Monday, June 13, 2011

Being Doers of the Word

Kelsie and Kelly washing the feet of the homeless

The gloomy grey clouds covering San Diego set the tone for the woman's tears. Forced by the police to move all her belongings off the overpass, she reluctantly joined a few dozen other homeless people pushing carts and dragging blankets down the street. The tears were not only for her belongings; the man she loved had passed away in the night, and she was weeping at the loss of life. Heartache can find its way into any life, regardless of housing situation. Our small group of high school students approached her and the others with bags of food and drink, wanting to help in any way we could. Her name was Joanna, and she was hurting. We prayed with her. We hugged her. We wept with her.

Joanna noticed Kelly's TOMS shoes. Immediately, the TOMS were off Kelly's feet, and she found herself wearing the dirty leather sandals Joanna once wore. They had traded shoes, and Joanna's new footwear fit perfectly. Before we left the overpass, Kelly handed back the sandals to Joanna. Both women had begun the day with a pair of shoes; now Kelly walked back to our van barefoot while Joanna's tears of pain transformed into tears of humble joy and gratitude. Kelly and I added our own tears as we walked, moved by how God was working in and through her.

The past week in San Diego has been full of stories like this. Students giving up personal belongings without hesitation, prompted only by the Holy Spirit moving in the moment. Teens literally washing the feet of the homeless, scrubbing off months of dirt and sweat in a beautiful act of service. Thousands of prayers and hugs and tears and smiles shared between students and homeless people. I'm still processing it all; it might be one of the best ministry experiences I've had yet. I couldn't be more proud of the 60+ students who served both in San Diego and on the Navajo reservation in Sanders, AZ. They are beautiful and strong, serving in the Lord and following Him with their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This past week certainly confirms that God has me in the right place and that trusting Him is the best possible way to live.

How did all this happen? Students simply read the Bible and did it. It turns out that when you actually do what Scripture says, Jesus transforms both your life and the lives around you. Perhaps taking the Bible literally could change your life. This is some of what our students did this week:

Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house (Isaiah 58:7). Visit orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Seek justice, correct oppression (Isaiah 1:17). Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you (Matthew 5:42). You also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14). Love not with words or talk, but in actions and truth (1 John 3:18). Pray at all times in the Spirit; pray continually (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you (Matthew 5:44). Follow me (Mark 1:17, John 21:19).

This last command--follow me--is one we are all still learning to embrace. Jesus called Peter as His follower once in John 1, changing his name and thus his identity. But Jesus had to call Peter again in John 21. What had happened? Peter had gone back to fishing, perhaps depressed that he had denied his Savior three times in the critical hour, realizing that he wasn't cut out for discipleship. Now Jesus was back from the dead; how could Peter possibly continue as His follower? He was too weak, too scared, too broken to be any good. Yet Jesus lovingly restores Peter, reminding him of the call to discipleship, to follow Him and allow Jesus to shape our story and identity, to not allow past failures or insecurities cling to us, but to courageously and humbly be obedient to the One who calls us to follow. We are called to do likewise.

Chris Tomlin's song "I Will Follow" became a sort of anthem for our missions teams this past week. I share it with you below. The words are simple, yet convicting and profound. I pray that you join our team as we continue to grow in following Jesus and living out what Scripture commands. We read the book of James together as a team, and one student noted, "it's like James is writing to people who already know what to believe, but now they just have to get up and do it." Maybe this is what James meant when he wrote these words:

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets by a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

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