Matthew 6:21 "Wherever your treasure is there the desires of your heart will also be." The desires of my heart.....the desires of my heart have always been my family....my husband, my children, and their well being. This last year and a half on North First Street the Lord has stretched my heart to include a group of people who may not at first glance appear to be the most appealing people. They are usually dirty, often unemployed, misfits, sometimes off mentally, sometimes filled with sores, stinky, toothless or close to being toothless, unshaven, beaten, and sometimes drunk or high....Poverty is a commonality amongst them...often due to their own choices.
So the question is.... how can I consider these people a desire of my heart??? How can I put treasures aside for a group of people who have nothing to offer me?? It is easy to see how we can consider our family the desires of our heart.... I birthed my children, went through ups, downs, and life with them. We have laughed, cried, played, and experienced life together so it only makes sense that I would invest in them, but how does it happen that people who have so little to offer, so little in common- find such a spot in my heart???
The answer is so simple and so not me... it is Jesus! Only Jesus can soften our hearts and cause us to look outside of ourselves to the world around us....and to love the people we see. Sometimes "Christian" people enjoy serving those in need because it is the "Churchy thing to do". You know how that looks- I am guilty of the above... you sign up to serve in this area or that because the clip board came around at church and if you are going to be a good-mature Christian, you need to serve. You try "children's church" but kids aren't your thing... you try "ushering" or maybe "worship team" to try and find "your giftings, your passions". As you serve, you feel good because you are doing "the right thing"- good things. And yes... these are good things, but Jesus did not die on the cross so that we can "find our niche" in the church.... so that we can walk in our giftings "in the church".
Yes, I do believe that we need to work together in a church and serve in different areas, but that is not the Great Commission that Jesus commanded us to do in Acts 1:8....Jesus says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." To be honest, it is easy to love my family... it is relatively easy to love the people that I go to church with.... but it starts to get a little more difficult when I walk out my front door or out the door of my church. Jesus' word tells us though that we can do this with the power of the Holy Spirit.... and the Holy Spirit is who makes North First Street happen.
The Holy Spirit gathered us all together today in a huge oval before we started serving food. The line of North First St. friends was long and straight so all the volunteers looped around so that we were connected in one large sphere. We prayed all together as one...giving thanks to all that God had provided as well as his continued safety and protection. It seemed like the only way to pray.... it is not "us" and "them".... The Holy Spirit's presence brought us together as "His" children gathered together... it was beautiful.
The verse, "Where your treasure is... there your heart will be..." talks about how our paths will follow the direction of our hearts...I can't see the people lined up waiting for food as "those people" any more. The Holy Spirit has changed all that.... When we pull up and we see the line of people that extends almost to the fence... my face lights up with great joy! From the toddlers all the way to the oldest people out there...my heart cries out! I don't know how to put into words what I feel inside. It is almost like a crushing, sorrowful, weeping feeling... that coexists with a feeling of love, joy, and happiness. It sounds a little crazy, but when the Holy Spirit is in the equation and you are not just doing another "Good Work"... I think that Jesus breaks your heart for the broken hearted.... Sometimes people will say, "I have a hard time with the homeless... or I just don't have a heart for the homeless...." I now have a problem with that statement because I am not talking about where you "prefer" to serve in the church... such as I prefer to work with children's church rather than church clean up. The homeless are the broken hearted, there are elderly who are broken hearted, there are children in Africa who are broken hearted, there are people in our church who are broken hearted.... We can't pick and choose who deserves our compassion and who does not. You may not feel called to hand out food or clothing for the homeless, but I pray as Christians that all of our hearts will break for ANYBODY who is hurting or suffering.... Jesus didn't pick and choose, nor did he minister only to those inside the walls of the church. Jesus didn't say to the woman at the well, "I am training to be in ministry, but I just don't have a heart for people like you." He didn't walk by the lepers and say, "Sucks to be you, you shouldn't have been hanging out with other lepers, maybe you wouldn't have caught it." Jesus didn't minister to only the cute little children who were poor or to the people who lived on the right side of the tracks..... If we call ourselves Christians then we need to pray that our hearts will break for the broken hearted.... that we will be moved to action.... that we will reach outside of our comfortable/familiar little surroundings to the world that is aching for a Savior!!! I don't care where you choose to serve or where you choose to devote your time... just choose something... someone.... give of yourself... let your treasures reach further than people who "grew up the same way you did". Our motto has become "Love... Not Judge" for a reason. Not because we are these "Great Christians" out doing the right thing... but because the Holy Spirit has come in and has started breaking off those hard crusty places in our hearts so that we can't just look any longer and say, "Only for those who deserve it".
Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as those who have a contrite spirit." Today I had an interesting conversation with a woman who lives down by the river. She said that her mother has borderline personality disorder and that she grew up with such abuse and chaos that it is better for her to live by the river than to go back to that." I know that many people have survived horrible circumstances and did not make the poor choices that this woman may have made, but Jesus didn't just come for those who made great choices... he came for those who did not also. The lady walked away from me carrying a box filled with food, clothes, and a blanket. Life is hard for her...but she keeps moving forward. The Holy Spirit made it easy to embrace her with a huge hug and a prayer for healing hearts. It could so easily have been me.... walking away carrying my box. My heart broke for her....
Another woman...probably close to my age..stood in line waiting for clothes. She caught my eye and I asked what I could find for her..."A mitten" she replied.."Just one though because my hand is deformed." My eyes fell from hers down to her left hand that she was holding up. The right hand had glove on it, but the left was bare and deformed. It bent at a 90 degree angle at the wrist with her fingers gnarled and frozen in place. She needed a left mitten to fit over her hand to keep it warm. The lady had a great smile and didn't seem to be discouraged or down... she just needed a mitten. Needless to say, I was determined to find her a mitten!!! I dug and dug through the box until a beautiful knit pair of mittens popped into sight. You would have thought that I gave her the moon! She was so excited! With a big thank you and a quick wave, she was off... but her image sticks in my mind... the image of her holding her disfigured hand, trying to keep it warm. Such a simple request... She blessed me more than the mitten blessed her. Jesus wants our hearts to be soft.... subtle, and open.
My prayer is not that people will all rally behind North First St. Ministries, no my prayer is that people's hearts will begin to break for all of the hurting people of the world, for all of the injustices done, for all of the lost....Jesus gave such a simple command, "Love the Lord God with all of your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." We obviously can not help all people.... but our hearts can break for all people and we can show compassion and love for all people without judging them.
All we do each week is love on a group of people who are hurting so much... we ask them to "Consider Jesus" and it is so amazing to see the tiny shifts in attitudes and behavior in those who each week are "Considering Jesus." Dear Lord, we love you so very much and want to live our lives serving You. We can not love on people on our own... Lord we need You to soften our hearts and to open our eyes to see the world as You see it. We pray for this daily! In Jesus Holy Name, Amen! :0)