“God is in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us when we are with them.” ~ Bono
It was just like any other Saturday. Meet with a few buddies first thing in the morning and then get on with my day. More often than not I wind up driving to the office, and then to the “homeless hangout.” The owner of a pest control company noticed my car in that area so often that he offered me my own parking space in his lot right next to this unique “community.” It’s the only place I’ve ever “worked” where I get my own parking spot.
I spot an open seat. Pat, a colorful character, brilliant and street savvy, perhaps more familiar with this homeless family than anyone there, drops the heavy sack off his shoulders, plops down in the plastic chair, looks up and smiles. “Hey Stefan, I’m going for seconds, can I get you something?” He returns with a Styrofoam cup I’m convinced may have been more “Living water,” than just plain H2O. (Man, that’s supposed to be part of my mission.)
A Google search for the term “Homeless Community” turns up more hits than Catholic Community, Baptist Community, Methodist Community, Hispanic Community, Missional Community… and the list goes on. Who in the world decided “homeless” and “community” belong together? Well, maybe God.
My friend Hugh Holowell, Director of Love Wins, and a strong advocate for the poor and marginalized told me today how a homeless man actually taught him to pray. He says, “I offered to pray for this guy at the end of his rope, but he insisted on praying for me! He said, “Hugh, you go to the refrigerator or restaurants for every meal, but I have to pray every morning, not sure where the next meal is coming from.” Hugh powerfully explains how transformational these relationships can be.
Real community dismantles the walls of “us and them” creating an environment of simply…us.
I felt this last week stepping through the door of the soup kitchen around the corner from my office. I was handed a ticket at the door. My meal ticket. Hey, cool…but wait. Do I “look” homeless? Oh, who cares? I was actually looking for a friend that day, not lunch, but I noticed the beauty of the conversations around the table, relationships forged, guys giving thanks for their food and even someone pounding out a few songs on the piano.
It hit me! I’m witnessing “God’s Missional Community.” We think we’re going downtown to serve a stranger soup, but God uses them to serve us Jesus. We “reach out” and offer them a few bucks but God uses them to “reach in” offering us faith of gold.
Who’s teaching whom? Who’s feeding whom? Well, God knows. But I’m sure of this: Our homeless brothers and sisters, the poor and the outcast, often mistaken for the takers, are often the givers. In God’s divine economy we may be on their mission field.
Jesus never once wandered into a building or a synagogue with the religious people of His day yelling out, “Hey ya’ll, I’m in here!” He DID say, in essence, “I’m over here.” “When you feed the hungry, visit the sick and the prisoner, cloth the naked, and open your door to the stranger, well…Surprise!!! That Was Me.” (OK, He didn’t say “Surprise” but you get the point)
Life is about community. Community about belonging. Belonging about acceptance. Acceptance starts with “For God so loved the whole world that He gave His only Son…” Don’t wait till the holiday season to give.
There’s no place like HOPE,
“I wanna believe God loves me, but…”
Here’s a few:
Time to call on Jesus and tell the enemy, “We ain’t takin’ it!”
A dear friend, speaking of my job at church, remarked to me the other day, “But Stefan, you work with God.” Kinda funny in a way, but the opposite is also true. You work against the devil. (Yeah, there is a devil…and he is not your friend) If you sense no adversity, only comfortable blue water, smooth sailing and unicorns, I suggest you wake up. Ask any disciple and they’ll tell you that contrary to popular thinking, everyday is NOT a Friday. Your adversity may seem great but God is greater.
If there’s anything that I’m sure of…100% sure of, it’s God’s word. Chances are, this week you’re inundated with pressures, commitments, deadlines and just basic life. Try to live out that stuff you heard Sunday and watch the arrows flying your way. But friend, you are a warrior and you’re gonna win this battle. Take a moment and speak out these verses. (Meditate on them. Shout them if it helps! #whateverittakes) I’ve even put together a playlist below to get you through this week.
~ For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10)
~ There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
~ Nothing can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39)
~ In all things God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)
~ God is faithful. He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
~ God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
~ My light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
~ He is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me. (Ephesians 3:20)
~ God is for me! Who can be against me? (Romans 8:31)
Here’s the music that for me is both worship and warfare.
There’s no place like HOPE,
It wasn’t holding the boat secure at all. The waves were in control of our boat, not the anchor. I swam back to the surface and told Gavin, “Our anchor’s not secure.” We pulled the boat into a better area, let out more rope and set our anchor secure under a huge rock.
“Hope is patiently waiting expectantly for the intangible to become reality.” – Avery D. Miller
“Mr. Stefan, I got a new Bible.” ~ Noah 6 3/4 years old
A picture tells a thousand words, so I’ve included the 2 versions.
If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s 18 year old Sam Russell affirming his own faith as he sings during our worship this past week, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”
One hundred forty people sparsely filled the front of the room that morning. Tables filled the back of the hall where kids would feel free to color and, well— just feel free. (Who wouldn’t want that?) Small beginnings. Who knew this church would become a conduit of the grace of God to me. Couriers of second chances. (Worth a listen)
Today, there are no room for tables, the one service is two, and soon to be three. Now I’m the one with the blessing of carrying my own granddaughter, London, to the back, letting her feel free to grab a few pieces of crayon or chalk and to— just feel free. Thank you, Eli, for reminding me to thank God for second chances. Thank you, London, for helping me to stay on my knees…and play. And thank you, God for Your promise that He who the Son sets free is free indeed…gratuitously pardoned, and eternally kept.
There’s no place like HOPE,
Have you ever Skyped someone or sent a video message and found yourself carefully cropping and editing just what you wanted them to see in the picture? Pretty soon someone will invent an app that only shows what’s in the background.
Maybe the church buildings stuck out to me because, as a person who’s worked in churches for over 33 years, I seem to keep bumping into Jesus outside the church. (I actually bumped into my pastor on the way…so, if you’re reading this…if the shoe fits…) Anyhoo, I read a brief article by New York Times Best Selling Author, Donald Miller, where he’s almost defending his position that during this season in life he’s not tied to one local church. He writes, “I’d say half of the most impactful people I know, who love Jesus and tear up at the mention of His name, who reach out to the poor and lonely and are fundamentally sound in their theology, who create institutions that feed hundreds of thousands, do not attend a traditional church service.” I guess he encounters Jesus outside church walls as well.
I stumbled upon a webpage the other day simply called “Beautiful Churches.” (There’s also a page called Beautiful Abandoned Churches…that’s another blog) It’s a Pinterest page with some of the most beautiful, rich, colorful, diverse churches you’ll ever see. The photos were extraordinary, but I noticed one glaring omission. People. These were all churches in the traditional sense, as in buildings. But in actuality, the church is…people. So, I decided to start my own Pinterest page and call it, “The Beautiful Church.” I’m asking my friends around the world to send me pictures of their church. Not building stuff, but people.
When trying to describe the page I was reminded of the old rhyme we all taught our kids, “Here’s the church, here is the steeple…” But, here’s the twist. Instead of the people being locked inside two tightly clasped hands, this church would be all about the people. So, here goes. If you have pictures you would consider “the church” you could send them my way and together we’ll help shift the perspective of beautiful buildings to “The Beautiful Church.”
Jesus prayed: “that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17
There’s no place like HOPE,