24 September 2009

Why Don't I Just Quit?

Have you ever had a day where you just felt like giving up? I have...today actually! 'Why don't I just Quit?" That is what went through my mind. Today is the second time in as many weeks that I have thought about quitting. It is insane to me that I even entertain the idea. What else am I going to do? Where would I go? If I did quit I would merely be running from God, from His will. I am reminded of Ps. 139:7-8 "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence. If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there." As you can see, running really isn't an option for me.

I am continually irritated with myself at how low my struggle threshold is. I hit a bump in the road and I want to quit. I turn into a head wind and want to pull over and wait. I drive into the rain and want to pull under an overpass and call it a day. The truth is that I have nothing to complain about. I was reminded today at what the disciples went through back in the day. They were persecuted at every turn. Somebody always wanted to throw them in prison, beat them, and kill them. Nobody has wanted to kill me yet. If they have they haven't told me about it. I look at Paul and I see a bunch of issues- "Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—" 2Cor 11:23-27

In case you didn't catch it the first time, read those passages again. At my current pace, I would have given up with one shipwreck, or one time being beaten. Or worse yet, I would have given up with the mere threat of any of the above. When I get into moods like this I just have to remind myself that I haven't seen anything yet! Don't get me wrong, I don't want to quit, I just think about it from time to time.

What it comes down to in the end is that I can either do what God has called me to do or I can run from Him. The problem with running? Psalm 139- I can't go anywhere without God being there. I can't escape Him, and in all reality, I don't want to. Been there, done that. Years of running led to years of pain and agony. Then I look at Paul and I think- don't want that either. It is a catch 22 of sorts. At least it is in my mind.

All this runs through my head, then I meet a guy like Corky. I was walking my dog Kali and he turned to try to pet her. She is timid, so that didn't go so well. I went to walk on when I heard God's Spirit speak to me and say "talk", so I did. In less than five minutes he opened up his life to me, all his ailments and all his problems. Five minutes, that's it! We walked only one city block. When we got to the end of the block I realized we were going separate ways, so I stopped him and asked if I could pray with him. He said yes, absolutely! I told Him that doctors may not be able to help, but God can. We prayed and he went on his way. As I walked back to the apartment I realized one important thing, I can't quit! I won't quit! It's just not in me to quit. Why not? Corky, that's why I won't quit!

Have you ever quit? Have you ever wanted to quit? How did you keep yourself from giving up? Do you have a secret to success in this area that we could all learn from?

23 September 2009

Meet Billy

I went out today and walked the streets of Indianapolis with my dog, Kali. She loves to go for walks while we are in Indy. While I was out walking I prayed for opportunities to be a blessing. Yesterday I had seen this homeless man sitting along a fence. I had a strong pull inside to stop and talk to him, but didn't. Today I told God that if I saw him again I would be obedient this time. I've said that a hundred times and maybe three times I have had a second chance. Today was a second chance day. As I walked down the street I was praying about who to reach out to. I asked God to show me who needed His love today. I turned the corner and guess who was there again today? Yup, it was the same man. I knew God had something for this man.

I walked over to him and introduced myself. I told him that I wanted to sit and just talk to him for awhile. I never realized until I saw the sparkle in his eyes how nice it is when we just stop and say hi. He introduced himself, his name is Billy. I asked if it was o.k. if I asked him a few questions and he graciously replied "yes you can." So here is how some of the conversation went.

Scott- So, are you from around here?
Billy- Ya, I grew up here.
Scott- So, do you live around here?
Billy- Ya... I live on the streets... I am homeless.
Scott- I don't mean to be nosey, but how did you end up on the streets? Was it a choice, or where you forced into the streets because of circumstances?
Billy- I lost my job, industry left and now I can't find work
Scott- How long have you been on the streets?
Billy- About two years, maybe more...ya, it's been two years.
Scott- Again, I don't want to pry, I just really want to help people, maybe you can help me better understand how to help. Do you ever go to Wheeler?
Billy- Ya, sometimes in the winter. I mostly just stay in the streets though.
Scott- If there was one thing someone could do for you, what would be the most important thing you need right now?
Billy- I just need a place to stay, someplace to sleep every night off the street. I also need money, if you could help me in that arena I would appreciate it.
Scott- I travel around the country and the one thing I think people need most is love. That is what I want to tell you today, that you are loved. Not just by me, but by God. He loves you so much and wants to help you. Because of that, I want to help you.
I don't have much, but what I have is yours.

At this point a smile came across Billy's face. I could see a genuine appreciation for what I was saying.

Billy- Thank you
Scott- Your welcome. Can I pray with you right now.
Billy- Yes, please!

There was much more to the conversation than this. I just wanted to give you a little look into how much you can give without giving the bank. I only gave him two dollars, not much, but it was all I had. Billy's response was "thank you, this is a cup of coffee later on." He said it with a smile and real appreciation.

I don't advise that people go around just giving money to homeless people. I know many times they are just looking to get their next fix, but I will say this, still give. Give food gift cards to fast food restaurants that can't be spent anywhere else or for anything else. Make sure there is easy access for them to the place you are giving the gift card for, otherwise, what kind of blessing is it really? Give gift cards to stores in the area like Walmart, Starbucks, etc. Give cash if you are led to. Don't be afraid to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit on this one.
Most importantly give of your time, communicate and find out what people need. Listen to them and hear what they are saying. Nothing says "love" more than a listening ear. Whatever is on your heart to give, give it with all the love that Jesus has put in you.

Sure, Billy needed way more than two dollars and a fifteen minute conversation, but the fact is I gave out of what I had on hand at the moment. It says in Acts 3:6 "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you:..." Money isn't the only thing Billy needs, he knows that. I would be willing to bet that God is able to give him exactly what he needs, just be a willing vessel and God will fill the need every time.

I encourage you, go out and meet Billy. Not the same Billy that I met, but every town has a Billy. Every town has a guy or girl whose suffered a set back or two. I told Billy that I wanted my actions to speak louder than my words. I don't know if I succeeded today, but I do know that I gave it a shot. You never know unless you try.

The truth is, I can't give Billy much right now. In the future I would love to be able to give him, and others in his situation more. I would love to put Billy up in a nice hotel for a couple days, get him some new clothes and wash his old clothes. I would love to take him to a nice restaurant to eat an expensive, good meal. I would like to help him find a job and a permanent place to live. The truth is, without support from people like you, I can't give anything. I want people to see what it is that this ministry is doing, where our heart is, and how we can make a difference. I want people to buy into the vision, in a literal sense. We can make a difference, one person at a time, but we can't do it without you. Please prayerfully consider helping us financially, or in what ever capacity that you can. We have a list of needs in the right hand column. If there is anything you have on your heart to give to help, please contact us, the info is at the bottom of the page. Lives can be changed one at a time if we will work together to make it happen. Thank you for all that you do to help make this mission possible.

22 September 2009

Love God: and Some Other Thoughts On Love

It's been a long while since my last post. This is mostly due to the lack of internet availability. Although I had found a coffee shop in Hastings, MI that had a computer I could use, I never felt comfortable writing a blog there. I had tried from time to time, but the overwhelming feeling of "over the shoulder" watchers stopped me. I have been thinking about quite a few things lately so I will try to start putting them on the blog this week as I have time. Here goes the first attempt.

Recently I have had the opportunity to speak. Unless you have the same love, it is hard to explain the emptiness ministry can have without it. For many years I have wanted to do nothing more than preach. It has been much more difficult than I had expected to give up regular pulpit time to hit the road. It's almost as if I had to give up a part of me to travel. I know God will use this part of my life more regularly in the future, but for now, it is difficult to give up.

Lately, when I am given the chance to speak, all I can speak about is God's love. I know there are so many other issues in the Bible of importance, but since the revelation hit me that God loves me I can't get away from it. To be honest, I don't think there is a more important Bible topic than God's love. While I have been speaking on this topic I have come to understand that telling of God's love is easy, explaining what God has done to show His love is easy, but what is not easy is telling people how they can practically experience this love they so desperately need. Each person is so unique and special to God that He may commune differently with each person. One day, while giving an illustration, this hit me. I realized that this is one way God has shown me how this love thing works for Him. I wanted to share it here and hope that it helps others better understand how a love relationship is suppose to look and how you too can have this relationship with God.

So many people think that just because God loves them it is enough. That all they need to do is acknowledge His love and move on. People think that because God loves them they can essentially ignore Him and still reap the benefits of that relationship. That couldn't be further from the truth. A love relationship with God is no different than it is with a person. Let me use an example from my own life.

Many years ago there was a girl that I was completely in love with. She was it for me, I knew it, and it was settled forever, as far as I was concerned. I would do anything for this girl. I would buy her flowers, tickets to concerts, dinner at expensive restaurants, you name it, I would do it. If she needed emotional support, I was there. If she needed help, I was there. Whatever she needed I would take care of, even to the point of overextending myself financially. The only problem was that she didn't feel the same. At the end of the day, no matter how much I did, I knew that the relationship was empty. I knew that it was a one sided thing that had no chance of growing into anything more than what it was. I knew that it was doomed to destruction.

I left that relationship broken and empty, feeling hurt and lonely. The funny thing is, it wasn't until years later that I realized that was what I was doing with God all the while. I shut my heart off while He was doing everything He could to show me His love. He was always there, anytime, anyplace, no matter what I needed. I took Him for granted in so many ways and just expected Him to be there when I needed Him. My relationship with God was so much like my relationship with this girl, it was one sided.

The fact that I had been treated this way and I knew how it felt should logically take me to a place where I wouldn't want to do that to anybody else in my life, especially God, right? Wrong! In fact, I found the exact opposite to be true. Instead, I was more eager to hurt others, as if I could in some way hurt this girl by hurting others. I could orchestrate some kind of revenge in life by being this way. I sort of blamed God for where I was. The truth is, it doesn't work that way. You know the best way to deal with someone who has done this to you, love them. This is not because I think God will smite them or heap hot coals on their head by loving them, but rather because they need that love. I have found that when I am most likely to hurt others in this way is when I am hurting on the inside. If I am not feeling adequate or loved, then I would try to make others feel what I was feeling, after all, misery loves company. I found that God was no longer in the picture in my thought life, prayer life, or any other area of my life. I could feel His presence from time to time. I could tell He was wanting to work in my life, but I was shut down to Him and what He wanted. The hurt that I felt inside was only amplified by my lack of love relationship with God.

How do we fix it then? It's not simple, but just like we are willing to pursue those we love and do what it takes to show our love to them , we need to pursue love relationship with God. We need to find ways to build a solid, two way relationship of love with Him. In order to experience God's love to it's fullest potential you need to be actively pursuing a love relationship with Him. Pray, spend time in the Word, and listen for and follow His direction for your life. Lift up daily praise to Him for what He has done and open your heart to be used in any capacity to share this love with others.

So a quick side note, how do we love those that have hurt us? I couldn't love this girl the same way as before without causing more damage in my life. Thank God that there were plenty of opportunities to show love without putting ourselves in any emotional danger. Here are a few things I learned in my life.

First thing is that you need to pray for them. Give them to God so He can fill them with His love. One truth I've learned is that until you let God fill you with His love, you'll never be able to maintain a healthy love relationship with anyone else.

Secondly, always, and I mean always, speak well of them. It only makes sense that you would have good things to say if you really did love them. Don't let yourself be caught in the trap of bad mouthing others. This can be one of the most destructive things you can do, not only for them, but you also. People know when they have done somebody wrong. Think about what it would say to that person if they heard the good things you were saying about them. It would speak volumes to their heart. The Bible tells us to return evil with good. Don't let the enemy convince you that this will make things better.

Thirdly, no matter what, don't judge them. Judgment is one of the worst things we can do to others. It caused our hearts to be hardened and it is just plain hurtful to those being judged. The truth is, we don't know what is really at the root of the problem for them. Judging them is only going to cause more harm. We live in a time of the church where God's judgment is delayed in our lives until we have lived them out. He is waiting to see what we will do. He is waiting to see if we will accept His free gift of love, if we will accept His Son as our Lord and Savior. He is giving us the benefit of the doubt. This is a great time to give others the benefit of the doubt. Let God work His love into their hearts so they can see what real love is.

Finally, forgive them. I think this is the most important step of all. This should be the first step. There is nothing more important for your life than forgiving others. I know it doesn't seem possible some times, but do it in faith. You may say, "You don't know what they did to me?" to which I respond, "Do you know what Jesus did for you?" If we can't forgive it really shows that we don't fully understand what it is that Jesus did for us. The Bible tells us that those that are forgiven much have much to be thankful for. I don't know about you, but I have a BUNCH to be thankful for. How can I possibly hold onto and not forgive others knowing that I have been forgiven of so much. I really believe that unforgiveness is the core root of strife and anger. Forgive and let it go to God. The truth is that He is the only one who could do anything about it anyway.

Does any of this make sense? It did to me when I wrote it. Tell me what you think. Has this ever happened to you? Are there more steps to mending love hurts? Can a love relationship with God really change your life?

05 September 2009

Change Selfish to Selfless

I have some time on my hands tonight so I thought I would write. My friends are in bed. They have three kids, so early to bed, early to rise carries a whole new meaning. My schedule is not compatible, which leaves me with some time to kill before bed. I have had two days in New Haven, CT. I've never been here before, but I like it. It's my kind of town. The home of Yale University and an incredibly diverse population. I came here with one goal- see a long lost friend. Goal accomplished! What I didn't expect was the overwhelming tug on my heart for this area and a desire to find a way to show God's love. You can be sure of this, I will be back.

This was a leg of the trip that I was devoting to me and me alone. After all, I haven't seen them in eleven years. There really is nothing wrong with that. I expected to hang out and catch up. What I didn't expect was that I would end up with an opportunity to minister during my visit. Last night we were walking into an ice cream shop and a guy stopped me to ask for some money. My first thought was to ignore him and move on. After all, that was what I was trained to do. Just don't make eye contact and walk on by. As this thought was going through my mind I was hit by an overwhelming warmth in my heart. The words of an earlier blog entered my head, "Can't Look Away." Before I could walk past the man my heart halted me and I stopped to talk to him. I told him I wasn't going to give him money, but I would gladly buy him some food. He looked confused, either nobody had ever done that before, or food wasn't his purpose. Which ever didn't matter to me. After a long pause he said sure. We found a pizza place, bought some food and a beverage and walked back to the ice cream shop to over indulge in God's greatest gift to mankind, ICE CREAM! Which I did with all the gladness of my heart.

The purpose for this story isn't to pat myself on the back, or to get people to say, "Oh, isn't he doing great things," but instead to show the impact one act of love can have on others. Not only on the man who received the pizza, but on the friend I was with as well. I had just got done giving her a long soap box speech about helping those in need and how the church wasn't doing enough and how we needed to be more sensitive to those in need and yada, yada, yada. Now, not five minutes later I am put on the spot. Sure, it would have been easy to walk past and ignore the man, but I couldn't. I had inadvertently given myself a line of accountability that I now had to live up to. I had no choice but to help. Don't get me wrong, deep in my heart I wanted to help, but I still found myself resorting back to old habits and old prejudices. When it was all said and done, a man ate a meal and a friend saw Jesus' love in action. She commented on how happy the guy was with the food he received and I knew that God just gave me a moment to show a practical demonstration of what it is that I now live for. Sure, if I hadn't done what I did it could have hurt my credibility with my friend, but worse yet, it would have hurt the very God I serve.

The point I'm trying to get across is to be open to God. Let Him take a moment of self gratification (no matter how justifiable) and turn it into a moment for His love to shine. You never know who is watching and learning from you. Your words can only carry you so far, but your actions can carry you over the top. Studies show that kids learn more from what their parents do than they do from what they say. Other people learn from you the same way. The truth is that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. My friend saw Jesus and His love alive. The man we served saw Jesus and His love alive. Once again I learned a valuable lesson about Jesus and bringing His love alive. God doesn't bring crap on us to teach us, but He does work in mysterious ways. The mystery never ceases to amaze me. What more could you want from one moment in God's loving arms. Be courageous, and step out to act on what you believe. Give yourself accountability with others so even in a moment of weakness you can be strong. Jesus loves you and He loves those you come in contact with as well. Let the love of Christ shine in all you say and do.

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