Saturday, May 24, 2008

Word on the Street #9

Some of you are probably wondering how long I plan on doing what I'm doing right now. In fact, many of you do because I've been asked many times. What was going to be a 2 month deal (possibly) has turned out to be longer than that. I think that this will be a summer affair at least. As I've prayed and discerned I've found myself concerned with becoming chronically homeless of apathetic. However, thanks to the encouragement of many and my own relationship with God, I know that this will not happen. I know for sure that I was led into this season by faith and I'll be led out of it by the same. God has always made big life decisions crystal-clear to me and this will be no different. As Psalm 119 states, God's word is a lamp to my FEET and a light to my path. So I know that when I'm in the dark about where I'm going, my feet are being led every step of the way. I can still feel the texture of the straight and narrow path under my feet, even though my lamp only shows me what is immediately in front of me day-by-day and I cannot see a week or month ahead. My life verse which was given to me by the Lord the first time I remember Him ever speaking to me is Isaiah 30:21. "Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left." I know that God has promised me clear guidance throughout my whole life, even when I mess up and turn off to the right or to the left! This is His ministry and I do not need to fear my own weakness, brokenness, or the thoughts of well-meaning people, or even my perceptions of what people might think! I AM being led of God, hallelujah! A recent example of my feet kind of falling in place was an opportunity offered me at The Lighthouse Ministry. I was offered a weekly Bible study for the guys in the program there since the current facilitator is leaving for 2 months. I sat on this offer for 2 weeks, really trying to get God's will and over-analyzing it! Come to find out, God had put this right in front of me clearly and I allowed fear to keep me from taking the step. And so I am now excited to be leading this weekly Bible study for some guys that have become really good friends. I get to teach them what the Lord's been showing me over the past 5 years and they constantly teach me by their sensitive and zealous hearts to know and please God! What a great deal! I've also had the opportunity to begin driving the church van for guys at the Hope Center, another enjoyable way to serve the homeless and hopefully use that as a way to inform others in my home congregation about their needs. In addition, a couple of days ago during my prayer time, I sense that God deposited some serious ideas in the near future that I want to pray into. Pray for me as I wait on God for these things. One possibility may be a serious discipleship group for the homeless on the streets and I believe the Lord may want me to connect that with getting other people in the body of Christ involved with the homeless. I know that I have to take this in stride because I DO NOT have specifics on this yet nor have I consulted with the appropriate leadership about the logistics, but these are just some burdens that God has laid on my heart. I want to help the body of Christ be in contact with and educated about the needs of those on the streets. I believe God is beginning to show me ways to do that as I continue to get educated. A really neat meeting happened this past Thursday at the Crowne Plaza in Lexington by the Lexington Leadership Foundation. It presented a strategy for the Church in Lexington to reach the city for Christ through covering individual lives in prayer, caring for their practical needs, and sharing the gospel of God with them. A simple, straightforward, and biblical approach. In the coming months I look forward to meeting regularly with other members of the body which I met there who are also burdened for the homeless, poor, broken and vulnerable as we pray and seek to articulate the revelation of God's plan to reach these people. A lot of neat opportunities surfacing, but of first and foremost importance, are the days where I sit and just talk with people. They don't happen enough because I get so wrapped up in all the things I just shared, but this is the greatest need and the thing that I want to mobilize the body in-actually loving and spending ourselves on people that need that kind of compassion. We all need it and Jesus provided it. Freely we have received, freely we MUST give! We must give the same to people that Jesus has given to us! This is the joy of the God-life we've been promised. To walk in anything less is to walk as beggars and not as sons and daughters of the living God. God ADOPTED us through His Son. So must we ADOPT the needy (physically and spiritually) in this world. Let's plead with God for a vision to look outward rather than inward. We have been trained to be egocentric but this is not God's vision. Let's cooperate with God and be His hands and feet on the streets. Programs are good, but let's spend more time actually being on the streets among them. The incarnation was not a program. It was a message of love, rooted in identifying with the brokenness of people. As Paul charges us, bear one another's burdens and share in one another's joys. May we all truly take this message to heart and repent so that we might walk in it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Crossing Language Barriers

Believe it or not, the homeless and street culture actually speak a different language, with a different worldview, different way of thinking, and different way of viewing reality and circumstances. I did not realize how hard it is to cross worldviews. It's very hard. It's even hard to engage in small talk sometimes, but I'm slowly learning how to do this and I've also finally found the point of relationship between me and them (there really is no "me" and "them", but that's how I perceive it). I haven't met a lot of people with a biblical way of thinking in the street culture. What's the point of contact? Our carnality is where our paths cross. I seem to quickly note all of the weaknesses of those I want to serve and help and forget that I have those same weaknesses. I can relate to carnality because I am carnal. Addictions is something I have in common with the homeless because I have addictions too. I too must cast myself on the mercy of God. This is where we speak the same language.

I'd say I'm also learning about discernment and the development of fine prophetic sensitivity in me too. If I can be sensitive to the spirit and environment of a place and to the spirit of a person, I will be able to read them in a sense and present the Lord to them with that in mind. They'll begin to see that God really KNOWS them and speaks through me (and through them to me as well).

Side note, the speaking engagement to the junior-high kids I spoke to went well, although I still need more practice. I am learning as I go however, and I look forward to growing more comfortable in front of groups of people. I was told that they'd ask me to speak again next school year, so I hope that works out. I also am now leading a Bible study for guys in the drug rehab program at Lighthouse on Monday mornings. I'm excited about that too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Word on the Street #8

Lot's of experiences the past 2 weeks. It's been pretty busy and pretty painful too. I'm not complaining, as much as I'm just seeking to be honest. It came to the place where I wasn't feeling like being out on the streets anymore. I just wanted to stop and didn't see how I could continue doing what I'm doing any longer. I've been coming to terms constantly though with the need for me to go through those feelings and know them. This is how I come to terms with the lifestyle. And this is also how I die off, which needs to happen. The Lord has drilled it into me that this experience is largely one of taking the cross and dying off so that He might be glorified. I'm finding with my time that even as I'm out here, my clear foundation needs to be in the place of prayer. As such, the Lord has asked me to dedicate a half day each week to fasting from everything, but Him. My strength and stamina will be rooted in such times.

I have had numerous opportunities in the past couple weeks. I visited Cane Ridge-a major site near Paris, KY for the Second Great Awakening-with a friend and was able to pray there. I enjoyed some time of fellowship with good church friends which also provided me with some necessary rest. We had meals, watched movies, talked-it was all good times. I also had some interesting ministry opportunities-specifically one which baffled me. I ran into a couple guys one night a couple weeks back, outside the public library when it was raining and I didn't really have anywhere to go. One of them was very different-probably the most emotional and dramatic guy I've ever met. I really didn't know what to do with him. He seemed in one sense to have a great faith, but on the other hand he seemed to suffer from unbelief and a number of other issues, possibly demonic, perhaps mental due to alcoholism. He seemed to be so desperate for God that he was literally crying out-but it didn't seem totally pure. There was a war going on inside of him. After seeming to pray with so much desperation and passion, he grew angery and decided that he didn't even know if anything I was saying was true. I think that after praying he grew disappointed that God hadn't made him feel any different. He was striving in his flesh to fight these battles and thus grew discouraged. He lit up a joint and that's the last I've seen of him. In the process he found out about who I am and that seemed to be a stumbling block to him-he couldn't understand it, thinking I'd succumbed to the devil. I also think I jumped the gun with him in my praying by getting sucked into his emotional drama. Ministry is a fine line to tread and the Lord is teaching me that great care has to be taken because of the intricate nature of the soul's interaction with the spirit. Emotions, truth from the Word, false beliefs, and so on must be sorted through. Root issues must be exposed. Motives must be laid bare. Truth must come to the surface and shine a light to expose all that does not align.

Other than that, I have met with a number of ministry leaders in Lexington and continued serving at the Lighthouse as well as getting refreshed there. I do not have a timeline for my time on the streets, but I think it will be a summer affair now. The Lord is slowly giving me insight on some other short-term goals I have. One is in cooperation with some good friends. We have a prayer-meeting every Sunday night and have been meeting for a year. We believe that the Lord wants us to fully encompass all that the Church is and I think that my time on the streets is informing our understanding of doing church and being the Church. I'm excited about some of the prospects and I'm also excited to be really hammering out a true ecclesiology (the study of the church). I've also taken a respite from the vision document I was working on because it was occupying too much time and I was needing to refocus on actually practicing the reasons for which I'm out here. I will seek to pick it up and finish it soon. I am speaking at a chapel service to junior highers as a local Christian school on Wednesday, the 21st of May. I will be speaking about the adventure of the Christian life and the necessary times of pain and suffering within that life. Please pray for this opportunity and all of those teens I'll minister too. I'm also attending a City-Wide Outreach Strategic Summit on Thursday. I have also begun to drive the Church of the Savior van to pick up guys from the Hope Center. This is a financial request. Each week, we take them out to Subway for lunch following the church service and since there's no budget for this, it comes out of my pocket. Any who could donate, even on a regular basis, would be much appreciated. It doesn't take much more than $30 to feed them each week. If you can donate, just contact me or give me the money. Keep praying for Kevin, the guy with the bad leg. I've had more contact with him than with anyone else in recent weeks. All the other prayer requests go to. Jeremy, my alcoholic friend is still very much on my heart. I also have the opportunity to disciple a guy named Rodney and and another recent convert named Brian. Pray that these opportunities will work out according to the will of God. See my site: http://nate.rick.googlepages.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Struggling and Suffering

"1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
2so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." 1 Peter 4:1-2

I am coming to terms with this. I have suffered on psychological, emotional, and physical levels as I've continued to pursue what I'm certain to be the will of God and it's hard. It's hard because I keep thinking that I have to build some really good professional ministry or program that reflects all the academic education I've had (Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind). I want to do everything that this world and country defines as success. I want to do everything, but suffer and identify and build relationships with broken people who show me my own broken human state. And I fear. I am afraid that I'm not capable of building earthly success like other people are and so I keep trying to prove myself and my professional ability, when actually I'm not confident at all in my ability to organize and mobilize and initiate good programs. I know this is not true because when God births vision in me, things get done as I go after them. But, I keep getting distracted from the vision that God has birthed in me to simply be homeless and suffer and know what homeless people face.

Thank God for the word I received from Jeff, a man who's involved with Lexington Leadership Foundation. I met with three of those guys today to talk and found great encouragement from all of them. And Jeff helped me see the beauty and necessity in my time of suffering from the psycological effects and emotional effects of displacement (homelessness). I have to come to terms with this again and again. Every week is the same struggle, but I praise God for how it is exercising my faith.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Word on the Street #7 (Weeks 7-8)

Brothers and Sisters,

I've had a a busy couple of weeks! This is why I did not send an update last week. Besides that, I felt the need to not be so religious with updates, lest I lose focus on my purpose for being out here on the streets. And by the way, I appreciate all accountability in what I'm doing from ya'll.

After spending a good 5-6 weeks feeling aimless and unsure of myself, I've had a very busy 2 week period involving a lot of different divine appointments and opportunities. I've been making an intentional effort to connect with more people who are already doing ministry out here in Lexington. I'm convinced that I need mentors to help me learn some of what street ministry looks like. I've also been helping lead a Bible study every Friday morning at The Lighthouse, I've started getting involved in the 12 step program there (which intersects a lot with the street culture), I've been going through my journal and reviewing what God's been teaching me and trying to organize it and piece it together in the interests of using it to help others after me, whether through a Bible study curriculum, book or whatever. A lot of that organizing is reflected in the Bible Insights section of my site, http://nate.rick.googlepages.com , and also in my blog and journal. Lastly, I've been working on a document which I'll soon post a link to on my site which seeks to accurately articulate the origins of God's word to me to come out here, my specific goals as articulated by God, what I've learned so far, and strategic insights. It will not be complete and will probably need to be added to in the future, but it will reflect where I'm at so far. This also reflects a lot of my journaling in a more organized fashion than it's laid out in my journal.

This weekend, I finally graduate from Asbury! I'm so excited, especially for the extra time to relax and be with my parents. It will be a great weekend.

I wish I could begin to tell all the stories from the past two weeks-there's too many! A book couldn't contain all the great works that God is doing in many lives including my own. I will try and get more journal entries including some of those stories posted though. Look for them and keep checking the site for updates!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Matthew 19:16-30

Wow! I saw Matthew 19:16-30 (The Rich Young Ruler) in a whole new light today! Actually I saw it in the way people have always explained it to me, but I never could see it the way that they were trying to explain. I realize now why. God never let me see it the way I'm about to explain because He wanted me to take it literally first. So, I sold my possessions, well actually gave most of them. Some remain up in Michigan. Finally, I've seen this passage as it's meant to be seen. Really, this passage is not about the possessions, though it was in this particular man's case as well as in my case. It's about Jesus painting an impossible ethic so that we must trust God for salvation and the ability to do this ethic. This man was too in love with his possessions and if he'd trusted Jesus, he would have been justified before God and He would have been enabled then to believe and obey his commands such as giving up all his possessions. God can do anything! God can even do this for me! It's not always about the possessions. It's not meant to be a legalistic requirement, but rather a test to see if one will leave all to follow Jesus. If one hears preaching about idols in their life and something comes to mind, God may be speaking about that. Anything which keeps us from following Jesus is a possession which has to go. If it's one's material possessions, God may call that one to give up all material possessions.

Some more journal entries, lessons, and insights

8 April 2008

I'm going to do some things way out of my comfort zone today. I'm going to fast and I'm going to sit all day instead of being busy going from place-to-place. I'm going to practice listening. I ask You to stir up my prophetic anointing. Stir up the Spirit of God in me and my ears to hear. I've heard You interpret the Scripture to me; open my ears to hear You that I might wqalk according to the words I've received and speak Your words into different lives.
Later...
Today's been good. I decided not to work the system today, but to sit, rest, wait and watch. I hadn't even been doing that long before a brother bought me coffee and another brother came by to give me some rice to eat. A. J., the one who gave rice is a prodigy who speaks 6 languages fluently and won the Lexington Chess Championship a few years back. It's so cool to be a subject of love and God's provision, not working the programs which are impersonal and more focused no results than love. Sit back and watch the wonders which God can do.