Homeless:A ParableBy Bob Heath
“Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to you can heal my body.”Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean.”Matthew 8:2, 3 –The Message Bible
On a cold December night there is a homeless man living on the streets. He clearly bears in his body the tell tale symptoms of aids. He has lesions on his face and neck. This once handsome man is wasting away to nothing from the marching destructive army within his body. It wasn’t that the hospital couldn’t help him, he just had no insurance and the treatment of aids is costly and they can only treat so many “charity” cases. Because of his disease he isn’t welcome in the shelters; the churches want nothing to do with him because he was a known homosexual. So, he finds himself on this freezing cold night by the dumpster of an upscale Mexican restaurant. At least he can eat the scraps that have been thrown away. Using the empty boxes from the produce that had been delivered to the restaurant as a blanket, he attempts to sleep. Pneumonia has begun to set it and he fears this night could be his last.
Shivering so violently he lays there wishing that the church or someone from it would have acted like the Jesus they proclaim. He remembers last Christmas, when he had first been informed of his disease. His partner had erupted in anger at him just a few weeks before and demanded that he pack his stuff and leave. He stumbled into a church. The preacher preached a message of hope and forgiveness. Afterwards he went to the Pastor expecting acceptance, instead he discovered that homosexuality is the unpardonable sin. He was asked to leave by the very Pastor who only a few minutes before was preaching forgiveness. Maybe the preacher was right, maybe death was what he deserved, and after all he had been so vile.
At that moment Jesus’ the manager of the restaurant opens the back door to leave for the night. Knowing he had been seen, he begs Jesus’ not to call the Police, “I will be gone by morning”, he begs. To his surprise he was treated with kindness and respect. “Sir”, Jesus said with a Mexican accent, “You don’t look to good, can I help you?” Stunned by kindness the man felt compelled to tell Jesus his story. Jesus’ had taken him into the restaurant and while he talked, made him a cup of coffee. Jesus’ was such a kind man, soft spoken but obviously confident. (Such confidence is a rare thing and it had served him well in the restaurant business.) Suddenly, he fell silent, looked at Jesus’ and realized that he was not at all an ordinary man. In fact, if he’d been a carpenter he could be just like the “real Jesus” he had read about. Suddenly unable to hold himself back he made that very comment. He was so overcome by the kindness he had experienced that he burst out with a statement that he couldn’t contain, “I believe that if you want to could heal my body.” Jesus’ did exactly as you guessed: He reached out, prayed to The Father in Jesus name and the man was healed! Jesus didn’t deal directly with the sins of the man, but his former desires left as he had experienced “new life” and it now flowed through his now healed body.
“You detestable sinner”, these words never crossed the lips of Jesus as he preached to the masses of His day. He didn’t look at the outcast leper, living outside his village because of his terminal illness and say, “Dude, death is what you deserve, and of course I am un-willing to heal you”. He did have a problem with the business of religion, but the downtrodden outcast, thieves, women of questionable morals, fishermen, enemy soldiers, even IRS agents they were who he was sent for. He didn’t turn them away then, and he doesn’t today. (Religious leaders are still a hurdle though.)
What is it with us, that we preach, “What would Jesus do?”, and then condemn the teenage guy who is struggling with thoughts that are natural and normal. Then when he progresses to a problem with pornography we label him as a pervert and abandon him, NO condemn him to hell. Is it any wonder the world hates religion.
According to my own interpretation of Galatians 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is: Love. The other “fruits” are the natural outflow of a life flowing with the love that 1 John says God is.
“Legalism is helpless in bringing this about, it only gets in the way”.—Galatians 5:23 The Message Bible
If we would realize that the leper of Matthew chapter eight is us without Christ we would be more understanding of others in the face of horrible situations, or horrible sin. I chose the Mexican name of Jesus in the parable above as a means of stating the obvious: That we are to be the face of the invisible God to the world around us. Not the stuffy, pious, judgmental, people that we are known to be.
Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, these are attributes of a life committed to following Jesus. Am I there yet? Why don’t you ask the clerk that told me I had to prepay for my gas in Arkansas a few weeks ago. I think it’s time we stretch ourselves a bit and look at our pet sins the way our Father does: Through the blood of His Son. When we do that compassion flows naturally from us and confidence grows as condemnation of ourselves and others disappear. “…I will, be clean” accept those powerful words and your life can begin to change. Apply them to the world around you and see it begin to change.
Homeless:A ParableBy Bob Heath
I have come to believe that people who work with children likely have the healthiest attitude in the body of Christ. If they don’t, they haven’t worked with kids very long. I have discovered that the longer I work with them and the more I think I know about what works or what is effective, the less I know.
I remember telling parent sponsors and team members that “churchy” sounding music won’t work in Kids for Christ. Then I was a guest speaker at another school across town in their Bible Club, only to hear the “churchiest” sounding music I have ever heard. To my utter shock, the kids LOVED IT…and I knew nothing.
I said kids these days will not engage with music that has kids singing in the background: Wrong again. Messages must be high energy or you will lose the kids attention, after all this is a Nickelodeon generation. I said I hate curriculum, then I wrote one. (I am still not a fan though.)
All I can say as the “expert” on ministering to kids in the public schools, is that the Holy Spirit knows what will connect with the kids you’re working with. He knows the individuals and the group as a whole and HE WILL LEAD YOU if you let Him.
My latest know-it-all comment is one I still stand by as a general statement, BUT if the Holy Spirit leads you, then FOLLOW. I have a ministry standard that in KFCUSA we don’t teach “doctrine”, just a simple central gospel message. I really believe in this standard. HOWEVER, because I am willing to let God lead me, then He does.
This past week I realized that I had under-prepared for a message. Okay lets be honest, I hadn’t prepared at all! As I was walking into the school I threw up a quickie to God, “Any direction as to what I should teach today”? Then looked down a saw a tiny hole in my jeans that I had gotten this summer while helping unload the van at JFK in NYC as I was leaving for Tanzania. I felt as though God was telling me to teach using my trip to Tanzania. “Oh, Okay, Father, I can talk about Tanzania to the kids,” was my thought. Needless to say, Mr. Experienced Kids Minister found himself in over his head in front of 50 kids trying to talk my way into some sort of message.
I told them that while I was there to teach in Tanzania, the kids usually sat outside and that my role on the team I was with was to teach Pastors how important it is to minister to kids. I explained that over there it isn’t like it is here where “kids church” is the norm, but that these kids just hung outside. Maybe they played, maybe they listened thru the window, but there was no children’s church. I said, “When I was a boy, the highlight of the service was when we took communion”. All of a sudden the two boys on the front row asked, “What is communion?” I began to explain communion to the kids. I was sitting on the stairs with children around me on the floor simply sharing about communion with 50 kids. It was sweet -- and it was right.
God knew how to lead me in the direction the kids needed to go. He knew that a simple message about communion from my heart to theirs would cause six children to make a decision to serve Jesus with their lives. I love that He knew that I was willing to let Him lead me in a direction that I had taught people would never work in that setting. I love that the more I know Him and His ways, the less I know, and its okay.
Oh, I forgot to mention that when I asked the kids in the room, “How many of you don’t go to church on Sunday, but Kids for Christ is your only church?” Those two boys were among the nearly half the room that raised their hand. In other words, God knew what would draw them to Him and He knew that no one else was going to teach that to them any time soon, if ever. Kids ministry will teach you humility, and, it’s okay.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your
ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.—Isaiah 55:8
I heard a man preach about the Kingdom of God. In fact, I have heard many men preach on the Kingdom of God through the years. Most of them are a bit random at best. I have an opinion on why, and even though I am concerned with sounding a bit arrogant, I will share it with you. I think that one can only study, or preach the Kingdom of God as though they can compare it to something on earth. Comparing the Kingdom of God to the earthly concept of a kingdom will fall short every time. This is a concept only revealed by the Holy Spirit. I personally believe this is a topic that it is best interpreted with the Bible.
The man I heard asked the congregation if they wanted God’s order in their lives. Even though the response of the crowd was “yes,” I couldn’t help but wonder if these mostly fat sassy American Christians really wanted God’s order in their lives. Do they really understand God’s order?
The reason I am writing about this is because that question and answer really disturbed me. So if this comes off as me being a bit of a know-it-all, please understand that I am writing about it in order to “process” my thoughts. If my thoughts seem random or scattered, please understand that is kind of my point: This is a huge concept, and I am going to attempt to process it by using -- for lack of a better way to describe my approach -- “the fairness doctrine,” so to speak.
In my life I have grown up in Charismatic churches and attended Charismatic schools, universities and Bible schools. I have attended a Nazarene church and even began ministry as a kids’ minister, and the only Charismatic, in a Nazarene church. (Or shall we say “A more traditional church”.) All of the above had a different concept of the Kingdom of God and “God’s order”.
Most of what is called “order” in the institutional church is an attempt to control men. We demand tithes, giving above the tithe if God is going to bless you. Healing is an act of God’s sovereignty… or is it a result of faith? Apparently God’s blessing is something we earn by reading, praying and speaking right. Perhaps you are a worthless loser whom God can’t bless because you didn’t pray, read or say things in line with God’s Word. In essence, God can’t bless you because of this or that. After all, the Order of God’s Kingdom requires you to have it all together. I wish I could see these things as anything less than man’s attempt to control man and call it God’s order.
We can go the other way and say, “He is a GOD OF LOVE”! God isn’t concerned with what you give, say, or believe -- only that you love Him. He won’t hold back blessing, prosperity, health, wisdom, life…because He is a loving Father and His heart is for you. For you! Not against you -- faithful to never leave you or forsake you, faithful to heal you, faithful to prosper you…HE IS FAITHFUL. He isn’t going to abandon you because you and your wife had a stupid argument.
After much personal study, I lean this way; but one thing I have learned is that prosperity or poverty don’t matter nearly as much to God as it does men. Even your health isn’t a measuring stick of your faith or standing with your loving Father. His system of order looks something like Isaiah 55: 8-11:
"’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.”
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
It looks to me like “order” to God is often far different than our view of “order”. He is more concerned with you, your heart, your attention, than He is with your being in complete control of life. Instead, give Him control, follow and obey as He leads. He is so much bigger than the box you put Him in; so much more faithful than the box you put Him in.
“He is working all things together for good to them that love Him…” Sometimes this doesn’t look like you want it to. In fact, it may take years and horrible, painful situations that look totally awful. In fact, it may even seem to keep getting worse. Friends may judge you or you may judge yourself. But He said, “Seek first the KINGDOM of GOD …and ALL these things will be added to you.
His Kingdom Order is Jesus first…and all these things will be added to you. His thoughts really are not your thoughts, neither are our ways His ways…so it is His word that goes out of His mouth: “IT WILL NOT return to Him empty, but it will accomplish what He desires …” Rest in our Father’s love, make Him your priority, and you will see the order of the kingdom.
Several months ago I was having a difficult time waking up at 4:15 AM to go to the gym. So, I had the brilliant (but not original) idea of setting a second alarm. I set the alarm on my watch for 4:20, only to discover that this piece-of-junk watch lacked one very significant item: An Alarm off switch. Oh, you can make it stop chirping, but I have yet to find (and I have looked extensively) a way to disable the alarm.
Since I was aware of this crazy situation when I went to Tanzania in June-July this year, I decided to change the time of day it would go off, so as not to wake my roommate while on the trip. I chose 2:20pm. Why, you may ask? Because I figured that time of day wouldn’t be a distraction to anyone. I was more or less right.
While there, a 17 year old guy on the team from Belgium heard it early in the trip. It seemed that he and I heard it and laughed about it everyday. Since returning home I have begun to notice that 2:20 is a very interesting time of day. It seems as though I have yet to do the same thing at 2:20 any day of the 14 days since I returned home.
THEN…I had a crazy idea:
I wonder if I journalized my daily 2:20 experiences if there would be a message or any spiritual significance? I wonder if it could be a book? After all, John Eldridge wrote a book from his daily spiritual journal, and I know several people who loved it. Needless to say, I have spent way too much time thinking about this. Now I have decided to do something about it.
My first stop was to see if there were any significant 2:20’s in God’s Word. I pulled out my Bible Study software and found several interesting “2:20” scriptures. Then I remembered the most profound one of all Galatians 2:20:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”.—Galatians 2:20
Most people who write or preach on this verse seem to have the emphasis a little backward for me. Their emphasis is on being crucified or being crucified with Christ, and I intend in no way to belittle that. I just have found that living that out is easier as a fruit of the rest of the passage rather than as a work. Let me explain.
I come at it from a realization that He loves me at a level that I can’t even begin to comprehend. The fact that God loved us so much that He laid Himself on the line in bodily form as Jesus, is so humbling that I want to live life like He did; He lived in love, He was and is love, and I chose to live in and by that love. Then and only then can I lay aside the cares of this life and live by the faith of the Son of God.
I have often gotten hung up on the statement “Faith works by love”; but if I am to live my life by THE faith of The Son of God, then I “live loved”. Far too often we fail to allow ourselves to experience life the way God designed it for us, because we fail to embrace His love.
Most who focus on the “being crucified in Christ” seem as though they missed the “nevertheless I live part”. Shoot! I think they are so crucified that they ARE dead, but Jesus came to give us life! In fact, He came to give us life more abundantly. That is found in resting in His love. For me, the approach of “living loved” puts me in a place where my “flesh” is out of the way -- or crucified by His love. There is another point: Since He IS love, that love is the greater power, and flesh simply cannot overpower a life that is totally resting in the love of The Father.
I, like many who have been in typical church situations, struggled with this for years. It’s easier to live life crucified sometimes than it is to live life loved, but when we do the fruit is life crucified and living!
Literally two weeks before I left for a 24 day ministry trip to Tanzania, my father died suddenly, and totally unexpectedly. As a boy, my dad was larger than life to me. No matter how old he was, he never seemed to acknowledge that he was old. (We tried to tell him he was old, but he would just tell us, “You’re only as old as you feel”.) Dad was the salesman’s salesman, a carpenter’s carpenter, and on and on. To my brother and I, he was the world’s Greatest Father.
When I was 15 years old, he began to teach me to swing a hammer. That same year, he and I went on our first mission trip together. In fact, three years later we returned to the island of Jamaica for a second trip. My dad had a heart for souls and modeled it for me. He raised me to love and serve God with my life, and to pass that on to my sons. He raised me to always keep God first, family second, and job third. He raised me to do everything I do with all my heart and NEVER QUIT! (Unless you know for certain it’s God saying, “Stop”.)
Yet with all Dad’s coaching there were times I willingly didn’t live up to the expectations of my father. In those times I didn’t love my dad any less than I did in the times that I did live up to his expectations. And, in those times, dad was the last person I wanted to see. That had nothing to do with how Dad viewed or loved me -- only my own guilty conscience.
I remember one time when I was 17, I had borrowed Mom’s car to go to a party. I wasn’t there very long before some of my friends began drinking. I hated drinking, I couldn’t stand the taste or the feeling. Naturally, when one of my friends decided he wanted to get drunk, he called and asked his parents if I could give him a ride home. Once they said “okay,” my buddy proceeded to get SMASHED!
On the way home he began to vomit -- no that’s too nice -- he puked his guts out all over the backseat and floorboard of my mom’s car. In between puking spells he would pass out in his own vomit. I drove around Nashville for nearly two hours, because I was scared to deliver him to his parents, and I didn’t want to tell my parents about the situation. Finally, like the prodigal son, I decided that calling my dad was better than the situation I found myself in. Dad came and met me, then followed me to my buddy’s house and helped me get him in the house.
I knew that dad was disappointed that I had let myself get into that situation, but the only consequence I was given is that I had to clean out the car. The beautiful thing about Dad is that he always loved me the same -- no matter what happened. I may have gotten a speech or some form of consequence, but I always knew that Dad loved and forgave me.
The reason I tell this story is to set you up for what I really want to share.
On the other side, my Dad was one of my best friends. I worked with him until I was 22. He was even the “best man” in my wedding. Since my Dad passed away, God has blessed me with two or three really precious moments in which He made plain to me the mirror image of Him that my dad was in my life.
Recently I had a dream. I was in the shower and I was adjusting the water “Hot, cold, hot, cold”, and I was singing “Hot, cold, hot, cold…” Suddenly in one of the “cold cycles” I looked to the shower curtain side of the shower and saw the top half of my Dad’s head. Startled, I said “Dad, you can’t be here now!”
Afterwards, I prayed, “Father show me what that meant.” I felt as though He showed me that in the dream, my dad represented “Father God”. The water represented the water of The Word of God -- and that I have a tendency to be hot or cold. But He wants me to stay in the hot water and finish getting washed off by the water of The Word. In fact he wants me/us to dive into the heat with Him – or -- STAY HOT. I know I am not the only one that has hot and cold cycles in my walk with Christ, I just want to challenge you to “STAY HOT”.
The danger in the cold cycles is the possibility of getting stuck there. I once saw a clown skit that portrayed this very well. The clown was watching his friends as they played in the "bucket of sin." He knew better than to mess with the bucket of sin, but he decided to dip his toe in the bucket of sin and he enjoyed it. Then he put half of his foot in there and still, nothing happened. Finally he put his whole big clown foot into the bucket and got stuck.
It's easy in our busy world to get caught up in the day to day grind, or what the Bible calls the "Cares of this world" and let yourself slip into a "cold cycle". Look, everybody misses a day or two of Bible reading and prayer from time to time. I just want to encourage you not to let yourself slip into a cold cycle. Simply stated: Stay Hot!