Thursday, June 27, 2013

Christian Values

Have you ever heard someone say that they wish America would return to Christian values?

There is a major difference between wanting America to become more "Christian" out of a desire to be more comfortable as a Christian and actually having a passion to see people's lives transformed by the Gospel.

From what I observe, most Christians who demand a return to Biblical values are more concerned with their own desire to be around people who are more like them, share their opinions, etc. and are less concerned for people around them who are desperate for the freedom and life found in Christ.
What I don’t see is a passion to see people’s lives transformed. I don’t see Christians weeping for the lost or driven to serve the outcast or hoping to see the Kingdom of God advanced.
Instead, what I see and hear are Christians who are judgmental, angry, and intolerant of people who threaten their lifestyle and do not share their specific set of values.

Here’s a kick to the head: If you really want America to be a Christian nation, you’ll have to preach the Gospel to the lost, and live out the Gospel in your daily life. That means sharing what you have with people in need. That means welcoming the stranger into your home. That means caring for the poor, and loving the unlovable, and being willing to put the needs of others above your own.

In the end, this is really all about comfort. You either love your own comfort more than you love people, or you’re willing to leave your comfort zone to share the good news of the Kingdom with people who are not like you.
As followers of Christ, we should not be motivated by selfishness. We're called to lay down our lives for others.
Let's pray for more grace to love people with the same love that Jesus has showered us with.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Supreme Decision

On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States made two landmark decisions regarding the definition of marriage in California, and potentially the entire nation.

Since I put no hope in politics or politicians, these things don't surprise or upset me so much. But clearly it really does upset a whole lot of other Christians.

Let me ask you something. If Prop 8 wasn't overturned, what would that have done to bring people nearer to Christ? Nothing at all. Would it have changed anyone's heart concerning sexual behaviors? Nope.

So, whether the law is changed or not changed, the truth remains that people's hearts are still far from God. What can we do about that?

Well, we could start obeying Jesus. We could go out into all the world (not just this nation) and start to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to everyone. We could begin to teach people to obey everything that Jesus commanded. We could participate and collaborate with the Holy Spirit as He transforms people into the image of Christ. That's our job and our mission as Christians.

How should we treat homosexuals? We should love them. How should we respond to gays and lesbians? We should invite them to follow Jesus. Let the politicians do what politicians do. Let the Body of Christ do what She is called - and commanded - to do. If we're successful it won't matter if they pass laws that allow people to have sex with parakeets. Because people who are following Jesus won't want to, regardless of what the law allows.

Also: For those of you who are fearful that America is falling away from previously held Biblical values, please remember that our faith was born under cruel, anti-Christian Roman Emperors who tortured and killed the followers of Jesus for sport. If America ever gets that bad (and I doubt that it ever will) we'll still be ok as long as we continue to follow Jesus and obey Him.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and continue to seek first the Kingdom of God. We are not called to become entangled in the affairs of this world. We are called to love people as Jesus loves them and to demonstrate the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus to the world around us.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Is there any conflict of interest between the American Dream and the Kingdom of God? What if being a Christian meant surrendering your identity as an American? Was America really ever a Christian nation? These and other questions will be discussed in this edition of Subversive Radio.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Permanent Vacation

Do you need a vacation from your life? Are you tired of being tired? Ready to clock out, turn off and escape for a while? I know I am. In fact, I am getting ready to go on that vacation right now.

What I’ve noticed is that getting ready for a vacation can be very therapeutic. That’s because there are two kinds of stress – Eustress and Distress. One is a positive form of stress [Eustress] and the other is a negative form of stress [Distress].
Eustress is the anticipation of a good event. Like waiting for a child to be born, or looking forward to a birthday party, or the arrival of a friend. These are stressful events, because they make us nervous, they create the build-up of energy in our bodies, and they place us in the same mindset as what we experience during Distress [the negative form of stress]. But the difference is obvious. Eustress is anticipation of something we want to happen. Unlike Distress which is a dread of something horrible, Eustress pays off in the end. When it finally comes we are elated. We celebrate. We smile.

I’m in deep Eustress right now. I’m making lists of things I need to accomplish before I set out on vacation. I’m making piles of things I want to remember to take with me on my trip. I’m clearing my desk at work so that everything is out of the way before I head off.
I’m also in a much better mood. I find myself humming and singing to myself. There’s a spring in my step. I’m much nicer to be around.

My heart rate is also a little bit elevated as I imagine myself relaxing with my family. My breathing speeds up when I look at the clock and start counting the minutes until I can leave.
So, what I’ve learned from this experience is that anticipation can be liberating. It allows me to focus on what really needs to be done before I can enjoy myself. It makes me happy. It lifts my spirits. It changes my perspective.

In fact, I think perspective is really what this is all about. If I were dreading this vacation, then I would be experiencing Distress, but since I’m looking forward to it, my attitude brings me a sense of fulfillment.

What if I could live my entire life in anticipation? Just imagine what it would be like to always look forward to something and assume that it’s good? What if I really believed that God loved me? What if I fully accepted that God delighted to give me good things? What if I actually behaved as if God had a plan for my life – a plan to bless and not to curse me? What if I understood that God had lavished such love upon me that I had already been adopted into His family?
The truth is, all of this is the truth. Now, the only question is, will I live my life according to the truth, or will I stress out about all the bad things that will probably never happen to me?

Even more amazing, God’s promise to us is that even if bad things happen to us, He will always find a way to turn into a blessing for us in the end – if we continue to trust Him.
The secret is to look forward, not behind. Good things are in your future. That’s where God has already prepared a feast for you and reserved a seat at the table in your name.

All aboard?

Friday, June 14, 2013


What should Christians do if someone breaks into their home and holds a gun to their family? Is violence ok then? Are there limits to following Jesus into non-violence and radical love?


Thursday, June 13, 2013


Was Jesus a non-violent Messiah? Does he expect you and I to actually love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and bless those who curse us?

What about the Old Testament scriptures about the Israelites in battle? What about Jesus turning over the tables? 
What about Cornelius the Centurion?
What about when Jesus said "go and buy a sword?"
All these questions and more will be addressed in this special edition of Subversive Radio.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Watch this excellent episode of the PBS Firing Line documentary, "God In America" to learn how the Church in America became the pawn of the Republican party.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Wanting Less

“Jesus, the Blessed One, is poor. The poverty of Jesus is much more than an economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power; vulnerability over defensiveness; dependency over self-sufficiency.” - Henri Nouwen.

I can’t fully express to you how profoundly this quote has impacted my heart. The implications for this are astounding for those of us who have decided to follow Jesus. Because if Jesus left the splendor of heaven to become nothing (see Philippians 2), then we should also step down from our earthly splendor and let go of our temporal wealth to follow Jesus into this intentional poverty.

I can hear some of you responding, “But, Jesus didn’t command everyone who followed Him to sell everything and give it to the poor. He only said that to the rich young ruler, right? Right?”

Right. And also wrong.

Yes, Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell everything and give it to the poor. That’s true. But he also said this:

“Anyone who does not give up all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

Read that again. Jesus is talking to “anyone”. Other translations use the word, “everyone” if you prefer. But either way, the meaning is clear. If anyone wants to be a follower of Jesus they cannot do so unless they first give up all that they have. Everything.

I’ve said before that Jesus only asks us to give up one thing to follow Him. It’s called “everything.” But for some reason this verse, and that quote by Nouwen, hit me in a new way this week.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been noticing a tendency in myself to become more materialistic lately? Maybe it’s because I’ve been a little fearful to let go of things and to share out of my abundance with people who are in need?

I think another aspect of this is the idea that the poverty of Jesus was intentional. As Paul noted, our weakness unleashes “the power of Christ” within us. (2 Cor. 12:9) So, the reason for Jesus to intentionally step into a life of poverty was to demonstrate to us the importance of depending on God for everything. It was also to model for us the value of people over things and possessions.

If I’m honest, the idea of letting go of my things is painful for me; physically and emotionally painful. I look around my room at my favorite books, and toys, and cd’s and games. What if all of those were gone forever? I consider my gadgets, my cell phone, my iPod, my X-box, and my television. What would my life be like without those? I wonder what items I simply could never let go of or give away and what it might take for me to let go of them for good.

This question of giving up everything to Jesus is uncomfortable for me to consider. The idea of taking these words from Jesus seriously frightens me. And why does it frighten me? Because it’s the Holy Spirit asking me these questions. Because the truth is, there are some things that I do not want to let go of. Jesus knows that I have to surrender everything to follow Him. It’s time to drop a few things I’ve been carrying to make it the next few miles of the journey.

See, on the global scale, I am rich. Filthy stinking rich. I make more in a year than most people on this planet will make in several lifetimes. I live in Orange County, one of the most expensive and extravagant places in the world. I have two cars. I have a garage full of stuff. I own dozens of electronic gadgets and toys. I eat better than most everyone else on the earth. I have a disposal income. I am rich.

The bible has a lot to say about those who are wealthy. None of it is very positive:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mt. 19:23-24)

“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53)

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Luke 6:24)

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.” (James 5:1)

“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” (James 1:9-11)

Here’s what I know about myself; one of my love languages is “gift-giving.” So, when I consider my recent desire for materialistic objects the truth becomes clear – I am trying to create an artificial feeling of love within myself by giving myself these gifts. But these gifts to myself are temporal. They do not bring me any joy. In fact, they serve to create a comfort zone around my heart that insulates me from others, and from trusting God.

So, in essence I believe that the Holy Spirit is urging me to change my posture from grasping to giving. If I can begin to let go of my things I will discover that true joy is found in letting go. By sharing what God has provided to me with others, this wall of comfort will begin to come down, and my heart will have more direct access to God.

Not coincidentally, I’ve also been praying lately for God to allow me to bear fruit in my life for His kingdom. Two things are required for bearing fruit:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25)

So, the idea of letting go of my stuff involves dying to myself, and it involves sowing the seed of the Kingdom, and learning to trust in the Lord for everything. Not in my stuff.

Pray for me if you think of it this week. I’ll be continuing to seek the Lord about this and to begin sharing and giving away what I already have rather than seeking to gain more material objects that I do not need.

The irony? There are countless, priceless treasures in store for me as I cast away these temporal things and trust more in the God who loves me and gave Himself for me. He is a God who loves to give good gifts to His children.


More verses on wealth:

“You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” (James 5:5)

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim.6:9)

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17)

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17)

Saturday, June 01, 2013


There’s almost nothing worse than being in a movie theater where the projectionist isn’t paying attention and you have to scream, “Focus! Focus!” to get them to adjust the picture.

That’s how I feel when I listen to most Christians talk these days. They’re technically correct, but focused on the wrong ideas.

For example, earlier this week I received a message from someone who wanted to know my opinion about gay marriage. Beyond the “right or wrong” aspect of her question was a deeper reality. Her friend had walked away from church over feelings of rejection from her Christian leaders.

Can we identify the behaviors that are categorized as “sinful” accurately? Most certainly. In fact, we’re very, very good at that in the Body of Christ. We can go to verses like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and read:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The scriptures are pretty clear about who does, and who doesn’t, make it into the Kingdom. But what do we do with that information? Do we go to our co-worker who isn’t a believer and place our hand on their shoulder and inform them that they are a sinner and that because they get drunk on the weekends that they will not be accepted by God? Or do we go to our neighbors and knock on their door and say, “Hello, I just wanted you to know that since you’ve been married more than once, you are an adulterer and God won’t allow you to enter His Kingdom.” Hopefully not.

But when our first thought about homosexuals is to proclaim that they are sinners and to inform them that this disqualifies them from entering God’s presence, that’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s sort of a reverse evangelism. We wouldn’t go out into the world and start separating all non-believers into various categories of sin in order to condemn them, would we?

Not only is this wrong-headed, it’s actually non-biblical. By that I mean, we do not ever see the Apostles or the early Christians going out to identify all the sinners around them. They did not say, “Hey you greedy drunkards, you’re not welcome in the Kingdom of God.” Instead, what we see time and again is the proclamation that the Kingdom of God is available, and wide open to people just like those "sinners".
When Paul stood before the Athenians he did not condemn them as evil sinners because of their idolatry (something he specifically identifies in 1 Cor. 6 as sinful). Instead, Paul takes the time to commend them for their religious zeal! He then tells them how wonderful God is, and how they can get to know Jesus who has risen from the dead. No mention of condemnation for their sins, just an appeal to their desire to know the truth about God and an opportunity to meet Jesus personally.

Most of us, I believe, wouldn’t dream of saying to an unbelieving co-worker or friend, “Hey, you’re a sinner and that means you can’t enter God’s Kingdom.” But when we walk around proclaiming that homosexuality is a sin and that those who practice this are going to hell, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Are we factually correct? Yes. Are we right? No. Because Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 6 were made to Christians, not to unbelievers. And notice how he finishes that statement about who will not enter the Kingdom of God:

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (v.11)

See? The people he was writing to were formerly sinners themselves. He is reminding them of how far they have come. Why? So that they will not be tempted to look down on “those sinners” over there, because all of them were once in the same condition.

Our posture towards those outside the Kingdom of God should be to love them, to befriend them, to have them over to dinner, to bless them in the name of Jesus. Whether they are drunkards, or adulterers, or liars, or greedy, or homosexuals, or whatever, we should take the time to get to know them, and to love them, and to wait for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with them so that they can see that God loves them and that His Kingdom is wide open to them whenever they are ready to follow Him.

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us when we were sinners? Didn’t he welcome us? Didn’t he love us? Didn’t he overlook our sins in order to show us what life with him could be like if we would simply take his hand and follow him?

It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Our role is to love people into the Kingdom. If we go out proclaiming that everyone else is a sinner and that the pathway to Jesus is closed to them, what’s the point? Instead, let’s go out proclaiming the goodness and mercy of God towards everyone, admitting that we are sinners too. Let’s invite people to know Jesus personally so that He can transform them into His image as they learn to trust Him daily.

There’s nothing worse than being unable to see the big picture because we’re distracted by the wrong things.

Focus! Focus!