic experience. I'm always amazed at what God does each time I facilitate this discussion. I've done this for small groups, mega-church staff members and our own house church, and each time God shows up and touches people deep down where it counts. I'd love to see that again on Sunday afternoon. Thanks for your prayers.

Well, we finally did it. There is now an official [SU] podcast page online now at ITunes. Go and search us under "Podcasts" in the Music Store and be sure to click the "subscribe" button to keep up with our infrequent mp3 uploads.

Totally free, of course.


If you're in the Orange County area, be sure to drop by The Artery Gallery (at the Lab in Costa Mesa) on April 19th for the opening of the new 2 week exhibit featuring our very own Non-Con artists.

Come join us on opening night at 7pm on April 19th at The Artery Gallery in Costa Mesa and show your support for these artists of faith.

Whether you were lucky enough to join us for the Non-Con or not, we've got all 3 main session recordings available online now for download.

You can either go online to ITunes and find our [Subversive Underground] Podcast page to download the MP3's to your computer or IPod, OR you can go to
the website link below and download the same 3 sessions as MP3 files.

For those who choose the ITunes podcast option keep in mind that we will be uploading new podcasts to that page throughout the year.

Session 1 - David Ruis
Session 2 - Keith Giles
Session 3 - Jackie Pullinger

Download Here

When I first came up with the idea for this "Non-Conference" I wanted it to be something simple, and easy to duplicate.

I'd love to help you start your own Non-Con in your community and I'm willing to help with website, marketing and logistics issues for no charge whatsoever.

If you're interested in finding out more about starting your own Non-Con…


Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Paradox of Free Will

[Subversive Underground]

NOTE: I debated long and hard about whether or not to publish today's article. It is an attempt to resolve a long-standing and painfully bitter disagreement in the Family of God. I would ask, in advance, for you to extend me a little Grace and to read the following with an open heart and mind. This is an open dialog and my intent is to bring peace to the Body of Christ over a divisive issue. Thank you in advance for reading this with an attitude of love towards me, your brother and friend in Christ Jesus. - kg

The Paradox of Free Will
By Keith Giles

As human beings we strive to understand the world we live in. I believe our Creator built into us a healthy level of curiosity which compels us to seek answers and strive for knowledge. Our inquisitive nature is a large part of what makes us human.

However, there are some things we cannot fully know or understand, particularly when it comes to God Himself. In these instances the best we can do is to accept what He has revealed to us about His nature and leave it alone. We cannot fully comprehend a being who has no beginning, or imagine an entity with no boundary or limit. In those areas where our ability to comprehend is challenged we simply have to take some things on faith, whether we understand them or not. In fact, we have to accept these truths as being true even though we know we are currently incapable of understanding at all.

Whenever we encounter an aspect of God's character which defies the bounds of our reason we call this a paradox because it involves one or more seemingly contradictory conditions at work.

This phenomenon isn't limited to the spiritual realm, by the way. In the world of observable science we encounter several examples of seemingly contradictory facts and conditions which we must simply accept as being true whether or not we can understand or explain them in common terms.

One such example is the nature of light. Scientists who were attempting to determine the nature of light tried several experiments with the smallest unit of light (a single photon) in order to answer the riddle of whether or not light was a wave (a frequency within a spectrum) or a particle (made up of many photon-bits).

Their experiment proved that light was a wave. It also proved that light was a particle. Depending on the experiment they performed and the conditions of the test, they got both answers. This lead to the new idea that somehow light was actually a wavicle (part particle, part wave). Of course, no one has a real definition of the properties of a wavicle, and other than light (apparently) nothing else exhibits these qualities or conditions. Yet, we all still believe that light exists and scientists still continue to talk about light and to manipulate it even though they still have absolutely no idea what it really is.

*Read more about this amazing phenomenon

I share all of that with you so that my next section won't sound like convenient wordplay. There really are elements within our known sphere of understanding which are beyond our comprehension and classification. Paradoxes are common. They are not evidence of some faulty bit of logic or a failure of the mind to connect the dots.

In Christian theology we must become comfortable alongside some paradoxes such as the Trinity (Christ, the Spirit and the Father are all referred to as the One God, and yet they are not each other, nor are they three Gods, but the One). We cannot understand how this can be so, but we must accept the nature of God as He has revealed Himself to us through His Word and declare that, somehow, someway, even though we are powerless to understand or define or comprehend it, God is a being beyond our complete understanding. His very nature defies our limited capacity for apprehending Him. We can only accept what we know by faith.

Alister E. McGrath has a wonderful way of communicating this ineffable quality of God's nature by demonstrating that none of us, using mere language, could ever describe to someone who had never tasted coffee exactly what it tasted like. Unless they were to taste coffee for themselves, the conversation would be endless and our descriptions useless. However, once we have both tasted coffee we can talk all day about it and both us will have a common ground to understand what the other is saying, but our inability to explain the exact quality of the flavor of coffee using human language will remain outside our feeble grasp. (from his book, "What Was God Doing On The Cross?")

One of the oldest, and most bitter and brutal debates that has divided Christendom since around 400 AD is the one surrounding the doctrines of free will and predestination.

On one side we have the Calvinists who represent the predestination side, and the Arminians who represent the side of free will.

Without going into a lot of detail about the history and the various nuances of each side and their arguments regarding the best way to believe on this issue, let me make things very simple. Those on the side of predestination feel that for God to know the end before the beginning, His sovereignty must be greater than our frail human will and therefore God has already determined, before the beginning of time, who will be saved and who will not. Those on the side of free will, the Arminians, feel that God cannot decide beforehand to create beings whom He knows are destined for an eternal hell, and therefore are convinced that man ultimately must decide for him or herself whether or not to accept the free gift of salvation.

Both sides offer copious amounts of Biblical text to support their view. To be sure, the Scriptures contain very plain and direct language to support the theory that God knows the end from the beginning and even that God "predestined those He foreknew" (Romans 8: 28). However, there are just as many scriptures to support the idea that God allows mankind the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not to follow Him and to love Him. We know that God does not create robots who are hardwired to love Him any more than He creates beings for the purpose of destroying them.

Both doctrines are Biblical. Both doctrines seem to contradict one another. We cannot possibly see how one could be true if the other were also true. This leaves us with a conundrum of sorts, or a paradox. Somehow God is able to see into the future and to know, in advance, the outcome of our choices which are based on free will.

However, because God knows in advance what you and I will freely choose to do, it does not necessarily follow that His foreknowledge of our choice is what caused us to make this choice. For example, if I am watching someone from a distance and I know what they are about to do, I am not held accountable for their actions when they carry out the action I predicted.

So, does God know in advance who will choose to follow Him? Yes, he most certainly does. The scriptures support this and we should embrace this truth. But, does the Bible also teach us that we are accountable to God for our own decisions and actions? Yes, it most certainly does. We alone are the ones who must choose to accept or reject the love of God that has been offered to us. The scriptures teach us this and we should embrace this truth as well.

This is a paradox, like many other paradoxes of faith, where we are called upon to exercise our faith in God and take Him at His Word.

For those Calvinists who argue that the doctrine of Free Will encroaches upon the sovereignty of God I would point out that there are many doctrines where God limits Himself for our benefit. For example, God is omniscient (knowing all things), but we also know that, for our sake, He willfully forgets our sins once they are forgiven. He surrenders His infinite knowledge of all things for our sake and tosses our sins into the sea of forgetfulness. Why would we be surprised that, in order to preserve our freedom of choice, God might surrender His power of sovereignty?

For those Arminians who argue that God's foreknowledge of an event determines the outcome, let me point out that knowing something will happen is not the same as making that event turn out a certain way.

As this is a subject where the scripture is less than crystal clear, where those on both sides of the issue have ample scriptural evidence for their position, let us agree that this is not something we should divide over.

"God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, Oh Lord Thou knowest. Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."
– A.W. Tozer

Our love for one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should never suffer due to our petty disagreements. Nor should we ever allow differences of opinion over the doctrines of baptism, or the end times, or the way we worship, or speaking in tongues, or what have you, to separate us from one another. We are the Family of God and we are called to love one another, in fact, we've been commanded to love one another. It is not optional for us.

In His Grip,
Keith Giles

Please send all encouraging, thoughtful and constructive comments to me at
"Elysiansky" at (Hotmail) dot (com).

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Our Non-Con artist panel will be headlining an amazing art show on April 19th at the Artery Gallery in the Anti-Mall/Lab in Costa Mesa, CA.



I am so excited to announce that three of the most gifted artists I personally know will all be together in the same gallery space at the same time. This will be so amazing!

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