Friday, July 18, 2008

Word on the Street #12

A lot changed last week when a handicapped guy came rolling through the doors of Lighthouse to get a free meal. I had just finished washing dishes after the normal lunch served to the homeless and I walked out in the main room to find one of the program guys feeding this guy. I took over because this program guy needed to do something else and we launched into a long talk. What a difficult situation! This man was and is facing homelessness and I immediately wanted to do something about it. I didn't realize how close our contact would be for at least the next few days. He needs help with about everything. I saw him again the next day where he discovered my life on the streets and invited me to stay at the motel where he was staying for a night. I graciously accepted and went back to Wilmore for the Sunday like usual.

On Tuesday, he faced the prospect of homelessness and I cared for him much of the day. At supper, God deposited the thought into my head of 2 ladies I knew and I immediately decided to see if they'd take him in for a few days. It certainly was divine appointment! Because one lady had similar handicaps to my friend, they were able to relate to him and provide for him. One even gave up her bed for him. They've proven to be an excellent temporary solution.

In the course of our time, we had an interesting discussion about God and how He desires to heal us. My friend at this point announced that he didn't want to be healed because he believes God made him special and the way he is for a reason. It seems like he fights with feeling valuable or something and instead of being content with where God has him and also believing that God can heal and restore him, he instead embraces his condition to the other extreme, taking pride in it. Unfortunately, what I wanted to communicate to him in a loving way didn't come out right and he thought that I called his condition "sin" thereby making him a sinner simply for being born with a handicap.

Here's some of the dynamics which I saw: I think we both have different definitions of sin. I'm talking about the force of evil released on earth through the Curse and I think he's thinking of individual actions against God's law. I also think he was making an emotional argument while I was making an objective one. I spoke truth, but I probably didn't speak it wisely. If my friend is offended by truth, fine, but I don't want to cause unnecessary offense based on my faulty articulation of truth. I guess the best way to understand is this: God loves my friend as he is, just as He embraces all sinners when we put our faith in Christ. He does use my friend's condition to humble all of us. If my friend loves God, God uses his condition for good. He should be content in God even in the midst of his condition. Here's the other side. None of the above is possible with his current attitude. He thinks his condition is a good thing. No, God's using it for good, but in and of itself, it's a bad thing. God desires to restore and completely heal too. It was an interesting conversation.

Please pray for my friend, his thinking, his physical healing, and most of all his salvation through Jesus Christ. It's hard to tell if he truly has the life of God's Spirit pulsating in him. I think he's similar to many that I've met: they have aligned their mind with an idea and agreed with it, but they have not had the indwelling living reality of God coming in and foundating their entire existence. Pray also that we can see around my friend's double-talk (he's not been completely honest with us) and get him the help he needs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Embracing God's Suffering?

In following God, I did not take my cross and was not whole-hearted, because subconciously I received Jesus, but did not receive the suffering which comes with that name. Now, the Father poses the question to me, "Will you drink the cup of suffering that comes with bearing Jesus' name?" He did not ask me to make life hard on myself or to strive to do religious things driven by fear, but to receive the suffering which comes with following Jesus. Instead of opposing it, will I receive it? Will I embrace all that the fasted lifestyle entails and receive the suffering which my flesh endures so that it might find it's greatest fulfillment in Jesus? I've half-heartedly embraced it, but not to the fullest degree yet and I might as well leave it behind and say "No, thanks" to the Lord if I'm not totally going to embrace it. This is a part of the heart of God; that I embrace the suffering which reminds me of my dependence on Him.

We must know that when we say "Yes" to God, we're saying "Yes" to the suffering which inevitably will run along side the pilgrimmage of faith in Jesus. This is part of counting the cost and something God wants us to consider before we say, "Yes." Pray for me, that my answer will be "Yes." to the suffering of Christ in me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tolerance?

I'll admit that the Lord has been teaching me about his kindness and mercy, his patience and how important faith is even before works, and yet how works are such an important aspect of faith. I've also learned in the past years of my life (or shall I use the word "indoctrinated") to be tolerant and patient toward those of other beliefs. I have bought into this belief mainly for one reason and it's not due to what I've seen in Scripture. I've bought into this belief because I know some people in this world that are sincerely seeking truth that do not believe the same as I do. Of course, that's only an assumption. Some people in this world are probably seeking truth more zealously than I am and I'm probably seeking truth more zealously than some others. Now this brings me to a problem.

Those may sound like good intentions, but Scripture proclaims with authority that Jesus alone is the truth. Faith should inevitably result in increasing one's authority in matters that they are putting their faith in, because biblically speaking, faith is not blind, but it is indeed sight and evidence of things hoped for, the very SUBSTANCE of the unseen. Here's what I'm getting at: I looked up some stuff on Westboro Baptist Church today, and also read the biography of St. Antony, by Athanasius. Now St. Antony did not proclaim truth in the same spirit as Westboro Baptist Church does, but here's the fact about both of these entities that I like, even if I do not agree totally with the spirit of Westboro Baptist Church: these two entities proclaimed truth with authority. I believe that Westboro Baptist doesn't need to proclaim the truth in such a hateful fashion, but at least they are proclaiming truth about God's judgment. I see the same in the biography of St. Antony: he vehemently stood with authority on issues of orthodoxy and did not share fellowship with heretics. This type of determined stance seems impossible in today's world and I like getting along with people. I could certainly have this stance, but I would be hated, even by some Christians. Let me change my wording: I do have this type of unmoving stance; I've just been afraid to proclaim it. But the fact is that Jesus IS the only way, those who are not in Him WILL go to Hell, the message of repentance from sin, and the message of God's judgment are absolute TRUTH for all people whether they "believe" in God and the Bible or not. I refuse to move an inch on that! I don't want to be a jerk unnecessarily, but I won't budge on even the hard truths!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"If you do not believe, you surely will not last..."

Yahweh has shown me how much I've bought into the lie of fear and furthering my own ego, especially recently in my approach to Scripture. I have been used by God to facilitate a weekly Bible study for guys in the program at the Lighthouse and lately I've been distracted by the temptation to put together good intellectual Bible studies that reflect my abilities in order to prove myself to them and God. God is certainly putting me through some purging right now to purge that very desire from me. What I'm seeing is that the rhetoric of faith is not just rhetoric. I have believed the lie (not whole-heartedly, but subconsciously) for much of my life that the Scripture was just good philosophical rhetoric without truly practical application and that to live life, it was really just up to me to produce. God has been using this time in me to expose that lie in the strongest terms.

The rhetoric of Scripture is actually absolute truth with practical application! I say this not from a dogmatic, agenda-driven perspective, but because I have truly experienced the actual reliability of faith! Hebrews 11:6 lays it out: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." If I'm going to truly let go of my ego, my abilities driven by fear, and my desire to please and impress people so I can land a good job, then I have to truly believe that God exists and rewards those who follow His rhetoric laid out in Scripture. We all claim to "believe in" God. God will bring all who claim to believe in Him and who actually think they do to an ultimatum; a test to see if that claim is really true. "If you really believe in Me, you will lay down every aspect of your life: ego, pride, abilities, control, etc." If God does not exist, then it's stupid to do that, but if He does, then we are resting on the surest foundation, the foundation of all foundations: the unchanging faithfulness of God.

In my attempts to put together a lesson in the Scripture, the Lord would not allow me to because of my motives, laced with pride. All I did was get stressed out and I couldn't think straight. I have to keep taking the leap of faith and saying that "I walk by faith, not by sight." My ability at working a job will not take me from the streets. My ability to teach the Scripture well will not land me a job at a church or as a missionary. My efforts at controlling my life will not get me anywhere. Faith will take me from the streets, faith will lead me to the next assignment. Faith ALONE will write the next Bible study for the next meeting. Faith ALONE will bring wisdom and understanding from the Scriptures to people.

I'm not in place to display my cleverness in interpreting Scripture to people. My role as a facilitator of a Bible study is to be a vessel through which the Holy Spirit can fan the flame and water the seeds of faith in other people. The Holy Spirit will teach the Scripture to these guys' hearts. I'm just a vessel to fan the flame of that inside these guys through prayer, fellowship, teaching, and imparting wisdom which I've gained through years of prayer and study.

Faith must be the foundation for all, even the smallest things in our lives. It's the only foundation on which to build EVERYTHING. Surely we'll fail without it. Surely we'll fail without prophetic vision. Surely we won't receive faith will an ego. Surely the only posture to be in to receive faith is one of spiritual poverty before an all-powerful, loving God who is strongest in my weakness. Total reliance overcomes my total depravity. Faith is the vehicle of a successful life.
Glory to Almighty God who has rained down MERCY on me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Word on the Street #11

Beloved, I have had a hiatus recently as I returned to Michigan for almost 2 weeks. What a good time. It was great to see old friends and be with family, but I also realized how much I belong in Lexington, KY. I was so ready to return after those 2 weeks. As much as I love and miss Michigan, I could not be happy there unless God called me back there, even though some of my favorite people are there. I enjoyed the beach, and sitting on rooftops watching fireworks, speaking at my dad's church, and spending 2 a day in Cincinnati seeing the Creation Museum. That museum was my graduation gift from my parents and it was awesome. It's quite a facility they've built, dedicated to perpetuating a biblical worldview. It greatly informed my thinking and provided me with some great resources. Now, it's time to be back on the streets. So far, I do not know how much longer I'll do this, but I'm giving my time to building my faith and the faith of others, studying, and helping in every area that God brings me to. I know that in the short-term, I'm dedicated to this, and also to whatever the fruits of the Sunday night prayer meetings which I've been attending for a year and a half are. It's amazing to me how much God has protected those Sunday night prayer meetings in Wilmore. Several times I was on the verge of quitting them to stay on the streets in Lexington on Sunday, but God just hasn't let that happen. I'm so committed to praying every Sunday night with Derek and Anna-it's my first priority on Sunday night and it's rarely replaced with anything else. God must have something awesome planned with that. I do not know what it will be exactly, but I'll tell ya'll, this is how I feel: I feel like I'm sitting in a room that's pitch-black, or I'm blindfolded, but it's filled with treasure chests full of gold and riches. These prayer meetings I feel the same way like I'm sowing into something big and great that God has planned, but He hasn't unveiled my eyes or Derek's or Anna's eyes to any of it yet. I have my ideas of what it will look like, but God's plans are so much bigger and exciting. He never ceases to turn my world upside-down again. I've never found anything more exciting than knowing God and journeying with God. I hurt because so much of the world and so many of my friends are missing out! God's been answering a prayer of mine that I prayed several months back about feeling His pain for the homeless and knowing their suffering. I've been feeling it for months, but shying away from it our of fear. God showed me last Sunday as I drove past Phoenix Park in our church van that I should embrace the pain I feel every time I see the homeless in that park because I'm completing the suffering of Jesus as He was on the cross and it should drive me to prayer. God is showing me HIS love, HIS compassion, HIS pain and suffering regarding the poor and downtrodden, the enslaved and oppressed. Faith is the basis for all success in life. He who does not stand in faith will not stand at all (Isaiah 7:9). Firm foundations of faith, built on Jesus Christ will stand the greatest tests, but they take time to build. Sow into and cultivate that firm foundation so that your faith will endure to the end when God takes you from the earth. This is the season I'm in-24/7 building-up my faith so I'll have a firm foundation to stand on in this evil world. I invite all who have a heart for the great risk and adventure of knowing God to join me on this journey of faith. You will never make the journey successfully without being armed with faith. "I AM" will turn your world upside-down,Nathan Rickard