Archives For Homeless

When I Said No To God

November 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

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From my book, The Descent to Compassion

Abruptly I noticed a strange fog begin to fill the church. It came from the opening just above the sanctuary near the back of our church. As the fog settled among the people, I thought my prayers had been answered in the form of a divine miracle, but that was not the case. Ron had taken a few minutes to walk to a nearby store and buy some air freshener. When he returned, he made his way up the back stairs and emptied the cans into the opening, allowing the mist to float down into our meeting place. It was the smell of pine fresh, like one of those car fresheners you hang from a rearview mirror. A divine answer to prayer it wasn’t, but the attempt to improve the smell was noted by everyone. I wish I could say the air freshener was successful, but the smell of the man still cut through everything. My only option was to quickly bring the service to an end. I concluded the message with an altar call, and a few people came forward to pray. After praying at the altar, the service was completed, but God was just beginning. The King of the Homeless stood alone, untouched by anyone. No one in the church was getting near him, and no one was speaking with him. I knew he was still there, so I kept my distance hoping that he would just leave. It was then that God spoke to me: “Hug him.” His voice was clean, pure, and holy. God waited on me. My response was fast, without thought. “No!” Again, God spoke: “Hug him.”

God spoke for the last time, more insistent than before: “I said, give him a hug!” Chills ran through my body and my heart felt fear. I was suddenly aware that I was standing on holy ground. Testing ground. Proving ground. And, God waited. I turned toward the unknown stranger, and he seemed to be waiting just for me. Years later, reflecting on this moment in my life, I’m fascinated that in Scripture we see nature always obeying God, we see demons always obeying God, but when God speaks to us, His children, we seem to debate obedience. I approached him slowly, and he stood perfectly still. As I embraced him, his smell was overpowering, and I wanted to run, but when he embraced me, something strange happened. Something heavenly took place. I was changed, I was broken, and I was being set free. My body was warm and I could feel blood rushing to the surface of my skin. I could feel God’s presence and it was holy, loving and perfect. The smell departed in the presence of God. Just like the man in the Bible with leprosy, all this man actually needed was a touch when no one would touch him. I wish I could say that he was the one changed that day by my preaching, but I was the one actually changed by his hug. It was at that moment I discovered that the homeless, the untouchables are, in fact, truly touchable, and they will teach you more about God and yourself than you will ever teach them.

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 21-22).  . Kindle Edition.

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“Pastor Steve, I have a prayer request.” I heard him say it loud and clear. I had seen him a few times in our Sunday morning service, but this was his first time in our new believers class. Without missing a beat, I jumped way ahead of his request and began to interject what the request might be. You see, at this time in my life I was the pastor of a church in San Francisco and most of our people were very low-income and many were homeless. It was a wonderful time in my life that shaped who I am and I am thankful to have been a pastor in the inner city for over 13 years.

Anyway, back to the story. Because I had dealt with the homeless for many years at this point I made a lot of assumptions about what his prayer request could be. I threw out a few can’t miss things. I said, “Do you need us to pray you can find a job, a place to stay or to help you get off drugs?” He looked at me bewildered for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t think you understand. I’ve been coming to church here for a few weeks and you have really touched my life through your messages. I’ve been listening and recently I gave my life to Christ. That’s why I’m here in this new believers class.” “That’s wonderful” I said.

He continued. “I’ve lived behind a dumpster for many years and I’ve been sleeping on the sidewalk for all of those years also. I’ve recently got into a drug program and I’ve even found a part-time job. Things are starting to turn around in my life.” What he said next blew me out of the water!

He dropped his head a moment…holding back tears and then slowly raised his head making eye contact with me. “Pastor, I can’t sleep at night in a bed. I’ve not slept in a bed in many years and each night I end up on the floor. When I sleep like that it causes me to remember the past and I want to go back to that life. It’s a life I know how to control.”

I had missed it big time on the prayer request and I was holding back tears as he went on to finish his request.

“Pastor, do you think God can teach me how to sleep in a bed?” He began to cry. That was his prayer request!

I went to where he was and got on my knees in front of him and held his hands. I looked him in the eyes and said I was sorry for jumping ahead of him. I called the rest of the class around him and we prayed a prayer over him that God would teach him to sleep in a bed at night. It was a strong prayer and everyone in the room could feel God moving. Over the next several weeks that prayer was answered mightily. Sleep finally came to him the way he wanted.

 

What’s the take away?

When it comes to making disciples we should start where they are and not where we think they should be. We should never jump to conclusions about the lives of those God sends our way. We need to listen first and find where God is working and then join Him. You might just be surprised at where God wants to work in their life first.

 

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them. Share with us. Leave a comment.

 

Today is part 4 and the final post in this series on witnessing and working among the forgotten of the world.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Listening and Co-suffering are lost gifts that need to be recovered in our witnessing.

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Through Listening We Witness

When I speak of listening I mean to be able to hear their secret hurts covered by multifaceted learned responses coupled by years of denial. I do my best to listen in such a way as to pick up on where they are truly wounded in their emotions by paying careful attention to each and every statement they are making.

I’m looking for where their life is unadjusted to the work of the Spirit of God.  I am convinced to find true and lasting healing a person must adjust their life to what God wants to do in their life. Once I have listened to them and  feel I have heard where they are truly wounded. I like to walk them through Romans 8:26-28.

 

Through Co-suffering We Witness

The bible says in Romans 8:26-28 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This portion of scripture has over the years become very powerful for me in walking people right into the very presence of God. For me, this passage shows that without the leading of the Spirit of God, the perfect will of God, which I believe to bring lasting peace and joy, cannot fully be realized. It would do well at this point to pause and insert a thought. By speaking of lasting peace and joy I am in no way saying trouble or conflict will completely disappear from a person’s life. In fact, it is my belief that some hurt and pain this side of heaven will find its ultimate healing only when we find ourselves in His presence face to face.

Romans 8:26-28 is very power when applied to our life and the lives of those we are witnessing to. Notice verse 26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” This is an incredible picture of the Spirit involved in the believer’s life by co-suffering. The Spirit of God actually comes along side of a believer and walks with them through their pain.

Another reason this verse is great to use is found in verse 26 because we are told that we don’t even truly know how to pray the perfect will of God for our lives without the help of the Spirit, who according to verse 27, searches our heart and knows the mind of the Spirit-then intercession is made according to God’s will.

Then and only then can Verse 28  be fulfilled which again says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I love using this portion of scripture because I believe it truly demonstrates God centered witnessing by showing a person that God by His Spirit is truly connected with the believer’s everyday walk. At this point I’ve found it’s much easier to lead someone to Christ or minister to someone that is in Christ but has simply lost their way.

 

How are you at listening and Co-suffering? Do you think you listening well? Do you Co-suffer well? Leave a commit and share your thoughts with others.

 

 

 

In part 1 of witnessing and working among the forgotten of the world we talked about noticing the unnoticed. In part 2 we dealt with giving them undivided time. Today we explore the promise of hope.

 

Promise of Hope (part 3)
Once I have given them undivided attention I will asks them a simple question. “Do you think it can ever be any better than it is right now for you?” This question is perfect for leading to a God centered discussion on hope. Hope is powerful because in their world both the external living environment of the inner city and their internal dialogue often screams to the broken person living on the street or in a very poor condition there is no hope and change is impossible. The graceful truth of hope breaks through both of those lies. Many see themselves as marred beyond repair and feel they are worthless.

I then share the story of the potter in the book of Jeremiah 18:1-6.
I do a summary of how the clay was being worked on but for some strange reason the clay became marred in the hand of the potter mainly because it was off-center and that the potter instead of throwing it away did something amazing. The potter did not throw the ruined clay into the corner of the shop, or into the trash. He continued working with it and reshaped it into another vessel, which he deemed good to make. In other words, he began again, from scratch with the same clay and gave it a shape that was good and would hold its form.

Winning their trust through listening and co-suffering is very important because trust is when you give the care of your own life over to another for help and direction. Many people in the inner city have been let down so many times they have a wall built up that only listening and co-suffering can break. Listening; because it is godly, co-suffering; because it too is godly and both are grounded in God’s unconditional love.

Tomorrow we will take a look at listening and co-suffering.

How have you offered the promise of hope to others you have met in the harvest field of life? Share with us by posting a comment.

 

 

Part 4

 

On June 29, 2012 I posted about noticing the unnoticed. (Part 1)

Today I want us to take a look at giving undivided time.

Undivided Time (Part 2)

One day I was making my way through the streets and I saw a lady up ahead of me sitting on some steps and she was crying. People were passing by her in both directions but no one was stopping. What this lady needed was undivided time. By undivided time I mean doing more than just asking how someone is doing, I mean taking the time to stop and truly help. I have learned that time is the greatest gift you can give anyone because it’s something you can never get back. You can give all your money and make more, you can give things away and get more things back by hard work but time, once it is given, it’s gone forever and has now become a sacrifice to God.

I asked her if everything was okay and her response was an irritated crying “no”! I sat down beside her and she began to tell me how she had just finished using some crack cocaine and how her boyfriend had dropped her on the street to make money. She quickly began to talk with me about how her life was before drugs. She had a great job and was happy. I was looking for where God was working in her life. She spoke with me for about fifteen minutes before she finally paused to ask who I was. I simply told her I was a pastor that loves to listen and help. She smiled and thanked me for stopping. I had just given her undivided time and giving undivided time to a person more often than not leads to the earned right of speaking hope into their hopelessness. (Note: She ended up coming to church and we were able to help her)

Part 3

Part 4

Not so long ago… or depending on when you’re reading this, I posted the following statement on twitter.

    Don’t become so self-focused you miss the opportunity to help others grab their opportunity.

It came to me about 3:45am while on vacation. I must admit it really made me think. In fact, I couldn’t go back to sleep. In a world were each of us are just trying to get ahead, it often pays to slow down and help others. In fact, it’s a God trait.

Helping others is part of being a disciple of Christ. It was Christ who first showed us this gift. The gift of helping others. Even when Jesus was on mission to die for us, He still took the time at the last supper to wash the feet of the disciples. In other words, He didn’t step over the water basin and miss the opportunity to show great love. He served them, so they would one day have the nature to serve others.

I once saw a t-shirt that read, “Yeah I’m selfish helping others feels great.” It does fell great and the reason why is it brings glory to God when we help others.

What about you? Are you stepping over the water basin to often? Has life gotten so busy you walk by Jesus moments without even noticing?

Now get out there today and be selfish.

    Philippians 2:4 ESV
    Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The Descent to Compassion

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I’m excited to announce that my book is finally complete and ready to purchase. After 13 years in the inner city of San Francisco, The Descent to Compassion speaks loud about compassion.

The disciples walked with Jesus outside the four walls of the temple and learned what sharing the Kingdom message was truly all about. In the Descent to Compassion, the author takes the reader beyond Sunday morning service, past evangelism projects, and out into the highways and hedges where life happens and does not stop for a 30-minute sermon. The author takes the reader to where Jesus is walking and working everyday, desiring His people to join Him in the work. Divine moments happen everyday because God is always at work. Each and everyday we get up, if we open our eyes, we can see the hurting and we can see Jesus actively pursuing their hearts. We have the option of joining Him or walking away. Through experiencing these moments of divine encounter, our lives receive fresh meaning. Living this kind of compassionate lifestyle keeps one other-focused instead of self-focused. Good works have been prepared in advanced for us and the Lord is ready to lead us by the hand to discover where those works exist. The Descent to Compassion speaks of how to live a life full of inspiration and true fulfillment as the reader follows Christ into the sea of humanity all around. Jesus touched the untouchables and He is asking His people to descend to the place of humility and compassion and touch those whom He would touch- every hurting heart.

 

Peace,

Steve Wright

 

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