Saturday, October 23, 2010
ARE YOU LIKE I WAS?
Maybe some of you out there are like I was a couple of years ago. I had reached a point in my life where God woke me up and showed my life for what it really was....nice, easy, and safe. It was also selfish, lazy, and not very loving. I had been hurt a lot and fed up with people and so had unconsciously made life choices that insulated me from messy, hurting people. I was only doing things that benefited me and mine. I was only investing in relationships that wouldn't get too complicated or demanding.
As a result, I got very far away from the heart of God.
Sure, I was still a Christian.
And He loved me.
But He didn't love the fact that I wasn't loving those who are very, very precious to Him....His least and lost, His orphans and widows.
Once I woke up to the state of my heart and life, then I was responsible.
I could no longer just live for me and mine.
I had to get out of my comfort zone and put myself, and my family, back into situations that would bring us into contact with those who were hurting and hungry and in bondage and scared and messy. I had to make the choice to follow the way of Jesus and His cross, dying to self for the sake of others, or find ways to justify staying the same. And really, in the light of scripture, there is no justification for a Christian to cut themselves off from the people out there who desperately need God's love.
But if you are a Christian who wants to do more, you want to live more sacrificially and practice pure religion, that of caring for the orphans and widows (James 1:27), you might not know where to start. You might want to act but just don't know where to start.
Don't let that stop you.
Ignorance is no excuse. Especially in this day and age with all the networking tools we have. If you aren't living in my area, then I might not be able to give you specific ministries to plug into, but all you have to do is start googling or asking around and you'll be amazed at what you find. And ask God. If He knows your heart is to serve Him and those in need, then He'll connect you.
Love the elderly? Pick up a phone book and start calling nursing homes and retirement centers and find out if they need volunteers to lead Bible studies, do manicures, lead hymn sings, throw them a party, or just go hang out and visit.
Have a heart for fatherless boys? Contact children's homes in your area and see if they allow volunteers. Check with your YMCA and see if they have after school programs or inner-city kids. Start a backyard Bible club in a nearby housing project or trailer park. Adopt a single-mom led family and take her sons fishing, include them in your family's holiday events, or just have the boys over to help you change the oil in your car.
Wonder about the homeless now that it is getting colder? Hold a clothes drive and collect coats, sweaters, gloves, hats, and blankets to donate to a homeless shelter or inner-city ministry. Get your church to open up it's gym or fellowship hall to the homeless when temperatures dip dangerously low. Volunteer to work in an already established clothing closet ministry on a regular basis.
Hate that there are people in your own city going hungry? Open up a free food pantry at your church. Keep bags of easy-to-eat food along with a scripture verse pamphlet in the trunk of your car or behind your seat to give beggars you pass through out your day. Get involved with an ANGEL FOOD ministry in your area. Drop off bags of groceries anonymously at that elderly neighbor's house that you know is struggling to make ends meet.
Want to see prisoners come out of jail as new creations in Christ? Donate Bibles and Christian books to local jails and prisons. Get involved with Prison Ministry. Visit, pray for, and write to people you personally know who are incarcerated. Contact a local prison chaplain and ask how you can help.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many ways to walk out the command of Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison, give water to thirsty, provide shelter for the stranger.
Each and every one of us has been given unique gifts, talents, resources, and passions. Each of us has a unique set of people in our lives with their own needs. Each of us has the ability to do something to advance the Kingdom of God.
At different points in our lives we are able to do more or less. If you are a mom of 4 little kids with a husband who works long hours and no relatives in town to help out, then your time and energy is more limited. For you, all you might be able to do at this point is weekly take the kids next door to visit the elderly widower --- taking him store bought cookies, crayon scribbled pictures, and just some silly laughter to break up lonely monotony. If you're a middle-aged adult facing the empty nest, then you might have found yourself with hours of freedom to go full force into starting up a new ministry that requires hours of work every day.
But wherever you are on this spectrum, the important thing is that you are doing what God wants you to do for the people that He is calling you to love.
I can honestly tell you that one of the best things we have done for our family is to get involved with inner-city ministries in our metro-area. Whether it is going to WINGARD HOME --- the only place in our state that offers shelter to whole families and dads with children --- to wash dishes, rake leaves, and clean out the pantry or going to WE WILL GO to serve a meal, hand out free clothes, pray for folks, and build friendships, we are loving the least and the lost for Jesus. We are clothing the naked, bringing joy to those who are sorrowful, feeding the hungry, praying for the hurting, helping provide shelter for the homeless, building friendships with those who are lonely.
And not only are we doing for them, we are gaining as a result. Our time there is changing our family. It is keeping us focused on the heart of God. It is reminding us to not be wrapped up in things that don't matter like fancy house furnishings, expensive clothes, and even organizations and time commitments that in the long run don't matter in the light of eternity. It helps keep us from falling into the trap of shallow religion. It is causing us to love and care about the soul of our city and the individuals trapped there which motivates us to pray and give. It exposes us and our kids to on fire Christians who are amazing role models and spur them on to greater things for the Kingdom. It is something we can do together and thus makes our relationships stronger. And I can't help but think that it causes our Lord to smile upon us in a way that feels amazing.
There is truly no greater blessing than walking out the love of Jesus in this hurting world.
It is so worth leaving behind the selfish, safe life we were living.
Truly, to die to self is gain. And what you gain is eternal! It can't be burnt up or eaten by moths. It can't be repossessed. What you do will work together for your good, to make you more in the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28)
If you're local and want to break free from hum-drum, self-serving religion, we'd love to help you find where God wants you to serve.
Here are a couple of local ministries that could use your help and that you'd benefit from as well:
And if you'd like to go with us, that would be great! We go to WE WILL GO usually two or three times a month and usually every other Sunday. We'd be glad to either pick you up and take you with us or just plan on meeting you there.
Let me know if there is any thing I can do to help you find God's ministry niche. I'll be glad to pray for and with you and even talk thru different options.
He does have an amazing plan for you and those who need what you can bring to their lives! He will go with you and supply all that you need to fulfill His good purpose.
He promises you that!