Posted by: Emily Shemwell | May 11, 2010

Sacrifice

Philippians 3:7-11:

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him… I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

This is a passage I’ve been meditating on for awhile now. If there’s one thing that God’s been teaching me and showing me lately, it’s been sacrifice. Life as a missionary, life as a follow of Christ, involves making sacrifices.
Paul valued his relationship with Christ more than anything else – more than money, success, achievements, other relationships. It was all “worthless” compared to his intimate relationship with Jesus. Paul sacrificed “everything else” to follow Christ and know Him intimately. He gave up EVERYTHING in order to pursue His Lord. He gave up his fleshly wants and desires. He gave up his luxuries. He gave up relationships with family and friends. He gave up EVERYTHING to whole-heartedly follow and know Christ. Paul denied himself to pursue Christ and placed ALL of his faith in Him so that he could know the resurrecting power of his Savior.
When I meditate on this passage, I’m taken aback by Paul’s words. Can I honestly day these same words? Can I say that I want to suffer with Christ so that I can experience His resurrecting power? Am I willing to give up everything else in my life to follow and pursue my relationship with Jesus?
The fullness of Paul’s faith, trust, obedience, and love for His Savior is displayed in his letter to the Philippians. I don’t know about you, but it can be a challenge to live out these words. I may say I’m willing to give up everything to fully follow Christ.  But when the moment comes to sacrifice time away from my family or deny my fleshly desires for material possessions, how do I respond? In these moments, it can be difficult for me to have the same attitude as Paul does here in this passage. My actions don’t always match the words my heart longs to exclaim – that I am willing to discard EVERYTHING else in my life as garbage, for the sake of knowing and following Jesus Christ.
Oh Lord, increase my faith. Increase my trust, obedience, and love for You. May I be willing to sacrifice because You gave the ultimate sacrifice. May I make sacrifices in order to grow in oneness with You. Amen.
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Posted by: Emily Shemwell | May 10, 2010

May Newsletter – Thoughts from Thursday

Pain. Hurt. Anger. Brokenness. Loneliness. Bitterness.

She feels all of these. She feels like an outcast in society – for she has a mental illness. She wishes her skin were white instead of black – life would be easier if only her skin were lighter.

She feels like the whole world is against her – her husband, her children, her siblings – and even God. She confessed she didn’t even want to wake up when the sun came up the other day. She confessed she wants to stop using drugs – she knows it will only lead to destruction – but the temptation always comes back to grab and suck her in.

This is her life. This is the never-ending cycle of my homeless friend and for many of those living on the streets or in temporary shelters. While sometimes I have trouble discerning if it is her or her illness talking, I believe her. I believe that her pain and hurt are real. I believe that she wants to change her ways. I believe she wants to be white instead of black. I believe her feelings. I believe her confessions of her sinful behavior. I believe her words when she says she walks to Jeff. Street on Thursdays because she knows two female staff will accept her for who she is.

I may be a fool. It may be foolish to trust a mentally ill, drug addict who cheats on her husband. Her life is pretty messed up. I mean, with all the sin, why should I believe the words she’s speaking to me? How could I believe her words are sincere?

The comments and remarks of other Day Shelter guests blatantly confirm that I am a fool to care and take an interest in her. “She’s not worth your time” or “she’s crazy” were the phrases said as I followed her down the hall out the side door today. For some reason, she became upset and got loud in our cafeteria today. While people thought I was following her to discipline or correct her behavior, I was going after her because I care. I hoped I could get her attention so she wouldn’t leave the building before Jessica and I could meet and talk with her. Yet, she was too fast. She was already a ways down the street by the time I made it outside.

You see, Jessica and I met with her twice in the past month, to have a time of Bible study, encouragement, and prayer. And, today was Thursday – the day of the week we agreed upon to spend time together. She intentionally came to Jeff. Street today for a Bible study. As she came up the kitchen window this morning, the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were, “Are we having a Bible study today?”

While the Holy Spirit has placed her on my heart and in my mind, maybe I desire to be intentional with her because I can relate; her life is messed up, but mine is messed up too. She desires to change from her fleshly ways but falls back into her habits regularly, and I do the same. Maybe I have a special interest in her because I slightly understand the feelings she’s experiencing. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be an African-American, mentally ill woman, but I do know what it’s like to feel lonely. I sympathize with her when she feels like her situation is hopeless, for I’ve felt that way before as well.

It may be I want her to know she’s not alone… to know her situation isn’t hopeless… to know that someone in this world cares about her… to know, more importantly, that the Creator of the Universe, her Heavenly Father and Sovereign Savior loves her so much He died for her.

It may be that when I listen to her, I hear a part of myself in her voice. I hear a woman crying out for genuine love. I hear a woman in desperate need of being reminded of the Truth when the lies of this world surround us. I hear a woman longing for something good to believe in, for some real Hope to continue on, in a cruel and hopeless world. I hear a woman seeking acceptance, desiring a friend who won’t judge or condemn her, but rather welcome her with open arms. I hear the longings of my own heart, in the raw and honest confessions of my friend. Maybe that’s why I’m willing to be a fool, in society’s standards, to trust her, to pursue a meaningful relationship with her. Maybe it’s because I hear my own heart crying out when she talks to me.

Or maybe it’s because Christ was made a fool for me. The man, who did no wrongdoing, took the punishment for me and it cost Him His life. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Don’t you think He was viewed as a fool enduring the beatings, the mockery, and the pain of crucifixion on a cross? All for my sake, and yours, and my friend’s.

The words and actions of Jesus Christ were foolish in his society’s viewpoint. As a follower of Him, I am called to be an imitator of Christ. While I’ll never achieve perfection, while I’ll never be exactly like my Savior (the reality is I’m always going to sin), I’m called to strive to be like the Savior that died for me. And because of Him, because of His Love, I’ll be called a fool. I’ll reach out to the African-American woman with a mental illness and drug addiction because that’s what my Jesus would do. I’ll try to love her as my Savior loves her. Where would I be if He didn’t do that for me?

In John 4, Jesus, a Jew, interacts with a Samaritan woman while she’s retrieving water from a well. Jesus knows her past. He knows her present. He knows the sin in her life, yet still speaks to her and befriends her. He listens to her, without judgment, and speaks Truth into her life. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells the church at Ephesus to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (vs. 1-2).

Pray for my friend. Pray that she will cling to Christ and the Hope He alone provides as she searches for Truth. Pray that Jessica and I can continue to share the Truth with her. Pray that God will give us His words to share with her so that she will comprehend the Good News. Pray that we can continue to be imitators of Christ and show her His love through our actions.

Blessings and Love,

Emily

Posted by: Caleb Butler | April 28, 2010

Kobe Bryant

As I’ve been finalizing my college application process, I have found myself thinking about the future.  About college life, even about what my career might be … When I start to question where God might place me in life, I have no idea.  I don’t exactly know what I am passionate about or where I really fit (although I have some ideas of course).  Then I came across these verses today, and I felt at peace about all of this speculation.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  (Ephesians 4:15-16)

I wrote this in my journal:  “I am only one part – probably just a supporting ligament in the elbow or finger or shoulder … It’s helpful and necessary to remember I’m not here to save the world.  Jesus already did that!  I am only one small part.”

Now I’m not saying it’s easy.  But it really takes a load off to remember that I’m only one small part of the very large body of Christ.

However, the small parts are important too!  This passage clearly indicates that I have responsibilities.  A few verses before in Ephesians, we are called to be mature and grow in our knowledge of the Word.  Earlier in the chapter, it discusses keeping the unity between believers by being patient, humble, and gentle.  In short, God calls His followers to be sanctified.  And that’s just a big, churchy word for becoming a new person as God works on your heart and mind.

That brings me to Kobe Bryant.  He’s playing in the first round of the playoffs right now for the Los Angeles Lakers against the young, talented, and underrated Oklahoma City Thunder.  Kobe Bryant has been battling health issues all season long.  He’s banged up, as they say.  His right index finger is fractured, his ankle has been hurting, and one of his knees is not 100%.  Kobe Bryant is the best player on the best team, but he can’t play his best because of supporting ligaments in his body.  And the Lakers are in trouble of losing in the first round and being kicked out of the playoffs because of that!

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Even if a small part of the body isn’t functioning properly, it can affect the entire person.  I believe it’s the same with the Church.  Thankfully the Head, that is, Christ is in control.

Posted by: Emily Shemwell | April 26, 2010

April Newsletter

He rode into the city on a colt. Branches and coats were placed on the ground before Him. The crowds shouted in celebration, “‘Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” He received the welcoming of a King – for He was a King. He was greater than any King that had come before Him. Yet, three days later He would receive the death of a criminal. The celebratory shouts of the crowds would turn to murderous cries of “‘Crucify him! Crucify him!'”  He would be mocked and spat upon.  He would be nailed to a cross and put on display for all of Jerusalem to see. He would cry out in pain as he experienced the weight of being forsaken from the Father. He would breathe His last breath and die a horrendous death for crimes He did not commit. He endured all of this without protesting or speaking a harsh word. He obeyed God’s plan for Him despite knowing the agony He would suffer.

He was murdered. He was beaten. He was mocked. He was forsaken. And, it was I who did this to him. It is I whose sins He bore. It is I who shout exclamations of praise one day, but mock and hurt him with my thoughts, words and actions the next. It is I who nailed Him to the cross. Yet, it is I who He bled and died for. Despite my sinfulness and my tendency to pursue my fleshly desires instead of the ways of my Father, Jesus sacrificed His life for mine. All because of the Father’s love for me.
The love of God is unimaginable. When I attempt to fathom it, I’m left in awe. I’m astounded by His goodness. I’m humbled that such a God continues to love a sinner like me. I see the frequency at which I return to my self-seeking habits and wonder why God continues to show me grace. I recognize the ways in which I continue to hurt Him with my lack of faith and ponder how He can still love me.

I fail. I pursue other gods instead of Him. I seek to control my life instead of trusting Him. I give Him an ungrateful attitude and bitter heart. But, He still loves. He still shows grace. He still gives mercy. He still offers forgiveness. He reaches out for me when I wander again, and again, and again. He never gives up. He never lets go.

This Easter season I’m reminded of Christ’s compassion for me. I’m reminded of the shame and mercy poured out for me, and you, on the Cross. I’m reminded of the power of the Gospel: a power so strong that it conquers death; a power so mighty that it can transform any heart.

It transformed the heart of Jack, a friend, current resident and recent graduate of the Fresh Start Program. With no home and an outcast in society, Jack turned to alcohol. He wanted nothing to do with Christians or the Church they represented. As a frequent homeless guest of JSBC, Jack soon met the two male Hope missionaries from last year and started attending Sojourn Community Church with them. The Lord changed his hardened heart and weary soul. Jack entered our recovery program this summer, desiring to turn from his old ways. I’m blessed to see firsthand the transforming change the Gospel’s had in Jack’s life. His once hardened heart has softened. Jack now bears many characteristics of our Savior. He was quick to forgive and pray for the young men who mugged him in November. He is humble, thinking of others better than himself. He never gives up or looses hope as displayed by his persistence in his pursuit to get affordable government housing. He is quick to listen and slow to speak and offers words of encouragement when I tell him of a struggle or concern.

The Gospel transforms, and is transforming, lives. This month I’m reminded of the change God did, and is daily doing, in my life. I’m reminded of the change He is doing in the lives of those around me. How is the Gospel changing your life?

May you be humbled by the compassion and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May you daily walk in the grace and joy found only in the power of the Gospel.
“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away.
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon the cross,
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.”

Blessings and Love,

Emily

Posted by: Jessica Rood | April 22, 2010

My Husband

As I go on Facebook it seems like everyone is getting married or having babies but me. I cry out to God. Lord, I am 25 years old and just want to be married and have children…I ask Him when is it going to be my turn? He responds in the loving kind way he always does. He says my dear wife, I am your husband. I love you so much. I want to take care of you. Why don’t you give yourself to me? Why don’t you see that I am all you need? Aren’t I enough for you? As I think about all this. I decided that He really is all i need, want. What more could I ask for in a husband? He will never leave me or forsake me, he loves me unconditional, he will never let me down, and most of all He DIED for me!

Lord, you really are all I want. In the times I think otherwise, I am sorry and I repent of this!

Posted by: jcwillyams | April 22, 2010

April Newsletter: Glimpses and Reflections

Each month I find myself sitting at this laptop writing and deleting. I tend to repeat the process about 3-10 times. This month I seem to find myself a bit stuck. Perhaps this month I am not meant to provide my words of wisdom and deep thoughts. Perhaps this month I am not meant to cleverly wrap up the month into just one story. Perhaps this month I will let the events speak for themselves. It has been eventful around Jeff Street. A month without caffeine (Praise God, lent is over :)). A month of goodbyes and new faces. A month of change and transformation.

We have had 6 colleges visit Jefferson Street in the past 4 weeks. Thus there has been some ‘extreme makeover-homeless shelter edition’ taking place. This can be seen both in the building and in the Hope team. There have been a lot of highs and lows with so many people running around Jeff Street. Things can become a little stressful and the workday has been a little longer. But in the midst of it all – there has been renewal. We have seen the passion and grace that God has placed in the hearts of the visiting college students and it has inspired change and transformation in the hearts of me and my team members.

We celebrated the graduation of 5 Fresh Start residents recently. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to many of our new friends. They have done so well and are an endless source of encouragement. The ceremony was humble, but moving. There was a well delivered message by the Executive Director and some tear jerking speeches from the residents themselves. It was a source of affirmation and motivation to hear their praise for the Hope team. Each of the graduates mentioned the distinct effect that we have had on them and that left me in awe. I often feel like I do so little – but God doesn’t need much to work wonders.

We are mourning the loss of two of our day shelter guests and realizing the true nature of a life on the streets. There is urgency in this ministry to share the Gospel – tomorrow might be too late. It is easy on the streets to build a bubble of ‘protection’ that hinders your ability to accept the council of others. That is why we strive to build deep relationships with the people we encounter daily. I am learning that there is a sense of obedience that God is demanding in this. Spike was 28 years old. He had a Mohawk. He was an amateur surfer. He was always smiling. I wanted to know more about him. God wanted me to learn more about him. But my own insecurities deferred deeper conversation. He was found hanging from a small bridge at Waterfront Park. Could things have been different? I don’t know. I am not called to dwell. I am called to mourn and repent. I am called to learn, to grow, and to change. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

We attend Sojourn Community Church for our Sunday worship. They have begun a vision campaign that is calling us to remember who we were and where God has brought us. It is a campaign for the Church to not become nostalgic, but rather to push forward – to learn and to grow. It can be applied to our own lives. We must dream, set goals, and develop structure. We must organize and send ourselves forward. We can’t look back on what once was in envy. We can’t undermine the leadership. It leads to closure. It leads to a dead end. It leads to hopelessness. If you are on the correct path, if you are following God’s plan for your life, then you must press on. You must keep going. You must continue to develop and grow. As a Christian there are times when I wonder what life would be like if I never found God. There are times that I envy the life I once led or could have led. But as I see the fate of those who are stuck in paths that they have planned – as I see them crumble – as I see their bondage to addictions, sin, and idolatry – I realize I have only found freedom in this new life and that I must persevere.

Ryan is doing well. And he is struggling. His faith has exploded into his life and is transforming him daily – but he is haunted by his past…trapped. He lives with an old friend and is exposed to drugs and alcohol on a daily basis. The temptation is no longer there. Quite the opposite – he has witnessed the ugly truth. He has seen what lies under the rock that he used to worship. Now he is working and saving and praying towards escaping that scene permanently. He serves with his church every week. He is in a community group with fellow believers. He successfully gave up sugar for lent – despite my temptations of cake (I’m kinda mean to people during lent…). He has truly found joy in putting God first and has received notice and praise for the change in his spirit and demeanor. Let’s praise God for His great work and pray that it will continue!

I am wrapping these thoughts up on Good Friday. Today 2000 years(ish) ago a love beyond all love was displayed. As I ponder and wonder and imagine the mystery of this great sacrifice I find myself back in the warm Israel sun. Walking the Via Delarosa. Stopping at each station of the Cross. Feeling the weight of the heavy beam upon my shoulders. Feeling the sting of open wounds. Feeling the humiliation of spit on my face. Feeling the growing numbness rob my limbs of their mobility. I can only imagine the physical pain and mental anguish…I can only barely begin to grasp it. And as I do – I realize something that changes everything. I realize – God understands. Christ knows pain. He understands suffering. My struggles are not beyond him. He knows them – he feels them – he died for them. Good Friday is the day of Christ’s crucifixion. I pray that I will join Him on that Cross. I pray that I can die to myself anew and be restored to a new life in Him.

The next week will be spent rejuvenating. We have a week away from the ministry of Jeff Street. A week to allow Easter to permeate our minds and revive our spirits. I celebrate and welcome Spring (minus the allergies), but I pray that we will not confuse the coming of a season with the miracle of a resurrection. There are similarities: change and restoration – the blossoms of new life. But the meaning of Easter is not eggs and bunnies. It is death and resurrection. The meaning of Easter is not to gather the most candy – or the most good-works. Those who crucified Christ had a list of good-works much longer than yours. They lived the law to the letter. But they were blind. May we open our eyes and see that our sins are what bind Christ to the Cross. And our sins can stay on that Cross. They can die. We can be born to a new life – resurrected with Christ. Simply have faith in His promise. Repent of your sin. No longer live in the bondage of a sinful nature, but in the freedom of Christ’s pure Love. This promise of new life is Easter; that is why we celebrate.

Here I am still writing and deleting – and I feel like that is often my life. With seven months at Jefferson Street much has been added to my story. Much has been deleted – and edited – and revised. But this novel is not complete. I am amazed that despite my constant errors and inconsistent metaphors you continue to take interest in what’s to come. Thank you for that. Thank you for contributing to a work that is incomplete and sharing in its development. I continue to turn the pages, sometimes finding them already written and sometimes filling in the blanks, but I flip with excitement. For even when tears stain the pages and smear the ink, I already know the end. I already know that this novel is just the introduction to an eternal series. So even in a month of struggles, even in a month of praise, even in a month of transformation, even in a month of conviction, even in a month of tears – I can enjoy every moment and persevere – knowing that it is all part of the journey and that the destination will be even sweeter.

Blessings in Christ,

JC Williams

Posted by: Caleb Butler | April 19, 2010

7 months of HOPE reflected

I got to thinking about my time here in HOPE.

I came around to the realization that I am in a position of immeasurable experience.  I could tell you a small portion of how God has changed me in the past 7 months, but I cannot even begin to grasp how this will affect my life entirely.  Our HOPE director, Jesse Eubanks, spent a year in Oakland through Mission Year, which is very similar to HOPE – an inner city, urban poverty mission experience.  Jesse told me, “It changed the whole trajectory of my life.”  Wow.  One year could do that?  You better believe it.  And I’ll probably be saying the same thing about HOPE ten years from now, twenty years from now, fifty years from now.

You see, I’ve been thrown into this experience, and I’m going to be digesting things for years to come.  God is patient.  But even more than the lessons learned are the habits and hearts I want to emulate.  Service, sacrifice, discipline, love.  I will take these with me.

HOPE’s been great.  I knew it would be coming into the year, and it sure hasn’t disappointed!  I was most excited about this “radical” opportunity because of the structured program.  You know, it sounds so cool and wild to go serve at a homeless shelter for a year, but I knew that I would be in a loving and safe environment, with room to grow and learn at my own pace (I just didn’t tell anyone that because I wanted to sound radical).  God’s been good, and I’m falling more in love with Jesus.

Thanks for reading, thanks for being interested.  I hope you’re encouraged.  And of course I hope you are challenged.

Posted by: Caleb Butler | April 19, 2010

How do I please God? What’s the secret?

“Find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10)

I want to talk about this verse for a second … It kind of stopped me in my tracks last night.

Meditating on it, I remind myself that the verse is not talking about specific careers in life.  (Like, if you’re a pastor, you have found something that pleases the Lord.)  It is not talking about certain mission trips or volunteer experiences.  It is not saying that if you go to a soup kitchen, this, yes this, pleases the Lord.  And I need to remind myself that.  I’ve honestly felt that way before – like I needed to be doing some specific things of “service” to please God.

Thankfully the Bible isn’t a list of rules to check off at the end of the day!  How much would that suck?  When I read this verse, I think of a fragrance, of how my life smells to God.  When I am putting others above myself, a sweet smell is arising towards my Father.  But when I sneak off to look at something bad on the internet or when I am a jerk towards my roommates, a bad fart smell arises towards my Father.

What pleases the Lord?  It’s the church answer.  It’s Jesus.  Love him, live with Him, live like Him.  It can be a 24/7 thing.  No special task.  The fact that I am in a homeless shelter does not please the Lord; it’s when my heart is set on the Father and on loving others that He is pleased.  If you’re in school or at a job, you can please the Lord just as much as I can at Jefferson St.  And that’s pretty cool.

PS  The fifth chapter of Ephesians is good stuff.

Posted by: Jessica Rood | April 12, 2010

April Newsletter

Who are you allowing to control your life? Is it friends, family, yourself, a significant other…or God? I wish I could say it is God who controls my life at all times, but that would be a lie. I often fall short and do not give Him complete control. I try to manipulate Him. I try to distort His convictions. I pretend that I know what is best for my life.

There are times that I follow God and walk the path he wants me to. Coming and being a part of the Hope Program is a great example. I felt God calling me to missions, but I never had a passion for going overseas. Even so, I followed the path he had set. I went to Johnson Bible College to pursue a degree in missions. While I was there, I took an Urban Missions class and felt that God was beginning to fine tune my future. I had to do an internship and heard about the Hope Program; I decided to apply because it sounded different and challenging. I was starting to finally have a passion. I came for the summer and fell in love, so I stayed on for the year. If you look at my life you would think I am crazy. I went to Johnson to get my second bachelors -not a masters degree. I have one semester left at JBC and I decide to take the year off. I think about these things and it makes me laugh, but it also shows me that I have allowed God to be in control – because in the world’s eyes it all seems a little foolish and counterproductive.

Sometimes, I do not follow God’s call. Recently God has been urging me to talk to a group of ’20-somethings’ at the shelter. I chose not to because of my insecurities. I can talk to people older or younger then me without a problem, but people my age are intimidating. I kept putting it off, but then it became to late. On Friday March, 26th a teammate of mine showed me a newspaper article – one of the guys in that group had taken his own life. I could hardly speak. The worst thing was that even his girlfriend didn’t know where he was or that this had happened. Ben, a staff member, had to tell the whole group. It was heart wrenching to witness. The best I could do at the time was tell them I was praying for them as they left. There is a memorial service for him this Saturday and my teammates and I are going to it. It will not be easy, but at least this is an oppurtunity to share Christ with his friends. Please pray for the friends and family and all of us as a team. This was a hard reminder of the necessity of following God’s call.

I know that I may not always understand why, but I know that God wants me here. God brought to Louisville KY. I may not always trust in him fully and he reminds me of that daily – but more often than not I am allowing Christ to guide me. I strive to deny myself and give my life to Him. As I look back through my Journal for the last year, what I see most often is a desire for Christ to take control – because when I’m leading…things get ugly!

Let God lead your path. It may not be the easy path. It may not be a wordly path. It will not be easy giving up control…but if you do, you will be surprised how great it is. You will still have pain and struggles, but you will feel satisfied knowing that you have given your life to Christ.

Let’s keep seeking Him in all that we do.

Posted by: jcwillyams | March 22, 2010

Newsletter – A Finger in the Sand

There are things that you don’t know about me.  There are things that I keep to myself.  There are things that are concealed in the dark parts of my heart, hiding – away from the eyes of my peers.  But God sees them. God knows them.  And He loves me despite them.  I have seen some ugly things this year.  I have seen theft, lying, cheating, addiction, lust, violence, and more.  I have seen some of my own horrible nature brought to life in the bodies of those to whom I minister.  It isn’t pretty.  It’s terrifying.  How do you love someone whose eyes follow each movement the girls make?  How do you love someone who sells her body? How do you love someone who yells, cusses, and throws chairs?  How do you love someone who smells of alcohol, body odor, and vomit?  How do you love someone who stumbles with each step?  How do you love someone who sells drugs?  How do you love someone who has committed murder?  The question is easy for most people.  The question is hardly worth asking – the answer is obvious…you don’t.  You leave them to suffer.  You let them kill off one another.  You throw them in jail and let them rot.  You don’t invest yourself.  You don’t understand.  You don’t help them up – and you never love.

They grabbed her wrist and violently drug her along the ground.  They spit on her.  They yelled at her.  They cursed her.  With each step, the dirt of the road filled the air with a rolling cloud, full of dust and venomous threats.  She yelled in pain, sobbing at the certainty of her future.  And then she was thrown to the ground.

A steady finger softly brushed the soil beside her.  She watched as it traced a pattern in the path.  She was for a moment transfixed – the world forgotten.…  Her heart pounded against the hot earth and reawakened her to the sound of oily speech, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

The voice was distant to her, a dream…or nightmare.  The finger in the dirt – that was reality – steady, calm, reassuring…she knew she could be scared, but she was transfixed by the pattern the hand wove-then it disappeared.

Reality rushed back and her mind instantly pelted her with hard stones – almost drowning out the voice she would never forget, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” She knew her accusers.  They were men of the Law.  They followed it to the letter.  She closed her eyes and found her life flashing through her mind.  She mourned at where she had ended up…and mourned that time was over.

Thump – Thump – Thump – Thump

The rocks fell, but not upon her.  She slowly opened her eyes and once again saw a steady finger tracing in the warm Israeli soil.  She looked up to a face haloed by the mid day sun, and tears rolled down her cheeks as the voice softly spoke, “Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

The words fell from her tongue in disbelief, “No one, Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Christ demonstrates a different definition of love.  A love founded on forgiveness.  A love founded apart from judgment.  A love that extends beyond ourselves.  For Christ has not sinned.  He could have thrown the first stone.  Her sin could have been quenched by the stones of the earth – but Christ satisfied them for her. “Sin no more,” he commanded.  Can we stop sinning?  Probably not anytime soon.  But Christ has carried the burden for us.  He has taken the judgment away and paid the price.  Our sins are washed clean – and in the eyes of God we have sinned no more.  Hallelujah!

Daily I am reminded that I am not called to love someone worth less then me.  I am called to love someone that God loves – just the same.  Someone who God sees on the same scale of judgment.  Someone for whom Christ suffered and died.  I must realize that their sins have already been paid for – redeemed.  Christ has atoned for everything – they simply must accept his free grace.  I am not called to judge them; I am called to share Christ’s good news.  I am called to be so overwhelmed by the love Christ has given me that it overflows to those around me.  I often fall short of my calling.

It is easy to become short sided and self focused.  It is easy to get caught up in my wants and desires and to forget my purpose. It is easy – but not an excuse.  Every morning I read,

You are a missionary.

On a mission from the Lord.

Your purpose is to bring praise and glory to His name.

Your purpose is not your own.

You belong to Him.

You were bought with a price.

Today is not about you.

It is about Jesus Christ.

Boldly proclaim His name

Give Him what he is worth with your lips and your life.

And I strive to remember that it is not about my perceptions.  It is not about my wants and desires.  It is about fulfilling the will of God.  It is about serving Him – that is why I was created; for the times when I manage to quiet myself and forget my own wants, for the days that are about serving, for the moments in which God is placed first – these are the moments when the world seems a little more beautiful and the sun shines a little brighter.  These are the moments we can live in forever.  We simply must lean a little less on the world, and a little more on the Holy Spirit.

The mission continues at Jefferson Street.  Your prayers and encouragement are vital.  Send me letters and support – let me know you are with me.  It is hard to love someone who doesn’t know what love is.  It is hard to love someone who doesn’t want love.  It is hard to love someone and not receive love in return.  Give me your love, and please know, I love you all deeply, and I thank God for the support you provide me.  It doesn’t end with me.  It is a ripple effect that can continue infinitely…it just depends how large a stone you are willing to drop.

May the world seem a little more beautiful, may the sun shine a little brighter,

and may the Love of Christ extend a little further.

Peace be with you,

JC Williams

PS. Don’t worry – I do have accountability friends that I talk about stuff with…I’m not entirely secretive. :p

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