Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Often whenever we talk about Jesus’ command that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves, the question arises, “But what if we don’t love ourselves? If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others?”

It’s a valid question. I’ve even wondered about this myself from time to time. But the real problem is that we’re not understanding Jesus in the first place, which is why that question throws us off.

Jesus is not saying that we need to love ourselves as much as possible so that we’ll have enough love inside to share with others. In fact, Jesus isn’t telling us anything in this statement other than that we need to go and love people. That’s it.

His point about “as we love ourselves” simply means that everyone wants to eat. So, as much as you want to feed yourself, feed another person. Everyone likes to have clothes to wear. So, in the same way we should want those without clothes to have them too.

This isn’t about not wanting food as much as we should. It’s about simply wanting for others what we automatically want for ourselves. Self-image is not issue. Compassion for others is.

So, the problem is not that we need to love ourselves more and more in order to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The problem is that we do not love our neighbors in the same way that we love our own comfort.

Now, the question we ask about our own lack of self-esteem is also worth addressing. I do understand that many of us struggle with this issue. At the core I think the problem here is that we actually think too much about ourselves rather than not enough.

See, if God has said that He loves you and that He has forgiven your sins and that He thinks of you 24/7, then who are you to say otherwise? Are you suggesting that you’re the one person in the Universe that even God cannot love or accept?

If the God of the Universe says that you’re worth dying for, then all you have to do is to believe it.  If you forget it, remind yourself of it. If you need to write yourself a note, do that.

Better yet, God says that if we will put the needs of others ahead of our own, then we ourselves will be healed and restored.

In Isaiah God says that instead of fasting to get what we want from Him, we should instead share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into our homes. When we do that, God says:

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:6-9)

“…If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”-  (Isaiah 58:10-12)

Either way, we’re commanded to love others as we love ourselves. To share our food and our shelter and our comfort with those who don’t have any. If we lack self-esteem, we can overcome that by spending more time with those who have less than we do, and God will lift our hearts as we share in their sorrows.




Monday, August 26, 2013

Just One Covenant

The Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai were the terms of a Covenant with the nation of Israel.

“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)
“He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” (Deut. 4:13)
The Ten Commandments are only mentioned (by name) three times in the entire Bible. Here in these two scriptures referenced above, and also in Deut.10:4. But in each case it is clear that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews as a Covenant. (Note: There are many other terms used such as “Tablets of Stone”, “Stone Tables”, etc.) But these commandments were given to the Jews alone, not to the entire world. Why? Because it outlined the terms of His Covenant with them, not with anyone else.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27)
Without this Covenant, the Jewish people had no basis for being called a nation. If this Covenant was in force, then they would have a claim to the promises included in the Covenant, but if they broke this Covenant then they would lose all their status as God’s chosen people and their status as a nation.

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
In much the same way that the Constitution is a document that outlines the laws of our nation and establishes our system of government, the Ten Commandments (or the Law) outlines God’s terms for establishing the nation state of Israel.

Notice, however, that the terms of Israel’s nationhood are dependent upon a few things. First, it says, “If you obey me and keep my covenant, THEN you will be my treasured possession.” That’s a conditional covenant.

We know that the History of Israel records their continual disobedience to God and to His covenant. Because they broke their covenant with God, they were scattered over and over again, until finally they nation of Israel was judged in AD 70 during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, as Jesus predicted it would be (Luke 21) and in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46).
Now notice that the very same conditional covenant terms spoken to the Jews are repeated in the New Testament as being unconditionally applied to the Church:

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Here, Peter declares that Christians ARE a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…”. The very same conditional promises originally offered to the Jewish nation in Exodus 19:5-6 are now spoken to the Church as being now in effect. So that anyone who is currently found in Christ is the recipient of these promises to be chosen, of the priesthood, a holy nation and God's special possession. We are also promised to be called the people of God and to receive mercy.

The Good News is that Jesus first came and fulfilled the terms of the Old Covenant, and then He made a New Covenant with anyone who would receive Him as Lord and Savior. The terms of that New Covenant are simple, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people…and they will all know me from the least to the greatest for I will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34 and Hebrews 8:7-9)

We are now under one Covenant, not two. The first has been fulfilled and is now obsolete:

“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrew 8:13)

Saturday, August 17, 2013



Police allege trouble with the hotel goes back more than 20 years. In the past year and a half, they said they've had 365 calls for service, ranging from drug problems to domestic violence.

"It's affecting everyone. It doesn't stay just in there," said Santa Ana resident Jose, who only wanted to be identified by his first name.

Jose worries about children's safety with two schools nearby, as well as the low income families who live at the hotel.

"I think our kids are in danger, because not only there's drugs but there's prostitution going on in there," said Jose.

Police say they are working with the city and looking at nuisance abatement as a way to try to deal with the problems at the hotel.

"They attempt to contact the owner and see if the owner will abide by certain rules and if they don't, we can try to fine the owner or do something with the property where he's forced to make changes," said Gonzalez.

It's a move applauded by some who would like to see the hotel shut down and the crime disappear. The hotel management has not returned our calls for a comment.

HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS: There is a growing church that meets every Sunday morning in the back parking lot of this same motel - and has been for over two years now.

There are people who live in this motel who love and follow Jesus and they are living out their faith in this place every single day.

The gates of Hell will be crushed beneath the advancing army of Jesus Followers who will not stop praising God, serving people, and loving others daily.

Let His Kingdom come!


Thursday, August 15, 2013


As much as I love the idea of “Home” the truth is I still find it necessary to leave now and then. That’s normal. Some people have a fear of the outdoors or the unknown and they end up spending their entire lives cut off from the outside world. That’s not what we’re called to do. As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to go out into all the world and to make disciples who will follow Jesus and obey everything that Jesus commands. (See Mark 16:15)

Staying at home where it’s safe and comfortable isn’t an option for us. Not if we’re serious about following Jesus and putting His words into practice. This is part of our individual calling or mission. Jesus has made each of us to be uniquely gifted and qualified to go. He’s strategically placed each one of us to have the maximum impact on our world, on our street, to our neighbors, in our workplace.

This means our lives are not accidental. We are who God made us to be. We have the strengths, and even the weaknesses, that God placed within us. We are created with a special purpose in mind, and the only way we can truly discover what our mission and purpose is involves getting outside of our comfort zones to go.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is an evangelist. Far from it. Scripture is clear that:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph. 4:11-16)


“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:29-30)

The assumptive answer here is “No,” we do not all have the same gifting or ability. That’s the point. None of us is expected to do it all alone. We need one another. We need you. You need the rest of us. Together we make up the Body of Christ in this world and act as His hands and His feet at His command.

Sadly, some of us have found it easier to retreat from the world and to create a Christian version of the world where we are safe and comfortable. In this fantasy world we call the Christian Subculture, the only way people on the outside can find their way in is if they come to us. We lower the drawbridge on Easter and Christmas and we ask them to come over to where we feel the most secure. But that’s not what Jesus commanded us to do. He not only said to “go”, He also prayed that we would not be taken out of the world:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

Yet, our Christianized version of reality essentially removes us from the world and prevents us from going out and taking the light of the Gospel with us.

To fulfill our mission and follow Christ, then, we have to leave home. We have to let go. We have to venture out into the unknown and cling tightly to our Lord every step of the way as He leads us, and empowers us, and helps us to bear fruit for His Kingdom.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:3-5)

 Leaving home can be scary, but that's where life - and ministry - happens.





Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Thinking still about the concept of ‘Home’ and what it really means for us who follow Jesus. As much as I love the idea of home, the fact is that this world is not our home.

According to the Apostles, we are “strangers and aliens” in this world (1 Peter 2:11-12) who would “prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

As much as we love our home, and we love surrounding ourselves with things that bring us comfort, we must also realize that this world is only a temporary reality. We will spend our eternity with Christ, not here in this place. In fact, Jesus promised us that He was going away to prepare a place for us where we could be with Him forever. (See John 14:2-3)

Even more, we are warned not to get too comfortable in this world.

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

This means we can’t get too enamored with this world as we take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.
Home is where the heart is. Home is where we long to be. But this world is not our home. We’re only here temporarily and everything we own is simply a rental which will one day have to be returned. Our enduring home and eternal possessions are found only in Christ.

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)








Tuesday, August 13, 2013


“Home. Hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one. Home. I don’t know where it is but I know I’m going home. It’s where the heart is.” – U2, “Walk On”.

As I’ve been thinking about ‘Home’ lately and how good it feels to finally return after a long trip with my family, I realized something. What if you never returned home? What if you didn’t even have a home to return to?

On my way to work every day I pass people carrying everything they own in a garbage bag, or on a pack on their back. Most of them are being released from the Salvation Army shelter that’s two blocks away. They stand outside the Jack in the Box sipping hot coffee, or wander the sidewalks with nowhere to go.

When I think about the longing I have to return home after a few days of vacation, I wonder how I’d feel if I had to hold on to that same longing every moment of my life, with no hope of release.

Jesus understood this longing, and this emptiness. He understands what it feels like to have no place you can call “Home”.

“And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

In fact, Jesus identified so much with this feeling, and with these people, that he decided to measure our love for Him based on how much we love those who are without a home.

“‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt.25:40)

There is no place like home, they say. Everyone deserves to have a place where they can rest and relax and be themselves. Everyone deserves the privacy and the dignity and the intimacy that can only be found at home. Jesus understands that better than anyone. He wants us to extend the grace and mercy we’ve received from Him with everyone we meet. Our homes should be open to the stranger, the outcast, and the broken. Our hearts should be open to those who long for the comfort of home but have no place to lay their head.

Please God, give us a heart like yours. Help us to love the way that you love and to give the way that you give so that the love of Jesus can flow out of us and into this broken world.



Monday, August 12, 2013


Our family has been doing a lot of travelling this summer. One long trip via airplane to visit family in another State. One long drive to see the Grand Canyon with my parents. One short drive up to the mountains to camp out with some friends.

I hate long trips.

Oh, I enjoy seeing family and hanging out with friends. I love getting away from work and winding down and taking a deep breath of fresh air. Really, I do. But I find that leaving home stresses me out. I get concerned about the trip itself; being safe, breaking down, getting stranded. I worry a little about the trip home; being safe, breaking down, getting stranded.

The best part of any trip, for me, is coming home. The idea of home is a beautiful thing. The word itself. The way it sounds in my mouth. The way it brings peace to my heart. I love going home.

I love sleeping in my own bed. I love the smell of my own pillow. I love the feel of those cool sheets. I love using my own bathroom, taking a shower in my own house. I love drinking coffee from my own cup.

I love seeing the familiar sights as we get nearer to home; the landmarks, the horizon, the street signs, the favorite restaurants.

Home is where the heart is, some say, and I believe it’s true.

Do you know where God calls home? In Isaiah 66, God makes a revealing statement:

“Thus saith the Lord, ‘The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house you will build for me? And where will my resting place be?” (Isaiah 66:1)

You might be tempted to say that God lives in a temple, or a church, but that’s not so. As Paul explains:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24)

No, God does not live in any building. He lives within His people. We are His Temple. We are His Home.

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (Hebrews 3:6)

“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you..” (1 Cor. 6:19)

How wonderful is that? God could dwell anywhere, and yet His choice is your heart and mine. He longs for home and His home is with you.




Wednesday, August 07, 2013


One thing I’ve been learning over the last few years is that anytime we enter into a ministry or service to someone else, we’re also submitting ourselves to God for instruction. In other words, I might be doing a Kid’s Club for children on my street, but God is planning to teach me something in the process.

That’s what happened last week when our family opened our home for four days to host our neighborhood kids for a four day Kid’s Club ministry. We got the house ready, decorated the den with a large painted refrigerator box, practices our object lessons and skits, assembled all of our props and games and costumes and prayed for God to fill us with the Holy Spirit and bring the kids he wanted to be there.

On the first night no one showed up. No one. We were all ready to go and not one kid showed up. We were pretty disappointed as you might imagine. First of all, it made no sense. The kids were asking us for weeks to do this. We had passed out flyers the week before. We had talked to parents to make sure they would be in town on those dates. Wendy had even spoken to a few of the girls that very same morning to remind them about it. But still, no one came.

Later that night we got a call from one of the moms. She explained that Emily’s father, who had been on hospice care, had died that morning. They had all gone over to be with Emily’s mom and family and all of the kids were disappointed that they were missing the Kid’s Club.

Wendy and I have witnessed the strong sense of community that already exists on our street between various families and their kids. It’s not as if we were sent there to teach them about community. Not even close. What we’re seeing is that they already have a very powerful community built up and our hope is to become grafted into that community so we can share the love of Jesus with them.

So we decided to start over on the second evening and we adjusted our plans to turn a four day service into a three day service.

On Friday we had two people show up. One of them was Emily. We talked about how Jesus loves us and how he would rather die than live without us. It was like a private ministry targeted specifically to this little girl whose father had just died the day before.

On the next evening we had four girls. We shared with them about how the love of Jesus fills us and empowers us to keep on loving people, even when they’re sometimes hard for us to love.

On Sunday evening, our final Kid’s Club, we had six kids. Our hope was that parents would join us for pizza dinner and then stay for the lesson time and even play games with us. Only one parent showed up and then left before we started eating. That told us something important: that our ministry on this street was specifically about the kids. We’ve tried over and over again to have parents and adults join us for things like this and time after time it falls flat. Now we know that Jesus has given us a ministry to these kids and that’s more than enough for now.

During one of our skits that final evening I shared about how Jesus can heal the pain in our hearts when we lose a loved one, or a friend, or a pet that dies unexpectedly. One of the girls (not Emily) spoke up and said, “Can you work on my heart next?” She had just lost one of her pets a few weeks ago and was still feeling the loss.

The timing of our Kid’s Club, and our subject matter, seemed to have been ordained by God to address the very real needs of these kids on our street. He loves them more than we do, or anyone else does, and our calling is to show that love to them while we are there.

Another revelation to us during the Kid’s Club was how great it was to serve alongside our two teenage boys. Dylan and David each had their own object lessons and skits to perform. They both did an excellent job and it was a true joy to enter into this service with them.

Special thanks to everyone who prayed for us and for these kids on our street as we served last week. We appreciate your prayers going forward as we continue to seek the Lord’s guidance and direction for the future.





Saturday, August 03, 2013

SUBVERSIVE PODCAST: The Weakness of Jesus

Blasphemy? Heresy? Or little known biblical truth from the mouth of Jesus? You decide. Listen as Keith Giles explores the weakness of Jesus and the power of complete submission to Him for daily life and ministry.

Friday, August 02, 2013


“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Rev. 2:8-11)

As my family has been reading through the book of Revelation together, we’ve been very blessed to see a few things we had never noticed before.

The book begins with the appearance of Jesus to the Apostle John while he is in exile on the island of Patmos. Jesus begins by instructing John to write seven letters – one for each church in the region of Asia that we now call Turkey.

 In each of these letters, Jesus follows a similar pattern. It goes like this:

Description:  He begins by identifying himself using one of the specific attributes found at the end of chapter one.

Affirmation: He begins by affirming each church for something they are doing right.

Rebuke: Next he points out something he has against them.

Warning: Jesus gives them a warning for what will happen to them if they do not heed his instructions.

Promise: At the end of each letter he tells them what they will receive if they overcome (or endure) unto the end.

In his letter to the church in Smyrna we discovered some beautiful distinctives.

First, Jesus identifies himself as the one “who died and came to life.” This is significant in light of what He is about to say to them.

Next, Jesus lets them know that He sees their poverty and He knows about their suffering under persecution. Curiously, he has no warning for them because he honestly has nothing against them. This makes his promise to them even more surprising: “Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.” (v.10)

After telling them that they will endure tribulation for ten days, Jesus’ promise to them is: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” And then he ends with, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’”

So, while Jesus has nothing against them, they are still told that they will endure a season of suffering. In spite of their faithfulness and devotion to Him, they are still going to be persecuted. Perhaps even because of their faithfulness they will suffer for Christ.

That’s why Jesus begins his letter to the Church in Smyrna by saying that He is the one “who died and came to life.” He’s reminding them that He also has suffered and died and that He has overcome death and returned to life.

In fact, the people in this Church are very much like Jesus. They are poor, and yet they are rich. They are faithful to Christ but they will suffer great persecution. They will taste death, but His promise to them is a “crown of life” and His guarantee that they “will not be hurt by the second death” which refers to condemnation on the Day of Judgment.

I love the heart of Jesus for these disciples in Smyrna. He sees their poverty, he acknowledges their faithfulness, he has nothing against them, and yet he knows that their faithfulness will lead them through the valley of the shadow of death as they identify with Him. Then, he calls them to remember that he has already travelled that road before them. He reminds them of the finish line beyond their sufferings, and He assures them that this temporary earthly season of pain will soon be replaced by an eternity of joy in His presence.

The Church in Smyrna is a direct opposite of the one in Laodicea. In that letter, Jesus rebukes them for their wealth (calling them “poor”) whereas he commends the church in Smyrna for their poverty, and calls them “rich”. He has nothing against the church in Smyrna and yet in Laodicea he has nothing to commend them for.

It’s also fascinating that, of the seven churches referenced in Revelation, Smyrna is one of the few which remains to this day. Most of the other cities have no Christian presence today. So, even though this humble church faced the sword, they were not wiped out. They endured to pass on their faith to future generations. This should give us all hope as we endure suffering and persecution today.

Unlike their brothers and sisters in Laodicea who were spit out of His mouth, these faithful disciples endured just ten short days of tribulation and entered into an eternal rest with the Lord they loved more than life itself.