Comfortable in what I would describe our “dream” home nestled in and surrounded by the mountains of Phoenix, Arizona I realized that our family was not happy. Even though we vacationed in some of the top resorts and drove nice cars we were still unfulfilled. That all began to change during one Christmas season. While driving on the expressway I heard on the radio a need for new toys to benefit local children and their mothers that would be spending the holidays in a shelter. As I was driving I had this thought, “What if that were me and my children? Would I want someone to help us?” My immediate answer was “Yes!” As I came to this understanding I noticed I was approaching our local Walmart store which was coming up at one of the next exits. As I entered the store I grabbed a cart and headed straight for the toy isle and on my way picked up some some new clothing that would fit some of the children at the shelter. As I was shopping I began to weep. It was not tears of sadness, but much to my surprise they were tears of joy! While checking out at the register I remember thinking “what is this joy? What does this mean?” I did not find out my answer until a year later. We had sold our dream home and answered God’s call to move back to Michigan.
One afternoon after our move the Lord Jesus spoke to my husbands heart and told him to go and get his checkbook. When he asked him to open it up, he found that we spent all of our wealth on ourselves with very little for the poor (with the exception of my trip to Walmart). Then He asked him to open his Bible to Mathew 25 beginning in verse 31, Jesus is speaking: ” “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” Mathew 25: 31-46 NLT During this time Jesus told my husband, “This is NOT a parable, this is going to take place.” After this happened we decided to get involved by helping local single moms in the area. About this same time I remember reading Jesus teaching in John chapter 15 beginning in verse 9, “ “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” As I read the above verses the Lord said, “Remember that day in Walmart when you experienced an abundance of joy? That was my joy in you.” What I have learned is that when we Love with Gods love by helping others in need, we will have an overflowing joy! King James says, “that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.” A couple years later the Lord led our family to move to Florida.
It has been nearly 14 years since my husbands encounter with the Lord and the words of Jesus still penetrate our hearts to this day. Ten years ago the Lord called our family to pioneer the first church in the history of our town, Ponce Church, located in Ponce Inlet, FL. Over the years we have been faithful to obey Jesus and His commandment of Love which birthed our “faith” to action (James 2) As a church we began by helping single Moms and feeding the poor. We also worked with another church to help build a small church in a poor area of Reynosa, Mexico. As a church we adopted two children through World Vision. As a church we have raised funds to dig a traditional well providing clean water and sanitation for a village through World Vision. Our older son along with a group of Christians raised $1,700 to help provide clean water through Charity Water. We have an ongoing food drive at Ponce Church asking each family bring a can of food and peanut butter each week for local shelters and charities. In the last couple of years we launched “Restore Hope Daytona” to benefit age-out foster girls and our homeless community. We are raising awareness and funding for age out foster girls endeavoring to provide safe and stable housing for them so they do not become another statistic. Just this year our son and his wife founded the OC (Ormond Church) and they are also active in raising funding for a home for the girls. He has recently released a Spoken Word video titled: “She Surrendered” to raise awareness of sex trafficking along with foster care. We also feed the homeless and families in need every Saturday at 320 North Street in Daytona Beach. This is just the beginning, we have much more to do and we have made our choice to answer His call and teach others the true biblical meaning of what it means to “love your neighbor”.
I must admit, there are times when I think, “Does anyone else (in the body of Christ) get this?” We’ve been teaching and practicing these Biblical principals for years and sometimes I feel like, “are we the only ones that get it? Really get it?” Well, I am happy and encouraged to say,”No!” There ARE others. Just today I opened up our “World Vision – Journey of Love” Summer 2013 magazine and read about another family who has been called to do the same. Even though this couple were givers and after they read “The Hole in Our Gospel” by World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns, Jeff and Kari Patterson both believed they could do more and they did! One year later after reading the book and hearing Jesus words speak to them, they decided to sell their dream home and give more by helping others in need. “Exactly one year later, the house sold. The Pattersons first moved into what they described as a “dumpy” rental property but more recently bought a modest home in a much less affluent neighborhood…Jeff and Kari now share a bathroom with the kids. On the upside, downsizing slashed their mortgage payments by 75 percent and allowed the couple to give away a quarter of their income. They hope to increase their giving to half their income. Kari considers the move the best decision they’ve ever made. It was as though someone had “turned on a faucet” for them to receive more from God. “I definitely felt a greater sense of his pleasure, his love, and his provision. I do believe that when we act in obedience, he blesses,” she says….Scripture too became more compelling: “When God speaks of the poor, and he speaks of his heart for the widow and the orphan and the downtrodden and the alien-all those things began to come alive,” Kari says. ” Excerpt taken from the article “Selling Out For Jesus” World Vision – Summer 2013.
After reading their personal story, I was greatly encouraged! Someone IS listening! Jesus is speaking to His church today, beckoning us to not forget His words and what they mean. Some say, “well, were’ not saved by works” and I agree! Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” But many preachers stop there, yet Paul is not finished writing, he goes on to say, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto (to do) good works (helping others), which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Simply stated, you’re saved by grace, BUT NOW THAT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN, God has called you to keep His commandment of Love. A Love not with mere words (read James chapter 2) but a Love, His Love demonstrated by our actions of helping others in need! Whether it be housing, food, fresh water, clothing, visiting the sick and those in prison. Jesus says these are acts of love and compassion.
Another couple that comes to mind is Brandon and Jen Hatmaker . Brandon is the author of “Barefoot Church” and his wife Jen is the author of “7” and “Interrupted”. For me Brandon’s book came at a time that helped encourage and inspire me to keep going! To speak the “truth” no matter the cost! Because I believe that one day we will all see these truths even if we chose to heed Jesus words or not. And as a pastor it is my responsibility to teach and preach the “whole” gospel. I like what James says in chapter 2:14-20,
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. ” Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”