Saturday, January 31, 2009

And They'll Know We Are Christians

Article # 174

And They'll Know We Are Christians
by Keith Giles

"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. - 1 Cor 6:1-7

The church in Corinth was rebuked by Paul for a litany of failures. They had failed to love one another, they tolerated gross sexual misconduct in their fellowship, and they abused the Lord's Supper table.

In the passage above, Paul is rebuking them for taking one another to court and airing their disagreements publicly. His appeal to them is to consider their witness to the world around them, and to prefer being wronged and mistreated over tarnishing the Gospel of love and peace.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you." - JESUS (Matthew 18:5)

Over the last year I have been saddened to see Christians spew hatred and bitterness towards one another on public forums like Facebook, blogs and message boards. One brother in Christ recently called me a swine on my Facebook page simply because I suggested he read something for himself rather than accept a cut and paste quotation at face value. My attempts to respond in love were rebuffed with more name-calling and public attack. This is not the first time I've been the target of such venomous dialog, obviously, but the ongoing, relentless stream of hatred from brother to brother has started to wear me down.

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." - JESUS (Matthew 5:22)

Can we not see what this sort of behavior is doing to the Bride? Can we not pause for a moment and consider how our hateful words are damaging the Gospel, our witness, and especially, our own brothers and sisters in Christ?

I would rather be wronged, and wrong, than to continue this sort of online dialog any further. We, as ambassadors of Christ must return to a posture of humility and respond in love to anyone and everyone (whether online or in person) for the sake of Christ and in obedience to our Lord's command to be known by our love.

There are several people who I know read these words of mine and feel that I have been the one who is guilty of speaking hateful words here, and in my articles about God's design for His Church. Let me respond to this in advance by saying that my motivation for writing about the church has always been to share what I've learned with others. I will confess that at times I have intentionally crafted a headline or a paragraph to provoke a response, but my hope was to provoke a response which was thoughtful, not hateful or angry.

For those who have read my articles and felt offended I sincerely apologize. My desire is to teach my brothers and sisters in Christ (whom I love) about the exciting things I am learning about God's plan for His Church and how the New Testament reveals something many of us (including myself for many years) have missed.

I have done my best to take Scripture at face value and study and teach what it says to anyone who will listen. My aim has not been to offend or to attack or to harm anyone. I have also done my best, both in the articles and in my response to detractors, to avoid insult and refrain from name-calling. If anyone can show me where I have failed at this I will respond to their rebuke and repent publicly.

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." - JESUS (Matthew 5:23-24)

In the last several days I have also attempted, to the best of my ability, to make peace with those who have something against me. Some have responded favorably to my attempts to make peace, others have not, and some have simply ignored me.

My hope is to communicate the truth without harming anyone. I pray that I can shed far more light than heat and, in the future, I will go out of my way to avoid public arguments on this blog, or in response to my articles. If a brother or sister in Christ begins to publicly insult me or to become abusive I will end the conversation publicly and seek reconciliation privately.

I do understand that a discussion of ecclesiology can be difficult between brothers in Christ. Last week I went to lunch with my dear friend Bill and over lunch we had a spirited discussion of this very issue. He had many of the same questions and objections that many others have brought up and we had a very stimulating dialog together. Afterwards, Bill and I prayed for one another, blessed one another, embraced one another and made plans to meet together again soon.

Therefore, I know it is possible for brothers to discuss these issues without resorting to bitterness or name-calling or personal attacks. It is possible if we do our best not to forget that we love one another and that we are part of God's Family.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1



by Brant Hansen


Saturday, January 24, 2009


[Subversive Underground]

by Keith Giles

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." - (1 Peter 2:13-17)

More and more I find that there is a blurred line in American Christianity between "The American Way" and "The Kingdom of God".

The Kingdom of God and the American Dream are not the same thing, and in fact, they are two opposing viewpoints which are in conflict on many levels.

The American Dream is founded on the concept of every person's right to the pursuit of happiness. Whatever you can imagine would make you happy you are free to pursue it with all your heart. That's your right.

The Kingdom of God is founded on the concept of laying down your life, your idea of what will make you happy, in favor of receiving what Jesus knows will really make you happy.

Following Jesus involves laying down your life and giving up your rights. It means full and complete submission to God because you recognize that His perfect will for your life is a million times better than anything you could ever dream up, or pursue, on your own.

Jesus didn't ever instruct any of his disciples to fight for their God-given, "Inalienable Rights", and neither did Paul the Apostle. In fact, they both encouraged their disciples to live humble lives, serving others and not demanding more because they deserved more. Paul even specifically told those followers of Christ who were slaves to remain slaves, even if they were being mistreated.

Historically, the early Christians didn't fight for their rights as citizens, they took it on the chin, and in the Lion's den, and in the arena. They literally would rather die than to take another person's life.

Simply put, they followed their Lord and Savior, Jesus and they followed His example of non-violence and submissive service to those who hated and mistreated them. Does that sound like the American Dream to you?

We cannot afford to become distracted by nationalism or led astray by politics.

As followers of Jesus, He must be our one and only priority and influence. This is what it means to make Jesus our Lord.

As Christian pastor and activist Jim Wallis has said, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat. God is not partisan. God is not ideologically committed to our Left or Right. God's politics challenges all of our politics. It includes the people our politics regularly leave out; the poor and the vulnerable. That's God's politics."

It would have been virtually impossible for an unbeliever living in those first three hundred years of Church History to ever reject Christianity on the grounds that it lacked compassionate people or failed to teach loving kindness.

In fact, we have testimony from many of the most hostile pagans who lived during the first three hundred years of Christianity who were put to shame because of the overwhelming generosity of the Church. Julian, the Apostate wrote of this frustrating situation when he said, "..The godless Galileans feed not only their poor, but ours also."

Christian philosopher Aristides (125 AD) wrote about the radical charity of the early Church also, recording the fact that, "…if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast for three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food."

For a Christian, killing our enemies is not acceptable.

If being a good American citizen means you need to cheer on a war that kills innocent people then you must lay aside your Christianity.

If being a faithful member of a political party trumps over 2,000 verses in the word of God about caring for the poor, then you need to make a choice.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to speak to Jim Wallis on this very subject and his response has stayed with me ever since. He said:

"The Church today is more American than Christian. The Kingdom of God is not the same as the American Empire. When we are more American than Christian we confuse the meaning of the Body of Christ with any nation state. This notion of the Church as a counter-cultural movement is Biblically obvious. There's no doubt about that. We're in the world to transform the world for the sake of this new order that has come in Jesus Christ. If Jesus' vision of the Kingdom was so threatening, why is our vision of the Kingdom so safe?"

The Gospel of the Kingdom is not the American Dream.

It saddens me to see Christians more passionate about their political party than they are about the Kingdom of God.

Conversatio Morem!
(Death to the status quo/Constant Conversion)



Friday, January 16, 2009

And The Winner Is...

[Subversive Underground]

And The Winner Is...
by Keith Giles

Spiritual epiphanies can sometimes come from the most unexpected sources. For example, after watching the Golden Globe awards last weekend I realized that I am a Pharisee at heart.

I've known for quite a while that my "Love Language" includes Words of Affirmation, so in a way it really all makes sense. But as I sat watching Steven Spielberg tell stories about filming the demolition of his Lionel train set I realized how much I crave recognition. In my heart of hearts I really do want people to honor me and give me awards.

I confess that there are times when I wish people would celebrate my great achievements (whatever they might be) and beg me for my expert opinion. On the positive side, my desire for words of praise does inspire me to work hard and strive for excellence in my work, but I must admit that there is still a part of me that does things so that people will see it and take note of my artistry.

That's when I realized that I am, at heart, a Pharisee.

Jesus pulled his disciples aside and made a point of discouraging the sort of behavior I am confessing to you now.

""Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matt 6:1-4

So, I am condemned by my own sinful heart. I admit I carry the gene for pride and I struggle with selfishness. However I also realized something else this week as I continued to reflect on this disease of mine. Do you want to know what it is?

I realized that, for a long time now, I have thought of this sort of behavior as being a Pharisee. However, I now realize that this behavior is actually just part of being a human.

My humanity is what makes me selfish, and sinful, and hopelessly pathetic, not my "Pharisee-ness" (whatever that might be).

Realizations like these keep me humble and small. I cannot escape the truth. I must admit that I am not an expert on anything except sin and pride and selfishness. Without God, I am worthless and hopeless.

To the degree that I am in touch with my humanity, my weakness, my failure, I can appreciate the wonder and the majesty of God's amazing love and grace.

So, from one human to another, please join me as I kneel on the ground and submit myself to our awesome savior and king. He alone is good. He alone is worthy of praise and recognition.

"And now I know the secret that only losers keep, and I wallow in the hopeful tears that every finder weeps."



Saturday, January 10, 2009


I'm Bringing Jesus Back
(with apologies to Justin Timberlake)
by Keith Giles

Let us stop making Jesus in our own image. Let us embrace the Jesus who washed feet, and turned the other cheek, and forgave his torturers. Let us lay aside the false "Kick Ass Jesus" who could beat us bloody in a full-contact Ultimate Fighting Tournament (See Mark Driscoll quotes).

Let us put away the cash-minded, wealth-obsessed Jesus who wants us to be rich and embrace the Jesus who urged his followers to sell everything in order to get the Kingdom.

Let us burn our "Wild At Heart" books with the gun-slinging, bare-knuckled adventurer Jesus and go back to the Red Letter Jesus of the Gospels who was "Mild At Heart" and loved people until it killed him.

Let us lay aside the Republican Jesus who seeks to give us political power instead of leading us to love our actual neighbors, no matter who they vote for.

We need to stop making the version of Jesus we are more comfortable with and accept the Jesus who makes us uncomfortable and asks us to love and forgive and share like no one has ever seen before.

Those who mock Jesus for turning the other cheek have never realized how much strength and courage it takes to actually fight your own flesh and allow Jesus to crucify your ego for the sake of others.

I'm bringing Jesus back. Who wants to join me?


"May the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God's presence except us. Nothing-including our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs."
- Mike Yaconelli


Saturday, January 03, 2009


[Subversive Underground]

Article # 167

Peace on Earth
by Keith Giles

I know a great many Christians today who are full of anguish and frustration as they survey what's occuring in our world today.

A Democrat has been elected president of the United States. Gay marriage has been legalized and currently pending review by the Supreme Court in California. Israel has retaliated against Palestine with a devastating military response leaving hundreds dead in Gaza.

As a result I hear these Christians express varying degrees of emotion. Some cheer when they hear that Israel has blown up entire city blocks in response to rocket attacks by Hamas. Some wring their hands in anguish over Obama in fear that he will turn our nation into an Islamic state and introduce a socialistic government. Others wag their heads over the gay marriage issue and say, "Please Lord, just come back soon and judge this Nation and take me to heaven."

These responses are quite far away from what the Word of God instructs.

When I read Romans, chapter 9, starting in verse 2, I hear the heart of Paul the Apostle as he looks upon a nation that has turned its back on God and rejected His Gospel and their Messiah. He does not call for God to come down and judge them and to take him home to Glory. Intead, his prayer is the exact polar opposite. He says:

"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." - Romans 9:2-5

Paul actually desires for God to judge himself so that his Nation might be saved. He doesn't ask God to save himself and judge those hard-hearted sinners. He is so filled with love and compassion for these hateful, stubborn people that he is willing in his heart to loose his own eternal salvation in order to see them come to Christ.

Where are the Christian leaders of today who are expressing a similar heart for the lost? Why are Christian TV and Radio stations filled with the refrain "Come soon Lord and judge this evil Nation and take your Bride home to be with you."?

It's no secret that God's people have forgotten to be known for their love. It's no secret that the Church in America is known more for what she is against that what she is for.

Our hope is in God alone. He is still in control of time and history. The Gospel of the Kingdom is our salvation.

God will not hold the sinners accountable for the judgment our nation receives. He will hold us responsible.

"If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Our response to the distress in our world is to humble ourselves and pray and confess our own sins to God and cry out for people to be healed and saved - not judged and condemned.

In I John 2:6 it says, "Whoever claims to be in Him must walk as Jesus did."

This means that we, as representatives of God's Kingdom and as followers of Christ, are called to respond as Jesus would respond.

We are called to be peaceful and peace loving. Why are there no Christian churches, schools or universities teaching courses in peace making? Why isn't this one of our primary values? "Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called the sons of God" - Jesus, (Matthew 5:9)

As those who walk as Jesus did we are called to be forgiving. Jesus forgave those who were in the act of murdering him saying "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Most of us have never had to forgive someone for attempted murder, and yet we find forgiving those who have insulted us or hurt our feelings difficult, even though we have freely received forgiveness for our sins - sins which put Christ on the cross in our place.

We are called to humble ourselves as Jesus did. "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 on the very nature of a servant..." - Phil 2:6-7

We are called to be like Jesus and to serve those around us in love. Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and took on the role of a slave and washed the feet of His disciples. Then he instruced them, and us, to do the same. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you....Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them." - John 13:14-17

We are also called to touch the poor and the needy around us. Jesus told us that whatever we did for the least of these was the same as doing it to Him. (See Matthew 25:35-46)

When it comes to people suffering in war, whether at the hands of Israel, or America, or anyone, our response as followers of Christ should be to weep and to pray for peace. We are called by our Lord and Savior to be peace makers, not war mongers. Peace is our goal. Reconciliation is our ministry.

When it comes to issues like Gay Marriage, let us remember that we're all sinners and we all need the same Jesus and the same mercy and grace. Let us be dispensers of grace, mercy and love, not hate, judgment and bitterness. God is still in control and our calling is still to be people who are filled with the radical love of God.