Saturday, June 25, 2016

Doing crazy things for God- and stepping out of the box.

If there is one thing that I have learned since being saved and doing outreach ministry, it is God will ask us to do crazy things sometimes. Things that seem insane in the natural, but make perfect sense to Him and His plan. Things that we can't see possibly working, things that seem too big for us to take on- because logically, they make no sense. I have seen a lot of crazy things in ministry, and I have been asked by God to do a lot of crazy things in ministry.

The thing is, we have to allow God to do "crazy" things that don't make sense to us sometimes in order for His will to be done. God is not a God of the natural, but of the supernatural. I think that many Christians have forgotten that. They have stopped expecting God to move the same way that He did in the bible- through miracles, signs and wonders.

For the most part, our culture has put God in a box. A nice, safe, box where we believe that He can only move so far. Only far enough to where it still makes sense to us. When the spirit of God moves in ways that don't make sense, many people don't know how to react to it.

When God tells you to do something "crazy"- something that defies logic, things that seem impossible, many people aren't going to know how to react to you either. 

There is a very familiar story in the Book of Luke of how four men helped an invalid man to Jesus. They went to great measures to lower him through a roof-top down to where Jesus was. In this story Jesus heals the man and at the conclusion of the narrative it says:  “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day."
Luke 5:26

They said what happened was strange to them. I started thinking about other "strange" (miraculous!)   incidences in scripture, where faith defied logic, and the supernatural moved outside of the box of  the natural.

There are so many incidents in scripture where God instructed people to do something outside the realm of logic. What we see as miracles today, looked crazy to the people who were watching them back then.

Jesus healed a blind man by spitting in the dirt and rubbing mud on his eyes (John Chapter 9).

Abraham was told that he would have a son, even though his wife was 90 years old (Genesis 17:17)

Naaman’s was told that in order to heal his leprosy,  all he had to do was go wash seven times in the Jordan River.  (2 Kings Chapter 5).

Peter went to Jesus and said he needed money for taxes and Jesus responded, “Go catch a fish and look in his mouth,”  and low and behold there was money in it!  (Matthew 17:27).

Then there was the time when the disciples needed to feed thousands of people and they asked Jesus what to do, and He told them to feed the crowd with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. (Mark 6:37).  If you had been there, wouldn't this have seemed crazy?

Ezekiel was told to go preach to the wind and then to the bones. (Ezekiel Chapter 37).

Lazarus' sisters were told by Jesus that he would bring him back to life- even though he had been dead and buried for 4 days (John 11:17).

Peter was told to walk on the water, even though scientifically it's impossible (Matthew 14:29).

Moses was told by a burning bush to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let God's people go (Exodus Chapter 3).  Joshua was told to conquer a city by walking around it, and the walls would fall down (Joshua Chapter 6).

Gideon was told to battle nearly 135,000 Midianites with 300 men and they were only to arm themselves with a pitcher, a lamp, and a horn (Judges Chapter 7).
If you were there, wouldn't this have seemed like strange instructions? More importantly, would you have been able to obey what God was telling you to do, rather than fear defeat because you didn't have the "logical" weapons?

And, of course, let's not forget Noah being told to build a huge ark, in the desert, when it had never rained before, because God told Him it was going to flood (Genesis chapters 5-10). Surely he was mocked by passerby's who saw him working on this huge ark in the middle of the desert day after day, year after year. I'm sure that in today's culture, he would have been committed to a mental institution for a psychological examination.

In every instance the instructions did not make sense in human logic, but every time there was success- because God was behind it.

The bible is full of people God asked to do crazy things.  The People of Jesus who seem to make the biggest difference are the people who step out and do things that most won't BECAUSE they think it's crazy. When you're doing crazy things for God, sometimes ALL you have to stand on in blind faith in Him alone.

Hebrews 13:8 says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
In the bible, God moved in a way that wasn't logical. Why has today's Christianity expected Him to change that? Why is it that the crazy things of God are no longer celebrated, but feared? Why are we not open to "seeing strange things to this day"? Why do we feel like God must make sense to us? Why is it so hard for us to believe that God can still do the miraculous- no matter how crazy it may look?

It's important to remember that God is so much bigger than what our small human brains can comprehend, that He is more capable than we can imagine, and that He can move outside the realm of what we think is possible. . It's important that we don't let logic box in our faith.

The fact that I am in ministry at all, I'm sure, looks crazy to religious people. Using the wise, the educated, the moral to spread the gospel makes sense to man- using a former heroin addict doesn't.  Paul, prophets run out, told they were crazy. When Jesus chose his disciples, many of the religious people of the day couldn't comprehend why he was using a rag tag gang of misfit sinners instead of the Pharisees who held a high moral code and knew the bible back and forth.. It didn't make sense that Jesus was hanging out with prostitutes and sinners and preaching on the streets instead of  in Jewish temples. That's why they didn't believe He was God.  If He was God, in their mind, that would have been the logical thing to do. But He was working out of the box- the box they had came to believe God had to operate in. And they missed the living God right in front of their faces because of their logic.

The Bible tells us that God “by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20 LB). Do we REALLY believe that? Even when it seems crazy? Even if we are mocked, ridiculed, and made fun of for having an outlandish faith in something that we know God has told us?

Is God telling you to do something crazy? Something that looks foolish to others, but you know without a doubt is from Him? 1 Corinthians 1:27 says that "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." Whose voice are you going to believe? Will you be obedient to God or to the opinions of man?

It's also important to remember that when God tells you to do something crazy for Him, it might not always work out the way you thought it would. It may even look like a failure in your eyes.  But you can guarantee that it is working for good, according to His purpose- no matter what it looks like on the outside.

Paul (in the book of Acts) was told to just GO and preach, and build the church. He had no building, no elder team, no fundraising plan. Everywhere that he went, there was either a revival or a riot. Surely the revivals seemed to prove that Paul was doing God's will, but the riots looked crazy to those watching, and I'm sure they couldn't possibly understand how that could be part of a God's ordained plan. Moses went to Pharoah multiple times and he refused to let the Israelites go. Most of the old testament prophets were run out of the cities that God sent them to speak in. The disciples were jailed, beaten, martyred, and killed. In logical terms, that seems like a failure. But in the supernatural, it was a part of the plan all along.

We are only responsible for being obedient- no matter how illogical what we are being told to do is. God is responsible for the results. So step out in faith, and leave the rest up to Him.

The world can call me crazy. I'm okay with that, because " If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you" (2 Corinthians 5:13). I will take being crazy for God over being sane for man any day. And that attitude is hard for me, because at heart I am a planner. I like to know what is going to happen. In fact, I used to be so horribly paralyzed by the need to control circumstances and for things to make logical sense that I would have twenty backup plans for plan A, and totally fall apart if the course deviated the slightest bit from the way I had planned it (which is a very stressful way to live!) I like to have my ducks in a row. I also prefer NOT to look insane.  

But I also know that when God moves, we can't try to stuff  Him back in our box of logic, plans, and constraints. Because if we allow God to fully move, it will be much better than anything we could have planned out anyway.

Because what seems crazy today, could end up being a miracle of God tomorrow. God doesn't need to make sense to us.  And if you need to see, don’t be surprised if Jesus spits in the dirt and rubs mud in your eyes. 

Isaiah 55:8-9New International Version (NIV)
  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
  declares the Lord.
         “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."-  Isaiah 30:21

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Our tour of PGM- a testament to God's faithfulness!

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the south side of Chicago along with some friends of ours who also run a non-profit in Marshfield.  We got to take a tour of Pacific Garden Ministries- the biggest homeless shelter and addiction program in Chicago, and home of the radio program "Unshackled", which tells true stories of people being saved and redeemed by Christ.

We were absolutely floored by the experience. Pacific Garden Missions has been around for 139 years. We were able to take a tour and spend the day there. It was so amazing to see the faithfulness of God, and how he has kept this ministry running all this time off of only donations from people! We wanted to see Pacific Gardens to take note of what they have done to remain successful for so long, and to see what things they do that we can implement into our upcoming recovery homes for drug addicts in Marshfield. 

Walking down the "Yellow Brick Road", where all of the offices, dining areas, counseling programs, day rooms, and sanctuary are kept. 

The sanctuary where service is held and "Unshackled" is recorded.

The size of this place was absolutely overwhelming. They serve 3,000 meals a day and house 1,200 people a night. We were amazed as we walked through, and were in awe of what God had built. 

Pacific Garden Missions started 139 years ago in an apartment in Chicago- ironic, huh? ;) The couple who started it wanted to reach the homeless and addicted. They soon started renting a house where the homeless and addicted could stay at for free (again- pretty ironic, since this is exactly how CROSSroads started and what we are going to be doing in the future).

Street lights on the Yellow Brick Road.

Aerial view of Pacific Garden Mission- look how gigantic is it!

One night, the day before the rent on the house was due, the couple who ran it were in a panic because they had no money to pay the rent. They sat up all night praying for God to make a way, as they had no idea where the money was going to come from. The next morning, they woke up to their back yard covered in Morel mushrooms- which sell for $50 a pound. They picked the mushrooms and sold them, which enabled them to pay their rent on the house. The mushrooms had never been there before and never came back again. What an awesome testimony of God's provision- much like Manna from heaven!

They soon moved into a small storefront, then eventually a bigger building, until finally they moved into the huge building that they have now a few years ago. As the ministry grew, God provided everything they needed in the most unlikely ways. People drive up and hand over the keys and titles to cars. Jimmy Butler from the Bulls comes in once every other month and orders $15,000 worth of pizza for everyone. Private donors help them meet their 4.5 million annual budget. God's hand has been there through it all.

I was really touched by the stories of God's provision. It renewed my faith in the fact that if God wants something to happen, he will provide a way for it to happen, even when we don't see a way. It's important that we remember first and foremost that these ministries are God's, and that He will take care of them. 

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in worry, wondering how God will work things out, where the money will come from, where the people will come from, where the help will come from. I know in our ministry, we wonder how we are going to be able to help all of these people, how we are going to fund the homes, how we can possibly do all of it when we are just a few people. It's good to be reminded that we don't have to do anything, God is the one who will make a way. He takes care of his people, and He is the one who provides provision. I can only pray that we have the kind of faith in CROSSroads that Pacific Garden Mission has been able to hold onto for 139 years, trusting God even in the hard times. 

The greenhouse.

The massive cafeteria where meals are served.

Taking a tour of the dorms where people sleep.

The "hotbox" where clothes and blankets are sterilized before people enter the facility.

Our day here was such an uplifting experience. For the past few months, I have been struggling with my faith a little bit. Things have been going crazy and the spiritual attacks have been relentless. I was struggling with whiter God saw what was going on, and if He was going to intervene. I was questioning if we are really doing what we are meant to be doing, because we were going through such hardship.

The thing is, just because you are doing what God commands, doesn't mean it will be easy. If anything, you have to expect it to get hard. Not only will there be spiritual warfare if you are a threat to Satan, but I think so many times God allows impossible situations to happen so that He gets the glory when things are worked out. He makes it humanly impossible, so we know it was only by His will and power that things turned around. Hard times of trusting develops our faith, and we can recall how God was faithful when we go through another hard situation.

So often, we put God is a box. We ask for what we expect is humanly possible, rather than relying on the supernatural truth that God can do above all we ask or think. His plans are much bigger than ours- so big, in fact, that Him showing up and opening doors are the only way that those plans will manifest. It's important that we stay God-reliant instead of self-reliant.

Extra mats

And that is just what PGM did. God transformed their ministry into something much bigger than they could have ever dreamed, because they relied on Him and Him alone. The faith of this ministry is astounding, and I can only hope to be as faithful to what God has called me to do as they are- to be able to have blind faith even when I can't see anything happening. To take God out of the box, and let him do what He WANTS to do- not limiting Him to what we believe is possible.

A map of all the other countries besides North America where "Unshackled" is aired.

Some of the awards that PGM has received.

Radio equipment from when "Unshackled" first started airing.

The "Unshackled" office.

Good motto!

Our crew, getting ready to view a live taping of "Unshackled".

The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. To have thousands of drug addicts and homeless people crying out to the Lord in worship service really affected my heart. It reminded my husband and I where we came from. We were saved in a ministry very similar to this, but on a much smaller scale- Milwaukee Victory Church. It is there where we met God, and He turned our lives around. Being back in that environment made me call to remembrance all of the wonderful, miraculous things that God has done in our lives- and will do in the lives of the addicts we are trying to help.

I am so excited for our recovery homes to open up in Marshfield, so that other addicts can experience the power of God like we have, and like we did this weekend. There is something amazing about being at a church service that isn't full of "good" religious people, but broken sinners who know they need God and cry out for Him to heal them. It is an experience that most people will never have the luck to encounter. This is my husband and I's life, and calling, and it was so refreshing to see that we are not alone in wanting to care for the outcasted. 

The service was filled with testimonies from people who God has restored from addiction. They do three services a day there- one before each meal. That is how people change- through the word of God. That is the only thing that was able to change my husband and I. 

The pastor gave an amazing message. What really blew me away was that it was on 2 Samuel 16. That was the first bible study that I ever wrote, and I have never heard anyone else preach on it. My husband and I looked at each other in shock when the preacher went there, because it's a chapter that we talk about often, yet have never heard anyone else talk about. In reality, it is my life verse for ministry leadership. It's about how King David was attacked, insulted, and slandered by Shimei. He didn't defend himself, however, because he knew that God would defend him. He knew that if he just left it in God's hands, God would bring good out of the persecution he was suffering. When people throw rocks at you, God will bless you to make up for the distress they have caused you. I have seen God do this personally in my life numerous times. We are dealing with something right now where someone who we helped has turned vindictive, just like how David helped Saul only to be attacked by his cousin Shimei. It was the perfect word for me. Keep pressing on- even when people kick you while you are down. God will bring good out of it if you let him. I felt like the message was directed at me, and left in awe.

"Unshackled" getting ready to be  recorded. 

This lady had the most amazing voice!

Our friends Ed and Nancy outside of PGM.

The basement where the donations are kept.

God has spoken so clearly to us through this trip that if we allow Him to build it, He will do great things. No matter how overwhelming ministry can get at times, God has the power to give us perseverance, and provide our every need. His plans are good, and we only need to be obedient and have faith in what He is doing- even when we can't see the end result. 

More awards for this amazing ministry. One really cool thing that we found out during the tour is that Mr. T comes in and preaches every few months. How amazing is that?

The dorms

Our group

My husband and I.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip. It was just what we needed, and our faith in God has grown tremendously. I will recall this trip when we start to get discouraged, tired, or feel like things aren't happening the way we think they should. This trip was a reminder that God is faithful, and that we can do nothing without Him- but He can do everything through us, if wee just believe!