Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005- the year in retrospect

This year was certainly one of the most challenging ones our family has had to face.

The sheer variety of tests and trials we endured were also significant.

We suffered through a miscarriage, loss of income, had shake-ups at church, went through a move and a house search, had to say goodbye to dear friends, and went through some times of poor health (without any health insurance).

Still, we've grown so much. We've learned more about what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

Most of us go out of our way to avoid situations where we don't have control and don't know the outcome for certain. This is why God forces us into these sorts of tests so that we can walk by faith and not by sight.

God loves it when we keep our eyes focused on Him. He loves it when we put all of our trust in His providence and when we have nothing else but Him to lean on, or depend on, or place our hope in.

He really does love it.

As we look forward to 2006, we still hope and pray that it will involve much less adventure. We do not want to move again anytime soon, or change jobs, or have to receive money from anonymous donors to pay our bills, or suffer through sickness or a miscarriage, or say goodbye to any more of our friends.

But, this is life. Life is unpredictable. Things change. People die and move on. All things are temporal We ourselves are mortal. Everything is in flux. Nothing is certain.

We lift our heads and place our hands into the hands of God, one more time.

2006, here we come!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yuck.

I am sick.

My throat is killing me.

I've gargled with salt water, whiskey, and had more honey, lemon tea than is necessary to kill an elk.

I've taken massive doses of Vitamin C, eaten grapefruits, had hot coffee, taken garlic pills, and the last four days I've lived on alternating cups of Dayquil and Nyquil (the coughing, aching, stuffy head, oh my gosh how did I end up on the kitchen floor medicine).

I still hurt.

A few seconds ago I took two ibuprofen and one of my Mom's sleeping pills. If this trails off before the end you know what happened.

So far our trip to El Paso has been great. Seen old friends, ran into a few by surprise, ate some great food (Chico's Tacos!), and some not-so-great (Whataburger...better in the old days), and even found time to go shooting in the desert for a few hours with my Dad, my best-friend and his Dad.

Hopefully pictures will be posted here soon.

Wendy and I have a tough decision to make this week. Please pray for wisdom and that we'll hear God's voice and see His hand clearly on this issue.

At this point, I don't have a good reason to say no to either of my options, so I'm thinking of saying "yes" to both....unless God stops me, that is...


For now I fall into the comforting arms of catatonia......
...maybe I'll have a dream...?

....more....later...

..........................

Monday, December 19, 2005

[subversive underground] UPDATE

As part of this blog, I've started a little email newsletter thingy called the 'subversive underground'.

Part of me feels like it's insane to send out a regular e-newsletter a couple times a week on top of posting articles here two or three times a week, and still try to keep up with my personal journa writings, and the occassional sermon, etc.

But honestly, I love the accountability this newsletter affords. It means that I have to keep writing. I have to keep putting all these thoughts down somewhere, and I have to share them with others to find out if they're good thoughts or garbage.

That's the other part I love- the feedback. Several of you have taken time to respond back to me with encouragement or to further the dialog offered by the [subversive underground] broadcast.

I crave that.

So far I've got around 30 people signed up for this little experiment. I get a few new ones every other day.

For those of you who are not sure if this is for you or not, here's the first one I sent out about a month ago.
**
welcome to the first edition of the subversive underground.

this is will be an email newsletter/stream of consciousness/random thoughts signal sent out at various times each week. i will not bombard you, i promise.

so, let's start by a definition of what it means to be subversive:
What is “Subversive”?- It’s a systematic overthrow of one system or power by those working from within.

Jesus came to announce that His Kingdom was coming, and that, even now, is available to all who know Him. This was the Gospel message.

Now we, the followers of Christ, are compelled to make a difference in the old order by working from within, changing one person at a time, advancing this new kingdom with every tool, talent and resource available.

This is what I hope to inspire. This is what I personally aspire to.

Just last night, while watching the semi-dreadful "American Music Awards" I had this thought: "No one gives a crap what we believe. Show us your convictions in the way you live, not in the words you speak."

I think this is one of the main reasons that I love working for Soul Survivor, because they're mantra is 'actions speak louder' and they operate from this assertion.

We have to stop pontificating. We have to begin to simply love, not just with words, but in action and in truth.

We have to question. We have to ask why. We have to be willing to take a chance, to risk for the sake of the world that waits to see with their eyes if what they've heard with their ears is possible.

I hope that there's a growing number of people who are willing to make it possible.

I hope that together we can spur one another on to live a life of simple obedience to the words of Jesus.

Welcome to the underground.

END TRANSMISSION**

*TO SIGN UP TO RECEIVE THE [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND]:
simply email me at keith at soul survivor . net (without all the spaces, and remember to use the @ sign, etc.) with the subject heading of UNDERGOUND and ask to be signed up.

I'll do the rest.

i will also not duplicate articles from the blog on this email. for the most part you will receive "fresh and new" thoughts, from my brain to yours.

Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful Christmas and that 2006 is the best ever.

Peace,

Keith

Friday, December 16, 2005

IN PRAISE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH by Keith Giles


IN PRAISE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH by Keith Giles

I've had to eat some crow the last few days.

So much of my attitude of late has revolved around feeling that, in general, the contemporary church has it all wrong. The solution, of course, is to go back to the beginning and to re-visit the values and the vision of the early church, before things got so corrupted.

I know that God still loves His Bride as it is today. I know that, by the Grace of God, people are still touched by Him, lives are still transformed and the Gospel is still preached, and often, even actually reflected in the lives of those who call themselves Christian.

But, I have felt frustrated, even angered and deeply disappointed by most of what is called "Christian" today. I do feel that Church has become an event that must be paid for, not a life that must be lived. I am saddened that our churches today focus more on putting butts in the seats than on actually helping people in need, discipling young Christians and putting feet to their faith.

Still, as I said at the top, I have had to eat crow.

What happened was, I was visiting one of the families in the motel this week where our Church has been ministering and I began to see the amazing fruit that has come in their lives. Granted, yes, this compassion ministry into this motel was something I had been working on for over a year, but the recent advances in their spiritual development I can mainly attribute to their involvement in the traditional church I've been part of for 3 years.

Because of the ministry through prayer that these guys received at a recent Sunday morning service, they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They sat and told me about how they had never been to a church like ours before, where people didn't look down on them because of their poverty, where people actually cared for them and shared the love of Jesus in real ways.

"We love our church," they said. "We want to have our kids baptized and we want to come every week now, no more excuses."

I was forced to admit that our church, our contemporary, traditional church, had accomplished something truly amazing in the lives of my friends.

I have to admit that God is able to do whatever He wants with whatever system of worship is available to Him. Whether it's a system that takes its cues from the big business world, or the mega-church model, or the simple, early home church version, God is able to produce fruit and transform lives, no matter what.

Of course, on one level, I 'knew' this already. I haven't ever said or felt that the over-riding methods of "doing church" were evil or bankrupt, although I do feel that changes towards a more relational, community-focused sort of gathering are more likely to impact the culture than the system we've got.

This brings up another subject I want to address. Most of the house churches that I've looked into are characterized by their common hatred of the modern Church system, and most often directly defined by how much they are not like the church they all left to form their gathering in protest.

I really don't want our group to be defined this way. In fact, Wendy and I have promised each other that we will be vigilant to cut anyone off who starts spewing out negative monologs about why we're better or why that "other church" has it all wrong.

What I want is to focus on what we're called to do and to live out the convictions we have, without defining ourselves as an "anti" church.

So, in the future, whenever I write about the failures of the modern church, or critique the methodology of American Christianity, please keep in mind that God is still at work in all of the various forms His Bride might take and that He loves, and redeems, and is completely in love with us all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PHASE 2 CHRISTIANITY by Keith Giles

PHASE 2 CHRISTIANITY by Keith Giles

I always find myself chewing on the concept of what it means to follow Jesus. How do I deny myself? How do I take up my cross daily? How do I seek first the Kingdom of God in my actual, everyday life?

I teach about it, I talk about it, I write about it and yet I seem to always find myself "stuck" at square one.

It feels like I'm 39 years old and yet still at the very beginning of my Christian walk and experience.

Just today I had to pray and ask God to help me be a better pastor. I feel like I blow it so often with people. I second guess myself afterwards and wonder if I should've said this or done that.

Do I ever move on to Phase 2? Will I know it if I do? Is the character of Christ really being formed in me? Am I being transformed by the renewing of my mind?

Will this growth come about by reading more and more books, or deeper thinking or more doing of the works of compassion? Does any of that really matter? Will all of this ever result in the changing of my heart or character?

Maybe I don't sense any progress because I don't practice the spiritual disciplines? Do I need to pray more? Or meditate?

As I think on this more, I wonder if it isn't really the Grace of God that prevents me from being aware of any spiritual progress or success in this area of discipleship to Jesus. To have an awareness of growth might open the doors for pride, and God knows how I struggle with that.

Here's what I've discovered. There is no Phase 2. There is nothing after seeking first the Kingdom or dying to self. There is only the constant, daily surrender, the 'moment-by-moment' obedience to Christ.

Even Paul the Apostle admitted he had not yet attained the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. It is an ongoing race we run and the moment we "arrive" is the day we take our first glimpse of the Resurrected Jesus in the flesh with our own two eyes, our first day in the physical Kingdom of God itself.

The way is the cross and the cross is the way.

HALF OF WHAT PARENTS SPEND ON TOYS = UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION

This boggles my mind.

Read this carefully and then meditate on the implications of this.

Amazing stuff.

“Through the cross, God has created a body that has within it the economic resources to provide affordable housing, long-term community development, and primary health care to everyone who needs it. Universal primary education would cost $8 billion a year- roughly half what the world spends on arms every four days, or half of what parents in the US spend annually on toys for their children. This might mean that, as believers, we will have to break rank with consumerism, live more frugally, and do church more simply- but this will only help us to express the type of community we are committed to become, a community which lives sacrificially, gives away generously and resources those bereft of their basic human rights”

- Ray Mayhew, “Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin Of Contemporary Christianity?”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

APPLES AND ORANGES by Keith Giles


APPLES AND ORANGES by Keith Giles

As my wife and I begin to move into this new phase of our calling to start a missional house church in a new neighborhood, we've been reading a lot and studying up on the early church and how they operated.

Our goal is not to copy the early church verbatim, but to glean from them a basic method of operation and to understand the core values they embodied.

In this process, I came across a quote that stirred me to think in a new way.

In discussing the way that the house churches exponentially grow outward via a process similar to organic cell division, one author noted that "The goal of an apple tree is not to produce apples."

This made me stop and re-think what I understood about nature and about church.

If the goal of an apple tree is NOT to produce apples, then what is the goal of an apple tree? And more importantly, what the heck does this have to do with planting a house church in the O.C. today?

Here's what I discovered. If an apple tree only produces apples all of it's life and dies, what has it accomplished? At first glance, a lot. It's provided the world with nutritious food and fulfilled one of the basic design elements inherent in its nature. But is that really all that an apple tree is really designed by the Creator to do?

That's when I realized the mistake we all make when thinking of organic structures, as compared to the living Body of Christ. If the apple tree dies without having produced another apple tree, it has failed miserably. Mainly because future generations will never taste of the fruit.

Unless an apple tree produces more apple trees, it is a total failure.

In a similar way, if the Church only makes converts, or even true disciples, and not more churches, then it has failed.

Look at the early church as an example. They quickly spread throughout the known world and "turned the world upside down" with the Gospel. How did they do this? Not by simply making converts or disciples, although this is an important part of the process, but by making more churches just like itself.

What made this process ingeniously easy and effective was the fact that the church was a family-based, household of faith. To plant a new church just like itself all it had to do was outgrow the largest room in the house it was currently meeting in and send out five or six to start meeting in another house in another part of town.

These churches then grew exponentially as each house church sent out more and more groups who then also sent out more and more groups, they quickly took over a region for Christ.

The beauty of this system is that it inspires community, allows the full use of the gifts for the building up of the body, and it costs nothing. In fact, these house churches not only cost nothing to maintain, they could only create funds through the gifts and offerings of the members who gave on a weekly basis to the poor among them, both inside and outside the community of faith.

The early church was known, even by its enemies, as a radically inclusive group that cared for the poor and even buried the dead of the pagans in their city whose families couldn't afford it.

Of course, the Church must produce disciples. It's our mandate from our Lord Himself, but if all we do is create more and more disciples and never plant new churches, we're not fulfilling our organic, natural, God-designed calling as the Body of Christ.

I could write another article all about how, for the apple tree to produce another apple tree, those apples have to leave the tree and then to die in order fulfill its mission. Much like the follower of Jesus is called to die to himself/herself and take up the cross daily to be a productive disciple.

In John 12:24 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

Now, let's go plant some apple trees for the Kingdom.
**

Monday, December 05, 2005

IF YOU WANT TO...

There's an old song by a band called 'Daniel Amos' that always makes me cry. It's called "If You Want To" and it's written from God's perspective as if He's singing to us and inviting us to to take His hand and dream with Him.

Here are the lyrics:
If You Want To

I'll pick you up
I'll set you down
We'll fall in love
If you want to

I'll stay right here
Or I'll go away
We'll live forever
If you want to

I'll block the door
Or I'll step outside
We'll change the world
If you want to

I'll turn the key
I'll start the car
We'll drive off into the sunset
If you want to

If you want to
If you want to
If you want to...

from the album "Kalhöun"

Words and music by Terry Taylor
©1991 Twitchen Vibes/ Brainstorm Artists Int'l.. ASCAP/BMI

Friday, December 02, 2005

WHAT IS THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE? by Keith Giles

WHAT IS THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE? by Keith Giles

The other day someone at church was praying out loud about how we need to live the victorious Christian life. Something about this bothered me for some reason. I started to wonder what this is all about.

Does the victorious Christian life mean I never experience frustration, suffering, temptation, or spiritual warfare? Does it mean I experience rest, comfort, and plenty because I’m a child of the King?

When I look at the life of the actual “Child of the King” Himself, I don’t see a life free from sorrow, opposition, temptation or pain. Far from it.

What about the cross? Didn’t Jesus say that it was impossible to follow Him without taking up my own cross daily?

Maybe I just have a knee-jerk reaction to statements like this because it smacks of the same old “easy believing, kick-ass” versions of Christianity I rebel against with all my being.

Maybe…

When I think of following Jesus I think of Paul’s statement that the power of Christ is revealed in our weakness, not in our success, or talent.

Where do we locate the victorious Christian life in our weakness? We forget that the soaring with eagles promise comes only after we’ve endured the long season of waiting upon the Lord, which everyone hates passionately.

I think what I am concerned about when I hear the success driven, prayer of Jabez stuff is that we are living within a culture where we attempt to shortcut true discipleship.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life
for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

Maybe being a “loser” is the better life after all?

We want the joy, the peace, the fruit and the anointing without actually spending any time at the feet of Jesus, enduring suffering as He did, serving others without accolade, waiting for the answers, praying with bitter tears and holding on to Jesus like there’s no tomorrow.

I think our focus, too often, is on the good life that we think God owes us because we have prayed the prayer and paid our dues, instead of on the simple loving trust in God with our whole lives, no matter what.

David Ruis makes a great comment about how Jesus said He was sending us out like lambs among the wolves. But, we want to be the one’s who swagger in like the movers and the shakers, we want to snap our fingers and have God rain down fire from heaven. We want to pray in faith and receive the bounty of plenty, to the awe of our heathen neighbors.

That will show them.

We are enamored with the way of the wolf. Yet Jesus said he was calling us to be like sheep among the wolves; The weaker ones, not the ones with sharp teeth; The humble ones, not the ones with the cool factor; The vulnerable among those who snarl.

Does this mean we have to hang our heads and accept defeat? Not at all. But, if we are to actually learn to live a life of victory in Jesus, it will be found at His feet, in our weakness, shouldering a cross day in and day out, with our focus on the One we love, not on the victory party in the executive suite.

We must embrace the Truth. The Truth is that every life has moments of bliss, moments of joy, and every life has moments of pain, disappointment and sorrow.

So, rather than seeking after the elusive “Victorious Christian Life”, maybe I’ll settle instead for a walk beside my Master who said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the World.”
**