Friday, January 13, 2017

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Look inside my new book

Want to get a little taste of my new book, "Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" before it's published on Friday, Jan. 20th at Amazon?

This is your chance!

Thanks to BookGrabbr you can now download a sample chapter of my book right now>

Let me know what you think!

Be sure to wait until Friday, Jan. 20th - Inauguration Day - to order my book at Amazon, please.

It won't be long now.


Monday, January 09, 2017

INTERVIEW: Derek Gilbert talks to Keith Giles about new book "Jesus Untangled"

WATCH: View From The Bunker host Derek Gilbert interviews author Keith Giles about his new book "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb". 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Our Cultural Blind Spots

NOTE: Recently, my friend Dr. Scott Bartchy – Professor Emeritus of Christian Origins and History of Religion at UCLA – sent me two documents to examine. Both of them contained more than enough insight to fill up this blog for the next few months. This blog is one of many to come based on these new insights.


Due to our own lack of awareness about first century Jewish culture, we have been blinded to several key nuances found in the New Testament texts. 

As Bartchy points out, “Their values are not our values. Unless we learn otherwise, both professional exegetes and na├»ve readers naturally assume that our own social experiences and the cultural values with which we were raised have been generally characteristic of socially-approved human life across time and space. Regrettably, this assumption has encouraged readers…to interpret our ancient (NT) documents in ways that ignore or misunderstand the prevailing structures of fundamental human relationships in Jesus’ social world.”

He then goes on to point out that these areas of misunderstanding include concepts like kinship, marriage, patriarchy and manliness.

His paper, “Jesus, The Pharisees and Mediterranean Manliness” – which is scheduled to appear as chapter 16 in a book entitled “Teaching the Historical Jesus: Issues and Exegesis”, edited by Zev Gerber – goes on to masterfully demonstrate how several of Jesus’ commands and teachings are typically misunderstood by modern commentators and bible teachers. The main reason for this blind spot, he says, is our lack of understanding the “Shame/Honor” values inherent within first century Jewish culture.

The tension that arises between Jesus and the Pharisees, Bartchy says, is primarily caused by Jesus’ subversive teachings and actions that sought to undermine the prevailing culture of the day, which the Pharisees were deeply entangled with.

In this shame/honor culture, Jesus seeks to redefine what makes for honor and shame in His Father’s Kingdom, or “When God rules all things”.

In short, Bartchy’s point is this: The way the Pharisees – and every other male in the first century – behaved was normal behavior. When they sat at the place of honor at the table, it was what they were all trained to do since birth. When they asked their Rabbi if they could be given the honor to sit by his side, this was totally acceptable. When they sought to be recognized by others for their wisdom or authority, this was how everything was supposed to be.

Simply put, the first century Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was based on shame and honor. Males were trained early on to bring honor to themselves – and therefore to their family name – at all costs. They were also trained to avoid being shamed for the same reasons. Every male of Jesus’ day was either working to be seen as honored or striving to avoid being placed in a position of shame.

When we see Jesus rebuking the Pharisees flaunting their honor in the marketplace and praying in public, for example. This is what everyone in that culture would have expected them to do. It was not seen by anyone at that time as prideful, arrogant or rude. That is, not by anyone other than Jesus, of course.

Jesus shows up and right away challenges this status quo. It was Jesus who was seen as rude for condemning these men of honor for behaving normally. It was Jesus who was seen as behaving oddly when he rebuked the Pharisees for inviting honorable people to their banquets rather than the lame, the blind, the poor and the sick.

Jesus was the one that everyone in that culture would have perceived as being rude, arrogant and yes, possibly even prideful. Or at least they would have seen him as someone who had little authority to point to those who had honor and claim that in reality they had none.

“The goal of male socialization,” says Bartchy, “(was) to add honor to the family name. (Because) honor was by far the most highly prized possession. How much honor anyone deserved depended on one’s peers’ perception and their public acknowledgement of one’s authority, gender status and reputation.”

Bartchy goes on to describe two forms of honor in this early culture: Ascribed honor and Acquired honor. The honor inherited from one’s family was the ascribed honor one was born into. The honor one might receive by competing with other men in the culture was acquired honor. Both were very important to have and to cultivate.

“Thus, seeking greater honor for oneself and one’s family was the fundamental life task of every adult male, and traditional male socialization produced human beings who were programmed to pursue a neverending quest for greater honor and influence,” says Bartchy.

It is in this context that Jesus’ words to his disciples – “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant” – rang out like nails scraping loudly down the world’s longest chalk board.

“The vast majority of commentators…have ignored the cultural appropriateness (when James and John ask to sit at Jesus’ side in the Kingdom) seeking honor,” he says.

As a result, most everyone has missed the incredible forcefulness of Jesus’ teaching as it cut against the grain of acceptable masculinity in the first century Mediterranean cultures.

One also must take into account how little of this honor Jesus himself had – from both ascribed and acquired varieties: The identity of his birth father was questionable. His family standing was automatically in doubt due to where he had grown up (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46).

Normally, a young male in this situation – with so little ascribed honor – would feel immense pressure to work for acquired honor in the eyes of everyone around him. “Yet…rather than seeking honor for himself,” Bartchy notes, “Jesus was prepared to be humiliated rather than to compete for honor and play the traditional male game of one-upmanship.”

Beyond this, Jesus went further to teach his own disciples to ascribe honor to others and to work to help those without honor to acquire it.

With all of this in mind, listen as Jesus stands on the mount to preach a sermon that proclaims honor upon those who are humble, and those who give comfort to others, and those who practice mercy, and those who make peace. Listen as Jesus defies the honor-seeking culture of His day to declare that God only honors those who have none, and those who don’t want any, and those who only work to bring honor to those people around them who will never, ever earn – or even deserve – honor in their own society.

Bartchy also points out that one New Testament scholar, K.C. Hanson, “forged a major breakthrough in understanding the famous ‘Beatitudes’…when he applied his knowledge of both ancient Mediterranean cultural values and Hebrew and Greek philology to his translation of the Greek word “macharios” (traditionally rendered “blessed”)..(as) “honored.”

Therefore, Jesus’ words, “Honored are the merciful. Honored are the poor.” Etc. take on new and fantastic implications for us. Now we see that Jesus is rewriting the rules and creating a brand new set of cultural values that stand in direct contrast to those considered normative in his day. By saying that the poor are honored, and the peacemakers are honored, Jesus is saying that God uses a totally different set of values for deciding who receives honor and who receives shame. God’s Kingdom honors the humble, not the proud. His Kingdom honors the poor and the outcast, not the rich and the influential.

What must be stressed is that there is nothing specifically “Pharisaical” about seeking honor for oneself during Jesus’ day. Everyone operated under these rules. It was the status quo and no one questioned it.

No one except Jesus, that is.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Revival, Resurrection and Reality

Maybe there’s something wrong with me? 

I already know that I don’t quite fit perfectly into the usual American Christian Evangelical mindset. That’s why I blog about things that often get me into trouble, or invite criticisms from those who disagree with my skewed views.

I think I'm also cursed to always see things from a slightly different perspective, and whenever I share that perspective I'm often blasted for it. But, I can't help myself.

So, when I see thousands of Christians gathering in a stadium for a revival, it doesn’t really resonate with me. Maybe because I don’t really expect God to perform for us on command. Or maybe because I don’t believe that God is impressed by large crowds.

Jesus seemed to always be trying to get away from large crowds, not looking for ways to attract more people. Jesus seemed to care more about those one-on-one conversations with lepers, or prostitutes, or outcasts, or women who most people ignored.

Big events don’t move me, and so I guess I tend to assume that they don’t move God either. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I’m not. I’m just sharing my gut reaction to big-scale events where people equate a trending hashtag with spreading the name of Jesus – especially when that hash tag doesn’t contain the name of Jesus.

 The bottom line is that I’m not in the place to judge anyone. I know that. No one needs to clear anything with me before they host a large Christian gathering.

If this event ignites someone's heart to follow Jesus more fully in their day-to-day life, then that's a very good thing.

But, if it leaves us empty after the emotional high is over and people are unable to see Christ in their sometimes mundane reality, it might create a dependence on emotional experiences rather than keeping us focused on the reality of a life-changing daily relationship with Jesus.

I’m just saying that if Revival truly comes to our nation, it will probably be in the quiet solitude of a prayer closet and not up on the Jumbo-Tron screen. At least, that’s where most Revivals begin, historically.

Can God do whatever He wants? Well, obviously. Yes, He can do whatever. And maybe if He really wants to get our attention, He’ll have to show up to one of our stadium events because that’s where most of us are looking.

But typically, God seems to love to do things differently. He seems to prefer to defy our expectations and to upset our status quo.

If nothing else, maybe we should keep our eyes open for Jesus in the unexpected places, off the main stage, outside the coliseums, in a quiet place, with a still, small voice calling out in rooms where no one is recording anything on their iPhone or live-Tweeting the play-by-play.

Revival, for me, is a word for a people whose hearts are broken. A person whose soul is ripped down the middle at the sight of all the suffering that surrounds them.

Revival is essentially a word that calls attention to the reality that something that is dead needs to come alive again.

Maybe we don’t need another revival meeting. Maybe what we need is more like a resurrection.

A resurrection doesn’t have a soundtrack or an official t-shirt.
A resurrection is simply a miraculous burst of life in a dark place.

When people who are hungry for Jesus and moved by Jesus are willing to go out and act like Jesus in a world that is desperate for Jesus, then we can honestly say that we have experienced a resurrection.

I’d love to host a “Let’s Go and Do the Stuff Jesus Did Conference"
where thousands of Christians spread out over the city
and break into groups of five or ten
to visit children’s hospitals
and pray for cancer patients
and give hugs to the homeless
and reconcile with their gay brothers and sisters
and pray a sincere blessing for their President
and repent publicly from seeking to change the culture through political power
and maybe take up an offering to feed the poor and house the mentally ill who sleep on our streets every night.

Now, that’s the kind of revival I can get excited about, and it just might deserve to go viral on Twitter, too.

What do you think?

Monday, January 02, 2017

QUIZ: How Entangled Are You?

As we look forward to the release of my new book, "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" on Jan. 20th, here's a quick test to find out how entangled you are and where you might need help getting untangled.

Ask yourself:

Can you imagine following Jesus apart from your politics?

Do you find it intolerable to listen to anyone who disagrees with your political convictions?

Are you more upset when someone disrespects your nation's flag than you are when they misrepresent the teachings of Jesus?

Does it offend you that the American flag is always flown above the Christian flag?

Would you give up being an American for Jesus?

If Jesus asked you to give up being an American and to stop pledging allegiance to your nation's flag, would you do so? How would that make you feel?

Do you believe that God has blessed America more than any other nation on earth?

Are you convinced that America is a Christian nation?

Are you willing to fight a war in order to defend your nation, even if you know that doing so may result in the death of other Christians who happen to live in the nation you're fighting?

Have you ever argued with another Christian about differences in politics and decided not to fellowship with that person due to your differing views?

Do you believe that one political party is more "Christian" than others?

If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, you might be entangled.

Hopefully my new book will help identify entanglements and clarify how best to navigate your way towards more freedom in Christ. 

What do you think of these questions? Can you think of any other ways we can test our entanglements?

Please share in the comments below.


Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year In Review

I'm not sure about you, but for me 2016 just flew by.

The more notable events this year for me were:
*Writing my book, "Jesus Untangled"
*Greg Boyd writing my Foreword to the book
*Publishing a chapter in the new Dallas Willard book, "Renewing the Christian Mind"
*Starting the 5 Minute Video Series on YouTube
*Podcasting the "Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)" series
*Watching our House Church family blossom into an even more beautiful expression of Jesus
*Being interviewed by the guys over at Real Talk Radio about organic ekklesia
*Having  that same series translated into Portugeuse!
*Co-hosting the "Jesus At The Center" conference with my dear friend Herb Montgomery in November

My Top 10 Posts In 2016:

Honorable Mention:

My all-time highest viewed/most read post is still:

Obviously, this was a very productive year for me, but next year is shaping up to be even better.

My new book, "Jesus Untangled" will release on Amazon on Jan. 20th, 2017 (Inauguration Day), along with a short documentary about me and our house church from my friend Braden Swope on the same weekend which will debut at the Chapman University Student Film Festival.

I'll be recording about a dozen or more podcasts and radio interviews to talk about the book in 2017, plus a few events and speaking opportunities where the topic of the book will be discussed. Watch for info on all of that coming soon.

I do pray that next year will be one where we can all draw nearer to Jesus and experience His life in ours more than ever.

Thanks for reading my blog and supporting this ministry with your prayers.

Can't wait to see what the Lord does next year!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

What did you give for Christmas?

From the time I was a little boy, Christmas morning was always the time to run out to the tree and find out what you got for Christmas.

After unwrapping everything, the next thing I did was to call my friend's on the phone and find out, "What did you get for Christmas"?

A few years ago, all of that changed for our family. We slowly transitioned from "What did you get?" to "What did you give?"

It started for us about 10 years ago. We had a friend who was a single Mom and she had just had brain surgery to remove a tumor. Her young son had never had a Christmas before, as they were always too poor. So, this year he asked his mom if they could have Christmas for Christmas. Our house church, along with another church group, pooled our resources and bought a tree, lights, ornaments, and decorations. We also bought gifts for both of them, including grocery store cards for $200 worth of food so they could rest easy during the Holiday season.

When we go there we started setting up the tree and decorating. We worked together to decorate their tiny apartment. Then we turned on the lights, sang a few Christmas carols together and shared some hot cocoa.

Before leaving, we all gathering around our friends and we prayed for her to heal from her surgery and for her and her son to know how much God loved them.

Then something unexpected happened. She asked if she could pray for all of us. As she started to pray for us, I began to really understand what giving was all about. Her humble prayers for us were so profound, and beautiful. I found myself wiping away more than a few tears by the time she was finished.

On the way out to our car, I remember turning to Wendy and saying, "That was my Christmas gift. I don't want anything else."

Ever since that night, we have tried to spend our time and our money giving away as many blessings as we can to help others. We already have so much more than we need, and a whole lot more on top of that we don't really need. So, instead of turning Christmas into an excuse to get even more stuff we don't need, we decided to see what we can give away.

This Christmas, along with help from people in our house church and a few others, we were able to give away Christmas gifts to 51 children at the Motel, and to pass out batteries and socks and share hot apple cider with people living along the Santa Ana river bed near Angel stadium in Tent City.

I would encourage everyone to try this at least once. The truth is, we are more blessed by giving away blessings than we ever were when our focus was to receive a blessing.

Honestly, I can barely remember what I got for Christmas all those years ago. But I can promise you that I will never, ever forget all that we have given away for Christmas over the last 10 years; and all the smiling faces and joyful hearts we've been able to touch by simply switching gears from getting to giving.

Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us!

Peace on Earth,