Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Consumption, Expression, Identity.

As a society, we are conditioned to find our identity in what we own or purchase. As Christians, we are conditioned to express our faith through the sanctified products we purchase, own or consume. This is the perversion of Christ into Capitalism and an expression of faith through consumption of products. It is wrong.

A good friend sent me an article he found that provided an intriguing historical perspective on our evolution from artisans to consumers. I've pulled out the quotes I found most fascinating below:

A Short History of Consumption
With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the relationship between people and the goods that they made was broken. No longer did peasants plant, tend, and harvest their crops; now agricultural workers labored over someone else’s crops in exchange for wages. No longer did artisans design, plan, craft, and sell; now factory workers repeatedly carried out a single step in the production of a product, again in exchange for wages.

In short, people were no longer producers, they were now consumers.

Our identities were no longer tied up with the work we did, but with the buying power our work left us with.

So people found their identities not in their work but in the things they could buy by working.

People became consumers, not just in the way they got what they needed but in who they felt themselves to be.

Unlike the artisan who could express his or her identity through the things s/he created, we have learned to do so through the things we buy

The entire article is mainly looking at consumption from an environmental impact perspective, but the points made about our lifelong indoctrination to consumerism as a society are very eye-opening to me.

Here's what I think we need to understand, as followers of Jesus, regarding the observations made in this article above.

We, as a society, have made consuming and purchasing products part of our identity structure. This is why people will fork out $30 for a t-shirt with some corporate logo and walk around as a billboard for them, not because they love that company or product, not because of their loyalty to the brand, but because they think that logo makes THEM look cool. It says something about them, and so they willingly become walking advertising...and they PAY for the privilege. Amazing.

Honestly, this really does help me to formulate a clear picture of what's going on in the Christian subculture. We're finding our identity as "Christians" in the products we purchase. These products brand us and identify us as a subset of people. Instead of finding our identity in Christ by the way we relate to Him daily, obey His teachings, and emulate His example of service and unconditional love, we now identify ourselves as Christians by our t-shirts, bumper stickers, books and CD collections.

It's also fascinating how this shift in our society stems from the devaluing of artisans in our culture. People now express themselves by what they own or purchase more than by what they create with their hands or their imaginations. Artists within our society are influenced by this consumerist identity structure. Artists of faith are compelled to create art that can be sold, or that conforms to the acceptable Christian marketplace. Art in this context is devoid of pure self-expression, unless that expression conforms to the acceptable branding and messaging of the sacred market.

More from the article:
"The rise of consumption as our primary interaction with the rest of our society has had profound effects. For example, social status is obtained and marked by the things we buy and use. A car, for instance, is not just a way to get from one place to another but has to “say something” about who we are — and even the lack of a car says volumes. Unlike the artisan who could express his or her identity through the things s/he created, we have learned to do so through the things we buy: the t-shirt with the logo of our band or team, the bamboo towels that show our environmental commitments, the alternative album that shows off our indie cred, the designer shoes that place us as part of the trend-setting elite, the minivan that shows us to be part of the dependable, hard-working, family-oriented suburban middle class, and so on."

The Christian Subculture has a market. That market embraces a brand. That brand has a message connected to it. That message serves the market and encourages ongoing participation in that market. It means providing reasons to continue purchasing these products day after day and week after week. The market serves itself. It exists to keep itself in business.

The Christian Subculture provides an oasis made of soothing products that help us escape from the Big Bad World that is "Out There". It's a sacred version of "Calgon-Take Me Away!" only our message is more pervasive. It's not just one soothing bath to calm our fears of being trapped in a world of sin, it’s our music and movies and clothing and books and toys and key chains and license plate frames and decals and candy and pens and pretty much every conceivable object and piece of product that can ever be branded with our message. It's nearly a complete world unto itself, and it's exactly what Jesus prayed to God would never happen to us. (see John 17:15)

I'm not against art or music or expressions of faith. Most of my favorite musicians are believers and their music contains references to our Lord and to faith in Him. Many of my friends are Artists who paint and sculpt and create art to communicate a Kingdom reality. The issue is not that creating art or any sincere expression of devotion to Christ is wrong. What is evil is the marketplace we've created to showcase product. In the beginning the market existed to serve the Art, now the Art exists to serve the marketplace. We have lost focus. Making money is now the main objective. Evangelism or edification or worship is secondary at best, if considered at all.

During my six years in the Christian Music Industry I slowly began to realize the sickness of it all. At first I saw the industry as a way to spread the Gospel and to provide a voice for talented musicians of faith. But soon I realized that it didn't matter if your music ministry was responsible for leading thousands to Christ each year. What mattered was record sales. If your CD's weren't selling at least 20,000 units per sales cycle you'd be dropped from the label in a heartbeat. It was, after all, a Record BUSINESS, and like every business making money and selling product is the very bottom line. Ministry is incidental, and sadly only useful in the context of marketing the product to your target audience, in order to drive more sales.

Like the money-changers in front of the Temple that Jesus chased away with a whip, the original idea was a good one; To provide animals for sacrifice so that people could enter the Temple and participate in the worship of God. However, when money got in the way the original vision was corrupted and the Temple became a marketplace which obscured access for the common man and made a mockery of real worship. The same is true today.

The tension still remains between the clear command of our Lord to "Go into all the world.." and a subculture that bears His Name, yet encourages a full retreat from the World and identifies membership based on purchasing the acceptable, branded product. The product carries a message that we should fear those outside of our group. It encourages non-involvement with the culture. It makes minimizing contact with those outside the subculture a preferable reality.

If Jesus modeled radical inclusion and commanded us to be known by our love for everyone, especially those who hate us, and a subculture emerges with His Name on it that encourages us to be radically exclusive and creates behavior by which we are known for our intolerance, hatred and condemnation of those outside our group, we must make a choice. Do we choose Jesus or do we choose the man-made subculture with his Name on it?

I choose Jesus.

If Jesus clearly teaches something, and another organization or person teaches the exact opposite we call that "Anti-Christ". To me it's plainly obvious that the Christian Subculture is "Anti-Christ" because it contradicts His message of inclusion, involvement and meaningful relationships with sinners.

I've said it before and I say it again; "Death to the Christian Subculture!"

Where can we fashion a whip and drive out the money-changers from the Temple? It's difficult because we now deal with this on a massive scale. Participation in this market-driven Christian Subculture is pervasive and intangible. There is no physical structure to kick over. There is no clear method for applying the whip necessary to drive them out.

All we can really do is to begin, one person at a time, to disassociate ourselves with this subculture. Stop participating. Stop identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus based on your purchases. Stop pandering to what the Christian Marketplace finds acceptable and palatable. Make Jesus your single source of Truth. Ask God to show you where you have replaced a Jesus way of life with a carefully branded subculture way of life. Escape the false notions of "Sacred" and "Secular" and just start living, as a disciple of Jesus, in this World (the only World), right now.

Originally posted here Oct. 2007

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Confessions of a Selfish Mind

There are nights when I look into the bathroom mirror, really look, deep into my own eyes, confessing truths to myself that never come through my lips or over my tongue.

I am weak. I am powerless. I am completely unable to love as I know I am called to love. My selfishness consumes me. My pride, like gravity, pulls me to the ground and holds my feet to the cold, hard earth. I am unable to fly.

Deeper still, I admit my inconsistencies. I desire to be great in the eyes of men, and yet I know that true greatness is found at the feet of men, washing in humility.

I have a spiritual gift to teach others, but I fear the celebrity associated with the title of "teacher" and so I sit silently. I bite my tongue.

In my pride I secretly hope that one day I might be recognized for my expertise asked to speak at large conferences and join the spiritual giants on the big stage, and yet at the same time I loathe the empty hype of events and the vanity of religious experts.

I am torn. But not yet in two.

So, now, God has asked me to allow His Holy Spirit to probe into my dark, sinful heart. The Great Physician has me on the table, the gleaming scalpel in his hand, and He is asking me to lay back and relax and trust Him as the surgery begins.

Oh how I need this circumcision of the heart. Oh, how I need to be made more like Him.

To do only what I see the Father doing is to love others, because that is what He is doing every moment of every day. Yet, I realize that I am powerless to love. Love is not my native tongue. Selfishness chokes on my best intentions. Only Jesus can make me like Himself. There is no good in me. None.

So, I lay back. I close my eyes. I whisper a prayer that God's hand would move swiftly and cut deeply and remove the rotten, infectious flesh from my heart.

I have tried to make these cuts myself, but my hands are not steady enough. My sympathy for my own comfort restrains my ability to fully complete the surgery. So, I nip here and tuck there. I choose a careful section of flesh and slice around the sensitive nerves where pride and selfishness thrive. I hold up the small tumor and wave it like a trophy. Look at what I have learned to live without. Look how I am willing to sacrifice.

But I know it is a lie. Better still, God knows it too. And when I look into those eyes in the silent mirror I cannot pretend any longer.

Only God can make these necessary incisions. Only the One who loves me more than He loves His own life can find the place where I hide my selfish dreams and drive home the knife and cut away the infected flesh and remove every last ounce of pride from my heart.

Only God can heal the wounds, sew me together, wipe my tears away and kiss me where it hurts.

Let it begin.

"Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar" - U2, "Magnificent"

"...circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code." - Romans 2:29

Originally posted here on April 2009

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The reason the New Testament church didn't have buildings? They WERE the building.

The reason the New Testament church didn't pay their elders, shepherds and overseers? Because you don't pay your family members to love you or care for you.

The reason the New Testament church didn't have any blood sacrifice (as every other religion around them did)? Because not only was Jesus the first and ultimate sacrifice, but this new temple, the new priesthood (that's us) also became the living sacrifices as well (see Romans 12).

So, fast forward 300 years and a Roman Emperor establishes a new way of doing church. He gives them buildings. He pays their leaders. This was a new addition. It had not been practiced until Constantine instituted it.

Fast forward another 400 years: The Church starts to require a tithe from their members. Before this only free will offerings were given.

Fast forward to our day and time: We're still paying our leaders and building temples to worship in.

I would submit that Jesus had a plan in mind for His Church. He communicated that plan eloquently. He modelled the leadership structure He expected. He knelt down and washed their feet. He told them to do the same to one another. He warned them not to "lord it over" their brothers or to call one another "Father" because they were all brothers and equals in the eyes of God.

The Family of God has one Father. His name is God. The Body of Christ has one head. His name is Jesus.

For over 700 years the church of Jesus took no tithes. All of the money freely given was collected and spent on the poor and the orphan and the widow.

That is New Testament Christianity. If you want to practice something else, something "new and improved" feel right at home. That's between you and the Lord.

But, as for me and my house, we will follow the New Testament and seek to "Be the Church" that Jesus commanded his disciples to be, by the Grace of God.

If you want to study the subject you will quickly see that the New Testament knows nothing of hierarchy. Plenty of Biblical scholars from all backgrounds and denominations agree on this point...even Catholic scholars! The NT church was not a hierarchy, it was a family.

We are not a franchise or a business, we are an organism that lovingly reciprocates mutual edification and love to anyone who is in Christ, regardless of differences in doctrine or eschatology.

If you want to be a leader in this Church, start serving people. Keep doing that until others around start to serve as you are serving and then you will know that you are leading people to be like Jesus. Remember to teach them how to pass along these things to others.

We are disciples of Jesus. We are called to make disciples who also turn around and make disciples who then make disciples.

The awesome Spirit of the Living God lives within each and every one of us. We are all capable of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and He is capable of making His voice heard if we will listen.

We are the temple. We are the priesthood. We are the living sacrifice.

We are the Church.


Monday, June 20, 2011

More Love, Less Politics

American Christians will always be frustrated by a desire to see our laws correspond with the Bible. The truth is, it never will. Why? Because our laws are built around a document called the Constitution, not the scriptures.

So, for example, if our courts have to determine whether or not it is legal to enforce a law that gives one set of rights to some people and a different set of rights to others, they will look at the Constitution and see that everyone is considered equal under the law and rule against that law.

Under the law of our land people have the right to enter into marriage with one another. Any law that gives this right to some people and takes it away for others will be considered unconstitutional.

Christians will always want those laws to be interpreted primarily by the Bible and secondarily by the Constitution, but since these two documents have different authors, and different purposes, they will not agree on most issues, including homosexual marriage.

When our nation was founded and our Constitution was written, they did not feel any need to write down laws which reinforced the morality and the common practice of society around them. It was a given. Therefore they wrote laws which, in tandem with their existing morality and observable societal norms, combined to create a harmonious nation of free people.

What has changed? Our Constitution is fundamentally the same, but the morality and practice of our society has changed. The laws we write cannot hope to touch our inner person. Laws do not change hearts.

If you hope to write and create laws to govern society you look to politicians and lawyers and presidents. However, if you hope to influence behaviors and change the heart of a person you look to clerics, priests, teachers and parents.

Our society has failed to live up to the ideals of our past because our churches have failed to pass on the morality and the practice of hospitality and brotherly love. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have not been known for our love. Our laws have stayed the same, but our Churches have gotten off track and lost focus.

American Christians have become so disillusioned with the world around them, and yet they have no one to blame but themselves. For the last several decades the Church in America has been embracing a mentality of retreat. We have created a neat and comfortable little version of the world with a cross on top where our interaction with "those unbelievers out there" is minimized as much as possible.

Because we have refused to be salt and light as Jesus commanded us, the society around us has slowly become more and more "un-Christian" and really, what else should we expect it to become like? If we have reduced our interactions with others, focused all of our time and energy on ourselves, built larger and more expensive buildings to hide in, and invested millions of dollars building empires of entertainment, fashion and communication to occupy our time and tell us what we want to hear, how else should our world have developed in our absence?

In our frustration we have now turned to politics to create the change we have failed to create by avoiding contact with unbelievers. Now we hope to dominate these people politically and have our way, regardless of whether or not they agree.

In some ways, I wonder if it's too late for any of this. Too late for us to get back to our original calling to love and serve and live out the selfless beauty of the Gospel. Too late to attempt any sort of dialog with people we have avoided for so very long. Too late to be the Church that Jesus intended for us to be.

The solution to the problems facing American society is not found in changing our laws, and even if it were that would be a job for a lawyer or a politician, not a follower of Jesus.

Our only job is to love and to serve and to model a society where all people are equally important in the eyes of God.

Let's do our best to obey our Lord and Savior when he commands us to be known for our love.

If it's not too late....

Originally published on this blog in 2008.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Listen: Keith Giles Interviewed on Bruce Collins Radio Show

In case you missed it, my interview with Bruce Collins of 1510 AM Radio in Boston is now available for download or online streaming.

WARNING: Bruce is a little strange. The first 30 minutes are a bit weird and there's a news segment before he gets to my interview, but I have to say it's worth the listen.

Bruce Collins interview me about my new book, "This Is My Body:Ekklesia as God Intended".

The Bruce Collins Show

Download a free ebook version of my book (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.) or a free PDF version

BTW- I'll be interviewed again on Stacy Harp's radio show next week (Wednesday). Look for that link coming soon, too.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hindsight Epiphanies

“Is there something you want to ask her?” the interpreter said to me. I paused for a moment and then shook my head. “No,” I said. “I don’t have anything to ask her.”

We were standing in the hot afternoon sun in Ensenada, Mexico, on the doorstep of a housing tract for migrant farm workers. The woman in question, probably around thirty years of age, was sweeping her front porch with a red broom. The floor was hard clay, but she swept it none the less. Her two boys, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with faded American slogans, circled around us. They looked to be elementary-age, but walked with the swagger and bravado of world-wise teens. The oldest one asked something in Spanish and our interpreter turned to the photographer next to me and said, “He wants to know if you would like to give him your sunglasses.” The young man next to me cocked his head and said, “I don’t think so” as we slowly began to turn away from the woman sweeping her porch.

The poverty was severe. Whole families were living in a single space not much bigger than my office cubicle back in the States. I stepped inside one of the corner units and saw that, unlike the room where the sweeping woman and her family lived, most were empty; the floor covered in empty beer bottles, old newspapers, candy and condom wrappers. Some had puddles of water in the center of the mud floor. There were flies. I could imagine the workers returning from the fields in a few hours, searching for an empty patch of ground to sit down or to rest their bones after a day’s work. I stepped back out of the cool darkness and into the warm sunlight to join my friends who were snapping pictures, murmuring quietly to one another in reverent tones.

Why was I here? It was a question whispered half to myself and half as a silent prayer.

I was here because my friend at the YWAM base here in Ensenada had asked me to come and speak to a group of students who were down to build houses for the poor in Mexico. I was here, in this migrant farmer housing area, because my friend had wanted to show me how people here lived. But, why was God putting me here? Why did He put me on this woman’s clay porch? Why did the interpreter ask me if I wanted to ask her any questions?

Eventually our little group mounted back into our air-conditioned SUV and rolled back out on to the dirt road to get something to eat. I watched the dogs chase us briefly in the rearview mirror until they became swallowed up in the silver gray dust of our tires.

Later that night, lying on my bed at the YWAM base, I replayed that scene over in my mind. “Do you want to ask her anything?” What would I ask her? What could I possibly need to know from her? It came to me quietly between slow breaths. “You could’ve asked her how you could pray for her.”

In my mind I saw us forming a circle around this woman, joining hands, praying through the interpreter for this woman’s family, for her sons, for her husband, for their daily bread, for God’s favor on their lives. Yes, I thought, the image in my mind of the prayer we did not offer fading softly. That’s what I could’ve asked her.

Lately I’ve grown weary of such hindsight epiphanies. This being only one of several I’ve had in the last few weeks. Why is it I do not think of these things at the moment, when they would actually do some good? Why is it I only think of what I should’ve said, or what I should’ve done, hours or days later? The dishes I should’ve washed without being asked. The floor I should’ve cleaned as an act of loving service for my friend. The prayer of blessing I should’ve offered the woman in Mexico. Why didn’t I consider these actions in the moment?

This answer came to me as I was on my knees in prayer recently. The reason I did not think of these things at the moment was because in that moment I was more concerned with my own agenda. I was in a hurry to go somewhere else. I was on my way to do something that I wanted to do. My agenda wasn’t submitted to Christ. This is why I couldn’t hear that still small voice; because my voice was too loud in my own ears.

Strangely enough, I am starting to think that this idea of dying to myself, taking up my cross daily to follow Jesus, is not as difficult as we make it out to be. Perhaps this is the most terrifying truth of all. It’s not impossible for me to wake up every day and say, “God, what’s your agenda? Make your agenda my agenda.” I can do that. It’s not that hard, really. But doing it means that I will have to give up something that I would prefer, or to share something that I really want to keep for myself, or to lay aside my preferences in favor of whatever God might call me to in that moment.

I’ve never been able to shake the story of two Christian martyrs from the second century who stood before the magistrate and professed Christ. The first man was asked, “Are you a Christian?” and when the man proclaimed his faith in Jesus he was taken a few feet away to have his skin ripped from his body. Then he was tied to a stake and as they made ready to burn him alive the magistrate turned to the second man and asked him, “And are you also a Christian?”

I put myself in the sandals of that second man and I wonder if I could answer, “Yes, I am a Christian” as he did. Perhaps if the penalty was having my head cut off or being quickly put to death, I could more easily affirm my faith in Christ. But to face such brutal torture, I’m not sure if I could do it. I’m not sure I have that kind of faith.

The other day as I was contemplating this very question I heard this sentence in my head saying, "the only way I will ever enter the Kingdom of God is if my flesh is stripped from me”. I know that this is true. One layer at a time, one day at a time, my flesh needs to die. Without this daily death I cannot follow Jesus. Without my cross there can be no crown.

Conversatio Morem!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've been running around today trying to help a family with a 3 week old baby. We met them on Sunday for the first time at the motel church. The father is hispanic and I believe he's here legally. The mother is from South Carolina but they're both unemployed right now. Living at the motel (for at least another week) until they figure something out.

What I'm learning is that all the different non-profits and shelters in Orange County are completely useless. Most of them have a waiting list of at least two weeks or more. None of them have empty beds to offer. And all of them have different hoops to jump through. The Christian groups won't help you if you aren't married. (They're not). Some of them require you to be employed and demand some or all of your paycheck, others require you to be unemployed and ask you to quit your job to enter their program. (So they can help you find a job later?) It's madness.

So, after making a few phone calls to people I know and trust, it came down to this: They could either take their 3 week old baby girl into a homeless shelter (Salvation Army) and sleep apart on either end of a segregated facility, or the mom could take her baby and sleep at a women's shelter (because they don't take men) and the father could sleep on a park bench and hope he didn't get arrested for "public camping".

What really breaks my heart is knowing that organizations that I've championed for years cannot do a thing to actually help these people. The truth is, I'm learning, they never were capable of actually helping anyone beyond the 10 or 12 people they were currently helping, even though they were receiving millions of dollars a year from the Government to fight homelessness in Orange County. (Most of their funding finances are spent on paying their staff and keeping the lights on in their facilities).

I think when it really comes down to it the only real solution to helping people like this are you and me. The followers of Jesus have to step up and help. We have to invest our lives in their lives. We have to let them sleep on our couches, or lend them money to buy food, or share our resources with them, or put them up in a motel until they can get help, or they will never get off the streets.

The system is designed to keep people on the streets. The motels they stay at nickel and dime them for every little thing. You can't use the phone in your motel room because the management charges you more than it costs to walk across the street to use the pay phone bolted to the telephone pole.

You can't get a job because you don't have a computer to type out a resume, or the money it takes to pay Kinko's $4 an hour to use their computer and print from their printers. Even if you do have that money, you still need more for the bus pass to get to the Kinko's, and with your 3 week old baby under your arm and no diapers or food for her, not to mention no food for yourself either, it's going to be hard to justify that $7 for a resume at Kinkos when your baby is crying out in hunger.

If you don't have a car and you spend your last $5.00 to take a 3 and a half hour bus ride to get your social security card and find out that they won't see you until you run over to the courthouse to get something signed or stamped (another 30 minute bus ride), then you've wasted an entire day for nothing. This sort of thing happens all the time.

All we can do is help one person, or one family like this, at a time. The system is broken. The shelters are full. The rescue mission is understaffed and their waiting lists are so long that people will die of exposure before they get one of those beds.

Only those who claim to follow Jesus can ever hope to make a difference. How? By giving until it hurts and by serving those who can never pay us back. By sharing what we don't want to give up and by allowing the problems of the homeless and the poor to become our problems.

We'll have to love more than we think we can. We'll have to give more than we're expecting to. We'll have to do even greater things than these.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Wooden Heart by Listener

*I discovered this spoken word poem and video online and had to share it. The words are below.

Such passion and truth in his voice and words. Beautiful.

WOODEN HEART (sea of mist called skaidan)
We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living
and since that first breath... We’ll need grace that we’ve never given
I've been haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts
and it's not only when these eyes are closed
these lies are ropes that I tie down in my stomach,
but they hold this ship together tossed like leaves in this weather
and my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,
stretched thin over my rib bones, and pray that it gets better
but it won’t won’t, at least I don’t believe it will...
so I've built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,
to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.
don’t let these waves wash away your hopes
this war-ship is sinking, and I still believe in anchors
pulling fist fulls of rotten wood from my heart, I still believe in saviors
but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks, every single board
washed and bound like crooked teeth on these rocky shores
so come on and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it
but we’re making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts
we all have the same holes in our hearts...
everything falls apart at the exact same time
that it all comes together perfectly for the next step
but my fear is this prison... that I keep locked below the main deck
I keep a key under my pillow, it’s quiet and it’s hidden
and my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right
but they’re heavy and I’m awkward...always running out of fight
so I’ve carved a wooden heart, put it in this sinking ship
hoping it would help me float for just a few more weeks
because I am made out of shipwrecks, every twisted beam
lost and found like you and me scattered out on the sea
so come on let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, just some tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

My throat it still tastes like house fire and salt water
I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea
if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together
and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep
all these machines will rust I promise, but we'll still be electric
shocking each other back to life
Your hand in mine, my fingers in your veins connected
our bones grown together inside
our hands entwined, your fingers in my veins braided
our spines grown stronger in time
because are church is made out of shipwrecks
from every hull these rocks have claimed
but we pick ourselves up, and try and grow better through the change
so come on yall and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, were just tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

*creditsfrom Wooden Heart Poems, released 06 July 2010

Find out more about the artist

Listen: Tomorrow (Saturday)

My Interview with Bruce Collins of AM 1510 is tomorrow, this Saturday at 11pm EST/ 8pm PST.

You can listen online at www.revolutionboston.com

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I have to believe that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (the Pharisees and the Sadducees) were both looking for a Messiah to come. Even if some of them were corrupt, selfish and prideful, most of them, I’m convinced, were honestly hoping that the Messiah would come as the Scriptures promised. But when he did come they totally missed him. Why? Here’s what I believe happened.

The religious leaders were expecting that the Messiah, when he came, would be their star player. He would be the All-Star Quarterback who would join their team, wear their team colors and take their team to the end zone for a glorious game-winning touchdown. That was the kind of Messiah they were expecting.

Instead, the Messiah that they got was one who said, “I’m starting my own team. Why don’t you guys join mine? I’ve got my own team colors and I’m happy to let you guys play as many minutes as you like. I’ve even got a wonderful plan to tear down this old stadium of yours and rebuild one more glorious than you can imagine.”

But the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t want to play on Jesus’ team. They wanted him to be their star quarterback, not their team owner, manager and coach. It wasn’t so much that they “missed” the Messiah, it’s that what he was asking of them was more than what they were expecting to give.

Recently our family watched the film, “The Gospel of John”. One thing that struck me as I watched this Gospel being acted out was how often Jesus’ teaching was directed straight at the Pharisees and Sadducees. Time and again he pointed out their hypocrisy, he appealed to them to believe in him, he pleaded with them to join his team. They just couldn’t let go of their agenda, their vision, in order to embrace his. Because to join his team would be to humble themselves and submit to him, publicly. They just couldn't do it.

My good friend Greg Russinger recently said, “The Gospel is that Jesus invites you and I into His life, not that we invite Him into our lives”. This is so scandalous, and yet so very true. We’ve told ourselves that we have to ask Jesus to come and live in our life, but the Gospels never teach this. Jesus never suggested anything of the sort. He doesn’t want to be our Co-Pilot. He wants to be the Pilot. He wants us to enter into His life and we can only do that if we lay down our lives completely.

Life is only found in Christ. He is the vine. We are branches. Without Him we can do nothing. So, of course, if we want life we have to come to Him and receive it. If we won't come to Him, we can't receive life.

Jesus says, "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)

Before we write off the Pharisees completely, the truth is that many of them actually did get it eventually, including Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Paul the Apostle himself.

The lesson for us is to realize that Jesus doesn’t want us to bring him into our life. Instead, He wants us to give up on our life, to lay it aside forever, and to enter into the life that He wants to give us – His life!

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Jesus, Team Captain, Matthew 10:39

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Paul, former Pharisee, Colossians 3:2-4

I hear that Jesus is starting a new team. Want to join?



In case you missed it, here's a link to listen to my one hour interview with Derek Gilbert of View from the Bunker Radio Show in Illinois about my new book, "This Is My Body:Ekklesia as God Intended".



Monday, June 06, 2011


What are the marks of a healthy church?

About a year or so ago, a friend of mine on Facebook posted a video clip for something called "9 Marks of a Healthy Church" by a popular christian leader.

Of course, on this guy's list "The Gospel" came in at #3, right behind "Expositional Preaching" at #1 and "Biblical Theology" at #2. In the #4 slot was "Conversion", followed by "Evangelism", "Membership", "Church Discipline" and (finally) that crazy idea that Jesus came up with - "Discipleship" at #8, and "Church Leadership" closed out the list. (We can't leave that one out, can we?)

So, of course, after some reflection I had to come up with the 9 Marks of our Mission House Church:

1- Giving 100% of our money to the poor
2- Loving one another
3- Loving others
4- Making disciples
5- Serving one another
6- Encouraging one another
7- Knowing and using our spiritual gifts to bless one another
8- Sharing meals together
9- Learning to be the family of God

BTW- Our house church has no expository preaching, no youth group, no paid staff, no programs, no board of directors, no building, and no bank account.

This is still the best thing I've ever done with the word "Church " on it!


Wednesday, June 01, 2011


The following article was written by Jon Zens and appeared in SEARCHING TOGETHER MAGAZINE, Winter, 1991.

"Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, says he has been assured by Prime Minister Menachem Begin that Israel eventually will control an area that includes parts of Egypt and Turkey. Begin shares the Biblical view of the promised land said Falwell in a copyright story in Sunday's editions of the Tyler Courier-Times Telegraph. He said Begin, whom he termed a personal friend, told him that the first book of the Bible predicts Israel eventually will have boundaries on the Euphrates and Nile rivers and will include portions of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait." Eugene Register-Guard (Eugene. OR), Feb. 7, 1983.

The above Israel-centered sentiments reflect one popular viewpoint among Bible-believers in America. Adherents of this view believe that all nations must bless and protect Israel or incur God's wrath. Few, however, realize that this particular prophetic perspective began in England with the Irvingites and J.N. Darby in the 1830's. This outlook had never before been suggested in the history of Christian thinking. Yet, because of seven trips that Darby made to America during his lifetime in the nineteenth century, his views ultimately came to dominate among evangelicals in the States.

The essence of this position is that God has two purposes in history, an earthly one with Israel and a heavenly one with the church. From this vantage point what transpires in the world is Israel-centered. Hence, Charles Feinberg's 1980 hook is titled Israel: At The Center Of History and Revelation (Multnomah Press). As a result, the literature on "prophecy" that fills the shelves of bookstores brings readers the following dogmatic opinions:

What is God's will for today? This can be put into one word: Israel. Israel is the final chord of a scriptural age and at the same time she is the prelude to a new age, the millennium, the thousand years of peace. The eternal God is busy today fulfilling his holy will, that is, concerning Israel herself.... All nations are compelled today to do God's will so that it is actually being said to Israel, "be built" and to the temple "be laid."

This two-purposes theory, which came to be called "Dispensationalism," carries with it a peculiar notion about Israel's "right" to certain geographical territory in Palestine. Proponents of this view claim that God has given Israel that land "forever." If she has a "divine right" to this soil, then it is easy to see how this provides justification for all types of military conflict, and causes a stumbling block to peaceful political solutions in the Middle East. (Of course, the problem is compounded since all Middle Eastern nations claim that God is with them).

Does Israel have God's sanction to possess a land in these days? Must Christians support Israel because God is with her in some special way? Is this post-1948 nation the center of history? Is Christ or Israel the focus of God's revelation? These and other questions will be addressed in what follows.

God Promised a Land to Abraham
In Genesis 12:5-7 God spoke to Abraham and promised, "to your seed I will give this land." This foundational promise to Abraham is the premise for contemporary claims that God has given a specific land to Israel "forever." However, it is significant that Paul saw these words given to Abram-"in you all the nations will be blessed" - as an announcement of the gospel to the Gentiles, not as an indication of Israel's centrality as a measuring stick for world events (Gal. 3:8).

God Sealed This Promise in a Covenant Ceremony
In Genesis 15:7-21 God makes a covenant with Abraham which was ratified by God symbolically passing through the pieces of meat. The giving of a defined territory is at the heart of this solemn ceremony: "to your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates; the Kenites, the Kenizites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perrizites, the Rephaims, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and Jesushites."

In the midst of this covenant-making event, the future of Israel is spelled out: bondage in Egypt for 400 years; the judgment upon Pharaoh; the Exodus; and entrance into the land described above in the fourth generation.

God Fulfilled This Abrahamic Promise Later in History
It is clear from a number of Old Testament statements that the land-promise to Abraham was indeed fulfilled. The land was given delineated in Genesis 15, and several verses in Joshua are especially forceful in this regard:

So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and He gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions (Josh. 11:23).... So the Lord gave Israel all the land He has sworn to their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their forefathers....Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled (Joshua 21:41-45).

There are many other Old Testament scriptures that echo this fulfillment theme (Gen. 28:13-15; 1 Kings 4:21, 8:56; Deut. 28; Exodus 3:17, 6:8; Deut. 30:20, 1:8, 7:2, 11:23, 34:1-4; Joshua 23:13-16; Neh. 9:8, 21-25). If the territorial dimension of the Lord's promise to Abraham was fulfilled, as these scriptures assert, this raises serious questions about the propriety of suggesting that twentieth-century "Israel" has a divine claim to this land. The Lord accomplished His word: He gave the descendants of Abraham the land described in Genesis 15:18-21. To purport that God has somehow not yet fulfilled the land-promises, or that they actually came to fruition in 1948, is to stretch the original prophetic word to Abraham beyond recognition.

Israel's Remaining in this Land was Conditioned on Obedience
There are many verses in Deuteronomy that reflect the foundation of the Mosaic covenant, "do this and live," with respect to the land. If Israel ever went after other gods and broke the covenant, she was assured by God that she would be "cast out of the land." Abiding in the land God had given to them was linked to their faithfulness. Unfaithfulness had serious consequences.

Israel's later history reflected the implications of her disobedience. The land was invaded by foreigners, and Israel was captive in a strange land. As time went on the Israelites were "dispersed" to various places in the world. It is this "casting out'' of Israel from the land that sets the stage for a future concept of regathering into that lost territory.

The New Testament Perspective on Israel and the Land
The New Testament teaches that the formation, history and institutions of Israel were types and shadows of spiritual realities that would come in the days of the Messiah (Heb.8:1-5; 1 Cor.10:18). The essential elements of Israel's life as a covenant people (prophet, priest, king, sacrificial system, ark of the covenant, etc.) were all fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27, 44-45; Rom.15:8; 2 Cor.1:20).

The preparatory nature of the Mosaic economy must be underscored. The law-covenant had an historical beginning and ending (Ga1.3:17, 19, 25). The old covenant was temporary and lasted only "until the Seed (Christ) had come." When the fulfillment had come there was no reason to continue the types and shadows (Co1.2:16-17). Israel as an earthly people separated to God by the Exodus was to be fulfilled by Christ, whose obedience unto death constituted a New Exodus that would separate a New Covenant people for God's service.

It is only in this light that the "promised land" must be evaluated. The land given to Israel was never intended to be an end in itself. It pointed to something better in the future. Even Abraham who received the promises did not focus on earthly geography, but rather on a "better country - a heavenly one. . . whose architect and builder is God" (Heb.ll:16,10). Like other aspects of Israel's covenant life, the land was a picture of gospel realities to come, not an ongoing entity to be somehow reclaimed in the future by an earthly people in 1948.

The concept of "Israel" is fulfilled both in Christ and in the new people of God, the body of Christ. Jesus, like Israel, is called out of Egypt (Matt.2:15) and finds Himself in the wilderness (Matt.4:1-2). Jesus, unlike Israel, is obedient to the covenant and is the "faithful servant" referred to in the Prophets.

In light of the emphasis given to alleged unalterable promises made to Israel about the land, it is instructive to recall that God's words were addressed to Abraham and his "seed." This "Seed," says Paul, was singular and refers to Christ, not to an earthly people (Ga1.3:16). Thus, for example, the promised offspring to Abraham must be seen as an innumerable company of believers, not as a regathering of an earthly nation (Ga1.3:29; Rev.5:9, 7:9). The physical descendants of Abraham, who indeed became like the sand of the sea in number, were a picture of the harvest Christ would accomplish in the gospel age from every tribe, kindred and people. For this reason believers can be referred to by Paul as "the Israel of God" (Ga1.6:16).

The Rise of "Zionism"
Because Israel was cast out of the covenant land and forced to exist in cultures outside of Palestine, it is not surprising that as history elapsed a new form of Israelite nationalism would arise. From the time of Constantine onwards those attached to the synagogues had a rough time functioning in other countries. They were often persecuted, mistreated, misunderstood and discriminated against. Nevertheless, being hard workers, they tended to prosper in their trades and businesses.

"Zion" came to refer to the deep attachment most Jews had for their homeland. "Zionism" is primarily a modern movement that arose out of some social struggles of the nineteenth century. Anti-Semitism, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia, caused the Jews to long for a rebirth of Judaism. This became connected to their "right" to the old promised land.

"Zionism" was divided into two camps. Some, like Ahad Ha'am, focused on spiritual renewal. But the major thrust, which was essentially political and nationalistic, came from men like Moses Hess, Leo Pinsker and Theodor Herzl.

In the late nineteenth century some wealthy Jews in Western Europe helped assist in the establishment of small Jewish colonies in Palestine. In this context, Theodor Kerzl's per Judenstaat, "The Jewish State" (1896), became the foundation for modern Zionism. He came to the conclusion that a homeland for the Jews was the only solution to the mistreatment they were experiencing in most other places. Under his guidance the first Zionist Congress met in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and the World Zionist Organization was formed.

A proposal for a Jewish homeland obviously created a serious conflict with those already living in Palestine. What would happen to those already occupying this region? Would these people leave peacefully so that Jews could live in ''their'' land?

Herzl's ideas were passed on to a Russian-born Jew, Chaim Weizmann, in 1904. Because of his discovery of a powerful explosive called cordite (he was a chemist at the University of Manchester), Weizmann was brought into prominence. He used his influence to try and get the British government to conquer Palestine, hold it for Jewish immigration and settlement, and then allow the land to be used for British interests. Through a series of events the British took over Jerusalem in December of 1917. Then in the Balfour Declaration it was stated that Britain favored the establishment of a home in Palestine for the Jews, but not to the hurt of those already living in the area.

Needless to say, in the ensuing years tensions began to mount between Jewish settlers and the Arab population. The Biltmore Conference (May, 1942), led by David Ben-Gurion, stated that British-controlled Palestine should become Jewish property. This alarmed many Jews, and as a result an anti-Zionist organization - The American Council for Judaism - was formed in May of 1943.

With the knowledge of Hitler's atrocities against the Jews coming to light in May of 1945, the Zionist program regained strength and support. But Arabs resisted the importation of Jews into the land.

In 1947 the British turned over their control of Palestine to the newly-formed United Nations Organization. Under much political pressure, the U.N. finally partitioned off' a small portion of the land (the size of Vermont) for the Jews in November of 1947. As the British withdrew in 1948, armed groups of Zionists forced thousands of Arabs to leave their homes. In the midst of this conflict there was a declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Since then there has been constant pressure for Jews to return to "the land." World Zionism looks upon this State as the home of all Jews. The Justification for Occupying "The Land" In order to justify the many political and military actions necessary to establish, maintain, defend and expand "the land," Zionists have used many Old Testament texts. Inherent in this approach is the idea that God is on Israel's side, and that He has purposed for her to possess this land. With this foundation a rationale is provided to kill people, to displace thousands of people, and to do what it takes to "rule."

"Support Israel or Experience God's Wrath"
- Jerry Falwell

To add to the problem many conservative Christians believe that the Old Testament supports Israel's right to the land, and they see May 14, 1948, as an amazing fulfillment of "prophecy." Those who hold to this perspective believe that Christians must be pro-Israel. Jerry Falwell asserted at a meeting of religious broadcasters, "theologically, any Christian has to support Israel, simply because Jesus said to." During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Oral Roberts confidently posited, "there is no way Israel is going to be defeated, according to the Bible." Thus many television and radio preachers and Christian leaders fervently encourage their followers to support Israel in her efforts to maintain the land, and even exhort believers to contribute financial aid for Israel's cause.

Based on God's promise to Abraham -- "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" -- many preachers are dogmatic in saying that all nations must support Israel or be doomed to the worst calamities. This leads to the conviction, of course, that the USA must support Israel's cause or experience God's wrath, as Jerry Falwell suggested. Tremendous pressure is exerted by pro-Israel forces upon our State Department not to do anything that would violate our good relations with Israel. To compound this problem, recent U.S. Presidents have embraced the notion of Israel's divine right to the land.

"God Is With Us"
The position of the Zionists and of many Christians creates many serious problems. If God is on Israel's side, then it becomes virtually impossible to critique her policies and actions. In principle, whatever Israel does must be right since God backs her supremacy in the land. We must never forget, however, that "God is with us" was inscribed on the belt buckles of those who burned Jews in ovens. History reveals that the "God is with us" slogan has often been behind the worst of atrocities.

God Is Not With Israel or Any Other Nation
In the former days God did separate Israel for Himself and gave her the land promised to Abraham. Israel was special among all the nations of the earth (Deut.7). But ultimately the blessing upon Abraham was to be given to all the nations (Matt.28:19-20). With the coming of Christ God fulfilled all the promises to the fathers (Rom.15:8). In this age, "God does not show favoritism, but accepts people from every nation who fear Him and do what is right'' (Acts 10:34).

All of Israel's institutions were fulfilled in Christ - including the land concept Heb. 3-4). The Old Testament clearly states that God kept His word and gave the land to Israel. The notion that God had to give the land "again" is without Biblical foundation.

There is nothing wrong with Jews living in a certain land, but to claim a "divine right" to it and to employ this claim as a basis for disputing, hurting, and killing others is wrong. God is not with people when they manipulate and intimidate others. God uses the wicked actions of people in His purposes, but He does not sanction them.

Concluding Thoughts
The Middle East conflicts have no easy solution. But we can be sure that a solution for the benefit of ail involved cannot be realized as long as many Jews and Christians continue to maintain that God is with Israel in the taking of "the land." The "divine right" notion will only block efforts for peace in the Middle East. It can only serve as continued justification for taking the lives of others in "serving God's cause."

More importantly, however, it must be noted that the Israel-centeredness of much Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism diverts attention away from the One whom God has set His seal upon - Jesus Christ (John 6:27; Matt.3:17). People are blessed or cursed not by how they treat Israel, but by how they respond to the claims of Christ upon their lives (Psalm 2:12; 1 Cor.16:22). God's purpose focuses on the Son, not on an earthly nation (Eph.3:ll). God is not ruling all things with reference to Israel, but with reference to the body of Christ on earth (Eph.l:22). The unfolding of the future is not gauged by what happens to Israel, but by what Christ is doing to build His congregations.
The Scriptures - Old and New - specifically tell us how God is with us. Jesus' name was Immanuel - "God with us." God is with those who are in his Son, not with any nation. In this sense, then, He is with all those believers who are "in Christ."

-Jon Zens