I saw a vision of a heavenly scene. Angels came out of double doors and lined up on each side, making an aisle. A red carpet was rolled out from the doorway. In a moment, an older, worn-out looking, homeless man appeared standing there at the threshold. His knit hat was large, frumpy and hung to the side. His coat was big and sloppy and nothing he wore fit quite right. He was standing at the beginning of the red carpet in the doorway. Near the end of the red carpet I saw two chairs. One was an old, steel folding chair and one was a comfy, leather recliner.
I asked God the meaning of this. The old steel folding chair was the first available, the other nicer one was at the end.The man came down the aisle and sat down on the folding chair. It was good enough to sit on and a rest for his weary bones. It’s what you commonly find in soup kitchens and church basements, something you grab for extra people who show up unannounced. I saw him as he sat in that chair, thankful for the seat, indifferent, but weary and not really comfortable. It was alright. He was used to that.
Seeing the other chair was nicer, I approached the man and said, “No, come here. Sit in this other chair.”
Although I knew he LONGED to sit in a chair like that, in the dream chair, he was too tired to get up. “No,” he said, “It’s alright. I’m really just fine here.” He’d grown used to taking a back seat in life, to getting the least, the left overs. I was inviting him to something better and it was out of his comfort zone.
I spoke to a homeless, disabled veteran last night, who usually lives in a tent. He told me how cold it could be before he needed to come in. He was a man of faith, but a loner with humble spirit. From the knee down, he had only cold, red, inflamed stumps for legs and was trying to warm them after a day outside where it was 5 degrees. I asked him if I could help him with that. “No, that’s alright,” he humbly said. I could tell he was one who could “just get along’ and didn’t want to bother people, but I insisted on figuring out a way to warm him up. I found some hand knit hats that were just the right size for each red stump that were his legs. He was excited at the “innovative” idea and those “wrong size hats” knitted by caring hands were waiting and just the right size. God knows what we need ahead of time!
His life got a tiny bit better and he now expected tomorrow would be different than today, at least somehow. I want him to be ready for the next gift God wants to give him. I asked him if he could read the Bible and he said he couldn’t see it. He was too blind. I offered to read it to him, but also wanted to pray for his healing. He didn’t want to “bother” God or me with his needs, but we still wanted to do it. He is worth more than he thinks he is. God has much more for him as he becomes ready to receive, as he is honored as a valuable human being by those around him.
The Power of Honor
I was out of my comfort zone like that once. I struggled with extravagance, with spending money to honor people.
We have a royal Father in God and a King as a brother in Christ himself. What happens when people get a taste of feeling like royalty? Like they are worth something?
My husband used to be an executive at our local hospital. Every year, there would be a Board Forum, a set of meetings and dinners, in a fancy hotel in Chicago designed to honor the board members who served that year. We attended for years and it was out of my comfort zone at first. I was so bothered that all that money would be spent for such “frivolity”. But as I got to know the people, I came to admire the champions they were in the community. This is part of why they carry on with the heavy load of responsibility that they have!
Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”
I began to search, watch and see what I wasn’t raised to understand…
It was all expense paid weekend to honor those who served and gave their time to be board members, on top of the full time jobs that they had and the many ways they already gave to the community. It was all about honoring them and about catching a mindset of excellence. Our every need was met from the time the valet opened our car door at the entrance. When you stay in a grand hotel with all expenses paid and are treated like a king, you feel special! You want to STAY there, to move in, and certainly want to be invited back next year!… The hospital wanted the board members to know they were appreciated. In moments when they had to get up before their regular jobs to attend a board meaning, they knew they were valuable. Jesus gave his life, everything he was, so show us our value. Did all that attention and free stuff make these people lazy? No! Just the opposite. They could relax without worry for their needs that weekend so they could share ideas for growth and improvement. They were told and understood that they were powerful agents of change in the world. They took the responsibility seriously.
We are all powerful, all agents of change in the world, no matter what position we hold, we should treat those in front of us like kings and invite them to the royal court of heaven the is filled with peace, love, joy and good things.
God would offer something better. He created him to sit in the chair of royalty, as his son. God wants him to feel loved and truly at ease so he can hear and see clearly the plans for his life. When we have a poverty mindset, it’s hard to envision better than what we’re used to. We need to come closer to God, to be empowered by His Holy Spirit to have power to overcome, yet many who we judge or correct don’t yet have that power active in their lives yet. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Our job is to lead the lost to the Father, to connect them with the Teacher himself, the Holy Spirit. Once a powerful relationship is established, God takes over and instructs by guidance of the new heart we receive. Without a new heart and a new mind, no ministry is fruitful. Without empowerment, we have no power to overcome. We can’t sit in two chairs at once, can we.
Let’s invite people to an upgrade in Christ, to the new position he has for us – the new chair. We can’t minister to old wounds forever! It’s painful to hang out in that place of looking back. Jesus’ way was a leave everything and follow me approach.
We die to the old man and we receive new minds and hearts.
We don’t fix up the old stuff and cling to it.
We change chairs.
Jesus called Levi the tax collector, who was a thief and sinner, worthy to eat with. Levi understood the honor. Levi was changed by honor.
I’ve tried to make my own children follow God’s rules so they would fit better into my world, but when I prayed for what to teach them one year God said, “Teach them to connect to my Spirit.” That became my goal of parenting. People don’t need rules when they have an internal compass that responds to God’s voice.
Isaiah 54:3 “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”
His Kindness Leads Us to Repentance…
Homeless shelters are usually filled with the things left over. This season at Project Warm, our weather amnesty shelter, we have a new building. The men are saying how good it feels there, that they have never had such a nice space. While the sleeping room is more like a big basement, we do have new clean flooring, bright light and consistent heat. They men no longer have to go down in the basement to use the bathroom or look at broken out windows with boards on them. It has a lovely room to fellowship in with white walls and clean carpet! The chairs are padded and there is freedom to come and get a snack, like you would if you registered at a fine hotel and they had homemade cookies at the check in. Don’t you love that surprise! … when they say, “Take one! We just made them for you!” They are invited to hear an encouraging word, but have the power to say no if they want to lay in the other room, because God has options for us and grace to cover us. Most choose to listen. We go to those who can’t and check on their needs, like God does for us.
When we begin to see we have value, our view of life changes. Copies of the Purpose Driven Life line our new bookshelf and they are being taken by the guests. As I saw this red carpet vision today, I was convicted of my own poverty mindset, of my lack of mercy. God is far more merciful than we have been with the homeless. We have agreed with their mindset and actually empowered it in so many ways. Have mercy on us O God! We can’t look at people and judge them for their behavior. They don’t know who they are yet!
He wants us to get used to thinking like he does about ourselves. When were toddlers and fell down, he didn’t look at us and say, “You know, that kid’s not going to make it. He’s obviously not gifted in walking. I guess we’ll just feed him until he gets help from someone, God help him.” No! That’s ridiculous! A loving Father says, “Get up! I made you to walk, you just don’t know how to do it yet! Now, you need to walk so that you can run! When you do we can go to park, or hike in the woods. You can’t do that while you’re crawling, so let’s work on this walking thing! I’ll teach you! You will be ABLE to do more than you can do now!”
After a blunder where I slipped into judgement and law with someone, God whispered in my ear, “The kindness of God leads us to repentance,” Ugh. It felt awful – It looked awful on the downturned face of the person who received my untimely “correction”. She had not yet receive the power to overcome and expected more than she could surrender.
Titus 3 “But when the kindness and the love of mankind of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not by works in righteousness that we did, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by that grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Trustworthy is the saying, and I want you to affirm strongly concerning these things, so that those believing God may take care to be devoted to good works. These things are excellent and profitable to men.”
The Generosity of God, Our Good Father
What would happen if the homeless saw a true reflection of the Father’s heart? What does his generosity look like? What if we said, “Come, follow me!” instead of “Here’s some soup, hope you feel better tomorrow.” I am the first to need to repent. I’ve been serving in homeless ministry for 6 years and slipped and fell into the temptation to be frustrated and tired, to give up on God’s vision for people, to get overwhelmed. I’ve fallen into the rut of hardheartedness and cried out to God to break me out of that routine mindset of complacency. It’s powerless! Thank God he freed me to see again!
I had a poverty mindset in ministry, hoping to have enough, trying to be sparse about resources, knowing the guests at our shelter would be thankful for whatever they got. I didn’t get it either. I judged by what I had and could see. “But without faith, it is impossible to please God, because those who come to him must believe that HE IS, and that he is the rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
God has been saying to me frequently, “Do you trust me?” I asked him back, “I don’t know. I thought I did.” As he moved in my heart, I realized that I wasn’t always as loving and generous as the Father would be. How do I love my own children? That’s how he loves His. I lacked faith for endless resources but God has them for us. We have to have faith that what we see in front of us isn’t all there is to be had.
God’s resources are given with an outstretched hand but sometimes we have to have faith to claim it for ourselves and those who need it. God’s checkbook never runs out, does it! He’s generous, lavish and he wants the homeless and the wealthy to know that when you’re a child of God, there are benefits and privileges. When we serve the homeless, or anyone who’s struggling in a rut, it is more motivational to see what is possible, to have vision cast for you and to see a little of heaven somewhere in your life – to be honored for who God made you to be, not for what you look like now. Yes there are those who are a complete MESS, but tomorrow comes and they sober up and think about their life too. They cling to words of hope, like little messages in their pocket, like an old valentine that reminds us that someone cared.
When Jesus died, he humbled himself unto death, but when he rose, he gave us power and authority to overcome. Most in our shelter have never understood that aspect of relationship with God. What is it like to be treated like a son and heir of something worth inheriting? Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency has made me think about something. Did you ever think about how Donald Trump got like he is? What did he hear growing up from his parents? What did his children hear about themselves? They know they have an inheritance to steward and heard that they were qualified to do it. They had a mentor in their father who modeled a way that led to capacity to succeed. They learned they were royalty and even at a young age, they saw themselves as powerful world changers. Our guests have seldom known that feeling. Most of their fathers never treated them like a true son.
One of our volunteers had an especially great relationship with her dad, who recently passed. He loved her in and through addiction, in sickness and in health, and you could see the honor in her heart for him. She gushes about how amazing he was and shared with the guests all about him when he died. Most didn’t have dads like that. She understands in such an amazing way how the Father wants to lavish love on those who he cares about, because she has felt it in her dad. I have a heavenly Father like that. You do too.
Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement
All this has led me to dwell on mercy and where I have let my heart get hardened. “Mercy triumphs over judgement.” I am sorry Lord. I repent of thinking less of people than you do. Honor empowers, but harsh words, judgement and pitiful surroundings leave us feeling worthless. Help us to be love in a way that is closer to your heart of mercy and grace.
Father, you look at men like Jesus did on the cross. He hung there, suffering because of them, because he had to be like us, powerless. We aren’t meant to stay that way. He knew what was ahead, the joy to come. He saw the throne, his comfy chair seated next to his Father where he could battle in prayer for each one to receive what he paid for at the cross. He’s holding out the keys to all of us to freedom. Will we hold them out as he did, in humility?.. in generosity?… in friendship with those who are unworthy according to the law? Will we see our own unworthiness? He makes us clean. Only by his blood have we any right to stand free.
Jesus honored man by laying down his life for those who were unworthy.
He didn’t expect them to be fixed before he did it.
They didn’t have to earn it.
They’d just have to receive it.
Thank you Jesus. You died, rose and gave us your spirit so we could overcome. Now, help us to see like you did on the cross. Show us the vision of who your children are made to be. Help us look past the disguise of what life has done to them and die to ourselves for the treasure in them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.