Brothers and sisters,
As I am approaching the end of my summer internship here at the International House of Prayer, I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your prayers and support, as well as for your words of encouragement throughout the summer! These, beyond a shadow of a doubt, carried me during the dark and trying moments, and reminded me that we all walk together in this journey of faith.
Before I share with you a short story, I wanted to distill a quick insight to you from my time on the streets. This summer I have spoken with hundreds of people, in three different states, in multiple cities, with diverse ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds. I have sat down with drunkards and crack addicts, Native American medicine men as well as pastors, the wealthy as well as the homeless, atheists and transvestites, along with the irreligious and the broken.
Each of the people I met has a name and a story, dreams and ambitions, families and futures. They are not nameless nor are they faceless. Their pain is real, their sorrow is genuine, their hopelessness is tangible, and their sin is deadly. For each one, Jesus died on the cross, and for each one He promised that if they would repent and call upon His name in poverty of spirit, they would be saved. However, no one can call upon His name if they do not hear the gospel.
On the streets I encountered physical and verbal persecution as well as rejoicing at words of hope and life. The most shocking reality that broke into my heart was this: the harshest persecution I encountered was neither from the drug addict nor the homeless man, neither from the atheist nor from the transvestite, neither from the Muslim nor from the Hindu…. but instead it came from those that call themselves Christians.
I have lost friends this summer because of this newsletter I send out, and things have been spoken against me in the name of Jesus that makes my heart grieve. I have encountered “Christians” so entrenched in sinful living that they proclaim”free and cheap grace” that becomes license for sin. Beloved, the cost paid for our lives was not cheap; the Son of God laid down His life in order to set us free. There is no forgiveness apart from repentance, and repentance is not simply saying, “I’m sorry,” and then continuing in the same lifestyle. It is a radical re-orientation toward the truth and a striving to live God’s way. There is absolutely grace for those who have a ‘yes’ in their hearts and are growing in their faith, and they should be encouraged in their walk with God.
Mostly what I hear on the streets from Christians is that we are called to be witnesses in the way that we live our lives rather than being vocal with the gospel. This is such a grievous deception that I fear many will perish for lack of the knowledge of God. It is true that we are called to bear witness with lives of holiness and love, and it is also true that 87% of all people who come into the kingdom of God do so through their friends and family rather than through evangelistic outreach.
However, what I have come to realize is that 13% of the world’s 7 billion people amounts to 910 million souls. We serve a God who would leave the 99 to seek and save the 1 that is lost. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ and the radical way in which He pursues us that makes me love Him so much. I want to be like him, and I do not want for a single person to perish because I argued for all the good reasons why I shouldn’t go out and share the gospel. People cannot call on His name without hearing the gospel, and the power of the gospel presentation is muted when the life behind the words is not abandoned to the same holy love with which Jesus walked.
I share these thoughts with you because we are the church. We have the greatest gift known to mankind, the only source of salvation for those who are perishing, the only living hope, the consummate gift of eternal life, and it is criminal for us to withhold it from the world. Jesus is the source of all righteousness, joy, peace, love, and comfort. He is the answer to every question on the hearts of people, thus I want to invite you to boldly begin to share the gospel with those who do not know Him how majestic He truly is!
Scripture of the Day
“ WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” –Romans 10:13-15
Quote of the Day:
The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. –C. S. Lewis
Strength and perseverance to finish internship with passion
Provision for the next 2 years of seminary
Wisdom and insight as I begin preparing to lead college ministry this fall
Clarity of vision on next steps in journey
Testimony of the Day:
The other day while we were out in the Plaza shopping center on street outreach, a large tattooed homeless man attempted to kick me in the face. I wish that in that moment my response had been more Christ-like, but my own spiritual immaturity was revealed as I dodged the boot aimed at my face and dropped back into a fighting stance, fully intending to knock the man out. Thank God that He is faithful to reveal the rough edges in our lives that He desires to refine if we will be receptive to those moments of discipline.
My outreach leader intervened with such a peace and serenity that it was surreal. In that moment I saw Jesus Christ reflected in the flesh. He diffused the situation and calmly led us away. In his gentleness, he shared with me a testimony that will impact me for the rest of my life, and I want to share it with you.
My leader’s name was Clay, and he himself was a recent graduate from the internship that I am involved with. He recounted an experience that he had had around a year and a half ago.
Clay was on the streets sharing the gospel with a couple of men, when all of a sudden they began to assault him. In his spirit, he felt that God called for him to not retaliate. Clay is a large man, standing around 6’4 and weighing about 210 lbs., and he works as a roofer, thus most of his weight is muscle. He was larger than the two men by a good bit, and could have won the fight easily, but instead he permitted them to pummel him mercilessly, leaving him bleeding on the ground. He shared with me the utter humiliation and powerlessness he felt at not being able to defend himself, though he knew that he could have.
God did not immediately give Clay clarity about His reasoning for asking him to not defend himself, but Clay entrusted himself to the only One who judges righteously. About 8 months later, Clay was driving home from work, and he saw one of those men walking along the side of the road. He felt an impression on his heart to offer the man a ride.
When the man got in the car and saw who it was, Clay spoke forgiveness over the man’s life, and began sharing the gospel with him as he drove the man to his destination. The man broke down, weeping profusely, convicted by Clay’s non-retaliation and his subsequent offer of undeserved forgiveness. Through both his words and deeds matching the life of Christ, Clay was able to lead this man to repentance, and to invite him to give his life to Jesus right there in the car.
A couple of months later, Clay was again driving home from work, and he saw the other man walking alongside of the road. Again, he felt prompted to pick the man up and offer him a ride. Once again, the man commenced weeping when he saw Clay. This man had gone to jail a month after assaulting Clay on the street, and his life had been radically altered by the message of the cross in prison. He had given his life over to Jesus while attending daily bible studies, and had been released earlier that day, and he had been plagued with a burden of guilt for what he had done to Clay for months.
Clay once again spoke the message of undeserved forgiveness over the man in the name of Jesus, and the two of them have been friends ever since. I wonder if there is anyone in our lives who is undeserving of our forgiveness, yet might see Jesus for the very first time in that selfless action on our part?
Do we really know what it means to “take up our cross” or that “we are no longer our own”. It is hard for us to understand that as servants of God, we have no rights, no privileges, no freedoms that He might not ask us to lay down in order that someone might come to know Him, including our very own lives. The only way to live this abandoned to God is to have eternity stamped on our hearts and on our eyes.
I am not there, but I desire to be. If Jesus laid down His life for us, we also should be willing to lay down our lives for others (1 John 3:16). That is not figurative language. We really need to be willing to lay down our lives in order to share the gospel. Do we understand the power of the gospel? Do we truly understand the cost of discipleship? Are we willing to follow wherever Jesus leads, or have we put our hands to the plow only to continually looking back? Are we living as strangers and pilgrims whose citizenship is in heaven or are we bound to this life?
God alone can answer those questions for each of us, but they are questions that need to be asked because not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will be saved (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:11-13; Luke13:24-27). The way is narrow, many will seek for it, but few will find it. Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14). These are not fear tactics, they are legitimately the words that Jesus spoke, and He indicated how difficult it was to truly be His disciple because we are so prone to be double-minded.
Speaking solely for myself, I can say that I do not yet know the fulness of the cost of discipleship. I struggle mightily with the fear of man and a deep desire to please people. I am terrified of offending people or hurting their feelings or being labeled as intolerant. However, I desire for the ‘yes’ in my heart toward God to be greater than it is toward men, and that I would seek His praise above that of men, because it is His praise alone that will last into eternity. The words of men are but vapor that will perish with this life. There is a silence birthed from the fear of man that can be eternally unloving toward men and women.
I would invite you to ask these questions for yourselves before God, as He alone rightly judges your thoughts and motives of your hearts. Would you join me in orienting your lives to His commandments, which are for our benefit, and would you consider walking with me in elevating your ‘yes’ to Him above your ‘yes’ to men? This will result in your receiving eternal glory, praise, and honor (1 Pet. 1:7)!!
I love you all, and am grateful for brothers and sisters with whom I may walk on this pilgrimage! As always, share with me your thoughts, comments, concerns, and prayer requests. May God bless your obedience to Him abundantly our of the riches of His glory!
Grace and peace,