False Devils

“Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.”  ~G.K. Chesterton

I read this quote as part of an article posted by relevant magazine.  To be honest I’ve never heard of the guy.  I don’t know anything about him, but I think I know what he is saying in this quote.

You can substitute any modern day peril such as gender neutral bathrooms, or a dead gorilla, or anything Obama, for “war on alcohol, or economic law” and the quote holds true. The struggle is not against flesh and blood, or the things flesh and blood do, but in our struggle to engage and not be armchair Christians.  The truth, in my opinion, is that we as American Christians have accepted a faith that costs us nothing.  We believe the lie that sharing a link, getting mad over politics, blaming everyone and thing for the downfall of America is action. We believe it is Christian action. It is not.

Many of my Christian friends are convinced that we are on the edge of a catastrophic explosion as a country.  In part, this is the appeal of Donald Trump.  His slogan, “make America great again” has an underlying pretense and sincerely held belief that America has already fallen.  It isn’t great, it’s horrible.  Now when trump says these things he is almost entirely basing it on economic indicators.  For him, I believe it boils down to, “it’s not easy for me to get richer anymore.”  Ergo, America is no longer great.

Now I’m not going on a political diatribe here.  But, I see in Trump and by proxy those who eat up and believe in what he is saying the embodiment of this quote.

A false devil is perhaps more dangerous than the real one.  With a false devil we are inspired to (and readily do) blame a problem that doesn’t exist. The non-existent problem is one that is easy to complain about but impossible to fix.  We also blame the symptoms of the real problem.

What if I really lay it out there? What if I didn’t hold back for once?

Here is the problem:  it is you, dear Christian.  You are the problem.  Your grandstanding on unimportant, non-vital side issues clouds and misrepresents Christ. Your utter arrogance is turning our society to darkness on an epic, never before seen scale.  “Our nation is turning away from God?”  If so, it started with you.

When does a nation fall?  When God’s people turn away from him.  It’s never because of those in the world.  It is always the community of God turning their back on him. Always.  So, if America is falling, you can’t blame the lost.  It’s your fault.

How does it happen?  We lost focus. We are waging an all-out cultural war against issues, symptoms, and false devils.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again.  The issue is the issue isn’t Christ.  There is no political, cultural, ideological, emotional, or physical problem that isn’t addressed by a real and active relationship with Jesus Christ.  Everything else is a waste of time.  No person was ever won to the kingdom of Christ by outrage, sarcasm, gloom and doom, defeatism, or a clever meme.  People are won by a life that shows a real, living, and active person of Jesus Christ.

Want to know how every cultural revival in history started?  It wasn’t through spiritual celebrities or even clever preaching.  It wasn’t through open condemnation of every temporary issue that arises.  It was through repentance.  Not of the culture, but of the church. I don’t mean liberal Christians.  I don’t mean other denominations.  I don’t mean the pastors.  I don’t mean the youth.  I mean you.

You need to repent.  You need to turn away from every single big and small thing that isn’t Jesus Christ.  You are the problem.  You keep pointing out all the problems with our society.  You keep mocking the sinner.  You keep worrying about our nation.  Time to shut up.  Time to get on your knees and have a talk with Jesus himself.  You need to see the condition of the world around you and take personal responsibility for it.  This is the only solution to every false devil out there.

A life with Jesus is highlighted by simple things.  Love of Jesus.  Love of scripture.  Love of prayer.  Love of people. (Especially those most unlike you.) Love of service.  Love of the bride.

Is that you? No? Drop the corruption and cowardice, slay the false devil and repent.

Hiatus

It’s been over a year.  373 days actually.  A lot has happened since then.

I’m talking about how long it’s been since I last posted a blog.  I’ve been asked several times why I stopped writing.  Some people have pointed out the blog had technical issues and was down for a long time.  The answer is complicated: new baby, technical issues, major farm expansion, lack of time, lack of desire, writers block, 5 months of post partum from hell, feelings of hypocrisy, and the big one: “no body reads it anyway.” There are so many reasons I haven’t written.

The answer is also simple: Excuses.  It is so easy to have a “reason” not to do something you feel like you are supposed to do.  Even the most solid reason, is only an excuse if it keeps you from the goal.

I have made a few feeble attempts over the last year to start writing again.  The last attempt was stopped dead in its tracks by a major frustration with my site host.  Getting this thing back up and running was a nightmare for someone with only moderate online skills.

But here I am.  Trying again.

One of my personal major hurdles was the feeling of being a hypocrite.  Now, I’m not sure I can truly explain this the right way, but I am going to try.  When I write I really try to take an “us” approach over a “me and you” approach.  I don’t like to tell you what to change or learn.  I want us to change and learn together.  When I put words on the screen then post them, I can’t help but feel like I am preaching at the reader.  So when I fail to live up to the things God teaches me that I share I can’t help feeling like a hypocrite.  How many incredible things has God shown me over the years?  How many times has he convicted me of the changes I need to make? Yet I still sit here fat, full of lust and anger, and only halfheartedly devoted to him.  Saying and writing one thing, while struggling to do and follow the very same thing.

This is part of the problem of the human condition.  Sin leads to more sin.  When I fail I use it as a reason to continue to fail, to excuse disobedience, and to give up seeking a closer relationship with God.  Before long it’s been a week, a month, or even a year. (clap clap clap clap)

My last trip to India was my 12th trip.  The last 2 or 3 trips have really been spectacular, even though I haven’t written much about them.  We have changed a lot of what we do for ministry and have left a lot exactly the same.  It has been rewarding to see the fruit of years of work coming to harvest.

On the last trip we taught an incredibly simple method of discipleship.  This method doesn’t require advanced teaching, Bible College, or seminary.  It is simple.  It’s called duckling discipleship.  To sum it up you share what you learn of God and what he is doing in your life.  Whatever you have from him you give freely to those in your life.

I am a hypocrite, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t teaching me, leading me, or doing things in my life worthy of being shared.  So, what I have I am going to share, in spite of the things that would stop me.

I want to start with a confession.  I struggle with numbers.  I don’t mean math, though as I’ve said before it isn’t my strong suit.  I’m no mathamagician after all.  The struggle with numbers is the big excuse:  No one reads my blog anyway.  It is hard to spend time and effort to share something and then feel like it was all just a waste when nobody sees it.  I still have blogs of the 242 posts on this blog that have never been read, not even by accident.  So if the point is to share what God is showing me or doing in me and it’s never seen, it feels like failure.

The problem is my perspective.  If I keep assigning a metric of success directly proportional to views, then I can’t really be doing what I am supposed to do.  It is easy to write for views.  It is not easy to write what God is doing.  He moves much slower than what we would like.  We want some earth shattering new understanding of him all the time, yet these moments are much rarer than we are led to believe.  God told Noah to build the ark and it was 120 years before Noah heard from God again.  I want him to split the clouds and flood my world two or three times a week.  This doesn’t mean God isn’t always speaking to us and working in us, it means it is a slow burning fire that takes time to change and build us to the place we need to be for the next “big” thing.

For me, this means treating this blog as a way of processing what God is doing.  If I write to process and record what God is doing there is no popularity based metric of success.  Doing it is success.  Then the goal of sharing what God is doing, saying, and teaching, is also accomplished.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: All the world wide web is a blank page, and this man is merely a writer on it.

Last Words

You’ve heard it before. It’s in a lot of movies. The criminal in the electric chair. The soldier before the firing squad. The line you’ve hear over and over in movies both old and new: “any last words?”

Every year I have had this blog I have endeavored to write a post on the topic of Easter or Resurrection day. I have argued against traditionalism. I have pointed out the superiority of the holiday to all others. I have begged you to look past the eggs and candy. This year I still want to try and re-examine the events of the holiday from a fresh perspective.

In the movies when someone is about to die they are often given the chance for some last words. They utter out a sobbing goodbye, or a defiant, rebellious speech, or an emotional call to their cause that pricks even the heart of their executioner.

Jesus had a similar chance. The gospels record as Jesus hung on the cross bearing the weight of the sins of the world, he spoke seven times. Seven last sentences. Seven thoughts of our dying savior. Here are the last words of Jesus:

  • Luke 23:34- “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
  • Luke 23:43- “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
  • John 19:26, 27- “Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.”
  • Matthew 27:46- “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
  • John 19:28- “I am thirsty.”
  • John 19:30- “It is finished!”
  • Luke 23:46- “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

It’s not anything like the movies really. He shows compassion for the sinful, care for his mother, concern for his spiritual and physical state, contentment at the completion of his job, and confidence in his destination. Now if you can’t give me a gold star for my alliteration on that one then don’t bother being my friend.

There is something different about the death of Jesus from all those movies. For one he wouldn’t stay dead. Second, and perhaps more intriguing though is that he knew he wouldn’t stay dead. He knew he had a job to do. A mission to complete. He was born to die this way and he knew he would walk the road to Calvary. He also knew the joy that lay before him in the resurrection.

Before I fully expand my thought this year we have to do a little ground work. I want to explain a little bit about what Christ is doing on the cross. Actually, I just want to let the scripture explain:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

If I put the context of this verse into my own words I would say, “through his death on the cross, Christ brought people back to himself. He turned his enemies into his partners and he paid the price for sin. Those who accept and believe this message become his body, his bride, his church.”

With this in mind we arrive at my view askew of the crucifixion of Jesus. As Christ is dying on the cross and giving us his last words he is fully aware he is creating the church. The church will be the new body for him to live in and minister through on earth. Since he knows what he is doing, he also knows his last words aren’t really his last. When we look at his last words we see the master at work: The last words of Christ are the first words of the Church. Look with me:

1.  Luke 23:34- “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Forgiveness is the two pronged first step of any man, woman, or child entering to relationship with Christ. Christ forgives us. Even as he is raised up on the cross there is no animosity or rage or disappointment. He simply has a heart of compassion. He has a heart that immediately and completely forgives.

I wrote a series on forgiveness. You can read it here. (Next time you can’t sleep. Or you want to know one of the darkest secrets of my life…) One of the main points I made was that truly accepting forgiveness from Christ means wrestling through our hurts, disappointments, and infringed upon rights to find forgiveness for every single wrong done to us.

There are two prongs to forgiveness. Christ forgives us for what our sin caused him to go through. He expects us to offer the exact same forgiveness to others. He even demands it. It is not optional. Those who are forgiven must forgive. It is a defining characteristic of the church of Christ according to our savior. The church simply does not exist without both parts of forgiveness

2. Luke 23:43- “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is talking to one of the two criminals being crucified with him. They have received the exact same sentence as Christ. They deserved it. As the three of them hang on the cross it is a hopeless situation. They are all sure they won’t be going home at the end of the day. One criminal mocks Jesus. He demands for Christ to save them all- as though he were just as innocent as Christ. The other criminal reprimands the first and a looks at Jesus through his own blood soaked eyes and simply says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This man never prayed a prayer. He never got baptized by submersion. He wasn’t filled with the Holy Ghost. He didn’t give a single tithe. He never heard a sermon. He didn’t put on his best suit for Sunday morning. He didn’t do a single act of service for God. He never grew in his relationship with God. He never shared the gospel. He didn’t travel all over the world on mission trips. He never did or was a single thing for God. All he did was look to Jesus and say, “remember me.”

The church has become so distracted. We look at our building and say, “it’s not new enough to attract people. We don’t have coffee out front like every other church.” We pack so much onto the gospel it’s barely even recognized. We say it is all about simple faith, but our actions say different most of the time.

This Sunday, church after church will have invested enormous sums of money and time into the “Christian Superbowl.” Our Sunday to show off. This Sunday we know people will come without us having to actually invite them. How many nicely polished impersonal invitations have you seen on facebook in the last few days? We lacquer everything up to present a Savior that looks shiny, and friendly, and we make sure he looks like it won’t cost too much to follow him.

The true church, the one Christ is creating as he hangs naked, broken and dying, sees a different Jesus. They see the one who is ripped to shreds. The one whose eyes are swollen shut. The one with a crown of thorns dripping their mockery as though they were tears of blood flowing from each piercing thorn before drying to the face of the first born of creation. The true church knows the mockery of coming to Christ to demand he do something for me.

The church is made up of dying criminals who look to Jesus and humbly, simply say, “remember me.” He struggles to gift some of his gasping last breaths to look back and promise an eternal home. A promise made without repayment or expectation. A promise made to each dying criminal one by one as they call out. A promise fulfilled with each believer who breathes their last. The promise of eternity on the grace alone of Jesus Christ is the satisfaction and motivation to the church of Christ. His word, our only hope.

3. John 19:26-27- “Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.”

What a horror. How could any mother stand at the foot of the cross of her son? How could she see the body that grew inside her, now so bloody and broken? When Christ looks down and sees Mary, his mother and John one of his disciples standing and watching, he issues a command. John is to treat Mary as his very own mother and Mary is to accept John as her own son. While dying on the cross Christ creates a new family. In more ways than one.

The church Christ created on the cross is a family. My favorite verse is Galatians 3:26 “you are all family through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is where the name of our ministry came from. It is at the heart of Christ that his followers treat each other as family. Every family has their differences. They have their fights and arguments and divisions, but they share the same blood.

The church of Christ is founded in the blood of Jesus on the cross. It is God’s heart that we show the world what a real family looks like. The family he birthed in his death.

4. Matthew 27:46- “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Separation. The father turns his back. Just for a moment. That is all that was needed. This was the payment. This was the moment we all deserved ad nauseam for all eternity. In this moment Christ felt a complete and utter absence of the Father. He is shattered. The three pieces broken away from each other for the first and only time. It is horrifying to Christ. It moves him to scream out.

The church is connected to the Father because of Jesus. The moment of abandonment is gone. The church is the fiancé of Christ. We are adopted as his own children. He lives in us and we live in him. We have the fullness of God in us. This is the power of the Church.

We are not just a group of people who share common ideas. We are more than a social club. We are more than the collected weight of our butts in the pews. We are not abandoned! We are rescued! We are the church: one spirit, one savior, one body! We are connected to God, who is putting himself on display in us. He has gathered up his rescued children and made his home in us. We are not abandoned, we are his church.

5. John 19:28- “I am thirsty.”

The body of Christ is done. Death is nearing. His body needs water. It needs life. I am glad I can’t hear the voice of Jesus as it calls out. The voice that spoke the world into existence and once said blessed are the meek, is now dry and raspy and weak. “Thirst” it crackles.

This is the condition of the church of Christ. It is thirsty. Not for wine or vinegar. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are filled by nothing less than the words of God as he speaks and reveals himself to us. We continue to thirst. We want to know him who died for us. We are desperate for him, for every drop of him to be poured into our overflowing cup. The church of God seeks Christ with every thirsty fiber of our being. We hear from him. We obey him. We drink him up. The church of Christ quenches its thirst on the living water. The church of Christ is always thirsty for more of him to be poured out.

6. John 19:30- “It is finished!”

The mission is accomplished. The goal has been reached. Christ has crossed the finish line. His death is imminent. Any moment will be his last.

The church of Christ is found in the finish. There is nothing left to be done for your salvation. It. Is. Finished. The payment has been made. The sacrifice has been accepted. The abandoned are reclaimed. The hopeless have hope. The homeless have a home. The poor say, “I am rich!” The church is set free. Not for evil, but for good. The Church of Christ is free to be bold. To be powerfully redeemed by the blood of the lamb. The church is full of life. It screams out freedom to the captives. It serves out the works of the hands and feet of Christ. It shows out the abundant life to the world surrounding it.

That world stands in wonder as it mocks, maims and murders the called, “they simply rejoice as they are put to the sword…” The church replies, “it can be finished for you too. Come and see!” The church calls out to its persecutor, its mocker, and its murderer, “there is freedom here. There is forgiveness here. No matter who or what you are, come! Come and see the finished work. Find the freedom to live and die. Find the finish line before the race is finished. Further up and further in!”

7. Luke 23:46- “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

The time has come. The death that will be defeated is about to believe it has won. Jesus trusts his spirit to the reconnected Father. The three are one again. He dies. The son of God, born in a manger, who confounded the wise as a boy, who threw over the tables of the temple, who sat and spoke in the temple, who fed the thousands, who healed the lepers, blind, lame, and broken, who raised the dead, who spoke to Samaritans, sinners, rulers, demons and kings has breathed his last.

The church of Christ trusts God. We put our hope of eternity into his hands. Our future doesn’t lay with any prophet, priest, or pastor. We confidently approach every day knowing he has gone to prepare a place for us and if it were not so he would have told us. The church of Christ trusts our spirit as a people in to the hands of God that he will lead and guide us. The church of Christ trusts our days to the one who made them.

*                                                      *                                                                *

The last words of Christ are the first words of the church. When we look at his death we can see what he is building. It’s not made of bricks and mortar. It’s not a social club or a place to dress up. It’s not a place that needs new paint every other year. In fact, it’s not a place at all. He is building his body. He is setting the foundation of his own church.

The heart and motivations of Christ should be the heart and motivation of his people. Are we a people of forgiveness? Are we a people of humility? Are we a people of Family? Are we a people of power? Are we a people who thirst for Christ? Are we a people at peace in the finish? Are we a people who trust God?

This Easter we should take a time out from the traditions and shows and look at who we are. We should take a look at our dying savior and ask if his life is represented in us.

The church of Christ and Christ are inseparable. They have the same heart, motivation and purpose. It is Easter weekend. This is the birthday of Christ’s church. Let’s look at the last words and examine ourselves, our heart and his church.

Bible in the Woods

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It’s a Sunday several weeks ago. My friend Greg and I are sitting in the Starbucks inside the grocery store. We meet every week. It is a time of personal discipleship and accountability. It is also a time for me to get my doughnut on. Apple fritters for the win!

Greg has been talking about finding a ministry to call his own. He is looking for the unique way he can be involved in the work of the Kingdom of Christ. I love his heart to do more. He is my sounding board and I hold no part of myself back from Greg. He sees my greatness, what little there is, and he is privy to every failing. He lifts me up, holds me up, and encourages me.

We agree to pray about him finding a ministry. After a few weeks it occurs to me that we need someone to head up our homeless ministry. Our homeless ministry is barely a ministry. If I am being honest it is a very loosey goosey, not sure what we are doing, not sure if it helps kind of ministry. Springfield has quite a few ministries and outreaches for homeless persons. I have had many ideas for trying something unique but I lack the drive, time or passion to really get them done.

I mention to Greg that we need someone to take the homeless ministry, make it theirs and run with it. He says he will pray about it. Now I know that most of the time when you ask a Christian to do something and they really don’t want to do, but also really don’t want to hurt your feeling they say, “I will pray about it.” But Greg isn’t that way. After a few days he tells me he wants to try it out.

We talk through some ideas and timing. At first we tend towards the stuff we have always done, like giving out hats, gloves, and coats to any homeless people we find. We feel led a different way this time, though.

We decide God is leading us to bless someone. Just one. I know that sounds crazy, and maybe wasteful or ineffective, but we don’t really care how it sounds. We decide to head out on February 14th. I had talked to friend of mine in the police. I asked him if he knew of any places there might be a homeless camp. He told me the police weren’t really aware of very many, but he mentioned there were always a lot of homeless people around a certain Walmart.

Greg meets me at our house and we get ready to go. I have $100 in my wallet to spend on the one person Jesus leads us to. We sit in the truck before we leave. “We should pray.” I say. “I was thinking that too,” says Greg. We sit in the truck and I ask Christ to lead us. I ask him to show is the one person he wants us to bless today. I ask him to let us find the one person who doesn’t want to be found, who isn’t looking for a handout. Someone who truly has needs. I pray Jesus would speak, walk, and love through us.

We start driving up to the Walmart my cop friend mentioned. We pull in the parking lot and there are homeless folks everywhere. Some are at the corner, some are sitting up against the building, and some are huddled near the Sam’s Choice vending machine. We look at them and several look as though they have some needs. But you can’t always trust what you see.

When we first started doing homeless ministry a few years back we were duped several times. Perhaps the most glaring was a time we met a lady who told us all about how she was living out of her car with her kids and they had no money for anything. We listened and asked her what she needed. “Anything will help she told us. It’s hard with the three of us sleeping in the car,” she said. She told us about how the father of her kids was gone and it was hard not having a man around because they were afraid a lot of the time. We loaded her up with quite a bit of food, clothes and blankets. We continued on our way helping people we found all day. Towards dark we met a man who said he really needed some new underwear. We headed off to Walmart to get him some. As we walked through the store we turned the corner to see the same woman with a cart full of stuff. Nice things. Things for a house. She almost jumped out of her skin when she saw us. The man with her picked up the air furnace filter that had slid of the top of her cart full of stuff.

This is what we hear a lot about our homeless ministry. “How do you know who you are helping?” “Most of those people are probably living in a big house and making more than you by panhandling.” The points are valid and we don’t know. However I have always held that we are serving the kingdom of Christ. Either by helping the truly needy, or by showing light to the deceitful. The love of Christ is proclaimed either way. Now back to our story:

We are both a little hesitant to just pick up a guy off of the corner. We want someone God led us to, not just someone looking to be found or looking to be helped. We drive around the back of the Walmart and don’t see anyone. “Well, do you want to see about one of those guys?” Greg asks. “No. Let’s go look in those trees.” There is a section behind the store that has a small wood in it. There are some trees on the other side of the drainage ditch. We park the truck and take off. We walk a few feet in and immediately see a trail. The trail looks pretty fresh and we follow it.

Quickly, we see a spot that is cleared off. There is a sleeping bag that has been rolled up and a few canned goods. I walk a little closer and see the remains of a fire. I notice three Bibles laying on the ground. No one is home.

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The trail continues and we find three more camps. Some appear quite large with tents and have spaces marked out for 4 or 5 people. Fire pits have been built up. There are piles of trash to the side of each camp. But no one is home. We trudge out of the wood and think about heading to Walmart.

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“Before we go back to Walmart. Let’s check out a little further back.” I tell Greg. There is an edge to the wood. It’s not so much a trail as a maintained area between the building and the trees. There is a ton of trash piled up and rotting along the way. It smells pretty bad and I tell Greg, “This is what India smells like sometimes.”

After we walk a little ways back, there appears to be another trail. We start down it. It looks over grown and I can’t be sure it leads anywhere. I do notice a small scrape in the dirt that could have been a fresh footprint, but I’m not sure. As we continue I start to smell burning plastic. We turn the corner and there is a camp. There is a short man rummaging through the trash. He is opening up an abandoned deodorant container to see if there is anything left. There isn’t and he throws it back into the trees. He looks up and sees us. I wave. “Hey.” I say.

There is always that moment. First contact. Will this guy be high, or crazy, or drunk? Will he want to talk to us or will he want to run us off. Is it safe? Springfield is turning into a pretty rough town (rated the most dangerous city to live in according to a recent study) and this part of town is the epicenter. Greg and I have talked a little bit about the danger of what we are doing, but lay it at the feet of Jesus to be used.

“I’m Andrew and this is Greg.” I say, extending my hand for a handshake. “I know this sounds crazy, but we are a couple of Christian guys and we want to take you to lunch.” He looks at me for a minute. He blinks. He shakes my hand. “Will you come with us?” I ask. “My name is Clint,” He says. “Yes. Lunch would be great.” Clint starts gathering up some things to put in his tent before we leave. “I just got into town yesterday.” Clint says. After Clint has everything where he wants it we start hiking out. It’s not far and we small talk on the way back to the truck.

“Why don’t you sit up front?” I say. Clint jumps in the front seat and I climb in the back. “Where do you want to eat, man?” Says Greg. “There is a McDonalds over there.” Clint says. “Clint, we can eat anywhere you want. Is there something you’ve wanted for a while but haven’t had? Italian or something?” I say. “McDonalds.” Clint says. “OK, well you can pick anywhere, so if you want McDonald’s then that’s where we are going!”

We get to McDonald’s and Clint takes off for the bathroom. When he gets back we all order. He gets a big mac and fries. I’ve told him to get as much as he wants and whatever he wants. I have a hard time believing that anyone’s dream food is a big mac.

We all sit together at the booth and eat our lunch. I ask Clint about his life and what brought him to Springfield. I am trying to get to know Clint as a friend. One of the things Greg and I talked about is treating whoever Jesus led us to as a friend, not a project or a mission, but a friend.

As we were finishing up our burgers I told Clint why we found him. I told him how we had started the day praying that Jesus would lead us to the one person he wanted us to bless. I told him we had never been to the wood he was in. I told him he was very well hidden in the trees. I told him I felt like Christ had brought us directly to him to bless him. I told Clint he was hidden in the trees to everyone but Jesus. I told him that Jesus saw him and loved him and wanted to bless him today. I told him he is not forgotten or overlooked by Christ.

Clint sat and listened politely. He’s heard it all before. That is one of the most difficult things about homeless ministry. You aren’t going to meet someone who is homeless who hasn’t had the gospel preached to them a lot. There is something about us as Christians that I despise. To be honest I have done it time and time again. We don’t preach prosperity gospel openly, but we assume if someone is homeless then they must need Jesus. To be sure, everyone needs Jesus, but we tend to look at the homeless or the trailer park or single moms and go “oh, they need Jesus.” We project our norms onto others and assume they just need Jesus.

The problem is they have heard it all before. They have gotten hats and meals and coats and blankets from people who refuse to look them in the eyes, but mutter, “Jesus loves you” as they speed away. And we feel so good about helping those poor people…

I am so guilty of everything I just said. The first place I ever preached was a mission in Joplin, called Souls Harbor. I went in as a vastly under aged, cocky, institutionalized Christian and screamed Jesus to a group of homeless folks who had to attend the sermon before they would be given food. I’ve been on countless mission trips where we minister to the poor by preaching at them while they eat their lunch. I am guilty of assuming. I am guilty of projecting. I am guilty of requiring listening to the gospel as payment for service.

So how is what we are doing with Clint different? Maybe it isn’t. But our hope is that by spending time with Clint, by talking for hours with Clint, by treating Clint as a grown man who is our equal he will see the gospel he has heard so many times before. Greg and I make the effort to be real with Clint. We look him in the eye. We tell stories about our life as we ask him about his. There are many awkward pauses. We are not going to go over the Romans road to salvation. We are going to try to lay aside our prejudice and treat him like a man, a human being.

After I explain to Clint why we found him, I ask him if he needs anything. He says “No. I am good.” I’m looking at him. I can see all kinds of needs. He needs a haircut and a shave. He needs a new coat and some gloves. The sweater he is wearing is ripped to shreds. I wonder if he needs toilet paper or underwear or socks. I want be the way God blesses Clint.

I ask him about everything thing I think he might need. But the answer is always “No. I’m good.” Or “No. I’m fine.” Clint is truly the most unique homeless guy I’ve met. As best I can tell he is not an addict, or a drunk, or crazy. He says he took the bus here from Las Vegas. He is an enigma. He has family in the area that he hasn’t seen in 15 plus years. He wants to get a job and a place to live before he looks them up.

I tell Clint if I am being too pushy to tell me get lost. I tell him the weather is about to get cold. “Do you need some gloves?” I ask. “Well, if I get a job in the spring I will need some work gloves.” He says. “Let’s go to the store!” I say. We head off to the store and start looking for gloves. I find a rack of winter gloves. I hand him a nice pair that are on sale for $17.00. “Those are way too expensive.” He says. “I won’t take those. They just cost too much.” We putter around and find a pair of gloves in the lawn and garden section. They are thin leather gloves with no padding and only cost a few bucks. Clint decides they are the ones he wants. We walk up front to pay for them. On the way we convince Clint to let us buy him a good flash light and some batteries.

We walk out to the parking lot and Clint speaks up. “Guys this has been a great day. I really appreciate lunch and this stuff. You don’t need to give me a ride. I’m just going to walk.” I reach out my hand, look him in the eye and say, “It was great to meet you and spend some time with you.” “Be careful out there, man.” Says Greg as they shake hands. Clint heads off and we head back to the truck.

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We are silent for a second in the truck. Then we start to mull over the last couple hours we spent with Clint. As we drive back to my house I can’t help but think over how things went. I start a post mortem. Was this good ministry? Did we treat Clint like a friend and a man? Were the things we said good or prejudiced? Were we led by Christ? Why wouldn’t he take more from us? What held him back? We wanted to really bless this guy and in the end he got a big mac, a gift card to McDonalds, some gloves and a flashlight. The sky was the limit, so these things seem paltry and small.

As I’m thinking things over there is more than one voice in my head. I am trying to fix things, but Christ is trying to teach. “I want to bless you, too.” It dawns on me that I am being hard on Clint in my mind, when I am guilty of the exact same thing with God. He wants to bless me and has promised to bless me in many areas. I am not talking about money, a big house, a new Cadillac, and fake eyelashes and big blue hair for my wife. I’m not talking about Christ moving heaven and earth so I can get a better parking space. I’m talking about the blessings Christ has promised.

Christ is king. He is God. He is ruler of all things. And he loves me. He wants to bless me with things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. He wants to rid me of sin. He wants to fill me with purpose and motivation. He wants me to be great in his kingdom and to understand that means being the least in his kingdom. He wants me to understand the scripture. He wants me to be a great father and husband. He wants to keep me from sin. He wants to bless me with abundant, everlasting life. That life is his life. That life and his presence is available to me through the spirit of Christ living in me. These are just some of the blessings he wants for me. There is no end to them. There is no part of them where he might tell me, “That is too much.” He is continually looking me in the eye and saying, “What do you need? How can I help you live the life I’ve called you to?

I keep answering the same way. “No. I’m good. No. I’m fine. I got this.” I live my life in the battle ground of temptation. Whichever sin has come knocking I fight it. It consumes my thoughts and my time. The more I fight the less I prevail. The more effort I put in the less result I see. Meanwhile Jesus says, “I’ve defeated all sin. Give it to me. Let me take care of it.” And I say. “No, I’m good. I’ll fight it.”

I have a strong desire to be used in Christ’s kingdom. I plan and work. I try to pour into people and ministry. It burdens me. It weighs me down. I worry about the lives of the believers in my life. I dread that I didn’t do enough to be effective in the kingdom. Meanwhile Jesus says, “It’s my kingdom, I am the king. Give it to me. Let me take care of it.” And I say, “No. I’m fine. I’ll try harder. I’ll spend more time and money. I’ll make it work.”

I want to live by the Spirit of Christ. I want the fruit that comes from a life in the Holy Spirit to be on display, but I am filled with hate, unhappiness, worry, impatience, cold heartedness, wickedness, unfaithfulness, and indulgence. Meanwhile Jesus says, “It’s my spirit. Those are my qualities. I know how to show them. Give them to me. Let me take care of it.” And I say, “No, I’ve got this. I will just study these qualities more. I will fake it until they become real.”

I want my life to have purpose and meaning. I want to finish well and matter to the lives in my life. I want the kingdom of Christ to complete me. Meanwhile Jesus says, “I created you for a purpose. I made you for more than muttering through. I have a part for you to play in my story. You are already great to me. Give yourself to me. Let me take care of you.” And I say, “No. I’m afraid. It might cost me too much. Let me take care of myself. I know I can’t do it, but I can keep trying. I will leap forward and fall back. I will list in the storms of life. I will focus on me. I will become something somehow.”

So often in life Christ says, “Choose any place you want to eat. No matter how big or how fancy or expensive it’s on me. I want to lay out a banquet before you of all the blessings found in me!” And we think for a bit and say, “McDonalds.” The God who inspired Paul to write, “Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” says, “McDonalds? If that’s what you want….”

In the end it’s a lot like the Bible in the wood. Somewhere in those trees is a camp where three Bibles lay on the ground. The person who received them has seen them before. He wants to be nice so he takes them and brings them back to his camp. He lays them on the ground. Inside is Christ. He is fully revealed through the scripture to be God, king, redeemer, and friend. The man who accepted the Bibles is sure he’s heard it all before. He is sure he knows that God and what he can do for him. So the Bibles lay in the wood, unused.

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How many times have I written, or preached, or counseled out of my own strength? How many times have I refused the blessing of Christ working and living in my life? How many times have I thought McDonalds is the best blessing available to me from a king who owns everything? How many times have I taught such a small savior? many times because I was sure I’ve heard it all before, because I was sure I knew what God would do for me.

God wants to bless us. He is waiting to show off. Not with cars and riches and worldly success, but in a life worthy of his calling. He is waiting to show off through you! He wants to fill us up so much that we burst out. It’s easier to say then to do, but it starts with accepting who he really is and what he can do in us and through us. Believe him, when he says he can do more than we can ever ask or imagine. Give yourself to him. Lay on the cross and walk out of the grave. Live life in the full blessing of Jesus Christ!