Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heaven in the Real World

"To feel the embrace of grace and cross the line where real life begins
And know in your heart you've found the missing part..."

This song from Steven Curtis Chapman's 1994 album begins with a collage of news flashes about gang activities and drug busts... evidence of the lack of hope in our world and our need for Jesus. I listen to this song and reflect on the headlines that I've seen in the past days and weeks 17 years later - headlines about crises in Haiti, Egypt, Lybia, and now Japan... countries torn apart politically, economically, and geographically. Pictures show armed men on camels, tear-stained faces amid the rubble, and wide-eyed children with tattered shirts and no shoes. Desperation and hopelessness are rampant world-wide, and there truly is "a cry for freedom across the street and across the miles."

One of the first times I came face-to-face with the harshness of this cry was in 1999, when my church youth group went to Philadelphia for a week-long mission camp. We were there during the week of the Fourth of July, and assumed it would be a cool place to celebrate our country and our freedom. My team went out that first day to our project site - Malcom X Park - and I realized that, for all the freedoms we claim, so many people in our country are still in deep bondage. Prostitutes hung out on the street corners in the middle of the day, and drug dealers loitered at the park fence. Kids played barefoot among the broken bottles and needles in the park, and told us how their daddies and brothers and uncles had been shot in drive-bys and gang fights. Somehow spending our week telling these kids about the six days of creation didn't seem to fit or meet their needs. So we bandaged toes, acted as bodyguards, listened, hugged, and tried to love them like Jesus would.

My 16-year-old heart was overwhelmed. I simultaneously felt completely useless there, and felt a fierce need to defend and protect the little ones who were growing up in this kind of world. My safe and sheltered concept of showing up, sharing a Bible story, and leading a weekend revival was shattered and I started to realize how crucial it is to make Jesus personal, tangible, and relavent to people who are hurting and feeling hopeless. My ideas of evangelism began to shift from a neatly packaged "Romans Road" to a real story about a real relationship with a real Saviour. People don't need a three-step fire insurace... they need a Friend who really loves them and Healer who knows their hearts.

He is the hope, the peace, that makes my life complete. God, help me to be faithful in sharing this hope and peace wherever I go and whatever I do.

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