Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Monday, September 29, 2014

Love Unlimited




Love is the greatest command. Jesus tells us that if we focus on loving God and loving one another, we’ll be fulfilling the Law of God.

He also tells us that people will know that we are his disciples if we love one another as he has loved us.

And then Jesus even goes so far as to suggest that we should not only love those who are lovable, and those who love us back, but we should go beyond this to love even those who hate us, and those we do not even like.

So, in essence, Jesus expects us to become love experts. Love should be our expertise. Love should be our brand. Love should be our practice and our specialty.

How do we do this? By first soaking up the fantastic, unmerited love of Jesus like dry sponges who are desperately thirsty for the love of God. Very quickly we’ll find ourselves so saturated with the extravagant love of Jesus that we can’t hold it all inside. We’ll soon find ourselves gushing this love out of every pore of our being. Indiscriminately those around us will become drenched in this same intoxicating nectar of God’s love and so it will begin to spread to everyone around us.

Granted, this takes time to learn and to practice. We get a taste of His love and we walk away. We get distracted by other things and we forget about His love for a while. Then hard times come, tragedy strikes, disappointments arise. We find ourselves thirsty again for His amazing love. He fills us again and we dance in the downpour of His love, lingering a little longer than before, but eventually we drift away again following this dream, or chasing that light in the distance.
 
Soon enough we realize that none of that was even half as satisfying as the love that Jesus immersed us in and we find our way back to Him, diving deeper into that boundless ocean of love than we ever thought possible.

His love never fails us. His love never ends. His love transforms us. His love makes us – and all things – new again.

But His love is also dangerous, and unpredictable, and challenging, and sometimes even uncomfortable for us. Even so, there is nothing like Jesus and there is nothing like His unconditional love for us – and for everyone around us.

The beautiful thing is when the love that Jesus has for me begins to change my heart. Suddenly I see people the way He sees them. His heart for them becomes my heart for them. I begin to move from theological agreement with His command to love and step into the fullness of loving Him and loving others because I am unable to do anything else.

He loves me. He loves you. He loves everyone I have ever met, or will ever know.

Now, I love because Jesus does.

That means:

I love homosexual people because Jesus loves them.

I love Muslims because Jesus loves them.

I love Liberals and Republicans because Jesus loves them.

I love racists because Jesus loves them.

I love Obama because Jesus loves him.

I love Rush Limbaugh because Jesus loves him.

I love Bill Maher because Jesus loves him.

I love Hilary Clinton because Jesus loves her.

I love Sean Hannity because Jesus loves him.

I love abortionists because Jesus loves them.

I love the Taliban because Jesus loves them.

I love Buddhists because Jesus loves them.

I love suicide bombers because Jesus loves them.

I love Atheists because Jesus loves them.

I love Calvinists because Jesus loves them.

I love Dispensationalists because Jesus loves them.

I love Zionists because Jesus loves them.

I love Palestinians because Jesus loves them.

I love ______ because Jesus loves ______.

“For God so loved everyone in the world that He gave His only son, so that anyone who puts their hope and trust in His son will have everlasting life.” – Jesus (Jn. 3:16)

There is no greater force in the Universe than the love of God. This same love has been poured out to us and given away freely to anyone and everyone who is hungry and thirsty for it.

That's Good News. Let's spread it around.

-kg

 

 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

THE POWER TO LOVE AND TO FORGIVE







Love isn't an easy thing to do. If you do it right, it will cost you everything. 

To love someone you must lay aside your wants and focus on their needs. Their happiness takes precedence over your comfort, and their joy becomes more important than your own.

To be honest, I do not often do it right. Often I am too overcome by my own desire to be comfortable or happy to love someone else in this way. Love is difficult. It is challenging. Love is not for the faint of heart.

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the future. We get to see what will count for Eternity when we stand before Him at the end of our lives. Surprisingly, what counts is how we have loved others.

"Whatever you have done for one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me." 

Many of us will be surprised at how little weight Jesus gives to church attendance, tithing, drinking alcohol, using swear words, or wearing Christian t-shirts. In fact Jesus makes no reference to any of these things when it comes to the final Judgement. He seems to only care about one thing: How did you love others?

It's not a shock really, since the main command he gave to his followers was to love one another as he loved them. (see John 13:34) 

So, in the end, it's all about the love we show, not the outward acts of power and service in the name of God.

Jesus was also clear that we are called to love those who don't love us in return. 

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Don't even sinners do that?" (Luke 6:32)

Our calling, as followers of Jesus, is to love not only those who love us (our parents, our wives, our children, our best friend, etc.), but also those who do not love us (the guy on the freeway who cut us off, the family member who infuriates us, that annoying guy at church, our co-workers, our stupid boss, etc.).

Love, as I said before, is not an easy thing to do.

That's why we need to be changed, from the inside out, so that we can become the sort of people who love unconditionally and extravagantly.

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" - 2 Cor 5:16-17

As far as impossible things go, forgiveness is no walk in the park either. I'm reminded of a great quote from the film, "Into The Wild" where one character says to the main character, "When you forgive you love, and when you love God's light shines down on you."

Another thing that happens when you forgive is that you set yourself free.

"Forgiveness is giving up the right to retaliate. Forgiveness is the willingness to have something happen the way it happened. It's not true that you can't forgive something; it's a matter of the will, and you always have the choice. Forgiveness is never dependent on what the other person does or does not do; it is always under our control. Forgiveness is giving up the insistence on being understood.... Jesus forgave those who crucified him. This is a radically new way of thinking. For those who accept and practice this discipline, there is a release of energy and a sense of freedom." - Pixie Koestline Hammond; "For Everything There Is a Season."

Evil is overcome, then, not by force or by destructive power but by the amazing love of God. Only His perfect brand of love - without strings attached, where only the good of the person being loved is taken into account- can overcome a world of hate and violence and pain.

Like it or not, you and I, the followers of Jesus, have a mandate. We are commanded to love. We are compelled to forgive. Our only hope is to become like Jesus so that we can love like Jesus loved. This is the only hope possible for our troubled world.

Do we really believe that the greatest weapons against hate are love and forgiveness? Do we really put our faith in towels and basins of water as instruments of change? Do we actually trust in the power of daily dieing to ourselves so that Christ can live through us?

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." - Colossians 1:27 

-kg

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love Like That



After our recent "Coffee, Tea and Jesus" gathering, the woman whose home we were meeting in (a total stranger before that evening) asked if she could pray over Wendy and I. Of course, we said, "Yes."

As she prayed for us, it was clear that she had several specific words of encouragment for both Wendy and myself. One thing she shared was that God looked at me and was very pleased. But honestly, as she prayed these things I sat there in disbelief.

I did not accept this in my heart because when I think about what God must feel when He looks at me all I come up with is "disappointment". All I can see is how much I've blown it and how far I've missed the mark.

Still, the word she gave us was very beautiful and touching. We thanked her for her blessing, but deep down I wasn't buying it.

Later that night I prayed and asked the Lord, "If what she said was really what you think of me and how you feel about me, I need you to confirm it through some other witness."

On Sunday evening, my oldest son was sitting at our computer working on his homework. I felt an urge to surprise him with a blessing, so I took my brand new noise-cancelling headphones and placed them over his head as he worked. Then I set my iPod to one of his favorite songs and started to play it. He looked up at me, smiled, and nodded his head to the music.

As I left the room, I distinctly heard the Lord whisper to me, "That's how I feel about you, my son. I just love you. I love blessing you. I love you because you are made in my image, not because of what you've done, or what you fail to do. I just love you, Keith."

I couldn't help crying tears of joy as these words washed over me.

Suddenly, I remembered the week that my son was first born. He slept between Wendy and I for a few weeks and one morning I woke up before either of them. My son was asleep between us and I was overwhelmed with love for him. Why? I wondered. He hasn't spoken a word. He hasn't done anything for me. He couldn't if he wanted to. But I loved him so much. I would die for him right now. I would do anything to protect him, to bless him, to show him my love.

In that moment, God spoke to me and said, "That's how much I love you, my son."

The memory of that word, combined with this fresh reminder of His enduring love was just so beautiful to me. All I could do was say, "Thank you, Lord."

He loves me. Now I believe it.

-kg

Thursday, December 06, 2012

LOVE STORY




People love to hear stories, especially true stories about those who find real love together. Maybe this is why my wife Wendy and I love meeting other couples and hearing the story of how they first met and fell in love.

These stories are almost always half told by each person in turn, with one person starting a thought from their perspective and the other person finishing that same scene in time from their point of view. Often the real fun is hearing what each person was thinking as they first met the other, about the misunderstandings that threatened to keep them apart, and about how, eventually, they both realized that this might be the person they wanted to spend the rest of their life with.

My wife and I have such a story. I saw her from a distance and thought she was gorgeous, but figured there was no real point in pursuing her. She barely noticed me sitting behind her on the bus ride to a college leadership conference, although she did lend me batteries for my Walkman.

Eventually I got up the nerve to ask her to join me to see a local play and when she showed up late, with her baby sister in tow, I stood up to leave in disgust. That was when the house lights came up for intermission and she saw me through the crowd. I stayed, we finished the play and that was it. Every date after that she continued to bring her little sister, and once even positioned herself so that she didn’t have to sit next to me during the film. I was pretty upset.

After that I officially gave up on her. All summer long I ignored my desires to call her and ask her out again, even though my friends urged me to keep trying. I was unmoved.

But after I joined the Christian Drama Team that she was leading we started to spend more time together, and I couldn’t help but start feeling close to her. One afternoon between classes she asked me to go with her to visit people at the Senior Home down the street. It was just her and I, for once, and I was glad to have some time alone with her. 

As we approached the building I ran forward and held open the door for her, like a gentleman, but she was gone. I turned around and saw her looking up into the face of an elderly woman in a wheel chair that I had flat out ignored on the sidewalk. In that moment, as I watched her open her heart to this woman I had ignored, I knew I had met someone more amazing than I could ever have imagined before. Her heart and genuine love for others astounded me. That was when I realized that God was up to something in my life and that maybe I should listen for further directions.

The next few months took even more twists and turns, with more steps backwards than forwards in our relationship, but I knew that I shouldn’t give up hope. I knew that she was worth the fight, and she was.

I’ll never forget the night that she and I both agreed that only God could save our relationship. Over the phone we both prayed together and laid everything on the altar and said, “God, if you want this to work you have to do it all. It’s practically dead already, so if you want this relationship to fly we need your help.” And after that night, as corny as it sounds, everything started to click for us.

I held her hand for the first time after a cold night playing Putt Putt golf, saying “Here, my hands are cold. Can you warm them up for me?”

I kissed her for the first time on her back porch, in the rain, but only after she asked me to, and even though I had already planned to kiss her anyway.

I sold my brand new 9mm Browning High Power pistol with Pachmeyer grips (yes, this was Texas) and bought her a diamond engagement ring. The price of the ring was exactly, to the penny, what I had sold the gun for. It was a sign.

Later that week I got down on my knees in the middle of the restaurant to ask her to marry me. When I looked up she was walking towards the exit. I called out to her, “Wendy!” and she turned around and saw me kneeling there by her empty chair. I’m so glad she turned around and took her seat again so that I could ask her to be my wife.

For those of us who are following Jesus, we also have a similar story to tell. We can recall what we thought of Jesus before we first met Him, and about what our first impressions of Him were, and about what events and circumstances threatened to keep us apart. We can all share the story about how we eventually discovered that Jesus was someone we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with, and about when we first knew that He was the One we couldn’t live without.

So, I’m curious. What’s your story? When did you first meet Jesus? How did you come to realize that you wanted to spend the rest of eternity with Him? How has your life changed since you made that decision to follow Him all of your days?

Have the two of you been through difficult times together? Did it strengthen your love for each other? What did it teach you about yourself? About Him?

Can you imagine what your life would have been like without Jesus? Can you fully appreciate how significantly better your life is now that you’ve surrendered your life to receive His life?

Tell us that story. Tell that story to your neighbors. Tell it to your co-workers. Tell it to anyone who asks you. But let them ask first, and try to let them see that you’re in love with God before you say it out loud.

You see, people love to hear stories, especially true stories about those who find real love together.

-kg

Friday, July 30, 2010

OUT OF STRENGTH

Robert Higgins and I sat outside together today. He was in his wheelchair smoking a cigarette and I sat alone on a bench next to him.

There were four other men in wheel chairs all around us, puffing and coughing in unison. This was the smoking porch at Fountain Care where a handful of men made regular trips to "catch some fresh air" and swop stories of their youth. Cars whooshed by on the street just beyond the strip of bright green grass at random intervals. Talking was measured between the roar of the cars and the spasmodic fits of coughing.

We small talked, as usual, about the weather, about the Anaheim Angels, about what my family was planning to do this weekend. But in the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to talk to Robert about life and death. Over the last few days he hadn't been able to even sit up in bed, much less to stand up and get in his wheel chair to come outside. The cancer in his body was taking its toll and we both knew that it wouldn't be much longer now.

There was a small space of silence where Robert took a drag on his cigarette and a dozen cars flew by on the road nearby. I brushed at a fly which was zipping through the air.

"I sure don't know what you see in me, Keith," he said. "God must really love you a lot for you to show me so much love the way you have. I don't understand it."

I looked up at him and squinted as the smoke wafted into my eyes. What could I say to that?

"Well Robert," I said, "You're right. Jesus loved me and that's why I want to show you the same love. I want to serve and love the way Jesus would love and serve you."

He nodded but didn't respond. He took another drag on his cigarette.

A friend of his, Emery, was sitting near him in a wheelchair too. His motorized chair had broken down again, and so he needed someone to push him back into his room.

"Is it ok if I push Emery back to his room, Robert? I'll be right back," I said.

"Go ahead," Robert said.

After I got back Robert was all alone on the porch. "Ready to go?" I asked.

He stubbed out his cigarette. "Let's go."

I maneuvered his chair with one hand and held the large door open with my foot as I guided him back into the hospital. "You're getting pretty good at that," he said.

"I guess I am," I said as I rolled his chair down the hallway and back towards his room.

"You might have another friend in this place one day," he said. "At least you can say you've got a lot of experience with wheelchairs and things like that."

I wondered about that a little before I said, "You may be right, Robert. God might bring me another friend to take care of one day."

We got to his room and I helped him into his bed. He asked me if I could run to McDonalds and pick him up his usual - a Mini Meal with two apple pies. "Sure," I said. "I'll be right back."

Luckily the McDonalds was only a few blocks away. In less than ten minutes I was back in his room, laying out his double cheeseburger and squirting ketchup on his fries. "Here's your change," I said.

Robert sat up in bed and ate his food. After he was done I bagged up all the trash.

"I need to head home now, Robert," I said. "Can I pray with you before I go?"

"Ok," he said.

He lifted up his left hand to me, frail and skinny, and I knelt over and wrapped it between both of my hands.

"Robert," I said. "Everything I've ever done for you has been to show you that Jesus loves you."

Robert's eyes were closed but he squeezed my hand.

"Do you know that Jesus loves you, Robert?" I asked.

Robert nodded. "Yes," he said. "I do. I know that he does."

Then I prayed for Robert as I always do. I asked that Jesus would touch his heart and allow him to know how much he really loves him. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would open his eyes to see that every good thing that has ever been done to him was God shouting, "I love you, Robert."

When we were done I gave his hand a squeeze. He squeezed it back and didn't seem to want to let go.

"Is today Friday?" he asked.

"Yes, it's Friday," I said.

"I hate the weekends," Robert said. "There's never anything on TV."

"I know." But I knew that it wasn't just the TV he hated. He hated that none of his hospice nurses came to see him on weekends and that he had few visitors.

"I'll try to drop by and see you if I can," I said.

"Ok," Robert said. "Ok."

I turned to go and gave him one last wave before I left his room, number 316, and made my way to the parking lot.

As Robert nears the end, I am suddenly aware of every small detail. I wonder if every goodbye might be the last, and I wonder what I will do without this friend in my life.

He talks about all I've done for him, but I cannot even begin to talk about what Robert has done for me, and what God has done in me through my friendship with him.

As I drive home I talk to God about this work He's doing in me, and in Robert. "It's so hard," I say. "I don't want to be in this struggle with you, God. I don't want to know the pain of loving someone and letting them go," I say. "I just want to know that Robert is going to be saved and that he trusts you with his soul."

But I know that it doesn't work that way. I know that to get to the fruit you have to get down on your knees and dig in the dirt. You have to get thorns in your hands and stung by the pests and you have to work in the heat until you can barely stand it anymore. The fruit only comes after a long season of struggle, and my only fear now is that all that I have labored for is in vain. Or that I might not really ever know what the real fruit of this labor is at all.

I want the touchdown. I want Robert to cry out to Jesus for salvation with tears in his eyes and repeat this perfect prayer of repentance before he breathes his last breath. But he might not ever do that. He might never move any closer to God than he is right now.

Is this it? I don't know. I only know that I feel like I've done all that I can do in my own strength. I have nothing else to give. I'm out of ideas. I'm hopelessly at the mercy of God now. Just like Robert. We're both out of strength and at the mercy of God.

At least I can trust in His goodness. I know that God is faithful and true. I know that He loves to rescue His children. I know that when it seems hopeless and dark, He loves to reach down and save His people in the nick of time.

Please, Lord Jesus. Save my friend. Please save Robert Higgins.

Amen.

-kg

Monday, March 15, 2010

LET US BE ONE

In the Gospel of John, we get to eavesdrop on the intimate conversation between Jesus and the Father. In this prayer Jesus prays for us and his prayer for us is that we would be one:

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you and I are one....May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." - John 17:20-21

Unity in the Body is essential. According to the prayer of Jesus, our unity is a proof of the messianic identity of Jesus and of the love of God for us:

"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (v. 23)

Hopefully in your experience as a follower of Jesus you have had the opportunity to meet another believer in Christ and fall in love with them immediately. I don't mean that in the romantic sense, but in the sense that you feel as if you have known them all your life even though you've only just met them.

If so, what you're experiencing is a kinship of faith with another member of your family - the Family of God.

Regardless of whether or not that person is a member of your denomination, or whether or not this person agrees with you about specific points of doctrine, you have an undeniable feeling of brotherly (or sisterly) love for this individual. You are recognizing the Christ in them and you are responding to the love of Jesus shared between you both.

Whenever we experience this we are bearing witness to the unity of the Body of Christ. There is only one Body and if we have loved Jesus and put our faith in Him, we are members of His Body.

Whenever we make a decision to love the Jesus in another person - and to overlook the doctrinal points of disagreement - we are keeping the unity of the Body of Christ.

A good friend, and brother in Christ, recently pointed out to me that throughout Christian history, when christian leaders gathered to nail down points of doctrine the result was never unity - it was always more division.

Our little house church, the Mission, is comprised of a variety of different people who are all from extremely divergent streams of faith. In our house church there are former Calvary Chapel pastors and youth leaders, former Vineyard members, former Southern Baptists, former Bretheren, former Church of Christ, former Lutherans, and former independent, non-denominational, "whatchamacallits".

On paper our house church has no business surviving for over 4 years as a family of God. Yet, somehow we manage to love one another, to serve one another and to consider one another as dear brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our obvious doctrinal differences.

How do we do it? Well, mostly we've done it by choosing to see and love the Jesus in one another. We've made a choice to overlook those doctrinal differences in favor of learning from the experiences - and varying perspectives - of others in our Body.

Now, to be honest, our house church if far from perfect. We are people, just like everyone else. We're human. We're sinners. We're just as foolish and fickle as you are. And most of all, we all recognize our intense daily need for more of Jesus.

What blesses me, however, is how God called each of us to be part of this Body. I did not recruit anyone. Most people who currently attend our house church each week found us and sought us out. I did not find them. God touched their hearts and called them out and lead them by His Spirit to join this church family.

I love that God would call former Lutherans and Baptists and Church of Christ and Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, etc. members to join hearts and hands and lives and become one fellowship of saints together. I love that He would allow us to learn to forgive one another, and to honor one another, and to lay down our denominational and doctrinal identities to embrace membership in the Body of Christ.

We are part of your church. You are part of our church. All of us are members of one another. Because there is only one Body, and one Church, and One Lord.

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." - 1 Cor 12:12-13

-kg

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Least of the Least

One of the most powerful things about the ministry of Jesus was that he saw the least and the last around him and made them central to his proclamation of the Kingdom.

In contrast to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day, Jesus seemed to seek out those most outcast by society. The leper, the poor, the broken, the sick, and even the unpopular tax collector became the main disciples of Jesus. He welcomed them, he sought them out, and even greater still, he loved them.

This backwards strategy confounded his peers, bringing harsh rebuke and criticism from the Jewish leaders of the day, and yet this love for the common man, or woman, became a growing factor in his popularity among the people.

In Jewish culture, women were valued only for their child-bearing and mothering skills. Men had the authority to divorce them at will, for any reason, or no reason, at all. A woman had no such right.

At the time of Christ, women were not allowed equal access to the Temple. The court of women was further away from The Holy Place than the court of men, and in fact the court of the Gentiles was the second closest. Jewish women were valued below even the non-Jewish men in the assembly.

Jewish men, historically, did not speak to women in public, even their own wives. For a Rabbi, this would have been an even greater embarrassment.

Furthermore, a woman wasn’t allowed to even read from the Scriptures and was not counted as a member of the congregation. Even one of their most respected Rabbi’s, Judah ben Elai (A.D. 150) was quoted as saying, “One must utter three doxologies every day: Praise God that he did not create me a heathen. Praise God he did not create me a woman! Praise God that he did not create me an illiterate person.”3

Nothing could have been more backwards and counter-culture than for Jesus, an up and coming Jewish Rabbi, to honor women, and yet that is just what he did.

What we see in the Scriptures is that Jesus “…needed to travel through Samaria” a place where most of those outcast from contemporary Jewish society dwelled in community. The Samaritans themselves were an entire race of people who were devalued by God’s Chosen people. This little detour certainly caused the Disciples to scratch their heads.

Even more, the fact that Jesus only came to speak to one person in Samaria is even more confounding, especially when that one person turns out to be a woman; and not just any woman, but what most would refer to as the village tramp.

At the heat of the day, when most everyone was inside the cool of their home, the Samaritan woman is heading out to Jacob’s Well to draw water. Most every other woman would have long since completed this daily chore and that is our clue that the woman Jesus wants to talk to is an outcast in her community. She avoids the other women, probably because they tend to look down on her for her promiscuous lifestyle. Perhaps because she has been responsible for seducing one or more of their husbands.

At any rate, this woman is an outcast, even among other women who are themselves undervalued in this society. This woman has multiple strikes against her. She is a Samaritan, a woman, and a moral failure among her own people. She is the least among the least.

This is the woman that Jesus seeks out. He seems to be waiting at this well, at this specific time of the day, in order to meet with this woman that no one else would spend an idle moment with.

Many of us have made mistakes in our lives. Many of us have received condemnation from others about our failures. Our parents, our friends, even people within the Church, may have rejected us and turned us away to wallow in our shame. We need to know that Jesus does not condemn us. We need to know that, in the eyes of Jesus, we are not disqualified from Grace. We are not disqualified from ministry. Our weakness does not exempt us from participation in the Kingdom. In fact, according to Jesus, it is our weakness, our poverty, our humility, our sorrow, and our humanity that qualifies us as blessed members of the Kingdom of God. (See Matthew 5:3-12)

This, my friends, is Good News. Do you see the heart of Jesus here? Do you see how he goes out of his way to find this woman? He loves her. He spends time with her. He speaks to her and treats her with respect and dignity, even as he points out her personal failures regarding relationships with men. She is never offended by Jesus. She is never insulted. Intuitively she knows that Jesus takes her seriously and is showing real interest in her as a person.

In fact, Jesus is never seen treating people in culturally acceptable ways. Instead, he goes entirely against the prevailing cultural norms and treats people, lepers, sinners, even women, with uncommon respect, tenderness and love.

As we look closer at how Jesus interacted with this woman, I think we could all learn a lot by following his example of extravagant love. Just imagine what incredible impact we could have on people around us if we simply valued them as people, treated them with respect and took a genuine interest in their lives?

We are so quick to look for fault in others, to disqualify them from the free gift of Grace, and yet our Lord Jesus looked past the mountain of sin and the cultural prejudices of the day to see this woman for who she was. He spoke to her as an equal, not as someone who was beneath him. He looked into her eyes long enough to remember what color they were. He talked with her about the Law, even though women in that age were not allowed to be taught the Law. He listened. He took her seriously. He did not condemn her for her failures in life.

Yes, Jesus did confront this woman with her sin, but he did so in a way that did not offend her. He spoke to her as someone who was genuinely concerned for her well-being and expressed the truth without attaching judgment.

I’ve heard it said that listening to someone is so much like loving them that most people can’t tell the difference. When was the last time we listened to someone else as an act of compassion?

We should learn how to practice this sort of evangelism, because it was so successful that it impacted not only this one single person but an entire village.

If Jesus could seek out a woman and see in her an evangelist; If Jesus could have a conversation with an adulteress and treat her as a person worthy of his love; If Jesus could endure the humiliation of being seen with an outcast in order to set her free from her past failures; Then there’s hope for you and I, isn’t there?

Jesus still seeks out those who are sinners so that he can set them free. Jesus still searches for failures so he can transform them by His love. Jesus still values those who the rest of us have dismissed as worthless.

There is still hope for you. Whatever you’ve been through. Whatever your failures. Whatever your challenge. God has a place for you in His Kingdom. You are valuable. You matter. You are worth more than you know.

God longs to invite you into the ongoing story of His Kingdom here on Earth. If the woman at the well had a purpose and a value in this Kingdom, then certainly you and I do as well.

-Keith Giles
**
3(from “Man as Male and Female” by Paul K. Jewett, 1975)
**
NOTE: Taken from my book-in-progress, "The Power of Weakness"

Monday, July 20, 2009

JESUS: The Prince of Peace (3 of 4)

HOW RELEVANT IS CHURCH HISTORY?
The behavior of the first and second century church is relevant because it shows us how the early Christians consistently carried out the practice of radical love and non-violent resistance to persecution and evil in their day. The practice of loving, non-violent behavior originated with Christ and continued under the Apostles. It endured for over 200 years as a defining mark of Christian faith and practice.

Non-violence wasn't an "error" that showed up after the new testament was written. It was not a new teaching that was introduced after the Apostolic Age. No, it was simply a continuation of practice from the founder of the movement. One of the premier characteristics of the church, which was founded on the teaching and example of Jesus, was love. And that love was expressed in humility and peaceful interaction with all men.

Jesus is our blueprint for life in the Kingdom of God. The early Christians understood this. They knew that they were held to a higher standard of love than anyone else on the planet. When Stephen is stoned to death for his faith in Christ, he doesn’t defend himself or retaliate, or even run away. Instead he stands his ground and forgives his killers, even as Jesus did, before giving up his life for Christ.

The New Testament is full of references, both from Jesus and from the Apostles, regarding the expectation of non-violence in response to persecution. Furthermore, we also know that hundreds of followers of Jesus also went to their deaths for their faith and they did not raise a hand in self-defense. They either ran away or they submitted to torture, crucifixion and death. Why? Because of the example of Jesus and out of obedience to His command to love our enemies and endure hardship and persecution.

For anyone serious about following Jesus and learning to be His disciple, non-violence is a critical element of obedience. Jesus set us an example and he expects us to follow it.

The Christian practice of radical non-violence flowed from the example of Jesus and his commands to his disciples regarding love for our enemies. This example and teaching was carried forward by the Apostles and it was further embodied by the early church for over 200 years.

As Shane Claiborne once remarked when asked if he was a Christian: “Go and ask my enemies, or the poor, or my neighbor and if they say I am a Christian then I suppose I’m a Christian.”

Could our enemies affirm that we are followers of Christ? Would the poor in your community testify to your faith in Jesus? Would your neighbors on your street, or your co-workers bear witness to your Christ-like attitude?

What we do matters. How we live is critical. We are the Ambassadors of the Risen Lord. We are the Body of Christ, Incarnate on this Earth.

Let love be our tattoo.

Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Downsizing Jesus

Strangely enough, following Jesus will get you in trouble with those same people who claim to be Christians.

Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:44)

Christians say "Torture is ok and Jesus would approve of it."

Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

Christians say, "God wants you to be rich and wealth is a sign of God's favor."

If someone wanted to actually put the words of Jesus into practice (as Jesus fully expected his followers to do), that person would quickly become an outcast in today's Christian community.

For example: Jesus commanded us to love one another. He commanded us to pray for those who persecute us. The New Testament tells us to submit to "every authority instituted among men" (1 Peter 2:13-14). But try posting "I love Obama" on your Facebook page as a Christian and just wait for the firestorm to come down on your head.

"What?! How can you love that baby-killing loser?"

Nevermind the fact that Christians are called to love everyone --even baby-killing pseudo-muslim commander's in chief.

Nevermind that the New Testament calls us to submit to our rulers and pray for those who persecute us.

At some point, every Christian, (myself included) takes a detour off the narrow path and settles for less than Jesus and His Gospel.

"Turn the other cheek? I guess so, but that doesn't work for nation-building."

"Love my enemies? But what about the man who raped my sister?"

"Wash the feet of my employees and serve the one's who call me the boss? You've gotta be kidding, right?"

"Give to anyone who asks of me? But that guy still hasn't returned my lawnmower."

"If anyone wants to sue me I'm supposed to give them more than they ask for? Are you kidding me?"

How far are we willing to follow Jesus?

How much are willing to trust that Jesus is right and that His teachings are true?

At what point will we stop in our tracks and say, "Jesus, I love you but I cannot take your teachings that far"?

When I look at the early church I am amazed at how they remained committed to Jesus and to His teachings of servant hood, love for others, radical compassion for the poor and non-violence.

It's amazing to me that for over 300 years they continued to hold fast to the example of Jesus who forgave his executioners and prayed for his torturers and went like a lamb to the slaughter.

Even when it appeared that it wasn't working, they never gave up on Jesus or His teachings. Even as their property was confiscated they held on tight to the teachings of Jesus. Even when they were thrown to the flames or put to death in the lion's den, they never shrank back from the values of the Kingdom or the Gospel of Christ.

At least, that is, until it appeared that they had won the victory. Once Constantine declared himself to be a Christian and offered them a chance to trade their suffering for leisure and their outcast status for popularity, they blinked. They settled for the best the Empire could give them and they let go of the radical doctrine of Jesus.

Today we who call ourselves "Christians" are still unable to let go of our status. We're still unwilling to lay down our considerable resources to embrace the simple teaching of Jesus.

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."- 1 John 2:6

The Christians in Acts shared all things.
The Christians in Acts sold their possessions and gave it to the poor.
The Christians in Acts took their land and their property and liquidated them so that others could be fed and clothed.
Their hope was in Jesus alone. Their trust was in the truth of His teachings.

We will not let go of our tax exemption status.
We will not sell our property.
We will not give our offering to the poor.
We will not share our blessings freely with other believers.
We will not lay aside our political gains.
Our hope is in ourselves. Our trust is in American Democracy and the power of our vote.

We have become the polar opposite of the Church in Acts. We have become a church that seeks material gain for itself rather than selling it to share with the poor, the outcast, the outsiders.

Even though following Jesus is a lost art. Even though putting his words into practice may get you into trouble. Even though others may criticize you and persecute you for attempting such a thing, I encourage you to follow Jesus today, and every day.

"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. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
- Jesus, Matthew 7:21-27

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

FOLLOWING THE PRINCE OF PEACE

Over the last few days I have been thinking a lot about how following Jesus affects our actual lives. Specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it really means to love our enemies, and turn the other cheek, and overcome evil with good. If I take the words of Jesus seriously, they have strong implications for me when it comes to war, and violence, and torture.

Last week an article was published that revealed a disappointing trend for church-going Christians to support the torture of our enemies. This lead me to respond here on this blog and a dialog was started in the comments section that continues to challenge my ideas of sincere discipleship to Christ and how it collides with my ingrained sense of patriotic pride.

You see, I am a good Republican Christian. Or, at least, I was raised as one in my Southern Baptist church back in Texas. These radical ideas of actually following Jesus and putting his words and teachings into practice are only just now beginning to churn within my heart and mind. I hear myself saying things I never thought I would say, and part of me bristles with the sound of my own voice and the inflection of these anti-military, pro-peace concepts.

Beyond my own internal struggles with these radical ideas of peace and love for enemies, I have an additional challenge to wrestle with. My father-in-law spent most of his life in the military and civil service. Several of my dearest friends are either in the military now or have served overseas in the Gulf War. I do not speak of these things lightly or without full realization that my words here may have emotional consequences. Let me apologize in advance to those friends of mine who are confused by what I’m suggesting here. My intention is not to offend or to insult you or anyone else in the military. But, when I honestly ask these questions and investigate these issues, I am troubled by what I see and hear and learn.

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." – John 18:36

What does it mean to be part of the Kingdom of God? What is the true cost of following Jesus?

Am I willing to follow Him even if it means giving up my identity as a good American citizen?

What do I do when the Gospel and the Constitution collide? Where do my allegiances lie?

How do you obey Jesus in the command to love your enemy and still take up a weapon and kill him with it?

How do you obey Jesus in the command to turn the other cheek and drop bombs on his children?

How do you obey Jesus in the command to pray for those who persecute you and forgive those who hate you and fire rockets into their cities?

For anyone serious about following Jesus you have to start, as you might have guessed, with Jesus. What did Jesus teach? How did Jesus model our practice of faith? How did those first Christians walk out the things that Jesus taught them? We can look at how they walked and lived and practiced following Jesus for a clue as to how we (you and I) should also follow Jesus.

Those early Christians (for over 300 years) were put to the sword, thrown to the lions, had property confiscated, were imprisoned, burned alive, etc. and not one single Christian (not one in all of our recorded history, whether pagan or Christian in origin) - not one of them took up a sword in self-defense. Not one of them killed to protect their property. Not one of them killed to save themselves from being imprisoned or tortured or burned or eaten alive.

Is this compatible with the American Dream? Does this behavior have any correlation with the founders of American independence? Hardly. Although we’re always told that our founding fathers were focused on creating a nation where religious freedom was paramount, it seems incongruous for a follower of Jesus to fight for his right to love his enemies peacefully.

How did we get to this point? After about 300 years of enduring oppression and persecution, Emperor Constantine not only lifted the boot from the necks of Christians, he put their leaders on the payroll of the Empire, handed them ornate marble temples to worship in and elevated their pastors to high positions within the political arena.

What’s more, Constantine was allowed to re-define for the entire Church what it meant to be a Christian. Before this, a follower of Jesus was defined as someone who put the words and teachings of Jesus into practice every day of their life. After Constantine’s influence, the definition of "Christian" was changed to: "Someone who believes a set of doctrines". This definition still dominates our imaginations today, in fact. And I believe it’s why Christians today can claim to be “followers of Jesus” without actually, you know, “following” Him.

The effect on the Christian community of Constantine’s day was devastating. Within just one generation we have those same peaceful, formerly-oppressed Christians taking up the sword to go and put to death and oppress and persecute another group of people who disagree with their religion. The oppressed become the oppressors. Those under the sword now take up the sword and fight for the very Empire that once put them to death.

This same paradigm shift is what allows Christians in America to support torture, and to cheer military victory, and to participate in the killing with little or no reservations about how any of this might be anti-Christian behavior.

I have to ask, can you honestly picture Jesus allowing or endorsing or supporting torture? Really? Can you honestly picture Jesus blessing his disciples to go out and kill people? Seriously?

I can't. I'm sorry.

As Lew Rockwell, author of “Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State” asks:

“Can a Christian smash someone against a wall in the name of the Lord Jesus? Can a Christian heartily lock someone in a dark box for hours at a time? Can a Christian deprive someone of sleep to the glory of God? Can a Christian give thanks to God while he hangs someone from the ceiling?

Sure he can, but not without violating the whole tenor of the New Testament.

Christians are told to put off anger, wrath, and malice (Colossians 3:8), to not render evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15), to not give offense (1 Corinthians 10:30), to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to not be a brawler (Titus 3:2), and to abhor that which is evil (Romans 12:9). I think this rules out waterboarding.”


I must agree.

If we are serving a king and a kingdom from this world, then let us take up arms against our oppressors and kill every last one of them. However, if our king and our kingdom is not of this world, then let us not fight. Instead let us obey our King and love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hate us.

Let us live a life where practicing our faith and actually following Jesus with our everyday life defines our Christianity, no matter what.

**
Keith Giles

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AMAZING LOVE (not me)

My dear friend Lolita is a gift from God. She has a rapport with Jesus that I envy.

This week she sent me an email that I wanted to share with all of you.

Trust me, I know this woman very well. This is not a fake. This is as real as it gets.

-kg
**
Hi you all,

Our dear Lord was glorious in His love and care to rescue a family in need yesterday and I want to share this with you for a few reasons. First, so that you will keep this family and us in prayer in what else He would like to do in His bringing us together, if anything. Second, to thank you all for keeping Freedom Ministries in prayer and to bring you a praise report of : He is answering your prayers!! Third, this story is an absolute lovely testimony of His Love, Intimate Care, and of His Divine Provision on earth.

Yesterday morning, I was in Wildomar visiting with friends and was so blessed as we spent time together over lunch after church. As I was leaving I made the decision to drop an item off to a friend in Corona which would require me to take the 15 Freeway. As I embarked the freeway ramp, the Lord prompted me to not go this way and instead to go to the next freeway down the road which is the 215 Freeway. I knew we (He and I) were going on a mission, that He wanted to touch someone. So, I continued down the road to the 215 Freeway.

As I was driving down the highway coming around a bend the Lord illuminated a car on the side of the road with the hood up. And He said, “Yes, this is who I want to touch.” I was unable to stop because of the bend and the speed of the freeway traffic and as I drove by them I saw a young woman holding a very young child in her arms next to the car…… It was close to 100 degrees, there was no shade, and as I saw this woman’s distress I heard the Lord say, “I want to rescue them.” So, I went up to the next off ramp a few miles down the road and exited to turn around on the freeway to their location. As this took time because the off ramps were several miles down the road on both sides of the freeway our dear Lord began to reveal His passion for this family and His desire for them to know His Intimacy, His Gentle Touch, and His Intimate Provision.

When I arrived I introduced myself and I asked the man if they would like to sit in my air-conditioned car until the towing company arrived. He went over to his wife. They talked a bit and he came back stating that they would very much like to do this, that they were very concerned for their little girl in the heat. She is one and half years old.

The mom and I got to know each other a bit as her husband was outside on the phone. He finally joined us in the car as they realized that they had given Triple A the wrong freeway location. We waited for about an hour before Triple A arrived which allowed us to get to know one another which I will share a bit about their lives so you can pray for them. And our Lord touched my car as we sat there with the engine running for the entire hour with the air-conditioning blowing full blast. My car temperature never rose above normal!

Additionally, our Lord asked me the night before to fill my gas tank to full capacity. I would have run out of gas out there if He had not filled the tank the night before! Isn’t He amazing, in His orchestrating each detail necessary to accomplish His purposes for His Provision in His Love and Care. He is so amazing and faithful!

During our conversation, the Lord asked me to share with them how I began to get on the 15 Freeway when He asked me to redirect to the 215 Freeway and He began to give me words for their hearts. He wanted them to know that He had heard their distress and cries for help and that He saw them and their need and He wanted to bring His Help. That He heard her, saw her, and heard her concern for her child’s distress and He was moved by His compassion for her and was adamant to bring His rescue. She began to weep in our Lord’s touching her heart deeply. She was very moved by Him and by His Touch as He was revealing His Intimate Heart for her through His words.

When the tow truck driver came we went out to meet him and it was discovered that the closest service dealership that could handle the car repair needed would be about 40 miles away and they only had basic towing coverage for seven miles. I had Triple A Plus (I thought, anyway) and stated that they could use my card.

The tow truck driver, Jason, was very touched by this and touched by Mike's account of the shelter a complete stranger gave them in an air-conditioned car. Jason just kept shaking his head in what he saw happening for this stranded family. I said to Jason that we are brother and sisters in the Lord. Jason was so overwhelmed by this, continuing to shake his head. The Lord was all over him and the Lord revealed His heart that His intention was to touch this man’s heart too this day.

Jason called his supervisor telling him this story and the supervisor was moved to authorize the use of my card to tow the extra distance which is normally denied. This couple and their little one rode with me as we followed Jason to a convenience store so Jason could get a cold drink because of the heat and as we were waiting for him he received a call that my Triple A account no longer had the plus coverage. I stated that Freedom Ministries (Lo's ministry) would pay for the towing fees as I knew that Mike and Kristy were in financial distress due to his being laid off and her hours being cut back at a private home schooling company. They are both teachers.

Jason was so taken back by this when I handed him the ministry bank card, shaking his head in amazement, saying this is unbelievable. I said this is Jesus taking care of God’s children. And then I said you must be Christian. He said he was not Christian, and I heard the Lord say to my heart that He loves him. So, I said to Jason, really the Lord is all over you and you seem to know who He is. Jason’s eyes grew large in awe of what he just heard and he looked at me and the Lord said to tell him He loved him, which I told Jason, the Lord loves you.

Jason shook his head saying that he had been saved a few years ago and guesses he was a Christian but he had fallen away into sin and that he did not want to be a hypocrite and say he was a Christian when he was not following Jesus. The Lord said to tell him again that He loved him and Jason bowed his head and began to weep shaking his head. Then he turned around to get in the tow truck.

As we followed Jason to the service dealership we (me and the family) continued to get to know each other. As Jason was unloading their car and Mike was in the dealership taking care of business the Lord told me that He wanted to touch Jason in prayer. During the prayer time our Lord touched this man’s heart in His mercy, grace, encouragement in how our Lord saw Jason’s heart in His love of him and in His invitation for Jason to receive His love and care.

I then drove Mike and Kristy to their home and we continued to get to know one another. Mike was laid off last year. Kristy hours were cut back and they are struggling financially. They say they are Christian but the Lord revealed to my heart that He desires to reveal more of His Intimacy to their hearts and that He desires for them to know more of His Love, very personal. Please pray for this. They occasionally attend a Christian church in Redlands. I understand in our conversation that this is probably the extent of their relationship/fellowship with our Lord.

Please pray for what the Lord desires to do next with us. We live 15 minutes down the freeway from each other, they are very close geographically! Isn’t this amazing, we meet as complete strangers on the freeway forty minutes away from our homes and we come to find out that we live 15 minutes away from each other, is that the Lord or what?!!

Kristy gave me her business card and I told her that I would be in touch Tuesday to find out what the repairs were going to cost and our ministry would help financially in any way we could. I also extended the invitation for help for anything else they might need and extended an invitation to get together if they would like to hang out a bit more.

She also asked if I knew of any home schooling families which needed support with their curriculum to please let them know about her expertise and her company. I said that I would put the word out that she is looking for more contracts as an education specialist. So, if any of you know any families that need this kind of support, please contact me and I will get you her contact information.

Both their biological families moved out of state over the last couple of years so they have no family in this area and from the conversation I gathered they do not have much friendship in this area either as they moved out to Yucaipa a couple of years ago.

Please pray for Jason (tow truck driver) too. I believe our Lord desires for me to contact him in a few weeks to see how he is doing.

Thanks for praying. And thank you Lord, for your precious love and never ending faithfulness!

Love, Lo
**

Thursday, March 19, 2009

THIS SUNDAY: LOVE IN ACTION

This Sunday morning, from 9:30am to 12pm, our house church will join with a sister house church in Yorba Linda to help 66 year old Sandy Maitlen of Yorba Linda.

We'll repair, clean, paint, and make her home beautiful again.

This is what "being the Church" and putting our faith into practice is all about.

As one brother in Christ told me once, "Jesus Is A Verb" and our love should be demonstrated, not merely spoken.

Can't wait!
kg
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"Little Children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."
- 1 John 3.18.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FAITH IN ACTION - SATURDAY, MARCH 21

*I received the email below from my dear friends Noel and Julie Cruz. They are leading a new house church fellowship in Yorba Linda, California and have started helping a dear old woman on their street. Read the email below and if you're in the area and want to lend a hand, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend.
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[Here's the email I received from the Cruz' family today]--

We need as many able bodies as possible to help the Extreme Makeover that we are doing for a lady down street from us.

Our home group has a senior friend who attends our group and who’s house was in a complete disrepair. Our home group has come together and has begun the work 4 weeks ago and during the first weekend of our work we removed 7 tons (yes tons) of debris and took it to the dump! We have done some of the hardest work there is to do on the house, but much more remains to be done.

Sandy told us that not long ago she was pray/crying to God and reminded him what His word says about being her husband…. She said "So, God, if that's the case then here is my Honey-do list. I just cant get any of this done myself!" and voila! Here we are.

We still have several projects that are priority to do. Our Part II is painting the house. We are working on a all volunteer basis so the more bodies we have the better.

On March 20, 21, 22 we will be scraping, sanding, filling, and painting. Most of the grunt work will be on Friday and that is where we hope to get a large contingency of strong people blowing through this. We can use people all three days but we want to be sure that the house is ready to paint on Sunday. The paint has all been donated and we will each bring our own tools, ie orbital sanders, sand paper, putty knife, roller, gloves, paint brushes etc.

If you are available or know someone who is, please respond to this email (cruzthiz@sbcglobal.net) and I will count you in. Let me know which day(s) you can be here.

I have included the link to the blog that was published on the OCRegister.com site and a couple pictures of Sandy/project -
HERE

Thanks to all of you who can give any time at all for this project! I guarantee you will be blessed! You’ll never get back the time that you give but aint that what God’s economy is all about?

God is blessing this woman more than anyone could ever imagine.

Hugs,

Noel and Julie Cruz
Email: cruzthiz@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Love, Less Politics

American Christians will always be frustrated by a desire to see our laws correspond with the Bible. The truth is, it never will. Why? Because our laws are built around a document called the Constitution, not the scriptures.

So, for example, if our courts have to determine whether or not it is legal to enforce a law that gives one set of rights to some people and a different set of rights to others, they will look at the Constitution and see that everyone is considered equal under the law and rule against that law.

Under the law of our land people have the right to enter into marriage with one another. Any law that gives this right to some people and takes it away for others will be considered unconstitutional.

Christians will always want those laws to be interpreted primarily by the Bible and secondarily by the Constitution, but since these two documents have different authors, and different purposes, they will not agree on most issues, including homosexual marriage.

When our nation was founded and our Constitution was written, they did not feel any need to write down laws which reinforced the morality and the common practice of society around them. It was a given. Therefore they wrote laws which, in tandem with their existing morality and observable societal norms, combined to create a harmonious nation of free people.

What has changed? Our Constitution is fundamentally the same, but the morality and practice of our society has changed. The laws we write cannot hope to touch our inner person. Laws do not change hearts.

If you hope to write and create laws to govern society you look to politicians and lawyers and presidents. However, if you hope to influence behaviors and change the heart of a person you look to clerics, priests, teachers and parents.

Our society has failed to live up to the ideals of our past because our churches have failed to pass on the morality and the practice of hospitality and brotherly love. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have not been known for our love. Our laws have stayed the same, but our Churches have gotten off track and lost focus.

American Christians have become so disillusioned with the world around them, and yet they have no one to blame but themselves. For the last several decades the Church in America has been embracing a mentality of retreat. We have created a neat and comfortable little version of the world with a cross on top where our interaction with "those unbelievers out there" is minimized as much as possible.

Because we have refused to be salt and light as Jesus commanded us, the society around us has slowly become more and more "un-Christian" and really, what else should we expect it to become like? If we have reduced our interactions with others, focused all of our time and energy on ourselves, built larger and more expensive buildings to hide in, and invested millions of dollars building empires of entertainment, fashion and communication to occupy our time and tell us what we want to hear, how else should our world have developed in our absence?

In our frustration we have now turned to politics to create the change we have failed to create by avoiding contact with unbelievers. Now we hope to dominate these people politically and have our way, regardless of whether or not they agree.

In some ways, I wonder if it's too late for any of this. Too late for us to get back to our original calling to love and serve and live out the selfless beauty of the Gospel. Too late to attempt any sort of dialog with people we have avoided for so very long. Too late to be the Church that Jesus intended for us to be.

The solution to the problems facing American society is not found in changing our laws, and even if it were that would be a job for a lawyer or a politician, not a follower of Jesus.

Our only job is to love and to serve and to model a society where all people are equally important in the eyes of God.

Let's do our best to obey our Lord and Savior when he commands us to be known for our love.

If it's not too late....


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