Sunday, August 24, 2014
All things considered I would recommend this bible to people, especially those going through dark or hard times. This material is encouraging and helpful to those who are struggling and hurting. It is a great selection of devotions mixed with some poetry to encourage and help those who are asking “why”. It pairs scripture and words of wisdom together to help answer the hard questions of trials and struggles.
The Bible has some cool features, it looks good and it has a subject index which is helpful. It’s easy to read, the devotions are easy to find and are dated by year. I would recommend this Bible for people who are in a dark time, or to have as a resource. Give it a look, see if it’s for you.
Friday, August 22, 2014
My name is Noah Hill. I am in the process of launching a ministry called Bus Stop Blessings, and I have a challenge for you all today. But before I reveal this challenge, I want to tell you a story:
He is a short man, stocky of build, with grizzled hair and a beard that hasn't seen a razor in months. His face and arms are darkened with dirt, his clothing ragged. He walks slowly, eyes down, an empty foam cup gripped in one grubby hand.
Then he looks up, and his face breaks into a wide grin.
I don't know this man's name, but I have spoken with him many times. He insists on being called Hobo, claiming that there's nobody around to remember his old name, his old life before his homelessness.
Hobo tells me about his day. He slept in a nearby alley the night before, despite the rare thunderstorm that had swept across the usually arid city. He woke up early as always, and scavenged for something to eat. He was lucky that morning; a patron at the burger joint across the street had thrown away half a bag of food that wasn't to their liking, and it was one of the best meals he'd had in days. I ask him if he has any prospects for the day. He tells me that the little general store across the street is having a sale, and if he holds an advertising sign outside for them they'll give him a few dollars at the end of the day. He's hoping they'll give him enough to buy something to eat and a bottle of whisky.
We talk about my week. I tell him about my doctor appointments, and about how my wife is working overtime. I tell him about the new church I'm attending, and the wonderful ways that God is working in my life. I share some scripture with him that I've been reading. I ask him if he'd like to come to church on Sunday.
This makes him a little uncomfortable. He insists that people don't really want someone like him in their church. He tells me about being run off from a church he tried to go to a couple years ago. I commiserate with him, and let him know that if he decides to come he will definitely be welcome.
We pray together. We pray for our health, for his safety, that he can find places to get out of the hot sun, and that God will provide for his needs. We pray that God will release him from his addiction, and that he will come to know Christ and be overwhelmed with blessings in his life.
As my bus pulls up to the curb, he turns and trots back across the street. His head is held a little higher, his step seems to have a little more energy. As I climb onto the bus, he turns and gives me a final wave before entering the store.
Hobo is one of many people that I've had the blessing to come to know while taking the buses here in Phoenix. God has routinely placed Hobo, and others like him, in my path and given me opportunity to directly share the gospel and provide for their needs.
I feel a personal bond with the homeless. I have been homeless myself. I spent several months living in the Gospel mission at one point shortly after leaving high school, several years before I knew Christ. After I was saved, I spent a period homeless again, living in the Mission, and then in the back of my truck. The difference was like night and day.
As a non-Christian, every day was a struggle. I had little support from my family. I spent my days trying to find a way to eat, sometimes begging all day, sometimes doing odd jobs for a couple dollars. I was looked down upon, cursed at, chased off. I was humiliated, told daily that I was homeless because I was worthless. I was told that I just needed to "get off my butt and find a job," by people who have no concept of how hard job hunting is when you have no phone, no address, and spend 8 hours a day trying to come up with a single meal. I was told that I was homeless because I was a sinner. People would angrily tell me that if I just accepted God that my life would magically transform, then they left without telling me what that meant, leaving me resentful and more determined to avoid God at all costs.
As a Christian, when I was homeless, I had the support of my church family. People cared for my needs. Someone brought me a camp stove, a mattress for my truck bed. Someone brought me extra blankets and pillows. People put gas in my truck, knowing that my part time job didn't provide much income. When I found a friend with a spare room, the church deacons met and decided they would pay rent to my friend for several months to ensure that I would have a roof over my head. People came around me, surrounded me with love, prayed for me daily. I was blessed beyond belief.
So the purpose of Bus Stop Blessings is twofold: to meet the needs of those living in despondency, and to change the way that we as Christians approach those same. I want to bring that same compassion to those who are non-believers that I felt as a homeless Christian, to build relationships with them, to be able to directly share the gospel and to also be a living example of a new creation, to be a light to the world that leaves people yearning for Christ.
My challenge for you today is this: When you see someone in need, someone living in the streets, someone without a relationship with Christ, I want you to stop what you are doing and pray, not for them first, but for yourself. Pray that you would be able to look at them with the same compassion that Christ showed for those in need, for the sick, the poor, the homeless. Pray that you can let go of any judgments you may have. Pray that you can look at them and see the face of a brother or sister, that you would react the same to their need as you would if you found out someone from your congregation were in their position.
When we can reach the point where we are able to feel that unreserved compassion, we can approach our homeless ministry in a new way, with a new love, a new purpose, and an entirely intentional process. I hope that you would like to be a part of the way Christ is using me in this ministry, and that you would prayerfully seek His will and respond to that as you are called. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this ministry, and God Bless.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
I'm not going to rehash everything in the principles, but instead ask the question, is this helpful? Is this an improvement over 12 steps? I would say no, it's not better but it appears to be on par. I like this program and it covers the most important aspects that is covered by 12 step, you need God (He is the higher power, I don't care what AA calls it).
If you have read anything from Saddleback, you know that Pastor Rick and friends love acrostics and there are plenty in here. If they help you remember things, this is the plan for you. If you are or have been in the Military, you'll love it, cause no one loves acrostics more than the US Armed Forces. . . except maybe Saddleback.
This Bible is from our friends at Zondervan, so of course it's NIV. NIV is not my favorite but many like it. There have been some negative reviews of the new NIV, but I don't want to rehash those. Be aware it's NIV, but that doesn't change the resources in it, which are still good. In the end, pairing recovery with the Word of God is powerful and important. I would use this resource to work with someone in recovery. Whether you like 12 step or something different, this program gives the same flavor in fewer courses. Give it a look and you may find something helpful. I would recommend it.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I am fortunate, my depression has been managed that I haven't hit that point. Depression causes isolation and isolation makes suicide all the more obtainable. I have never been truly isolated, so my depression has never taken me to that point. I will admit I have thought about it, and times I have prayed that God would take me home. Committing suicide has never been a real option for me, but for many who struggle with depression, it's a reality. Those will depression will tend to drift towards isolation, if you want to save them, save them from isolation. Companionship could be the thing that saves their life.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
To start let me say I'm not a cessationist. I believe in miracles and God doing amazing things. I have been praying lately that God would show me a miracle. I want to see God do something supernatural firsthand. I have been praying to see fire from heaven, bushes burning, sick healed and dead raised. I have been looking for the big miracles, but I have had to stop my thinking about miracles as my short list.
I have been thinking about the miracles God is already doing in my life. First, I consider who I am in Christ as opposed to who I would be if I was apart from Christ. The change in who I am, my personality and character traits in a miracle. I would not be kind, hopeful, loving or patient without God. I would be bitter, jaded and angry.
I saw a rainbow as I drove to work today, and considered the work of God's hands. The fact that light can be refracted and break into colors of the rainbow through moisture can be explained by science, but it's only how. It doesn't even begin to touch why, that God put it there for us. Can I call that a miracle? Is all I see in creation the miracle I seek? I have to say yes.
I still want to see an amazing supernatural work of God. I am still praying for a mighty work. I ask God to physically heal, to show His wonders and display His power. If He does, I will praise Him. If He doesn't, I will still praise Him for all He does for me. I will give Him glory for creator and sustainer. There are so many blessings in my life, my amazing wife and awesome kids. The times God had provided and sustained us. I could never deserve the blessings I have, and I know that is a miracle.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
1. Learn. You should always be a student of God and His Word. Read His Word, read good books, read commentary and do devotions and attend Bible Study. Prepare yourself for whatever may come in the future by learning all the things God will teach you. Be a student.
2. Pray. When you are on the shelf, you should have some extra time. Use that extra time to bulk up the prayer life. Spend time praying and listening. Develop a good habit of prayer during your time of exile or prison or being set aside.
3. Give. This doesn't always mean money, give time or talents or resources. Spend time giving back. Support something or someone, a missionary or a mission agency. Take what you have and invest it in the kingdom.
4. Invest in somebody. As you are learning and growing, pass on what you have learned to someone. Have some friends that you can share what God is teaching you. Try writing a blog, it works for me. Invest what you have in someone who needs it.
Before long, you will find yourself back where God is using you. God has a purpose for your time in exile, and when you look back you will see His hand at work. Keep your head up and be ready for the blessings that He will send your way.