Month: July 2012

5 Lessons from the Homeless

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Last Sunday my wife, some friends, and I had the opportunity to help with the Help-Portrait Greenville.  Wow!  What an incredible experience!  If you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s where a couple of photographers come together to take portraits for homeless people.  I had no idea the response and the impact it would have on me.  We did this at the Triune Mercy Center, which is a church that exists to serve the homeless people of downtown Greenville SC.  I want to share 5 things I believe we can learn from the homeless.

1. Don’t take anything for granted – We met a man who had a 3 week old baby in his arms.  He said this was the first and only picture of his baby.  Based on his situation, it may be the only one he’ll have for a long time.  Since having our first child a year ago, we have over 4,000 pictures of him on iPhoto!

2. A better understanding of redemption – This same man with his 3 week old baby told me that God replaced the drug addiction in his life with this child.  I said, “it’s a much better trade off”.  He responds, “but salvation is the best part!”.  For some reason we let our pride tell us that we were never as bad as certain people were.  Ephesians tells us we were all dead in our sin.  Dead.  Not sick, wounded, or in critical condition.  This man had a clear picture and understanding of what Christ had done for him.

3. What’s really important – We met another couple who was engaged and the woman was pregnant……and they lived under a bridge!  My wife and I discussed, debated, and even argued over things like what color to paint the babies room, what kind of stroller we would have, and as my friend Cole said, “which booger bulb we would use.”  Here is a couple that is not even certain if their child can be fed, sheltered from the elements, or have clothes on it’s back.  Wow, what a wake up call!

4. No one is beyond redemption – My wife and I met a gentleman who calls himself Ray Ray (see photo).  Ray Ray had just finished serving 13 years in the state penitentiary.  He had spent his life on the streets, using drugs, and making poor decisions.  In fact, he almost died 3 times including once when his throat was cut.  Now, he says his life has changed and he has left drugs only by the grace of God.  Ray Ray is now determined to stay clean, follow Christ, and get back on his feet.  As Paul tells us in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  We are never beyond God’s grace and redemption.

5. Why the church exists – On our way out of Triune Mercy Center, my wife noticed that there were various tracts in a box by the door.  This was a familiar scene as we have been members at and visited churches with a tract rack.  However, these tracts were for cocaine and heroine addiction, dealing with suffering, and other real life problems.  The tracts we were used to seeing were argumentative tracts about the doctrine we believed in.  It hit us both in that moment how the church exists to glorify God and serve the community.  However, most churches we know feel their reason for existence is to police doctrine.  It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes; “the church should be a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints”.

What a blessing this event and ministry was to us!  It was more clear than ever to me why God has such a heart for the poor and outcasted.  May we all learn to have that same heart.

Sarah, Ryan, & Ray Ray at the Help Portrait-Greenville

3 Thoughts on Being Called

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I Kings 19:19-21

“So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.  He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair.  Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah.  “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”  “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”  So Elisha left him and went back.  He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them.  He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.”

1.) When God calls, we leave everything behind in pursuit of Him.  It’s really the only appropriate answer to Him.  Notice Elisha burns the plowing equipment and kills the oxen.  He is relying totally on God.  We so often want to stack the deck in our favor when it seems God wants us to bid blindly, depending totally on Him.  He calls us to jump before He shows us our wings.

2.) The call for Jesus’ disciples is answered in the same way.  Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 9 to take nothing for the journey.  God never shows us the end result or even where we’re going.  He just gives us a little each day to help us to take the next step.  It’s the scariest yet most thrilling adventure one can take!

3.) Everyone is called.  If you profess Jesus as your Lord, then the Great Commission applies to you and we are all called to go and make disciples.  It looks different for different folks, but we all should do it.   Some are paid, some are overseas, some are engineers, some are lawyers….I think you get the point.  Next to bringing glory to God, this is our second most important purpose in life.

Rabbit Growth

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We all know that rabbits reproduce like….well, like rabbits.  I have read that rabbit breeding season last 9 months out of the year with normal gestation being about 30 days and a litter being 4 to 12 rabbits.  That means in one breeding season, a female rabbit can have around 800 little rabbits running around.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing and effective to have churches that multiplied like rabbits?  There is something special, exciting, and holy about a large group of people gathering to worship and read God’s word, but true discipleship and change only comes through smaller gatherings.  Jesus chose 12 in his 3 year ministry, not 1200.  Who are you intentionally discipling today, that will disciple others, that will disciple others, etc.; rabbit style.  How much more would the Kingdom of God grow if we relied on personal accountability to discipleship, rather than expecting the Sunday morning assembly to do it?