House of Horrors Squalor

This article is a reminder, sad though it is,  that there are opportunities all around us to share the love of Jesus and be the love of Jesus if we keep our minds and hearts open for the opportunities.  This situation occurred just down the road from me.

House of Horrors Squalor Case
Shared via AddThis

It reminds me of the song by Bruce Carroll that he sang many years ago – "Elm Street"

Saturday night in plainville

saw some local people go

to the downtown corner movies

for a late night picture show

And it's 90 mindless minutes

of the best in blood and gore

They all come out laughing,

just can't wait for more.



While on the other side of

town a child 4 years of age

huddles up a weak defense

against his fathers rage

and as we spend our time and money on

Life's Moments Cheapest Thrills

In our city there's an Elm Street

where the nightmare is real.



Chorus:

Oh God, Have mercy on us please,

For the times that You've shown

the need and we refused to see

Give us all a heart like Yours that grieves

For the lost souls on Elm Street

that need to be released





Complacency's a poison taken

one drop at a time

It fools our minds into

thinking that everythings just fine

Desensitize our Spirit with

nothing left to feel

'Till we never hurt for Elm Street

where the Nightmare is real



Oh Lord You've got to send me

where theres a need to go

Put me on their street, Lord,

'cause they all need to know

There's a God who's so much bigger

than anything their going through

Oh they need to know that there's

a place where nightmares don't come true.





Oh God, Have mercy on us please,

For the times that You've shown

the need and we refused to see

Give us all a heart like Yours that grieves

For the lost souls on Elm Street

that need to be released



Oh God, Have mercy on us please,

For the times that You've shown

the need and we refused to see

Give to us a heart like Yours that grieves

For the lost souls on Elm Street

that need to be released.

Every town has an Elm Street.  May the Lord give us great wisdom and insight to see where the pain and the need may be and be the church as we seek to meet it in His name.

Do We Dare Pray This Way?

I was reading an article in the latest edition of Leadership Journal.  It quotes Jim Cymbala, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle and author of several books.  He says:

"The number one sin of the church in America is that its pastors and leaders are not on their knees crying out to God,  'Bring us the drug-addicted, bring us the prostitutes, bring us the destitute, bring us the gang leaders, bring us those with AIDS, bring us the people nobody else wants, whom only you can heal, and let us love them in your name until they are whole.' "

Jesus ministered to difficult, messy, troubled, challenging people.  He died for the church that we, as the church, might do the same.  I must admit, I do not pray that kind of prayer as often as I should. Let's face it, for most churches, it is much easier to have "cleaned-up" people join us than to deal with the mess we find in people's lives because of sin when it comes knocking at our door needing something.  If we're honest, we were all messes at one point because of sin.  The longer we are Christians, the easier it is to forget how sin-stained our lives really were, easier to forget that we were in the same place then that those in need of the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse are in now. 

Lord, please help us never to forget that, and Lord, please give us an endless supply of grace, mercy, compassion, patience and love so that the love of Jesus may flow out of us and impact needy lives around us.

There’s So Much We Take for Granted

It is easy to lose sight of the many things we take for granted.  I was reminded of this by my sons when they mentioned a project they leared about in their Sunday School class.  In class last week, they learned about how 10,000 children die every day around the world from diseases that could be prevented if they only had clean water.  There is a group called the H20 Project that is seeking to raise money and awareness to help address this.  They are at http://www.theh20project.org.  We think nothing of turning on the faucet or opening a bottle of water when we need to have something to drink or need to wash dishes, wash clothes, or take a shower.  So many around the world lack this basic necessity.  Please check out the site.  We have so much to be thankful for and so much that we do take for granted.  Let us not forget to give God thanks for His generous provision.

Next Day Ministry

As I was reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, a small portion of a verse caught my attention. In verse 35, after the Samaritan had bandaged the strangers' wounds and brought him to an inn and took care of his primary needs, the verse states, "On the next day…".  The Samaritan knew that his responsibility to the man didn't end simply by caring for his immediate need, but making sure there was a plan in place to care for the needs that arose after he left, and then following up to make sure it was taken care of.

We could be more effective in our ministry efforts in our churches if we simply would do some "next day ministry".  It's often the times shortly after the immediate needs are met that even more needs become evident.  "Next day ministry" gives us a chance to meet more needs and point people to the the One that can meet them all.

Ministry to the Homeless…

I had the great opportunity and joy to hear Mike Yankoski speak yesterday at a homelessness conference I attended through my job as a supervisor with a local housing agency.  He is the author of the book "Under the Overpass" (see sidebar for link).  The book is a journal of the entry into and journey through homelessness him and his friend took for 5 months in 6 major U.S cities.  This was in response to God speaking to his heart about his own willingness to look the other way when need met him face to face.  His transparency was refreshing, for I know too often I have looked the other way when need has confronted me

I had read the book a year or two ago and was and continue to be inspired and challenged by the message and by the lessons that it contained as they experienced how people treated them while they lived a life as those Jesus refers to as "the least of these" (Matt. 25:31-46).

I was touched and reminded of many things as he spoke.  One was that we take so much for granted, such as a place to lay our head at night, a bed, sheets and blankets, clothing, a lock on our door to secure our possessions, a car we don't have to sleep in, a refrigerator filled with more food that we don't need than food we really do need, being able to buy food and gas and have a roof over our heads instead of having to choose between these, a switch to turn on heat when we are cold and air conditioning when we are warm, a shower to get cleaned up every day, a toilet we can go to when we need to take care of our needs.

As well, I was reminded that we must never lose sight of the fact that those that are homeless are PEOPLE first and foremost.  It is easy, too easy to dismiss someone when they don't look, or talk, or smell the way that we expect we should.  Mike shared how he made special notations in his journal on the days when people actually spoke with them or held a conversation.   He said it happened so infrequently that it was noteworthy.  How sad it is that the people that Jesus loves and cares for so much are marginalized and often treated as less that people, less than human, because circumstances placed them in a situation that we could easily be in ourselves except for God's grace.

I continue to hope and pray and work toward the day when the church will be the church Jesus called us to be.  A church that will lavishly minister to those around us in need and not be fearful, or live in light of times past when we feel we may have beed deceived by someone in need which keeps us from giving wholeheartedly to the next person we see that is in need.

Please check out his book and his website, undertheoverpass.com.  You will be encouraged.

More Hunger

It seems like many of my posts as of late have been about the global hunger and food crisis.  It appeared again on the front page of the USA Today.  Maybe it concerns me because it seems that Scripture says that when we minister to those in need, we are ministering to Jesus Himself.

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All
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. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 34"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. 35For
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, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

 37"Then
the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and
feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

 41"Then
he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I
was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
me.'

 44"They also
will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger
or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matt 25:31-26, NIV).

How can we not be moved to compassion when we see images such as these:

Hunger in Ethiopia:  The New Famine

We cannot stand by and let the world suffer.  We must ask God what He would have us do to make a difference.

Caring Enough to Look

I was watching a new show on the USA network last night, "In Plain Sight".  It’s a show whose main character is a US Marshall that works with people that end up in the Witness Protection Program.  The show was ok, but the main character shared a quote that caught my attention.  I’m not sure if the quote was from someone famous, or just written into to the show for her character, but here it is:

"We all live in hiding.  In one way or another each of us conceals pieces of ourselves from the rest of the world.  Some people hide because their lives depend on it.  Others because they don’t like being seen.  And then there are other special cases…the ones who hide because, because, because…they just want somebody to care enough to look for them"

At how many levels and in how many ways is that statement true in the Christian life?  Hiding is one of the first things that Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"  (Genesis 3:8-9, NIV).  Man’s instinct was to hide, God’s was to go look for them.

So many of the people Jesus encountered were "in hiding".  The woman at the well was hiding by coming to draw water at noon rather than sunset because of the embarrassment of her life.  The woman in Luke 8 that touched the border of Jesus’ garment to be healed from her 12 year flow of blood, cam trembling and falling down before Jesus because she "…saw that she was not hidden…" (Luke 8:40, NKJV).  I even get the sense that Zaccheus in Luke 19 was in hiding.  His status as being rich and a tax collector left him with few friends, and left the crowd complaining that Jesus had "…gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner". (Luke 19:7, NKJV).  I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jesus said at the end of this encounter that "…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

This is the reason that outreach, contact, visitation is so important within the life of any church.  We need fellowship, we need connection.  That is what people are looking for.  People just want someone to care enough to look for them.  Churches die and shrivel up when we stop calling members and guests if we try a couple times and they don’t respond.  People hide for a reason.  They are embarrassed because of their sin.  They are hurt and are waiting for someone to find them so they can talk about it.  They are scared they will be rejected by someone when they try to reach out and connect.  Churches can be so unforgiving sometimes.  In many of them, if someone doesn’t dress the right way, or say the right thing, or act the right way,  they will be shunned, ridiculed, made fun of, talked about behind their backs when they are still in the building.  Or we’ll at least make our disdain silently obvious.  A set of rolling eyeballs or a snarly face or a certain tone of voice speaks volumes.

Consider the lyrics of the song "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns;

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls’ teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

Chorus (2x)
If we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

We need to ask, "Do we care enough to look?"  How much time does it really take to make a phone call, or write a card, or send an email, to make a visit?  Imagine how much good we could do in an hour that we’ve wasted doing something that will make no eternal difference.

Does Anything Really Move Us These Days?

It will soon be another story of a disaster come and gone, lost amidst the coverage of the election, stories on soaring gas prices and reports on the housing crisis.  Over the weekend, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was hit by a cyclone that has, as of this time,  killed 4000 people and left almost as many missing.  The latest reports estimate that as many as 10,000 may have died.

The pictures are eerily similar to so many other natural disasters, some which occurred in our country no less than a week ago.  They show homes destroyed, trees uprooted, lives overturned.

Lost in all of the suffering in Myanmar is a sobering truth…souls died without Christ.  Myanmar is primarily Buddhist (nearly 90%) and at best has only 2% of the population that are Christian.  If we do the math, it means that only 200 of the estimated 10,000 people who died were likely to have died with Jesus as their Lord and Savior, leaving 9800 people that died now spending eternity apart from God forever.  Does this reality move us?  Does it lead us to shed a tear?  Do we even give it a second thought?  God loves the people who died in Myanmar every bit as much as He loves us and He is grieving that they are separated from Him for eternity.

Perhaps it is the constant birage of news that overwhelms us. or the exposure to tragedy and death on TV shows that numbs us, but it seems that more people are upset, saddened and outraged that a race horse died at the Kentucky Derby than 10,000 people who were created in the image of the living God.

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;  And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen." (Revelation 7:9-12, NASB)

It is God’s desire that people from every nation, including the precious people of Myanmar, worship around His throne for eternity.  Yet so many around the world are lost in darkness without Christ.  Lord, make our prayer:

"Set my soul afire Lord, for Thy Holy Word, Burn it deep within me, let Thy voice be heard
Millions grope in darkness in this day and hour, I will be a witness, 
fill me with Thy pow’r

Set my soul afire Lord, set my soul afire.
         
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r. Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word.

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire!"

Does anything really move us these days?

 

Let Them Eat Dirt?

As I was scanning the internet for news, an interesting headline caught my eye…"Hungry Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt" .  I knew I must not be reading it correctly, so I clicked on the link
to investigate a little bit further.  Sadly, the headline accurately
described  the disturbing truth; because food prices are rising and
people make so little money, they are buying (YES, BUYING!!) dirt to be
able to make mud cookies to live on.

I
thought about the 3 good meals I had that day, and the numerous snacks
I didn’t need that I ate anyways and the abundant blessings and
resources God has provided to me, and it disturbed me that there should
be anyone that has to eat dirt to survive.  If we can’t be moved to
compassion, to examination, to repentance, to action when faced with
knowing there
are people around the world eating cookies made from dirt for dinner,
or worse yet, eating nothing at all and dying from hunger, then all we
have left is to pray.  To pray that God would examine our hearts that we might
regain the Lord’s compassion for the broken, bruised, wounded and weary
among us.  Jesus Himself said He came "…to preach the gospel to the
poor…" (Luke 4:18c, NKJV).  They are around us, among us, in need.
Our prayer…"Lord, give us compassion, mercy, grace and love to be an expression of
You in their midst."

Are Your Passions Getting You Dirty?

As
I was reading my email today, one of the multitude of advertising
banners that you see every day with your email caught my eye. It was
for the laundry detergent Wisk. It showed a picture of a shirt, and a
daily calendar that changed to three different events during the day.


The first was in the morning…"soy latte", and it showed a stain of
the soy latte on the shirt. The next was "dog park", which then showed
paw prints on the shirt as well. The final one was "pasta dinner", and
it showed the stain from the dinner as well. My first thought was, "Who
would wear that shirt all day with all those stains on it"? Then, the
slogan came…"Your passions get you dirty. Our power gets you clean".

As
Christians, we need to ask ourselves the question, "Are our passions
getting us dirty?" That is where Jesus lived His life, letting His
passion get Him dirty. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
He allowed Himself to get dirty meeting the needs of others. He was
touched by unclean people (Matt. 8:18-22). He hung out with tax
collectors and sinners (Matt. 8:9-13). He let social norms fly out the
window to meet the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). He defended the
rights of the poor, the captives. the blind, the oppressed (Luke
4:18-19). He healed lepers by touching them and making Himself unclean
in the eyes of the religious establishment of the day (Luke 8:1-4).
Jesus got dirty, coming face to face with raw humanity. In Jesus’ day
it was the tax collectors and the lepers. Today, it is the homeless and
those with AIDS. We must get dirty to make a difference.

Our
response must be several fold. First, we must ask the question…what is
our passion? Is it to see the lost saved, the Kingdom of God grow, to
minister to those in need…or is it ease, convenience, power, money,
fame, fortune, safety.

We
then must ask, "Is our passion getting us dirty"? It has to be the
right passion, otherwise we spend our time building our lives on the
sand rather than the foundation. (Ps 127:1; 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

Then,
we need to "get dirty" in our efforts to see people come to know Jesus.
A clean church does a lost world no good. If our passions don’t get us
dirty, then His power won’t be able to have a chance to get a lost
world clean.