Sunday, December 26, 2010


If I'm aware of anything today, it's how much I still need Jesus to come and change my heart.

After all these years, I am still at square one. Learning to love others more than I love myself is my greatest challenge. Putting the needs of others above my own is still impossible for me.

In my heart of hearts I am still a petty, selfish, judgemental, impatient mess. I long for Jesus to come and live in me today just as desperately as I did when I first asked Him into my heart at the age of 9.

Without Him I can do nothing. He is my life. He is my only hope. Nothing good lives in me apart from Jesus. He is my Messiah. I am utterly and hopelessly lost without Jesus.

This is why I find joy in this season. Because Jesus humbled Himself and left the splendor of Heaven to become a baby born to poor parents. He became nothing and made himself a servant. Why? Because, for some reason, he loves me. He loves all mankind enough to let go of everything to win us back and make a way for us to be with Him forever.

Jesus is Emmanuel, which means "God with us", and I am so grateful today that God is with me, and for me, even when I am so totally hopeless and lost.

Today our family read Isaiah 53 together. It's a prophecy from roughly 600 years or more before Christ, and yet it speaks so specifically about Jesus as our suffering Messiah. It tells us that he will be pierced for us, and bruised in our place, and that by his stripes we are healed.

One thing I noticed today that I have not noticed before is how Isaiah's prophecy is written in the past tense. As if all of these things had already happened when Isaiah penned them over 600 years before they actually occured. Perhaps that's why John tells us in Revelation that Christ is "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8)

In God's heart, in His eternal plan, the sacrificial death of Christ was a done deal before the creation of the universe. It was certain. It was sure. Even as a future event, it was appropriate to speak of it as if it had already taken place.

This is how we should approach all of the promises of God. All of them are as good as done, because He has said so. He does not lie. He can not fail. He will not let us down. Ever.

Somehow, God will make you and I - the followers of Christ - into the exact image of His Son. This miracle will happen. He will accomplish it. It is as good as done, even though at this moment we are anything but the Christ-like people He is making us into.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure."
(1 John 3:2-3)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thoughts on the End of a Year

My house is full of family for the next two weeks. The rain is falling, non-stop from a steel gray sky. We haven't seen the sky or the sun for days now.

Here at the end of the year, I am unsure of how to summarize all of it. Losing my friend Robert Higgins to bone cancer eclipses nearly everything else.

My youngest son will turn 13 at the end of this month. I'm afraid I've not done all that I should to disciple my two boys. I only have six or seven more years with them before they graduate high school and enter college. Can I redeem the time?

There are people in my life that I hope to encourage more: Angelica, our Easter Angel, is planning to be baptized this week as a Mormon. Hopefully we can convince her otherwise. Our neighbors are struggling to get their lives together. How do we help them without enabling them in their addictions? What's best for their children? How do we cooperate with what God is doing in their lives without interfering in the process?

My passport came in the mail yesterday. Where will God take me in the year to come? Mexico? India? The Phillipines? Nowhere? I'm not sure.

We've partnered with Saddleback church to plant a discipleship-based organic church at the motel in Santa Ana. This Sunday will be their third gathering. A year from now I hope they are stronger, more mature followers of Christ who are empowered to make new disciples.

We've formed a loose co-op of local house churches to provide connection points and resources for those in the Orange County area interested in forming or joining house churches.

We've seen miraculous answers to prayer this year: A lost brother was found walking along the sidewalk where his car had broken down. A marriage that seemed forever broken was healed and mended. A mom who was counting her days before the cancer took her life was miraculously and absolutely healed completely. A son was reunited with his long-lost father.

But what does God hold in store for us in 2011? Of course, we cannot know. Sitting here now I can only guess, and make plans and pray.

I hope to finish my third book, "This Is My Body" and publish it soon. I hope to publish a collection of my interviews, too. I hope to see God do something amazing in our house church family. I hope to go deeper with Christ in my personal life, and to seek Him more with my wife and my sons.

In a general sense, I hope to really understand more about who I am as a person; what I have to offer as a father, a husband, a follower of Jesus, and a friend. I hope to let go of things that do not matter and I hope to take hold of Christ who has taken hold of me.

There are these separate ideals that I click through like some sort of internal Viewmaster reel: God's heart for the poor, the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Priesthood of all Believers, the New Testament model of ecclesia, the separation of Christ and State, following Jesus in my daily life, and loving others as Christ has loved me.

What I hope to experience more this year is the integration of all of these things into my life as a single, cohesive reality.

Beyond these ideas themselves, I know that the key is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ Himself. Each of these things is found and embodied in Christ, Jesus.

He must increase. I must decrease.

This is my prayer for 2011.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Baby Emme Loves Me

My friend Jason Herring sent me this photo today of his infant daughter Emme. Perhaps she loves my book so much because her Daddy was reading this in the waiting room the day she was born?

Seriously, Jason is a very gifted musician and I'm blessed to know him.

Here's the note he sent along with the photo:

Hey Keith...

So my "almost 1 year old" daughter decided she wanted to ransack my nightstand this morning. Looks like she wanted to catch up a little reading. I suppose she wanted the Maglite in case she ended up in poor lighting somewhere and hadn't yet finished her devotion.


Your pal,
Jason Herring

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Here are two quotes from two different people concerning their personal faith in Christ to consider.

Person A: "I was humbled to learn that God sent His Son to die for a sinner like me. I was comforted to know that through the Son, I could find God's amazing grace, a grace that crosses every border, every barrier and is open to everyone. Through the love of Christ's life, I could understand the life changing powers of faith."

Person B: "Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings - that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God."

After reading these two quotes which of them do you think is pretending? Do either of these quotes strike you as doubtful? What if I told you that both of these quotes were from the same person? Would these statements feel consistent to you?

What if I told you that both of these quotes were from death row inmates? Each of them was guilty of murder, and one of them of rape. Can you guess which one of them was guilty of rape?

Now, what if I said that both of these quotes were from two different Presidents? (They are). Can you guess which of them is the Republican and which one is the Democrat? Unless you're already familiar with the quotation, I'm betting you couldn't do more than guess which one was conservative and which one was a liberal. (And it would only be a wild guess at that).

The fact is that, without knowing who said something, we cannot judge any further than the words themselves. We can only read the words apart from our bias and take the words at face value.

Are these men speaking truthfully? We don't really know. We can only take their word for it, honestly. In fact, we really can't even judge their statement of faith based on their behavior because all of us who follow Christ are sinners.

I think this is partly why Jesus commands us not to judge one another in this way. It's simply not our place to determine whether or not someone is saved. Not only that, we're also not very good at it. For example, let's say that you had two neighbors. One of them is always getting in trouble with the law. He was recently arrested and is sitting on death row. You'd probably judge that this guy is bound for hell. Now let's say the other neighbor is always at church. He leads Bible Studies, he’s on staff at the church, and he has practically memorized the Bible. You’d probably judge that this guy is bound for heaven. However, the first neighbor corresponds to the thief on the cross. He lived a life of crime and was punished for his evil actions, but at just the last moment he put his faith in Christ and Jesus welcomed him into paradise that same day. The second neighbor corresponds to the rich young ruler. He was righteous according to the people of his day, and he was wealthy (a sign of God’s favor) and he kept the law. Yet when Jesus offers him a place on his executive leadership staff, the man walks away and stops short of surrendering his life to Christ. In each case, if you and I were the ones judging these two men we would have been dead wrong.

Only God is equipped to judge the eternal destiny of men and women, not us. We are commanded not to judge others and put them into a box labeled righteous or evil because we do not know the heart of man. We can barely know our own heart, much less the heart of someone else.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." He also told them this parable: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:37-40)

I can already hear the partisan response to my article brewing as I write this. "But how can this President call himself a Christian if he believes in a woman's right to choose abortion?" Or perhaps, "This President is a liar, a murderer, and war monger who has no compassion for minorities or the poor. How can he call himself a follower of Christ?" But if we allow ourselves to judge one person's salvation based on how much they agree with our politics, we're still placing ourselves in the seat of the One True Judge of all mankind, and this is not our place.

At bare minimum, we should be able to give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of them before we outright dismiss their statement of faith. Especially if our only basis for doing so is that they disagree with us on politics.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)

When we judge others we forget that we are also sinners saved by Grace who fail often, miss the mark daily and are in constant need of mercy and forgiveness from both God Almighty, and our friends and family.

Everyone you meet in life is decidedly "in process". We are not yet the people we hope to be, and we are no longer the people we once were. This fact should help us to find grace for each other as we go through this life together.

Our main calling is to become experts at loving one another, and loving those who need it most. If someone disagrees with you on a major issue, and if that person identifies themselves as your brother or sister in Christ, then your duty is to pray for them and to love them, not to doubt their eternal salvation or their faith in our Lord Jesus.


*Note: Quote A was from George W. Bush and Quote B was Barack Obama.

Monday, December 13, 2010


If the Gospel is just about saying a prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die, then what's the point or purpose of discipleship?

The New Testament defines a disciple as someone who is with Jesus learning how to be more like him.

If you take the attitude that the Gospel is only about going to heaven when you die, then following Jesus in your everyday life becomes an optional, extra credit activity. But this isn't the Gospel. And for Jesus the idea of discipleship isn't an "extra credit" assignment, it's the only assignment.

Jesus only ever talked about the Kingdom of God. It was, in fact, the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom that he came to preach. The Good News of the Kingdom was that it was here and now and that you and I could enter it today.

The Kingdom of God is simply the reality that we experience when Jesus is our actual King. When He is the King or Lord of our life, then we are living in the Kingdom and He is our King.

The Sermon on the Mount is what life in the Kingdom of God looks like. He gives us a snapshot of what it might be like for Jesus to be our King and for us to submit our lives to His rule and reign.

One thing we notice right off the bat is that the reality that Jesus begins describing doesn't resemble anything close to the world you and I live in right now. Otherwise we might expect them to read, "Blessed are the rich for they will be comfortable. Blessed are the famous for they will be loved by millions. Blessed are the employed for they shall not need to worry about how to pay their bills, etc."

This is the reality we live in and were born into. All of us. But Jesus describes something that appears upside down to us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us about a Kingdom where the poor are blessed. The meek inherit the Earth. The losers of this world become the winners in the Kingdom. Those who cry now will be filled with joy in the Kingom.

Here's a little nugget to keep in mind: The Kingdom of God is right side up. The Kingdom is God's reality. It's our world that is upside down and Jesus is coming to set things right.

What blesses us is not the condition we find ourselve in (meekness, mourning, poor in spirit, etc.) but the King Himself. We are blessed in spite of our low condition, not because of it. We are loved by the King and He welcomes everyone into His Kingdom, starting with those most of us overlook and avoid.

God loves to work through the least among us. He's always looking over the head of the tallest to see the shortest. He's always on the lookout for ways to include the people who are on the outside looking in.

This is why He chose Gideon, who was the least of his family, who was the least among his tribe, which was the least tribe of all the other tribes. It's why God chose David as King, even when his own father made a point to leave him out in the field with the sheep. It's why Jesus made it a priority to visit a well at noon to talk to a woman who was an outcast even among the Samaritans. It's why right now He's looking at you and welcoming you to enter into His Kingdom and follow Him.

You matter to God. You are not an outcast to Him. You are blessed. You are loved. You are significant. You're worth dieing for, and He's worth living for.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Sometimes God hits you with something profound when you least expect it. For instance, the other day our marketing department spent 3 hours in a mandatory Creative Collaboration session. Right off the bat everyone was handed one of these name tags and asked to write one thing we’re really good at. Some people wrote “Making Cookies” or “Herding Cats” or “Keeping Things in Perspective” but I sat there holding my sharpie marker with a blank name tag. What am I really good at? I wondered.

In these situations you can’t help but wonder what will happen based on what you write on one of these tags. If I write “Singing” then what if she asks me to sing something for everyone? I didn’t want to write something boring like “Blogging” because it’s no big deal to be good at that. Plus, it’s pretty close to what I already do in my job as a writer anyway. The goal was to find something you’re really good at outside of work that most people wouldn’t know about necessarily.

I turned to the person next to me and said, “I don’t know what to write.” He said, “You’re a good writer.” Yeah, I said, but that’s what I do here. Someone next to him said, “You’re a good blogger.” That sucks, I said. Another person said, “You save people” because he knows I used to be a pastor. I’ve never saved anyone in my life, I said. Then another person said, “You enable people.” I’m an enabler? That sounds pretty negative. Then someone said, “You’re really good at helping people.” So, I wrote that down and put the label on my shirt. That’s when God really started to deal with me.

“This is who you are,” He said. “I made you to help people.” Immediately I remembered Robert Higgins. My heart started to break again and I nearly started to cry in the middle of this workshop.

The more I thought about this, the more it continued to bless me. Not only had God spoken to me in this silly exercise, but he did it through four of my co-workers. In fact, He could only have done it through the four of them because on my own I honestly didn’t know what to write. They were able to tell me that I was really good at helping people when I was immersed in my own self doubt. “Am I really good at anything?” I wondered. And God nudged these four co-workers to say, “You’re really good at helping people.” And then I wrote that on a sticker and this defined me for the rest of the day.

As the day progressed, I got to watch this woman Dyana Valentine, facilitate our motley group of creative professionals through a process of collaborative thinking. This woman quit her job and started her own business so she could spend her time standing in front of a group of people and help them to think through creative problem solving techniques. As I listened to her talk and watched her draw the solutions out of us, I knew what I wanted to do when I grow up. I want to do what she does. One day I am going to start my own business. I am going to find a way to get in front of groups of people and I am going to help them learn how to work together and collaborate and find solutions creatively.

I’ve always loved teaching and facilitating groups of people. There’s something in me that’s been part of my identity since I was a very young boy that comes alive when I’m in front of people. It’s why I used to do impressions of famous people at age 9. It’s why I starred in school plays in elementary school. It’s why I started a rock band in college. It’s why I love to preach and teach in Church settings. I love being in front of people. I love interacting with people. I love helping them to learn and to grow and to see things they couldn’t see before.

All of this happened in one three hour workshop. None of it was what I ever expected. But now I know two very important things: What I want to be when I grow up, and what I’m really good at.

What is it that you are really good at? If I handed you one of these name tags, what would you write? Do you know what you're made for? Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Knowing this and doing this are two of the most important things you can ever experience in your life.

I can't wait to help people and to find ways to show people things they've never seen before.


Friday, December 03, 2010


"I've given like a beggar but lived like the rich
And crafted myself a more comfortable cross,
Yet what I am called to is deeper than this,
It's time You had my whole life;
You can have it all." – Matt Redman (The Way of the Cross)

Someone once said, "When we consider our love for others we measure how much we give. When God measures, He considers how much we hold on to."

As the Christmas season approaches I can't help but feel excitement at all I can give to those in need around me. I have been blessed beyond measure. I am rich in all the things that matter and my family has everything we need to survive (and a whole lot extra we don’t need, too).

When we consider how much we have been blessed (and if we live in America we are among the richest people living on the planet today), it’s easy to let go of what we own and share it with those who have little.

I don't care how poor you think you are, I can probably show you someone who is much worse off than you are living right down the street from you. And joy comes from giving to others, helping people in need, and bringing a smile to someone else's face. Joy is never about what you give to yourself, or even what someone gives to you. That might make you feel thankful, or happy for a moment, but real Joy is something deeper and lasting. It is always about what you give away to others. Making a noticeable difference in another person's life and knowing that something you did, or something you gave away meant something to another human being is what fuels real joy.

For the last few years now our family has been moving away from buying gifts for one another and focusing instead on bringing joy to others around us. So, we take the money we would normally spend on gifts for each other and we buy gifts for children at the motel where we've been serving for over 8 years now. Or we take the time to go caroling at a local senior home and bring joy to people who are desperately lonely and empty. Or we find ways to creatively bless people on our street, or to see the person on the fringes who most people ignore and buy them a meal, or engage them in a friendly conversation.

What changed my mind about Christmas was when we partnered with a few others to bring a Christmas blessing to a woman and her son who were desperately poor a few years ago. She had just recovered from brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Her son had asked if they could have a Christmas tree because they had never had a tree or gifts to put under it before. After we set up the tree and laid all the gifts under it and hung up the stockings which were jam-packed with blessings, we sat down to pray over her. When we were done she looked up and said, "Can I pray for you?" That's the moment when my heart broke forever. As this dear, humble sister in Christ lifted up our family in prayer I silently wept. Huge, wet, hot tears dropped into my hands as she called us each by name and gave thanks to God for these blessings.

On my way out to our car to go home I told my family, "That was my Christmas gift. I don't want or need anything else but that." And I decided right there and then that from now on I only wanted my Christmas to be about doing all that I could to bless others.

Really, it's a very selfish decision on my part. I get so much out of this. It's not really fair because no matter how much I try to bless others, I always come away with a bigger blessing than I brought with me.

Listen to what Paul the Apostle said about serving and giving to others:

"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:32-35)

So, what will you give away this Christmas? I promise you, the more you give away, the more joy you'll receive in return.

I dare you to test me on this one.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Thanks to the selfless efforts of Tommy Ab, my book "The Gospel:For Here or To Go?" is now available on PDF and in print for anyone who speaks French.

The book is now available at my bookstore link

FRENCH TITLE: "L'Evangile:Pour ici ou pour emporter?"
$12.99 Print
1.99 PDF Download

As before, the book features a forward written by Neil Cole, author of "Organic Church" and the cover artwork of Scott Laumann ( whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, and at fine art galleries in Los Angeles and beyond.

I am a very blessed man.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

How's Your Sermon Coming?

What does it really mean to live by faith? According to the passage of scripture in Hebrews chapter 11 (often referred to as the "Hall of Faith") it involves acting on what you believe in your heart to be true.

More than simple "belief", Biblical faith is more about action than ideas.

"By faith Abel offered..." (v.4)

"By faith Noah..built an ark.." (v.7)

"By faith Abraham..obeyed and went.." (v.8)

"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.." (v.20)

"By faith Jacob...blessed each of Joseph's sons.."(v.21)

"By faith Joseph...spoke about the exodus...and gave instructions about his bones.."(v.22)

"By faith Moses..refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter...chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.." (v.24)

The pattern seems to be that these people had faith and then they did something about it. Faith is doing something to demonstrate what you believe. It is not simply belief itself.

"You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did." (James 2:20-22)

What we do about what we believe is more important than what we believe. To believe something and to do nothing about it is equal to unbelief.

"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2:24)

Our lives are a living testimony of what we actually believe. If what we say we believe and our actions don't line up, we call that hypocrisy. Some call it Christianity. This shouldn't be the case.

I recently read through the epistles of Titus, Philemon, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Timothy. One thing that struck me out of all of these letters from Paul was the importance of our character as followers of Jesus. Doing good and living lives of love and service to others wasn't an evangelism strategy, it was a way of life. Because they had been radically transformed by the living, resurrected Christ, they were changed into people who extravagantly loved and served and gave and shared all that they had with those around them.

Every one of us who names the name of Christ is living out a daily sermon to the world around us. We are pouring forth a message of the love of Christ to those who have yet to discover such love - or we're denying that such love is real by our attitudes and lack of concern for others.

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our service, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor 3:3)

Each of us a living, breathing sermon testifying daily to the amazing love of Jesus our Lord.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The disciples of Jesus were very concerned with leadership. Early on they spent a great deal of their time discussing issues of hierarchy with one another. For example:

"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." (Luke 9:46)

Even at the Lord's Supper, when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him, and that he would suffer in order to establish a new covenant between God and man, the disciples took a break from discussing which of them might betray Jesus in this way in order to discuss the very important topic of leadership:

"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." (Luke 22:24)

Earlier on in Jesus' ministry the mother of James and John came to him to engage in a dialog about leadership, saying:

"Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (Matthew 20:21)

Of course, James and John themselves were also quite eager to move up in the hierarchy of the Kingdom and so they also came to Jesus to talk about leadership issues when they said:

"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." (Mark 10:37)

Even when they traveled from town to town, the disciples loved to talk about which of them was the greatest of all.

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, [Jesus] asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." (Mark 9:33-34)

Yes, the disciples were extremely fixated on the topic of leadership and hierarchy. But Jesus wasn't. In fact, in every single one of these cases, Jesus took the time to stress to the Disciples that, in the Kingdom of God, leadership didn't have anything to do with being top dog. In fact, if they wanted to be great in the Kingdom of God, they would have to get used to washing feet, being everyone's servant and acting like simple children.

In the Kingdom of God, the only boss is Jesus. He is still the head of His Church and no one else. All the rest of us are brothers and sisters in His Family.

Jesus reminds all of us that the least among us is the greatest of all.(Luke 9:48)
He models a servant style of leadership for all of us to follow (John 13:4-17)
He boldly declares that, unless we can become humble like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of God.(Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17; Matthew 18:3-4)

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus pointed to both Jewish (Religious) and Roman (Political) hierarchies and made a point to contrast those systems with his own model. He sternly warned his disciples not to “lord it over” one another as the Gentile rulers did.(Mark 10:42-45) He also commanded them not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders who loved the praise of men and built their own kingdoms to glorify themselves. (Matt 23:8-12).

Eventually, the disciples got it. They abandoned their pursuits of hierarchy and they embraced the loving, servant leadership posture that Jesus so beautifully modelled for them.

We see this when Peter appealed to the Church as a fellow laborer in Christ and referred to himself as a "fellow elder" rather than as an Apostle:

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Paul echoed this also, saying:

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” – 2 Cor.1:24

People love leaders. We love leadership. We flock to those with the greatest talent and ability. But this is exactly what Paul warns the Church about when he rebukes them for identifying themselves as followers of Appollos, or Peter, or even of himself. (see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

Instead, Paul warns all of them not to become disciples of any other man, or leader, but to fully submit to Christ alone as Lord and Savior and Teacher.

When Paul was preparing to return to Jerusalem he wrote a letter of farewell to many of the churches he had helped to plant and nourish. As he encouraged them he took the opportunity to remind them of something that had been burning in his heart for three years. It was something that, in his own words, he “never stopped warning each of (them), night and day with tears.” – (Acts 20:25-31)

What do you suppose it was that concerned Paul so much? What could bring him to tears like this? What could compel him to constantly remind and warn those first Christians “night and day”?

Was it false doctrine in the church? Was it the coming persecution? No, it was something far more devasting to the Body. The rise of teachers and leaders who would draw disciples after themselves rather than pointing them directly to Christ.

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” – Acts 20:25-31

What troubled Paul most of all was the knowledge that, after he was gone, men would rise up “to draw away disciples after themselves”. Paul was broken-hearted to think of the Body submitting to the authority of men rather than to the authority of Christ.

Think about this. Paul is mainly concerned that men will rise up from within the Body itself and, in his absence, set themselves up as leaders and draw disciples to themselves.

Why would this concern Paul so much? Why would it cause him such anxiety and emotional turmoil? Perhaps because Jesus made the issue of leadership within His Body very clear: It was designed to be a family, an organism and a community, not a hierarchy.

In the Church, our only Head and Leader is Jesus.

"Christ is the head of the body, the church; Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,that in everything Christ might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18)

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:22-23)


Monday, November 15, 2010

National Day of Prayer and Fasting for Immigration Reform

On Tues. Nov. 16th I will be participating in a National Day of Prayer and Fasting for Immigration Reform.

You're invited to join with others locally who are praying and fasting for the immigrants among us. If you want to take part, please consider attending the prayer and worship service at RockHARBOR that same evening to break the fast.

National Day of Prayer and Fasting for Immigration Reform
RockHarbor Church
6:30pm - 8:30pm

Find out more

"Do not mistreat the alien or oppress him, for you were once aliens in
Egypt". (Exodus 22:21)

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." (Romans 12:16)

Saturday, November 13, 2010


On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV entered the West Nickel Mines School house holding a loaded gun. He proceeded to shoot ten girls, between the ages of 6 and 13 years old, and killed five of them. Eventually he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

While stories like this are all-too-common in our world today, the reaction of the community was anything but.

This shooting had taken place in the Amish country of Bart Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The families who lost their daughters were filled with grief over the loss of their children, but they were also filled with the love of Christ. This is why, instead of responding out of their despair, they followed the Prince of Peace and found the faith to act out the loving example of Jesus.

Just one week after the shooting, the same families who lost their daughters in this senseless and selfish act visited Marie Roberts, the wife of the man who had pulled the trigger and taken his own life. They boldly, and sincerely, offered their complete forgiveness to her. They invited her to attend the funeral services for their slain daughters. They shared all relief funds sent to them with Mrs. Roberts and her own children who had lost their father that same day. They even attended the funeral of Charles Roberts and offered their loving support to his widow and his children.

This is love. This is true forgiveness and Christian compassion.

Out of hate, love can conquer. Out of despair, hope can rise. Out of tragedy, forgiveness can overcome.

The message of the Gospel is subversive. It goes against the grain. It makes a real, dramatic, powerful difference at just the right time, and when no one could possibly even expect it.

This is what we are called to, as followers of Christ. We are called to love extravagantly and to forgive inexplicably, and to demonstrate to the world that Jesus is alive inside of us.

Let the Kingdom come.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Re-Blog: What God Allows

The other day as I was talking with a friend the question came up, "Why does God allow these things to happen?"

It doesn't really matter what the specific context of our conversation was. You and I can fill in the blanks here and ask why God allows suffering, why God allows children to be abused, why God allows spiritual leaders to twist the Gospel, why God allows Christians to shoot abortion doctors on Sunday morning in Church?

It seems to me that if you made a list of the top 10 things God does not allow you'd have a hard time coming up with even one thing.

"How can God allow...?"

When we ask this question are we yearning for God to take more control over our reality? Are we hoping for the day when the Kingdom fully breaks into this world and His perfect will is always, fully accomplished?

Surely it's not that we expect God to prevent car crashes or divert bullets or ensure that no one anywhere is ever harmed or killed or endures suffering? Seriously? Is this the world we live in? Is this our expectation?

But, maybe the answer is "Yes." Maybe we do, in our heart of hearts, long for God to reach down and protect every life and heal every hurt and prevent every tragedy. And if so, then what we're really desperate for is the breaking in of the Kingdom of God into this world we live in now. This is exactly what Jesus wanted to see when he came and announced "the Kingdom of God is at hand."

The truth is that our world is full of suffering and pain. This is our reality. However, there is still hope for us to experience a reality where God's rule and reign is tangible. "The Kingdom of God," Jesus said, "is within you". It begins with our individual hearts and our actual lives. We must invite Jesus to be the King of our life first. We must surrender our rule and reign for His rule and reign. We must humble ourselves and trust Him with all that we have.

Now and again we do experience the breaking in of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes God does intervene and He miraculously heals someone. Sometimes God brings us through the car crash unscathed. Sometimes God reaches into this reality and corrects what is wrong and makes it right. I'm very thankful that in my life God has intervened on several occasions. I have personally seen and experienced His healing. I have experienced His Grace and His Mercy.

But sometimes, God does not intervene. In fact, God's intervention is the exception, not the rule. God often allows anything, and everything, to happen. He works through the pain, the tragedy, the disappointment, the tears and the wreckage to bring redemption, salvation, clarity, peace and reconciliation.

We recently said goodbye to a dear sister in Christ who struggled and suffered with brain cancer. God did not heal her of this, but He did work through her suffering to bring reconciliation to her son and daugther and brother and sister. Healing did take place, but not in the way we expected.

For now we live in a fallen world. God is still in control, but more often than not God allows things to happen and He works through the wreckage.

We are co-workers with God in this effort. He allows us the honor of extending grace to the sinner, comfort to the afflicted, and hope to the hopeless.

In fact, Jesus so identifies with the poor, the broken, the imprisoned, and the outcast that he says "whatever you have done to one of the least of these you have done it to me."

So, the next time we are tempted to ask, "How can God allow...?" we have to realize that God is permissive, but He is not passive. He takes what is intended for evil and turns it to good. He is in the business of turning darkness into light, and He calls us to the same ministry of reconciliation.

Maybe, when it comes to suffering and injustice we should ask ourselves, "How can we allow..?"

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." - Jesus, (Matthew 16:19)

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." - 2 Cor 4:10-12

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us." - 2 Cor 5:20


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Help Me With My New Book - [Subversive Interviews]

I'm nearly finished putting together my collection of interviews with people like Dallas Willard, Todd Hunter, Frank Viola, Jim Wallis, Matt Redman, Neil Cole, Walter Kirn, and many others.

If you've got a few minutes, please take this quick survey and help me out.

Click here to take survey


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Gospel of Life and Death

I heard a quote the other day from my friend Jackie Pullinger. She said, "The Gospel is always life for the hearer and death for the giver. It was death for Jesus to bring us the Gospel, but it was life to us who received it. If this is how it was for Jesus, why do we think it will be any different for us? For us to bring the Gospel it will mean our death, but for those who receive the Gospel, they will have life."

This phrase has rocked me since the day I first heard it. Mainly because it makes me realize that lately I’ve not been experiencing much death. If anything, I am more alive now than ever before. By this I mean that my main thought these days is largely preoccupied with my own comfort and entertainment rather than focused on serving others, giving up my rights or suffering for the Gospel of Christ.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” – (Philippians 1:29)

I do actually believe that the New Testament teaches – as Jackie suggests in her quote – that suffering is part of the Gospel. Jesus was quite clear that anyone who made up their mind to follow him must begin by taking up their cross (the instrument of their death) and die to themselves daily. In fact, there is no other way to follow Jesus than this way. The Way of the Cross is the only path to discipleship with Christ.

This means that my death is part of the equation, and according to Jesus the death must be a daily practice:

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." – (Luke 9:23-26)

My confession is that lately I have been eager to advance the Kingdom of God and to pursue Jesus passionately, but I’ve sort of misplaced my cross.

About the same time as I heard this quote from Jackie Pullinger, I also watched a documentary on DVD about missionary Heidi Baker who gave up everything to rescue orphans in war-torn Mozambique several years ago. She and her husband left Orange County (where I now live) and travelled to a foreign land in response to God’s calling on their life to serve the poor and bring the Gospel to the least and the lost.

What struck me as I watched this family surrender everything was this, “There’s a difference between being willing to surrender all to Christ and actually surrendering all to follow Jesus.”

Most of my journey with Jesus so far has been marked by a “willingness” to give up everything for Christ, but I have stopped short of “actually” surrendering everything to Jesus. Granted, I have not heard God’s call to abandon everything and travel to a foreign nation to minister to orphans. My calling, so far, seems to be centered here in Orange County. My ministry has been to love the poor here in the OC where over 40,000 homeless live in motels with their children, or in their car. Still, my ministry lately hasn’t involved very much dying if I’m honest.

In my spiritual life there should always be a constant exchange of energy, like an internal nuclear reactor inside of me. On one end it is burning up my flesh and bringing death to my flesh, but at the same time it is converting that death into the life of Christ within me. The exchange in me is constant death for eternal life. And what’s more, the catalyst of this nuclear reaction is the resurrection power of Christ at work within me.

Paul says it this way:

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” – (Philippians 3:10-11)

As I submit to the command of Jesus to carry my cross, and as I allow Him to crucify my flesh daily, I experience the death that comes from the Gospel. At the same time, I also experience the life of the Gospel within me as Jesus is formed in me. The power of His resurrection is what is released in me when my flesh is crucified.

The quote from Jackie I referenced talks about this exchange in a slightly different way. She speaks of the death we experience as we bring the Gospel to others, suggesting that we must suffer and die to ourselves in order to proclaim – or more accurately to demonstrate – the Gospel of the Kingdom. Those who receive the Gospel experience the new life in Christ, however, once they are disciples themselves, they will also begin to experience this same death of the flesh as they repeat the process in their own spiritual obedience.

My problem is figuring out how to follow Jesus in so radical a way when I live in the relative comfort, freedom and excess of America, and Orange County, California.

The New Testament writers had a lot to say about suffering and how it relates to our identity in Christ and to the mission of the Church:

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." – (2 Cor 4:10-12)

“Therefore we do not lose, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” - (1 Pet. 4:12-13)

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” – (Romans 5:3)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – (Romans 8:18)

“Woe to you who are comfortable” – (Amos 6:1)

The more I ponder these things, the more I realize that I have failed to resist the constant pull of my flesh away from suffering and towards pleasure and comfort. Where can I die to myself? How can I embrace the death of my flesh and serve others more sacrificially? For me to have more of Christ, I need to have less of me. This can only happen if I allow the Great Physician to cut away the dead flesh of my heart and breathe life into me.

My prayer lately has been simply this: Please Jesus come live and breathe in me today. Help me to embrace the death that the Gospel brings to my flesh so that I can experience the life of Christ that springs up from within by your Spirit.



Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Regardless of what the literal meaning of "Traditional Values" may imply, most everyone in America today would agree that the term conjures up a laundry list of good, old-fashioned concepts like "God, Grandma, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet", or some similiar combination of words. At the core, it's a reflection of our inner desire to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when politicians were honest, prices were low and life was simple.

The problem of course comes when we realize that this is nothing but a fantasy. Sure, we might love to kick back and remember the good old days with fondness, but the reality is that we've always complained about high prices, lying politicians and never having enough time to slow down and enjoy our lives. Besides, we do not have access to time travel technology outside of Hollywood and science fiction, so any longing we have to turn back the clock is automatically moot. It's just not going to happen.

Therefore, what we're left with now is what you see in front of you. This world we live in is the only world there is. There is no such thing as a "Christian World" other than the one we create when we surround ourselves with media, clothing, and services that shelter us from reality. There is no such thing as a better yesterday that we can return to by wishful thinking or by breeding a super senator who can dismantle the corruption in Washington with his bare hands and restore sanity with the stroke of his mighty pen. It's not going to happen.

As followers of Jesus, our only hope is Him. When we place our hopes in politics, or politicians, we've already lost the battle. In fact, nothing so underscores our lack of faith in the Messiah or His Gospel than our attempt to solve the world's problems by legislating the outward behaviors that only Jesus can create from within.

The American Church is currently lusting for political influence and power. Why? Because "Plan A" has failed to create the result we desired, and so we have now reverted to "Plan B" which is to attempt to Christianize the society around us and to legislate our Christian values.

I would encourage today's American Christian to remember this: The Christians we read about in the New Testament lived under an oppressive pagan government. They were killed for sport and persecuted horribly. Instead of attempting to reform their government, they obeyed Jesus and loved their oppressors. They did not take up the sword and fight back. They did not verbally abuse the pagans for their sinful lifestyle. They did not attempt to form a coalition or a lobby group to force legislation that aligned with their views. Instead, they simply loved the people around them, shared all that they had with others and, in time, they turned the world upside down by imitating Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our faith was born under intense persecution and the Church survived by emulating the humble, peaceful, loving response of Her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. If we do anything less - or more - than follow the example of Jesus today, we are hopelessly lost.

NOTE: Today's article was written originally in response to a question asked of me by my friend and fellow blogger, Joe Ortiz, regarding the question of "Traditional Values" and their meaning in today's political climate.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ark Syndrome: The Walter Kirn Interview

Back in 2003, Walter Kirn was the fiction editor for GQ Magazine. He wrote an article, "What Would Jesus Do?" an insightful commentary which chronicled his immersion into the Christian subculture.

After a friend shared this article with me, back in 2005, I re-posted this article to my blog. Five years later, it's still one of my top 3 most read pages every month. That says a lot.

Fast forward to 2010, and Walter Kirn is now an author whose books get made into films starring George Clooney (Up In The Air) and Tilda Swinton (Thumbsucker).

What's even more amazing (at least to me) is that Mr. Kirn would take the time to do a phone interview with me on a Sunday afternoon to talk about an article he wrote seven years ago and explore how the Christian subculture is still a bad idea.


Walter Kirn: I’m happy to hear that my article is still drawing traffic to your site after all this time.

Keith Giles: It must resonate with people at some level, I’d say for people to still be searching for it online. Were you aware that this article had such an impact outside of that initial publication in GQ?

WK: No I didn’t. I didn’t even know that it had any impact even on its initial publication. I mean, you write a piece like that one and by the time it’s published you’ve moved on as a writer. In those days, when it first came out in GQ (2003), we didn’t have the ‘Net to measure the response. You’d get a few letters to the magazine or whatever, but it was really impossible to tell whether it had any impact.

I’ve heard a few people discussing it and I thought that it was interesting that the people who were discussing it were doing so as sort of self-critical Christians; questioning whether or not a certain kind of commercialization had gone too far, rather than people using it to criticize the Christian community. I didn’t want it to, but I always suspected that the article might provide an opportunity for people to make fun, but it turned out not to be the case. It turned out to cause a dialog of conscience on the part of believers.

KG: That’s certainly been the case in my experience. A friend of mine showed it to me back in 2005 and I had never heard it before and he let me borrow his copy of the magazine and it inspired some great dialog. I’m aware of a half dozen other groups of people who have leveraged your article to launch sweeping email-based dialogs with other people of faith on this issue of materialism in the Church and the pitfalls of the Christian subculture in general. As you said, most of those dialogs involved Christians asking themselves, “In what ways do we contribute to this mentality?” You called it an “Ark” mentality in your article, as I remember.

WK: Right. It’s one that I have a certain sympathy for. I understand the challenge. The attempt to challenge this mass media monster and of course one of the tactics is, “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.” So, I’m not surprised that this sort of parallel universe of Christian pop culture has arisen. At the same time, it seems so…and I said it in the piece, but not as strongly as I might’ve – the culture that’s come out of this seems to pale in comparison to the great Christian art that’s come out of the church in the past. You know, whether that be painting or real Gospel music, or other works of art that are really moved by the Spirit. The modern versions of Christian art seem to be pale imitations that attempt to just give people an alternative, but it’s not a superior alternative. And it saddened me to see artists who basically just copy cat the secular culture and do it in an inferior way and then labeling it “Christian”. I would think that “Christian Art” should be an excellent, provocative, interesting form of art that transcends all others, rather than a kind of “Me Too” subculture moving off the mainstream.

KG: Yes. I think what happens – and by the way I used to work for a large Christian record company, and I worked in a Baptist Bookstore when I was in college, so I’ve had a background being a part of that machine and I’ve seen it from the inside, and what I observed was, as you’ve already said, it was mainly intended as an alternative to the popular culture. We used to actually publish charts that would hang in the stores that would let every Soccer Mom know that if Johnny liked Pearl Jam she should buy him the new Petra Cd. Exactly as you’ve said, the idea is that we need a Christian product to replace the popular product and that’s really the main goal. It’s a very fear-based business model, really. Even to the degree of suggesting that people aren’t really following Jesus if they dare to freshen their breath with “secular mints”.

WK: (Laughter) Yeah!

KG: It’s the idea of getting your Christian Milk from a Christian Cow and it creates this division, this false version of the World, that’s safe for the whole family. We end up quarantining ourselves from the world by surrounding ourselves with Christian versions of everything so that we don’t catch what “they” have. Of course, that goes totally against what Jesus prayed for us in John when he said, “I don’t pray that they be taken out of the world but that they would be protected from the evil one.” So, we’ve taken ourselves out of the world by making a Christian version of it that keeps us safe and inoculated against “those people.” They should catch what we have. We shouldn’t be afraid that we’ll catch what they have.

WK: Exactly! I mean, if you look at Gospel music, I mean, wait a second. There’s an incredible argument to be made that a lot of Rock and Roll came out of faith-based music.

KG: Yes.

WK: There’s kind of a lack of self esteem in the whole thing, too. There’s this latent inferiority complex that somehow you’ve got to clone this popular culture in order to have a culture, when in fact there was a very vibrant – and still is- dimension of Christianity which might not lend itself to commercialism, but certainly stands as viable art and as culturally relevant as anything that Hollywood turns out.

Also, I think you’re right, you can end up creating a bubble in which you’re sure not to see any disruptive messages, or be offended or be exposed to disconcerting images or ideas. Also it seems to me that retreating in that fashion makes it impossible to bring the light to the people who don’t have it. It’s complacent to sit back and lock your doors and enjoy your little safe zone. You know? When in fact, it’s only the awareness of what’s going on in the world that allows you to attract people in a way that acknowledges the real problems that people are dealing with. Creating a nice, pre-padded cell is not the way to bring the masses to Christ.

Didn’t Jesus seek out some of the most troubled and distressed people in his society? He walked into the very places most religious figures would avoid. He didn’t hole up in a cave and surround himself with reassuring images and “yes men” and let the world outside go to heck.

KG: I think that’s what concerns me. When I see the Church retreating from society and refusing to really engage the problems that people are dealing with in the actual world.

WK: It’s one thing to have to survive in the age of persecution, it’s one thing to have to retreat into a defensive position when the Romans are looking for you. But, it’s another now to be in this time when – how can I put it? – I used the term “Ark” in a dual sense. I do understand the impulse to preserve a zone of safety, especially for children.

Although the piece made fun of Christian culture, it’s not that I don’t understand the impulse to have a safe place and especially for young children. At the same time, there is no relevance to the message or any sense of the adventure of living with faith if you have eliminated all other sources of dissonance and contradiction.

Finally, how do you bring a message to people if you’ve insulated yourself from reality? There’s something frightened about the Christian commercial culture. It sends this subliminal message that says, “We’re not going to be able to make it out there” or “It’s too scary out there.” It’s like going down to the basement alone or something. It’s also just nakedly profit-based too, I imagine. I can’t believe a lot of it isn’t just outright exploitation by people who really don’t care and who are just looking to make some money in a different market.

KG: You’re exactly right, and that’s one of the most disheartening things I observed during my tenure in the Christian subculture was to realize that it really was just a business like any other business. I mean, on the outside the Christian record business says that they’re all about spreading the Gospel, but the reality is that if you’re not selling 20,000 units as an artist your label is going to drop you for another artist who can, and it won’t matter if hundreds of people are coming to Christ at your concerts either. Selling product is the only thing that counts.

I have to say, however, that most of the artists I’ve known are genuinely seeking to glorify God in what they do, they really do have a desire to use their gift to spread the gospel. But most of them discover pretty quickly that it’s not about ministry, it’s about money. That’s where it gets weird, to me, when you’ve made a business out of something that I’m not sure should be a business.

WK: Well, it certainly wasn’t intended to be in the first place. I don’t know how you mix those things successfully? I mean, how do you make faith and mammon mix?
I don’t really know. I’m sure Christian music is probably bigger than ever now isn’t it?

KG: I’ve been out of that loop so long, I don’t really even know to be honest.

WK: Probably much more organized, I have a feeling anyway. The Internet has allowed a lot of people to be more organized.

KG: Can I ask you why you wrote this article and published it in GQ of all places? I mean, you probably had an idea that the readers of that magazine were probably not Christians.

WK: Well, I mean I always think it’s more interesting to write things that the audience isn’t guaranteed to be familiar with already. You know what I mean? I knew that that my article wasn’t necessarily what GQ’s audience would identify with, but I wanted to bring it to them in a way that might cause them to think.

Of course, I know that this same audience had noticed the Christian subculture out of the corner of their eye. Whether or not they were living in it or not, they were certainly living around it. A lot of subjects I choose for essays and articles are phenomenon that everybody has been exposed to, perhaps only obliquely, but hasn’t had the chance to really think about it. Or had any reason to think about it.

Anybody who has ever turned a car radio dial has come across Christian radio. Anybody who had cable TV had come across Pat Robertson or whatever. So, I knew that no matter who you were – if you were just a GQ reader who bought the magazine to find out what hair gel to get or learn how to match your socks and your shirt, you had noticed this phenomenon and perhaps even formed some thoughts and opinions about it that you weren’t even aware of. So, I wanted to just bring it up into a level of consciousness.

I live in Montana and I grew up in the middle of the country, in Minnesota, and I’ve always enjoyed bringing subjects to national magazine that don’t have to deal with life in Los Angeles or New York, necessarily.

Of course, a lot of what I’m talking about is right there where you live, in Orange County, California.

KG: Yeah, it’s all over the place here. I mean, TBN is right down the street. Most of the nation’s largest mega-churches are out here, too. I could literally walk to the Crystal Cathedral if I wanted to, and Calvary Chapel is here, and Saddleback. I don’t know why, but God put me here and I’m living in this place. From here I can see how it warps people a bit. I mean, I’m from Tennessee and I grew up in Texas and I remember when I first moved out here about 16 years ago, I told my friends back in Texas that it was like living on another planet. The clothes were the same and they spoke the same language and watched the same TV shows, but other than that it was like living in a Twilight Zone episode.

WK: (laughs) That’s funny.

KG: In the time you have left do you mind talking a little about your personal faith journey? I think most people know you for your novels and your articles, but they probably also wonder who is this Walter Kirn guy and why is he talking to me about the Church?

WK: Well, it’s not something that I talk a lot about, number one. Nor is it something I’m asked a lot about. For one thing, I feel that not talking about it overtly gives me more flexibility to talk about it secretly in my writing, in both my fiction and non-fiction. In other words, for me to identify myself loudly and widely as a Christian would probably cause a lot of ears to close. Perhaps it would cause other ears to open, but the one’s that would open wouldn’t necessarily be the ones I’m addressing.

So, my faith is something I’m discreet about and quiet about, because I think of it simply as a point of view that can trickle through my writing and I don’t have to be strong about or announce as such, but it gives what I write a moral, ethical, spiritual framework that I hope will show through between the lines.

So, my faith isn’t something I discuss publicly, but I don’t mind it either. It’s nothing at all to be ashamed of or to be embarrassed about. It’s not something to be proud of either.

KG: (laughs)

WK: But it is something to witness to when asked. My history with organized religion is sort of checkered. I was baptized a Presbyterian in a very formal way. My family didn’t go to church much. When I was about 12, however, we converted to Mormonism and I was a member o f the Church of Latter Day Saints from about 12 to 17. Then, for social reasons as much as spiritual reasons, I made the most of it because it wasn’t something that I’d chosen necessarily. So, at 17 I decided not to go on a Mormon Mission and went to Princeton instead.

I don’t know that I thought much about my relationship with God for maybe about seven or eight years. But, around age 30 I stopped drinking and entered a 12 step program. As people may already know, the 12 step program urges the addict to reflect on their spiritual beliefs and to enter into a relationship with a higher power. So, that caused me to start looking at how I defined God and I could not really adequately or satisfactorily relate to any God but that which I knew from the New Testament. The Christian story at every level was all I needed to feel spiritually whole - at the literary level and as the real-life account of one man’s persecution and death, and as a large-scale description of our predicament here on Earth. I tried other things. I tried meditation. I tried all the various unfocused, fuzzy spiritual options. I could not dispense with Jesus Christ. I could not – either as a teacher, as a suffering, divine human being, as a contradiction, and a mystery.

So, that put me in a strange situation because I was a writer and a journalist who was addressing people of all kinds and didn’t want to limit myself to so-called Christian themes. That’s one of the problems I have with Christian culture. Christian culture is should be all culture. It should not think that it has to confine itself to certain kinds of themes or certain issues or certain characters. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of being in the world. If you believe it, it’s an account of what’s going on everywhere with everybody. When it starts backing up and taking only these small portions of reality rather than the whole society and the whole reality then it seems there’s something wrong with it.

So, I had to ask myself, “Do I announce myself as a Christian artist?” And I thought, “Why? No I don’t have to.” I don’t have to because it’s either part of myself and part of my work or it’s not. I wrote this piece (in GQ) out of this argument I was having with myself about whether or not you had to put that capital “C” or that fish symbol on your forehead. I thought, in some instances it’s what works and it’s what’s best, and in other instances it’s not.

To be honest with you, I just didn’t want certain employers of mine to discriminate against me. Not that they would, necessarily. There’s no reason to believe that they would, but it was possible that I might come out with a certain opinion on something and they would dismiss it as the opinion of someone who didn’t actually think; as someone who was simply proceeding blindly for the sake of certain religious principles rather than as someone who was thinking things through.

I never saw any conflict between thinking through every question that comes to you with the brain that God gave us and assessing it through Christian ethics and morality and tradition.

KG: The decision not to compartmentalize yourself, your art is a wise one, I think. It reminds me of a few years ago when a friend of mine said that he didn’t want to call himself a Christian anymore. When I asked why he said there were two reasons. First, because when most non-believers heard the term “Christian” they drew up a mental picture of those same faces on Christian television and they automatically assumed that he was like those people; always after money or always bashing this group or another. Secondly, when he read about the people called “Christian” in the New Testament he found a people who were radically giving their lives away and selling their property to anyone in need and he didn’t think he was worthy to be compared to people like that.

WK: (laughs) That’s interesting.

KG: When my friend said that to me I found I agreed with him, so whenever anyone asks me “Are you a Christian?” I respond by saying, “No, but I am very fascinated with the person of Jesus and I’m doing my best to follow him and to put his teachings into practice in my everyday life.” Which is more true than to simply say, “I’m a Christian”, I think, since that phrase conjures up a host of images and assumptions.
I’ve found that this response is so much more inviting and intriguing than to just say, “I’m a Christian.”

WK: It draws people in rather than to give people an excuse to draw back.

KG: There’s so much baggage associated with that term in our society.

WK: Hey listen, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to deny Jesus Christ. I don’t want to say, “I don’t know him.” But at the same time, I don’t want to do something more than say “I do know him” either. I mean, I admire him and I’m trying to understand him and to follow him as much as I can. I mean, that title is something that somebody else created actually. I don’t have to own all the implied political views, as you say, or the implied cultural narrowness and all the rest. I want people to think, I don’t want to use a title that causes people to stop thinking.

KG: I want to say thank you. I’m very blessed and honored that you would take the time to talk to me today, especially when you’ve got your kids with you this weekend and everything else.

WK: Likewise. I took a look at your blog and I like the feeling of it and I loved the sincerity of it. I like the honesty of it, and it’s got a tone that I’d love to see more of. So, I’m thrilled that I can take some time and do something that’s not just completely selfish.

Walter Kirn is an American novelist, literary critic, and essayist. His novels include Up In the Air, Mission To America, and his latest book, Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Whore At His Feet

"When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." – (Hosea 1:2)

One of the more disturbing metaphors in Scripture is the recurring image of God’s people as a prostitute. Whenever we turn away from God and give ourselves to the pleasures of this world, God is grieved and often He likens this act of spiritual adultery to prostitution.

"'But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—would you now return to me?' declares the LORD." – (Jeremiah 3:1)

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, we see this prostitution of God’s people personified in the form of Gomer, the wife of Hosea the prophet.

"The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods...So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver...Then I told her, "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you." – (Hosea 3:1-3)

I recently saw a Barna research report that rated people's perceptions of different groups of people. In this study Barna found that only prostitutes rated lower on the scale of favorable impressions than Evangelical Christians. So, that got me to thinking, maybe we're a lot more like prostitutes than we'd like to imagine?

In what ways can the Church be like a prostitute? When she offers services rather than genuine love. When she is more concerned with looking good on the outside than being good on the inside. When she fails to engage in a lifelong love affair with her husband. When she only remains faithful because she’s afraid of losing her security. When she honors people more for what they can do for her than for who they are as people.

Many years ago a friend of mine told me about a paper he had to write for a seminary class. The assignment was to write about which Biblical character you would want to be and why. At first my friend started to write his paper about how he’d like to be King David, but then he heard this song:

In the night, the harlot moves across the floor
She turns the handle on the door
A hundred eyes seem to look right through her
Why she's there they're not sure
Behind her love, she falls down to her knees
Without a word, she begins to weep
And her tears, they fall down upon his feet
She smothers them with kisses
And she dries them with her hair

In my life, sorrow has kissed my lonely heart
Fear of man tears me apart
And I try, but many times I've loved the world
So many times I've been the whore
And I cried a million tears, or maybe more
So many times I have been the whore
I will fall down on my knees
And I will sing "I love you"

I will sing "I love you, my love"
And my tears, they fall down upon your feet

Let me smother them with kisses
Let me dry them with my hair
Cos if I could be anyone at all
Well, if I could be anyone at all
Let me be the whore at your feet
The whore at your feet*

After hearing this song, my friend tore up his paper and began to write a new one entitled, “The Whore At His Feet”. The next day, after his professor read the paper he asked my friend to present it to the class. When my friend was done reading, everyone in the class asked if they could also re-write their papers and identify themselves with the whore at the feet of Jesus.

The truth is that we are all, like this prostitute, desperately in need of Jesus and His love. We are all sick, we are all sinners, we are all in the same boat and hopelessly lost without Him.

Because we’ve received such abundant and marvelous love so graciously and without merit, we cannot help but to fall on our knees before Him and express our devotion with a thankful heart.

Now, if you could be anyone in the Bible, who would you choose to be?


"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner"...Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." – (Luke 7:37-39; 44-47)

*Lyrics by Mike Prtizl, from the Violet Burning album "Strength" - 1992

Monday, October 18, 2010


When I was in first grade my family moved from Tennessee to Texas. By that time I had been sexually molested by 3 different people.

Our move to Texas was God's grace to us. It served to heal my parent's marriage. It helped me to escape the sexual predators in my life, and it brought my family to a saving faith in Christ.

I still remember standing in the kitchen as a second grader and gripping the butcher knife in my hands with the point against my belly button, trying to find the courage to stab myself to death. I didn't know why I felt so bad, but I knew I wanted it to stop.

My mom walked in on me, standing in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face, holding the knife against my stomach. I couldn't talk to her about what had happened to me. I couldn't find the words. I felt so much shame. So much confusion about my feelings. How could I admit all that I had done? I didn't even know the words for what had happened to me.

Somehow, after hours of tears and unbearable confession, I managed to explain what had happened to me. Most of it, anyway. It would be years before I could put all the memories together into something my adult mind could process. I still have flashbacks today of things that I cannot put into words, and I won't try to do so here.

Even in the midst of all this pain, I can remember laying on the bed at a babysitters house during naptime and talking to God. I remember telling him that I would be a preacher if he would help my mom and dad get back together. I don't even know why I said that, really, because I had only visited a church once before at that time and I hadn't even sat through the entire service.

Still, God heard that prayer. He took my family out of Tennessee and carried us far away to Eagle Pass, Texas where we found ourselves in the front row of the Lighthouse Freewill Baptist Church.

I remember Bill Sikes, a white-haired man from Virginia who sang "The King is Coming" almost every Sunday morning with a strong baritone voice. I remember Sandra Peterson, the cute blond girl whose father was the town's only vetrinarian. I remember singing "Victory in Jesus" at the top of my lungs with my new friends Shane Briggs and Carl Rutledge on either side of me. But mostly, I remember Vance Link, a tall, dark-haired preacher from North Carolina, talking about how Jesus loved me and died for me. How He could wash away my sins and make me clean inside. I remember my heart racing when he made the invitation to come up front and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. I wanted to take those steps, but my feet were frozen to the floor. The piano played the final verse of "Just As I Am" and it was over. I had missed it.

After the closing prayer I remember taking my Dad's big hand in mine and asking him if he would please tell the pastor that I had wanted to go up and ask Jesus into my heart but that I couldn't make my feet move.

My dad looked at me and said, "No, son. I won't do that."

I was stunned, but he wasn't finished speaking. He said, "But I'll go with you and you can tell him yourself."

So, my dad held onto my hand and we walked those ten steps to the front of the church where I did my best to explain to Pastor Link that I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. He prayed with me through my tears and then something really amazing happened. My mom and my dad both asked if they could be baptized along with me. So, together, all three of us were baptized on the same day into the family of God.

Years later, I found that the ideas and experiences I had been exposed to at such an early age made it nearly impossible for me to escape an eventual addiction to pornography that plagued me throughout high school and into my early college years.

I went through a cycle of addiction for several years. It was always the same. I would start by immersing myself in pornograhic magazines, videos or books. Eventually I would become disgusted with myself and beg for the Lord to forgive me and take away my desire for those things. Then I'd enjoy a season where I could resist the temptation, but eventually it would overwhelm me and I fall right back into that cycle again.

The amazing thing is that, no matter how many times I repented and begged the Lord to take away my desire for pornography - He would do it. It was so amazing to me. He never seemed to get tired of forgiving me and removing my desire.

Over time, my ability to resist the temptation grew stronger and eventually I found freedom from this seemingly endless cycle of addiction. Not that I consider myself to be immune from the power of this addiction. I am constantly aware of the fact that it would only take one stupid mistake to send me back into that cycle again. But now I have a wife who loves me for who I am. I have two amazing boys who I hope to protect from this same addiction. I have no desire to return to that hideous slavery of lust again. Freedom is sweet and the fruit of this freedom is reward in itself.

One thing I learned during my seasons of resisting this temptation that I'll share with all of you is this verse:

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." - (James 4:7)

Many people misquote this verse and say, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" but that's not what it says, and it's not true. The devil isn't afraid of me, nor am I stronger than him in my own flesh. The scripture starts by saying, "Submit yourselves, then, to God." This is the key. If we are submitted to God, then we are automatically moving away from the devil and the flesh. If we are in the arms of God then we are safe from the enemy's power and the enticement of lust. We have to start by submitting ourselves to God and then, when we resist the devil he will flee from us because he knows there's no use trying to pry us out of the hands of Almighty God.

I'm sure a lot of you reading this will wonder why I decided to share this personal, intimate testimony on my blog. I think mainly because I realized this week that God had rescued me from so much already and that it was good to remember it, and to openly confess these things to others.

Everytime I've shared this testimony in the past I have been innundated with people who share similar stories with me about their own molestation, or their own struggles with addiction to pornography. I guess I wanted to let people know that they're not alone and that God really can take away that lustful desire in the heart. I wanted to let people know that God can heal the wounds and the scars of our past and that it's not our fault if an adult takes advantage of us against our will. We are not dirty because someone treated us like dirt. We are dearly loved children of God who need to be held in His arms and made whole again.

I'm one of the lucky ones who can say that Jesus healed my heart and made all things new in me. He gave me the strength to resist temptation yesterday, and He will continue to give me the strength today, and tomorrow as well.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Here are a few notes to reflect what those who attended the Orange County Organic Church Forum on Monday night of this week had to say about our topic:
“Learning to Put Jesus at the Center”

What Can We Do to Put Jesus at the Center?
*It starts with an inner relationship with Jesus that flows outward into the Body.
*Participation is essential
*The principles in 1 Cor 14 reveal that “encouragement” is the fruit of this participatory expression.
*Embrace those who are different and who disagree with us. (No “Party Line”)
*Have the courage to believe that Jesus really IS already at the center and acting out of that reality is key.
*Real fellowship (see 1 John) – “Walk in the Light as He is in the Light...”
*Going first, being transparent and real and authentic is crucial.
*Let Jesus lead the meeting.
*Be Church.
*Church is not a performance.
*Christ in us = Christ in the meeting.
*The quality of my intimacy with Christ influences what I bring to the Body and the Assembly.
*Embrace simplicity. Following Jesus isn’t a riddle to be unraveled but a life to be lived one day at a time.
*Explore what it means to have “Christ in me, the Hope of Glory” by asking Jesus daily to show you.
*Listen more than you speak.
*Allow everyone the opportunity to share their portion of Christ with everyone else.
*Be ok with waiting for God to lead. Uncomfortable silence is ok.
*Embrace spontaneous moves and break your liturgy easily and joyfully.
*Discover Jesus in one another.
*Encourage the hunger to experience loving God, loving others, and being loved by God and others.

What Does It Look Like When Jesus is At the Center? [Breakout session]
*Let the church be what God is forming not what meets your expectations.
*Take off your mask.
*Kill the hymnbook, songsheet, liturgy and remove any other crutches where your comfort reigns.
*Uncomfortable silences are great!
*1 Cor 14:26 – “Not one of you comes not ready to bring something to share...”
*Seeing Jesus in everything daily, not just in the meeting.
*Confess your weakness and sins and failures to others often. They’re not surprised and it makes it easier for them to be real too.
*The Church should be a safe place to be real and human with everyone else.
*How do we prepare? More quality and quantity time with Jesus during the week.
*Find ways to break your unspoken liturgy with joy. "Behold, I make all things new..."
*Find creative ways to involve children of all ages in every part of the meeting.
*Pray together and ask Jesus to lead you in everything. Then make sure to actually let Him!
*Have the courage to trust Jesus as your leader in the meeting, and in your daily life.
*People shouldn’t be allowed to act religious. Instead everyone should be honest, human and humble.
*Recognize that people want so badly to belong that they will assimilate to almost any group to be accepted. Therefore, accept everyone on the basis of their place in the Family of God, not on their allegiance to the party line or the culture of the group.
*Have courage not to create hoops in order to belong.
*Let go of expectations - no model.
*Drop your religious mask.
*Disagree in love, respectfully.
*Share food.
*Mentor the young people.
*Focus on following Jesus, not tradition.
*Church never "begins".
*Let love be the guide.
*Love, acceptance and forgiveness are freely practiced.

Friday, October 08, 2010


I’ve started to notice that the wisdom of Jesus is a bigger part of our collective intelligence than I ever realized before. Often at work I will hear people who are not followers of Jesus quote Him in their conversations with one another. This made me wonder just how many of the phrases we commonly use are actually attributed to the words of Jesus.

Here’s what I found:

Go the extra mile – Mt 5:40-42
The truth will set you free – John 8:32
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak – Mk 14:38
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing – Mt 7:15
The Good Samaritan – Lk 10:30
(He/she is) the salt of the earth – Mt 5:13
Don’t cast your pearls before swine – Mt 7:6
The blind leading the blind – Mt 15:14
Count the cost – Lk 14:28
Do unto others – Lk 6:27-31
The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing – Mt 6:3-4
Man does not live by bread alone – Lk 4:3-4
The Straight and Narrow Path – Mt 7:13-14
Turn the other cheek – Mt 5:38-40
The Prodigal returns – Lk 15:11-13

I think the next time I hear someone who is not a Christian use one of these phrases I’ll ask them if they realize that they’re quoting Jesus.



"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” - (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

What is “double honor” referring to here? What if when Paul suggested that the elders among us are worthy of double honor he meant that we should honor them? If we read the entire passage in context, this would seem to be the case. After saying that they are worthy of “double honor” he goes on to say that accusations against elders shouldn’t be taken at face value but must be supported by two or three witnesses. This seems to imply that what is due the elders who teach is respect, or “double honor”.

The examples of the ox treading out grain and the worker deserving his wages is simply meant to support his original statement that, because they work to preach and teach their brothers and sisters in the church, we should reward them with double honor. How? Well, by not listening to rumors about them or entertaining false accusations against them for one thing.

If “double honor” is financial support, then when Paul commands us to “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10) does this mean we should financially support everyone and that the elders should receive twice as much? Far from it.

If Paul meant to suggest that they should receive financial compensation, then why doesn’t he just come out and say so? He doesn’t give any guidelines for how much they should be paid, or how how often, etc. In light of the passage in 1 Corinthians 9 we’ve already examined, it would seem that Paul would be violently opposed to the idea of providing “a material harvest” to someone just for teaching the scriptures in love.

For this verse to be taken to mean that elders in the body are to be supported financially, we should find evidence elsewhere that this was ever practiced in the early Christian church and no such evidence exists. Even in the second century when Cyprian attempted to introduce the idea of tithing in the Church to support the overseers, no one supported the idea and it was rejected. What does this tell us? First of all, that it wasn’t the custom or practice of the early church to financially compensate the elders or overseers. If it were, why would Cyprian propose it as if it were a new idea? Secondly, we learn that the idea was so foreign and objectionable that no other church leader agreed with Cyprian’s idea. The church did not financially support their leaders. In fact, we know historically that the Church didn’t formally introduce tithing until the year 777 a.d. under Charlemagne.

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” - (2 Timothy 2:6)

This passage, taken in context, is using 3 different metaphors: A soldier, an athlete, and a farmer, to communicate 3 different principles to Timothy. First, that as a soldier of Christ, Timothy should not concern himself with the affairs of the world but instead should focus completely on obedience to Christ. Secondly, that as an athlete who runs the race to win it, he can only emerge victorious if he obeys the rules of the race. Third, Paul reminds Timothy that if he is faithful and obedient to Christ he will receive a share in the harvest that is to come. This is not a verse about financial support, as far as I can tell.

If you want further proof, beyond the New Testament accounts, I'd recommend looking at the Apology of Tertullian, a 2nd Century Church Father. As he attempts to explain what early Christians believe and practice regarding money he says:

“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 feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old..."

Once again, no mention of the offering being used to support elders or leaders within the local assembly of faith.

As I’ve already said, there is little historical or new testament evidence to support the idea that leaders within the Christian church were financially compensated. Apostles, missionaries and traveling church planters were offered support in the form of a place to sleep and food to eat and perhaps a care package to take with them on their journey to the next village. But the idea of financial support for those who teach and edify the local Body of believers is unknown in the new testament scriptures.

I understand that this is a hotly debated issue in the Body of Christ and so I leave room for others to believe differently about this than I do. I’m not against anyone who serves as a full time senior pastor or who takes a salary as a servant of a local church. I think it’s wonderful that these people have felt God’s calling on their life to serve others for the sake of Christ.

However, it is my personal conviction that everyone who follows Jesus is a member of the priesthood of all believers and that we are all ordained into the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. All of us are called by God to serve others, preach the Gospel and teach those who respond to follow Jesus daily. We should all rejoice that our true reward is the same as Paul’s:

“What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.” (1 Corinthians 14:18)