Monday, December 25, 2006


Discovery by Keith Giles

My friend Paul was sharing with me a story about a recent trip to the mountains where he had an odd spiritual experience. It all started while walking with some of his friends along mountain trails on their way to an overnight camp out. As he was crossing over a stream along the way he randomly picked up a rock to take along with him, something he did quite often on treks such as this one.

It wasn't a particularly interesting or colorful rock. He really had no specific motive for picking it up initially other than that it was black and it felt good in his hands. Almost reflexively he pulled the rock from the cold water, dried it on his shirt, and placed it in his pants pocket as they continued up out of the stream and up along a newfound trail.

As the group of friends made their way up the mountain they happened to pass an older gentleman coming down the same trail. After a brief bit of friendly chit-chat one of Paul's friends asked the older man if he had any words of wisdom for their group.

"You mean, like a mantra or something?" the old man asked. "Yeah, something like that," Paul's friend said.

The older gentleman took a short moment to reflect and then he said, "I’ve got just two words for you," he said. "The first is 'Immanuel', and the second one is 'Maranatha'". The group nodded their heads and smiled, and after a bit more brief chit-chat the two groups parted. However the conversation in Paul's group shifted to the words the older gentleman had shared with them and what they could possibly mean.

Eventually the group arrived at the cabin where they had planned to spend the evening. One of the women in the group asked Paul if he had ever prayed before. He said that he sometimes meditated in the mornings, but had really never prayed before. Something about the interaction with the old man made him feel like he should start to pray, or at least to try, the next time he was enjoying his morning meditation.

That very next morning, Paul woke up and went about his usual routine of meditation. He began to think about what had happened the previous day, and did his best to pray about those words and what meaning, if any, they might have for him. He was also holding on to the rock he had found in the stream the day before. The rock that he had selected at random and placed almost absently into his pocket was nestled into the palm of his right hand as he sat, eyes closed, on the floor.

Suddenly Paul felt the urge to open his hand to look closer at the rock. As he opened his hand and looked at it closer he almost did a double-take. There, clearly and naturally formed across one side of the stone was an unmistakable form of a cross.

Paul sat silently and looked at the rock. He wondered now even more about the meaning of the events of the previous day.

Sitting in my living room, telling me this story, Paul pulled out the rock and handed it to me. I was amazed at his story, and even more amazed to actually hold this rock in my hands. The shape of the cross was unmistakable, but clearly not man-made at all. The shape had been formed along the surface eons ago when the rock was first formed, and etched by the constant erosion of the stream it had been pulled from only weeks earlier. Now it was in my hand and I could easily imagine what Paul must have felt when he first opened his hand and realized the significance of the stone and the image that marked it.

I was reminded of the Proverb that says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings to search it out." (Proverbs 25:2) Paul and I discussed the method that Jesus used to teach people about the Kingdom of God during his ministry on Earth, how he told stories that made people wonder and how he never seemed to answer a question unless it was with a question of his own.

Paul had been given a riddle of sorts and now had the privilege to work out what it all meant. Paul shared with me that, so far, all he knew for certain was that he was supposed to tell his story to people, and not just anyone, but people who would be likely to appreciate it. I felt honored to hold this stone in my hand and to have heard Paul's amazing story. It was with some reluctance that I handed it back to him.

In his search for the meaning of his experience, Paul had printed out the Wikipedia definitions of the words "Immanuel" and "Maranatha" and he unfolded the papers and passed them to me. He and I talked about these words and I expressed to him my sincere curiosity regarding his journey to discover the meaning of this rock that had found him in the stream. In many ways I envied my friend Paul for his opportunity to learn the meaning of this mysterious rock and the two corresponding words left to him by a stranger on the side of a mountain.

As far as I could see things, Paul had been given the words, "Immanuel" (which means 'God with us') and "Maranatha" (which means 'He has come'). He had been given a rock with a very obvious cross on it to accentuate those two words. A rock which he would not have picked up had they crossed the stream a few feet to the right or to the left, and which he admits he might not have picked up at all considering the randomness of his choice of stones there in the stream. He was also, finally, encouraged to pray and that next morning all of these various elements converged together to spark his imagination and his journey of discovery regarding the meaning of the message.

This is why Jesus loved to use parables to teach his disciples, so that when the meaning was finally discovered, the person would own the truth and treasure the revelation. When someone gives you the answer you don't value the information as much. When you're handed the keys you lose the thrill of the chase and the joy of discovery.

I pray that even more people will discover a stone in the stream or cross paths with wise old men bearing clues to the journey of life. We all need more questions to work out with fear and trembling. We all need to seek the Truth. Maybe the clues are already all around us? Maybe we're just not paying enough attention?

All creation cries out and pours forth speech, day and night. Sometimes even the rocks cry out.

"Conversatio Morem!"

NEARLY DONE: The year is nearly done. Only a few more weeks left of the 2006 edition of [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND]. When I started this a year ago it was only about thirty people. Now it's about 100. That's amazing to me. Thanks to everyone for reading and for helping to spread the word to others about this little e-newsletter.

THE MISSION- YEAR ONE: Well, it's "almost" a year old. We started in January and our first twelve months have been so amazing. I've never experienced anything in my Christian life like this. The sense of "Koinonia" has never been more than a vague spiritual concept to me. Now it's a weekly reality. The presence of the Holy Spirit among us, the application of God's Word to our daily life, the laughter, the tears, and of course, the food! Wow. I should've done this a long time ago!

MERRY CHRISTMAS: I for one have come to the final conclusion that from now on I only want my Christmastime to be about giving to others and blessing people in need. Going forward I will intentionally spend my Christmas season, and the day itself, sharing and giving to others all that I can. I'm so done with the commercialism and the accumulation of meaningless things. It's time to give.


Friday, December 22, 2006


***NOTE: I really did write this week's article on Tuesday night. It's a great story about a rock that found a friend of mine, but in order to make it extra special, I'm holding off on that one until I can add something to it that will really make it worth the wait. (You'll see when it finally comes to your inbox). Until then, please enjoy the brand-new Christmas article below.

GIVE by Keith Giles

Several years ago I found myself out of work and standing in food lines at our church pantry to get Groceries for my family. It was the most difficult test of faith in my life up to that point. Honestly though, I wouldn't change a thing if I could because it was during that year and a half of testing that I discovered that God really did see me and love me and that He was active in my life. I also learned that God is more concerned about who I am than He is about what I do for a living.

In fact, much of what I learned during that time transcends any sort of knowledge you could ever glean from a book or a sermon. There are certain spiritual truths that can only be experienced. They must be "caught" and not "taught".

Out of this ordeal I developed a heart for others, especially those who are poor and in financial distress. Over the years God has continued to create a heart of compassion in me, sometimes in ways I have not been aware of until much later.

Just in the last few weeks many of us from our Mission House Church have had many opportunities to serve people in need around us. Both as a group and as individuals. I'm honestly so proud of each of our members for the many ways they've taken the time to share the love and compassion of Jesus with the least and the lost here in our community.

Some in our group have really stepped outside their comfort zones and radically shared the love of Jesus. One woman, a single Mom trying to take care of her little daughter, gave a ride to a prostitute who was looking for a ride home one cold night. She took the time to tell her that everyone needs to be forgiven and that none of us are really "good". Another Mom took a blanket with her as she ran her errands this week because she knew that God wanted her to give it to someone who was cold and on the streets this Christmas. Her daughter spotted a homeless veteran who was in a wheelchair and missing a leg. They were able to bless him in a very practical way.

As a group, we've had the honor of purchasing gifts for a family in need and to take a collection for a homeless man who needed a place to stay this week.

Honestly, I am so thankful to God that our vision to start a house church with a heart for the poor and an open hand for those in need has been fulfilled. God has allowed many of us in this group to use our tithe to help people who are really in need. For me, this is so much more significant, and Biblical, than using our offerings for new carpet and sound systems and staff luncheons.

Biblically, the Church never took an offering for itself. It always gave to help and serve the poor, the widow, the orphan and those who were in need.

When you can connect your offering directly to people who need real help; when you can sincerely make a difference in someone's life by your giving; there is meaning and spiritual weight that just doesn't compare to dropping a check into the plate as it passes by. Most are unaware of where their gift or their tithe really goes, and if they really could see where most of it went they might think twice about giving as much the next time.

Today I went over to the motel and paid for one week at the motel for Robert, the elderly homeless man who our offering had been taken for last night. He and I talked about his health and about his options for the future. He was honestly moved by our willingness to help him, even though most in our group had never met him before.

As I prayed with Robert, I was overwhelmed with the sense of the presence of God and His heart for the poor and the forgotten. God is close to those in pain. He is near to those in need. He cares for those who are overlooked and forgotten in our community; the homeless veteran, the prostitute, the lonely motel manager estranged from his family, and the single Mom trying to purchase Christmas gifts for her children, and still buy groceries for the week.

I am reminded of the Christmas, several years ago, when a local church had adopted our family for the Holidays. I was out of work and doing temporary work, which was barely enough to cover our rent an a few groceries. That year we had so many boxes of presents around our little tree that you could almost not see the tree itself. I remember that my sons received present after present, mostly from these kind people, and how we also had received hundreds of dollars in gift cards to help us purchase groceries and clothes and gasoline for the uncertain months ahead.
It was the best Christmas we'd ever had, and it was all because of the goodness of God..and His people.

As I was leaving the motel today I told Pete, the manager of the motel, that as far as I was concerned, helping people like Robert was my Christmas present to myself. In fact, I believe that from now on I really don't want to bother with buying more "stuff" for my family (we already have more than we can use), but instead I'd really like to spend Christmas focusing on helping people like the families at the motel, and people sleeping on the street. You know, people who really need all the things that we enjoy in abundance and take for granted?

Over the years, our family has adopted a saying of sorts that we usually utter when we pray together as a family. It goes something like this; "Thank you Lord for making us rich in all the things that matter...and a lot of other stuff that doesn't. We have all that we need for today, an even more on top of that." This has helped us gain perspective on how blessed we really are.

"Freely you have received, freely give." -JESUS (Matthew 10:8)

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


DOUBT by Keith Giles

As I've taken a hard look at Christianity in America over the last few years, one thing I find most disturbing is how easy Grace has replaced the clear teaching of Jesus to count the cost of following after Him.

Jesus is our blue-print for life in the Kingdom of God. It's a life that starts here and now, and continues each and every day that we live and breathe on this planet. It involves living today as if God were on the throne of this Earth ruling it as King. We don't have to wait until that day comes, we are invited to live under His rule and reign today. Jesus said we cannot enter the Kingdom and follow Him unless we daily die to ourselves and obey His teaching. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus came and died to preach and communicate. There is no other Gospel in the Scripture. The Gospel of Jesus is this Gospel of the Kingdom.

Grace is certainly part of the process. Without Grace we could not hope to daily surrender our lives and submit to God's will for our lives in favor of our own desire. But Grace does not cancel out our daily surrender to Jesus as our Lord. The phrase "Jesus is Lord" is powerless unless we actually live it out in our lives every day. Without this it's simply a pointless bumper sticker slogan.

Simply put, the Gospel of the Kingdom has been drowned out by the tele-vangelical version of the Gospel that says, "Repeat this prayer after me and you can go to heaven when you die".

A by-product of this easy-believism is the cheapening of the decision to follow Jesus with your whole life. Instead the decision is treated so lightly that I've seen Christians urge total strangers they've only just met seconds earlier to pray and ask Jesus into their heart so they can go to heaven when they die. It's almost as if they believe that this magic prayer will take anyone to heaven if they say it twice and click their heels together.

Instead, I would urge us who follow Jesus to allow people around us to get to know Jesus first, and maybe then they can make an informed decision about whether or not to surrender their life to follow after Him.

There's a great story about the great evangelist Charles Finney who would regularly tell his converts that they were not truly converted to Christ. Imagine that. A famous evangelist urging his newly converted to doubt their faith in Christ.

The story goes that he would cast doubt upon their faith in Christ and send them away saying, "I don't think you really are a follower of Jesus yet". After a few weeks the person would invariably return and declare that they were now a true follower of Jesus. Finney would then find a reason to doubt them once more and send them on their way again. Eventually the person would return, declaring with fire in their eyes that they "knew" they were a follower of Jesus. When Finney could no longer dissuade them he would let them go with a nod, "You might actually be a follower of Jesus after all".

If anything, Finney employed doubt to test the faith of those who claimed too eagerly to be genuine disciples of Christ. Whether or not you agree with Finney's tactics, please don’t treat the decision to follow Jesus too lightly. These days we are far too eager to ask a total stranger to pray on the spot to receive Jesus, before they’ve even really understood who He is or what such a decision might mean to their life.

I believe the decision to follow Jesus is more like a commitment to enter into a life-long marriage and less like the decision to rent a movie. We would never counsel someone to go into a marriage quickly, and yet we are sometimes over-eager when it comes to pushing people to enter into an eternal relationship with Jesus.

Let people have a chance to get to know Jesus before you push them into praying to receive forgiveness and follow Him. They need to know who He is first.

Can you imagine a total stranger coming up to you on the street and leading the conversation in such a way that you felt compelled to marry his daughter as fast as possible? Who is this guy? What is his daughter like? Why is he so eager to get her married off? All of these questions would be flashing into your brain as this stranger tried to convince you that all you had to do was to repeat the vows after him and everything would work itself out later. If you were wise you would flee from that person as fast as possible. Yet, this is almost exactly the sort of witnessing and evangelism that many Christians practice, or at least visualize, when it comes to reaching others for Christ.

Jesus does not force Himself upon us. Do not force Jesus onto those who do not know Him yet or who are not ready to make this life-changing, eternal decision.

Better yet, try living a life that bears witness to the compassion and humility of Jesus each and every day. Maybe then people will actually ask us why we live this way and what it was that transformed us into such patient, compassionate, loving people. Then we can make sure we are prepared to give to every man an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within.

But first, let's live a life that provokes the question rather than throwing around the answers to questions that no one is really asking.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006


WAIT by Keith Giles

At the end of June I walked away from a job that I really loved. It wasn't something I wanted to do, but the reality was that this little non-profit ministry I cared so much about was just not able to sustain the financial needs of my family.

My departure was amicable, but I had no immediate opportunities in front of me at the time. I began doing temporary work through an employment agency while I sent off resumes and interviewed for several jobs. A few looked promising, a few were obviously not meant for me, but as the weeks turned into months I began to wonder how long this would take.

It's not as if I'm a stranger to this sort of thing, really. A few years ago I was laid off from a job I loved. At that time I was working in the Christian Music Industry and I had developed many professional relationships with some key people in the business. I was pretty sure I'd have no trouble finding work. But a year and a half later I was still doing temporary work.

During that first marathon season where I endured financial hardship and underwent a crisis of faith, I can honestly say that God revealed Himself to me and to my family in ways I could never have expected.

If you had asked me before that long season if I knew that God loved me, I would have answered "Yes". But after an entire year and a half of eating out of God's hand, and learning the true meaning of "Daily Bread", I could honestly answer that same question in ways that I could never have before.

There was one day when my wife poured the last of the milk from the carton, cracked the last egg in the pan to scramble eggs and used the last paper towel roll to clean up a spill at breakfast. We knew there was no money in the bank to purchase these items, but we had two little sons to provide for and bills to pay in a matter of days.

About an hour later there was a knock on our door. It was a dear friend of ours who "just happened" to drop by and bring us a goody basket. Inside the basket were eggs, milk and paper towels. There was also a box of Wheat Thins. The night before I had made an off-hand comment to my wife that it would be nice to have some Wheat Thins because I hadn't eaten any in years.

I just kept staring at that box of Wheat Thins and realized that God had heard me. He took my little remark about a stupid box of crackers and had provided it for me, just because He loved me.

I could tell a dozen or more stories like that. Those months of learning to depend on God for daily bread were trying, and difficult, and yet they were some of the sweetest I have ever had with The Lord. I wouldn't go back and change those moments even if I could.

About two months ago, I was awakened at around 4:30am. That's usually my cue to get up and go into the den to pray and spend time with The Lord. So, I found myself on my knees in the dark, praying about another new job, once more.

As soon as I woke up there was a strange thought in my head that went something like, "What if it takes a long time for the door to open?"

I realized that God could sneeze and I could have twenty amazing job offers that same day. So...why didn't He? Why was He making this take so long, again?

I started to rattle off a long list of "Why's" to Him. Why had He allowed us to have a miscarriage last July? Why had He allowed us to go through such financial misery for over a year? Why had He allowed us to endure the pain of leaving our church? Why had He shut down our ministry to the elderly in the local senior home? Why had He caused us to move out of our previous house? Why was He putting us through another long wait for a new job?


After I made my list of complaints I realized that, in spite of that long list of hardships, the reality of it was that our family had been great. We had not felt as much of the pain of all of that as you might expect. God had been faithful to us as we endured all of those much so that many of them hardly seemed like real hardship in retrospect. Of course, some things were harder than others, and there had been some real pain and real tears as well. Yet, over all, God had seen us through it. We were whole. We were taken care of.

In fact, the crazy thing was our family had more peace during this time of waiting than we had when I was working for the non-profit ministry I was at before. All because of God's amazing faithfulness to provide all of our needs.

I began to pray and to tell The Lord that, if it did take a long time for us to find a new job, that I would be ok with that. I asked Him to go with us. Like the Children of Israel, I asked Him for the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. I asked Him for daily "Manna" and I asked Him to help us take everything one day at a time.

As I was praying this, I started to get cold so I reached out and took a little blanket that Wendy and I were given on our wedding day. It's embroidered with the entire text of 1 Corinthians 13. You know, the "Love" chapter?

As I wrapped it around my legs to keep myself warm I suddenly opened my eyes. There, right in front of me were the words, "Love is Patient".

I got the hint.

As of today, the word for our family is still "Wait". I have several job possibilities, but even if one of those works out we will most likely have to wait until January of 2007 before one of them actually hires me.

So...we wait.

I have been so amazed, month after month, as God has managed to pay our rent and cover our bills even though on paper I'm bringing home about half of what I was earning before.

God is so good.

"Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up on wings as eagles"- Isaiah 40:31

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REBELLION OF THOUGHT- My great friend, Kent Williamson, is a film-maker and the founder of Paladin Pictures. His latest work is a documentary that takes a hard look at the modern Church in America. It also features a song from my friend's "West of Verona" on the soundtrack. Check out the details here:

How's that for a title? Well, I think it's going to be my next series over at, starting in January 2007. The series will take one of the top 10 things every Christian should know...but probably doesn't...and discuss it in detail. I think I could probably make the list 20 items..but maybe I'll save that for the inevitable print version.

VARIOUS- I've got a few "odds and ends" items I need to clean out of my head before the end of this year. Maybe I'll save one of my final [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] entries of 2006 to play "catch up" on these sundry bits of ephemera...hmm...