Monday, December 28, 2009

RE-POST: BETTER THAN ME

BETTER THAN ME

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" - Philipians 2:3

I'm nearly ok with treating others like they're as good as I am, but "better than I am"? I don't know if I'm ready for that.

I used to be in a band with three other guys. I was the lead vocalist and lyricist. Early on I told all of them they had permission to kick my butt if they ever felt like I was getting too prideful or self-absorbed. Luckily, they all were quite eager to provide a butt-kicking to my ego whenever necessary, and I managed to hold my pride in check for nearly five years.

Actually, my ego was still incredibly virile, but I shudder to imagine what it would have been like had my band-mates not engaged in actively serving me large helpings of humble pie.

"Humility is a virtue so beyond my understanding that should I achieve it, I would be proud of myself" - Benjamin Franklin

Someone once defined a prideful person as someone who spends too much time thinking about themselves and not enough time thinking about me. I can relate.

As an only child I've never had any trouble thinking of myself, or how everything in the Universe relates to me, or to who I am or what I want. Maybe I'm so fascinated by the discipline of humility because I realize that I am most lacking of this quality?

Andrew Murray once said, "Humility is not thinking less of myself, it is not thinking of myself at all." If this is so, I've got a long way to go towards humility.

The verse in Philipians urges us to consider others as being better than ourselves. I struggle with treating people as being on par with myself, to be honest. The idea of putting the needs of others above my own is still not the same as behaving as if everyone around me is actually better than I am. I can put the needs of others above my own needs and still believe that the people I'm serving are less important or intelligent than I am. What I'm called to do in this verse is to consider others through the lens of humility, and to see them as better than I am, as more deserving of honor and service than I am.

Again, God's Word compels us to throw ourselves on His mercy and confess that we are not capable of such selflessness. It's just not in me to love others sacrificially, or to serve them joyfully, or to regard them as more important than I am. It's just not.

That's where we have to fall on our knees and pray that God would transform us into the sorts of people who are capable of loving and serving this way. I need to beg God for the kind of humility that actually believes that others around me are better than I am. This means believing that I am not as fabulous as I think I am. It means humbling myself before God, and even before other people, so that God can work in me, and through me. My heart needs to be softened, like clay, so that God's fingerprints can be seen in my life as He kneads and twists and forms my heart into the shape of His Son's.

One interesting thing about the Kingdom of God is that to enter it you must first humble yourself, (see Mark 10:14-15). That's because the Kingdom of God is quite simply that place where the absolute will of God is done. This means that God is King, and that you and I are not. So, if we will not humble ourselves and submit to God's will in every way, we cannot enter the Kingdom. Better said, when we refuse to humble ourselves, we have left the Kingdom of God and entered our own Kingdom, where our will is done.

Even Jesus began his ministry by humbling himself to become flesh, to be born to a simple, poor family, and even to lay down his life for us all. (see Phil 2:5-8) See, God went first. He humbled Himself before us. He submitted Himself to us first, and even when we were putting nails through His hands and feet, He continued to surrender to us in order to rescue us from our sins.

I believe that is why Jesus set the example of washing his disciples feet. He humbled himself before them, served them as a slave would serve his master, and then said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, you will blessed if you do them." (John 13:15;17)

God has a lot to say about pride, and as I go through my life I have seen the wisdom of these words played out numerous times.

"God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble." - (Proverbs 3:34)

This is good news, because I need Grace in greater measure every single day. If humility is the only way to receive this Grace, I am more than willing to be humbled, and to remain there, so that the Grace of God may shower down on my life like warm summer rain.

Let it rain.
kg

**
Posted here originally, September 28, 2007

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BEST AND WORST OF THE DECADE

The Upside of this decade for me:
*Discovering house church.
*Discipling my sons, David and Dylan.
*The rite of passage celebration for Dylan's 13th birthday.
*Celebrating 20 years of blissful marriage to Wendy.
*Setting my sons up with their own blogs.
*Getting a great new job as a copy writer in marketing.
*Meeting Jon Zens.
*Hosting the Non-Con with Jackie Pullinger and David Ruis.
*Hosting Engage and The Heart of Jesus conferences with David Ruis.
*Seeing the new church being planted at the motel in Santa Ana where we've served for over 7 years.
*Getting to know Robert Higgins.
*Self-publishing my books and giving away a combined 1,820 copies for free on PDF.
*Getting my Elysian Skies songs on iTunes and Amazon.
*Performing with Jake Wright at House of Blues, the Artery, and Chapman Coffeehouse.
*Getting two articles published in the Channel Advisor magazine.
*Being named one of Orange County's Twitterati (People to follow) by the O.C.Register.
*Meeting so many great people online like Lionel Woods, Alan Knox, Heather and Daniel Cosby, Charles Pike, Jules Wilcox, Brant Hansen, and Mark Main.
*Being discipled and mentored by people like David Ruis, Jon Zens, and my house church family at the Mission.
*Reconnecting with so many old and dear friends via Facebook.
*All the encouragement I received when I decided to end my [Subversive Underground] e-newsletter after over 3 years and 180 articles.
*

The downside of this decade:
*Saying goodbye to my dear friend Lito and his family (who moved to San Antonio).
*Saying goodbye to my friend Scott Laumann and his family (who moved to San Diego).
*Saying goodbye to my sister in Christ, Mary Anne Serna, who died from brain cancer.
*Saying goodbye to people who left our house church family.
*Being uninvited to speak at churches I care about because of this blog.
*Counseling friends as they lose their marriages, or take wrong turns in their spiritual life and being unable to help them very much.
*Getting a lot older and only a little bit wiser.

**
Here's hoping that the next decade is filled with more adventure, more joy, and a deeper walk with Jesus, the Messiah.

Peace,
Keith

Monday, December 21, 2009

Obedience to Jesus Is Not Optional

*From the series, "Top 10 Things Every Christian Should Know (But Probably Doesn't)"


"If you love me, you will obey what I command."
- Jesus (John 14:15)

Somehow we have allowed the idea that someone can be a follower of Jesus without actually obeying Jesus' teaching or becoming a disciple. What we have in modern American Christianity is a brand of religion that says to its founder, "I'd like a little of your blood to cover my sins, but I don't care to follow you or take your teachings seriously. If you would please excuse me, I’ll get on with my life. See you in heaven." Dallas Willard calls those kinds of people “Vampire Christians” because all they want is some of Jesus’ blood, but none of His leadership.

"You are my friends if you do what I command"- Jesus (John 15:14)

HOW DID WE GET HERE?
"Easy Grace" is the short answer. The long answer is that, in an effort to streamline evangelism and create a sound-byte version of the Gospel we've reduced the message to "Pray this prayer if you don't want to go to hell when you die". This makes the ninety-second evangelist happy, but the full message of the Gospel is lost in the process.

Gone is the idea that Jesus calls people to follow Him. A decision to become a Christian is a decision to give up your personal rights to call the shots in your life. It means submitting to God, to the teachings of Jesus and the authority of the Word of God as the one and only source of how to live.

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." - Jesus (John 14:21)

Remnants of this more complete Gospel are still part of our Christian-ese language. People still say things like; "I gave my life to Christ" or "When I surrendered my life to Jesus" as part of their church talk, but many don't literally mean that they've done this, or that they are still doing this today.

The decision to obey Jesus, to submit to Him is a daily decision. We must bend the knee and whisper the prayer of surrender to Christ each day. It is not a one-time thing. This is why Jesus urges His disciples to ask for daily bread when they pray and to make their obedience to Him an act of daily taking up our
cross to die to ourselves. This is also why God's mercies are new every morning. We have short memories and God knows we need to surrender to him afresh with every breath.

Some of us still sing "I Surrender All" and we still have a "Jesus is Lord" bumper sticker on our car, but many in the modern American Church have forgotten the meaning of those words. Jesus is not really the Lord because we're not actually surrendering all to Him.

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching."
- Jesus (John 14:23)

What is most striking to me as I study the clear teachings of Jesus on the issue of obedience is the tight connection He makes between our obedience to His teaching and our love for Him. It is impossible to separate our devotion to Jesus from our submission to Him as our Lord.

This gives new meaning to the passage that says, "If anyone says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother he is a liar."- (1 John 4:20). If we say we love God but we disobey His clear teachings to love others, He knows we don't really mean the words we say. Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another, and to love our enemies as ourselves. If we say we love Jesus but we fail to obey His teaching to love others, we are liars and the love of God is
not in us. This is also why Jesus said that they would know we are His disciples by our love. Because we have obeyed His command to love others it will be clear that we love Him above all.

HOW DO WE GET BACK?
"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.."
- Jesus (John 15:10)

I believe we have to start by changing the way we do evangelism. We have to stop inviting people to pray a one-time prayer in order to get the license to Heaven. We have to invite people who are tired of doing life their own way to surrender their life to Jesus and learn to follow Him and His teachings every day.

As Todd Hunter says, we need to ask people who have an interest in Jesus, "Who will you follow and how will you live your life?" instead of asking them, "If you died tonight do you know you'd go to Heaven tomorrow?"

We need a Gospel for life, not a Gospel for death. The Gospel that Jesus came and gave His life to communicate was that the Kingdom of God had come and that we could begin to live under His reign and rule today, right now. Not after we die.

Most importantly, we ourselves need to re-think our concept of what it means to be a Christian. It's not about attending a church service. It's not about where we shop. It's not about the bumper stickers on our car. Being a Christian is the way we live our lives. We are followers of Jesus. Daily we have to take up our own cross and obey the words of the Lord we love.

Obedience to Jesus is not an option. For a Christian, it's a necessity.

"He who does not love me will not obey my teaching."
- Jesus (John 14:24)

-kg
***
For further study:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven"- Jesus (Matthew 7:21).

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
- Jesus (Matthew 28: 19- 20).

"Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him." - 1 John 3:21-22

"Those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them."
- 1 John 3:24

"This is love for God: to obey His commands." - 1 John 5:3

"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands."
- 2 John 1:6

Also: Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12; John 13:17; Psalm 103:18

OTHERS ON OBEDIENCE:
"There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus'expense and have nothing more to do with him."
- Dallas Willard ("The Divine Conspiracy")

"A notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles; the widely—accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to...salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures."
- A.W. Tozer ("I Call It Heresy")

Sunday, December 20, 2009

RE-POST: OUR POOR

by Keith Giles

As I hear what people are saying about poverty in America, I always have to mention that, although poverty in our country may not be as "severe" as what we see in Africa or India, etc., it is not any less poverty.

For example, if you were to give air conditioning or color television to one of those families living in a cardboard box in the Sudan, would they cease being poor? Of course not. And families in America with color tvs and air conditioning are no less poor because of their level of comfort. They are still poor. And they are "Our Poor".

I belive that there is a Biblical difference between how we are called to serve the poor in other countries and "our poor". The poor in India, Mexico, Ethiopa, etc. are seriously, desperately poor. No one argues that. This is why I've served on the board for groups like Arms of Love (www.armsoflove.org), a ministry that builds orphanages in the poorest nations of the world to provide homes for street children who live in the city dumps and are forced into prostitution, etc.
So, please, let's be clear; I'm not saying don't help the poor who are "out there".

But the poor in your city, in my city, down the street from me, they are "our poor", and what we're called to do, Biblically, is something about it. Not to solve poverty. Not to cure it. Not to erase poverty forever, but to do what we can to help a few, in the name of Jesus and with the compassion of Jesus.

Actually, as I've said before, the point of serving the poor is not to "cure" or "solve" poverty, but to befriend people who are in need and to learn to love and serve them as we would serve and love Jesus. We are the one's who are most changed in that relationship, by the way.

The quote from Jesus in Matthew about "the poor you will always have with you" was Jesus referencing Deuteronomy 15:7-11. You should seriously read this passage. The point is that God, the Father, is commanding the Jews to not have a hard-heart or a closed fist towards the poor, the stranger, etc., but to give generously, freely to the poor among them. At the end of the passage, God say, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

That's what Jesus means when he says what he does in Matthew.

Read Matthew 25. At the Judgement Seat of Christ the one criteria is whether or not those who call him "Lord" had any regard for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the prisoner. The Sheep almost unconsciously care for these poor, not because they think it will get them into Heaven, but simply because they have genuinely been transformed into the people of God. The Goats, who also call Him "Lord", have the same unconscious attitude, but towards the existence of the poor or their needs.

The people of God, redeemed by the Blood, saved by Grace, seem to have an inability to walk past someone who is naked, poor, hungry, thirsty, lonely, etc. and do nothing. They cannot do that. It's not in their new nature.

We have a Biblical mandate (and it's alllll over the Scripture, both Old and New) to care for the poor..."our poor"...and that takes more than writing a check.

Again, this is my very biased conviction. I've been hammered by God on this issue and I cannot let it go because it won't let me go.

Do you know what the sin of Sodom is? Read Ezekiel 16: 49. It's not what you think. "Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen."

Wow.

How about this one?

Galatians 2:10- "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Paul being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John).

or...

{God is speaking of King Josiah:}
"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16)

Wow.

"Is that not what it means to know me?"

What does it mean to "Know" God? This verse suggests that it means to care for the poor and the needy.

and of course we could also look at, Isaiah 58:6-7, Amos 5:21-24, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:14-17, etc., etc.

God has called us to care for the poor, not to justify their poverty or our lack of compassion by comparing them to the "real poor" in third world countries.

So..how are we doing with serving and loving and befriending "Our Poor"?

kg

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'M OFFICIALLY LICENSED AND ORDAINED MINISTER OF THE LAITY

by Keith Giles

After over twenty years as a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel under the auspices of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I have finally achieved something extraordinary – I am now a fully licensed and ordained minister of the Laity.

It all started about four years ago, I suppose. My wife and I felt God calling us to step away from our on-staff pastoral position at a local church we had helped to plant with some of our friends in order to plant a house church where 100% of the offering could go to the poor.

I’ve always said that Wendy and I have “backed into house church” because our original desires for starting this house church weren’t the typical ones people usually express. We weren’t reacting to any feelings of disenfranchisement in the traditional church. We weren’t reacting to any books we’d just read about the pagan rituals embedded in our institutional church. Instead, we were consumed with the excitement of being part of a church where all of our offering could go to the poor, like in the New Testament.

It wasn’t until we began actually practicing the priesthood of the believer, and then re-learning a lot of what we thought we knew about God’s design for His Body, that the scales began to fall away. Now we can totally see where the traditional church restricts the life of the Body as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 12, and how the 58 “one anothers” in the New Testament aren’t really possible when only one person is allowed to speak or teach while everyone else sits passively listening.

“Being the Church” has become more real to us than attending church ever was. We’ve discovered how following Jesus in our every day, actual lives is actually easier when we begin to see the Church as the people who gather throughout the week and not a building we rent or a meeting we attend.

Still, I passed another milestone a few weeks ago. I finally stopped being the pastor of the Mission House Church and started realizing that I am really only a member of the church body that meets in my home. It’s not “my church”. It’s really God’s Church. Jesus is really our pastor, not me. He’s the one who is our head. He is the one with the agenda. He is the one who shepherds us, and leads us, and makes His will known to us by His Word and His Spirit. Not me.

Part of my revelation involved pulling back from the duties that some in our house church expected me to always perform such as leading communion, or prayers, or leading our open share times. For several months I sat at the back of the room and refused to speak or lead in any way. This allowed everyone else in our body to step forward and take initiative, and ownership, of life in the Body. As I exercised restraint, I began to observe what God was doing in our times together more. I began to listen more. I suddenly found myself to be superfluous in some areas, but necessary in others. My true place in the Body was being redefined as I stepped outside the spotlight and allowed Christ to be our Head.

The final steps in my ordination into the laity involved realizing two simple truths: First, that Jesus is alive and fully capable of communicating his will for us. Secondly, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we, his sheep, are capable of hearing his voice. By exercising this truth, it became more and more clear that whenever we, as a Body, took the time to stop and ask Jesus to lead us and to speak to us (and then we actually waited for him to speak and lead), that Jesus would be faithful to do this.

While we’re still just beginning to scratch the surface of what it means to surrender to the Headship of Christ in our regular gatherings together, I have to believe that a significant aspect of our ability to explore this was only made possible when our founding pastor finally took his God-given place as the head of His Church. That pastor, our good shepherd, is Jesus.

As soon as I gave up being the leader, and began to realize that this was not “my church” but that I was simply one of the members of His Church, our chances of experiencing the Headship of Christ jumped exponentially.

So, please celebrate with me my official ordination into the ministry of the laity of Christ. I am one of many gifted members of the Body of Christ in a Church that belongs to Jesus and happens, for now, to meet in my home.

-kg
**

“If God ‘visits’ a church, it betrays the fact that it doesn't belong to Him. A homeowner doesn't visit his own home. He lives in it. In a divine visitation, God will bless His people. But He will eventually move on and search for a home that He can call his own. Thus if the headship of Jesus Christ is not fully yielded to any given place, the best of Lord can do is visit. He cannot take up residency.”
– Frank Viola; From Eternity to Here

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ELYSIAN SKIES SONGS NOW ON iTunes!

Voted one of the Top Indie Cd's of 1998 by The Phantom Tollbooth Magazine (ranked #4).

THE BAND
Composed of Keith Giles on vocals, John Wahrmund on guitars and bass, Wendy Giles on background vocals, John Feighery on guitars, Bill Schmidt on percussion and Ben Busch on keys, and guitars.

ABOUT THE ALBUM
Recorded at the legendary Green Room in Huntington Beach, California, "Exquisite Whisper" features all original songs written by Keith Giles and John Wahrmund.

Produced by J.J. Plasencio (Plumb, Sixpence) and engineered by Andy Pricket (Prayer Chain, Violet Burning), mixed by Gene Eugene, and mastered by Mark Rodriguez.
Overdubs produced by Wayne Everett (Prayer Chain).

ALBUM TRIVIA
Three of the songs from this recording(Broken, What Can Never Be Replaced and Tacit Blue) were featured on the award-winning soundtrack for the independent film, "When Love Walks In" from Paladin Pictures, directed by Kent Williamson.

Andy Prickett plays the guitar solo on the first track, "Digg" which was featured in the N-Soul compilation CD, "The Sparkler Sampler" (also available on iTunes).

Mike Pritzl's (Violet Burning) guitar was used on the track, "Faded Chameleons".

J.J. Plasencio plays bass on several tracks as well.

All proceeds from the sale of the original CD pressing went to support Feed the Children.

ALBUM REVIEW FROM THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH MAGAZINE (www.tollbooth.org)

With a little help from their friends, Elysian Skies has created an indie release worthy of notice. Serving as executive producer, J.J. Plasencio (formerly of Plumb and Sixpence None the Richer) is a believer in this band. Also, Gene Eugene (of Adam Again) mixes the album, and both Andy Prickett and Wayne Everett (formerly of the Prayer Chain) contribute in one form or another. That's a lot of positive support from some respected folks in the industry for a virtually unknown band on the national level.

With Exquisite Whisper Elysian Skies has created an album of modern rock ranging from acoustic guitar-driven ballads to songs with an aggressive swirl-of-sound. They haven't attempted to recreate modern rock here, and they manage to play well without embarrassing the form. The production values are excellent--not at all what you'd expect from an indie (with the amazing Gene Eugene on the boards it's easier to see how that happened). The result is an album with an appealing sound that suggests alternative pop bands like The Waiting (but with fewer frills).

The lyrics are positively pro-Christian in their content, and without exception they deal with matters of faith in an honest and poetic way. On "Blood of Innocence" in particular, lyric writer Keith Giles fuses Biblical truth with modern-day trials while turning a good phrase or two along the way:

A dishonest man brought me into the fold
And an unfaithful girl brought me in from the cold
It rains on the unjust and righteous as well
The sound of the truth is louder than hell.
A forgetful Samaritan passes away
His friends and his family have nothing to say.
The children of poverty ask for a drink.
I'm lost in my thoughts so I don't stop to think.


This band's love for our Lord Jesus is foremost on their mind as they exhibit compassion for the disenfranchised, downtrodden, or just plain discouraged. Augmenting the songs' themes are a collection of delightful quotes from Henry Van Dyke, St. Francis of Assisi, Pablo Picasso, and Psalm 68. Extra bonus points are given for the artsy packaging; for example, the CD is black with a gold Half-Moon-Face with three accompanying stars. I appreciate the artistic attention given to layout details.

Keith Giles voice is reminiscent of the lead singer from The Beautiful South or The Housemartins at times. This may just be a matter of personal preference, but I find he sings most pleasingly on the slower tempo numbers, while his gentle voice seems incongruent with the rambunctious music on the more bumptious tracks. That critique aside, this band will in time undoubtedly carve out their own niche and continue to garner appropriate amounts of attention from musical colleagues as well as fans.


By Steven Stuart Baldwin

**

Click the icon below to buy one song at a time or buy the entire album for just $7 bucks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FACEBOOK IS TAPPING YOUR PHONE

Your phone rings and you answer it. “Hello, this is Amanda from Enterprise Marketing Group. Would you be willing to participate in a brief survey of your favorite entertainment brands so that we can sell this information to businesses who want to improve their targeted advertising efforts?”

My guess is that you would probably hang up the phone on someone like this. What would be the point in helping a marketing company gather information about you just so they could send you more junk e-mail, postcards and coupons? Yet , if you have an active Facebook account you’re probably already sharing even more information with these same companies than you realize.

Facebook collects and stores every single fragment of information about you in their constantly enlarging database. They know who your friends are. They know your top 20 favorite films. They know the Top 10 books you’ve ever read. They know which Smurf you’re most like. They know your favorite TV shows. Even more than this, if you are consistent with your status updates, they also know what days of the week you go shopping, or take the kids to baseball, or spend a night out with your friends.

The genius of Facebook is that they have made the collection of your targeted, actionable data very entertaining. Because it’s fun to post your Top 20 favorite movies list to your Facebook page and then share it with all 250 of your friends so that they can also post their lists and share it with their friends, you’ll gladly do it. But, if someone from a professional marketing team called you on the phone to ask you the same information, not only would you hang up, you’d probably ask them to put you on their no-call list.

Before Facebook, and other social media sites, marketers had to depend on very general demographic profiles to essentially guess at what your favorite foods might be, or what your spending habits might involve. They could guess from your birth date that you fell into a general group (baby boomer, Generation X, Tweeners, Metrosexual, etc.), and based on your sex they could place you into a category most likely to purchase certain brands or shop at certain stores. Now, thanks to the growing mania of Facebook, marketers no longer have to guess about your favorite ice cream flavor – they know for a fact that you love Cherry Garcia from Ben and Jerry’s because you posted it on your profile, or shared it with a friend on your wall.

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about changes to Facebook’s privacy policy. Even their own CEO has been the victim of loop holes in the new policy, to hilarious effect. However, the greatest shock is still yet to come. One day, and perhaps it’s already started to happen, all the millions of terabytes of data Facebook has on file about you will be sold to the Enterprise Marketing agencies of the world.

What could be worse than that? Perhaps you’d better sit down for this part. As a friend and I were talking about this very subject one afternoon, he made reference to a chilling discovery about Google’s Picasa photo software. As he was uploading a picture of his family from a recent vacation trip to the museum, the software window that popped up said, “This looks like Aidan.” Aidan is my friend’s elementary-age son. He said his finger hovered over the mouse for a moment as he began to realize that the software had recognized his son’s face due to the tagging features they had used to identify him, and the rest of the family, on other photos that had been uploaded to the website.

Clearly, the applications of this facial recognition software are even more nefarious in the wrong hands. Now if anyone, anywhere, uploads a photo of you to the internet, people can find you and recognize you immediately. Your friends don’t even need to tag you in any future photos because you’ve already been tagged enough times for the software to get a lock on your features.

All of this makes me wonder if public outcry against the selling of our personal information might spawn the creation of newer, "Black Box" style social media where you might be asked to pay a premium to prevent your personal data from ending up on search engine results or allow your personal photos to be seen by the entire planet.

In fact, it makes me wonder whether or not Facebook themselves will eventually offer their users a pay-for-privacy black box solution. Not only would this solve the problem they've created themselves, but it would also earn them billions more dollars a year in revenues from users who value online privacy.

Even though there is a clear warning to this effect, many Facebook users are also unaware that when they participate in third party applications and games on Facebook (such as Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc.), they are granting permission for these companies to collect, use and sell their personal information, and often their friend's personal data as well.

In a safe and perfect world, facial recognition technology and personal information will only be used to direct you to the best deals on your favorite things at exactly the right moment by recognizing your face as you enter your favorite shopping mall, or online store.

Of course, we can only guess who might have already purchased information about you, and your family, and your photos, and your detailed personal likes and dislikes. Hopefully it will be the good guys who take charge of this data.

Hopefully.

**
Keith Giles is a marketing copywriter and published author and blogger who lives in Orange County, California. Find out more at http://www.KeithGiles.com or follow him at http://twitter.com/keithgiles

Monday, December 14, 2009

CHRISTMAS IN REVERSE

For the last three years now my family has been making an effort to shift the way we celebrate Christmas. I guess it all started when we partnered with a sister church here in Orange County to bring a blessing to a single mom with brain cancer and her teenage son a few years ago. I remember walking back to the car afterwards and telling my wife, "That was my Christmas. From now on, don't buy me anything for Christmas. Let's just bring a blessing to as many people as we can."

So, for the last few years that's what we've done our best to do. This year our family is helping to buy Christmas gifts for children living in a local motel with their families. Our house church is working to provide free groceries, buy gifts, and share what we’ve been given with our friends living in this motel. We're also putting together several baskets of food to give to a local orphanage, and this week we're going to sing carols at a local senior care center down the street from our house.

Just last week I read an article from the great John Fischer about how we should change the question, "What did you get for Christmas?" to "What did you give for Christmas?" I completely agree. More than changing the question, we're changing the emphasis of Christmas. When we focus on giving then all that matters is what we give away, not what we receive in return.

The most amazing thing, however, is that even though my family does not buy me a Christmas gift to put under the tree anymore, I still get plenty of gifts. In fact, I receive significantly more for Christmas now than I have ever received before. It's just that what I get for Christmas now is the sort of stuff that won't fit inside any box, or be contained by mere wrapping paper.

I know of many other families who are doing exactly what we've started to do this Christmas. Maybe you do too? Or maybe you and your family would like to start a new tradition of giving away more than you receive?

If you're really lucky you'll start to realize that you can give extravagantly no matter what time of year it may be. People in need are hungry and lonely and thirsty on all the other days of the year, so why should we only give to them once or twice a year?

Someone once said that whenever we measure our generosity we tend to measure how much we give away, but when God measures our generosity, He measures how much we keep.

If Christmas is really about giving, then let's focus on giving. And if Christmas is about the miraculous, incarnational birth of God in the flesh who came to be "Emmanuel" - God with us - then let's follow His example and give ourselves away for the sake of others.

Peace to you,
Keith

Sunday, December 13, 2009

THE GOVERNMENT CHURCH

In some countries, the Christian faith is under the control of the State. These governments control the spread and expression of Christianity by regulating churches, and keeping pastors on the payroll. Those Christians who dare to speak out against Government policy or who criticize military operations or otherwise go against the grain are threatened with seizure of property or loss of certain rights.

Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about because you live in America. Here, the Government reuquires that all Christian churches register with the State. These State Churches must have a 501(C)3 to operate legally. Without one they cannot open a bank account, claim tax exempt status on their property, or for donations received, or for pastoral salaries.

Several times in American History the Government has threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of several of these registered State Churches whenever they speak out in ways that are not approved of. For example, on issues of abortion, or civil rights, or other political issues.

This is not to suggest that the Government is in favor of Politics without Religion, or Religion without Politics. On the contrary, the Government in America is very much in favor of how the State Church supports military efforts abroad. To that end, the Church has been one of the most vocally supportive segments of American Society when it comes to war overseas, the torture of enemy soldiers, and the loss of human life (other than American lives).

In recent years, the State Church in America has also been largely instrumental in helping to elect her Presidents and push political agendas for both the Left and the Right.

NOT ABOUT POLITICS
Still, my contention is not with the Government of this great nation. In fact, my concern is for the Bride of Christ who has willingly submitted herself to an Empire, rather than to the rule and reign of Christ.

Do we need the Government to tell us that we are the children of God? No, of course not.

Do we need a tax write-off in order to give our money to help the poor? Absolutely not.

And yet, we often allow these things to prevent us from operating and behaving as the Body of Christ.

CAN YOU IMAGINE?
Can you imagine being part of a Church where no one received a salary? Or where no one kept track of your tithes and offerings? Can you imagine being part of a Church where the people were the only building? Or where the Church owned no property or held no bank account?

I'm not saying that these things are evil, in themselves. However, I do find it troubling that the Church in America has so willingly participated in a State Church system where the Government is allowed to decide who is, or is not, a valid expression of the Body of Christ Jesus in the community.

HAVE I LOST MY MIND?
Before you sharpen your knife or load your revolver, let me explain why I am writing this today: The Church I read about in the New Testament, from which all of us have originated, was born under the sun of the largest Empire the world has ever known.
This early church did not conform to the pattern of the Empire, but it set itself apart from the Empire. It quietly, yet firmly, resisted the Empire's lust for power and expansion through bloodshed. They resisted even to the point of shedding their own blood - but not the blood of others - to demonstrate another way of living. This way of life was not like the life people lived outside of the Body of Christ. In fact, the only real source of life and wisdom came from Jesus, the Messiah, and it was the radical lifestyle of the early Christians that testified to this truth.

Their Lord (and ours) had also modelled a life which was contrary to the Empire of his day. The Empire had even used its power to put Jesus to death, so those who put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah continued to live in opposition to the pattern of the Empire after His Resurrection. The idea of conforming to the way of the World was anathema to them. Why is it not anathema to us today?

I understand that our nation has a different set of origins than the Roman Empire. I do understand that America is a place where the practice of religion is widely accepted (and not just Christianity, either). The parallels between America and Rome are not exact, however they are both Empires which are built upon the ideals of men (however noble they may be).

The American Empire is not built upon the teachings of Jesus. No Empire has ever attempted to carry out the policies of the One who said that we should turn the other cheek and love our enemies. In fact, no man-made, human lead government could ever survive with such policies as these. Only when Jesus Himself sits upon the throne of this Earth will His Kingdom be established in full. On that day, we might finally understand what a Christian Government looks like, but not today.

BE SET APART
When the Apostle John tells us about the fall of the Empires of this Age he records the words of an angel in heaven who says, "'Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities'" (Revelation 18:4,5)

The phrase, "come out of her" is the exact phrase one would use when referring to the cessation of a sexual act. He is commanding us to repent of our fornication with the Empires of this World and to escape the wrath of God against those systems of man-made rule.

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a royal priesthood. a holy nation, God’s very own possession." - 1 Peter 2:9

If we are the people of God, let us consider who we submit ourselves to, both in theory and (most importantly) in practice.

Are we a Church submitted more to the State than we are to the Lord Jesus?

Have we forgotten to resist the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds? (Rom 12)

What would it mean to be fully surrendered to Jesus alone, in every way?

Is Jesus really the head of the Church? Is He the head of your church?

Only you can answer those questions for yourself. I'm not here to create controversy for the sake of controversy. My heart's desire is for the Church to open her eyes and to consider how her actions and her attitudes reflect Christ in the world today.

Is the Church a tool of the State? Is the Church being leveraged to pass legislation or elect officials? Are we being manipulated by politicians to do their will? And if so, shouldn't we desire with all of our hearts to repent of this and to return to Christ as our only Lord and Master?

I suppose that's up to us to decide for ourselves.

Peace,
Keith
**

"The Church is not meant to be the master of the State, nor is the Church its servant, the Church must be its conscience." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

URGENT: PLEASE FORWARD TO EVERYONE!

DISCLAIMER: Please read the following article VERY CAREFULLY before you do anything
at all. There is more going on here than meets the eye. You have been forewarned. -

URGENT!
As most of us are aware, Christians today need to be more vigilant than ever before.

This is why what I am about to tell you is SO CRITICAL for each of us. I'm tempted to ask everyone to forward this to EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK right away. (Especially if you "really" love Jesus).

What I'm about to tell you is SO ALARMING, it could seriously threaten Church in America forever!

NEW LEGISLATION
There is new legislation in motion, at the earliest possible stage, which I need to let everyone know about now before it gets out of our control.

First, many of you are already aware that there are forces out there that threaten to take away the non-profit status of Christian Churches in America whenever messages of a political nature are delivered from the pulpit. As desperate as this is, there is a new development brewing now that is EVEN WORSE.

There are people who want to propose legislation that would challenge the non-profit status of any Christian Church simply based on whether or not that Church actually gives a significant percentage of its funds back to the community, as most other "non-religious" non-profits are required to do.

WHAT THIS MEANS is that your church could be in DANGER OF LOSING ITS NON-PROFIT STATUS simply because little of the tithe money goes to help out those poor families who live around the community. EVEN IF THEY DON'T ATTEND YOUR CHURCH!

Of course, there are plenty of churches in America that do care for the poor in their community. They pass out free groceries, they provide free oil changes for single Moms, they host after-school programs for kids in the area at no-charge, etc. Churches who are already "giving back" to the community in this way and serving others the way Jesus would would have NOTHING TO FEAR!

However, if a church in the community were to spend 70%, 80%, or even 99% of its tithe on ITSELF, it would be in danger of losing that non-profit status and would have to pay taxes JUST LIKE ALL OTHER LARGE CORPORATIONS.

This means that a church spending most of the tithe for salaries, or a new building, or the new flat-screen plasma televisions for the announcements in the nursery, or the Starbucks Coffee bar at the back of the Church, or the new carpet, etc., would have to justify their non-profit status on the basis of whether or not they were actually performing any actual "service" to the poor around them. If they couldn't demonstrate a tangible connection between their church and the community around them, their NON-PROFIT STATUS would be REVOKED FOREVER!

REGARDLESS OF THE FACT that Matthew 25 suggests that Jesus takes our concern for the outcast seriously, this attack on the non-profit status of our big, fat American churches is just NOT FAIR!

We've earned the right to collect as many hundreds of thousands of dollars as we like in the name of Jesus and it should be totally up to us how we spend that money. Especially if it's for our OWN NEEDS, WANTS AND DESIRES.

Just because we're not really involved in the needs of the poor around us, the Church SHOULDN'T BE PUNISHED IN THIS WAY.

Regardless of the fact that the Church in America HAS THE POWER and the ECONOMIC RESOURCES necessary provide affordable housing, long-term community development, and primary health care to everyone who needs it, the US Government should NOT be the one to force this upon us through legal means. That should be left up to a Higher Power.

Even though Universal primary education would cost $8 billion a year, which is about half of what parents in the US will spend THIS YEAR on TOYS FOR THEIR OWN CHILDREN, this has nothing to do with those of us who are called by the name of the One who humbled Himself and surrendered His life to demonstrate the compassion of God to the World, and especially to the least and the lost.

So, if you want to protect your church from this kind of judgement, I urge you to write to your pastors, your elders, your deacons and your church leaders and let them know how you feel about this very serious issue that faces the modern Church in America.

We, the Church in America, are dangerously close to the SIN OF SODOM!

Do you know what the Sin of Sodom is? Read Ezekiel 16: 49:

"Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen."

Obviously, the issue facing the Church in America today is WAY MORE SERIOUS THAN SIMPLY OUR NON-PROFIT STATUS! If the Church were to rise up and spend their money this way, THAT WOULD BE AN AWESOME THING, and yes, a lot of people would probably stop calling us HYPOCRITES and maybe they'd take us seriously when we tell them that Jesus loves them, because we've demonstrated that (just maybe) we love them too.

As you may have guessed, this legislation IS TOTALLY FICITIOUS! I have made up the entire thing with the help of my good friend Jarred Romley who first suggested the concept to me.

I couldn't resist mimicking the style of those alarmist Christian email messages we all get forwarded telling us that we must send it on to everyone we have ever known in order to prove our love for Jesus. Please, also forgive me for all the CAPITAL LETTERS I USED!

Seriously, I think if my friend Jarred were to introduce a Bill like this one to our Congress it might put a fire under our churches to wake up and realize that their Bibles are full of commands to care for the outcast, the poor, and the needy who are all around them. If nothing else, it would create an amazing open dialog in the media between the leaders of the Church, the members of the community, and the man on the street about issues of compassion, Christian charity, and the calling of Jesus to care for the poor as we would care for Him. (see Matthew 25)

Until that legislation comes to pass, I will have to resort to stunts like this to try to wake people up and realize that God's heart is for the poor and that He has taken this issue very seriously.

The truth is, the idea of their church losing its non-profit status is more likely to spur Christians to action than the fact that there are thousands of homeless, and poverty-stricken human beings suffering a few blocks from their front door.

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?"- GOD, speaking of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16

Keith Giles

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

MY FRIEND ROBERT HIGGINS



My friend, Robert Higgins, is dieing of bone cancer.

I met him just over a year ago when Pete, the manager at the California Studio Inn in Santa Ana called me on my cell phone - something he never does unless it's an emergency.

Pete told me about Robert, a 77 year old man who was living on the streets. It was cold outside, mid-December, and icy rain was falling outside. "If I send him out in this," Pete told me, "I'm afraid he'll die on a park bench somewhere. He's really sick."

Pete would hardly describe himself as a follower of Jesus. In fact, when I first came to him to ask about serving at the motel he told me to hit the road and that I was wasting my time. Now, he's one of our partners in this ministry to the people of this motel. Without him we couldn't do anything there, and often he actually initiates our relationships with people in need.

Our house church family donated the $250 to buy Robert a week at the motel to give him a place to stay until his own Social Security checks came in. Eventually, with a lot of help from Pete, Robert ended up taking a regular room in the motel as a resident.

Initially I would drop by to check up on Robert now and again. Sometimes I'd run groceries up to his room on one of the Saturdays our house church was passing out food. Over the months, I can't really explain how, Robert and I became friends.

As I've gotten to know Robert I've learned that one of the things he hates the most is being helped. Sometimes people bring him gifts to show their love for him, but he's told me how it actually makes him angry. "If I were living on the streets and I had no income, that would be different," he says. "But I've got money, I've got a room of my own. I don't need anyone to take care of me."

I've tried explaining to him that when people from the church bring him gifts that it's their way of saying, "I love you," and I know he knows that, but it doesn't make it any easier for him to receive gifts.

"The help you give me," Robert says, "like when you pick up my mail for me or something like that. At least that's the kind of help I need, not the help people want to give me."

I've come to the conclusion that hell for Robert would be an army of people waiting on him and doing things for him and bringing him things he didn't ask for. He really, really hates when anyone does that - including me.

Over the last few months I've learned not to do anything without asking him. Only once have I done something that he explicitly told me not to do. I brought him a slice of homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day while he was staying at Fountain Care down the street from me.

He'd refused to come over to share Thanksgiving with my family. "That's a family thing," he said. So when I told him I was going to bring him a piece of Wendy's pumpkin pie after dinner he said, loudly, "No!"

"Yes, I am," I said.

"No, no, no."

"I'm just as stubborn as you are, Robert. I'm bringing you that pie with a big old layer of whip cream on top."

"Whip cream on top?" He paused. "Ok, then."

That was pretty much the only battle I've ever won with him.

Well, almost. On Monday of this week I shared lunch with Robert at his room in the Studio Inn. As we ate our KFC dinners he and I talked about his family, which he hasn't spoken to in several years.

"Have you thought about contacting your son again?"

"No, it's too late," he said.

"No, it's not too late. You've got months and months to live."

"It's the worst possible time for me to call them," he said."I think they think I'm already dead anyway. How would it be for them to get a call from me saying 'it's me' when all this time they've thought I was dead?"

"Wouldn't they be thrilled to know that you're still alive? And that they can still talk to you before you die of bone cancer?"

Robert shook his head. "No. It's too late for that now."

"I just know that if my Dad were dying of bone cancer I'd at least want the opportunity to say goodbye to him," I said, hoping for one last chance to change his mind. He was unmoved.

But, today I got a call from him on my cell phone. He even left a message which he's never even attempted to do before. I called him back and he said, "You got any plans for lunch today?"

I pulled my warmed up soup out of the microwave and snapped the plastic lid back over it. "Nope. You want me to bring you something?"

"How about some chicken from Pollo Loco?" he suggested. His meals usually flutter between KFC, Taco Bell and El Pollo Loco.

"Ok, I said."

After he gave me his order he added, "I'm buying this time. It's my turn." Then he said, "I was thinking about calling my son again. Maybe you could help me punch in the numbers?"

I stood there for a moment next to the microwave and smiled. "Sure, Robert. I can do that. I'll be right there."

Sadly, when Robert and I tried to track down his son and his ex-wife Rosa we discovered that they no longer lived in the same house in La Mirada. They had moved.

He hung his head and started to cry. "Just when I was ready to try and get back in touch with them," he said.

"It's ok, Robert. We've still got time to find them."

Robert kept his head down for a while. Then he said, "I sat here last night thinking about it. I'm not ready to go. I know I don't have much here in this life," he said. "But I'm not ready."

I sat across from my friend and I considered how to respond. As his pastor I knew I could rattle off a few Bible verses, or try to lead him in a prayer of salvation. But as his friend, I knew that what he needed in that moment was someone to understand his fear.

"You don't know how much time you have left, Robert. The Doctor's are only guessing at a number. You could have two or three years to live. Heck," I said. "I could die before I get back to work in a car accident. No one knows how long they have."

Robert nodded. "I know."

We talked for a while after that about his son, and his daughters. He shared the good memories of his ex-wife Rosa and wondered if she'd join him at the motel someday - if he could find her again.

"I think she might," I said.

"I'd like to talk to her again," he said. "I would tell her I miss her a lot. I think of her often and I still love her," he said.

I prayed that Robert would be able to reconnect with his wife and family again before he dies. I left him alone in his room with this fragile hope and shut the door behind me after saying goodbye.

As I walked down the set of steps down to the parking lot and back to my car I wondered about my response to Robert. I'm sure a better man than me would have whipped out the scriptures and sealed the deal with the four spiritual laws. I'm sure that's what I should have done as a pastor, and I didn't. I didn't because it didn't feel like a genuine response. It felt like what I was expected to do, but not what Robert needed in that moment.

Time after time I have walked this line with Robert between being his friend and being his pastor. I'm doing my best to love him because love isn't something Robert is used to. He's always accepted help and love from others with suspicion because everyone in his life has always made sure there were strings attached. Even his family. Especially his family.

There have been other moments where Robert and I have talked about God. Once, when he was recovering from surgery at Fountain Care, he took my hand in his own bony, withered hand and squeezed it. With tears in his eyes he told me, "Keith, I know I can make it as long as I've got you and the Lord with me."

I squeezed back. "God really is with you, Robert," I said.

"I never understood about God much when I was younger. It never made sense to me before what the pastor was saying up there, but I think I can talk to Him and I think he hears me," he said.

"I think sometimes we make it more complicated that it is," I said. "As long as we're willing to admit that we can't do it on our own and that we need God's help I think we're on the right track," I said.

Sometimes when I talk to people about Robert people ask me if Robert knows the Lord. It's difficult to answer that question right now. I think he's in process. I think God is speaking to Robert in his pain and through these circumstances. I think God is showing Robert how much he really loves him. I know that Robert has begun to see that God is very good to him, even in his suffering, and I know that Robert knows that he can talk to God anytime he needs to.

Right now my prayers for Robert are that he can regain contact with his son, Richard and his ex-wife Rosa before he dies of bone cancer. I also pray that one day the Lord will allow me to lead Robert into His presence and surrender his life to Jesus.

I already know that I will be with Robert until the very end. I will stand at his bedside when he is on morphine. I will be holding his hand when he passes from this life into the next one. I pray with all my heart that I can faithfully hand him off to the One who loves him more than he will ever know - on this side of eternity - when that day comes.

My friend, Robert Higgins, has bone cancer. He's 77 years old. And I'm the only family he has right now.

-kg

Sunday, December 06, 2009

ANOTHER AMAZING DAY

Today is nearly over (and by the time most of you read this it will already be Monday morning) but today (Sunday) was a very amazing day for me.

I got to bring a message to the church that God is building in the back parking lot of a motel where my wife and children started serving about 7 years ago. I shared with them about how the Church is a Body, a Family, and a Bride.

I reminded them that God is the one who is building the church and not any of us. I reminded them that we are called to be a Body where we honor one another, and we each are a necessary part of the Body. We need one another. We belong to one another. God is the one who is building us - His Body - into a spiritual house of living stones for His Glory.

I reminded them that we are called to love one another. To wash one another's feet. And that we are not blessed when we know these things - we are blessed when we do them.

After I sat down next to Christy - the mother of little Tina and Michael - they announced that she will be baptized into the family of God next Sunday. I turned and looked at her with surprising joy. From the beginning, Christy's little son and daughter have been so dear to my heart. They are both so quiet and shy, although over the years they have warmed up to us and have opened their hearts to us as we have loved them and served them consistently.

As I drove home today I couldn't help but sing praises to God for this great work in this family, and in this most unlikely place to plant a church - in the back parking lot of a poverty motel in Santa Ana, under a canopy of E-Z Ups on the dirty black top, next to a fence facing an alleyway.

We lifted up the name of Jesus. We claimed that place for His Kingdom. We acknowledged that Jesus was Lord of that place and that it (and we) fully belonged to Him alone.

I can't wait to see what God does next....

Good night!
kg

Thursday, December 03, 2009

IDEAS FOR SERVING THE POOR IN YOUR COMMUNITY

I want to stress that most of these do not require a large budget, or a team of thousands. Most of these can be done with families, including children of all ages, and two or three adults who are willing to listen, love and share what they have with people in need.

Idea for Ministry to the Poor:

*Lower-income families (Housing projects, apartments, motels, etc.)
*Motel Ministry (especially for kids and families)
*Food/Grocery Distribution
*Homeless Ministry (Hot Dogs in the Park)
*Senior Home Visitation
*Prostitute Ministry
*Single Moms/Widows (Free oil changes, yardwork, grocery assistance, etc.)


Details:

*Lower-income families (Housing projects, apartments, motels, etc.)

This ministry works best when you get to know the management of the apartment or motel, etc. Explain to them that you're not there to preach or to promote your church. Disarm them with the idea that you really just want to bless people. Explain to them that your ministry will involve giving away free groceries (if possible) or hosting game times for the children (or puppet shows, crafts, etc.). Help them to visualize a monthly or bi-weekly carnival that they get to help bring to their residents. It makes them look like heroes and it gives you an opportunity to express the love of Jesus in tangible ways.

*Motel Ministry (especially for kids and families)

Essentially the same as above. I'd only add that befriending people is the key here. Pray for them. Listen to their problems. Find ways to help them that are practical. This should not be about money. It should be about helping them discover resources in your community, hooking up with other ministries doing work to help with education, rent, health concerns, etc.

Also, ask God to highlight one or two people or families that He wants you to focus on and love them with all you've got. Invite them to your house for pizza and a movie. Hang out with them. Learn to love them. This is where you realize that the real ministry is being done to you, not by you.

*Food/Grocery Distribution

Find a food bank nearby. Second Harvest is a national food bank, but you may have another in your area. Our small house church can purchase a week's worth of groceries for twenty or thirty families for under $100 a month.

As I've said previously, don't distribute the food after you preach. Just give them the food up front and bless them. Ask them at the end of the food line if they want prayer. Most will say yes. If not, just smile and bless them as they go back into their rooms. Consistency is vital.


*Homeless Ministry (Hot Dogs in the Park)

Again, this is very cheap and it's more about getting to know people who happen to be homeless and less about throwing food at the poor and running home.

We found a park where a lot of homeless hang out that also had barbecue stations at each picnic table. Our group set up the grill, cooked the dogs, laid out the fixings and then fanned out to invite the homeless to join us for a picnic. We sat with them, ate with them, asked them their names, where they were from, etc. Even our kids enjoyed getting to know our new friends.

*Senior Home Visitation

You will not believe the treasures that are hidden away in the senior homes near your house. Former Generals in WW2, former actresses, singers, engineers, writers, and even regular people who have amazing stories to tell. All they need is someone to listen. Give it time and you will soon find yourself falling in love with these people.


*Prostitute Ministry

This one is waayyy outside my comfort zone, but I've been out around 3 times with small teams to try to connect and pray for these girls. I'll write in more detail about the challenges and dangers of this ministry next week. Not for the faint of heart.

*Single Moms/Widows (Free oil changes, yardwork, grocery assistance, etc.)

This is more of a Men's Ministry thing, but it can be awesome to bless single Moms and Widows who need assistance around the house, with the yard, the car, etc.
Oh, and it's Biblical too.


Other Ideas for Ministry

*Local Newspaper/Community Response Ministry -
This is one I've always wanted to do but have yet to attempt. Basically it involves reading the local paper and responding in compassion to people in your city who experience the death of a loved one, is the victim of abuse or rape or violence, tragedy, etc. This is one that I feel could have a huge impact on your community if your church or small group could consistently respond to people in need of comfort and prayer support.

*Community clean-up (graffitti cleaning, trash pick-up, etc.)
Steve Sjogren and Mike Pilavachi have championed this form of "no strings attached" service to the community. When I was at Soul Survivor I was involved with massive groups of teens taking to the streets and cleaning up parks, neighborhoods, etc. This may involve contacting city officials and cooperating with them to discover their needs and partner with their employees.

*Clean toilets for local businesses
Again, Steve Sjogren championed this one a long time ago. It's an amazing way to demonstrate the love of Jesus in practical ways to local business owners. Most will be blown away that you show up with a bucket and cleansers to do the ugly job that none of them wants to do. When you explain to them that you're doing it because Jesus washed feet and this is the closest thing in our modern society to that, you'll be amazed at the reactions you get. Worth it for the stories you get to tell later, if nothing else.

*Free Car Wash
Be careful. People will argue with you to take their money. They simply cannot bring themselves to receive a free blessing with no strings attached. Do it anyway.

**
NOTE: Taken from my series, HOW TO START A MINISTRY TO THE POOR IN YOUR COMMUNITY (PART 4 OF 5).

-Go to PovertyInTheOC.com and see links at left for the entire series

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