Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Love Impossible
by Keith Giles

My young friend sat across from me and confessed his inability to live up to the high standards of faith demonstrated by the early followersw of Jesus in the book of Acts. I could sense he was feeling a little unworthy and maybe even a bit of a failure as a Christian.

Earlier this week another friend had confessed to me that he didn't feel worthy to call himself a Christian any longer. "When I look at the radical compassion and the sacrifice made by those first followers of Jesus," he said, "I don't feel it's fair to compare myself to them. There were so far beyond anything I've ever done in my walk."

If you honestly try to let the word of Jesus impact your life, and if you really take Him seriously enough to live out the commands He gave us, you'll no doubt make a similar discovery. Love is impossible. At least, the sort of love that Jesus talks about is impossible for us as mere mortals.

Just listen to how Jesus expects you and I to love - "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righeous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - (Matthew 5:43-48)

That's pretty serious stuff, and if you've ever actually tried to do it, you know how impossible it can be.

In December of last year I began to pray for God to give me a vision for our house church in the coming year. What I got was something called "Concentric Circles of Love". The idea was that Jesus commanded us to be marked by our love, and that love had to begin from the inside and work its way outward. So, my wife and I developed a road map of sorts to reflect what this journey should look like in a practical way. First, we would practice loving those in our own family as Jesus would want us to love them. Next we would practice loving our own brothers and sisters in Christ within the house church in sacrificial ways. Then our focus would be to practice loving our co-workers, and our actual neighbors, followed by those in our own community, including the poor and the broken.

At least, that was the idea, anyway.

What I quickly discovered was how very hard it became to love my wife sacrificially. It meant washing the dishes when I didn't feel like it, and without being asked. It meant putting her needs and desires in front of my own selfish desires for comfort. Living this vision out meant dying to myself.

I also discovered how hard it is to love other Christians, especially when they often behave like people who don't really know Christ or experience His forgiveness. I had to forgive people who didn't, in my opinion, deserve forgiveness. I had to love people who really didn't show love to me. That was close to impossible.

Here's what I've learned as I've tried to live out the command to Love; You can no more keep the command of Jesus to love than you can keep the Law of Moses.

Paul says, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." - (Romans 7:18-20)

Essentially, Paul teaches us throughout the book of Romans that we are incapable of keeping the Law on our own. We are sinful, selfish, helplessly hopeless individuals who may have the desire to do good, but who lack the strength to live up to the high standards found in the Ten Commandments.

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest of the commandments He provided us with this, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." - (Luke 10:27)

Jesus boiled down all the Ten Commandments into just two commands; Love God and Love others. It sounds simple enough. Just love people? Ok, I can do that. But, as we've already seen, we really can't. You can no more keep the command to love God and love others than you can keep the Law. It's not within your power.

What are we to do? If we want to follow Jesus and we hope to obey His commands, we must love others, and we must love God. In fact, the scriptures tell us that if we don't do one, we can't do the other (see 1 John 4:20-21 if you don't believe me). Yet, when we try to do this, we are quickly met with the hard reality of our own selfishness and weakness.

Here's what Jesus says, "If anyone would follow after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and followme." - (Luke 9:23)

The only hope we have to love the way Jesus expects us to love others is by dying to ourselves.
The only hope we have to keep the Law is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from within into the sort of people who are capable of keeping the Law. The only hope we have to ever become like Jesus is to die, like He did, upon a cross which declares that we surrender our lives in order to receive a new life that is "others-focused" and marked by sacrificial love.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" - (2 Cor 5:17)

Love is impossible, and withotu it all of our actions are empty and pointless (See 1 Cor 13). The only way to love like Jesus did is to surrender daily, sometimes hourly, to allow His Holy Spirit to transform us into people who can fulfill His commands.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!" - (Phil 2:3-8)

Notice that Paul asks us to "consider others better than (ourselves)" here. That doesn't mean to treat people as equals, as if they are "as good as we are", but instead to treat them as if they were better than we are. He urges us to humble ourselves the same way Jesus did, becoming a servant and loving others even to the point of death.

This is about daily surrender. It involves a daily conversion experience. It means dying to yourself every single day and allowing God to love others through you.

As the early Church Fathers used to say, "Conversatio Morem!" which translates as, "Constant Conversion!"

This is subversive.

DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL: This is an automated feed. If you want to email me directly please do so at "elysiansky" (at) ""

PODCASTING? - Someone put a bug in my ear over the weekend about how easy it is to set up podcasts on your blog. My wheels are turning. Could there be a podcast version of the [SU] in the future?
Stay tuned...

NON-CON '08 - Just wanted to announce that there will NOT be a Non-Con in 2009. I'm very interested in making our first Non-Con a one-of-a-kind event. I will not franchise this. I will not do one every year with a new theme. If you miss the first Non-Con in March of next year you'll miss what may end up being the only Non-Con. I'll consider doing another one when the time is right, but this will not be an annual conference. Just so you know.

MY FIRST BOOK: We've hit a few snags on the editorial side, but have no fear, the book will be published before the end of the year. Keep your eyes peeled for "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?"

This edition of [Subversive Underground] is dedicated to Sarah Bowman. Thanks for being such an encouragement to me. Keep the faith!


Monday, August 20, 2007

We Are (Not) Called to Judge (Unbelievers) - Number 3

by Keith Giles

Number 3- "We Are (not) Called to Judge (unbelievers)"

My first trial by fire as a young minister of music involved a best friend's mom having an affair with an associate pastor at our church. The woman was young enough to be the pastor's daughter, and he and this woman were both married to other people, with children of their own.

As a newly ordained pastor, I was thrust into a very complicated and painful series of deacon's meetings, private conversations, and sleepless nights as I wrestled with this ugly mess. The woman was our organist on Sunday mornings, and one of my own mom’s best friends. I was the minister of music for our church and I felt it wasn't prudent for her to continue to play the organ every week with this controversy raging through our church. Our deacon board verbally assured me that they would be behind me all the way, and they were behind me...about ten feet behind me. I had to approach this woman who I had known and respected for years, and the mother of one of my best friends, and ask her to step aside until the issue could be resolved. It was the first of many painful confrontations to come in my pastoral experience.

Many people at this church took the position that we are not to judge others when it comes to situations such as this. They all quoted Jesus himself in this case who said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

If we only look at this verse of scripture alone, we can easily close the issue and conclude that we are wrong to judge others. However, Jesus has more to say on the subject than this. Later on, in the very same Gospel, Jesus also says, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17)

Taking both passages into account, what Jesus is saying is that, first, we are to judge fairly. In the first passage Jesus talks about how we will be judged in the same manner that we judge others. If we judge them fairly, then we will be judged that way too. If we judge with prejudice or without a sense of mercy, we will also be judged without mercy.

Additionally, Jesus forbids us from judging the eternal salvation of others here. Whatever our response to someone's actions, we are never to judge their eternal position before God. We cannot determine if someone is righteous or evil, that is for God alone to decide. This is why Jesus follows the passage in Matthew chapter 7 with the added illustration of taking the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. He wants us to be more concerned with our own personal righteousness and leave the inspection of others' righteousness to One more qualified.

In the second passage gives us a practical procedure for dealing with people who have hurt us or wronged us. People who are caught in adultery usually take the position that they are not hurting anyone else and the rest of us should just mind our own business and leave them alone. What they don't realize is that their infidelity is like an emotional/spiritual nuclear bomb that explodes, devastating family, friends, relationships and acquaintances for hundreds of miles in every direction. Adultery is an offense to everyone who ever knew you, loved you or trusted you. I’ve watched it decimate entire churches, families, and life-long friendships in a matter of days. With this in mind, Jesus' instructions to us in the second passage (Matthew 18:15-17) are very welcome indeed. First he asks us to go privately to the person who has wronged us. The goal is repentance. At every step, the ultimate goal is repentance. The person has to realize that they've done something that is fundamentally wrong and then they must be willing to take steps to cease the behavior, seek forgiveness and work towards healing (for themselves as well as the one's they have injured).

Paul the Apostle, in his letter to the Corinthians, also provides great clarity for us within the Church on matters of dealing with this issue. "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you." (1 Cor 5:9-13) Here Paul clearly states that he expects that those within the Church would be discerning and would deal with those within the Body who call themselves Christians and yet continue to behave in a way that is inconsistent with someone who has truly surrendered their life to Christ.

Paul assumes that if someone behaving this way is confronted by the Church, in a loving and humble way, they will certainly repent and turn away from their sins and be restored to the fellowship. If they have not truly surrendered their lives to Jesus, then they will refuse to repent and will continue in their selfish, destructive behavior, and in that case Paul echoes Jesus (from Mathew 18) and commands that this person be removed from the fellowship and treated "as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

Many in the Church today take too lightly the idea of Church Discipline. Most of us would rather "Live and let live" than to confront another person about their ongoing sinful behavior. Many feel that to ask someone to repent of their behavior is destructive and cruel, however the truth is it's the most loving thing we can possibly do for them. If we love them, we will come to them and give them an opportunity to repent and to turn away from their destructive behaviors. It's not the easy thing to do, the right thing rarely is, but it's the most loving thing to do.

Over the last few years, I've had many opportunities to confront a brother or sister in Christ who was engaged in destructive, sinful behavior. I've always dreaded those conversations. I've never enjoyed the process at all. Many times the person's response is to run away, or to get offended, or to leave the church. Sometimes, (and I am sad to say it's rare), the person responds with tears and confession and repentance and moves forward into healing and restoration and wholeness. I wish that happened every time, but for those few times it has happened, I am very grateful.

The real test comes when that person does repent and turn away from their sin. This is the time when the Body of Christ has the opportunity to practice forgiveness and acceptance. This is where we are the ones who get to prove that we also have truly surrendered to Christ and remember the amazing grace poured out on us.

There's a passage in Paul's first letter to the churches in Corinth that I love to quote on this issue. It starts out sounding harsh, but the latter section is brilliant. It says, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offender's nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit 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."

Notice that he says, "And that is what some of you were." This is a wonderful reminder to all of us that we were all screwed up when we came to Jesus, and many of us are still screwed up as we wake up each day to follow Jesus. Paul points out that the early Church was made up of former idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, thieves, drunkards, swindlers and even homosexual offenders. Take that into consideration for a while. Those first groups of believers were hardly saints in their former lives. Paul wants them to stop and remember this. He wants them to recall that they were once far away from God and have no basis to wag their fingers at one of their own who falls back into that way of life.

The truth is that none of us has it figured out. None of us is yet perfect. So, when a brother or sister stumbles, we are called by God to lovingly, compassionately, confront them and offer them a chance to repent and turn away from their destructive behavior, and when they do, if they do, we are then expected to love them and embrace them and accept them as if they had never stumbled at all. One day you and I might stumble, and this is how we would want to be loved by our church family, isn't it?

Judging the unbeliever's around us is clearly out of the question for us. We are expected to love them and befriend them and serve them. We are called to demonstrate the love of Jesus in tangible ways to those who have yet to receive Christ. But within the Body, we are fully commanded to confront sinful behaviors and to remove those who do not turn away from their sin. This is also the love of Jesus.

We are called to love one another, and this means being willing to speak the truth, even if it is painful to those we love, and even to us.

"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)

After the first year and a half, our house church is going strong.

More brilliant observations can be found at

*NON-CON '08:
I'm putting together my own conference this March called "the Non-Conference" or Non-Con. Only 100 seats available. A chance to dialog, share a meal and worship along with Jackie Pullinger, David Ruis, Ciny Reithmeier, John Thomas and 99 others. Registration opens online next month.

My semi-regular monthly column at

A whole new batch of articles I've written will soon be found at

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Destroy The (Christian) Subculture!"

"Destroy The (Christian) Subculture!"
by Keith Giles

I've come to the conclusion that the Christian Subculture is evil. I want to destroy it. I want to choke the life out of it and watch it die. I want to strip the skin from its bones, shake the life out of it and break it into tiny pieces.

In the past I've written articles that express the dangers of the Christian Subculture, and it's no secret that I cannot stand Christian Radio, and have zero tolerance for "Jesus Junk" such as sanctified breath mints or t-shirts that christianize popular logos and advertising (see "Bud Wise Up" or "Lord's Gymn" for example).

A large part of why this free, weekly e-newsletter is called "Subversive Underground" is connected to my desire to see this world changed from within, which is a metaphor for the coming of the Kingdom of God here and now. The Christian Subculture prevents the breaking in of the Kingdom. It inhibits the Gospel message. It paralyzes the followers of Christ by isolating them from the people they are supposed to love and interact with on a deeply intimate level.

About a week ago I realized that my passion for deconstructing the popular "Churchianity System" extended beyond mere dislike. As I began to fully understand how insidious it really is, I resolved to dedicate myself to its demise. I am now fully convinced that someway, somehow, the entire thing needs to be knocked down with a very large hammer and burned into oblivion.

As part of the upcoming "Non-Con" ( in March of next year, I had planned to have a "Burn Our Christian Crap" session where attendees could bring the symbols of their involvement with the Christian Consumerist Monster and we could all stand around and sing "Kumbaya" together while we tosssed our "Lord's Gymn" tees and "Carman" Cd's and other idols to materialistic spiritualilty into a giant bonfire, in homage to those horrible youth group parties where teens were forced to burn their Van Halen records and Rush albums (because they were "secular").

I've come to the radical conclusion that there is nothing secular. There is only the world we live in. This one, right here (look around you...yeah, that world), and nothing more. God created the entire world, and it's a fallen world I agree, but there is no "Sacred" or "Secular" division to this world, other than the artificially constructed one we've created to keep ourselves safe and comfortable and far away from "those evil sinners over there".

Another big revelation for you? We're all sinners. You. Me. That guy over there. Yeah, we're all evil. We all need Jesus. Not just those who don't attend your church or who vote Democrat or who read Harry Potter. All of us. Look it up, it's in the Bible.

So, at the moment, all I have is the fire in my gut, the passionate resolution in my belly, that I hate all things "Christianese" and I long to assist in the complete demolition of this man-made evil.

Now, to be honest I have no real idea what that actually works out to in the real world. Let me be clear; I am NOT advocating the wanton destruction of Christian bookstores; I am NOT organizing petitions to shut down Christian Television (although I'd probably sign a petition if someone sent me one); I'm not calling for people to light torches or assemble in protest...but maybe it would be good idea if we just simply tried to escape the pseudo-reality of Christian Subculture? Maybe we could just start living in the real world, as followers of Jesus, without seeing those imaginary boundary lines between "Us" and "Them"? Maybe we could talk to people and befriend them, and love them, regardless of whether or not they were Christians? Maybe we could stop seeking comfort and shelter within the invisible walls of our own safety zones and start realizing that we live in this world, the real world...the ONLY world, and begin living as Salt and Light to those around us?

Jesus prayed for us, those who would follow after Him, in this way: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."(John 17:15) It was never God's intention to take us out of the world we live in. Why have we decided that it's ok to take ourselves out of the world?

Paul the Apostle also agreed on this point when he wrote, "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." (1 Cor 5:9-10)

Have we left this world for some virtual, "Clean World" where everything is Christian? Do we have to get our Christian Milk from a Christian Cow? Do we have to freshen our breath with Christian Mints? Do we have to drink Christian Soda and bowl at a Christian Bowling Alley?

This idea of withdrawl from the culture is evil. It is not God's plan for us. It is the fruit of our own sinful, selfish desires to be safe and comfortable, and in some cases to make money and perpetuate an industry. It is demonic, and it hinders the Gospel message by isolating the agents of change (you and I) from those who need "the hope that lies within", and I want nothing more than to see it die a horrible, agonizing death so that God's people can begin to learn what it means to be human and start relating to other human beings who are sinful and hopeless without Christ, just like everyone else.

The Christian Subculture is essentially a wall that we build to keep ourselves from the world. Like the Berlin Wall, or the Great Wall of China, or Hadrian's Wall, or the wall between Palestine and Israel, it is an artificial border designed by us, the supposed followers of Jesus, in order to isolate us from the ones we are commanded to love.

Jesus would want us to smash down that wall. It's the same wall built by the money changers in the Temple at Jerusalem which kept the common people from entering the house of God. Those systems were also man-made. Those systems also invovled making a buck on the sale of faith and the commercialization of God's name.

I'm not sure where to find the hammer big enough to knock down this wall we've built, but I long to find one, and when I do I will let it swing.


March 14 & 15 at Triangle Square in Newport Beach
Jackie Pullinger, David Ruis, Cindy Reithmeier, John Thomas and you. (Only 100 seats available. Registration opens September '07)

NEW JOB: Started Monday, August 13th at Ingram Micro in the Marketing Department as a Copy Writer. My second time around at this company, but my first as a writer. I'm grateful for the chance to discover an incarnational ministry here. I'm grateful for another chance to enter the common workplace and learn to relate to other humans as a human being. Thank you Jesus. Thanks also to all of you who supported us and prayed for my family during this last year of temporary work and living week to week.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Two Funerals Equals One Wedding
by Keith Giles

This week I fly to Seattle, Washington to perform a wedding service for two friends of mine from Soul Survivor. Because of this I've been thinking a lot lately about weddings and I've discovered something pretty amazing; Marriage is God's idea.

It was God who saw that Adam was alone and concluded that it "was not good for man to be alone". This is why He created woman, from Man's own flesh, to be as near to him, and as dear to him, as his own soul. "She is flesh of my flesh," said Adam, "And bone of my bone".

From the beginning of mankind, Man and Woman have been "Man and Wife". The first miracle performed by Jesus in His Earthly ministry was at a wedding. He gave everyone there the gift of wine; a symbol of gladness and celebration and joy. God, it would seem, loves a party. And He loves to join together two hearts so that they beat as One.

The Scriptures speak of marriage as a metaphor for God's love for us, His Bride. It was God's idea to use Marriage as a Metaphor for His love for us.

Mingled together in the mystery of love, we have a picture of God, a love-struck Groom, sacrificing everything He has, even His own life, to win the heart of His beloved; His and I.

When Paul talks about love in 1 Corinthians 13, he's describing something that is not selfish. I believe that you can't ever hope to love like that as long as you're in a state of looking after your own needs. If you're selfish you'll never be someone who "keeps no record of wrongs", etc.

This means you have to die to yourself if you hope to put someone else's needs above your own. This concept is all through Scripture, and Marriage is a wonderful way to practice this Kingdom value.

Both people in a marriage have to die to their selfish desires and hopes and appetites and, instead, learn to focus on the needs of their spouse.

So, a marriage that embodies the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 is made up of two people who have both died to themselves in order to live as "one flesh".

And at the end of Time, when all is said and done, God's plan is to bring each of us, His Beloved; His Bride; to His Home, where we will be the guest of honor, and we will feast and celebrate together at the Ultimate Marriage; the Wedding of the Lamb of God to the Bride of Christ; and there will be wine, and dancing, and rejoicing for all Eternity...and a lot of Kosher food I'm sure.

God loves a party, especially one that celebrates the union of two souls into One.
One day we will be the guests of honor in God's house, and we will eat from His table and celebrate forever the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

He smiles on the joining of two lives into One. The Angels rejoice with all of us, as we look forward to "That Day" when our Groom arrives, the Son of God, to take us away where we can also be with Him and be One.