Sunday, August 29, 2010

Undivided Devotion

"The idea had dropped in to my brain one Sunday morning while I sat in church.  The pastor was delivering a powerful sermon about living the Christian life.  The gist of it was, 'Be the Christian you say you are.'

Suddenly, I was shocked to realize that I had just driven twenty minutes past the world that needed me to be the Christian I say I am, in order to hear a sermon entitled, 'Be the Christian you say you are.'  Soon I would drive past the same world to the privilege of my comfortable life on campus at a Christian college. 

Thinking ahead to my next week, I knew several things would happen.  I knew I'd hear more lectures about being a caring Christian or living a godly life.  I'd read more books about who God is and about what the world needs now.  I'd spend more time late at night down at a coffee shop with my friends kicking around ultimate questions and finely delivered opinions about the world.

Then I'd jump into my warm bed and turn out the light.  Another day...gone."

(Excerpt from Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski, p.14-15)

Several years ago, this was me.  It was our family.  We drove to church in our luxury family mini-van with automatic doors and consumed sermons about how we should live as Christians.  We would then leave the church and head out to eat at a local establishment with some friends.  Our weeks would fly by with all our our activities - sports practices, academic competitions, special lessons, etc...  Guess what all of our activities centered on?  Ourselves.  We chose to be blind to the world's need, much less the needs within our own city. 

Just like Mike, our days were continually over before we'd chosen to make any sacrifice for Christ.  The clock continually struck midnight to usher in the next day after the day we had lived had not been focused on living for Jesus but living for our own selfish desires.  Cloaked behind the veil of wanting what's best for our children, we whittled away countless hours driving to numerous activities that really did nothing to prepare our kids to live out their faith, much less help them choose to live sacrificially for others. 

Today, I can honestly say our family is living with a different purpose.  We don't have everything figured out by any means, but we are learning what it means to truly live out our faith.  One intentional day after another.  Hard choices have brought blessing.  Making ministry a top priority instead of when we can "work it in" has brought more encounters with God than I would have imagined.  I suppose this is what it means to live a surrendered life. 

Our family still does all of the things I listed above - sports, academics, etc...  But these things now come behind our commitment to serving.  We've simply found for our family to live out the mission of Christ - to be His hands and feet - we have been forced to make ministry a priority. And the blessings are innumerable.  Our conversations now have more depth, our prayers have more meaning, our lives have more purpose.

Locally, our family serves at Water Angels, a ministry to the homeless of downtown Knoxville.   Each person in our family has a different focus of service here, and mine is to the women.  The ladies have come to mean so much to me.

On Tuesday nights, we hold a Bible Study for these women.  It is called Unidvided Devotion, based on a passage in 1 Corinthians telling single people they have the priviledge of living a life of undivided devotion.  Many of these women are young believers, and some are still on a quest to find their faith.  However, there is one common denominator...God loves each precious, beautiful lady!

This past Tuesday night we held a bridal shower for Lanita.  She is getting married on Saturday.  One of the games we played was to create wedding dresses out of toilet paper.  Here are a few of the creations...
As we were dressing one woman, she said very seriously, "Do you know I've been married three times and this is my first wedding dress?"
I struggled for words, but responded in truth, "Well friend, you certainly look beautiful!"  And, truly, she did!

As we were taking up the toilet paper from the dresses, the women were asking for it.  Toilet paper is hard to come by on the street.  (That night I said a prayer of thanks for my Charmin in the bathroom.)

I asked one of the women where she was living because I'd run into her in a park downtown.  On this day, she was in her work uniform for a local hotel.  I knew she camped out, but wondered if she had a tent.  She informed me she is living between two skids (pallets) outside set up as a shelter.   She told me she hand scrubbs her uniform to get it clean for work.
God has given me a love for these broken women.  Many have come from abusive homes.  Some have mental challenges.  I beleive all have never truly understood the love God has for them because they've never experienced it in real life.  Wouldn't Jesus be visiting with these women?  I've realized it's not my job to "condemn the broken for being broken" (Mike Yankoski), but it is my job to love them as Jesus would.  What an honor!  They are teaching me about my own brokeness and need of my Savior.  They stretch me!

Here was my team: Cindy, Little Bear, Jenny, Me, and Dana -

Lanita is a precious woman who is making the step into marriage with another man from the mission.  What a joy it's been to see love blossom through the love they both have for Jesus.  Lanita was thrilled with the shower and loved every gift.  She is holding gift from me - her wedding invitation framed.  She received some sweet gifts - measuring spoons, notecards, and a hand-drawn piece of artwork from one of the ladies.  None of these women had ever attended a bridal shower.  We celebrated God's goodness! 
Three sinners saved by grace:  Myself, Stephanie (my precious friend who runs the ministry without pay - no one there is compensated), and Amy (my dear friend whose testimony of Jesus in her life would rock your world). 
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?"
But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.
"But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 9:11-13

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