Friday, May 30, 2008

Back Again

My parents were in town this last week for a visit so my blogging was down to practically zero.

We had a great time with them but now they're back in El Paso and things are settling down to normal.

I hope to resume blogging next week.

Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LEST WE FORGET

It's too easy to hide behind the Word of God and use it to justify our own lust for blood or vengeance or to justify the rightness of our prejudice.

Many who call themselves the followers of Jesus have a great intolerance for those who are not. They even justify their hatred for those who are "sinners" by quoting Old Testament passages where God makes it lawful to put to death anyone who practices abominations against God's Law.

However, not only did Jesus command us to love our Enemies, He also made it clear that God loved them too and that He allowed the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Because of God's great, unconditional love of others, we too are commanded to be loving, and forgiving, and go out of our way to express this uncommon brand of love in the World.

I love this passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul reminds those who are in the Church what God's Law says about those who are sexually immoral, practitioners of witchcraft and thieves.

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)

At first glance this verse appears to add fuel to the fire for those who are eager to condemn those "sinners" around us. But then Paul says something amazing in verse 11: "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Wow. Look at that. The early Church was full of ex-prostitutes, thieves, homosexuals, drunks, and swindlers.

How did people like this come to be part of God's Eternal Family? If there wasn't someone around to love them and look past their sinfulness, they would never have found a home in the Family of God.

Apparently these same "sinners" had forgotten where they had come from and how far they had fallen.

We can be guilty of the same thing if we're not careful.

Let's always remember that all of us have been guilty of the same spirit of rebellion and selfishness, no matter what form it may have taken in our lives.

We all like sheep have gone astray. Thank God for His Amazing Grace and Love to each one of us!

peas,
kg

Thursday, May 22, 2008

WHY I KEEP WRITING

My blog posts here and my weekly articles for the free, weekly e-newsletter [Subversive Underground] are often on subjects like house church, Constantine's influence on modern Christianity, and a need for us to return to the wisdom of Jesus and the values of the early Church concerning the poor, community, compassion and service.

A few days ago I posted an article here about how Paul the Apostle had a personal desire to work with his own hands and avoid placing a burden on the Church for his daily sustenance. This prompted an ongoing discussion about whether it was right or wrong for pastors to take a salary, or whether or not missionaries were wrong for asking for regular support for their work among the poor and the lost.

Often when I write about my personal experiences with House Church I receive negative feedback from those in the traditional church who take my exuberance for the simple way as an attack on their form of church.

Because these issues are sensitive, and due to the wide range of responses I receive, both wildly in favor of and militantly opposed to, let me take a moment to clarify what I'm about and why I continue to write the things I do.

YOU'RE NOT ALONE
One of the main reasons I continue to write about these things is to encourage those who may be, as I once was, in a place where they no longer feel that traditional church is scratching the itch they have to "be the Church" and live out their faith.

There was a time, just about four years ago, when the thoughts I had about what Church should look like felt radical and out of place to me. I was an on-staff pastor at a local church that my wife and I had helped to plant, yet deep inside I was uncomfortable with many of the things we did, and the reasons we did them. I felt confused and isolated as a result and it was only as I began to hear others share their misgivings - which echoed my own thoughts and convictions - did I realize that I wasn't alone in my thinking.

One of the reasons I continue to write about these issues, then, is to provide a testimony to others who may be in the same place I was a few years ago. They sense that there must be another way to do Church. They have thoughts and feelings that seem to conflict with what they see or hear on Sunday morning. They feel isolated and alone. They need to know that others within the Body of Christ have heard the exact same whisper of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They need someone to validate their convictions and bear witness to the thoughts and concerns that have resonated in their hearts for a long time.

This is why I continue to write about these things.

NOT TO WIN AN ARGUMENT
I do not write these things to start arguments or to convince traditional church-goers that they are "wrong" or to get people to agree with me. I don't even think it's possible for me to write something along these lines and convince someone who is happy with their mega-church or traditional church life to agree with me on these issues.

I am also not writing to slam anyone or to paint any other Christians as being evil or wrong or misguided in their choice of church. For many years I was part of traditional church, even operating as an on-staff pastor for much of that time, and I was blessed and filled and fed at those churches while I was there. Traditional church is not evil. It is not wrong. It is made up of people who have a sincere heart to love God, serve others and follow Jesus.

God loves the whole Body of Christ, and that includes those outside my denomination (if I had one), and inside the traditional church. Whether your church gathers under a tree, in a living room, in a gymn or inside a multi-million dollar facility, God still moves and His Kingdom is still advanced- no matter what pattern or philosophy of "doing" or "being" Church you might ascribe to.

CROSSING THE MINEFIELD
The tightrope I often walk is between speaking the truth about what I've learned and experienced in house church without condemning those within the traditional church. It's not easy to do.

Still, I cannot keep silent about the good things I've experienced in house church. I have to share with others what is genuinely the most amazing expression of real, living, daily faith in Christ with others who have become my family in Christ. House church really is the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" on it. I cannot deny that and I cannot pretend it isn't true.

However, I also have to make sure that I affirm that God is at work in His entire Body. I might not personally find freedom or joy in the traditional model, but it doeesn't mean that others are being held back in their walk with Jesus by attending a traditional service. It's just not where I am right now.

GOD LOVES THE WHOLE CHURCH
My parents currently attend, and love, their mega-church in El Paso. I have two very good friends who are currently head pastors at traditional churches in Orange County. All of these churches are doing amazing Kingdom work preaching the Gospel, touching the poor, reaching out to the community and continuing the ministry of Jesus - many of them in ways our little house church could never duplicate.

So, please keep in mind, as I often have to do, that God loves the whole Church- every single form and expression of it, as much as He loves my particular form and expression of it.

STILL IN PROCESS
I'm not sure I've really discovered yet how best to encourage those who are searching for something more like the house church without offending those in the traditional church. Bear with me in this. I am really trying to learn this every day.

Writing about the joy I've discovered in house church should be like the aroma of warm bread being pulled from the oven. This is my goal.

Peace,
kg

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SWEET SURPRISE

Pastor Mike Richmond in Alvin, Texas posted a video sermon online this week based on one of my articles "Raging Against Our Own Machine".

I accidentally discovered this online today and I have to admit it blessed me to know that these little articles are having an impact on people in ways I never would have guessed.

Here's the video clip
HERE

Kinda cool, eh?
-kg

What Does It Mean To Be A Minister?

What Does It Mean To Be A Minister?

The definition of the world "minister" from the original Greek, according to Strong's Concordance:

"One who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister."

1a) the servant of a king
1b) a deacon, one who, by vitue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use
1c) a waiter, one who serves food and drink.

Fascinating that most think of a Minister as the power-tie wearing, spiritual authority figure and CEO of the local Christian franchise.

Wouldn't it be awesome if pastors and ministers simply loved and served people because it was what God called them to do and not because they were being paid handsomely?

As we've been exploring spiritual gifts I've realized that all spiritual gifts are for the benefit of others, not ourselves. The gift to pastor is intended to provide spiritual care for the rest of the Body, not a position of authority and power to be "Lorded over" the people of God.

If being a pastor is a gift from God, like the spiritual gift of encouragement or administration or speaking in tongues, this means that a twelve year old girl could have the gift to pastor others.

It also means that one could attend seminary and command a high salary at a mega-church and not have the gift to pastor at all.

God gives this gift to His people in order to make sure they are cared for and loved and are spiritually healthy, not so that some can be the center of attention at the expense of others.

-kg

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thought For The Day

You cannot make a disciple unless you yourself are also a disciple. Telling someone to follow Jesus is worthless unless you are also following Jesus daily.

-kg

FIVE BOOKS I'M READING RIGHT NOW

My list is really closer to ten books, but here's the top 5.

I read like I watch T.V. - I call it "Book Surfing". It's where I read five or so chapters in one book and then lay it down for a while as I read two or three chapters in another one. The book I'm reading at any given moment depends on what mood I'm in.

Here are five books I'm reading right now:

"Jesus For President" by Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw - Great book so far but I wanted to kill them both when I read their section entitled "The Power of Weakness" which proceeded to look at various Biblical characters and how they embodied this principle...which is the book (including the title) I've been working on for three years now. CRAP!!

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley - Can you believe I never read this one before? For an English Major who loves sci-fi this is inexcusable. So, in advance of the forthcoming film version by Ridley Scott I decided to read it. Wow. This was written in 1932 and as I read it in 2008 it is still full of great, and frighteningly accurate, science regarding test tube babies, genetic engineering, behavioral conditioning and human manipulation techniques. Amazing work.

"Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis - This guy was a genius. The first three chapters are masterful as he explores the idea universal truth and the foolishness of moral relativity.

"The Immortal Iron Fist" by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja - (Yes. I read comics.) This graphic novel is the first of a two-part storyline that reinvents the mythos of Danny Rand who is the most recent incarnation of the Iron Fist- the martial arts champion of the mystical city of K'un-Lun. The story, the art, the twists and turns are all fascinating and great, great fun.

"Letter To A Christian Nation" by Sam Harris - Simplistic in some ways, but honest and truthful in others, this attack on the Christian faith is worth reading if you're willing to be offended and provoked. I agree when Harris identifies the glaring inconsistencies within Americanized/Western Christianity, but I disagree with his narrow-minded attack on faith in general. There's a great book out now called "Letter From A Christian Citizen" by Doug Wilson which dismantles Harris point by point, but there's value in knowing what others think of us, and why.

-kg

Monday, May 19, 2008

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND LOVE

Our House Church, "The Mission", is spending some time in conversation and exploration of the Gifts of the Spirit lately. Yesterday we had an amazing time sharing what we thought our gifts were and helping one another discover their spiritual gift. It was very exciting to read through the 28 gifts outlined in the Bible and point out people in our Church who had a particular set of gifts.

One thing I find fascinating about spiritual gifts is how the Apostle Paul seemed to always entertwine his teaching about gifts with the command to love one another, see 1 Cor 12 and 13, Romans 12, etc.). I think it's important we understand the reason why Paul always combined these two concepts.

Obviously, Paul understood that spiritual gifts were meant to bless others, not to make ourselves look good or gain popularity in the Church. He describes the people of the Church as being like organs in a single body that all work together for the health and well-being of the body. If we forget to operate in our gifts with love, our ability to remain healthy and productive will be diminished.

Spiritual gifts are relational in nature, they are inherently for the good of others, not for our own personal edification. Without love they will not work as God intended.

Isn't just like God to give us a special gift that only works when we give it away to benefit someone else?

WHAT ABOUT LOVE?
Jesus was very clear that everything we do must be rooted in love. If we cannot love those closest to us, our family, our spouse, our friends, our Family in Christ; then we are fooling oursevles about everything else. Love is our greatest command and it is meant to define us as Followers of Jesus on a daily basis.

The more I read what the Bible says about love, and the more I attempt to live it out, the more convinced I am that we cannot even come close to what Jesus expects from us in this area.

Even as I cannot keep the Law (because I am sinful at heart), I cannot keep the command to Love (because I am selfish at heart).

It's also not a coincidence that Jesus reduces the Ten Commandments into Two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself".

If we are powerless to live perfect lives and keep the Ten Commandments, we should not be surprised that we cannot love selflessly and keep the Two either.

ASK YOURSELF
Do you love others more than you love your own happiness? Are you willing to suffer a tiny inconvenience for their sake? Are you happy to decrease as they increase? These are the elements of the kind of love that Jesus talked about.

I know all of us have attempted this kind of love and found ourselves inadequate to the task. But is our response to give up? Do we abandon our calling, our identity as followers of Jesus? No! We press on towards the high calling of Jesus Christ in order to know Him more and obediently follow His example to us.

MORE THAN A FEELING
Love, like Faith, is not something we "Think" or "Feel" - It is something that we "Do". Love, like Faith, is the gift of God. We need God to make us (or re-make us) into the sort of people who are loving. Even as we exercise our Faith, we need to exercise Love towards others in order to develop a heart like His.

So, whether or not we "Feel" like loving, we must love in spite of our feelings. If we don't have the love inside us to give away, that's perfectly acceptable. We can confess to God that we feel empty. We can pray and ask God to fill us with His love for people. We can position our lives in such a way that we are available to receive God's love for others, and to give that love away, on a daily basis.

KEEP IT SIMPLE
I've always said that whenever we confess that we are not loving, the cure is to pray and ask God to give us a heart like His. The danger is that if we pray this prayer, He will do it! Are we ready for that? Are we willing to surrender our comfort and personal happiness in order to bring comfort and happiness to others?

I pray that each of us will experience the power of Christ in our lives this week. I pray that we will all know the greatest love of all; the kind that is willing to lay down and die for a friend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

PASTORAL SUPPORT

(An ongoing dialog between brothers and sisters in Christ)
by Keith Giles

I've been having a great online dialog with some dear friends who have been trying to step outside the traditional model of Church in order to experience the freedom of "Being the Church". Along the way they've had some great questions regarding Pastoral Salaries, the purpose of the Tithes and Offerings collected by the Church, etc.

Below I've copied some of my answers to these great questions. Hope it helps all of us to re-think what the Bible has to say about faith and wealth and pastoral support.

WHAT IS "SUPPORT"?
First, I have to say that the kind of "support" that the Bible is talking about when it comes to the clergy is more like daily sustenance (food, drink, a place to sleep for the night), and not a house, a car, a 401K, and $50,000 a year, etc.

If you want to read a great book on this subject I'd recommend "Faith and Wealth" by scholar and historian Justo Gonzalez; it's a great look at the early church and what we know historically about how those first Christians felt about money and what it was for. (Hint: it belonged to the poor, not to the clergy).

NOT A MYSTERY
It's not a mystery what the early church did with their money. As much as some may wish it were a mystery (so that they could justify an extravagant lifestyle perhaps), it is not a mystery that they used it to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow among them.

We do see evidence that those who travelled as missionaries or evangelists were cared for and supported for their work, but this is usually more along the lines of providing a place to sleep for the night, a basket of bread and wine for the journey, etc. We don't see the early Church supporting a clergy class. Far from it.

It was very likely that they continued to follow the work ethic set by Jewish Rabbis of the day who worked a trade with their hands to support themselves as they taught in the synagogues and taught their disciples to do the same.

If you want further proof, beyond the New Testament accounts, I'd recommend looking at the Apology of Tertullian, a 2nd Century Church Father. As he attempts to explain what early Christians believe and practice regarding money he says:

“Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old…"

You can read the entire Apology of Tertullian section on this subject:
HERE

FIRST CENTURY CHURCH POLICY
The early church also had a policy that said, "If you don't work you don't eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10) which, I believe, applied to the pastors, teachers, and apostles as much as it applied to the "average person" among them. (I put that in quotes because I also think that, in the early church, there was no average human being, they were all one and did not "Lord it over one another" as Jesus commanded them).

OUR PERSONAL STORY
When my wife and I felt called to leave our traditional Church and plant our house church it was our desire to have a church, like the early church, where 100% of the offering went to the poor around us. Therefore, it was my personal conviction that for me to take a salary would not work. Due to what I had learned in my studies of the early church practice, and based on the passages I studied from Paul regarding his attitude about receiving support, I determined to quit my on-staff job as a pastor and find a job in the real world, working with my hands to support my family, so that the offering collected in our house church could be given, all of it, to the poor.

It took me a year to find that full-time job, and I had to work temp jobs and contract assignments to support my family in the meantime, but the hardship was worth it. We managed to give away all of the money our house church received (and we still do this today)...and it has blessed everyone's socks off!

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT SUPPORT
So, in my own struggle to work all this out I've studied the New Testament passages at length to make sure that we're being true to the values handed down to us.

In 2 cor 11, verses 7-9 Paul reveals his attitude about receiving support from the Church:

"Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so."

Here Paul tells us that receiving support from another church in order to preach to the Corinthians was comparable to "robbery" in his mind. Suffice it to say, he didn't feel comfortable with doing it, but he did agree to this at least in this instance in order to devote himself to the service of the Believers in Corinth.

Of course, even though Paul calls this "Robbery" he does accept it and Paul also makes it clear that those who preach the gospel should make their living from the Gospel. If you read 1 Cor 9 (and I recommend you read the whole thing if you haven't already) you'll get a very shocking look at Paul's teaching and his attitude on this subject of receiving support.

JESUS COMMANDS US
First, he says that it's his right to expect food and shelter, or "support", in exchange for his work of preaching the Gospel (verses 1-14 of ch. 9) even going so far as to declare: "In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." (v. 14)

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE
However, immediately after this, in v. 15, Paul goes on to say, "But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast."

He goes on to say, in the rest of this passage, that, although it may be his "right" to receive support of this kind (and he's clear that there is nothing wrong with it in God's eyes), but he has a personal conviction to not avail himself of this right.

"What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." - Paul (v. 18)

TO RECEIVE SUPPORT OR NOT TO?
So, in a way those who receive support from the Church are doing the will of God, and those who choose not to receive support, but to work with their own hands and support themselves, are also doing the will of God.

However, Paul was not a pastor, as we think of them today. He was a travelling, church-planting evangelist and apostle.

NOT ABOUT BEING "RIGHT"
I've never felt compelled to rebuke a pastor for taking a salary for their work of preaching the Gospel, but I would ask them to give me the same grace for choosing (like Paul) to preach the Gospel for free and work with my hands...so that the money that might have been spent on my salary could be spent to bless those in real need.

Those who choose to work a day job and pastor the Church are just as free to do so as the one who chooses to receive finanical support from the Church.

However, "preaching the Gospel" as Paul means it does not involve teaching weekly in a gathering of the saints. He means it in the sense of those who travel outside the Church and preach the Good News of the Kingdom to the lost. That's a big difference.

WHAT IF?
My friends who originally asked me to comment on this subject recently had a very ugly disagreement with someone who wanted to attack them over this subject.

As a "What if?" to their pastor friend I would want to ask, "What would your Church do with your annual salary if they didn't have to pay you?" - Would they use it to help single Mom's pay their bills? Would they use it to buy food for the homeless sleeping the park? Would they use it to buy a new sound system for the worship band? Would they use it for new flat panel HD TV's for the nursery?

IT'S ABOUT THE HEART
The early church had of view of money that was very different from our own. That, ultimately, is what we differ on I think.

When Peter, James and John met with Paul and Barnabas to send them out as their first missionaries and church-planters they had only "one requirement" - to remember the poor. Paul's response to this was that it was "the one thing I was eager to do". - (Galatians 2:10)

The early christians placed a high priority on charity and sharing and giving to those in need. Jesus said that the way we treat the poor was indicative of our love for himself (Matt 25), and the Disciples displayed a radical compassion for the poor by taking the money laid at their feet and distributing it to the poor among them (Act 4:32).

PAUL'S HEART
Paul had such a passion for upholding this value that he refused to receive regular support from the Body and preferred to work with his hands so that the maximum number of people could be served and blessed.

Do we have the same passion for this value of serving the poor? Do we have the same heart that Paul and Peter and James and John and Jesus did?

This, for me, is the real discussion.

Hope this helps.

Peace,
Keith

Thursday, May 15, 2008

QUOTE FOR THE DAY

To watch is to be prepared for the unexpected. It is to give up the illusions of straight-line extrapolations, the silly assumption that current trends will continue. It is to abandon the calculations of the pundits about the swinging of some invisible pendulum. In this time, particularly, it is to accept the fact that life will not go on as it has. A change is in the offing, but no one knows what direction it will take. History is the realm of contingency, the unexpected. The proper eschatology is watchful expectancy for the Abba's work and will, and a wary guardedness about the rebounding perversity of humankind. The danger is to preempt the future with our own agenda and our own eagerness to be proven right by history.

- Robert Jewett, "Jesus Against the Rapture"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Compare & Contrast: Jesus and His Church

What was Jesus like?
*Compassionate
*Loving
*Caring
*Comfortable around sinners (drunks, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.)
*Concerned for the poor, the sick, the outcast
*An advocate for peace
*Radically Inclusive
*Interested in the lives of others
*Introduced a spiritual solution to society's problems

What is the Christian Church like?
*Intolerant of those who are not like themselves.
*Uncomfortable around drunks, prostitutes, sinners, etc.
*Concerned their own personal success
*Not very concerned with the poor, the sick, or the outcast
*Obsessed with a political solution to society's problems
*Defined more by what they hate/dislike

Does anyone else see the problem here? This is why Christianity in America is toxic to most people. This is why I cannot bring myself to indetify myself as a "Christian" to the average person outside the Church. They hear that term and they equate me with the big-haired, money-hungry, gay-bashing, waiting-for-the-rapture brand of Believer. That is not the Jesus I follow.

My next book title: "Stop Being a Christian. Start Following Jesus"

-kg

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

HOUSE CHURCH Q&A

For some reason I've been doing a lot of thinking and counseling and talking the last few weeks about house church. Most of it has been answering questions for people interested in starting their own house church, a bit of it has been responding to people online in various conversations about how to overcome some of the challenges commonly associated with the transition to house church.

Here are some of the common questions and concerns raised about house church and a look at what we've done in our community at The Mission to address them.

*WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
Usually this question is the very first one we hear. Most people can't imagine juggling little Billy while they pray for someone or engage in meaningful dialog about the gifts of the Spirit. Others are asking because they fear being the one elected to spend the two hours at house church alone in a guest room with six toddlers and a fussy baby while everyone else enjoys the fellowship and community in the living room.

THEIR CHURCH TOO!
At our house church we have invited the children to be with us throughout the entire gathering. They are the Church too so we allow them to share and speak and pray and participate along with everyone else. In fact, the children are usually the very first to speak up and share a scripture verse with the group. What's more, their insights often lead our discussions into challenging territory.

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." - Matt 11:25-26

LITTLE ONES
We do have little toddlers who either play quietly on the floor under the supervision of their parents, or play in the other room with a parent nearby if they are fussy or disruptive. However, for the most part we tolerate children being children. We do not view the gathering and share time as a performance that needs to be "just so" and this means we're not offended when a kid laughs or talks out loud or whatever. Many of us are parents too and we have grace for one another.

ATTENTION SPAN
After about an hour to and hour and a half the kids tend to get restless so we usually dismiss them to go watch videos in the other room or to play outside in the back yard while the adults move into more serious talk and/or prayer and ministry time.


*WHAT ABOUT NON-PROFIT STATUS FOR THE TAX WRITE-OFF?
The next most important question (if not the first) is always money. Many are used to receiving a Giving Statement from their Church so they can write it off their taxes. I'm sure there are a few people who don't attend our house church because of the simple fact that we do not provide this service to them, however we felt a strong conviction against filing for Non-Profit Status and here two reasons why:

1) We give out of simple compassion and obedience. The gift is about helping others. It is not about us.

An example I always use is something like this: If you were walking down the street and ran into a homeless woman who was cold and sick and hungry on the sidewalk, would you say, "Wait here while I go find an appropriate Non-Profit organization where I can give my money (so that I can get a tax write-off) and then I'll be right back with clothes and food to help you." I hope not.

2) We do not not want the Government to have any control or say over what we do or say. We do not need the State of California's approval to meet or to worship or to follow Jesus. We are the Church.

Of course, others feel differently and if they depend on the tax write-off for their family financials I simply encourage them to give to another non-profit of their choice.

THE WAY WE HANDLE THE OFFERING/TITHE
We do not pass the basket in our church. We do not mention the offering as part of our ongoing conversation, except once in a while I might announce that we are helping someone who is need and/or send out a regular statement of how our offering has been invested in the lives of the poor in our community.

We take our attitude towards the offering from the Early Church and give 100% of our offering basket money to the poor. I do not take a salary and we do not use any of that money for food, rent, utilities, dessert, etc. All of it goes to help people in need, both inside and outside our house church family.

We are also 100% transparent with all of the money we receive each week and where and how it is spent each week. The ongoing log or book is kept in the same basket where the money is received so anyone, at any time, can see what's going on with the money.

Last year we were amazed to discover that our little house church had given over $3,000 to the poor in our community. We're on track this year to go over that amount.

Why? Because when people can see that the $100 they gave went to help someone pay their bills or feed their children or make it through another week they start to get excited about giving. They truly become "Hilarious givers" who take joy in providing help to others. Imagine that...

SPIRITUAL COVERING OR ACCOUNTABILITY?
I wrote a pretty comprehensive article on this very subject about a year ago and rather than re-type it or paste it I'll provide the link.

YOU CAN READ IT
HERE

Essentially, our house church is not under any official "Spiritual Covering" of any sort, which is Biblical. We do, however, have loads and loads of Spiritual Accountability, which is Biblical. As the pastor of The Mission I have mentors who I can call on (and I often do) for advice, guidance, and insight. These are people like David Ruis, Todd Hunter, Paul Martin and a few other pastors who are smarter and wiser than I am. At the same time, I am personally accountable to every person in our group. They are accountable to one another and to me also.

Spiritual Covering is a concept built on fear and superstition, not on Biblical principles or values. We believe in the Priesthood of the Believer. We believe that the Holy Spirit leads us into all Truth. We believe that the Word of God is active and powerful and effective to establish our Church and keep us on the path where Jesus walks.

If you have any questions about these three areas, or if you have other questions that I haven't addressed here feel free to comment below and let me know.

Blessings,
Keith

Monday, May 12, 2008

WE'RE THE CHURCH WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR

This weekend I had an opportunity to encourage someone from a church in New Mexico that is undergoing a transformation. At this point it's either a transformation into a brand new community of faith, or it's a transformation into scattered individuals who no longer call themselves a church.

The church where Charles attends has collapsed under the weight of trying to operate according to a corporate business model. At one time they were a large church of hundreds of people. Today, for various reasons, they are a mere handful of families and individuals left wondering what to do next.

FOR LOVE OR MONEY?
Because of the severely reduced weekly offering at the church the pastoral staff had to resign and seek employment elsewhere. Now Charles and his friend are trying, as lay-leaders, to re-envision a remnant about what it means to be the Church.

I can't help but wonder if we want leaders who cease to serve and teach and pastor when we stop paying them to do so. What if we had pastors who couldn't help but love and teach and serve and encourage the Body? What if it had nothing to do with a salary or status?

WHAT REALLY MATTERS
My friend Charles and I talked quite a bit over the phone about things like non-profit status, questions of spiritual covering and how to handle children in a smaller house church setting. I shared my opinions and provided some examples of how our house church has resolved these various issues and concerns.

The most amazing thing was at the end of the phone call when I asked if we could pray together for the future of this Church. As I prayed I felt the Holy Spirit begin to speak through my feeble intellect and encourage us both in the process we were undertaking.

Basically the prayer was that the people who comprise this failed venture in New Mexico would give up on the idea of building a Church so that God could build His Church using them as the materials.

1 Peter 2:5 "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

NOTHING NEW
That idea isn't a new one to me. I know I'm constantly saying that God is teaching us to "Be the Church" rather than attend one. But for some reason, after sharing my limited wisdom with Charles over the phone on Saturday, the simplicity of this prayer and the revelation from God to both of us as to what this is all about was very humbling and encouraging to me.

At the core I believe that God is in the process of removing the structures that we have put in place in order to re-ignite His Bride. I believe God is trying to get us to see that He is not in the structure. He is not in the man-made building or in the programs that separate us from Him. He wants His Bride back and He is willing to knock down anything that comes in His way- even if it's something we've built in His name.

So, I would ask you to take a second and breathe a short prayer for my friend Charles and this Church in New Mexico that is standing now on the edge of a wonderful transformation into what could be the most exciting stage of their entire spiritual journey: Being the Church!

Amen.
-kg

Friday, May 09, 2008

SO…YOU WANT TO PLANT A HOUSE CHURCH?

In the last few months I've had a chance to counsel a few people who feel compelled to launch a new house church. These are some of the questions and thoughts I've asked them to consider as they move forward. I thought it might bless others so here it is...
-kg


Questions to ask yourself before you take that first step towards planting a house church:

CHECK YOUR MOTIVES
First, why do you want to plant this church? Is it about rebelling against "the system"? Or against that pastor who won't let you have your way? Are you defining your house church based on how you're "not like those Christians in the church you just left"? If so, take a step back and reconsider. There's nothing worse than spawning a church that has its origins in bitterness and hurt feelings. Spend time praying for the people who hurt you, asking God to bless their socks off. Pray that until you really mean it. Then consider starting your house church.

When you do start that house church, try to build it on the good things that house church offers, and avoid establishing a Family of God that is focused on pointing out the speck in her brother's eye.

WHOSE CHURCH?
Secondly, is there any hint or trace of ego-building in this for you? If it is all about being the leader or the guy in charge, please stop now. Put down that Bible and step away from the communion wafer. House Church isn't designed to be leader-centric. It works best when the people ARE the Church and not mere spectators. I always say that our best house church meetings are the ones when I'm not even there. I'm right about that part.

UNITY
Third, have you really heard from God about whether or not to step forward, and if so, do you have a specific vision for your house church? My wife and I were united in our vision to plant a house church. We both spent time talking and praying about what it would look like and how we would operate in practice. If you are doing this with a spouse, make sure that this is something both of you are committed to for the duration. Otherwise, wait until you can both share this passion. You'll need to be a team in order to succeed.

THE VISION
Fourth, do you have a vision already in place for what this new church might look like? If so, write it down. Be sure to connect your values to specific actions and practices that reflect your values. For example, our house church Vision Statement says, "We value service, therefore we will make ourselves available to those who are in need. We will invest our time and talent and energy into the work of the Kingdom of God, serving others as Jesus did, expecting nothing in return."

If value statements don't include examples of how you will live out those statements they are just empty words. This also helps to keep all of you accountable to the things you've written down and provides evidence as to your ongoing practice of living out your values every week.

We had to add a value to the Vision and Values statement early on that said, "We value the whole Body of Christ and therefore we will not spend any of our time tearing down another church, pastor or ministry." This was to cut down on the gripe sessions we can be so good at.

THE BIG QUESTION
The "Big Question" I'd want you to ask yourself is: "Would you do this even if no one else followed you?" Seriously...is the vision you have for the new church something you would do without a crowd behind you? Would you have the same passion about it if there were only 2 people? Or just you and your family?

DISCOVER YOUR DNA
Finally, I'd suggest you work out a basic outline of how your weekly gatherings will flow. Try not to adopt a cookie cutter approach. Your group is unique and there are some things that won't work in your dynamic that might be wonderful in another group context. Leave room for flexibility and shake things up now and again whenever appropriate or when you feel you've fallen into a liturgy that isn't organic.

Our house church has a basic format we follow, but I try to break that up frequently with Art-Focused gatherings, Meditative services (like Good Friday service), Interactive Services (like our Passover Seder), Testimonial times (where others share their testimony), etc.

I always say that the worst thing someone could do would be to visit our house church and then copy what we do to the letter. Let your house church be itself. Find the rhythms that define who you are and express your unique vision, values and practice.

You can read our complete MISSION HOUSE CHURCH Vision and Values Statment
HERE

More later...
-kg

**

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Extended Metaphor: Glow In The Dark




"You are the light of the world" - Jesus

QUESTIONS:
What's the point of wearing a glow in the dark t-shirt if you never go anywhere where it's dark?

What's the point of singing "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" if we remain safely under the flood lamps of our churches?

-kg

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

DREAMS AND VISIONS




In my meandering spiritual journey I have on occasion experienced my share of what some would call signs and wonders, for lack of a better term.

From the miraculous healing of my Dad's spine, to instantaneous answers of prayer for my sick child, and random words of knowledge to encourage others in their distress, I have had first-hand encounters with the Holy Spirit from time to time.

Still, this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time. Some would argue that it should, but that's beside the point I want to make...which is that God does speak to us and answer prayer and move miraculously in our lives today.

Two of the most powerful examples of this in my life have been in the form of dreams and visions. Or, two dreams and one vision I should say.

THE FIRST DREAM
The first dream came as a rebuke of sorts to my prideful and selfish attitude, and it also helped to correct a bit of idolatry in my heart at the time.

In the dream I was walking across a wide, empty field. The ground was freshly plowed and there were rows and rows of fresh dirt as far as the eye could see. Down the middle of this field was a dirt road and I was walking along this road with a friend of mine. This friend was someone I once worked with in the Christian Music Industry. Our relationship was mainly built upon our common love of music, specifically alternative Christian rock music, and our background working in that industry.

As we walked along my friend was raving about a brand new band he had discovered. He held out a CD case to me and said, "This is Awesome!" Written across the face of the CD was the word "ELOI".

Slowly the sky darkened. My friend and I froze in our steps. There was an awful sense of the power and presence of absolute Holiness in the air. Neither of us dared to move or to breathe. As the shadow continued to cover the sky over our heads I looked up and saw that we were covered by an enormous black wing that blocked out the sun and the sky. Written across the wing, in blazing gold letters was the word "ELOI".

My friend, who could not bear to lift his head to the sky asked me, "What is that?" and I said, "THAT (pointing to the sky) is ELOI. Not this" (pointing to the CD in his hand).

When I awoke from the dream I lay in bed with my heart pounding. I could still feel that incredible sense of the fear of God in the room. It was awesome and terrible and wonderful all at the same time.

As I lay there meditating on what this could mean I realized that God was rebuking me for making an idol out of the music that bears His Holy Name. The industry I was part of was in the habit of utilizing the Name of God as a marketing tool. I was part of that industry.

The word "ELOI" corresponded to the word that Jesus called out from the cross- "Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabacthani" or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (quoting from Psalm 22).

In the context of the Church I realized that the dream was warning us not to take God so lightly. As a member of a Vineyard Church at that time I was aware that intimacy in worship was our greatest value. However, sometimes that intimacy translated as a lack of awareness of the power and authority and Holiness of Almighty God. In effect, we had made God our "Buddy" at the expense of knowing Him as our Lord and God and King.

That morning after my dream was a Sunday. We had a surprise guest preacher, Todd Hunter, whose sermon went something like this - "You know, in the Vineyard we can be guilty of taking our value of intimacy so far that we forget to experience the fear of God."

I was blown away.



THE SECOND DREAM AND THE VISION THAT FOLLOWED



A few months later I had a second dream and this one scared me more than I can possibly express to anyone. It was a much stronger rebuke of my attitude and a call for me to fully submit my life to God.

In the second dream I was in a two story house. It was raining outside pretty heavily. I was on the second floor looking out the window at the rain as my Dad was preparing to lead a Bible Study for some others in the room. I "knew" (the way you can sometimes know in dreams without explanation) that there was another group of Christians downstairs in a Bible Study of their own. I thought to myself, "There are two kinds of Jesus. The one's downstairs follow Jesus One and we follow Jesus Two". (It didn't make sense to me either...until after the dream was over).

Slowly the group my Dad was leading sat down and we all began to sing the Gaither Song, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name..." and as we sang the second part, "...Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain.." there was a tremendous thunderclap that shook the building and rattled my bones. Everyone froze in awe. Then we heard a loud knocking outside the window against the glass.

"It's Jesus!" everyone shouted and ran to the window to let him in. (Remember, we were on the second floor of this building).

As everyone ran to the window to let Jesus in I stood back in fear. "What if it really IS Jesus" I wondered? Am I ready to see Him?

Suddenly everyone in that room was gone except me. Then I heard the knocking again on the window- loud and insisting. I just stood there, too afraid to open the window to let Jesus in the room.

I woke up in the darkness and quietly asked God to explain to me what the dream meant. What was the "Jesus One" and "Jesus Two" part about? Even as I asked that question in my mind I heard the song again, "Master...Savior, Jesus" and it made sense. Those in the room below us followed "Jesus One" - The Master. Those of us in the upstairs room followed "Jesus Two" - The Savior.

I laid there a second and thought about that. Was Jesus only my Savior? Is that what the dream was about? Was Jesus not my Master?

Then I saw an open vision. This had never happened to me before...and it has never happened since. (Let me remind everyone I am a good Baptist and these things are not common to my everyday Christian experience).

In this vision, which was like dreaming while your eyes are wide open, was brief but terrifying. First I saw a hand which was stretched and thin like it was made of melting wax being held over a fire. Next I saw a leg with the same melting deformity being held over the flames.

Even before I could ask God what this meant I heard the scripture verse: "And some will be saved..but only as those who have passed through the fire."

I immediately woke my wife Wendy up and begged her to pray for me. I told her breathlessly what had just happened to me. The dream, the vision, the scripture verse, everything. I was shaking, literally, physically trembling uncontrollably throughout the entire ordeal. I could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding and the fear of God was thick in the room- in my heart, like I have never experienced before.

After my wife prayed for me I prayed a prayer of sincere repentance to God and begged Him to forgive me for my supreme stupidity and foolishness- for allowing anything in my life to take His place, for placing the word "ELOI" on any person or distraction or desire except for Him.

These dreams and this vision were all greatly instrumental in influencing my current focus on seeking God and leading others to see His Kingdom.

Strangely enough, my epiphany about the Gospel of the Kingdom and my return to my calling as a pastor and "Full-time Ministry" wouldn't come for another three years or so. First God had to remove me from my job at Vineyard Music Group, which I loved way too much, and He had to lead me on a year and a half long journey through the desert of joblessness where my family and I learned to trust in Him, and Him alone, as our only Hope.

Lately I find myself longing to hear from God in this way again. Even as frightening and troubling as those dreams were, I knew that God loved me and was speaking to me in a voice that I couldn't help but hear.

"After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions." - Joel 2:28

"For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds.." -Job 33:14-15

-kg

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

MAKE IT STOP

It's difficult to sit with someone over coffee and listen to them share the story of how their pastor has abused them, or how their church has mistreated them. Over the last few months alone I've heard stories that would make your head swim.

One friend shared with me a story about a pastor who encouraged a friend's husband to abandon his family simply because the man was a significant financial contributor to the church, leaving the wife and children helpless, destitute and without hope.

Another friend told me how her Church abused and shamed her when she came to the leadership after being victimized by one of their clergy. They turned against her, defended the pastor and ran her out of the town, literally. Now, years later some of them are showing up to apologize as that same pastor has been exposed and the truth of her allegations are brought to light. But her pain is still very real and her treatment by her brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ is still horrific.

Still another friend told me recently of how his pastor encourages him to his face and then from the pulpit does and says things that belittle him and marginalize him in the eyes of others.

I myself have seen pastors who will not allow Bible Studies to take place in people's homes because a qualified expert cannot be present to supervise. I've seen churches that suck the life out of people and use them up rather than encourage them and empower them to spread their wings and pursue the calling that God has placed on their life.

As pastors operate and lead from a place of fear, they squash the hopes and dreams of those within their own church. They consume people rather than release them. They oppress the very people they are supposed to be teaching how to soar.

If only our Pastors would learn the secret of letting go and empowering people to realize the potential within.

See this week’s [Subversive Underground] for more on this...

-kg

MAKING DISCIPLES?

A friend asked me recently how to make a disciple. The funny thing is, the guy who asked me is already doing it, he just wasn't sure if there was more he had to do or if he was doing it the "right way".

His question made me realize that I've never really sat down to write any sort of instructional articles on "How To Make Disciples" and maybe I need to do that?

Someone recently suggested to me that my articles here, and on my [Subversive Underground] newsletters, were helping to make disciples of hundreds of people whom I might never meet. In some ways I think that might be true, in the sense that I am helping people to know how to follow Jesus and encouraging them to take the concept of discipleship seriously, but there is a relational element to real discipleship that is missing online or in print. I would hope that no one ever settles for virtual discipleship over the real, face-to-face variety.

More later on the "How to.."

-kg

Monday, May 05, 2008

FOR THE COMMON GOOD

I'm not sure if everyone has had a chance to download and listen to Todd Hunter's recent talk concerning his new book and his idea to help American Christians re-imagine what it means to follow Jesus.

Hopefully everyone can take the time this week to listen to Todd's message, which is online now at ITunes under [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] podcasts for free.

In this talk, Todd provides some practical handles for each of us to make living out our faith, and our personal mission, more "do-able" and feasible.

His idea to form "Three Is Enough" groups with those you're already in relationship with each week, (at work, at school, etc.) is a very practical way for us to intentionally live out our calling to be Ambassadors of Christ, or "Missionaries" to our culture and community.

I would encourage you, whether or not you decide to start a "Three Is Enough" group at your work, or in your community, to listen to Todd's message this week and to seriously pray about what you can do to make living as a Missionary in your world more concrete.

FOR THE COMMON GOOD
One thing that Todd shares in this message that really impacted me was the idea of being "Creative Friends of Jesus for the good of others". The part about being intentionally focused daily upon the good of others around us was quite inspiring to me. It really helped me to get an idea for how to model the character of Jesus to people at my work and in our neighborhood.

Jesus was able to interact with people who normally felt unloved and unwanted. He always conveyed to people around him that he was "for their good" and they could sense this was true. It made me examine my own daily attitudes and behaviors to see if people around me felt that I was ultimately "for their good" or not. Sadly, I'd have to admit that my daily interactions with others mainly communicate that I am for my own good, and rarely the good of others.

Still, the solution is very simple. Even slight corrections to my everyday interactions with others can reveal numerous opportunities to give up my chair in a crowded meeting, grab an extra cup of coffee for a co-worker, deliver documents off the printer to the people who printed them, etc.

It's not brain surgery, it's kindness. And it's not just kindness for the sake of kindness, or even for the purpose of softening people up for the Gospel, it's modelling the attitude of Jesus who was constantly asking others, "What would you have me do for you?"

Do we believe that the greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all? Do we believe that when we wash the feet of others we are engaging in the ministry of Jesus? Do we accept the idea that we are called to treat others as if they are better than ourselves?

As we've said before, all of this is impossible to do on a consistent basis without the power of the Holy Spirit. For us to do this it must be something we accomplish with God's help. He is the One who can coach us in this new direction where the good of others is our main concern.

I can't wait to walk this out...and to hear from all of you about what God is showing you as you walk this out too!

Peace,
Keith

MIKE PILAVACHI: THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Mike Pilavachi, the founder of Soul Survivor Ministries, will be coming to America and speaking here in Orange County at a special one day conference on the Holy Spirit.

Mike Pilavachi is a powerful, and inspiring speaker. I've been very blessed by Mike in the past, as he shared at Soul Survivor events over the years and I am thrilled to be able to invite everyone to be part of hearing him speak on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit next month.

Mike will be sharing on Saturday, June 28th, from 10am to 2pm at Triangle Square on the Holy Spirit and provide practical training on how to pray for people, how to minister to one another, how to operate in your spiritual gifting, etc. Registration is just $8 and lunch is included. This date will fill up quickly (only 100 seats are available). If you can make it please register today, or at least sometime this week.

Don't miss it!

When: Saturday, June 28th 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Where: Soul Survivor Church at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa
Cost: $8.00 (includes lunch)

REGISTER ONLINE NOW (Seating will be limited and this will fill up quickly)-

ONLINE REGISTRATION IS
HERE

Saturday, May 03, 2008

NON-CON DREAM AND TESTIMONIAL

Keith,

We were blown away at the non-con. Saturday night I had an amazing dream. I had a spiritual awakening again.

I am still trying to sort out the whole dream. When we got to where we were staying after the NON_CON I went to sleep and had a lot of short choppy dreams. All I remember was throughout the dreams I kept hearing the word ADAMO and I could see the word written out flashing in my mind. I clearly remember a voice telling me to remember this word. I GOOGLED the word and found out this word refers to a Entity-Relationship model, related to high energy physics.

I was tripping out because I have no idea what the heck that is.
If you know me you would realize that I am a simple person. I am still trying to find more out about ADAMO. I did find out that an Entity-Relationship model views the world as consisting of entities and relationships between them where:

An entity is a thing that can be distinctly identified.
A relationship is an association between entities.

I work for a local utility company and my job is to plan jobs for service whether it be residential or commercial. Last week I met a customer that owns a winery about a mile from my home. It just so happens that the name of the winery is ADDAMO. I am not sure what God is doing, but I drive by the estate some times and just pray for the owner.

Besides this great things have been happening ever since we attended the non-con. God really opened something in our lives. I have been learning a lot about the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. I can't see the kingdom and this is all new to me. I believe God is showing me the relationship between the two entities. on earth and the kingdom of God on earth.

I want to see miracles! Healings, dreams, poor fed, and people having radical experiences with God, myself included. Feel free to call me anytime. My wife and I are having a wonderful adventure with God together.

Well done to you and your team! My wife and I are learning Love the one in front of us, and to the side of us.

-Brad and Veronica Leach, Santa Maria, California

Friday, May 02, 2008

SEND GAP A MESSAGE

My friend Jarred's SENDGAPCLOTHESBACK.COM initiative continues.

In order to protest the use of child slavery to produce clothing for the Gap Inc. store chain (which includes Old Navy and Bannanna Republic), my friend Jarred set up this website and activist initiative to send Gap, Inc. a message.

Phase 1 saw hundreds of people returning their Gap clothing en masse at stores in Miami, Orange County, New York (Times Square) and San Francisco.

Phase 2 is a little more...subversive.

Find out more and participate
HERE

-KG

Thursday, May 01, 2008

BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED

When I was a young man, still in High School, I had a mentor who discipled me and taught me a lot about hearing God's voice, teaching the Word of God, and following Jesus.

His name was Bud McGriff and he was the music pastor at the small Southern Baptist Church my family attended in El Paso, Texas.

It was largely because of Bud that I felt compelled to enter the ministry, and eventually I was even licensed and ordained by this church as young man of just 22 years of age.

I have two special gifts that Bud gave to me. One was a leather-bound hymnal which he bought and gave to me with a special note scribbled inside on the front cover. I was always singing, and I loved music. When Bud died I became the music pastor at this same church. Standing in his place was intimidating in some ways, but it also gave me a sense of the responsibility I was being given to lead others in worship, as he had done.

One night, after Bud had taught a youth Bible study in our house, he took me aside and privately informed me that God had shown him what the calling on my life was going to be. I nearly begged him to share it with me but he felt, at the time, that I wasn't ready for this news.

A few weeks later Bud had died.

I remember singing at his funeral, a song he had loved called "Walk With Me". It took all the strength I had to stand there and sing this song without breaking into tears. The room was full of students who had been his students at the local junior high school. I didn't know any of those kids, but I knew they knew Bud, and that he had touched their lives even as he had touched mine.

The second gift that Bud gave to me was a simple, laminated square book mark. Next to a crudely painted flower were the words, "Bloom Where You Are Planted".

I still have that little card in my Bible. Often I will take it out and hold it, remembering Bud's encouragement to me, his faith in me, his investment in my spiritual development, and sometimes I just smile.

It used to really disappoint me that Bud had never told me what God had revealed to him about my calling. How many times would I have loved to know whether to pursue my music, or my writing, or preaching, or ministry to the poor, or...whatever?

Whenever I hold that bookmark and read those words, I realize that Bud really did tell me what God's calling on my life was: "Bloom Where You Are Planted".

It's good advice, isn't it?

-kg

ARE WE GOOD?

This week's [Subversive Underground] article was all about the problem of suffering and the dilemna we sometimes face answering those who claim that God cannot be "Good" if He allows innocent children to suffer and die.

I read yesterday that something like 35,000 children die every day in Africa due to poverty and disease. What did you do about that today?

Does our inaction prove that we are not good?

Does it mean that we do not care?

It's like the scene in "Bruce Almighty" where he tells God how much better he would be at easing the suffering of the innocents if he had God's power. After a week or so of making himself famous and wealthy and indulging all of God's power on his own comfort and success, God shows up and asks him, "So, how many orphans did you feed today?"

We accuse God of being uncaring and unloving, and yet we, who stand here and live daily in the reality of these sufferings also do nothing.

It's a bit like being angry at the policeman for not being there to stop the speeding car that kills a young child, when we were standing on the curb and stood by, watching it all happen.

In the words of Mother Teresa, "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor, since in dying on the Cross, God has made himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one. Jesus' hunger is what you and I must find and alleviate."

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." - Jesus