After spending time with my friends at Compassion International, I wanted to share this poem again,

kenburkey

Precious and Powerful in His sight

This poem is dedicated to children all around the world that have been forgotten.

Children who have no voice.

Children who have been victims of injustice, war, disease, abuse, lust and greed.

Children who God asks us to defend.

I wrote this poem based on David’s writing of the 68th Psalm where he says, God is a “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.”

I wrote this poem with the children of India, Africa, Mexico and our own inner cities in mind. You will see a piece of each of them in the poem.
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AN ORPHAN’S VOICE

My mama’s sick, my daddy’s gone
My bellies empty, I’m all alone
I can’t grow food, the ground is poison
Religion says, it’s the path I have chosen

My papa lives in a new steel home
It’s a solitary place…

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Just A Few Thoughts on Storms

Storms: We all have them.

Financial storms.
Health storms.
Relational storms.
Emotional storms.
Storm storms.

What happens when we experience storms?

ONE, we reprioritize what is really valuable and important.

Things that seemed important, are no longer.

People we took for granted, are no longer.

Storms have a way of putting back in proper order things that are proper.

TWO, we find out who our real friends are.

As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

THREE, we stop talking about God and start talking to Him.

David spends the first part of Psalm 23 talking about God, but when he gets to the valley that has death shadows blocking the sun, he starts talking to God.

FOUR, many times it is during storms where we discover super natural strength.

The apostle Paul writes, “…suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote,
“All that is gold does not glitter
not all those who wander are lost
the old that is strong does not wither
deep roots are not reached by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
a light from the shadows shall spring
renewed shall be blade that was broken
the crown less again shall be king.”

The storms and floods that have hit Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger will not have the last word.

It will rise back up, rebuild and become an even brighter beacon of hope.

It will rise back up, rebuild and train a greater generation to share the love and grace of Jesus.

It will rise back up, rebuild and reach a country whose median age is 15.

It will rise back up, rebuild and heal the broken-hearted and will set those held captive by religion free.

Our prayers are with you and for you!

God bless all the teachers and faculty.

Please do not give up, for there is a great reward.

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 5)

 

 

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities.

Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form.

Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.

“What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.

Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

After some discussion, the colleagues had to agree.

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.

The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.

The 5th and most foundational thing every church should do is to be a large, generous distributor of Grace.

Grace dares to make God’s love unconditional.

Grace makes it possible to start over again.

Grace makes it possible for new beginnings.

Grace makes it possible to move forward.

The Apostle Paul who once was the king of religion, experienced life transforming Grace and said, “I am still not all I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”

So many people live with hidden shame, mistakes from the past, failures of deep consequence and they seem stuck, not able to move towards the future.

I was working at a coffee shop not long ago and a gentlemen working next to me struck up a conversation and asked me what I did for a living.

I told him that I was a professional body builder, but I pastor on the side.

He believed the pastor part and told me he hadn’t been to church in years.

I asked, “What has kept you away?”

He said a divorce, a drinking problem and the way he was treated by the church when he was going through those difficult times.

He said, “I don’t really need to go somewhere and feel judged. I know I’m a screw up!”

We preceded to have an hour long conversation about Grace.

He asked me a great question. He said, “If Grace is the difference between Jesus and other religions, then why don’t churches teach it and live it?”

I told him because we haven’t made Grace the highest priority. It falls in the middle of the other many things churches try to do.

I told him that at the church I go to we teach on Grace all the time because it is so multi-faceted that you have to keep looking at it, living it, celebrating it and teaching it.

Philip Yancey writes “Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it.”

“I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God.”

“GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US MORE—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes.”

“And GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US LESS—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder.”

“Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Grace is inclusive. Religion is exclusive.

In WWII, a group of soldiers were fighting in the rural countryside of France.

During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed.

His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a church burial.

They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence.

After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church, arriving just before sunset.

An old priest, body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking.

His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home of two fierce eyes that flashed with wisdom and passion.

“Our friend was killed in battle,” they blurted out, “and we wanted to give him a church burial.”

In very broken English the priest replied, “I’m sorry, but we can bury only those of the same faith here.”

Tired after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. “But”, the old priest called after them, “you can bury him outside the fence.”

Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall.

The next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final goodbye to their friend.

When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite.

Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church.

They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend.

A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. “After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.”

JESUS DID MORE THAN MOVE THE FENCE, HE TORE IT DOWN.

RELIGION SAYS, SOME DESERVE THE INSIDE, SOME DESERVE THE OUTSIDE.

Accepting and living in Grace is the only way for us to have compassion and to see Grace in others.

Compassion means “to suffer with”, to endure with, struggle with, and to partake in hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, and broken dreams in the human family.

The question has been asked, “What makes a genius?”

The answer is, “The ability to see.”

To see what?

The butterfly in a caterpillar.
The eagle in an egg.
The saint in a selfish person.
Life in death.
And suffering as the form in which the incomprehensibility of God himself appears.

There has always been a debate in the church world about what is deep.

People leave churches because they are looking for something deeper.

What they usually mean is that there is not a certain version of the Bible being used, or there are not certain songs that are being sung, or there is not enough solemn judgment coming from the preacher.

What is the definition of deep? Compassion.

Because compassion means accepting Grace for yourself and seeing Grace in others.

Matthew Fox writes “Compassion is a spirituality of meat, not milk; of adults, not children; of love, not masochism; of justice, not philanthropy. It requires maturity, a big heart, a willingness to risk and imagination.”

To rephrase C.S. Lewis, religion is all around us and it has led to wars, division, judgment and death.

Religion has given God a bad name.

When a church lives in and offers Grace, people are healed, sins are forgiven, relationships strengthened and people are truly alive.

Grace gives God his name back.

Grace is the only thing the church has to offer that no one else can.

If a church wants to grow in depth and compassion, it should make Grace its #1 priority.

These are a few of my favorite verses on Grace. Share with me some of yours.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” Luke 14:12-14

“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” 2 Samuel 9:7

Grace


I have been asked to re-post the poem I wrote on “The Most Important Thing In The World”. I hope you enjoy it.
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“It is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.
It is meek, but you can’t contain it

Hard to grasp, but you know when it’s around.
It is hard to teach, but it can be found.

Exceedingly quiet, while deafening loud.
It is extraordinarily humble, yet aptly proud.

Thieves want to own it, but it cannot be stolen.
Many are for the strong, It is for the broken.

No one’s ever dreamed it.
No one’s ever owned it.
No one’s ever bought it.
You just get it when you receive it.

No politics can claim it.
No business can sell it.
No celebrity can wear it.
The poor and outcast possess it.

It is private, yet transforms communities.
Largely diverse, yet brings unity.

It is unfair, yet purely just.
More powerful than our strongest lusts.

Often emulated, yet falling short.
Eye for an eye, it is karmas retort

Always talked about, yet seldom shown.
It is something you must experience to be known.

It is not so much a destination, than an eternal trip
You can’t get by trying, you just open the gift.

It is multi-faceted, never looking the same.
It is the one thing that will never change.”

—————————————————————————————————————
This poem is about Grace.
Grace is a scandalous thing.
It will get you kicked out of your religion
It has gotten quite a few people killed.
Yet, Grace is the only hope for you, me and this tired, old world

I shared this poem at GVCC this weekend. People have requested I re-post it.

kenburkey

Distractions everywhere, doubters abound
Change the world? That reasoning is not sound
My face slaps reality, visions take back seat
My watch ticks fast, challenging great feats

I’m told be practical, I’m told to chill
I’m talked off my soapbox, told to stand still
Busy with mundane, busy with tasks
Children are dieing, our backs to the facts

Conversing about the day, waiting for weekend
2 days to do nothing, yet many die before weeks end
It seems strange to talk about my shallow fun
While food’s missing in ground scorched by sun

Religion in the big lights, inaugurating the next star
How do we entertain them, we have to raise the bar
While churches woo the converted, the all-ready convinced
There is a world giving up, believing God is “past tense”

We will win with arguments, we will win with laws
We will win with theology, we will win…

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For those of you who have been hurt, shamed, abused and manipulated in the name of God, I am so sorry!

kenburkey

 

I’m a pastor and I struggle a lot with religion.

I struggle a lot with the damage and hurt that has been done in the name of religion and Christianity. I know people have been hurt by other religions, but I can only speak for my faith and how it has been mismanaged and abused.

In the name of God, horrific things have happened in our world, from wars, to political power plays, to sex abuse scandals. Organized religion has used God as their power tool to gain control and leverage for personal pleasure in a world that would like to hope that there is a God who cares and there are spiritual leaders they can trust.

Republicans have their view of Christianity, the Democrats have their view of Christianity, and both use those views to leverage power in the political systems.

When it comes to love, war, our…

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Now is the time. This is our legacy. This is not an obligation but an opportunity!

kenburkey

 

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Women hold up half the sky.” If that is the case then sadly, “The sky is falling!”

Conservative estimates state that over 60 million girls and women who should be alive are “missing” from our world because of violence and other gender discrimination.

In China, 39 thousand baby girls die every year because parents do not give them the same medical care as baby boys receive in their first year of life.

In India, a “bride burning”, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so he can remarry, takes place once every two hours.

Atrocities against women rarely are reported and even more rarely make the news.

When 5 thousand women and girls, in Pakistan, were doused in kerosene and set fire in front of their families because of a perceived disobedience, it didn’t make the news.

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5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 4)

Vanessa was born into a broken world on November 3rd, 1989.

She was loved, but she didn’t love herself.

When she was 2, her father died in a motorcycle accident in Southern California.

Her mother was 21 years old with 2 small children, no job, no education and life became chaotic.

Sadness, anger and regret filled their lives, though no one ever talked about it.

Vanessa learned at a very early age to stuff deep hurts and play the part of a happy kid.

She played a lot of make believe, numbing herself to the reality of sadness, loneliness, pain and guilt.

Her other coping skills were eating too much and hurting herself.

Vanessa and her family went to church occasionally but her perception of God was that “He had a lot of rules that, if broken, would send me straight to Hell. The whole thing just wasn’t appealing.”

Her mother met a man and the family moved to Colorado and Vanessa felt like she was starting a new life with a new dad.

Everything seemed perfect until at the age of 10, she was molested by a 40-something-year-old neighbor, but she never told anyone about it, not realizing that anything out of the ordinary happened.

Vanessa’s mom got engaged, Vanessa’s mom got cancer, Vanessa’s mom’s new fiancé could not face the storm and he left.

Once again, Vanessa faced abandonment.

While her mom was getting medical treatment, Vanessa and her sister would stay up all night and began to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.

They moved back to California and the partying intensified.

When she entered high school her life was spinning out of control though on the surface you would not know.

She was in honor classes with high grades, involved in water polo, swimming, school plays, dance class, journalism, a statistician for wrestling and assisting with school rallies.

Yet getting wasted, smoking weed and stealing prescription drugs became an everyday occurrence.

Vanessa began to sell marijuana and was arrested and had to do community service.

Her sophomore year she got pregnant and had a miscarriage, yet, this was not her bottom.

She began to get into heavier things and then she discovered the drug of her choice, meth.

While still putting on a pretty good show on the outside, her mom caught her doing meth and she revealed that her dad had completely lost himself in the meth pipe.

The night he died, her mom caught him smoking and kicked him out of the house and that is when he crashed his motorcycle.

Vanessa felt lied to and ran away and did not finish the last 2 months of school.

Her mother reported her missing, thus violating her parole, and she was arrested and spent 2 ½ months in jail and sober.

When she got out, she got accepted to college and had great intentions of being a good student but quickly got involved with alcohol and weed.

“My disease was much stronger than my ambition.”

Vanessa jumped around from one high to another and ended up in Las Vegas where her dad’s friend Ryan lived.

She moved in with Ryan and “I found my usual low-life crowd and began selling weed, coke and x. I was then introduced to the pimp and prostitution game.”

“They appeared to have it all; little did I know they were just great actresses. I got myself a pimp, who was also a drug dealer.”

“That day, I sold my soul.”

Things went from bad to violent to worse and Vanessa eventually left her pimp but she kept selling drugs and was re-introduced to meth.

6 months later, smoking meth daily, she lost everything, cut off her long beautiful hair and went into seclusion.

He mom called the morgue often to find out if she was alive.

“The toxins of the drugs were seeping out of my pores. I would pick at my skin all over my body. My once flawless complexion was constantly covered in sores. I spent my 21st birthday getting high in a closet.”

On the night of November 17th, 2010, someone turned Vanessa in on a $10,000 bounty.

It saved her life.

She got lost in the system, a blessing in disguise, and for 21 days she reflected on her life and her choices.

“I looked into the foggy jail mirror and saw a grimy creature I didn’t recognize. God told me in a faint, gentle whisper, ‘This is not what I want for you. This is not who you are.’”

That night she wrote a poem titled, “Surrender”, begging God to deliver her from this insanity.

Under house arrest she immersed herself into recovery and followed the rules like her life depended on it. And it did.

“One day, as I was contemplating what the God of my understanding was to me, Jesus appeared. I have always been a cloud watcher. There He was wearing the crown of thorns, like an image I’d had on a postcard as a child. He was smiling at me and I could see that He was so proud. I had more hope that evening than any other moment of my entire life!”

Vanessa learned that the root of disease lies in obsession, compulsion, self-centeredness and lack of faith.

She moved to California and arrived in Placerville with a new ankle monitor.

Her mom mentioned that her church offered several recovery groups.

Vanessa thought, “Oh great! They are going to shove religion down my throat.”

A recovery meeting called “Celebrate Recovery” was meeting that night and so they came to the church and Vanessa experienced something she had not experienced before.

“That first night at Celebrate Recovery, I felt warmth and a hope I didn’t recognize. Everyone was so welcoming and loving. I began to attend church services and I started volunteering. I soon realized that Green Valley Community Church was not a religious church about judgment or being better than, but it was a Jesus church about relationships and acceptance.”

”One thing I knew, I had finally found home.”

“I learned that God is a father to the fatherless. He offers grace and forgiveness and peace. I began to like myself.”

”I got off house arrest, I got to flip a sign at Easter reading ‘Road to Hell” as my old life and “Road to Recovery” as my new life.”

Vanessa is an inspiration and a miracle and now helps young people recover from their hurts, hang-ups and habits.

Celebrate Recovery and my church’s commitment to help those dealing with hurts, hang-ups and habits has once again drawn us very close to the heart of God.

Jesus stated that he clearly came to “Heal the broken-hearted and set captives free.”

When people say that God doesn’t do miracles anymore, then they have never been a part of Celebrate Recovery.

Our Celebrate Recovery program was started by a couple who was rejected by another church when they wanted to start the program.

The church told them that they weren’t sure they wanted people with serious issues and addictions coming into their church.

Their sad loss was our gain.

Celebrate started small and as the leadership grew, so did the program.

7 years later, hundreds have overcome, healed, found God and been baptized.

When you go to a Celebrate Recovery service, ours is on Thursday nights, what you experience is what real church should be.

Each service includes true celebration, safe relationships, honest assessment, humbling confession and gut wrenching transparency and a sense of freedom and purpose that is contagious.

It is about as pure of a church as you will find!

We have now started “The Landing” which is Celebrate Recovery for teenage and college students.

It is a safe landing place for students to come and heal, build healthy relationships and start good habits.

Every church should help people overcome.

The 4th thing every church should and must do is be fully committed to “Celebrate Recovery.”

 

Vanessa’s life scripture is from the book of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah says, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great Your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

For more information about “Celebrate Recovery” go to… http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Or respond on this post
Or email me and we can talk burkeyk@gvcconline.net

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 3)

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Tom looks a lot like Santa Claus, plays the acoustic guitar a lot like James Taylor, and teaches children a lot like no one else.

A group of us from my church took a trip to West Africa and we were able to witness Tom’s amazing skills teaching local and global children about how special they were and how they were loved by God.

When we would walk through small villages, Tom would lead the way playing his guitar.

Children would appear out of nowhere, yelling, “Papa Noel! Papa Noel!” and before you knew it, the children were singing brand new songs, following their new found friend.

To say that Tom has a gift is an understatement.

To say that Tom was made by God to teach and invest in children is an obvious statement.

To say that Papa Noel’s joy and smile comes easy is about not knowing about the hole in his heart.

Five years ago, Tom lost his soul mate, the love of his life, his wife, a phenomenal teacher in her own right.

He lost her to cancer, a long, heroic fight that they fought together, and when she succumbed to the dreaded disease, Tom found himself exhausted, alone and wondering if life would ever make sense again.

He would tell you that there has never been a greater marriage.

And he would tell you that there has never been a greater pain.

To this day, every once in a while, I can see that look in Tom’s eyes, the twinkle in those baby blues is a little subdued, and I will put my arm as far around Papa Noel as I can.

I will ask him, “How are you today my friend?” and he will say, “It is a sad day. But I will be ok. My heart just hurts. And the sky is a little gray. But God is good.”

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries.

This is what my church’s funeral and grieving ministries look like:

The family and friends who have experienced loss will sit with staff and volunteers to plan the service with the church offering everything they need such as live music, pictures, DVD production, food planning and post grief share options.

When the service happens, all the family has to do is celebrate a life and grieve a loss.

They do not have to worry about any of the details, so they can be there in the moment with the freedom to mourn.

After the service, the family and friends move to our café where food is provided as people share a meal and tell more stories and the healing of sad hearts begins.

We have seen miracles happen in that café where family members who have not spoken in years for many reasons are reconnected and reconciled.

After the service is over, we offer a grief share class 52 weeks a year, where healthy grieving is learned and a new community of friendships are forged.

90% of our funerals are for people who are not connected to a church.

We charge nothing.

Oh, and by the way…every church should do this!

It is one of the most difficult and blessed things we do.

But let me warn you, Grace is messy!

And let me warn you, when a church begins to do this, it will never be the same…and you will never want to go back!

I remember meeting with some leaders from a church that wanted to start doing funerals.

They seemed eager to learn until we told them we do not charge.

You could see them add up the costs.

I told them, “It is called faith to do the right thing when you are not sure how it will work out.”

We also told them that some funerals get a little messy and raw.

We did a funeral several years ago for a family that lost a 43 year old father.

This family was a little rough around the edges and for the first time seeking God during this crises.

During the reception, with about 100 people eating, the family asked us if we could put in a DVD of some pictures they didn’t show during the service.

The DVD started with pictures of birthday parties, fishing trips and camping when all of a sudden a stripper at a bachelor party appeared on screen and we froze. (We now have a new policy: “Do not show pictures we haven’t looked at yet!”)

One of our young men volunteering in the kitchen, was sweeping, looked up, saw the picture, looked back down and kept sweeping. (Good job young man.)

Before we could do anything about it, the picture was gone and pictures of birthday parties, family gatherings and hunting trips appeared again.

Another one of our volunteers, in her seventies, saw the picture, and said, “Well, this is why we do what we do.”

I love her! She gets it.

I do not have time to tell you all the healing that has happened through our funeral and grieving ministries, but it is one of the most important things we do!

Last year we held 55 funerals.
This year we are on the same pace.

Every funeral brings heartbreak and healing. Hurt and hope. Loss and redemption.

It is a ministry very close to the heart of God.

I started this post by telling you about my friend Tom(Papa Noelle). The first time I met Papa Noelle was at his wife’s funeral at my church and now Tom is part of our church helping others heal.

I am a much, much better person because I know him.

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Check out tomorrow as I share part 4 of “5 Things Every Church Should Do.”

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 2)

The second thing every church should and must do is to lead the way in caring for the homeless.

And I am not talking about occasionally doing something nice for people who do not have shelter.

I am not talking about dabbling in niceness with a yearly thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Though, that is a good start.

I am not talking about doing flybys where the homeless live.

I am not talking about waiting to see what the local government is going to do for those who are homeless and then complain that they are not doing enough.

I AM talking about fully engaging in discovering what the true needs are for those without shelter.

I AM talking about building long term relationships with people who for many diverse reasons have found themselves in this difficult situation.

I AM talking about the church leading the way, by example, in investing in people who God has mandated us to take care of, by providing food, clothing, shelter, life skill classes and more.

I AM talking about the church inviting the homeless into their church services, treating them like the very brother and sisters they are.

God instructed the church in Isaiah 58 to:

”Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Then God gives us amazing promises and blessings to us if we do those things:

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal.”

”Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.”

“Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

“Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.”

“Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

Pretty cool promises and blessings if we get involved in the things God is passionate about.

Over the years God has blessed the church I go to, not because we are more holy than others, and not because we are smarter or better than anyone else.

I think God has blessed my church because it tries to take the words from Isaiah 58 seriously.

Every Saturday morning there is a service held in our Café, where a lesson is given, a free breakfast is served, groceries and fresh vegetables from our organic garden are given and clothes are offered to those who are in need.

On average, each Saturday morning, around 250 breakfasts are served, 150 bags of groceries are taken and around 1500 articles of clothing are given away.

This happens while relationships are being built and volunteer pastoral partners pray with families who are going through difficult times.

Focusing on others needs also allows our faith to grow and our priorities to change.

On one weekend, during the middle of winter, our clothing director told me that they needed men’s shoes to give to men who were spending a lot of time out in the elements with inadequate protection for their feet.

I announced at our 4 weekend services that we needed men’s shoes and not the stinky, worn out shoes that we eventually get rid of. I told them we need nice shoes that will bring warmth and dignity for our guests.

It was one of the most memorable weekends I have been a part of.

Men, as they were leaving the services, were taking off their shoes, their nice shoes, many worth over $100, and leaving them in our lobby and walking out to their cars in the pouring rain.

Over 200 pairs of shoes were left that day. One man told me that as he drove home in his wet socks it helped him have greater compassion for those who live out in cold, wet conditions.

He told me it challenged him to simplify his life and to be more thankful for how blessed he was.

One family, after one of the services, drove to a local sporting goods store and bought a couple dozen pairs of tennis shoes and brought them back quietly and left not wanting to get the credit.

Not all the people attending our Saturday morning breakfast are homeless, but these resources help people prioritize their finances keeping them in their homes.

But for those who are homeless, it allows them to eat a warm meal, hear a hope-filled message and begin to build healthy relationships.

It helps them make connections to resources, people and classes that will help them get back on their feet and find shelter.

Steve and Kelly Stockwell and Tom and Janice Carney are leading the way in how the church should respond to the plight of the homeless.

They have helped put a face to the reality of homelessness and have helped us understand the complexity, challenges and even the prejudices and wrong stereotyping that those without shelter face.

This last year during the winter season, several churches in our area created a rotating shelter, where those who wanted shelter could stay at the designated church for the evening.

Our church hosted our guests on Thursday and Friday nights. What a blessing it was for us. I think it was a blessing for them also.

Thursday nights worked well because we have Celebrate Recovery on those nights, so those who struggle with hurts, habits and hang-ups could show up to the service, learn, grow, heal and overcome, and then stay on campus and have a warm, dry place to sleep.

Friday nights worked well because our guests would spend the night and then wake up to our Saturday morning service, which we call “Common Ground” where they would receive that warm breakfast, groceries, clothing, prayer and love.

One man, this last winter, had found himself homeless because of addictions. He was a self-proclaimed agnostic, and then he began to watch how churches were opening their doors to him and praying for him, and he was blown away.

By spring, attending Celebrate Recovery he became a follower of Jesus and is now making amends with those he had burned bridges with.

One of my concerns about having a central shelter in a community is that many times it gives the local church an out.

I have talked to people in other communities who run shelters and they have trouble getting churches to get involved.

And if they do, they have a few people come to the shelter, but they do not have the homeless come to the church.

I think the power of community, healing and hope will happen when the church begins to open its doors and services to those that have been marginalized and forgotten.

This is just my opinion right now, but I don’t think we need to spend millions on a shelter when in every community, shelter and hundreds of thousands of square feet have already been built.

It is called the local church.

How many square feet in local churches sit there empty 90% of the time?

Don’t get me going on this one, but we don’t need more shelters, we need to open the doors of the shelters we already have.

It is time for the church to truly be the hands, feet and shelter that God has asked us to be.

It is time to reintroduce the meaning of “sanctuary.”

We have enough square feet.
We have enough shelter.
We have enough resources.

But do we have enough faith and guts to invite these precious people into the places we worship?

It is time the church leads the way.
It will be messy.
It will be blessed.
It is where we meet Jesus.

“Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

The second thing every church should and must do is to lead the way in caring for the homeless.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the third thing every church should do.