Letting Go of Old Identities

identity

Life’s too short for drama and negativity,
Pointing out the problem doesn’t take much ability.
Saturate the day with encouragement and optimism,
It’ll take focus and work, the opposite of passivism.

Only you can go to places that will stretch & grow you,
It will be scary, difficult, but it will reward you.
No one will cheer you, but go there anyway,
Few will understand, it’s the price you must pay.

The sign of maturity is to become less dramatic,
Being the victim has now become anti-climatic.
Energizing those around, you’re no longer a drain,
Hope is your new choice, like the smell of spring rain.

Jesus came to remove the sin of exclusion,
The Pharisees felt threatened like he was an intrusion.
Gandhi was puzzled by the churches prejudice,
He stayed Hindu because there was no difference.

We create our own boxes, it’s time to get rid of them,
We’re far more creative than we can fully comprehend.
So don’t get caught up in main stream philosophies,
The world needs your uniqueness with no apologies.

The only prayer you need is a simple “Thank you”,
Gratitude’s the answer, and miracles are the clue.
Thankfulness leads to joy, it’s the obvious fruit,
Waiting for perfect conditions is a destructive pursuit.

As we grow older we gravitate towards safety,
Talk is cheap, where have you gone lately?
To see justice we must run towards the unknown,
Uncertainty and discomfort, it’s where faith is grown.

His love is unconditional, no grading on a curve,
A stunning faithfulness, it’s not what I deserve.
It’s easy to forget, I strive for perfection,
I’m vulnerable to fail, but grace is my protection.

I have more pants than days in the week,
My 4g is slow, it’s new products I seek.
Lack of sanitation kills, statistics show it,
More people have mobile phones than a simple toilet.

Too many people choosing not to forgive,
It’s become their story, the way that they live.
I must let go of old identities, it’s a matter of will,
I’m canceling the debt, it’s paid in full.

 

From Every Tribe and Every Nation…a few thoughts from Africa

Africa 2012 164

From every tribe, and every nation
My faith transcends denomination
Culture, colors none the same
Redemption comes in Yeshua’s name

Stuck in my view, its far too narrow
My earthly eyes see too much sorrow
Babies die and mothers weep
Big men lie while others sleep

Told tough times lead to deeper faith
I still avoid them like the plague
Addicted to teaching, binder full of notes
The harvest is plentiful, but my actions remote

White, yellow, brown, red and black
There is no shade that God lacks
Transformation, it’s a lifetime journey
Humility is key to eternal learning

I’m looking for joy so I can be grateful
But joy doesn’t come until I am thankful
With crippled feet I run the race
Mud knee deep, carried by Grace

Prejudice rampant, wars rage
Holy genocide litters history’s page
Religion rules, picking the chosen ones
Ignoring the words “whosever will may come.”

Overwhelmed by conditions
Missed opportunities, lost positions
Challenges daily, endurance a must
Searching for strength, faith and trust

Heroes all around, they’re just hard to see
Quietly walking with God humbly
Africa, Asia and unknown lands
Extending love as God’s own hands

Leading is vision, I must give it away
Strategies come and go, but deep values must stay
A new generation, called to invest
The Body too small, we need the rest

I want all the answers, a path that is clear
A path that is easy with nothing to fear
But my sights too short, and patience, I’m far from it
Faith means building the bridge while I’m walking upon it.

We bless the poor but the poor are already blessed
When I’m serving the least I am truly at my best
New beginnings start with a broken heart
Stupid poverty ends when I do my part

The church is asking “what’s the next fashion?”
Fighting injustice is God’s great passion
Theology debates, they lead to deep fraction
Loving one another is our call to action

I desperately need an eternal view
It gives me the courage to do the things I must do
Opportunities all around me, there is power in His name
He gives sight to the blind and strength for the lame

I desperately need an eternal view
Embracing the temporary is our cultures cue
My life is on loan, it is not my own
It’s not about great feats, but the seeds that are sown

Male, female, Jew, Samaritan and gentile
Grace is pervasive, it starts with a child
The greatest among us was born in a stable
The Good New is for all, the weak and the able

Will we be exclusive, just another sect
Or will we serve our neighbor, gaining their respect
Will we love the orphan, the widow and those who fall
Will we be known as restorer of cities and re-builder of walls

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.

Where is Jesus?

During the week before his death, Jesus said these words, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

As I am reading this I am wondering what kind of criteria is he going to use to separate them? Is it church attendance? Tithing? Correct theology? Abstaining from evil? The right political affiliation? Abstinence? I wonder what it will be?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

Really!!? When I was growing up in church I was told I was making it to heaven by staying away from bad people and bad things.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that is where I could have hung out with Jesus! I was told you meet Jesus through a really cool church service or worship song. I realize now that Jesus was all around me, I just didn’t recognize him.

Ken and C. J. have been married for many years. They live and run a deli in Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay has one homeless man, a man named Garland. Garland dressed poorly and acted a little strange and slept in the city park. But being Christians, Ken and C.J. befriended Garland and offered him food and kind words.

When their store was broken into everyone in town accused Garland. But Ken and C.J. knew it couldn’t have been their friend. In fact, they prepared a very expensive gift basket for Garland and gave it to him. The next morning the police showed up with Garland, who was holding the expensive gift basket, certain they had caught the burglar of their store.

Ken and C.J. to protect Garland from embarrassment said, “Oh, Garland! Thank you for bringing your basket back. We forgot to put some things in it we wanted you to have. And by the way, here’s the change I forgot to give you.” And Ken made up a number. In front of the police he opened the cash register and gave Garland $38.67. The police let Garland go without saying a word.

A few mornings later Garland died in the park in his sleep. Ken and C.J. were called to the attorney’s office. They were told that Garland had made them the sole heir in his will. He wrote “The entire contents of my travel bag are
yours.”

Inside the bag was a bag of birdseed, a Bible and a bankbook. The names on the savings account were Garland and Ken and C.J. The last entry in the savings account was the day before for $38.67 bringing the balance to well over three million dollars.

The bankbook had been used as a bookmarker in the Bible. Garland had put it in a unique place and the Bible lay open to Matthew 25:35 and the verse was underlined. “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home and you invited me into your house. Jesus said, ‘When you did it for the least of these My people, you also did it for Me.'”

Garland had hidden wealth that nobody knew about.
When Jesus Christ hung on the cross very few of those standing there knew how wealthy He was.
He was God. He was the creator of the universe and He owned everything.
We have a hidden wealth and power that many times we underestimate.

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when he gave his mission statement, “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. To heal those who are brokenhearted. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Where is Jesus?

He’s the homeless person looking for shelter.
She’s the abused mom who is looking for safety.
He’s the dying aids patient looking for someone to care.
She’s the prostitute who is begging for intimacy.
He’s your co-worker who’s depressed.
She’s the mother from Niger wondering how she is going to feed her 3 children.
It is the forgotten widow barely getting by on her social security check.
It is your neighbor who is facing bankruptcy and losing his home.
It is the elementary student who was abandoned by his father.
It is the drug addict looking for another fix.
It is the foreigner who faces another day of prejudice.
It is the Garland that leaves you 3 million and 38 dollars and 67 cents.

Author Max Lucado says, “Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion amidst the ill. If we want to see God we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see them, we will see Him.”

Author and Speaker Tony Campolo says “Jesus never says to the poor come find the church. But he says to those of us in the church, go into the world and find the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned.”