Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Mighty Mississippi

Standing by the waters of the Mississippi can be a great experience.  We can think of the history.  We can think of old stories we have read such as Tom Sawyer.  But what happens when our lives become as tumultuos as the waters of the Mississippi?  We know from Psalm 23 that those who belong to Christ, who are shepherded by Him, are to be led beside quiet waters.  If that is the case, why do our lives sometimes become so out of control?

The line of thinking I've been following today is that the reason this happens is because we either don't know or have lost sight of why God saved us from judgement and made us His children.  What started this thinking is what my wife and I read this morning in our morning Bible study. Specifically in Ezra chapter 9 verse 9b, "He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem." 

To understand what Ezra was talking about, we have to go back a little bit.  The Israelites had been in captivity as a result of going their own way and doing their own thing, walking in disobedience to God.  God has been in the process of bringing the exiles back home to the Promised Land.  In going back, the Israelites were already turning their backs on God and doing their own thing.

I think the reason this was happening to the Israelites is that they were not understanding the reason for their freedom, the same way we don't always understand the reason God has set us free.

It seems to me that when the Israelites were set free from the captivity in Egypt, they focused more on the provision of God, rather than the God who provides.  They focused on the land flowing with milk and honey more than on why God was providing.  In this situation, they focused more on their freedom and provision, rather than on why God had set them free and was providing for them and keeping them safe.  They were focusing on themselves, rather than on what God was wanting them to do.  In the same way, I believe we sometimes focus on what God can give us, and how much we can get and do, rather than on why God saved us in the first place, and why He provides for us:  to serve Him. 

All of this is to lead to why I'm writing this post in the first place.  One of the desires of my heart is to reach out to the homeless and put a story to the person on the street.  We have a tendency to overlook these people, not realizing they come from somewhere, they have thoughts and feelings, they suffer despair, they have families, they need hope. 

I talked to a man today on the streets of Iowa.  He is 34 years old and has been on the streets for 3 months.  He was born and raised in Iowa by both parents, neither rich nor poor.  He has 3 sisters and 2 brothers.  He finished high school and has served 3 years in the army.  He was not encouraged or discouraged to attend church.  He did attend a Bapist church in his younger years.  He gave his life to Christ at age 15.  Through what I believe was years of not understanding God's purpose in his life, he wasn't really walking with the Lord.  What finally led to him being on the streets was mishandling of finances and a broken relationship. 

Though he knows his life could have been better, that he has taken roads he shouldn't have taken, he knows the Lord will never walk away from him.  That's good.  I encouraged him that the Lord will complete the work He began in him.  God's promise is that he will be raised in the presence of Jesus.  It was a great time of being able to encourage a brother in Christ, but maybe the best question I asked him, although I didn't realize it at the time, was, "What do you think the Lord's calling is on your life?"  As our conversation progressed, I believe he was able to maybe get a better understanding of what life is all about.  Not what he can get, but with the freedom from condemnation that Jesus gives him, and with the provision God provides for him, what can He do for God? 

It wasn't until later until I realized how our Bible study this morning and this man were going to tie together.  We all need to discover the purpose for the life God has given to us. 

Pray for this man, that God will help him to focus his new life on what can he do for God.  And let's pray for each other, that we also will focus our new life in Christ on what can we do for God.