Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011: The Year in Review and a look ahead at 2012


This was a very productive year for me. I (finally) published my book, "This Is My Body:Ekklesia as God Intended" after three long years of writing - and re-writing. So, to say I'm proud of this accomplishment is an understatement. Not only did I receive an endorsment (and a foreword) from my friend Jon Zens, but also from New Testament scholars like Dr. Scott Barthcy (UCLA), and popular bloggers (Alan Knox, Will Rochow), and friends (Kent Williamson, Arnie Adkison, Crissy Brooks). I also managed to score four radio interviews to promote the book with Derek Gilbert (A View from the Bunker), Bruce Collins, and Active Christian Media - a first for me.

In addition to all this, I was also able to offer an actual e-book version of my book, thanks to the kindness of Jon Philpott who not only created the e-book, he also set up a landing page where people could download it, and he offered free tech support for anyone who needed help making it work on their Kindle, Nook, iPad or other e-book reader.

I also published a collection of my interviews over the last few years under the title [Subversive Interviews]. This collection includes my conversations with author Walter Kirn (Up In The Air, Thumbsucker), Dallas Willard, Todd Hunter, John Fischer, Matt Redman, Jim Wallis, Dr. Scott Bartchy, Dr. G.K. Beale and others. 
This year I also used my newly obtained passport to travel down to Ensenada, Mexico to speak to students about the Gospel of the Kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus, daily.

At my work I won a Silver Davey Award for my copywriting and concepting on the 2011 "Spot On" Marketing Symposium video, and I wrote a series of articles for the Sales and Marketing column in Channel Advisor Magazine, some of which were re-published in another trade magazine.

My blog won first place in the "Christ at the Checkpoint" blogging contest, which means I'll soon be the proud owner of a new iPod Touch. So, maybe my posts here can be written and posted via WiFi now. We'll see.

On Twitter I finally passed the 1,000 followers milestone, in spite of being myself. Go figure.

This year, Ken Eastburn (The Well House Church Network) and I also partnered together to host monthly Organic Church Forums at Fuller Seminary in Irvine. This allowed us to invite people like Steve Gregg, David Ruis, Bob Sears, Paul and Lori Byerly, and others to share about New Testament ekklesia, caring for the poor, and what it means to follow Jesus together.

We also got to partner with Ron Wilbur (Saddleback Church) to plant a new organic church at the motel in Santa Ana.
Our house church family got to baptize a few people, help buy groceries for people in need, and learn to love one another more.

On the personal front, I was blessed to spend another amazing year with my lovely and inspiring wife, Wendy, who keeps me grounded and out of trouble (most of the time). I also got to disciple my boys, Dylan and David on how to love God and serve others and live our faith every day of our lives. I've only got a handful of years left to do this so I treasure these opportunities.

Our family also got to visit Washington, DC together and see some amazing things like the Holocaust Museum, the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum, Ford's Theater, and of course all the monuments. 
This was also the year that I got to learn more about what God is doing at Isaiah House in Santa Ana, and to partner more with John and Marti Fischer, Thomas Crisp, Chase Andre and Dwight Smith.


WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012?
It's hard to say what's on the horizon for the new year. I've been playing with a few ideas, like starting a bible study on the book of Hebrews in our house church family, or possibly starting a bible study at my work on the Gospel of John, or Matthew.
I've also got the PACIFIST FIGHT CLUB event coming early in January with Thomas Crisp, Shane Crash, Brandt Russo, Crissy Brooks, Wendy Tarr, Thomas Nixon, and myself. Can't wait for this, actually.
I've also planned a few new publishing ventures such as:
*[SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND]  - A "best of" collection of my articles from the now-defunct weekly e-newsletter that ran for about three years.
*THE POWER OF WEAKNESS - This book has been on the back burner a long, long time. Maybe next year it will finally see the light of day.
*THIS IS MY BODY (Hardback edition) - Lulu offers a hardback option and with the e-book version recently topping 3,000 downloads, I thought it might be a good idea to offer a special hardback version. We'll see.


NEW BOOK PROJECT
In addition to the books above, I've been in the process of researching my next book. So far the working title is "WAR IS NOT CHRISTIAN" but that could change. The book will probably deal mainly with how the American Church needs to separate her faith from her politics and also how being a follower of Christ should mean we're non-violent. The Pacifist Fight Club event will certainly bleed into this book project, I'm sure.
Beyond all this, who can say? I would love to do more teaching and public speaking. I'd love to write more articles on faith and culture. I'd love to see more people come to faith in Christ through our house church family and our work at the motel. I'd love to see my sons grow in their faith.

Above all, I'd love to go deeper in my daily walk with Christ.

Here's to another great year.

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

“Have you asked Jesus into your life?”


Most of us who consider ourselves Christians would probably refer to the day we asked Jesus into our lives as the beginning of our journey with Christ. However, if you look throughout the New Testament you won’t find anyone ever doing such a thing.

The Gospel most of us heard was that we need to pray a prayer so that when we die we can go to Heaven. That’s also not part of the actual Gospel that Jesus or the Disciples preached.

Instead what we find is Jesus inviting us to come into His life. He says that our lives need to be surrendered, given up, let go so that we can embrace His life.

In fact, every time Jesus refers to our life he does so to emphasize how we should lay it down or die to ourselves. He never asks us to let him into our empty, broken, screwed up lives. He just asks us to realize that it’s not worth holding on to so we can see that real, true life is found only in Him.

Just look at what Jesus says about the difference between our life and His Life:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” - Matthew 16:25

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

“I am the bread of life.” – John 6:48

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” – John 6:51

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:31

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” – John 5:39-40

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” – John 5:21

And the Apostle John says this about Jesus: “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:4

So, according to Jesus, what we should do is to abandon our life – our whole life – and come into the real, true, eternal life that He offers us right here and now.

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:37

Have you asked Jesus to let you into His life? There’s a huge difference between Jesus tagging along with you while you live your life and letting go of your life to fully embrace the astounding, incredible life of Jesus, the Messiah.

Remember: God is not your co-pilot. He’s either the pilot or you’re on the wrong plane.

-kg

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Join Us For Pacifist Fight Club in January

I'd like to invite you to join me and several friends for Pacifist Fight Club on Saturday, January 14th, 2012 at Fuller Seminary in Irvine, CA.

This will be a day long event to explore issues like poverty, social justice, non-violence, and other important topics.

Our format will be dialog and discussion, not talking heads and taking notes. We invite you to come and learn and to share your perspectives with others.

Admission is free, but we do ask that you bring your own lunch or make plans to grab something nearby during our lunch break.

Our Fighters are:
Crissy Brooks
Brandt Russo
Shane Crash
Thomas Crisp
Chase Andre
Wendy Tarr
Thomas Nixon
and you!

Find out more info at
http://www.PacifistFightClub.com

Please make plans to be there. I look forward to this important conversation on topics that matter to the Body of Christ.

-kg

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A LETTER FROM INDIA

For just over a year or so I've been corresponding with a brother in Christ who lives in India. His name is Vilbert Vallance. With his permission I wanted to share his most recent email with all of you. Please keep him in your prayers as he serves our Lord Jesus in India.
-kg
**

My dear brother Keith,

Greetings in His name. These days are busy. I just reached back to Raichur after visiting about 6 villages. The reason I took this trip is, in India's towns and villages, right in front of the churches and mosques, even outside temples usually on Sundays in front of church, on Fridays in front of masques, and other days in from of hindu temple, we see beggars and lepers sit begging for alms.

well, many give to them after church, or after the friday prayers. I was trying to challenge the pastors, "how about making this Christmas different?" I told them after the Christmas service please invite these beggars, lepers INTO THE CHURCH to sing few songs, and pray for them and give them either money or clothing. This will make them happy and increase their dignity, and ultimately, after all, they too are made in the image of God. Let the lepers sit inside, the church, let the beggars enter into the church, etc.

Well I dont know if they will do it, however I challenged them to do. Please pray. This is the burden the Lord has placed in my heart to show our love to people who are deprived of their basic needs. Please do pray.

Well, brother Keith, I am a very small person. I do not wish to form an organization I just want to do what the Lord puts in me the most. We as family have decided to invite beggars into our home and share the love of Christ. On the Christmas afternoon we plan to have a Christmas with cousin's lunch, this is mainly for Muslim friends. Please continue to pray for us. Thank you so much for your love. Iam in the internet centre, people are wating for me to complete typing.

Thank you so much for your love.
We love you with the love Jesus

In Christ,
vilbert

**

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CONCENTRIC CIRCLES OF LOVE


We talk a lot in the house church movement about "Being the Church" versus "Going to Church" but what does that really mean? What does it look like in practical terms to "be the Church"?

I can only speak for myself and share what we've experienced in our own house church family regardign this idea. A few years ago, when my wife Wendy and I started a house church out of our home called "The Mission," part of our rationale for that name was to serve as a reminder to all of us that, as followers of Christ, we are all missionaries. This means that we all have a mission field. Yours may look different from mine, but being a follower of Christ means living out our own individual mission or calling.

For some of us our mission field might be our Fifth grade class that we teach every day. For others it may be the homeless in our community. For still another it might be a handful of young people we're taking the time to tutor after school, or it may simply be our neighbors across street.

The important thing is to realize that we have a mission and to help encourage one another to live out our calling to have an impact for Christ in that mission field.

One illustration that we've developed to help us understand how to live this out in our daily lives is something called "Concentric Circles of Love". Here's how it works:

Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He said the second greatest command "is like the first" - to love our neighbor as ourselves.

What did he mean, "the second (loving others) is like the first?" I think the New Testament is pretty clear that how we love God is reflected in the way we treat others.

"If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."(1 John 4:20-21)

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" - Matt 25:40


So, the way we love others reflects our love for God, and vice versa. This is where the concentric circles come in.

If we ever really hope to obey Jesus in this area of loving God and loving others we have to start with loving God. Why? Because the love we need to share with others isn't our own brand of love. It's the "agape" love of God that isn't selfish or arrogant. That kind of love isn't in us by nature. We can only receive it from God.

So, at the center of our circle we need to spend time learning how to love God. But that's only the beginning. The next circle is our immediate family; our spouse, our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters. If we can't love those people with the love of Christ we have no hope of loving total strangers.

The next circle is the Church family. I believe that Jesus commanded us to love one another because He knew how hard this would really be. Love isn't easy. Especially if we follow Jesus and love others sacrificially - putting their needs ahead of our own.

Next we need to practice loving our neighbors, our co-workers - the people God has put us in community with on a regular basis. This is our mission field. We need to cultivate the love we receive from God in the inner circle, share that love with our family and church, and allow it to drive us (or "compel us") to serve our co-workers and neighbors in Jesus' name.

On the outside circles we need to share the love of Christ with the poor, the homeless, the outcast and the lost. And, our ultimate goal is to bring those on the outer circles deeper inside the circle. This means we want the outcast and the stranger to be welcomed into the community of faith, into the warmth of our homes, and into the love of Christ.

Beyond learning how to love God and love others we also need to practice receiving the love of God and receiving love from others. Love is not a one way street.

I think this can be one of the most challenging aspects of "being church" together. Washing the feet of another person is always easier than being the one who is having their feet washed. It involves humility and transparency.

Keep in mind that all of us should happen holistically. It's not a "step one, step two" process. In other words, if we wait until we get really good at the first or the second circle, we'll never move on to the other circles.

The truth is, we're all constantly learning how to love God and love others in our lives at the same time. The important thing is not to neglect one over the other, and to always remember that everything flows from that center circle who is our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This illustration is only part of what it means to "Be the Church" but it's a great place to start.

-kg

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

ANTITHESIS: JESUS AND JONAH



Jesus makes an interesting comment in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees and the Sadducees demand a sign from him to prove he is the Messiah.

"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed." (Matthew 16:4 ESV)

Now, of course, we know that what Jesus meant by "the sign of Jonah" was that he would spend three days in the tomb and raise from the dead, just as Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish. But, Jesus doesn't explain this to them here. He just makes the statement and then "he left them and departed".

I started to wonder what they may have understood him to mean by "the sign of Jonah" since it could mean anything. As I began to speculate on how they might have received the words of Jesus here I realized something fascinating about Jonah and Jesus - They are absolute opposites.

Jonah was a reluctant prophet. Jesus willingly left the splendor of heaven and humbled himself to become one of us - even submitting himself to death upon the cross. (see Philippians 2:5-11)

Jonah was sent to a pagan land. Jesus was sent to the House of Israel. (See Matthew 15:24)

Jonah was sent to proclaim a message of judgment and doom. Jesus was sent to deliver "Good News" of blessing that the Kingdom of God was coming to Earth. (See Luke 4:18)

Jonah's message was received with repentance which resulted in mercy. Jesus' message was received with opposition that resulted in his crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. (See Luke 19:41-44; Matthew 24:1-28)

So, Jesus and Jonah couldn't be more different. They were sent to different people with different messages that were received in divergent ways with radically different results. Sort of like when you press a signet ring into soft clay or wax and the impression left behind reflects the empty spaces of the original.

It kind of makes me wonder if the "Sign of Jonah" isn't about more than just the resurrection of Christ. Maybe Jesus left this illustration unexplained so that those he left behind could meditate on Jonah and perhaps see Jesus in the negative space.

-kg