Friday, August 29, 2008

Welcome To The OC House Church Network

Another one of my crazy ideas has come to life. Behold, the new Orange County House Church Network resource page!


I threw together this week to serve as an online resource for people in Orange County, California who might be searching for a house church and/or curious about starting their own.

My plan is to host monthly "House Church 101" classes on a Saturday to answer questions and share what House Church is all about.

I hope to do this in co-operation with my fellow house church leaders here so that I'm not the only guy doing all the work and the training and coaching, etc.

We'll see how it goes.

I plan to host the first training in October. Details coming soon.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I'd like to start today's blog by pointing out that, in all my years blogging here I have never once taken the time to openly rebuke or correct another pastor, teacher or blogger. Today I make an exception because I can't allow this sort of teaching to go unchallenged.

My hope is to lovingly and soberly correct a misunderstanding and false teaching concerning forgiveness.

Earlier this week I read a post called "Messiah Complex" by blogger Darin Hufford.
The post in question is HERE

Essentially, Darin takes a difficult passage of Scripture and twists it to say something that is not supported by the rest of the New Testament, or the Apostles, or the practice of the Early Church.

The passage of scripture in question is John 20:21-23 where Jesus says
"Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Darin believes that this passage in John 20 gives us, the followers of Christ, the power to forgive people their sins, even if they have not repented of their sins.

In an attempt to discover what Darin meant by this teaching, and to give him the benefit of the doubt, I started posting comments to his blog. You will notice that he has since deleted our entire conversation completely (there were at least 4 comments by me and at least as many by him, all deleted). You'll notice that he makes a comment addressed to "Keith" but this is the only hint that I ever made any comments at all. (Unless he deletes this post too).

So much for open dialog.

Because Darin has attempted to silence anyone who disagrees with him, and because he has more than a little leverage in the blogsphere regarding matters of theology, Christian thought and Church life, I find it necessary to call him out on this misunderstanding of Scripture.

Because he has deleted my comments on his blog and refused to allow another point of view to be heard or seen by his readers, I can only provide a response here on my own blog and reveal his attempt to cover up a fair and open dialog about this heretical doctrine.

Let me say off the bat, I do not hate Darin Hufford. I love him. He is my brother and I would love to have this conversation with him in private, or even on his blog, if we were open to such a dialog. Sadly, he is not. He is more interested in making sure people only hear one side of the argument and he is not interested in allowing anyone else to hear what other teachers have to say.

I've always said that the Truth is "Questionable". If Darin is teaching the truth he should not be afraid of questions. The truth is bullet-proof. It can certainly handle a few shots from me.

Darrin says in his article that, before he understood this controversial verse correctly he was of this opinion - "In other words, unless they come to Jesus, they cannot find forgiveness for their sins, so it's my job to get them to Christ."

However, now that's he's been enlightenend by John 20:21 he was discovered a remarkable concept: Forgiving people of their sins is now his job as a Christian. For example, when his unbelieving friend asked him if he thought God would ever forgive him of his sins, Darrin doesn't take the opportunity to say, "Yes, let's pray and ask Him to forgive you right now. I know He will. Would you like that?"

Darin says something very different to his friend who is inquiring about God's forgiveness for his sins:

"He asked me if I thought God would forgive him and I responded by saying "I forgive you for all your sins." I explained that the decision to forgive him was mine, and I decided YES."

Why didn't Darin lead his friend to Jesus so that Jesus could forgive his sins? In this example Darin seems determined to be the one who forgives the sins, even though Jesus was clearly a very viable option in this situation.

Did Jesus really teach us to go around forgiving people of their sins?
Well, yes and no. Jesus does instruct us to forgive others so that our sins will be forgiven.

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." - JESUS (Matthew 6:14-15)

However, this verse is telling us that we will receive forgiveness for our sins if we forgive others when they sin against us. I've written an entire article about this over at the [Subversive Underground] blog. (See May, 2007 - "Forgivness According to Jesus")

Jesus does not teach us that we have the power to forgive the sins of people who need God's forgiveness.

In the passage from John 20:21, where Darin gets his doctrine from, the meaning of these words is difficult to understand. Whenever we have a passage in scripture that is difficult to understand we always balance it by looking at other verses of scripture on the same subject. We never, and I must stress the word "never", base any doctrine on the weight of just one single verse of scripture. Sadly, this is what my friend and brother Darin is doing here and out of this has spun a serious misunderstanding of the Atonement and the doctrine of Forgiveness.

I'm asking for verses in the New Testament where Paul or Peter or James or John instruct the early christians to forgive the sins of unbelievers.

Do they instruct us to forgive the sins of those who sin against us? Yes.
Do they instruct us to forgive one another? Absolutely.
Do they instruct us that we have the power to forgive the sins of everyone we meet? Clearly, no.

To determine the answer I am asking if
A) The Apostles taught/modelled/practiced this or
B) The early church practiced this.

I find no evidence that any early Christians (Apostles or otherwise) put this practice of forgiving people their sins into action.

Are we called to forgive people? Yes.
Is it important to forgive ourselves? Yes.
Are we called to forgive the sins of people who have not come to Christ or repented of their sin?
Clearly, no.

One of the most troubling comments made by Darin in his reply to my first comment (since deleted) was that "the Apostles didn’t teach on 90% of what Jesus taught".

This statement alone says volumes about what Darin thinks of Jesus and the Apostles and how much he understands (or misunderstands) the New Testament.

I responded by asking Darin to please show me just 5 things that Jesus taught that the Apostles didn't teach and/or practice in the early church. Darin's response was to list the Beatitudes of Jesus.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are the pure in heart...blessed are peacemakers."

Darin doesn't believe that the Apostles continued to teach or to practice the principles found in the Beatitudes of Christ on the Sermon on the Mount. I disagree.
I think the Apostles DID teach on these 5 things. The Sermon on the Mount was about life in the Kingdom of God (which is the Gospel that Jesus preached).

The Apostles DID preach the elements of life in the Kingdom, and my now invisible comments said as much:

#1Blessed are the poor in spirit corresponds to: "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" - James 2:5

#2 Blessed are those who mourn corresponds to:"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn" - Romans 12:15

#3 Blessed are the meek corresponds to: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" - James 4:6

#4 Blessed are the pure in heart corresponds to: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to...keep oneself from being polluted by the world" - James 1:27

#5 Blessed are the peace makers corresponds to: "as long as it is at peace with all men" Romans 12:8

With more time and space I could expand on other verses from the New Testament where the Apostles encouraged other Christians to live out the Sermon on the Mount. But that's another post.

My point to Darin was, we don't find any verses where the Apostles taught or encouraged other Christians to forgive the sins of their unbelieving friends, etc.

I think it's a fair question to ask: "If Jesus really taught us to forgive the sins of unbelievers then why don't we see the early church engaged in this awesome practice?"

Answer: Because Jesus clearly did not teach this to his disciples, nor did they teach it or practice it.

Blessings to my friend and brother, Darin Hufford. I pray that this misrepresentation of the words of Jesus doesn’t lead anyone to stumble in their faith.


Monday, August 18, 2008


Yesterday at The Mission we heard testimonials from two of our church family about God's amazing, miraculous healing power.

About two weeks ago Clara hurt her shoulder and the doctors told her she had torn her rotator cuff and would need surgery to correct the injury. As the week's progressed her arm became more and more useless. She had no use of the arm and it hung limp at her side.

After receiving prayer for her injury she woke up yesterday morning and, before she realized it, she was combing her hair...with both hands!

She discovered she could move her arm completely pain free in any direction. She was totally healed.

Our dear friend Nancy shared about how her Mom, who had been on a breathing tube with a "Do Not Resuscitate" order on file, had been read her Last Rites just a few days previously. But after the prayers of her family, and many in our house church, her Mom was taken off the tube and was so completely healed that even the Doctor's and Nurses called it a miracle. What's more, her Mom's feet, which had been closed up into painful stumps after years of working as a nurse and from being on her feet constantly, were also totally healed. Her toes were stretched out and relaxed, Nancy said. She can now walk without pain and she's going home totally healed.

After we heard these two amazing testimonials I really felt we needed to stop and pray and just praise God for His incredible healing power. We thanked God together for answering these prayers and for healing these two women so incredibly, and completely.

Afterwards I asked Clara and Nancy to lay hands on Mary Anne and pray for her to be healed as well. Mary Anne had a large brain tumor removed about 3 months ago. At that time the Doctor's said she had a network of tumors in her brain (melanoma) and that she would only survive another 3 months. Her left-side paralysis has returned and she is getting confused mentally by simple things like putting on her blouse or letting go of an object.

We all prayed for Mary Anne to be healed, but at this time she remains un-healed.

Still, we know from these two testimonials that God can heal her (and from many other testimonials as well), so we will continue to pray for Mary Anne to be totally and completely healed of her cancer and that these tumors will dry up and disappear.

If you'd like to pray for Mary Anne too, that would be really awesome.

God is good.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is The Gospel Relevant in Today's Culture?

If you find yourself wondering about this, or if you've read any articles lately posing this question, I think it's worth discussing.

First, anyone who poses this question either doesn't really understand what the Gospel is, or they don't know the meaning of the word "Relevant".

I've often found myself in conversations with people who use the word "relevant" as a synonym for "Popular" or "Current". As in, "This new book is very relevant" or "What you said is so relevant for people today".

In Christian circles I think this misuse of the word "relevant" is tied to the popular magazine of the same name for which I was once a writer. Their hip, trendy, "twenty-something" culture branding has successfully replaced the meaning of this word with the idea of being cool.

This is great news for the magazine and bad news for Christians who now think that something has to be acceptable to the culture in order to be relevant.

Being relevant simply means that something is necessary. The color of the sky is not relevant to someone who is dying of thirst, but a glass of water is very relevant to the man in the desert. Water is relevant to the thirsty because it is necessary, not because water is popular and trendy among those who thirst.

From the Dictionary:
Relevant (rĕl'ə-vənt); adj. - "Having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand."

If something is relevant it must be valuable, necessary and contain meaning.
So, does the Gospel of Jesus have any bearing on or connection with today's culture? Let's make sure we understand what the Gospel is before we attempt to answer that question.

The Gospel of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God has come near and anyone who wants to live in this reality can do so today.

"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43)

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matt 9:35)

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom.." (Matt 4:23)

Entrance into the Kingdom of God is accomplished by following Jesus with your every day life. It involves a submission of your will to His perfect will and a surrender of your way of life in exchange for God's way of life.

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

The Gospel of Jesus is simply an invitation to follow the example of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus in submission to the commands of Jesus, every day of your life.

Instead of answering the question, "If you died tonight do you know you'd be in Heaven tomorrow?" the question Jesus asks is, "If you knew you'd be alive tomorrow, who would you follow and how would you live your life?"

Does the Gospel of Jesus have any relevance to our culture today? Is it connected with the matter at hand? I think so. I believe everyone has to answer the question: "Who will you follow and how will you live your life?"

People are asking this question already. This is why they read books on self-improvement and watch Oprah and Dr. Phil and read Deepak Chopra and meditate and chant and do Yoga and go to Church, or stay home from Church. They are all answering this question, or they are all seeking to decide how the question should be answered.

The Gospel of Jesus is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. Our job, as followers of Jesus, is to model the Kingdom lifestyle in such a way that those who are yet to answer this question can make an informed decision about who they will follow and how they will live their lives.

If those who follow Jesus look and act and behave just like those who do not follow Jesus, what is the point? Do our lives point to the new life we have found in Christ? Are we a city on a hill? Are we salt to those who are thirsty for the Living Water? Are we light those those who stumble in darkness? Or do we hide our light? Has our saltiness been lost and trampled underfoot?

The Gospel of Jesus is still relevant. Can we say the same of His Followers?


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beware the Yeast of the Celebrities

One thing that concerns me was I see this growing house church movement prosper is the celebrity effect.

When I first stepped into this universe there were a few books out there to help me get my bearings and for those books, and to those authors, I am grateful.

Now I see us selling books into Christian bookstores that are topping best-seller lists, and our annual conferences are selling out early (better get your tickets now before they're all sold out), and our spokesmen are becoming minor Christian Celebrities.

I suppose I fear that, if we're not very intentional about all of this, we risk becoming the thing we fear.

If we really believe in this peer-led, leaderless concept of "being Church", and if we really are convinced that God's Spirit is active in each of us just the same, then I would love to see some of those up and coming, almost famous house church leaders step aside and allow a few "Joe Nobody's" to take the stage and move into the spotlight. It would be great to see us model something different at the highest levels of our movement...something really unique and refreshingly inclusive.


Thursday, August 07, 2008


When I first came to California about 15 years ago I worked as a sales rep for Diamante Music Group selling alternative and rock cd's and cassettes into Christian bookstores.

One of the guys I worked with there was Chris Singer. Today he is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Orange where I now live.

A few weeks ago Chris asked me if I'd be interested in meeting him on a Thursday morning at 6am (gulp) to pray for about an hour before I had to leave for work. His invitation humbled me and I was blessed and honored to accept his offer to meet and pray.

This morning we had our second meeting for prayer and as we were praying Chris said something that really leapt out at me. He made a comment to God about how we (pastors) are unworthy to carry the message of the Gospel and the name of Christ, yet Jesus allows us to do so anyway.

I couldn't help but think that if every Pastor in America had that same attitude our Churches would be in a lot better shape.

As I drove to work I continued to think about this. We, the "Holy Men of God", the Pastors of the flock are unworthy to carry the Gospel or bear the name of Jesus - just like everyone else.

We all need Jesus. The sinners, the losers, the drunks, the prostitutes, the homeless, the wife beaters, the apathetic, the homosexuals, the drug dealers, the pastors and the saints - all unworthy of God's Grace. All free to take it anyway.

Praise Jesus.

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Cor 6:9-11


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Serve Day?

Here in Orange County we have an annual "Serve Day" where hundreds of churches and thousands of christians on one single Saturday a year to serve the community.

As someone who has been passionate about serving the poor and wanting to remind the Body of Christ of our mandate to serve others, you'd think I'd be one of the most vocal supporters of this annual event.

The truth is, it burns me that we have made serving others an annual event where everyone pays money to sign up, gets their "Serve Day" t-shirt and checks off the box for their annual hour of service to "those poor people" in our community.

I have to ask, "Why don’t our Churches do this every single day?"

Is this really what Jesus had in mind for His Church? Are we called to focus on ourselves 364 days of the year and expected to set aside just one day to serve others? I don't think so.

Sure, there's the potential for an event like this to be an opportunity for people to get their feet wet and discover the joys of serving others. I'm certain a few of those who have taken part in a Serve Day previously have decided that they could surrender more of their time to serve more often in their community.

I suppose my biggest concern is with the leadership behind Serve Day. They seem perfectly content to organize a massive, annual day of service across Orange County without any intentional effort to encourage participants to make service their way of life, every day of the week.

The emphasis seems to be on the "One day to change Orange County". Of course that one day has yet to change Orange County, or us, in any significant way, except perhaps to make us more complacent and apathetic the other 364 days of the year towards the poor around us.

Have I made my concerns known to those who organize this event? Yes, I have communicated my concerns to several people, but I think the event has become bigger than anyone ever expected and now any attempt to reconfigure the DNA of this thing is considered too much to tackle. At least that's my assumption of why no one seems to have tried to use the Serve Day event as a catalyst for long-term service within the community.

Why? Because servanthood is just one option for us as Christians, and honestly, it's not a very popular or appealing option to most.

I will say one thing, servanthood wasn’t an optional activity for the early church in Acts, or for the Apostles, and certainly not for Jesus.

Why has it become optional for those who call ourselves by His Name?


Tuesday, August 05, 2008


This morning I sat down with my oldest son, Dylan to read Mark chapter 8 before I left for work.

When we got to verse 31, where Jesus informs his disciples that he will suffer and die, Peter rebukes him and Jesus in turn rebukes Peter saying, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Jesus then turns to all of his disciples and says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me, and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

Dylan, who turns 13 in December, admitted that he wasn't sure what Jesus was talking about there, so we talked about it a bit more. I explained that Jesus first says that he will die, and when Peter rebukes him Jesus explains that not only will He die on the cross but all of those who wish to follow Jesus must also take up their cross daily and prepare to die.

I asked Dylan if he was ready to do that. He admitted that he wasn't ready to die. So, we prayed together for God to help him understand what this was all about.

We talked about how, when he was a little boy, he prayed and gave his heart to Jesus. He was baptized as a young boy and started his journey with God all those years ago, but our decision to follow Jesus is a daily decision. I explained to him about how all of us who follow Jesus have to pray that prayer every day- ask God to forgive us and lead us and change us and surrender our lives to Him.

I had to admit to Dylan that I really never understood what Jesus was saying for most of my Christian life. It's only been in the last six or seven years - after being licensed and ordained and pastoring others- that I began to understand what Jesus was saying.

My oldest son is wrestling with concepts that I never encountered until I was in my 30's. I know this is not an easy thing for him to understand.

On my way to work this morning I prayed that God would help Dylan to grasp these difficult words from Jesus and to have the wisdom to understand them.

I need to understand them too.