Friday, April 27, 2007


[Subversive Underground]

Number by Keith Giles

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. " - Psalm 90:12

You have cancer. You are being sent to Iraq. Your time is short.

You have a moment of time to consider your life, to count your blessings, to enjoy whatever life has to offer.

Every breath is sweeter than the one before. Water tastes cleaner. Food explodes with flavor in your mouth. Each embrace of a child, or a loved one, is like an eternity of comfort.

You are blessed.

All of us will taste death. Not one of us can escape it. We can fill our waking moments with distraction, we can avoid the discussion, we can turn the page on the words, but we cannot change the fact that every heartbeat within our chest is drawing closer to the last one. Time is short.

Those of us who know this are at an advantage. Because the sound of the clock ticking only reminds us to enjoy what we have been given. We are constantly reminded to savor every breath, every smile, every second of sweet laughter, every tear, every good thing that comes our way on the breeze.

This week I attended a memorial service for a young boy, barely out of high school, who had lost his life in Iraq as a Marine.

One by one his friends stood up and shared how blessed they were to know Danny. One by one they talked of cherishing his memory every day that they are alive. Even as we gathered to remember his
brief life, we were each reminded to be careful not to take our own life for granted.

Several years ago I worked for a man who had melanoma. Small networks of tumors were steadily growing larger in his brain. Yet, my friend came to work each day with a smile on his face. He encouraged each of us to follow our dreams. He reminded us to enjoy life to its fullest. He refused to lay down and die.

I can remember him coming to work until he needed to walk with a cane, but he kept coming. One day he came in with a walker, but he came anyway. A few weeks later he was in a wheelchair as he greeted us at the door, but he was at work with a smile and a word of encouragement. He was blessed. He knew his days were numbered. He was doing all he could to make his life count. He was determined not to waste a second of breath on anything less than absolute joy and the pursuit of purpose.

Over my head there is an invisible counter on its way to zero. I am oblivious to the number of days that remain. Because of this I am often lulled into wasting entire hours on pointless things. How much of my life have I spent in front of the television? How many hours have I wasted on meaningless things? How many empty moments of my life have I thrown away?

I know my life would be lived in a different way if I could see the face of that clock over my head. If I could catch a glimpse of how much time was left I would gain a much-needed perspective of how my time should be spent on things that count, on endeavors that have eternal value.

My life is a vapor. One day I will breathe my last. One day I will be lowered into the ground, laying quietly inside a dark box. My time here will be over sooner than I expect. How will I spend the remaining hours of time I have left?

Teach me, Lord, to number my days so that I may bring Glory to Your name with whatever I have left to give. Help me to make each day count for the Kingdom. Help me to encourage others. Help me to savor every breath. Help me, dear God, to never take this sweet life you've graced upon me for granted.


"What counts for eternity? Only that good which is done for the love of doing it. Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought. Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward. Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself" -Henry Van Dyke

Live. Love. Give. Share.

JACKIE PULLINGER- This week I received a letter from my hero, Jackie Pullinger. You should read it. She'll be our
main keynote speaker at The Non-Con '08. Here ya go:

"RAGING AGAINST YOUR OWN MACHINE"- I've got an article online right now at Check it out:

THE MISSION: I've been pastoring a house church for over a year now in Orange County called "The Mission". If you're
curious, take a look at some photos and read about our story here:

PRAY- Still looking for that ever-elusive full-time job. I appreciate everyone's support and prayers for my family
during this uncertain time. God is still in control so all of our hope is in Him. The good news is that He is more than faithful.

MUST-READ: About two years ago I came across this article and it changed my life and my views of church in nearly
every way imaginable. I share it with you now. Read it. Savor it. Let it soak in.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Number 7- "Work" Is Not A Bad Word

Top 10 Things Every Christian Should Know
(But Probably Doesn't)
by Keith Giles

*Note: Part of an ongoing series of articles. Parts 10 thru 8 are online at right now.

Number 7- "Work" Is Not A Bad Word

There is a pervasive mind-set within the American Christian community that to do works is somehow in opposition to the Gospel. If you've ever heard a pastor or a well-meaning Christian chastise someone for acts of service by saying, "That's works, brother" then you know what I'm talking about.

It's easy to understand how this idea has crept into the Church here in America. We've equated the idea of doing good works with Liberal Theology, or cultic misunderstandings of the gift of salvation. By doing so, we've defined service to others out of existence, and in some cases we've even made people feel guilty for acting out their faith in any overt way.

Our mantra has become, "Salvation is a free gift! You can't do anything to earn it, and you don't need to do anything to keep from losing it." Therefore, we've concluded by inference, or by direct argumentation, that works of any kind must be in opposition to the concept of the free gift of salvation offered to us by the work of Christ on our behalf upon the cross of Calvary.

However, this idea of works being against the Law of Grace is a twisted concept. Paul the Apostle never teaches this, Peter never teaches it, and Jesus certainly doesn't ever suggest that doing good works is against the will of God. Far from it. The fact is, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament all agree that to be a follower of Christ is to be a doer of good works.

The real problem lies in our misunderstanding of the concept of Grace. Our pulpits have been polluted with a gross misrepresentation of what Grace is really all about.

First, let's talk about what Grace is not. It is not a free pass to sin so that you can pray for forgiveness when you're all done. It is not a license to do nothing. It's also not a "Get out of good works free" card.

Grace is opposed to earning your salvation. It is not opposed to exerting effort towards helping someone in need or serving others as you would like to be served.

Our misunderstanding of Grace has confused our calling and purpose on this Earth as Christ's Ambassadors. It has given us permission to barricade the doors of the Church, shutting us off from the pain and suffering beyond our sacred walls. It has infected us with apathy and assuaged our guilt with lies about how we might endanger our salvation if we act out the love of Christ.

I find it fascinating that one of the main verses of scripture used to argue in favor of this twisted version of Grace contains a clear call to do good works in response to the Grace of God; "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:8-10

There it is. Grace and Works in the same breath. One does not cancel out the other, in fact, if you really understand Grace your first response will be to serve God with all your heart simply because you truly understand what has been done for you...and what it cost.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be one who is saved by Grace, not by the works they do. At the same time, the works they do testify to the fact that they have been so redeemed by this Grace, and that it is real, and lasting, and effective.

My dumbed-down expression of this process is, "Swimming won't make you a fish, but if you're a fish you will swim!"

Early on, from the beginning really, the followers of Jesus were known for their good deeds and their works of kindness and compassion to others. They even wrote an entire book of the Bible on the subject of doing good works and they named the book "Works", or "Acts". In fact, the only way to carry out the command of Jesus to "love one another" is to do something.

Love, it turns out, really is a verb.

*TO RESPOND TO THIS ARTICLE: Email me directly at
"elysiansky" (at) "hotmail" (dot) "com"

*RESPOND IN COMMUNITY: Comment online at the [Subversive Underground] Forum right here:

I'm available to speak and to facilitate workshops on the subjects of Spiritual Formation, The Kingdom of God, Social Justice, Compassion in Action, the Early Church, House Church/Simple Church, Prophetic Arts, Missional Life, etc.
Just email me at the address provided for more info.

THE MISSION HOUSE CHURCH: I've been leading a house church called "The Mission" for just over a year now. We meet on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings. If you want to join us (and if you live in Orange County,California) you can start by meeting me for coffee on every even-numbered Tuesday at "The Mustard Cafe" in
Orange, California from 7pm to 8:30pm.

THE MISSION: ONLINE- I've got a small blog set up for The Mission too. You can even look at a little gallery of photos if you're curious. Check it out:


Thursday, April 12, 2007


"Go out on the street and bring the Kingdom of God. Come back in an hour," my friend said to the handful of college students standing in his living room.

There was a moment of stunned silence as the group waited for further instructions from my friend, but none came.

One of the brave raised his hand and asked, "Don't you want to give us some idea what we should do to bring the Kingdom? I mean, what have other church groups done here in the past?"

My friend shook his head from side to side. "Nope. Just go out there and bring the Kingdom. You've got an hour. See ya back here when you're done," he said, and walked away.

Slowly the group broke into groups of two or three and made their way out to the streets to bring the Kingdom of God to the children and families living in this forgotten neighborhood wracked by poverty, gang violence, drugs and crime.

As the group shuffled into the streets they had to grapple with what to do. They each wrestled inside with the question and individually they had to first ask themselves what the Kingdom of God was before they could decide how to bring it to this place and to these people over the next hour.

One group played with some of the kids on the street in an abandoned lot, kicking around a soccer ball and getting to know the names of the boys who spoke English.

Another group walked over to a few women standing in their yard and struck up a conversation, introducing themselves, making small talk, looking for a way to bring the Kingdom of God into that moment.

Others wandered the streets praying for each house and asking God to help them to see what the Father was doing in this place, and what He wanted them to do over the next hour of time. No voices boomed from the skies. No clouds took shape in the heavens to spell out a command. They just kept praying and walking.

When the hour was over the group returned to my friend's living room. Some had come back early, some were late returning because of their soccer game. Eventually all of them were sitting around on the floor and talking about what they did the previous hour to bring the Kingdom of God to this poverty-stricken neighborhood.

My friend listened to their various experiences and stories and then he challenged them, "Do you think what you did really brought the Kingdom of God to this place?" The group looked around at one another. Some of them nodded yes, others shrugged, some laughed.

My friend asked, "Do you think any of the people you met just now will remember your name tomorrow? Will they remember what you did or said two days from now?"

My friend lives in this neighborhood with his wife and several other couples who are trying to live their lives as incarnational missionaries to the families on this street. They have immersed themselves into this community, taken on the same needs and concerns as the people they serve, and have learned to share in the day-to-day struggles facing every single person on the block.

The group was silent now, looking at the floor, staring into space. My friend continued, "Why is it you thought you could come to this neighborhood and put in a single hour of service and expect to bring the Kingdom of God to this place? It takes more than a casual moment to really bring the Kingdom of God. We have to be willing to surrender more than just one hour of our lives in order to see real change take place. Service to others has to be a full-time job, a way of life, not just a weekend slot between coffee and a movie with our friends."

Everyone around the circle started to nod to themselves. Some of them began to talk together about how they first felt when my friend had instructed them to just go to the streets and bring the Kingdom. They shared together honestly about how the exercise had challenged them to define the Kingdom in practical terms and how poorly equipped they were to do such a simple thing.

They had come to this place thinking that they had solutions to bring, or light to shine, but now they were beginning to see that what was required was more than a part-time commitment. Several of the students shook my friend's hand and thanked him for the experience. A few of them wandered out thinking they had just wasted an hour of their life playing soccer.

They had come to teach others, but now, as they strolled back to their cars and drove back to their homes, they had discovered something unexpected and valuable. Something that could never be learned from a book or a sermon.

My friend watched them drive away and he whispered a prayer for each of them. In his heart he was hopeful that a few would return to share more than just an hour of time, but that they might hear the call of God's heart to give and serve others as a way of life.

"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." - (1 Thess 2:8)

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - JESUS (John 13:34-35)


*MONTHLY COLUMN: Over at I have a regular monthly column called [Subversive]. You should check it out.

*SEED STORIES: I also have a few articles up now on There's still time to go read those if you're not too busy.

*SHAMELESS MARKETING: I'm not bashful. I need a job! If you're looking for someone to help promote or market your conference or event, I'm your man. I can also help with graphic design needs, event logistics, teach a workshop, you name it.
Hit me up by email: "elysiansky (at) hotmail (dot) com"

*REBELLION OF THOUGHT: The DVD Documentary produced and directed by my friend Kent Williamson is soon to be released! Rumor has it that the companion discussion guide will be written by a "subversive pastor"...

*THE MISSION: Our House Church continues to be a source of blessing and encouragment to me. I'm so blessed that God has allowed us to be part of such an amazing family-based, community-lead, Spirit-filled group of believers. Check out some of our adventures and even a little photo journal here:

Friday, April 06, 2007


There are 700,000 child slaves in Indonesia alone. There are over 200,000 child soldiers in Uganda. There are 35,000 homeless in Orange County, California. 80% of those are families with children.

Why don't we care enough to change the world we live in? A recent quote from street artist and activist Milton Glaser noted that it becomes harder and harder to provoke Americans to act for justice because, "Americans are immune to outrage".

I have to wonder how we in American have become passive in the face of injustice and atrocity? Our Nation was founded by individuals who took up arms to protest an unjust system of "Taxation Without Representation". They were incensed and spurred to action because of a 4% sales tax that yielded no representation for the 13 Colonies in Parliament. Yet today, their descendants and the inheritors of their spirited revolt are quietly reserved to pay over 30% of their income to the United States Government each year and most have no faith that elected officials will fairly represent the true needs of the people they serve.

I'm not advocating a new revolution against our Government, but I am puzzled as to how we've become immune to the sort of outrage that helped found our Nation in the first place.

William Wilberforce fought the British slave trade in his day. After spending his life arguing for abolition and lobbying in Parliament for the immediate end of this inhuman practice he finally found victory on March 25th, 1807. He died three days later, his life's work completed.

Why did Wilberforce believe he could stand up to the powerful slave industry giants and succeed? Why did Luther believe he could take on the Universal Church of his day and prevail? Why did Martin Luther King Jr. believe he could overcome generations of hatred and bigotry and change the hearts and minds of an entire Nation?

Why don't we believe these things? Do we believe in anything enough to risk our lives, or our families or our careers to stand up and speak out? Are we too comfortable in our own little world that we cannot be bothered to experience sincere compassion, or moral outrage, at the exploitation of other human beings? Is it because they are far away? Is it because they are not American? Is it because we don't believe our voice will make any difference?

A dear friend of mine once admitted to me, "I don't care about the poor, and honestly what bothers me most is that I don't care that I don't care about the poor."

What is the cure for apathy? How do you provoke people to become outraged at their own lack of outrage? How do you inspire people to protest against their own lack of concern? What sort of hope is there for hopelessness? Who can awaken the one who does not wish to be awakened?

I often wonder why it is in America that we have made a multi-billion dollar industry out of escaping reality. We are the entertainment capital of the world. Yet, I cannot help but imagine what could happen if we were to spend those same billions of dollars on creating a world where reality was a place you didn't need to escape from?

Why don't we respond to the injustices of the day? Is it because we have no clear direction, no specific steps to take? Is it because we have no great leaders to show the way? Is it because we don't believe that our lives can make a difference? Or is it because we are too comfortable where we sit?

Where are the Wilberforces of today? Where are the Martin Luther Kings or the Ghandis or the Mother Teresas? For that matter, where are those who call themselves disciples of Jesus?

Why can't it be you or me? Aren't we ambassadors of the greatest world-changer who ever lived?

For me, to be a Christian is to be an activist. This is what "Subversive Underground" is all about. It's about provoking others to change the status quo of their lives in order to follow in the radical life and love of Jesus of Nazareth.

To be a Christian is to be an activist.

In what way could someone call themselves a follower of Jesus and be anything other than someone who brings change in their wake? How else is a person who names the name of Christ to act?

In my mind, to be a follower of Jesus is to be one who sees things as they are and work to bring the Kingdom of God in order to make things better.

Looking at Matthew 25, it would seem that the kind of Christians God is looking for are the ones who are incapable of walking past the poor without doing something. When they see someone hungry, they give them food. When they see someone thirsty, they give them a cold cup of water. When they see someone who is lonely, they stop and spend a few hours with them. For whatever you've done for one of the least of these, says Jesus, our example and teacher, You've done it unto me.

Jesus was a radical. He raised up a small army of revolutionaries with the sole "raison d'etre" of changing the world and turning it upside down. In their wake, the early followers of Jesus, left changed governments, changed religious systems, and changed hearts and minds.

If the early church had simply existed, if it had only found a way to blend in with the culture around it and become safe and acceptable to the populace, you and I might not ever have heard of a person by the name of Jesus of Nazareth who, about 2000 years ago, gave his life to change the world, one person at a time.

The church today needs to become more like its founder. It needs to be driven to press forward, out of its comfort zone, to get its hands dirty, to move in such a way that our words line up with our actions. To do any less is settle.

Who wants to belong to a predictable movement? Who wants to surrender their life for something ordinary and unremarkable?

Many of us are willing, we say, to die for Christ. The question is, are we willing to live for Christ?

When it comes to outrage, I believe a Christian needs to be constantly spurred to action against injustice and poverty.

Are you immune?



THE NON-CON '08: It's still in the planning stages. Don't forget to mark your calendars for March of next year to spend the weekend with Jackie Pullinger and David Ruis..and me too!