Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: The Jihad of Jesus by Dave Andrews

In many ways, this book would make a great follow-up for those who have already read “Muslims, Christians and Jesus” by Carl Medearis, which I highly recommend.

Medearis’ book is a great place to start, especially for Christians who need to have their illusions shattered about who Muslims are and what they think of Jesus [or “Isa” as they know him best].

This book, by Dave Andrews, is a great book to read after you’ve read “Christians, Muslims and Jesus” because it takes a more academic approach – where Medearis takes a more personal and anecdotal approach to the topic.

Another reason I would recommend this order of reading the two books is that Dave Andrews’ book doesn’t take the time to demonstrate what we have in common with Muslims – other than to point out that both Christians and Muslims have been guilty of bloody, war-mongering and various atrocities in the name of God.

So, for me, Andrews takes a more negative approach, whereas Medearis takes a more positive one.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t find Andrews’ book enjoyable. Far from it. I underlined and highlighted nearly half of the book which typically indicates that I was being challenged by something he said, or that I was marking areas that I wanted to come back to later and reconsider more in depth.

The book is broken up into two parts. The second part of the book is really what I found the most fascinating and insightful. He kicks this section off [in Chapter 4] with “Reframing Jihad as a Method of Nonviolent Struggle”. This chapter unpacks an excellent overview of another book called “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about how men are not really “natural born killers”. On the contrary, it is the pervasive tendency for men to avoid killing others that motivates the military to systematically re-train [read “brainwash”] their soldiers to overcome.

I covered that in a previous blog [Un-Status Your Quo], but for the sake of this review I’ll re-state this section again:

How Soldiers Are Conditioned To Kill:
Frame killing as protecting or saving lives - The only way to save lives of those you love is to kill others.
Portray the enemy as sub-human - It’s easier to kill people if you don’t identify with them or if you think of them as “evil” or as animals.
Demand obedience to leaders - Men will do almost anything if they are under strong social pressure to comply.
Develop the capacity for collective violence - Accentuate their fear of letting their squad down. Diffuse responsibility across the group.
Increase the distance between the trigger and the target - It’s easier to kill from a distance with drones, missiles, bombs, etc. Talk about firing at targets, not people. Speak of sinking ships, not of drowning sailors. Frame the violence so it is an object being destroyed, not another human being.*

The book goes on to point out how these same methods are being employed by our media to socialize us towards the redemptive qualities of violence.

Violence is an almost inescapable part of our culture today. So, it’s no wonder that most of us view violence as a means to solve problems or to achieve a better world.

Andrews hopes to awaken us to this deception of the age, and I am in complete solidarity with him on this point.

Later on, in this same chapter, Andrews goes on to say:

“Separating religion from politics does not mean we do not bring our faith and the ethics derived from our faith to bear on our politics in terms of our discussions about politics. To the contrary, all real believers cannot help but bring their faith and ethics derived from their faith to bear on their politics…But separating religion from politics means not using our particular religion for party political purposes as a means of manipulation or exploitation to gain or retain power. For our faith to be “non-political” means for it to be “non-partisan” and “not-imposed”.”

I couldn’t agree more!

His conclusion is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Having built a strong foundation for us in the previous chapters which provided details about how both Islam and Christianity have been polluted by those who seek to manipulate the faithful and circumvent the peaceful aspects of their founder’s teachings in order to reframe faith and nationalism as a singular idealogy, Andrews ends with a look at the Sermon on the Mount. He suggests that Christians should return to the manifesto of Jesus if they truly seek to accomplish the will of God and to become peacemakers who follow the example of Jesus.

It was a personal thrill for me to see that Andrews even quoted Erica Chenoweth’s excellent study “Why Civil Resistance Works” to validate the effectiveness of nonviolence as a means to disarm oppressors and end conflict. [Fans of the “Pacifist Fight Club” take note].

Overall, the book was a refreshing and much-needed exploration of Islam and Christianity, without all the over-emotional nonsense that typically permeates most discussions these days.

If you’re willing to lay aside your prejudices about Muslims and enter into a thoughtful study of how followers of Jesus might actually reach out and bring peace to our world today, I think “The Jihad of Jesus” is an excellent place to begin.


FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


A dear friend shared this song with me recently.

The bridge of the song says: “Here I am at your feet, in my brokenness complete”

I started to wonder, "Is that true?"

Actually, no. We are complete in Christ, not in our brokenness. 

Our brokenness is what Jesus removes from us. He makes us whole and perfect and qualified and partakers of the Divine Nature, and new creations.

We are not "complete in our brokenness", we are hidden with Christ in God, we are without blemish, and without blame, we are free from condemnation, we are redeemed, righteous, holy, chosen, accepted and beloved…but not broken – not anymore.

Everyone needs to realize the amazing reality of our true identity in Christ! Let's not reinforce the notion that we are "unworthy" and "broken". That is not who we are!

Yes, this is how we came to Christ, in the beginning, but we do not remain as we were in the beginning, do we?

No. Not at all. 

We must move on.

We need to "forget the past and press on to the High calling of Jesus Christ!" and that means we do not continually remain in this place of blame and guilt.

Let's meditate on these verses for a while and see what the Lord says about who we really are in Christ:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Cor. 5:17

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1-5

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39


I'm sure we can all share many other verses from Jesus and the New Testament that boldly reveal who we are in Christ today!

We are made complete in Him, not in our brokenness.

Let's continue to spur one another on and to remind one another of the awesome new life - and new nature - we now have in Christ.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Erasing Shame

Today at work I had to erase a giant white board in one of our meeting rooms. It's a huge board that stretches across an entire side of the wall. It's easily 20 yards across. But it was filthy.

Someone had previously attempted to clean the board. That was obvious. It was streaked from top to bottom with a heavy black film. Someone had probably sprayed that cleaning solution all over the board and used the eraser - not a clean paper towel - and instead of cleaning it had just smeared the black ink all over the surface.

It was a mess.

So, before I could use the board I had to grab a wad of paper towels from the kitchen. After I did that I sprayed the entire board with that smelly alcohol solution and waited for it to start dripping from the top of the board to the bottom. Then I took my paper towels and started to clean it off.

This is when I think the Holy Spirit whispered something to me.

"See what happens when you try to clean something the wrong way?"

Yeah, I see that.

"See how filthy this board got when someone applied the cleaning solution in the wrong way and mixed the dirty and the clean together?"

Hmmm...yeah, I see that, too.

"Notice how this cleaning solution, properly applied, completely removes the dark film and leaves the surface totally white?"

Oh, yeah, I do see that, Lord.

"Now that it's clean, do you think it's accurate for anyone to come in this room and call this board 'filthy' again?"


I stopped cleaning. I took a step back from the board. It was clean now. Top to bottom. It once was filthy, but now, it was like the day it was first hung on the wall; clean, white, and shiny.

"This is how I want you to see yourself now. You are clean. I have made you that way. Don't call yourself "filthy" again. You are not a sinner. You are my child and you are loved far more than you will ever realize."

I knew that it was true. But I also knew that I wasn't really living my life in light of this truth.

Immediately the following verses of scripture flashed through my mind:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - [2 Cor. 5:17]

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - [Roman 8:1]

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - Jesus [John 8:31-32]

Such a simple lesson from an ordinary task, yet it has had such a profound impact on my heart. So, I knew I had to share it with you guys here on the blog.

I hope this blesses you today and that you, also, can begin to really believe that you are now a new creature in Christ Jesus. Your identity is not wrapped up in who you used to be, but who you are in Christ today.

According to Jesus and His Word, we are redeemed, righteous, holy, forgiven, accepted, transformed, and we are partakers of the divine nature. Our lives are hidden in God with Christ. We are immune from condemnation and judgement. 

Those who are in Christ are co-laborers with God. We are branches of the True Vine, filled with the love and the heart of Christ. We are now being made into His image by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. 

We are members of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, chosen in Him to bear much fruit as we lovingly abide in Him daily.

This is good news, isn't it?

Let someone know about it.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Un-Status Your Quo

I'm reading a book at the moment that pointed out something profound. 

How Soldiers Are Conditioned To Kill:
  1. Frame killing as protecting or saving lives - The only way to save lives of those you love is to kill others.
  2. Portray the enemy as sub-human - It’s easier to kill people if you don’t identify with them or if you think of them as “evil” or as animals.
  3.  Demand obedience to leaders - Men will do almost anything if they are under strong social pressure to comply.
  4.  Develop the capacity for collective violence - Accentuate their fear of letting their squad down. Diffuse responsibility across the group.
  5.  Increase the distance between the trigger and the target - It’s easier to kill from a distance with drones, missiles, bombs, etc. Talk about firing at targets, not people. Speak of sinking ships, not of drowning sailors. Frame the violence so it is an object being destroyed, not another human being.*

The book goes on to point out how these same methods are being employed by our media to socialize us towards the redemptive qualities of violence.

Try to find a summer blockbuster where the hero doesn’t use a gun. Try to watch a TV show where violence isn’t the solution to the problem. All of our heroes carry weapons. 

Revenge is second nature. Retribution is justice. Death is the penalty for those who dare to threaten us. Love is only for those who are like us. 

We can forgive a team-mate, but never an enemy. Even sympathetic villains are doomed to die. 
A fair trial isn’t satisfying. Rehabilitation is a myth. Reconciliation is a joke. We want blood, and we get it. Lots of it.

This is our status quo. 

How far apart are we from the Coliseum’s of Rome?

We are so far removed from the reality of our own blood-thirst that we are oblivious to the symbolism reflecting back at us. In “The Hunger Games," for example, we recoil at seeing a society where the poor are forced to fight to preserve a corrupt system, but we fail to see how our own poor make up the majority of our armed forces – because they cannot find employment elsewhere and a college education isn’t within their grasp otherwise. We cheer for Katniss as she defies her oppressive Government but we would never tolerate anyone who refused to place their hand over their heart and pledge allegiance to our flag.

We are immune to the irony. We are immune to the culture of violence we are immersed in. Even those who claim to follow the great “Prince of Peace” will threaten to beat you if you dare suggest that violence isn’t something that Jesus would allow them as an essential right of expression or self-defense. [Yes, I have experienced this personally].

Can we escape our culture of violence? Can we break free of the allure that entangles us?

Can we tune out the voices of fear and outrage that drone endlessly out of our televisions? Can we awaken from our slumber and open our eyes to the blanket of death that enshrouds us? 

Can we walk in love? Can we follow Jesus into the Way, and the Truth? Can we embrace life? 

The Truth is that God loves us. He loves everyone. Even our enemies. When we love them we proclaim this truth. “God loves you!” And because God loves you, so do I!

The Way is to renew our minds and become transformed in the process. Then we will be able to know the will of God and to walk in it.

The Life involves releasing our grip on Death, [and her sister's Violence and Retribution], to embrace the One who told us that we should love God, and love one another.

The same One who compels us to “come out of her, my people!” and points us to the things that make for peace. [Luke 19:42]

We don't need to accept the status quo. There is a better way. Jesus invites us to walk in it.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.”



*List summarized from the book, "The Jihad of Jesus" by Dave Andrews. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Everything We Need

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us....He has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the Divine nature." - 1 Peter 1:3-4

What's holding you back from living like Jesus today? Is it your sin nature? Is it your addictions, or your temptations, or your brokenness?

Is this why you don't believe that it's possible to actually put the words of Jesus into practice? Is this why you hardly ever attempt to love your enemy, or to forgive those who have hurt you, or to turn the other cheek whenever you're insulted?

Do you read things like "Be holy even as your heavenly Father is holy" and just say, "Yeah, right!"?

Do you doubt completely the idea that anyone could ever actually walk like Jesus did?

If so, you are not alone. Most Christians I've met are in the exact same place. They fully and aggressively deny that anyone could ever do the things that Jesus did, or love like Him, or live a life in the here and now that is marked by holiness and humility and sincere compassion for others. 

It just can't be done! 

He was Jesus and I'm an imperfect sinner!

I'm broken! 

I'm a worm!

Let's sing those songs about how God's Amazing Grace has "saved a wretch like me" or how we are all "...prone to wander, Lord I feel it!"

A Christianity like this loudly proclaims that the death of Christ on the cross was only capable of providing me with a ticket to heaven, but it was not nearly powerful enough to transform my life into one that resembles His own.

The real trouble with this sort of Christianity is that it can't be found anywhere in the New Testament.

Nope. I've checked. It's not in there.

What we do read about is how God's Amazing Grace has not only saved us, it's gone on to do something most of us doubt could ever be true: Saved us - AND - empowered us to live a holy life like Jesus did!

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men..." [Titus 2:11]

Yep, there's the salvation part, but look at what he says next:

"...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age..." [Titus 2:12]

See that? Grace not only brings salvation to all men, it then goes on to "instruct us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously and godly IN THE PRESENT AGE."

But wait, that's not all!

"This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to be in him must walk as Jesus did." [1 John 2:5]


Are you in Christ? If we claim to be in Christ we must do one thing: "live as Jesus did"!

How can we do that? Isn't that impossible?

Alone, yes, it is impossible. We can't even come close to obeying the words of Jesus apart from His indwelling presence in our daily lives.

That's why Jesus said: "Apart from me you can do nothing." [John 15:5]

But what if we abide in Him? What if He abides in us? Then, and only then, can we "bear much fruit." [John 15:5]

This is why Jesus can promise us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light even as he calls us to do things that seem impossible, like love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us, and turn the other cheek.

How can Jesus say that? Because we're not expected to do it alone.

Remember, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" [Phil. 4:13]

When Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you..." [Matt 11:29] he's saying that He will be right beside us, all the way, and that we won't have to do everything in our own strength, but in His!

Jesus expects you to put His words into practice. He empowers you to do exactly that. He filled you with His Holy Spirit to enable you to do the things that He did.

All we have to do is to trust in Him and daily seek to allow Christ to live and breathe in us by His Spirit.

So let me encourage you today: If you are in Christ, you have everything you need to live a godly, Christ-like life right now!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." [Galatians 2:20]


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Free To Love by Jamal Jivanjee

Let me start out by saying that I have nothing against Jamal Jivanjee personally. I don't know him, although we have corresponded online a few times, and we do have a few mutual friends. I say this because my review of his book is critical of many of his ideas, but I do not want to question the sincerity of his faith in the process. I do love Jamal, my brother in Christ. I want nothing but the best for him. I hope that you, as you read this review, can maintain an open heart for him, and for me, as we discuss the issues brought up in the book. My hope is that those who are curious about his new book can understand how it came across to me and, if nothing else, think critically about the concepts Jamal presents within it.

Before I get into the parts I disagree with, however, I will say that there is much that I do agree with in this book.

I do agree with Jamal that Christians need to be better at loving others as Jesus commanded. I agree that we need one another to more fully receive this love and to express the love of Christ. I also agree that marriage isn’t the only way to express the love of Christ, or to experience the love of Christ. I agree that being single is a viable choice for Christians and is even encouraged in the New Testament.

But that’s where Jamal and I part ways.

In general, the book seems to place an inappropriate amount of attention upon the idea of the “oneness” that Christians should have with one another. By that I don’t mean that I believe this oneness isn’t worth emphasizing. Not at all. But what Jamal seems mostly concerned with in this book is connection with other people, not so he can more fully connect with the love of Christ, but simply for the thrill of connection with people.

In other words, the focus here seems to be about chasing after other humans we can connect with, and not about drawing nearer to Christ. This alone is worth a strong warning to those who might pick up this book seeking to enrich their walk with Jesus.

One Christian brother once wisely noted that if we make community our main focus then we might achieve our goal without ever finding Christ. The same can be said of other positive aspirations like service to the poor, or missions, or many other things. However, if we make Christ our main focus, then the more we draw near to Him the more we will discover community, and mission, and love, etc. Even if we don’t find those other things in perfection, we will have at least drawn nearer to Jesus, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What is very wrong in this book is that Jamal seems to have a fixation with one-to-one personal connections. He doesn’t write about how the Body of Christ [the Ekklesia] can come together as a family and experience the presence of Christ in community. He writes almost exclusively about how he connects with this woman, or that sister, and is brought to tears realizing the intensity of their spiritual connection to one another, but it never goes beyond this. He never writes about finding such intense spiritual connections with other men, or even with other Christian couples, but always with other women. This is especially troublesome knowing that it was this very same practice that led to the dissolution of his own marriage last year – a fact he openly admits in this very book:

"What I will share with you in this book has cost me dearly. It has cost me everything from some of my closest relationships, down to even my very own marriage." [pg.15]

Keep this in mind as you read the rest of this review. By following his own advice, Jamal's marriage was forfeited. He claims that it was worth it, but I remain unconvinced of that.

It’s also impossible to review this book without mentioning Jamal’s view of marriage. He sees it as “an idol” that obscures our ability to truly understand or receive the love of God:

“God is love, and love gave birth to the cosmos. In order for love to be fully known, however, something called oneness must be illuminated and put on display to the cosmos through humanity. The problem is, oneness has been hidden behind an idol that was never meant to be an idol. That idol is marriage.” [pgs. 12-13]

So, “oneness” is the key to fully realizing the love of God? Jamal seems to think so, but I am not so sure. Honestly, I’m not really sure why he seems so unnaturally preoccupied with oneness. Nor do I understand why he feels that this oneness can only find its fulfillment in another person rather than in Christ.

I also cannot understand why he would see marriage as a hindrance to realizing the love of Christ, but I believe there are clues about that throughout his book, which I will get to in a moment.

Throughout the book, Jamal inserts several first-person narratives from Jesus’ perspective. These are intended to illustrate how Jesus overstepped cultural boundaries to connect deeply to Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. While I don’t object to those creatively, I do wonder why a book about the extravagant love of Christ never once mentions John [the disciple Jesus loved], and it never touches on the loving relationship Jesus had with other people around him, [when we are told Jesus looked at the Rich Young Ruler and “loved him”, or that he had compassion on the crowds, etc.], and he never refers to the love Jesus had for Peter, or emphasizes his love for the other disciples.


As I read through this book I kept writing in the margins questions like, “Is the goal of the Christian life really just about relating to one another? Why such a desire for more intense relationships with other people rather than a deeper desire to know Christ more fully?”

This, to me, is one of the fatal flaws of this book. It aims too low and achieves too little. Yes, Jesus did tell us to “love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength” and that we should “love our neighbor as ourselves.” But does this mean that we should focus all of our energy feasting on one individual after another? Is that what Jesus meant by that?

Maybe what Jesus meant was that we needed to learn how to receive love from God, and to be filled with His love, and then we could learn how to share that love from Him with those around us.

Notice in this scenario that we are not fixated on any one person in particular. We are not fascinated by their unique personalities. We are not desperate for them to know us in some deeply intimate way. Not at all. Instead, our focus is on God, and on His abounding love for us. As that unconditional love is poured into us, we pour it out on others – everyone around us – not just those we find intriguing and attractive, but on those we hardly know; on the poor, the outcast, the broken – those who are most desperate for His love.

In this pattern we are not picking and choosing who we love. We are allowing the love of Christ to flow into, and out of us, to the world so that the love of God is expressed far and wide.

Jamal’s book ignores this completely.

Over and over again, Jamal continually seeks to call us to his brand of “oneness”:

“Oneness is the deepest longing of our being,” he says. [pg.39]

Is that true? Maybe. But what should the Christian’s deepest longing be? Isn’t it to know Christ?

What’s most frustrating to me is how often Jamal comes so close to the truth but misses it by a mile:

“This might sound shocking, but I’m convinced it would do us well to stop trying to figure out how to find and create church, and instead to learn what it means to see, delight, know, serve, and deeply love one another through relationship. This is where oneness will be found.” [pgs. 31-32]

Amen! I could not agree more. However, Jamal neglects to mention that we are only “one in Christ Jesus”, not in our relationships with one another. He stops at oneness with other individuals and fails to continue onward to oneness in Christ Jesus.

Are we called to find oneness in better quality human relationships? Or are we called to oneness in Christ?

I agree when Jamal says we are not called to “create church," because that’s what Jesus does. He promises us that “I will build my church”.

But isn't the Body the very place where we experience the presence and the love of Christ in a unique way? For Jamal, this only brought him frustration. I suspect because he was still seeking to find oneness with other people, as if what he needed was to be found in them rather than in the Christ in them.

Our goal as members of the Body of Christ is to draw nearer to Him, not merely to other people around us.

If we see the beauty of Christ reflected in the faces of one another, let us not become distracted by those reflections and miss the person of Christ himself who longs to draw us nearer to Himself.

Again Jamal claims that:

“In actuality, the oneness of God is only fully manifested here on the earth through what I call horizontal oneness.” [pg. 47]

Really? Is our ability to experience oneness with God limited exclusively to our oneness with other people? What about the indwelling Holy Spirit? What about meditation? What about dreams or visions? What about the spiritual disciplines? Prayer? Fasting? Service? Simplicity?

And even if “horizontal oneness” is essential to fully manifesting the oneness of God, as Jamal suggests, why isn’t the manifestation of the love of God in the Body of Christ our primary source for that connection? [That is probably the biggest red flag for me, really].

Understand: Jamal's idea of "horizontal oneness"isn't about seeing Christ in the Body, it's about finding "oneness" through intense, one-on-one relationships with individuals, usually male to female, and not within the marriage relationship but in spite of it.

On the subject of marriage, Jamal seems to miss an important aspect of this relationship: the opportunity to put the needs of others above my own.

Love, as Jesus reveals, is not about us. It’s about serving and honoring others.

When Paul tells men to “love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her” he wants them to understand that marriage is where we get to put this love into practice. When Paul tells women to “submit to your husbands as unto the Lord," he wants them to know that marriage is where we get to practice humility and laying down our pride. This is true for both men and women. 

I know that for some this picture seems offensive, but only if you fail to realize your own need to die to yourself. If you understand your own need to die so that Christ can live and breathe in you, then suddenly this aspect of marriage becomes a wonderful gift where you can daily practice obedience to Christ and joyfully embrace your opportunity to love as Christ loved.

This is, in fact, the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came and died to proclaim. It was Jesus who told us that to follow Him – to become a Christian – meant denying ourselves daily and taking up our cross.

For many Christians, this is an unknown truth. They think the Gospel is about praying a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. I used to believe the same thing, so it’s not surprising to hear others deny the Gospel as Jesus preached it. Disheartening, yes. Surprising, no.

Jamal appears unaware of the centrality of the Gospel of Christ. He says that when his church began to emphasize death to self it created frustration for him and became a huge distraction:

“A preoccupation with dying to self and denying the desires of self became the focus in the name of embracing the cross. Although this seemed noble on the surface, it was simply a fear-based preoccupation with self in reality. The effect on relationships was chilling, as love is 'others focused' by nature.” [pg. 27]

So, while he does understand that love is “others focused by nature”, he misses the fact that we cannot share love that we do not have, and we do not receive the love of Christ apart from obedience to His commands to lay down our lives and submit ourselves to Him daily. If we skip this part, we miss the entire point of the Gospel and of Christianity itself.

It’s also more than a bit disappointing that, in a book about love, Jamal leaves out references to 1 Corinthians 13 [the love chapter], and fails to mention Ephesians 3:16-19:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Here, Paul holds the answer that Jamal and others are longing for: A connection to the love of God that is beyond human understanding and that is only grasped as we receive power through His Spirit in our inner being and as Christ dwells in our hearts more and more.

How does it happen? It’s a supernatural event. It comes when we gather together as members of His Body, as we continually focus on Him, as we pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us and enable us to receive something that transcends knowledge and transforms us from within.

Pursuing the love of Christ outside of His Body is to lose “connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” [Col. 2:19]

Finally, Jamal’s book argues that those who are married [as he once was] have freedom to walk away from their spouses in order to pursue “oneness” with other people, as he has done, citing a verse out of context where Paul says, in 1 Cor. 7:29:

“From now on those who have spouses should live as if they do not.”

Is this what Paul means to communicate here? Is his desire that men and women should abandon their marriages so that they can pursue deeper emotional “oneness” with other people? Not at all.

In context, Paul is providing instruction to the Church in Corinth regarding how they should view the times in which they were living. He says “the time is short” [v. 29a] because he knows that in a few short years, their ability to preach the Gospel will grow more difficult. He was right! As persecution intensified, and as AD 70 grew nearer, the time left to focus on the preaching of the Gospel was drawing to a close for many of them.

What Paul was urging them to do was to focus on proclaiming the Gospel over and above focusing on their marriages and their families. Does that mean we shouldn’t focus on our marriage or our family today? Of course not. We shouldn’t be preoccupied with ourselves, or our own personal comforts, but we also shouldn’t abandon our marriages to chase new relationships that are more exciting for us.

If Jamal was sharing that verse to urge Christians to devote themselves to the mission field, or to preach the Gospel of Christ that would be one thing. But instead he uses this verse to encourage people to disengage from their marriages to seek out “oneness” in others, and this is dangerous and un-Christlike.

Do you think I’m overstating Jamal’s intentions? Read for yourself:

“You are free to be undistracted in this new world of love. If you are married, you are free to pursue this new world of love with an undistracted devotion. If you’re in a divided marriage, you are free to love your spouse from the fullness of love you possess. You are free to resist the pull to enter back into the world of lack your spouse may be operating from.” [pg. 168]

I can’t help but wonder, why can’t Jamal, or anyone else, “pursue this new world of love” with their actual spouse, or in the context of their own church family?

He makes a big deal out of “divided marriages” where one spouse is “awakened to the new world of love” and the other is not. For those situations he gives this advice:

“If you are in a divided marriage you have options. You could give in to this fear. You could try to focus on strictly pleasing your spouse in the name of loving your spouse. You could try to put your spouse “first” in a hierarchy of sorts, thinking your performance in your marriage qualifies you, or disqualifies you, from being devoted to the work of the new kingdom. If you chose this route you have not sinned, but you will have lots of trouble as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians. It never leads to real peace. It’s an illusion…In the end, the spouse awakened to a vision of the new world will grow tired trying to reconcile the world of illusion with the world of reality. The two cannot mix.” [pg.118]

So, where does that leave us? If focusing on pleasing our spouse is ultimately a fruitless illusion, what is our other option? Jamal doesn’t come out and say it, but we’re left with the notion that we can [and probably should] give up trying to do this. Either we continue to try – knowing it’s an illusion that cannot be reconciled – or we stop trying to focus on pleasing our spouse because we recognize the truth – that our love is better focused elsewhere [apparently].

Is this the best that we can hope for in a Christian marriage? Paul would hardly agree with such a pessimistic idea. In fact, Paul is quite optimistic, even when it comes to marriages where Christians are married to unbelievers!

“If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” [1 Cor. 7:13-18]

If Paul is optimistic about the possibility of transforming our unbelieving spouses with the love of Christ, why is Jamal so pessimistic about the possibility of seeing our believing spouses come to realize the "new world of love", as he supposes it has been revealed to himself?

Sadly, I cannot recommend this book. There are too many bones to choke on here, and not nearly enough meat to satisfy those who truly long to find Christ in spirit and in truth.

If you’re really hungry for a great book about love, I’d recommend reading 1 John, or 1 Corinthians 13, or Ephesians 3, or even the Gospels. These are all wonderful reminders to us about what love really looks like, and how love is really expressed, and where love really should point us – to Christ!

As I said at the beginning of my review, I am not "against" Jamal. I do not wish to harm him, and I do not want to create any negative feelings towards him as a person. He is my brother in Christ and I sincerely hope and pray that he does indeed find the "oneness" he seeks so desperately. I just believe that it is found in Christ alone, not in others.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016


I’ve talked a lot about our adventures in “Motel Church” over the years. For those who might not be up to speed, our family started serving people who live at a local motel about 12 years ago. We started out just bringing free groceries and setting up a bounce house for the kids. No one preached, no one passed out literature. We simply loved people and blessed them. When they asked us why we would do this we told them about the love of Jesus and let them know that because Jesus had loved us, and because He loved them, we wanted to share that love in tangible ways.

Eventually another church showed up [Saddleback Church] and started serving breakfast on Sunday mornings. We helped them out with that for a few years, and then eventually our partnership developed into starting an actual church that meets every Sunday morning in the back parking lot. We read through the scriptures together, one book at a time, and we share breakfast together, and we pray for one another and try to learn what it means to follow Jesus where we live.

Today, several other Christian brothers and sisters from other local churches have showed up to serve and to share to help out. It’s been really amazing to partner with these wonderful people in this Kingdom work.

For most of this time, our house church family has not been directly involved in this work. Yes, their offerings have been spent to help people in need here, and their donations have made a huge impact over this time. Several in our house church have shown up to serve now and then, but these were usually limited to our monthly Saturday grocery ministry, not the Sunday morning Motel Church services.

This was partially by design. Wendy and I, and our boys, have always felt a calling to this motel. We’ve actually been serving here longer than we’ve been doing house church! But as much as we feel called to this, we also haven’t wanted to impose our passion and calling on anyone else. So, we’ve always shared what God was doing through this ministry, and we’ve always let people know they were welcome to join us, but we’ve also gone out of our way not to make anyone feel pressured or guilted into anything.

Once a month, when I would teach at the Motel Church, our house church family would meet without us. That was also by design. We were actively trying to help everyone see that we were not “the leaders” and that there was nothing special or overtly spiritual about our home, or our leadership within the house church family. During that time it was actually great to hear what the Lord was doing on those Sundays when we weren’t there!

But about a year ago I invited our house church family to consider taking one Sunday a month and serving breakfast at the Motel Church. At first it was just a suggestion. They could have said “no”. But we talked about it and everyone was interested in trying it – at least once. If we didn’t like it, we could just say, “that was nice” and move on. No expectations were placed on anyone by anyone. So, we tried it. It was great. So, we decided to try it for the next three months and reevaluate after that. We did. Everyone loved serving, so we decided to commit for a six month window. That turned into an every month commitment.

Now, I want to tell you what just happened.

Over the last few months, I have taken a step back from my usual role as teacher at the Motel Church. As much as I do love to teach, and as much as everyone has been encouraging me to continue doing it, I really felt like I needed to give everything away. So, I did.

Actually, it wasn’t even my idea. It was my youngest son, David, who suggested it at first. We were talking about how to engage people at the Motel more in our discussion time. He suggested we break into smaller groups and get more intimate with everyone to hear what they were thinking about the scriptures and to listen to what they were struggling with in their daily life.

The first Sunday we tried that, it was great. I introduced the scripture we were going to cover and we each took turns reading verses out loud together. Then I passed out a few questions to some of our own house church family members who were each seated at various tables. They started asking the questions, and then people started talking, and sharing. I stood back and watched them listening, nodding, sharing, and even spontaneously praying for one another. It was glorious!

I even gave away the guitar playing during worship time which allowed one of our younger members to step in and lead, and people seemed to respond even more to what was happening than when I was doing it all myself.

Last Sunday I sat back and marveled as our house church family showed up early, shared the food they had prepared at home, served it to hungry people in the food line, sat down at the tables alongside everyone else, helped lead the discussion from the book of Acts, and hold hands with people at their table as they lifted up their needs in prayer. I also watched them lead worship, clean tables, stack chairs, make friends, share life, pass out hugs, make new friends and step deeper into the lives of these dear people we have come to love and cherish at the motel.

My heart is so full! We get to be the church in such marvelous ways. We get to make disciples by being disciples who disciple one another in beautiful ways.

Honestly, I am so glad I stepped out of the way so that the rest of the Body could grow into their calling and embrace their identity as servant lovers in the Kingdom of God.

This new season we’re experiencing together is really wonderful and I’m loving every minute of it!



Saturday, February 06, 2016

Love Always Protects

“Love...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” [1 Cor. 13:6]

In my ongoing debates with other Christians concerning the nonviolent, proactive agape of Jesus versus a more pro-violence and Nationalist viewpoint, the idea of protecting the innocent often arises.

I’ve already written one article addressing this, but to recap - anyone who kills to protect their family or friends is still only demonstrating the same kind of love that everyone else does. As Jesus puts it: “If you love only those who love you in return, what credit is that to you?”

Instead, Jesus calls Christians to go above and beyond this and to actually love our enemies.

I know it's a hard one to swallow, but Jesus has no commands for us about protecting others. [More on this in a moment].

So, what are we to do with a verse like 1 Cor. 13: 6 which says that “Love…always protects”? Doesn’t that prove that Jesus really does want us to protect the innocent? Well, for some the answer is an automatic “Yes!”, but let's ask a few questions first:

Do we see Jesus protecting the innocent? No, we don’t. 

Do we see Jesus urging us to protect the safety of others? No, we do not.

Do we see Paul, or any of the other Apostles, or the earliest Christians, protecting one another from danger or death? Again, the answer is no.

What, then, does Paul mean when he says that “Love…always protects?”

I think it depends on what you mean by “Protect”.  Usually, the Christians who debate this issue of justifiable force or redemptive violence translate “protecting others” as “using violence against the bad guys” and that most certainly is not what Paul means here.

But he also doesn’t mean “do nothing and sit back while people get brutalized” either.

Believe it or not, there is a middle ground between “capping the perps with your nine” and “dancing barefoot while wearing daisies in your hair.”

For those who seek to follow Jesus and to embody the practice of agape love, protection looks like stepping in front of the bullet, or inserting your body between the victim and the attacker. It means sacrificing yourself to save someone else.

I heard someone tell a story once that illustrated this kind of love perfectly.

Several years ago, my friend, [we’ll call him Joe], was visiting India as a young Christian. He wanted to save the world. He thought he could bring the Kingdom all by himself. One day he was walking in the streets of Delhi and he walked up on a circle of policemen beating an old man with their clubs. They stopped and looked at him for a moment. He was the only white man on the street. They waited to see what he would say, what he would do. Even the old man, trembling there on the street, looked up at him and waited to see what he would do next. In a moment of shameful indecision and impotence my friend, not knowing what else he could do, just kept on walking, and as he walked away he heard the beating continue.

When he got back to his room he wept and cried out to God to forgive him.

About five years later, this friend, “Joe”, was living in the home of a poor family in Santa Ana, California, as their guest. He wasn’t there to change the world. He just wanted to learn about their struggles, and to serve in any way he could. One day he heard shouting outside. One of the teenage boys from the family he was staying with was being beaten by a local gang. Immediately, he ran outside and pushed his way through the circle of bodies. When he saw his friend laying on the ground, face bloodied as he was repeatedly kicked and punched, this person didn’t hesitate; he fell on top of his friend and covered him with his own body. After just a few more punches, everything stopped. The gang leader told him to get out of the way. He refused. “You’re loco,” they told him. But he didn’t move. They eventually left.

Afterwards, my friend said he started thinking about why he had done that. The Lord showed him. “Your love compelled you,” he heard the Spirit whisper, and then his mind flashed back to that memory, years ago in India, when he had seen that old man being beaten and done nothing. He understood, at last, what the difference was. It was love. He didn’t need to think about what to do when his heart was filled with love.

As our hearts are filled more and more with the love of Christ, we also will respond as His love compels us. We will, like Jesus, lay down our lives for one another.
We will protect others, not with violence, but with sacrificial devotion.

“Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for a friend.” – Jesus


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Transformation [Not Information]

Do you think of the Gospel as being information or as a transformation?

You might be tempted to think that it's both, or that it really doesn't matter how you think of the Gospel, but I believe it matters a great deal.

For example, if we think of the Gospel as mainly information, then we become lawyers and modern Pharisees who argue semantics and debate doctrine. Salvation is seen as having the right information - the right beliefs and doctrines, in the right order. Those who have different information than we do are heretics. Those who accept our information are "saved" and those who don't are either not truly Christians or their salvation is in question.

But Jesus speaks of a Gospel that is based on an intimate relationship with himself. He talks about the Gospel as being primarily about transformation, not mere information.

He proclaims the Good News [Gospel] of the Kingdom by urging everyone to "think different" [Metanoia in the Greek; usually translated as "Repent!" in most English translations].

He points out that it's impossible for a bad tree to produce good fruit and that if you don't first "make the tree good" you'll never produce good fruit.

Through the Gospel, Jesus makes us good trees who can produce the good fruit of righteousness which is pleasing to God. [See Matt. 12:33]

Jesus says that life in the Kingdom comes when we "know God and the Christ whom He has sent" [John 17:3]

That word translated "know" is not about information. It's the same word used to say that "Adam 'knew' Eve" and that involves an intimacy; a way of knowing that conceives new life within.

So, we are called to "know God" and to "know Christ" in an intimate way that conceives a new life within us - the new life of the Kingdom that comes only as we abide in Him and He abides in us.

That's a relationship where we are daily learning to love Him more as we come to "know this love that surpasses knowledge" and become "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." [Eph. 3:19]

If the Gospel is merely information, then we don't need a relationship with a living person who transforms us. Just give me the information and I'll study it and memorize it and enforce the proper communication of that information. 

But if the Gospel is about a transforming relationship with a vibrant, fantastic being of light and love, then we will certainly receive information about Him, but this will go far beyond mere data and exponentially transcend human knowledge to explode into an intimacy that conceives something new within. 

Jesus wants to change us. He wants us to become more like himself. We should desire that, too. The way we are transformed into His image is to immerse ourselves in Him and surrender ourselves completely to Him so that He can make us into the good trees that bear good fruit. 

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." [1 Jn. 3:2]


Tuesday, February 02, 2016


If you are in the habit of calculating ten percent of your paycheck and writing a check to your local church, please stop.

God does not want your tithe. In fact, there's only one thing Jesus asks of you and it's called "Everything".

In the OT, God asked for 10%. In the New Covenant, God gets 100%.

"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." - Jesus [Luke 14:33]

The early church called this the doctrine of renunciation. Many modern Christians have reverted back to the Tithe, or "10 Percent" model, but Jesus asks for everything.

Did you know: The Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century under Charlemagne? Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be?

To begin with, offerings in the early church were voluntary and freely given out of love. Most gave more than a tithe (or "tenth"), instead many of them sold their property and shared what they had with those around them who were in need. This offering wasn't given out of compulsion, or due to obedience to a law or a command of the Church. No, it was freely shared out of spontaneous and sincere love.

"Freely you have received; freely give." - Jesus [Matt. 10:8]

Just look at what Tertullian, a second century Christian, tells us about what the early Church did with their offerings:

“Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old…

“So we, who are united in mind and soul, have no hesitation about sharing property. All is common among us- except our wives. At that point we dissolve our partnership.."

(An excerpt from his “Apology”, taken from “Roman Civilization Sourcebook II: The Empire, p.588)

Notice how they think of this offering:
*People give "modest contribution[s]"
*They give "whatever they wish"
*They give "only if they do wish"
*They give "only if they can"
*"Nobody is compelled" to give
*Offerings are strictly "voluntary", not compulsory 

Look at what they do with the money they receive:
*They "feed the poor"
*They "bury the poor"
*It belongs to "boys and girls who lack property and parents"
*And to "slaves grown old"

Note also that there is no mention of that offering being given to pay pastors or elders among them. Hmm...

Under the New Covenant, Christians are also set free from the idea of worshiping only one day a week, which was commanded under the Old Covenant. Now, under the New Covenant, every day is holy to the Lord. 

Notice that the New Covenant Christians met on only one day of the week - Every day:

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." - [Acts 2:46-47]

Under the New Covenant, our worship is a daily undertaking:

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross DAILY and follow me." - Jesus [Luke 9:23]

There is also no longer any one Holy Place where everyone must worship [ala the Temple in Jerusalem] because now WE are the living Temple of God, where He dwells by His Spirit.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." [1 Cor. 6;19-20]

This is what we are called to.

Everything we own is God's. We enter the Kingdom by laying everything we own - our very bodies and souls - upon the cross, and then we set out daily to follow the crucified One.

When we see someone in need, we share what we have with them. If the Lord requires something from us, we let go and trust Him for our daily bread.

Because we know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us, we can freely give - even as we have freely received.

This is what giving is like in the Kingdom. God owns much more than 10 percent. He owns 100 percent.

So, stop tithing, and start sharing freely whatever the Lord asks you to give, out of love and a sincere heart.

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." [2 Cor. 9:7]

*IMAGE CREDIT: Scott Laumann