Thursday, May 27, 2010


"...For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." - (Philippians 4:11-13)

I think for most of my life I have confused contentment with complacency. The differences are obvious, of course, but somehow I've missed the point of what Paul speaks of in Phillipians 4 when he says that he has "learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."

A quick summary of complacency is - "Stop caring and you'll feel a whole lot better."

Most of my life I've found myself falling back on this mantra whenever things don't go my way or life offers up one of those unwanted surprises. My reaction has often been to pull back from whatever is causing me pain and to retreat emotionally, if not physically. Someone hurts me, I ignore them. Someone insults me, I make up my mind never to talk to them again. Someone injures my pride, I begin to cut them off from the part of myself that once cared about them.

Of course, this reaction is in direct conflict with the instructions that we've received from Jesus. He tells those of us who intend to follow Him that whenever someone insults us we should bless them. When someone hurts us, we're to pray for them. When someone injures our pride, we're meant to humble ourselves and forgive them anyway.

This is where following Jesus becomes more than difficult, it begins to be seem flat out impossible. I just don't have that in me. At least not right away. I may be able to forgive someone who insults me after a few weeks, or months, but not instantly. My ability to forgive is hindered by my need to justify myself. Sometimes, as strange as it sounds, I feel the need to hang on to the pain longer than necessary. I suppose to justify my own sense of injustice or to make sure that the other person can see just how deeply they've hurt me - and perhaps increase their sense of guilt over what they've done to someone as innocent and kind as me - I allow my wounds to fester and I withold forgiveness.

What would it look like for me to really respond in love to someone when they insult me or injure me? I wonder if I can actually learn to follow Jesus in this way and turn the other cheek instead of harboring anger and resentment as long as possible before I allow myself to forgive.

When Paul talks about contentment, he's speaking of trusting God so completely that nothing can shake him. His peace is not dependent upon his circumstance. His confidence in God is not changed by the environment he's in. He is fully resting on God and his joy is not influenced by what people say about him or how much money is in his pocket.

Many of us are fond of quoting the very end of this passage in Phillipians. I know that when I was a teenager this was my life verse: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:13)

I used to believe that verse meant that, whatever I wanted to happen for my life, God would make it happen if I just had enough faith. Instead, the verse is saying the exact polar opposite. It's saying that God will give me the faith and the strength I need to be happy and content with whatever circumstance I find myself in.

A better paraphrase might me: "I can endure anything life throws at me, even if I never get my way or live out my dreams, because the power of Jesus lives in me and all of my hope is in Him alone."

Lately I've been wrestling against my own complacent attitudes. I've wanted to pull away from everyone and everything that causes me pain. I've witheld forgiveness from people who've hurt my feelings instead of letting go and asking Jesus to give me the grace to love and forgive.

Paul's words here are compelling because they suggest to me that there is a secret I need to learn; How to be content in every situation. But, to learn that secret I first have to abandon my own philosophy of complacency and emotional retreat.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gospel Seeds

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of the sower to illustrate one of the principles of His Kingdom to His disciples.

Jesus begins by sharing a metaphor that everyone in his hearing would have easily identified with; a man planting seeds in the ground.

In this agrarian society, the people would have had no trouble picturing this person who went out to plant seeds in his garden. Obviously, someone does this in order to grow something for themselves. The sower is hoping to plant seeds into good soil and reap a harvest of blessings out of their labor in return. Depending upon the seed planted, and the type of soil that the seed is planted in, the sower can reasonably expect to enjoy his wheat, fruit, vegatables, or flowers in a matter of months, as long as he nurtures and cares for this plant as it grows.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus offers several possible outcomes for the seed, depending on the type of soil it falls upon. In fact, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, he fully explains this parable to them, although he seems surprised that they don't immediately understand everything he is telling them. Out of all the parables told by Jesus in the New Testament, this one stands alone because it is the only one he took the time to spell out to his disciples.

My friend, Brent, has an interesting take on this parable. He pointed out we are the soil, and that the seed is Jesus. It's simple, but I believe it fully captures the essence of what Jesus wanted his followers to understand about life in the Kingdom.

Jesus is the seed. Without Jesus, we have no life. We're just soil. There is no life in us, unless the seed is planted and begins to grow. If we are "good soil", then the life of Jesus grows inside of us. It begins to grow stronger. It becomes nourished by the water of the Spirit. It becomes fed by the bread of life. It takes root, deep down in our hearts and it begins to push out the topsoil of our lives.

We already understand all the metaphors embedded in this picture:

Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. Without him we can do absolutely nothing. (John 15:5)

If we have Jesus, we have life in us. If we do not have Jesus, we do not have life. (1 John 5:12)

In fact, we have died to our sins and our life is hidden with Christ. (Colossians 3:1-3)

If the life of Jesus is growing inside of us, then it will eventually bear good fruit for everyone to see, and give Glory to God. (Matthew 7:17)

As I reflect on this today, I am fascinated by the simplicity of the illustration, and the power of what it implies.

Over the last few months I have become more and more aware of my own weakness. I've been focused on myself and not on the life of Jesus which was planted inside of me long ago. Suddenly, I can see areas of my life where I need to water this plant, and nourish this growth. My eyes are opened to the places where I need to prune, and to provide more light, and water more often, so that this life of Jesus in me can take deeper root and flourish.

In my mind's eye I get a picture of myself walking around with a large stalk of corn jutting out of my chest. It's plainly obvious to everyone that something has been growing within me and it's now reaching upward to the sky with leaves starving for light and thirsty for rain from above.

No one can deny this strange new thing sticking out of me. It's alive. It's almost embarrasing. People whisper, "How did it get there?", "What happened to him?" and they scratch their heads in wonder.

This seed was planted in me a long time ago. Longer ago than I care to mention. There have been seasons of growth, seasons of drought, and seasons where the Gardner has come in to cut back the excess. But the fact is, there is something growing inside of me. It's alive, but it's not my life. It's the life of Jesus grafted into mine by the miracle of God.

I can't wait until harvest time.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." - John 12:24-36


Monday, May 24, 2010


A few months ago I had a few friends over to my house to talk about poverty in Orange County, and to learn more about how God has called us to love the poor and serve others. One of my friends, Tommy Nixon, was with us that day. He and his family have become incarnational missionaries to a community in Fullerton. As Tommy began to share how he and his family were walking out their faith in their community he said something that helped me grasp more of life in the Kingom.

Tommy talked about how his home-based church had identified four key values which they practiced daily. The first two were familiar, but the second two were what intrigued me. These values, which drive their daily practice of faith together, involve examining every situation, and their own lives, to ask, "How can I use this experience to love God, and to love others?"

What Tommy said next has lingered in my mind every since. He said that he and his church family have also started to look at every situation to find ways that they can receive love from God and to receive love from others.

I think, maybe, this second statement captured my imagine because I'm not always sure how to receive love from others.

Learning to Be Loved
One Sunday morning our house church family had a similar conversation. We had been on a very long journey to explore "concentric circles of love" in our Body. Our hope was to identify our need start obeying the command of Jesus to love by beginning close to home. We start with our own family, then outward to our friends, then to our neighbors, then to our co-workers, and then finally outward to the community and the stranger in need.

So, on this particular morning we found ourselves going around the room and asking each other, "How can I show you that I love you?"

Most of us had a hard time answering that question. Others flat out refused to discuss the subject at all. It was a sensitive topic for some of us, and it touched on a nerve that made it clear that we're not very comfortable allowing people to love us deeply.

Over time I've become convinced that Trust is one of the most essential elements in our relationship with God. To "believe in" Jesus is to trust in Him. Faith is about taking your entire life and pushing all of your chips into the middle - to go all in so to speak - and to trust God with everything.

But what can we do if, at a basic level, many of us - myself included - have a hard time trusting our hearts to others? How can we love others as we love ourselves if, deep inside, we really don't love ourselves very much at all?

Maybe this fear we have of being loved is connected to our struggle with trusting God too? At the core, we had to admit that our "truster" was broken - or at least in need of an overhaul.

I think sometimes this concept of completing the circle is what holds me back. I tend to focus so much on loving God and loving others that I forget I need to soak up some of His love in order to splash it around on the people we're serving. If my sponge is dry, how can I refresh someone else?

So, we're still on this journey to discover how to love in these concentric circles. I know that I am only just beginning to learn how to allow God to love me, and to allow others to love me, as I follow Jesus daily.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

REVIEW: A Church Building Every Half Mile by Jon Zens

Jon Zens is a gift to the modern Church. Much like A.W.Tozer a generation ago, Zens writes thought-provoking and intelligent books to stir the Body of Christ and awaken Her from slumber.

In "A Church Building Every Half Mile", Zens employs practical, down-to-earth New Testament scholarship to examine the modern day Church in light of Biblical ecclesiology. He lingers especially on the plight of the modern pastor in this book, bringing a sympathetic voice to the discussion rather than an accusatory tone. If anything, the reader comes away with a genuine sense of Zens's sincere concern for the mental, emotional and spiritual health of the clergy. One does not in any way read condemnation into his observations, rather, Zens makes it clear that those hurt most by the Pastor-centric model of Church are the pastors themselves.

This spare, yet potent book also takes a good, honest look at how our traditions, (which are not found in the New Testament), are so hotly defended while the elements of God's ecclesia (which are found in the New Testament) are summarily dismissed by the modern Church as being "descriptive not prescriptive".

What Zens does here is provide an elegant, common sense apologetic for the New Testament model of ecclesia, in a clear and informed study of scripture. This book holds up a mirror to the Bride of Christ, and even though she may not like what she sees, it's very important for Her to take a good, hard look and answer questions of form, function, fruit and open fellowship in light of the commands of Jesus and the example of the New Testament church founded by Christ and promoted by His Apostles.

I cannot recommend this book enough for those who are seeking to learn more about the simple, organic form of New Testament ecclesia.

More than simply asking, "What's wrong with the Church?", Jon Zens asks us to consider what it might look like to put things right again.

"A Church Every Half Mile" by Jon Zens is available online at or at


FULL DISCLOSURE: Jon Zens sent me the review copy of this book at no charge and without any stated or implied expectation of receiving a positive review in exchange. I receive no monetary return on the sale of Jon's books or materials and I have received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this review. These are my own opinions and convictions, independent of my interaction with the author.
-Keith Giles

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Answering Questions about Our House Church Family

Someone asked me some questions today about our house church and since I've already taken the time to write up these answers I thought I'd share them here on my blog, too.

If you have any questions that aren't answered here, feel free to add your own.

Do you have a leadership team? Elder/Deacon board, or what?

No, nothing formal. However, we DO have people who function as elders and overseers/facilitators, we just don't call them that or recognize these officially.

Why? Partly because we don't want to create any artificial offices and create the impression that only a select few of us are authorized to serve in the Body. Everyone can serve without reservation or hesitation as God leads them.

What authority do you have over your church?

None, really. I mean, I suppose I do have influence, but not authority. In other words, I wouldn't tell everyone "this is what we're doing now" but I might make some suggestions and ask people to weigh in on the subject so we can decide what to do.

This has changed since our first years together, however. At first, I really did mostly tell people what we were going to do. Now I try to ask the Body to make decisions.

Who makes the decisions?

We, the people, make most decisions together. On some issues people have requested that Wendy and I handle some things because they trust our judgement when it comes to working with the poor, etc. However, we try to involve them whenever possible.

For example: We recently went to the Body on a Sunday morning to ask whether we should use collected funds to help someone that we knew personally but not everyone in our Body knew them.

As we discussed the situation, we made sure that everyone knew that we were open to helping this person out of our own personal money and allow Mission funds to be designated for other things.

We all talked openly, people asked questions about the situation and the consensus among the Body was that we should go ahead and use our Mission funds to help this person out.

I WOULD ADD: We are striving to allow the Body to make decisions collectively rather than assign a few among us to decide for everyone else. So far this is has been wonderful and people appreciate being part of the process.

How do you handle church discipline?'s the real test of "leadership" in the Body, right? In the last 4 years we've had to employ church discipline about five times. In some cases Wendy and I handled this ourselves privately, but in most cases we involved others in our Body whom we felt could speak wisdom and truth to the person/persons who required the discipline. In other words, who would they most likely accept/receive loving advice and correction from? This is always based on relationship.

I would also add that there have been a few other times when Wendy and I were not involved at all but one brother would ask another brother out to coffee to inquire about the spiritual health and well-being of someone and to offer loving counsel and correction.

Those times are sweet and I love hearing about them after the fact.

How are your roles defined?

My role? I've intentionally worked very hard over the last 4 years to graduate myself from founding pastor of the Mission to one of the many active and contributing members of the Body. I am now officially one of the brothers in the Mission Family.

How does your church handle finances, offering, tithes, etc.?

We're a cash only operation. We do not have a 501(c)3 and we do not have a church bank account. If people need to receive a tax break at the end of the year we encourage them to give their money somewhere else.

However, if people do give to our house church, we guarantee that 100% of every single penny given will go directly to help the poor in our community - and sometimes even others in our own church family who are in need.

We have complete transparency with all funds received and we give regular updates for how much is received, where it was spent and how it impacted people.

As people begin to see their offerings being used to help actual people in need, their desire to give increases and they become 'hilarious givers' to the work of compassion.

Why don't you have a non-profit status?

Several reasons. First, we don't need the state of california to tell us that we're an official church. God has lavished us with His love and we have been called the children of God. That's enough for us.

Second, since we do not use our funds to cover salaries, utilities, rent, etc. there is no benefit to us in receiving tax breaks. We do not operate as a business so there's no need to register ourselves, or run ourselves, like a business.

Who is your pastor?

Jesus is our pastor. It used to be me, but I finally realized that the only leader among us was Jesus and since it was His church anyway, it was time to surrender things back over to Him. He's done a much better job than I have, anyway.

Who is your spiritual covering?

Jesus is our spiritual covering. We do not require the authority of any person or denomination to make us an official Body of Christ. Jesus is what makes us a Church, and we are covered by His blood and filled with His Spirit.

The concept of Spiritual Covering is not a NT concept. Covering is not required, but accountability is. I am accountable to everyone in our Body, and they are accountable to one another and to me. We are also accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ for our behavior and our witness of Christ in the community.

Who does the preaching?

No one does. We do not have sermons, or a pulpit. We do spend a lot of time in the Scriptures together. Anyone who is present in the meeting has the authority to open God's Word, share an insight, give a testimony, or encourage the Body as God's Spirit leads. Our fellowship is blessed to have a great number of gifted teachers and once in a while one of them may bring us a study on a passage or a topic as God leads, but not every time, and not the same person every time.

Children, women, and men are all free to share from God's Word with the rest of the Body and all are free to comment, agree, disagree, or continue the conversation as God leads.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask below. I'd love to share what God is doing in our midst.


Monday, May 17, 2010


In the Kingdom of God, things are upside down from the world we were born into. Those who lay down their lives discover new life. The first are last. Those who humble themselves are exalted. The greatest is the servant of all. Those who die to themselves daily discover life eternal.

But what is actually "upside down" is this world, not the Kingdom of God. God's reality is the rightside up one. Ours is the one that needs to be corrected, not God's.

Having been born into this upside down reality on Planet Earth, I am constantly struggling to see things from the perspective of God's Kingdom. It's not an easy thing to do.

For years I have wrestled with my own prideful heart. Perhaps I never had a fair chance at this since I was an only child and my entire life I've been the center of my own universe. At any rate, the fact remains that, no matter how many times I die to myself, this heart of pride just will not stay dead.

I lay back on the cross. I drive the nails. I roll the stone over the door. But my sinful, selfish heart continually rises from the dead.

I die daily. But my heart of flesh daily lives and breathes.

After all these years I turn around to see how far I've come on this journey of faith and instead I see that I have barely left the gate. In fact, I wonder if I have moved forward at all because I seem to be in the exact same place I have always been.

My heart is deceitfully wicked. I cannot trust my own inner man. Even when I believe I am serving others and living for Jesus my flesh has the power to reach out and subtly turn the spotlight back on my own ego.

Like the Pharisee, I confess that I have done my works of righteousness before men to be seen by them and celebrated. Of course, most of this is done subconsciously, but when I take the time to examine my motives closely I have to admit, there is still a part of me that does things so that people will see it and take note.

Last week, the Lord Jesus, in His mercy, held up the mirror to my soul again. He allowed me the briefest glimpse at my own selfish heart and it crushed me.

To my own eyes it appears as a dark, cancerous ooze in my soul. I cannot look directly at it very long without feeling sick. Yet, as much as I hate to admit it, this is me. This is who I am without Jesus.

For a long time now, I have mistakenly considered this prideful, selfish behavior as being like a Pharisee. Yet, now I realize that this is actually just part of being a human being.

It's my humanity that makes me selfish, and sinful, and hopelessly pathetic, not my "Pharisee-ness" (whatever that might be).

So, today I am trying my best to take everything one step at a time. I realize, once again, what it really means to have a "constant conversion" and to put to death my own status quo (Conversatio Morem!).

One great thing about all of this is that it reminds me to depend upon Jesus for everything. To the degree that I am in touch with my humanity, my weakness, my failure, I can appreciate the wonder and the majesty of God's amazing love and grace.

He is the vine. I am one of the tiny branches. Without Him, I can do nothing. Nothing at all.

"And now I know the secret that only losers keep, and I wallow in the hopeful tears that every finder weeps."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wounds of Wisdom

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
- Psalm 119:71

When we find ourselves in times of distress, or trial, or uncertainty, we discover the importance of prayer. Our souls are overcome with desperation. We fall to our knees and we loose all sense of pride and self-reliance and we lay ourselves at the feet of the Master. We cry out to Him for mercy. We bargain with Him for relief. We re-evaluate our spiritual life and we vow to make corrections for the better - if only God would release us from our suffering and our affliction.

This is exactly where God wants us to be - humble, submissive, obedient, and listening intently, moment-by-moment, for His unmistakeable voice.

In my life I have known those seasons of pain. I have spent hours on my knees, my tear-stained face to the carpet, pleading with God to lift His heavy hand of affliction from off of my life.

In those moments of suffering, the only thing we want God to do is to take away the pain. Yet, I suspect that God's intention in those moments is to teach us to trust in Him and to seek His face. Because God knows that our greatest need isn't to have a more comfortable, pain-free life. Our greatest need is to learn to trust completely in Him alone.

At the end of the book of Job, he makes a marvelous declaration:

"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." - Job 42:5

After all of the intense suffering that Job endures, he has grown nearer to God. In spite of the fact that God never once appears to Job, he confesses that these experiences have allowed him to see God more clearly.

In the first chapter of James, we read:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4

James is not suggesting that we fake a smile as we endure hardships. Instead, he is asking us to take another look at our suffering and to gain perspective.

Why should we "consider it pure joy" whenever we "face trials of many kinds"? Because we understand that this "testing of (our) faith" is part of God's plan to help us grow. James says that this testing "develops perserverance" in us. What is perserverance? It's a quality of faith that will not let go of God, no matter what.

If we truly love God, and if we truly desire to grow in our faith, then we should rejoice when God allows us to develop a quality of faith that will prevent us from falling away or losing sight of Him.

Furthermore, this same perserverance works in us to make us "mature and complete, not lacking anything."

For those who can grasp this principle, it really is possible to "consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds".

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist David says:

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." (v 67)

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (v 71)

God works through our pain and our trials to teach us obedience and dependence upon Him and Him alone.

I can remember a time when God taught me to rely on Him for daily bread. I had been out of work for nearly a year. Our finances were very tight. One morning, my wife, Wendy poured the last of the milk into bowls of cereal for our young boys. She cracked the last egg and scrambled it for herself. She used the last paper towel to dry up a spill on the table. We had nothing in the bank. We were down to buying groceries with our credit card. In her heart she whispered a prayer for God's provision.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Our dear friend Karen was standing there with a care basket she had put together for us. In it were milk, eggs, paper towels and a box of Wheat Thins. Wendy began to laugh and cry at the same time. Just the night before I had been sitting on the couch watching television and I had casually mentioned that I hadn't eaten Wheat Thins in a long time. The message was clear: God was listening to us. He had not forgotten us. We were dear to Him and He was eager to supply our daily bread if we would only look to Him and wait.

If you're going through a season of pain right now, I want to encourage you. God loves you dearly. You are more precious to Him than life itself. He would rather die than be without you.

This suffering you're going through will not last forever. These seasons are temporary. They will last only as long as God intends for them to last, and then they will pass. It only seems as if the pain will last forever. But soon, when your heart has become fully surrendered to Him in whatever area requires the surrender, He will lift this burden. He will lift you up and bring you seasons of refreshing.

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:7-11

God may not remove the suffering from us, but He does promise to walk with us through the suffering and to use even these painful experiences to draw us even nearer to Himself.

Trust God in your hardships. Cling tightly to Him. Seek His face and lean into Him for comfort. He is in control of everything. That's the good news. The bad news is that this means you are not in control, and eventually that too will become good news to you.


Monday, May 10, 2010


"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." - (2 Cor 5:18-19)

On Saturday, God worked a miracle. A son who had not spoken to his father for over 7 years got in his car, drove to a senior care center, signed his name on the register, and sat down in a chair in room 316 to talk to his dad.

His dad was dying of bone cancer. The two of them last spoke outside an all-nite diner half a decade ago. The son had been driving a delivery truck and saw an old man at the bus stop who he thought looked like his father. He pulled over. The homeless man turned out to be his dad. He gave him a few dollars, they talked for five minutes, and then the son drove away again.

The two never exchanged phone numbers. They didn't know how to get back in touch with one another again. Years went by. It seemed hopeless.

About a year ago I started visiting Robert Higgins in his motel room. He lived on the third floor, all alone. He would talk to me about that day he last saw his son. His eyes would fill with tears as he remembered his family: A son, two daughters, an ex-wife, all lost to him now.

Robert had no photographs of his wife or his children. "I'm not even sure I would know them if I saw them again," he told me. Once, a few months ago, I asked a friend to drop by and pick up Robert's laundry for him. Later on, Robert had confessed to me that when my friend walked in the door he wondered if it might possibly be his son.

We looked for Robert's son for several months. I came up empty, but another friend found a series of phone numbers online that looked promising. I called all five phone numbers and left messages. No one called back.

In the meantime, Robert ended up having surgery on his arm to remove cancerous parts of his right arm. He received a porcelain prosthetic from his right shoulder to below his elbow, beneath the skin. The cancerous bone was removed, but his arm was useless, resting limply in a black nylon sling around his neck.

Over the next several months, Robert struggled to take care of himself in the motel room. With only one arm, he was unable to shave, to open his food, to cook for himself, or to get dressed. There were a few scares due to his emphyzyma as well and he eventually agreed to relocate to a senior care center near my house.

In all this time we spoke very little about his family. It became too painful to be reminded of a son and a family that he might never get to see again.

But then one Saturday, about five months ago, my cell phone rang. It was Robert's son. He told me that there had been some "drama" in their family a few years ago and that he felt like he might be ready to talk to his dad again. He agreed to let me give Robert his cell phone number and we said goodbye.

Still, months went by with no return calls from Robert's son. I began to get frustrated. So did Robert. His hopes, which had soared with possiblity, were now once again dashed on the rocks.

After this, during our visits together, Robert began to voice disappointment about his son's silence. He wondered if he would ever see his son or hear his voice again.

Up until this point, Robert had asked me not to tell his son about the bone cancer or the hospice care. I assume it was because he wanted his son's reconciliation to be based on a genuine desire to reunite and not because of his terminal condition. As hard as it was for me, I agreed to keep Robert's secret.

But, about three weeks ago, after nothing but silence from Robert's son, I decided to write a letter. In it, I revealed everything about Robert's condition to his son. I even included a photograph taken at Robert's 78th birthday party a few months previously. As Robert's condition worsened I felt like I had no choice but to risk our friendship in order to give his son one last chance to reconcile before it was too late.

Before I could send the letter out, Robert had a change of heart. In fact, it was the day after I had already written, (but not delivered), the letter to his son. As I was getting ready to leave after one of our visits together, Robert said, "Why don't you call my son and let him know everything about the cancer." I agreed, of course, (saying nothing about the letter I had already written up), and the next day I dropped the letter off at his son's workplace.

Another two weeks went by with no response. In the meantime, I prayed. In fact, my family prayed, our house church prayed, our men's group prayed, my parents in El Paso prayed, my Facebook friends prayed, and countless others prayed for Robert's son to have a change of heart.

On Saturday that prayer was answered.

Robert called me on my cell Saturday evening after his son had gone home. "He stayed here about four hours," Robert said. "We talked a long time. We both cried together, and then we watched the baseball game on television."

When it was time for Robert's son to leave he took his father's hand and said, "Dad, I need to go now. Would you mind if I came back and visited with you again sometime?"

Robert said, "Mind? Are you kidding? Come back anytime you want and stay for as long as you want."

When I heard the news about God's grace to Robert I wept for joy. I could hardly contain myself as the tears poured out of me.

"This is an answer to my prayers, Robert," I said. "You know I've been praying for this a long, long time."

"I know you have, Keith. My son even told me to make sure I called to let you know that he had finally come to see me," Robert said.

My prayers now are that God would use this breakthrough as an opportunity to reunite Robert with the rest of his family. I want Robert to see God work one more miracle. I want Robert to see his family come together again before he dies.

I also want Robert to surrender his life, and to give his heart, to the God who loves him more than life itself. I want him to know the same Jesus who moved time and space and shifted the stars to make a way for an estranged, lost son to be reunited with a dying father on Saturday.

Pray with me, if you would, for my friend Robert Higgins. I'm not sure how much longer he will live. Honestly, all I know is that I will be with him until the very end. Now, thankfully, I know that his son will be with him, too.

This miracle, as wonderful as it is, is just the beginning. I'm sure God is not finished with this man's life just yet.

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

Thank you for praying.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Poem - [Surrender]

The ache is deep and without form
The syllables leave my mouth unspoken
While this unrest remains, embedded within.
Not in the wind, or fire.
Not in the earthquake, or rain.
Still. Small. Whispering endless
As deep calls to deep.
A weight upon my heart
If I knew the words
If I could speak the name.
Here in this place, at the end
awaiting the dawn, like a radio tuned to a dead station
signal to noise, heart in hand
eyes closed, breath shallow, quietly attuned.
Nothing left but faith and hope
and the greatest of these
I raise the white flag
I lift my hands high
I surrender


Tuesday, May 04, 2010


A few months ago I began to rediscover prayer in my spiritual journey. I think it started when a friend sat down to share a testimony on MP3 by Lance Lambert. It was about how God touched the hearts of a few young people in England several decades ago and spawned a radical New Testament church. One thing that Mr. Lambert said on this recording stuck with me. He said, “An open meeting requires more prayer, not less.”

As someone who has been hosting an open meeting in my home now for over four years, this statement galvanized my passion for prayer and reignited a desire to draw nearer to Jesus in every way. In fact, before I was finished listening to the entire message I was overcome by an intense desire to fall on my knees and seek God’s face. It was like a spiritual gravity was tugging on my spirit and compelling me to immerse myself in the presence of Jesus.

Because of this, our house church began to meet a half hour early each Sunday to seek the Lord together and to ask Him to be the head over us and to lead us as a Church. Our women were already meeting regularly to pray, but eventually, we also added another weekly prayer time for men to meet and pray every Wednesday evening.

It was at our very first men's prayer meeting together that I was overwhelmed with this simple revelation – “We are not enough. But God is more than enough.” As we fell on our knees before God, it became abundantly clear that we were powerless to affect any change whatsoever in the lives of people around us. In fact, we were equally powerless to change our own hearts.

Apart from Jesus and His Holy Spirit, we knew that we could do nothing to grow, to teach, to evangelize, to make disciples, to change hearts, to restore relationships, or to even “be the Church” in our community. We needed more of Jesus, and we needed Him to lead this Church or we were hopelessly condemned to go through the motions every week. None of us wanted that.

The more I immerse myself in prayer, the more I realize how desperately I need to stay on my knees and continually seek God’s face. Jesus reminded us that “My temple will be called a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13) and since we are the Temple of God (1 Peter 2:4-5; 1 Cor 6:19), this suggests that the Church should be a place where prayer is continually practiced.

Some people feel as if prayer is not their spiritual gifting and therefore they don’t feel that all of the many examples and commands regarding prayer in the New Testament apply to them. However, prayer is not a spiritual gift. Of all the 28 spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, prayer is not among them. In fact, many of those gifts can only be released or applied through prayer, (i.e. – Prophecy, Words of Wisdom, Healing, etc.). So, prayer is a necessary function of the entire Body of Christ, not just the chosen few.

Besides, no one argues that they do not have the “gift of prayer” when they discover they have cancer, or they find out their child is in the hospital. Tragedy has a way of reminding us that prayer is for everyone who lacks hope, or wisdom. Prayer acknowledges that we have a need that only God can meet.

I know many people who consider themselves “intercessors” and who believe that they have a ministry of prayer and a calling to pray that is greater than what everyone else in the Body might be called to. However, the word intercession is only used four times in the NT and three of those references describe how Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for us, (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:26-27). It is only used once in reference to corporate prayer, and not in the sense of any special gifting or quality of prayer practiced by a chosen few. The entire Body is urged to “intercede..on behalf of all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1) So, the ministry of intercession is for everyone in the Body of Christ, even though some among us may feel more passionate about it than others.

Prayer in the New Testament is seen as something that every believer participates in. If we are serious about being people of the Book, and if we are dedicated to practicing the same quality of faith that we see in the New Testament church, then we will begin by praying together and we will continue to pray together for as long as we live. Prayer is like breathing for a follower of Jesus. It is an affirmation that “apart from (Jesus), you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

If we really believe that we are powerless to do anything apart from Jesus, then we would be on our faces and in prayer daily seeking His direction, wisdom and power.

If we really believe that Jesus speaks to his people and that we can hear his voice, then we would be spending as much time as possible listening for that voice and seeking his counsel for our lives.

Often, it is only when we are in need that we abandon our selfish desires and surrender ourselves to prayer out of desperation. As C. S. Lewis so aptly pointed out, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I sincerely hope that the Church would not wait until death, divorce, bankruptcy, cancer or some other great tragedy compels us to enter into His presence. My hope is that God’s people would be drawn to their knees by simple obedience and a sincere desire to humble themselves and to seek His face.

We have been given access to the throne of Grace by the blood of Jesus, our Lord and King. He went to the cross to tear the veil in half and open a direct line of communication. Let us not trample on this awesome display of God’s desire for intimacy with us. Instead, let’s humble ourselves and confess our weakness and make our petitions known to Him.

“Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.” – (1 Peter 5:7)

"When we work, we work. When we pray, God works." - J. Hudson Taylor


The New Testament on Prayer

Jesus intercedes for us:

“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer is necessary for the health and well-being of the Body of Christ:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

Prayer is like breathing for a follower of Jesus:

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph 6:18)

Prayer is an alternative to worry and stress:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Jesus taught us to pray at all times:

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…” (Luke 18:1)

Jesus taught his disciples (followers) to pray:

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." (see Luke 11:1-13)

The New Testament Church was devoted to prayer:“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14)

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Tim 2:1)

Common Christian sayings on prayer that we already know but seldom practice:

“A praying man will stop sinning but a sinning man will stop praying”

“Prayer aligns our will with God’s will. Prayer changes us, even if it doesn’t change the situation.”