Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jesus Breathes Life

Jesus rises from the dead and breathes "peace" upon those who deserted him. 

He breathes "life" upon us all and it blows like an irresistible hurricane that transforms every dead and broken thing around us and within us. 

Hope springs up from the barren ground, dead bones rattle together and take on flesh and leap to life shouting "Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest! He has conquered death and He lives forevermore!"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What His Resurrection Means To Me

This morning I woke up early and wrote these words into my journal as I meditated on the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus.

What does the Resurrection mean to me?

It means I will never experience a single moment without Jesus. He will never leave or forsake me. Nothing can separate me from His love.

Death cannot stop this love. Life can't change it. Angels and demons are powerless against it. Time itself can't touch it. His love for me endures forever.

My Abba and His Son are joyfully living within me and by the power of the Holy Spirit I am being transformed into the image of Christ.

At this very moment the lover of my soul and the savior of the Universe lives and breathes within me.

My identity is forever bound to Jesus. He is, and always will be, part of me. I will walk with Him – and He with me – throughout all eternity.

For all my life and eternity after I will continually experience the endless love of Christ that is always higher, wider, longer and deeper than I can fathom.

I will never breathe another breath without Jesus. My heart will forever beat in time with His.

In Him I live and move and have my being.

Jesus surrounds me, His Spirit covers me. His Presence remains within me for all eternity to come.

He delights in me. He is with me. He is for me. He rejoices over me with singing. He quiets me with His love.

Many waters cannot quench this love. His love hopes all things, endures all things. His Love always protects me. His love never fails.

His love never ends. His loves transcends knowledge, and yet I can know it. It is infinetly high and wide and long and deep and yet I can experience it, and be immersed in it, and consume by it, and transformed by His awesome love.

Halleluiah! He loves me! He loves me!

And with His love I also receive His peace that passes understanding and His joy that is my strength, and best of all – His Presence.

I am so loved. Dearly treasured by my Abba. I am His beloved. I am cherished by Him. I am valuable and precious to Jesus. He has never paid a higher price for anything than what He paid to make me His own.

I am worth dying for. I am worth suffering for. I am worth the shame of the cross. I am worth six hours on a Roman cross. I am worth being separated from the Father, and for all eternity to come, I will forever be reminded of how great His love for me was, and is.

He has loved me with an everlasting love. He has called me His son. He calls me His friend. He has rearranged the Universe to make a place where we can be together.

His blood declares – “You are mine!”

His Resurrection proclaims – “I am with you always.”

His Spirit whispers – “I am right here with you, and I love you so much more than you can hope or dream or imagine.”

A love like this required an eternity to fully comprehend and receive.

We are being made ready for eternity. We have only just begun to experience His love.

A love like this requires an eternity to experience, and we are being made for eternity. In fact, all of creation is being remade simply to accommodate our ability to fully receive and experience and know His love that transcends knowledge. 


Friday, March 25, 2016


Four pages. Two creators. One great comic. 

"Dirty Job" appeared in the February 1972 issue of "Our Army At War". Written by Bob Haney and illustrated by the amazing Alex Toth.

[click images to enlarge]

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Grace Notes

"The Grace of God and the Love of God are nearly synonymous. The Grace of God is the Love of God in action, coupled with His power, forgiving our sins, transforming our lives, nurturing us in the new life, guiding us in His service, and preserving us for Eternity. 

Salvation begins with God's Grace and continues with a constant unfolding of the Grace, until He makes us His new work of art; a new creation in Christ."

These paragraphs are taken directly from the study notes in my personal Bible. Normally the notes provided are notoriously useless. Nine times out of ten if you read a difficult passage and glance down at the study notes to learn more about what the text means you'll be very disappointed.

Usually the notes will just completely ignore the passage and only talk about the verses above and below the one you're curious about. [Maybe that's why it's been such a great study Bible? I've never had the answers I needed so I've always had to search elsewhere to understand what the scriptures were saying.]

So, you can imagine my surprise when I glanced down at the notes one morning and read the passage above in my Bible. It was beyond amazing, really.

That's why I wrote it down and made a point to share it here on my blog.

My favorite part is the end where it says that God's Grace continues to unfold "...until He makes us His new work of art..."

Wow. So beautiful.

I also love the point about how the Love of God and the Grace of God are synonymous, and how God's Grace does more than simply save us. Yes, we are all "saved by Grace" but after that the work of Grace continues to lead us and to teach us and to empower us to put the words of Christ into action in our daily life.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” [Titus 2:11-12]

We all come into the faith by God's Grace, but we also continue forward in the power of His Grace which enables us to walk in the Spirit and to put His Words into practice. 

Grace does more than save us and leave us alone. God's Grace is what makes it possible for us to love like Jesus - and to live as He did - here and now. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Christian Response To Terrorism

With every new terrorist attack, Christians in America struggle to respond as Jesus would. Like everyone else, we condemn the terrorists. Like everyone else, we pray for the victims. Like everyone else, we cry out for retribution and we paint every Muslim on earth as an evil person who should be hated and opposed.
But we’re not called to be like everyone else. We’re called to be like Jesus.
So, instead of responding like everyone else does, maybe we should take a step back and try to look at the problem the way Jesus does.
He doesn’t see us as Americans, or Europeans, or Asians. He sees us all as His beloved children who are made in His image.
He doesn’t see us as Baptists, or Buddhists, or Muslims or Atheists. He sees us as a people He would rather die for than to live without.
Ultimately, God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, or the superficial labels we all wear. God looks at the heart.
This means He takes each person one at a time and evaluates them based on who they are on the inside, not what they are on the outside.
Muslims, specifically, are not the problem. They are human beings; members of the human race; and they have the same dreams and hopes and fears and aspirations as we all do.
They love their children. They are concerned for their families. They care about those who suffer. They worry about the direction their nation is going. They want to be happy and they want to make the world a better place. Just like you and I do.
Christians have more in common with Muslims than with almost any other world religion. Muslims and Christians both believe in Jesus. They both believe different things about who He was and what He did, but what we have in common with Muslims is greater than most realize.
For example:
Mohammed is mentioned 4 times in the Qu’ran. Jesus is mentioned 25 times.
The Qu’ran teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin who gave birth to Jesus. [ch.3:34] 
In chapter 3, verses 45 to 55, the Qu’ran makes these 9 points about Jesus [whom they call "Isa"]:
·         Jesus is the “Word of God”
·         Jesus is the “Spirit of God”
·         Jesus is “the Christ” [Messiah]
·         Jesus creates life
·         Jesus cured a man born blind, and a man with leprosy.
·         Jesus gives life to dead people.
·         Jesus went to heaven.
·         Jesus is still alive today.
·         Jesus will come again.
In contrast, the Qu’ran says none of these things about Mohammed. According to their own book, Mohammed did no miracles, is not alive today and is not coming back. 
The Qu’ran teaches that God created the Universe through the Word of God.
The Qu’ran also says in ch. 10 verse 94: “If you have any doubt in this Qu’ran which I give to you, go and read the Bible, or ask the people who read the Bible. The Truth has already come to you from your Lord, so do not be a doubter.”
Finally, Mohammed himself personally wrote a letter to his followers and commanded them to provide protection and favor to those who follow Christ. It was written in 626 AD and was called the “Oath of Ashtiname” and you can read about that here.
In this Oath of Ashtiname that Mohammed wrote, he says:
“Their churches must be honored and they must not be withheld from building churches or repairing convents…They must not be forced to carry arms or stones; but the Islams must protect them and defend them against others. It is positively incumbent upon every one of the Islam nation not to contradict or disobey this oath until the Day of Resurrection and the end of the world.”

So, here we have a beautiful place to start building bridges with people of the Muslim faith. We can begin the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus has given to us by reaching out to Muslims, inviting them into our homes, sharing the blessings we have been given, and meeting together with them to talk more about Jesus.

Our house church family has hosted several Muslim people in our worship gatherings over the last ten years. We’ve prayed with them, eaten with them, laughed with them, and encouraged them by acknowledging that they are – like us – people who love God and honor Jesus.

We don't believe exactly the same things, but we have a wonderful common ground to start learning to love one another from. 

We cannot afford to respond to violence and terrorism the way everyone else does. We are ambassadors of a different Kingdom. We are partakers of the Divine nature. We have been given a new heart. We have been – and are now being – transformed by the agape love of Jesus into a people who look and act and love like Jesus.

Let’s repent of returning to our old nature when faced with evil in all its forms. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” [Romans 12:21]


Related links:

For Further Reading:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Part 3 [Session 4] Podcast: The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]

In our final Sermon on the Mount podcast for the Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics] series, we look at these teachings of Jesus:
*Do Not Worry
*Do Not Judge
*Seek and You Will Find
*The Golden Rule
*A Tree and Its Fruit
*A House Upon The Rock
Click the link above to listen to this podcast.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Organic Life Cycles

Our house church has been together now for 10 years. To me, that's pretty amazing.

Over the years we've gone through different seasons, each with their own set of blessings and challenges.

But there's no guarantee that every house church will follow the same life cycle.

Organic churches are living things. They each have their own personalities and they each have their own life span. No two are exactly alike. And that's a good thing!

Early on in our house church we had an interesting conversation about what would happen if our little group broke up and folded. How would I feel about that, someone asked me.

Honestly, I answered that this was His church and not mine. God is the one who put us all together and if He wanted to rearrange us tomorrow that was His perogative.

A few years later I met a wonderful brother in Christ. He had such a powerful calling on his life, reaching out to people in Twelve Step meetings and sharing the Gospel with them, and then inviting them to gather with other believers in an organic church setting. He started dozens and dozens of groups like this over the years. Yet, somehow, he always felt like a failure.

"Every group I start fizzles out after just a few months," he said. His conclusion was that either he was a lousy church planter, or that the organic church movement wasn't everything it was cracked up to be. But he was wrong about both.

Bob was an excellent church planter. He was obedient to share the Gospel with broken people and he was faithful to help them discover their place in the Body of Christ. That was all wonderful!

But because Bob had the expectation that these organic churches had to persist, and multiply and spawn a massive movement across Southern California he considered himself a failure.

For the record: Bob is not a failure. He is not wasting his time.

Bob is a faithful servant of Jesus who is compelled to share Christ with others and he is doing exactly what he is called to do.

But, why do those organic churches he starts fall apart after a year or less?

Answer: Who cares?

If the Lord desires to draw people together for short periods of time so that they can be built up and then He decides to move them here, or there, to inspire others or to pursue their own callings, what is that to you?

Every living thing has its own life cycle. Every church will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is natural.

Some organic churches will last for a decade or more. Others may last for only a few months. But as long as they are submitted to Him, they will last as long as He wants them to last.

This video illustrates the natural progression of living cells. Take a look and see the beauty and the wonder of life as God has designed it. Notice also that every living thing dies.

So, it may be that your organic church has run its course. Or it may be that God's will is for your group to continue on together, bearing fruit and building one another up in Christ.

Ultimately, that decision belongs to Him, and to Him alone.

As Neil Cole has suggested, some churches need to die in order to allow the Lord to do something new in their midst. He urges those churches to actually have a funeral and to bury the church as they once knew it. Then, he recommends coming together again a few days later to celebrate a baby shower and to anticipate the new birth that Jesus wants to bring them.

It might be a good idea to seriously consider this if you're sensing that your church fellowship has run its course. But I would caution you to go to the Father first and seek Him together about that.

After all, it's His Church, not ours.


Friday, March 18, 2016


At lunch the other day, I heard a quote from Dallas Willard that has been resonating with me ever since.

It was this:

"Until the Kingdom of God hits your body it has not hit you."

When I first heard it, I wasn't exactly sure what it was referring to. 

Did he mean that the Gospel of the Kingdom needed to make an impact on your physical body before it could be fully understood?

Did he mean that the Kingdom needed to be realized in some mystical way within us?

It bothered me. So, I kept thinking about it. I prayed about it. I meditated on the statement while I was on the train, or drinking my coffee in the early morning darkness. 

One verse that kept coming to me in this process was this one:

"The Kingdom of God is within you." - Jesus [Luke 17:21]

So, in what way is the Kingdom of God within me? I wondered.

All of this coalesced the other night over dinner when I shared this quote with some friends and someone asked me, "What does that mean?"

Almost intuitively I answered her, "It means that the Kingdom needs to actually affect the way you think and how you talk and what you do in your everyday life. It needs to be more than an idea. It has to change you in practical ways."

Even as I said it out loud, I realized that this was indeed what was meant by the Kingdom of God hitting your body. 

I started to wonder about how the Kingdom of God has hit my body. How it has changed the way I see people, and how I treat others, and how I share what God has given me, and how I risk my personal reputation to follow Jesus in my every day life. 

To be honest, I still have a long way to go, but thankfully I can still see a few places where the Kingdom has hit my body, and how it is still hitting me, day after day.

If Jesus is alive in me, then His Kingdom is too.

Let His Kingdom come! He must increase. I must decrease. 



Thursday, March 17, 2016


One of the most beautiful things about an open mutual participatory church gathering is that you learn from everyone in the room, not just one person.

In our last house church gathering a brother shared an insight with us that totally floored me. I had never seen this before, even though it was from a passage of scripture I have read, and taught from, and blogged about dozens of times.

We were looking at Romans 12 which starts out with the statement:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” [v.1]

It’s a powerful statement of our calling to lay down our lives for Christ and to allow Him to live in us by His Spirit. But I already knew that part.

Then we continued to talk about the rest of Romans 12 together and everything was going as expected, until we got to verse 5 which says:

“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

And then my brother in Christ said this:

“So, we lay down our bodies as living sacrifices so that we can become part of His Body…”


Such a simple observation but, honestly, I had never made that direct connection between verse 1 and verse 5 as he had done. But now that he had pointed it out I couldn’t stop seeing it, and marveling at the beauty and synchronicity of it all.

We have to let our body die so that we can become members of His Body.

And consequently, if we refuse to lay down our bodies and to die to ourselves then we cannot really expect to become members of His Body.

We must become submitted to the Head of the Body and that can only happen if we do what He commands.

“If anyone would come after me, he must first deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Jesus [Luke 9:23-24]

This submission is not only essential to our own personal Christian life, it’s also essential to our corporate life in the Body of Christ.

This is how we experience “oneness” in the Body. It’s how we experience “oneness” with Christ.

So grateful for the simple power and truth of this insight.



Wednesday, March 16, 2016


American Christians have lost sight of their identity in Christ. They are blinded by politics. They divide against one another over differences in political ideologies. They question the salvation of those brothers and sisters who vote differently than they do. They decide who is a true Christian based on whether or not they belong to the same political party as they do.

This is sin. This is an abomination.

Here’s what Jesus says about division the Body of Christ:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” – Matt. 5:23-24

Here’s what the Apostle Paul says about divisions in the Church:

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” – Titus 3:10-11

Here’s what the Apostle John says about divisions in the Church:

“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.” – 1 John 4:10

How are divisions in the Body of Christ over politics any different than the divisions that Paul warns against in 1 Corinthians where brothers were dividing over allegiances to Peter or to Apollos?

If we’re not to form factions based on preferences of Apostle, then we certainly cannot draw lines of division based on political opinions, can we?

As Paul said to those Christians in Corinth, I would ask Christians in America today:

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some have informed me that there are quarrels among you….Is Christ divided? Was Trump crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Hillary or Cruz?” [With apologies to 1 Cor. 1:10-13]

Ask yourself:
  • Is your loyalty to a brother or sister in Christ dependent upon their political viewpoints? 
  • Are you unable to see – and embrace – other members of the Body of Christ due to differences in politics?
  • Do you get angry at your brothers and sisters in Christ over disagreements about political candidates?

If so, repent.

Crucify your politics.

Nail your Nationalism to the cross.

Remind yourself that you are an Ambassador of another Kingdom.

Remember that you are not of this world.

Recall the words of the Spirit of God who calls out to us all: “Come out of Her, my people!”

In the book of Revelation, there are two opposing forces: Those who follow the Lamb of God and The Nations of this World.

Which side are you on?

I beg of you, my brothers and my sisters in Christ:

Abandon the entanglements of Empire. Defy the status quo.

Refuse to be called anything but a child of God.

Return home to the Father who longs to see you walking back over the top of the hill.

If we are more American than Christian, then we are not Christian at all. We are Nationalists who dabble in religion.

If we belong to Jesus, then let’s resolve to love everyone and not to become entangled with the affairs of this world.

Let the nations rage. Our Jesus is King.

We already have the answer that everyone is seeking.

Now let’s follow Him in Spirit and Truth.



My book "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" is available at Amazon on Jan.20th, 2017 (Inauguration Day) and features a Foreword by Greg Boyd, author of "The Myth of a Christian Nation".

Learn more at:


Monday, March 14, 2016


Our house church family is going through a really beautiful season lately. One thing I've been loving is how much people are genuinely interested in being together and spending time with each other.

Last Sunday, after our house church gathering in the morning we shared a potluck lunch together, which was pretty amazing [as always]. A few people couldn't stick around but some of us did and our conversation started to drift into an exploration of "What Makes Us Happy?"

Most assume that what makes us happiest is money or fame. But there have been plenty of academic studies which disprove that theory. In fact, I just recently wrote a blog for my employer about this and I got to bring that up in our conversation with the house church family.

I've also blogged quite a bit about this here on my personal blog.

It's also true that those who win the Lottery are typically bankrupt, divorced, estranged from their families and in debt [or sometimes even dead] after only a year or so.

So, if money and fame and wealth don't make us happy, what does?

It turns out, Jesus was right when he told us not to worry about tomorrow, or to worry about what we will wear or what we will eat, etc. but to seek first the Kingdom of God and focus our energy on serving others, making people around us happier and being thankful [or content] with what we have today.

That's exactly what all the studies show, anyway.

Wealth and fame do not pull happiness in their wake. Actually, it's being content and serving others that tends to pull success and happiness behind them.

Today at lunch several of my co-workers also began to share more about the blog I wrote about happiness and we also affirmed this principle of being thankful and how it connects to being happy.

Then, as I was leaving lunch to go back to work, I saw an email from one of our dear sisters in our house church family. She wasn't able to join us the other day for our conversation about what makes us happy, but she had read about it on our house church page online and sent us all this note:

"Hi Fam!
Missed y'all a lot yesterday but was blessed to hear how the conversation went over lunch. It's rad how God puts similar things on the hearts of his people... in my prayers, the word "gratitude" has kept coming up and I felt the Lord nudging me to take it more seriously and put it into a concrete discipline.

Basically all I'm doing is recording something I'm thankful for every hour. It may seem silly and at times the thing I write down are kinda silly but it's actually become something that I look forward to every new hour and a really good reminder of God's relentless love and provision. 

Here's yesterday's list: 
5am- a place to call home
6am-family to drink coffee with
7am- transportation through the sky
8am- best friends
9am- unique personalities 
10am- the privilege of worshipping
11am- languages of all kinds
12pm- the opportunity to travel 
1pm- deep relationships 
2pm- rain!!
3pm- food on the table
4pm- protection from the weather
5pm- a job where I can love people
6pm- chocolate covered items 
7pm- good and Godly mentors 
8pm- human diversity
9pm- good tunes 
10pm- time to rest 

If any of you wanna join me in this, I think it'd be fun to do together. "

How awesome is that? Imagine being thankful every single hour of the day!

Isn't that what we should be doing as followers of Jesus anyway?

Just to close the loop, I forwarded that same email to one of my co-workers as an example of how this practice of being thankful and being happy was being practiced by people in our house church.

His response was this: "That's pretty cool. Did you hear the quote that says, 'If you ever meet God and the only thing you ever said to Him was 'Thank you', that would be enough'?"

I thanked him for sharing that quote and told him that I agreed. "What more is there to say?"

Isn't that cool?

My challenge to you is: Could you do this for a week? Just make a list of what you're thankful for every waking hour for the rest of this week and see how that changes your attitude and affects your level of happiness.

If you decide to do this, please share the results here in the comments section. I'd love to know how it goes!


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Part 3 of 3: The Lost Interview: Dallas Willard

The final portion of my conversation with author and theologian Dallas Willard about the Kingdom of God:

KG- “Thank you so much for taking the time to go through that description, that clarification, of Grace. I agree with you that we have grossly misunderstood Grace and then you said the second thing we need to understand is Salvation. Could you do the same thing for this concept also?”

DW- “Right. What it means to be saved is to be living a life of interaction with Jesus and that’s the only description of Eternal Life in the New Testament is John 17:3 where Jesus says, in his prayer, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent”. Now again, “Know” does not mean “to know about him”.

KG- “It’s not about knowledge”.

DW- “Biblically ‘Knowledge’ is interactive relationship. As Mary said to the angel, “But how can this be since I know not a man?” See that word ‘know’ is different than knowledge. What she meant is that she had not had sexual intercourse with a man, that is called ‘Carnal Knowledge’. 

KG- “So, it’s an intimacy that conceives something then?”

DW- “It most certainly does. The intimacy is one of interaction. When the prophet says, on the behalf of Jehova to Israel, ‘You only have I known or all the peoples on the Earth’, he’s not saying he doesn’t know “about” the others, he’s saying ‘You’re the only one’s that I’ve entered into a covenantal relationship with, an interactive relationship’. So eternal life then is an interactive relationship with God. That’s what Salvation is.

“Now what about forgiveness? That’s a natural part of that interactive relationship when you trust Jesus you trust him for everything, including forgiveness. But God’s point of view, as Paul says in Romans about Abraham, ‘He believed God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness’, but if you trust Jesus Christ, God would rather have that than sinlessness. When God saw Abraham’s confidence in Him, God said, ‘I like this better’ and to be accounted as righteousness means that the proper relationship between a human being and God is now resumed. That is an ongoing relationship in which progress in understanding and practice of holiness and joy and obedience and all these things come together as a part of a life. So, you don’t get a little thing that says you get heaven when you die and you’re left with the option of saying, ‘Well, shall I obey?’ and then of course if you say, ‘I shall obey’ the next step is ‘I learn to obey’ because that isn’t done for me, though we do it with God it’s not something we do on our own and so that, too, is Grace. When the person comes to the place where they can actually love their enemies, that is Grace. But it’s not passive. That’s where we have to learn that true Grace is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning, but not to effort. Earning is an attitude but effort is action.”

KG- “There is a connection then, as you describe Grace as ‘God helping me to accomplish the things I cannot accomplish on my own’…”

DW- “I would say, ‘God acting in my life..’, the wording there is very important.”

KG- “Ok. So, it seems that this is the necessary fuel for the spiritual formation of a person.”

DW- “Spiritual Formation is a word for the process you go through in a life.”

KG- “So, Spiritual Formation should not be optional. It is a natural process that would occur if you were completely trusting Christ.”

DW- “That’s exactly right. It’s the process of actually trusting Christ. If you really trust Christ then He will be your teacher and you will be His student. Where will He teach you? About everything that is going on in your life. You will come to the place where, as Colossians 3:17 says, ‘Whatsoever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father..’”

KG- “It seems that, for some people, the Spiritual Disciplines are too heavy. It’s like, ‘Fasting and Solitude are such a drudgery’ to most of us.”

DW- “No see, that is a person who, whether they know it or not, they are still living their life on their own. So, they come to something like these disciplines and they say, ‘Now this doesn’t fit into my plans, I couldn’t do this, or I don’t need to do this’, and it’s because they are living their life on their own. That of course is the basic sin, living your life your way, on your terms.”

KG- “So, in this case a complete surrender has not taken place?”

DW- “That’s right. Of course, they haven’t been taught what that would mean. They haven’t been given an opportunity to do that. So, it’s almost natural that they would be in that position.

“See, the ordinary preacher, when he goes to his church what he’s actually facing as he looks out at his congregation is a wall of unbelief. Now, of course you might say, it’s well-intentioned unbelief, and it is. Most of the folks you’re dealing with in churches, they have head knowledge of a lot of stuff. For example, they know there’s a Trinity perhaps but it has no connection with their lives. They never think, ‘I’m living in a Trinitarian Universe’, and that’s why it does no goods for ministers to moan and groan about the lack of involvement or obedience, about how they have to keep entertaining people so they’ll come back next week and keep giving and so on. That’s the situation these ministers are in. They’ve now accepted that as normal. Whereas that’s not normal.”

KG- “No. That’s not what Jesus works so hard for and died on the cross for and rose again for. Not to create this kind of mediocrity.”

DW- “Absolutely. We can sing a song about ‘Joy unspeakable and full of Glory” but nobody’s got it and the rest of the things that are talked about in scripture are missing. Even the social issues are fundamental to the Kingdom; loving our neighbor as ourself and so on, but they are not additional things we’re trying to tack on, they are more expressions of the kind of life that is moving in us appropriately under our discipleship to Jesus.”

KG- “I think we touched on this a little bit the last time we spoke, but it seems that the other factor is, not just that it’s not being preached in our churches, but it’s also not something that the average Christian could see a role a model for, to help him or her to get an idea for how to live this sort of life. I’m not saying it’s not happening, but I’m suggesting that the idea of mentoring or discipling one another is a bit of a lost art these days. I guess because it isn’t being taught from the pulpit then it therefore also isn’t being practiced either.”

DW- “Well, two things. One is, the kind of so-called fellowship we have in our churches does not allow people to know one another. If it did, they might actually find some people who are remarkably exemplifying life in the Kingdom of God. Second thing, we do have cases at a distance, for example people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Billy Graham, or the late Pope, and I’m not talking about perfection here. That’s one thing you really have to stay away from in this discussion. We’re not talking about perfection, we’re talking about doing a lot better. The fact is, there are many people that Christians know at a distance that exemplify life in the Kingdom. They recognize this. They know this. They may even have to travel to Calcutta to be with Mother Teresa, and I’ve met many people who have made that trip, but they’re not going to do what she does. They come back and they talk about her, and maybe they are different in some respects, but they don’t do what she does. The same way you go to Francis of Assisi and all these people talk about him and what he did but you don’t see anyone doing what St. Francis did. At a distance we have these exemplars. Jesus Himself is “The” exemplar. We know about Paul and others in the New Testament, and sometimes with their imperfections because perfection is something you have to put out of your mind. You have to think in terms of learning to do the things that Jesus said to do. The models are there. The problem is, Keith, we have this automatic theological adjuster in our minds that says, ‘That’s not for me, that’s for special people’. 

One of the most touching things I observe, as I come across people who have read Brother Lawrence’s book on Practicing Presence of God and immediately they translate that into feeling at peace and being calm and so on. They don’t translate that into obedience. They don’t look at the life that Brother Lawrence lived as essentially a servant in the kitchen and apply that to themselves. That’s because they have this little theological adjuster, it’s like one of these dimmer switches on the wall where it has a knob and you can turn it down. So, they turn it up so they can see Brother Lawrence but when it comes to themselves they turn it down, and they’ve accepted that, see? The main reason why they’ve accepted that is because they’ve accepted the idea that Salvation is about forgiveness of sins.”

KG- “Yes, I agree.”

DW- “Now on the Liberal side, they don’t talk about sin or heaven when you die, they don’t even talk about that. They talk about getting involved in social issues and then if you’re really serious you’ll join Sojourners and help out in the soup lines and protesting the war, and all sorts of things like that. But they’re not going to put their lives on the line for that. They have a mild little version of what they would call discipleship which is about being engaged, or at least concerned about, social issues. 

“Both of these, in the whole spectrum, basically leave your life untouched. We need to communicate that, what you’re doing now is where God wants to be in your life and you can invite Him in and begin to expect Him to act, and you will know the Kingdom of God, you will know God in action, you will know Christ, and you will be inwardly transformed, progressively, by spiritual formation, as a disciple who is one who is learning to live his life as Jesus would lead his life is Jesus were that disciple.”

KG- “What I want to ask, now that we’ve identified this condition, what’s been going on in American Christian Culture, how do we turn this ship around?”

DW- “By preaching. This is really the heart of the matter and it’s very simple. I say this over and over to people, to pastors, ‘Just start with Matthew and just preach what Jesus preached’. Now that’s going to really jerk you around. You have to avoid things like going to your church and saying, ‘We’re going to keep doing things the same but now we’re going to really mean it’. That’s really what they think, but as long as they do that they’re really going to get nowhere. Spiritual formation, as a hope, will flame out within just a few years unless people understand that they really are doing something different than they’ve done before. So, I say to anyone who asks, ‘What do we do?’ I just suggest that you just start and teach what Jesus taught and begin to put your own life into it and progressively you will see people respond. It will take a little while to realize that you really are saying and doing something different. Then when they do that you’ll see various reactions, just like the Parable of the Sower, some people will say, ‘You’re not preaching the Truth anymore, brother’, or maybe that you’re teaching salvation by works..”

KG- “Yeah, that’s usually the first comment that rises up.”

DW- “So, you have to, as a Pastor, you have the Grace of God with you to deal with that. You have to show people that Grace doesn’t equal passivity, we still do things. My background is Baptist and I like to rib them a little bit so I’ll say, ‘We’ll preach to you for an hour telling you you can’t do anything to be saved and then sing to you for an hour trying to get you to do something to be saved”. It’s really confusing to tell you the truth.

“So, the pastor, as he preaches will begin to react in different ways. In nearly every case, if that pastor does his work from the Bible, the people will be joyously won over to what he is doing and they will say, within a short period of time, ‘Yes, we want to live in the Kingdom. We know what trusting Jesus means now. We want to make disciples. We want to be disciples. We want to teach people how to do everything He said’, but you can’t go there and start. You can’t go into the church and say ‘Now we’re all going to be disciples. If you’re not a disciple you’re not one of us’, and so forth. That’s just terribly misguided behavior and it doesn’t come from the love of Jesus. So, you accept the transition and you stay with it and eventually your people will come around, but you have to give them time to replace this whole string of concepts we’ve talked about like Salvation and Grace, and so on. The way to go about it is through teaching the Bible.

“Here’s what I found out years ago, and if I hadn’t I would’ve been out of the business thirty or forty years ago, and it’s this; You don’t have to make it happen. The little parable that Jesus tells in Mark about the farmer that goes out and sows the seed and then takes a nap? There’s a little phrase there that says, ‘the farmer knoweth not how this works’. There’s a plant coming up out of the dirt and pretty soon there’s something edible there. But although the farmer doesn’t know how it happens, you can be sure it’s going to happen and that takes the load off of you. You don’t have to make this happen. This is one of the most important thing for pastors to understand. Don’t try to get people to do anything, just speak the Word of the Gospel, live as a disciple, lovingly teach, be with people, and it will happen.”

KG- “It’s funny, last night I was getting ready for bed and I was reading a chapter from A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy”..”

DW- “Oh you can’t beat that!”

KG- “Yeah, it’s a wonderful book. There was a paragraph here that goes along with what you’re saying…if you don’t mind me reading this to you, ‘When viewed from the perspective of eternity, the most critical need of this hour may well be that the Church should be brought back from her long Babylonian captivity, and the name of God be Glorified in her again, as of old. Yet we must not think of the Church as an anonymous body, a mystical religious abstraction. We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The matter, therefore, is for each of us, a personal one. Any forward step in the Church must begin with the individual.’”

DW- “That’s absolutely correct. The Church is a pretty ragged bunch of people and actually one of the surest signs that the Church is on the wrong path is when it tries not to be.”

KG- (laughs)

DW- “I’ve seen Churches die when they try to go around the neighborhood to collect the right sorts of people, when the wrong sorts of people were right under the shadow of the building but they would not reach out to them and say, ‘It’s ok for you to come. Jesus accepts you and we do too.’ Of course, Jesus got into more trouble for hanging out with the wrong kind of people than almost anything else, but of course those were the ones who were happy to hear. Those were the ones who were breaking down the wall to get in.”

KG- “That’s why Jesus had the response that it’s the sick that need a doctor. The point being that, all of us are sick and in need of a doctor, it’s just that some of us are more aware of our need for the Physician than others.”

DW- “As Jesus said to the Pharisess, it was because they claimed to see that they were guilty of sin. If they had not claimed to see they would not have been in sin. That’s the problem with the leaders of our churches because they say, ‘We see’, but they are not doing what Jesus says to do. The idea of doing it doesn’t even appear on the horizon of most of those who are leading others. They hammer away on righteousness but often righteousness is defined in terms of culture, (don’t smoke or drink, etc.), than in terms of how you live your life as a disciple of Jesus.”

KG- “Thank you so much, Dallas for taking the time to sit and talk to me about these very important issues. I’m very grateful to you for this.”

DW- “We can talk again.”

KG- “I’ll be in touch.”

NOTE: This interview also appears in my book [Subversive Interviews].


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