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2014-10-07 02.22.06a

Time away from the corporate world has given me a bit of perspective on things – where we’ve been, and where we’re going, from a technological perspective. I see this huge push towards “web-ifying” everything – all data and processes should be on the web, and all data should be in the cloud. All webpages should be heavy with graphics (to get people’s attention) and ads (to generate revenue). We should have all data at our fingertips 24/7, so the growing consensus goes. Heaven forbid if your company isn’t moving in this direction – you don’t want to be left behind, do you? Let’s get rid of that old AS/400 or iSeries or mainframe, let’s get something new! (By the way, if you have an old AS/400 lying around that you’d like to get rid of, I’ll gladly take it off your hands!)

While making access to data 24/7 on as many platforms as possible isn’t a bad thing at all, there’s a price to pay when you wrap data up in layers of HTML, XML, Javascript, images, etc., that we often don’t notice. I just finished a prototype application for a friend – all it does is issue a simple SQL query, return and display data – and she was stunned at how fast the thing worked. The response time was well under a second. Her comment was that she usually had to wait several seconds for data to be returned from a web query. It’s a so-called “green screen” CRUD (create/read/update/delete) application, written in C for Linux. It’s blazingly fast because it doesn’t load anything she doesn’t need to see – no graphics, fancy fonts, ads, HTML markup. No time wasted rendering data. Just text data and prompts – and it’s very clear what’s being displayed. (If you want to see pictures, just scroll down in my timeline to earlier in the week.) In short, it’s clean and simple. If you want to know what Steve Jobs, the legendary genius who headed Apple for years, thought about this approach, you can read about it here.

I know what she means. How long does it take for Facebook to completely load a page when you navigate to another page? 10, 15 seconds? Longer? Ever looked at the size of the page that just got loaded into your browser? I was stunned when I looked – this page, not including images or any other scripts being loaded, took up 512K! Now you know why Facebook takes so long to come up in your browser!

We spend lots and lots of money buying faster and faster computers to run even more bloated versions of Windows and web pages and sites full of ads and images and videos that we hardly even pay attention to anymore, because they’re so ubiquitous. We hardly notice how slow everything is getting, except to call our ISP and complain, maybe ask for an upgrade to the next higher speed. Most cell phone providers, of course, have capitalized on this, charging us for every gigabyte of bandwidth over our puny limits. Meanwhile, we ask “why is XXX web site so slooooow?” Blame it on Windows – sure, it bears part of the blame. After all, Internet Explorer has perhaps the slowest HTML rendering engine and the slowest Javascript interpreter on the planet! But when you have to download half a megabyte of data, plus images, for a website, the fastest operating system and browser in the world isn’t going to help much.

And now you know why 70% of Fortune 500 companies still have mainframes – Big Iron, as they’re called, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Those oh-so-unsexy green screens are still blazingly fast compared to a browser, and in the mainframe/miniframe world, you can have pretty tight control over what applications people use. At a company I know, the Operations folks looked at just how much time was spent on Facebook and Twitter (just to name a few), watching videos on YouTube, and online shopping and the like. I don’t remember specific numbers, but the amount of time not working was astounding! Sure, we all need a break every now and again, but when people spend half their workday posting on Facebook and Twitter, watching (adorable, admittedly!) cat videos and other non-work stuff, maybe they should only be employed part-time!

I used to work for a company long ago that would restrict the use of non-work applications to certain times of the day. From 8-5, Monday through Friday, they were blocked. Any other time, feel free. They ran Linux in text mode on every desktop, and when a user logged in, they saw a menu of apps they could run. And stuff got done! The apps were FAST and lean, and people started bragging about how much they got done at the end of the day. They could even do Facebook and Twitter in text mode on their desktops. You’d be amazed at how much you can do in Facebook or Twitter with just text.

Is the green screen for everyone? Of course not – but for a lot of businesses, customer service, dispatch, and the back office all run on the green screen, and for good reason.

On this, the morning after the terrible shootings in Tucson, Arizona, many of us rise with thoughts of sympathy and compassion for the victims, of sorrow and support for their families, and prayers for healing for those for whom the scars of that morning’s events will forever be carried in their bodies, hearts, and souls.  I know that my first thought was to check the news, to hope for even a slight improvement in Gabby Gifford’s condition, and then to pray for all of the shooting victims, and I’m sure that many of you did the same.  For those who died, I pray that they came to the knowledge of the astonishing power of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus before their lives were snatched away so unexpectedly.

But there are others who need our prayers just as much – those who perpetrated this tragedy and their families.  Prayers of support for the families, and prayers for repentence and for the knowledge of the One who has filled the hearts of so many throughout history with the incomparable love of Christ Jesus for the perpetrators.  “For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6), “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  For the man whose heart has been infected by hate, there is but one cure, the man Christ Jesus.  For the man who has said “No, I won’t trust in God”, his path will undoubtedly bring him to a point where he has little other choice.  I pray that God touch this man’s heart and mind so that he may come to a knowledge of and a belief in Jesus, for as James 4:14 says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”  And for the man who dies unsaved, the Bible is quite clear about their fate, and that fate is forever.

For those of you who cannot seem to find it in yourselves to do what we are commanded to do in Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”, please keep in mind the next verse: “But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus said to pray for our enemies, because if we just pray for our friends or those who are beloved, how does that make us different from the unsaved?  I cannot even begin to imagine the Satanically-inspired deranged and hate-filled thoughts and feelings this man has, but I do know one thing – this man needs Jesus!

I also know that there are those who believe that this man cannot be saved, that he’s not worth the effort, that he never will repent.  But the Bible is also quite clear about that, too – even the worst of mankind can be saved!  I’m sure we have all read the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, and how he became a strong leader in the early Church, but the Bible also tells us about the man who Paul was before his conversion, in chapter 9 of the book of Acts.  “Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.  He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them–both men and women–back to Jerusalem in chains.”  But after his conversion, Barnabas said of Paul, “He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”  A more dramatic conversion, from murderer of the followers of Jesus to one of them and even teaching the other followers, I can’t imagine!  I cannot say what God has in store for this man’s life should he be saved, but I know that whatever it is, it’s far, far better than the alternative.

Pray for those who have fallen, pray for those who may yet recover, but also pray for those who senselessly killed and injured on that day, that they may all come to the salvation, love, and grace of our Lord Christ Jesus.

The victims who died:

9-year-old Christina Taylor Green

30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer who was engaged to be married

63-year-old Chief Judge John Roll of the U.S. District Court for Arizona

76-year-old Dorwin Stoddard, who was fatally shot in the head while trying to shield his wife

76-year-old Dorothy Morris

79-year-old Phyllis Scheck.

It’s the morning after Christmas – the Brits and Canadians call it Boxing Day – and I’m sitting in front of the fireplace, contemplating a book that kept me up until late last night.  It’s a fascinating book, written by a guy who runs a big church out in Alabama, and he talks about radical Christianity – the thought that “the American Dream” and Christianity are incompatible, that Christians aren’t called to the feel-good “prosperity theology” that a lot of churches are teaching today, but to a radical denial of oneself, to abandon everything in order to follow Christ.

I Google the book title and run across all kinds of book reviews and a few references to the book in blogs.  As is common to Google searches, they lead me down twisting paths to rabbit holes that I didn’t imagine I’d find when I started, and one of these holes led to an article about how the American Right has hijacked evangelical Christianity to push its own pro-rich, pro-war theology.  OK, I’ll buy that – but then the article starts talking about how The Left has drawn away Christians from the Right towards social issues, like feeding the poor and the like.  I started feeling like The Left was trying to do what they claimed The Right had already done: hijacked Christianity to serve its own agenda, the agenda of works-based salvation.

The truth is that Christianity has its own agenda, one that has little to do with the Left or the Right.  While both camps have as their agenda attempting to change people’s behavior and force change via outward techniques such as emotional manipulation, legislation, peer pressure, and mob psychology, Christianity is quite different – it premises that the only real, lasting change is done through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Change cannot be forced through outward pressure – that only forces people to feel guilty about the issue, and that will certainly never produce lasting change!

I am struck by the idea that all of this conflict is caused by this outward forcing of ideas and thoughts on people by force in one form or another.  But what would happen if Christians put down their picket signs and started evangelizing – not by shaking the bible in other people’s faces, but by simply talking about how Jesus had changed their lives?

If people would see the outward change in Christians that is driven by the inward change generated by the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t that cause people to want what we have?  Instead of a pre-packaged script that includes a sales patch and culminates in “praying the sinner’s prayer” and “accepting Christ”, why not simply tell people what Christ has done in your life and point them to Jesus – follow him?  The idea that “accepting Christ” is all you have to do to be saved is one of the biggest mis-teachings in all of Christiandom – that’s only the very first step in a journey of love that goes on forever.  Do we really think that the Almighty, Creator of the Universe, is waiting outside of our front doors, hat in hand, for us to “accept him” whenever we get good and ready, like some sort of child beggar at our doorstep waiting for a crust of bread or some other handout?  That may be the vision of what passes for modern Christianity, but it certainly isn’t the faith of the New Testament!

Interestingly enough, Jesus put all kinds of conditions on salvation.  To the rich man, he said that he had to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor.  He warned that those who did not follow the will of God were “workers of iniquity” and “evildoers” and would not enter the kingdom of Heaven, even though to the outside world, they were solid, steadfast Christians.  He told his followers to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”  He insulted people, calling them hypocrites and snakes.  Not a great way to build a big church, is it?

In our entertainment-driven, big-budget churches, this sort of stuff  isn’t on the preaching agenda – it certainly doesn’t draw the crowds or fill seats or inspire people to give their money to churches so they can pay a big salary to their pastor and have huge buildings built – but Jesus didn’t seem to be interested in drawing – or keeping – crowds.  After his sermons, people would be driven away, even to the point of Jesus asking his disciples, are you going to leave me, too?

If the faith pushed by the mega-churches is to be judged by numbers of attendees, then by that standard that faith is overwhelmingly successful.  By the standards of the world, the entertainment-driven, rock-music-filled, charismatic-preaching faith is certainly near and dear to God’s heart, right?  But if that’s true, then why aren’t we seeing all the signs that Jesus talked about in Mark 16:17-18?  Why aren’t we seeing the dead raised, the blind and lame and sick being healed?

Contrast that to house churches in places like China, where people study the bible and pray for 12 hours at a stretch – no entertainment, no rock band, no air conditioning, no suit-clad pastor, no big beautiful building, no padded chairs, no pop-psychology-filled sermons, no prosperity theology – just God and the bible.  In these house churches, people have been healed almost on a daily basis – these people are hungry for God, and it shows.  In Africa, people routinely see angels in prayer meetings, people are raised from the dead and are healed of everything from broken bones to cancer.  These people have abandoned *everything* to follow Christ – their freedom, even their lives, are threatened on a daily basis, because Christianity is illegal – yet these Christians worship every day, sometimes for 12 hours at a stretch.

Puts our faith to shame, doesn’t it?

This is from 1986, but it’s just a timely today as it has been for the past 50 years:

“I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying,” said 31-year-old John Tyner to a pair of Transportation Security Administration officials insisting on giving him a “groin check” before boarding his plane.

Tyner was scheduled to fly this weekend out of San Diego International Airport when he was pulled from the security line at the metal detectors and told he would be either subjected to one of the TSA’s full-body scanners – which reveal a virtually nude image of passengers – or a full-body “pat-down,” including an inspection of his inner thigh.

Discomforted by the invasive procedures and the thought of a security officer touching his genitals, Tyner made a joke that has since made him an instant Internet folk hero:

“If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”

My letter to the TSA prompted this blase response by the TSA (my response is below):

Thank you for your e-mail regarding your concern about the use of advanced imaging technology (AIT) at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security checkpoints.

TSA screening technology includes equipment such as walk-through metal detectors; hand-held metal detectors; carry-on luggage scanners (checkpoint x-ray systems); explosives trace portals (air puffers); explosives trace detection systems; and more recently, AIT. All or some of these technologies may be used at the airports through which you travel.

AIT is a classification that covers two similar technologies, millimeter wave and backscatter. Both systems work in a similar way to give Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) a virtual image of a passenger that conspicuously highlights potentially dangerous items. AIT gives TSA a way to detect a wide variety of threats, including suicide vests and other improvised explosive devices that may be hidden under passengers’ clothing and cannot be detected by walk-through metal detectors. AIT enhances security, reduces the need for pat-down searches for passengers with joint replacements and other medical conditions, and improves passenger convenience and comfort.

TSA is sensitive to passengers’ concerns about protecting their privacy as it relates to the security screening process, particularly the use of AIT. TSA has rigorous controls to ensure privacy during AIT screening. We have worked very hard on the privacy issue and the result is a noninvasive image that allows TSOs to see hidden weapons or explosives. TSOs attending the passenger cannot view the image; instead, a second TSO views the image in a separate, remote location where he or she cannot view the passenger. The image cannot be stored, transmitted, or printed, and is permanently deleted immediately after being viewed. In fact, the machines have no storage capability. No cameras, cellular telephones, or other devices capable of capturing images are permitted in the image viewing area. Also, as we stated earlier, all facial images are blurred.

Privacy and security are not mutually exclusive, and TSA has had an ongoing dialogue with privacy groups on these issues. AIT is an effective tool in detecting terrorist threats and another tool in our layered approach to security.

Screenings using AIT are voluntary. Individuals who do not wish to be screened by this technology will be required to undergo alternative screening, including a physical pat-down. Signs are posted in front of each AIT location advising passengers of this right.

We hope this information is helpful.

My response is below:

Thank you for your response. It did not, however, address the legal concerns mentioned, including the TSA’s violation of Terry v. Ohio – a law enforcement officer is not permitted to conduct what is in essence a stop-and-frisk without at least reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime has been, is, or is about to be committed, except under very limited circumstances (at border crossings, for instance). Given this rationale, TSA is in clear violation of 18 USC 1983, and its officers are subject to arrest. If convicted, TSA officers are subject to a penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Additionally, a pat-down search that includes contact with the anus, buttocks, or sexual organs subjects TSA officers to arrest under a variety of state as well as Federal statutes, including sexual assault, child molestation, and unwanted sexual contact, depending on the jurisdiction. I would also remind you that coerced “consent” under the unlawful threat of being barred from air travel is, according to the law, not consent at all and is actionable, both criminally and civilly, and that according to the Supreme Court, there are certain rights which one cannot waive.

Certain AIT scanners present a clear view of a traveler’s genitals – to view such images without the consent of the traveler is a criminal offense in most jurisdictions, and the ability of AIT systems to store and forward images subjects TSA officers to prosecution for unlawful possession of such images. If the images is of a minor, in many jurisdictions this constitutes possession of child pornography, and if such images are transmitted across state lines, this is a Federal offense. According to TSA RFQ documents (and contrary to what you state in your email), the AIT scanners “must be able to store the captured images and transmit them to a remote location”. There have been published reports of TSA officers viewing the detailed images, printing them out, and commenting – a clear violation of traveler’s privacy. Additionally, contrary to what you state in your note, AIT scanners cannot detect certain low density explosives (I will refrain from mentioning which explosives cannot be detected), and cannot determine if a specific liquid is explosive or not, nor can they detect explosive vests or other IEDs that cannot be detected by conventional metal detectors – if this were true, why have you intentionally put the traveling public at risk for 9 years by promoting the use of metal detectors and other security measures that you believed would not be effective? This is at the very least criminal negligence on the part of the TSA and at worst both criminally and civilly actionable.

I would advise you to consult with TSA’s legal counsel, as these are very serious matters that may result in TSA officers being arrested en masse at airports by citizens or by local police officers and prosecuted. At the least, this would result in a huge disruption to air travel, and at most would subject large numbers of TSA officers to prosecution and imprisonment.


Best sermon ever preached.  Listen.  Enough said by me, here’s Mark Dever preaching the sermon in Capitol Hill Baptist Church in 2003:

From a post on another list:

> The Crystal Cathedral has declared bankruptcy. They are in the hole for 7.5 million bucks. One of their creditors is trying to collect for the rental on some camels from the last Christmas pageant.
> One is tempted to ask that if their preaching and teaching is biblical, would not the Lord see to it that their needs are met?

Far too many churches these days are emergent or so-called “seeker
sensitive” churches, interested much more in filling seats than in
saving souls. Entertainment is the order of the day, with millions
spent on big buildings, huge computer display screens, the latest and
most expensive musical instruments and video equipment. Out of a 90
minute “service”, 30 minutes are spent on loud rock music, 45 minutes
are spent on a sermon (which is composed of mostly warmed-over pop
psychology with a loud and over-dramatic delivery and, if you are
lucky, a few scriptural quotes thrown to make it all relevant), 14
minutes of miscellaneous “this is what we’re doing this week with your
tithes and offerings” (with only a partial accounting of such, of
course), and about 60 seconds of prayer “led” by some stuffed shirt
standing in a pulpit and everyone else sitting on their collective
rear ends with their eyes closed trying not to fall asleep.

Contrast this to the early church, the body of believers that
measured, according to Acts, in the thousands. They met in small
groups in people’s homes, they shared everything they had, they ate
together, they looked after each other – but most of all, they prayed.
Then they prayed some more. In fact, from a careful reading of Acts,
that’s a lot of what they did. Their main purpose was not to be
entertained, but to worship God. No big buildings, no sound systems,
no computers, no paid professional clergy – just them and God. You’re
right, Ol’ John – whatever happened to “lean not on thine own
understanding”, or “seek ye *first* the kingdom of God and his
righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”? These
days, I can’t tell the difference between a church service and a rock

Throughout history, time and time again, miracles, healings, and all
kinds of miraculous things occurred among the prayerful. Every
notable Christian author over the last 2000 years speaks about the
infinite power of prayer, about the peace that comes from “coming
alongside God”, from an intimate relationship with the Holy (as Tozer
puts it), but the praying church is largely ignored today. No wonder
our so-called “mega” churches are failing – they have nothing to hold
them up. No real faith, no prayer, nothing but entertainment, fueled
by a (hopefully) endless stream of money. Gone are the days of people
coming to church to pray and to worship – now people go to church to
be entertained and to go home feeling good that they’ve gone to
church, thinking that merely being in a building called a “church”
cuts any ice whatsoever with God.

And people think they’re “saved”. It’s so very sad what the body of
Christian believers thinks is Christianity these days.

Mike Evangelist (yep, that’s his name) still remembers one of his first meetings with Jobs. It took place in the Apple boardroom in early 2000, just a few months after Apple purchased the American division of Astarte, a German software company where Evangelist was an operations manager. Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime head of marketing, put Evangelist on a team charged with coming up with ideas for a DVD-burning program that Apple planned to release on high-end Macs — an app that would later become iDVD.

“We had about three weeks to prepare,” Evangelist says. He and another employee went to work creating beautiful mock-ups depicting the perfect interface for the new program. On the appointed day, Evangelist and the rest of the team gathered in the boardroom. They’d brought page after page of prototype screen shots showing the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with paragraphs of documentation describing how the app would work.

“Then Steve comes in,” Evangelist recalls. “He doesn’t look at any of our work. He picks up a marker and goes over to the whiteboard. He draws a rectangle. ‘Here’s the new application,’ he says. ‘It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says burn. That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.’ ”


As I travel around the country, I see a lot of Christian churches – and they all seem to me to be pretty much the same – people go to a particular building on a particular day (or two) of the week, sing a few songs (about 30 minutes or so of music) where everyone is encouraged to participate by at least standing and clapping their hands in time to the music, then 30 seconds or so of prayer and 45 minutes of listening to a pastor speak at the assembled people, then 30 more seconds of prayer and a couple of songs at the end as the offering basket is passed, then it’s “see ya next Sunday!” as they leave and go back to their “other life”, the 9-to-5 workday and a day off on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  This church pattern is known in Christian leadership and pastoral circles as “The Program”, a structured approach to what we call worship today that is designed to “maximize the experience for the Christian believer” – in short, to maximize the entertainment value so that the believer will come back next week for more.  This is also sometimes referred to somewhat irreverently as “feel-good Christianity”.

There are, of course, minor variations to this pattern – an occasional altar call, communion every month or so, and maybe even a few minutes worth of prayer for the sick or those in need in the church – but those are just small changes, and there are a growing number of people that, in my personal experience, are growing dissatisfied with this form of corporate and highly structured approach to the Christian worship life, a life that would seen completely out of character to Paul, Stephen, Barnabas – or Brother Lawrence, Watchman Nee, or Aiden Tozer.

Contrast this to the way the early first century church was organized and operated as described in the book of Acts. They met in the homes of believers, they ate together, their main activity consisted of praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things, they laid hands on the sick and they were healed, they raised the dead, they shared their troubles and helped those believers in need, and even sold their possessions and helped those who had need during a famine, among other things – in short, they behaved like a big family.  No one person was in charge or led anything as far as I can tell from a careful reading and re-reading of Acts.  There was no singing, no formal taking of an offering or money, no agenda, no buildings, little or no self-focused activity – the focus of the church was on prayer, first and foremost, then taking care of believers, then taking care of and healing non-believers, then proselytizing.

In short, the church described in Acts was a very different sort of church than we see today – no computers, huge flat-screen displays, expensive clothes, staffs, budgets, multi-million dollar buildings or building plans, fund-raising drives, or collection plates – and even though Paul (and probably by example Peter, Stephen, and the rest of the apostles) could take an income (money, food, or whatever else the body of believers offered), he did not, correctly believing that taking money from the church would prove to be an impediment to the spreading of the beliefs of Jesus, that people would think that Paul was in it for the money rather than to spread the gospel.  And for those who think that Paul, sometimes incorrectly looked at as the leader of the early apostles, came up with all of this on his own, remember that he had been taught by his mentor, Barnabas!

So, what is the point of all of this?  What I see in the early church has nothing to do with how the church is conducted today.  I believe that a particular body of believers ought to worship according to the book of Acts – centered on food, fellowship, helping others in and out of the Body of Christ, prayer, the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, and completely submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Anything else is probably unscriptural!  Where in the bible does it say that the pastor is the only one to speak or to lead – those are the jobs of the entire body of Christ and the Holy Spirit!  Where in the bible does it say that worship is to follow a particular pattern, or corporate song is required?  Where in the bible does it say it’s OK to have, in an hour’s service, 60 seconds of prayer?  Most church services I’ve seen are a way for the pastor or the leadership to self-aggrandize and ask for money instead of following the clear pattern of the first century church as laid out in Acts.

What I am suggesting that there be a true revival of the church – that is, the body of Christ – starting in the hearts of believers, and spreading to every member.  Let’s reform the church to what it was in the first century – a body of believers who would raise people from the dead, would heal believers and non-believers alike, would see signs and wonders and miracles that were so commonplace that practically every page of Acts would mention them, where literally thousands of people were saved at a time, led by evangelism led by the Holy Spirit instead of the customs and traditions and motivations and agenda of men seeking their own aggrandizement or money.

I would pray that *you* reading this would honestly and sincerely get on your knees in your prayer closet and spend some serious time praying about what I have written here – and then, as Jesus said, “go and do likewise”.  Let’s raise up a true church of real Christians, who live their faith 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – who display all the fruits of the Spirit, who heal the sick, raise the dead, and are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit – the body of believers that Jesus truly intended.