Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jesus on the street

In Matthew 25 verse 40, Jesus states, "...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Could it be then that we can have face to face encounters with Christ on the street, in prisons, at shelters, in food lines, etc.? If Matthew 25 is true, and I believe it is, then what does that say about me when I don't have time to acknowledge one of my brothers on the street. What does that say about churches who don't have any type of consistent and intentional ministry to the poor, but yet "have church" Sunday after Sunday?
Yesterday, I took 4 men from Pittsburgh up to the Uptown neighborhood to engage people in conversation on and around Wilson Avenue. We split up, and we had been on the street nearly and hour, before I met Tony aka Papa T. I was walking by the dollar store that he was sitting in front of when I heard him say something about 63rd and Cottage (the intersection that I live near). I stopped and asked him if he was from that neighborhood. He then explained to me that he had grown up in that neighborhood. He had been drinking, so not everything that he said made a lot of sense. However, as the conversation went on I asked him what he believed about Jesus. I told him that in the last few weeks I had talked with people who think that Jesus was a good man, a prophet, and/or a good teacher - but not the son of God, and not God in the flesh. As soon as I finished my question, Tony's eyes got big and he got very animated. He passionately stated that Jesus is Lord, God's Son, creator of the heavens and earth. He then looked me in the eye and told me that it doesn't mean anything for me to live off of 63rd and Cottage if I am not there to be involved in and serve the community, and if I'm not there because of the Lord. He continued, saying that if I truly believe in Jesus that I have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be ashamed of at all. I told him that I worked with young men from the neighborhood, and I asked him if he had any advice for me. He once again looked me straight in the eye, and told me passionately to tell them about the Lord.
My conversation with Tony really messed me up. I told him that it was nice to meet him and that I hoped to see him again. I walked back to the van challenged, and encouraged, and in awe. I am convinced that God spoke to me yesterday as I sat there outside of the dollar store. Could it be that I had a face to face encounter with Jesus Christ right there on Sheridan (Matthew 25)? Who needed to be ministered to or Tony?
I want Jesus and the gospel to continue to mess me up in this way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Challenged At A Mosque

The last few weeks I have had the opportunity to lead our various Bridge Builders groups (missions teams) on outreaches throughout the city. This past Friday I accompanied the group to the South Asian Friendship Center located on Devon St. in the neighborhood known as "Little India." Whenever we take groups there on Friday, the staff from SAFC take us for a mosque visit. We attend a Friday service and then have the chance to dialogue with a leader from the mosque. On this particular Friday the person who spoke to us was a 60ish year old woman named Mary. She spoke to us for probably 20-30 minutes on the core beliefs of Islam - without looking at any notes. After she finished, she allowe us to ask her questions. Several of the high school and college students that were with me asked her some challenging questions regarding her convictions and core beliefs. Although, at times flustered, she answered the questions with conviction and passion. Even though I obviously didn't agree with everything that she said - I was really challenged by out time with her. I asked myself whether I could stand before a group of Islamic high school and college students (and their leaders) and articulate the core beliefs of Christianity with Scripture to back it up. And then, would I be able to field challenging questions from the students? I left thinking about these questions.

Do I know what I believe and why I believe? I'm not questioning my faith. This is not a doubt session. I'm challenged when I consider how well I could articulate what and why I believe. I say that the Word of God is the foundation of my faith, right? Well then, why does my passion for the word waiver? Why is my discipline in it weak at times? Am I thirsty for it? Do I long to share it with others?

My Biblical negligence should spark a sense of urgency, and a greater desire to be in the Word and really soak it up. God help me on this journey.