In 1 Thessalonians 1:2 Paul writes a letter to fellow believers in Thessalonica. His words were encouraging both then and now. He wrote, "We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last night a friend was sharing this scripture with us and it seemed so fitting for today on North First Street. The man shared how faith refers to looking back at what Jesus has done for us in the past and how our faith grows because of what we have witnessed. Love takes place in the present... in the now. Love is what we do now to effect other people, and hope deals with what will come in the future. Hope inspires endurance and never gives up! You see it is all three of these concepts that bring us to North First Street every Sunday afternoon at 2:00.
It is in faith that we step out in every week.... Faith that our Lord God has been there for us... He has delivered us from some very dark places in the past therefor He can deliver others... It is faith building to get a phone call like we got this week. Les is a 50 something year old man who lived at the mission and who would help us set up each week. This last week Les called Keith from North Dakota to share with us how God has gotten him a job. We hadn't seen Les for a couple weeks and we wondered what had happened to him. Les called to apologize for selling his scooter that Keith had given to him... he sold it so that he and his friend could buy bus tickets to North Dakota. They were following a tip that they had received about a job opportunity. Within 26 hours of getting to North Dakota, Les had landed a job with John Deere. He was so excited to share what the Lord was doing in his life!! He signed a contract for a 9 month trial work period with an option to continue longer after that. It was so neat to hear what the Lord had done. See every time we see or hear what the Lord has done... our faith muscle grows stronger!
Another man shared with me today that he finished his program at YVCC and he graduated from his program!!We were so excited for him and it was so fun to celebrate what wonderful things the Lord has done. Doors are opening in so many areas of this man's life....
It is in looking back at what the Lord has done that helps build our faith.... and it is in sharing these stories with others who are working through life's "stuff" that helps encourage them! We have been helping 2 high school students and their brothers, collecting school supplies and trying to help them work through the "bumps" that could de-rail them along the way. The girls were so encouraged by our stories of Lord's faithfulness. I believe that it is faith that moves in our hearts and causes us to spend our Sunday's on North First Street, but it is also something else... and that is Love.
Love happens in the present... in the now. Paul speaks of "loving deeds". See, love is what compels us to bar-b-que 500 hot dogs, to sit down and listen to someone pour out their heart, to do the things that sometimes don't make sense to others. Parents do this all of the time.... they do many crazy, hard, time consuming things for their children... out of love. God's so cool though because only God could put it in your heart to do crazy time consuming out of the way things for people that you don't really even know. We don't really know know the people we serve on North First Street. We know as much as they are willing to share with us, but we don't really know them. God is the one who puts love in our hearts for people, for humanity, for the hurting, and the lost. And it is from this place of love that loving deeds pour. It is those deeds that are done not for ourselves, but others that show God's love. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son!!
And finally Paul speaks of hope... enduring hope. Hope inspires endurance. It is the hope in what is to come that gives us the endurance to keep on...keeping on......that keeps us reaching out...handing out....showing the world... the love of Christ. Everyone of us have endless opportunities to show the love of God throughout our lives. It may be in the line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, at work, or at home... we have opportunities to speak of the love that God offers. We believe God's promises and we remain filled with hope for people to grasp the love of God.
Luke 1:37 says, "For nothing is impossible with God." Wow! It couldn't be more clear than that...Nothing... not anything is impossible with God which means that ALL THINGS are POSSIBLE with God! All things.... prostitutes, drug addicts, and alcoholics can find strength and freedom from their addictions with God! Emotional and Physical abuse can be healed through the love of God! Poverty can be escaped through faith, hope, and love!
This last week I was watching a movie where a priest told a young woman, "Poverty is not just an absence of food, money and clothes. It is never feeling what it is to be respected or valued as a person." One thing I do know is that besides handing out food and clothes, we are able to love and respect the people who come through the line. God has given us the honor of handing out the Love of Jesus as well as dignity and respect despite what they look like or what they have done.
It was fun today to celebrate with the people in line when we shared with them that Les had found a job in North Dakota. We gave God the glory as well as a huge shout of praise. Last week we honored Julie's death by recognizing her passing with the North First Street friends before we started the food line. Her friends were given 7 balloons to release up into the air in honor of her passing. Keith shared that Jesus is available to them 7 days a week.... nothing can separate us from the love of God! The last 2 weeks we have celebrated as well as mourned as a community...As a community of believers and non-believers.... all of which need the love of God!!
Today as Keith stood at the start of the line, he could take it all in. He could hear the laughing and joking of the volunteers with the homeless. He could see the love and smiles exchanged..... It's all Jesus! It is only Jesus that could bring us all together and only Jesus that could sustain us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 "We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves."
Praise God from whom all good things come!!! Praise His Glorious Name!!! Only Jesus can transform our hearts....only Jesus can transform our minds... only Jesus can transform our lives. I pray that we all release our lives daily to Jesus.... to be used as He sees fit for the Glory of our God and Father! It is through the day by day listening to the Holy Spirit that the transformation is propelled! Thank You Jesus for allowing me to be a clay pot... complete with cracks and punctures... You meet me where my cracked pot ends and You fill in where my offering comes up short. Thank You for always being enough!!! In Jesus Holy Name... Amen :0)