I went outside my comfort zone.
I went way outside my comfort zone and there.
I saw Jesus.
“Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care?
Don’t you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come.
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done.”
It was a Keith Green song that brought me back from a cop-out.
A few days before the Conference, I’d decided I wasn’t going to go.
There was a half a dozen reasons, none of them good.
Not one of my favorite places. Nothing personal, mind you.
Cities just aren’t.
Cement. Skyscrapers. Noise. Traffic. People everywhere.
But that was the point.
The point of the Conference.
The point of the Conference was that there would be people everywhere so as to provide hands-on training in sharing the love of Christ everywhere I went.
The point of the Conference was to provide an opportunity for me to develop a deeper understanding of my God-given identity and receive tools to help empower me to reach the lost who would be right outside the walls of the conference building, every time I stepped outside.
The point of the Conference was to ground me in God’s true purpose for my life which is to walk in love and impact people everywhere I go, for their good and His glory.
Beginning with people right there on the sidewalks and restaurants and shops and malls of downtown Portland.
But I have this terrible, lifelong case of spiritual stage fright.
I like to stand in corners. In shadows. Behind trees. And behind others braver, more gifted than I.
I hear the stories of God-followers and their incredible exploits for the Kingdom…but when I contemplate stepping out of the hazy, cool, comfortable shadows into brilliant, white-hot sunlight, my spiritual knees just go all weak.
Whispers of doubt and fear buzz my head like summer gnats; “They can. But who are you? You got nothing to offer. You’d make a fool of yourself – and Jesus while you’re at it! Safer to stay hidden. Better to let others.”
“Oh, bless me, Lord!
Bless me, Lord!”
You know, it’s all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear.
But, He cries,
And He cares for your needs.
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in.
Oh, can’t you see such sin?!
’cause He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away,
As you smile and say,
“God bless you!
Be at peace!”
And all heaven just weeps,
’cause Jesus came to your door,
You left Him out on the streets.”
And when I’d finally wrestled down my conscience silent, agreeing with the gutless whisperings that I was not one who could ever do this type of Conference, God broke my self-inflicted choke-hold with this Keith Green’s old, soul-convicting song.
And blinking my spiritual eyes like I’d just emerged abruptly from the swallowing black hollows of a too-dark cave, I had to ask myself how could I be so numb? How come I didn’t ache? Why wasn’t I hurting for those who lived everyday unaware of a God who had paid the high price to ransom them back from darkness?
I confess. My life is comfortable. I kinda like it that way. And it’s just too darn easy laying back and enjoying Pleasant Valley.
And it’s just too darn easy to believe that there’s others who are more ‘gifted’, more ‘called’ than me to this sort of thing.
You know…evangelists, missionaries, people who’ve been saved out of a life of drugs or prostitution, or crime, and have a heart and a passion for this kind of ministry.
But oh! I’ve prayed for God to grant me a heart for the lost. A heart that wants others to know how much He loves them; how much He cares for and values them…
And now, when He starts stirring things up in me?
Well, I just want to run.
All Jonah like.
“Open up! open up!
And give yourself away.
You see the need,
You hear the cries,
So how can you delay?!
God is calling,
And you are the one.
But like Jonah, you run.
He told you to speak,
But you keep holding it in.”
And with just a few days before the Conference, God showed me I was modern day Jonah in my own right.
Running from what I was called to do.
Running from the Rescue Plan.
Running because I wanted more to relax in Happy Valley than force my feet to walk the formidable streets of downtown Portland and learn the way of the Master.
Yeah, He told me to speak. And pray. And show His love. And shine His light. And give of my time and finances and attention.
And my self-centered heart just wanted to sleep.
“Oh, can’t you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark,
That the church just can’t fight,
’cause it’s asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave,
You can’t even get out of bed!”
He hit me hard and my heart stung raw as I listened to the message in that old song. And my resistance melted. My resolve, fueled again with Holy Spirit fire, came back to life.
And like a smelly, worn-out coat, I cast off my lame excuses and bright and early on a Thursday morning, I got out of bed.
Because faith is spelled R.I.S.K.
Because I’ve been invited to play a role in Jesus’ Kingdom come!
Because theology is amazing and doctrine is important but what am I if I’m not out shining His light and being His love and sharing the Good News of the Gospel that takes sinful orphans and makes them righteous sons and daughters of the most high God?
Because I’m called to be a Kingdom-builder and not simply a Kingdom-protector.
Because people are sinking down and Jesus cares.
And so, I went.
And after each session of rich teaching and passionate exhorting to go be Christ’s hands, Christ’s voice, Christ’s love to the people on the streets of downtown Portland, we all left the safe and comfortable confines of the conference building to navigate the sea of souls beyond.
And what I saw there left me forever changed.
I saw Jesus.
Everywhere I went.
I saw the Savior.
And He looked an awful lot like love.
He looked like people stopping people to lay hands on broken and diseased, and praying with faith – in His Name – for healing.
He looked like people giving away money, socks, blankets, food – even airplane tickets home to long lost but not forgotten family!
He looked like kind words spoken and encouraging smiles given and generous tips left at restaurants and coffee shops.
He looked like worship songs sung spontaneously on street corners and dances danced in places where cars were rushing, simply because the Spirit was filling and overflowing with uncontainable joy.
He looked like the Gospel message being shared earnestly in crowded parks and down at the local river bank where repentance fell like holy fire and conversions led to impromptu baptisms then and there.
He looked like broken bones mending, and skin rashes clearing, and migraines fleeing, and hips healing.
He looked like the homeless being hugged and loved on and brought in, dogs in tow, right into the conference building itself so they could be warm and smiled at and loved on some more and hear the good, good news of this Jesus, this Savior who took on flesh and died in their place so they could know the Father and live with Him forever.
He looked like the woman in front of me.
The first day mostly wheelchair bound, hardly being able to lift her head, her feeble hands barely raised during worship to praise the God she loved. Only to be up dancing, smiling, walking, talking of her healing on the last day of that conference.
Yeah. I saw Jesus all over the sidewalks of Portland that weekend.
And in just about every restaurant we went in to.
And all over Lloyd’s Center. Right there in that mall. Jesus in plain, astonishing sight.
Because there were many of us Christ-followers following in His footsteps. And we were all wanting to re-present Jesus to that city. We were all wanting to be what He intended us to be.
And with the joy of seeing what I saw, part of me also wept that the Church isn’t this way all the time – everywhere.
Because beyond any doubt, this world would be a whole different place if we were.
And I speak to myself most of all.
Because this was one of the hardest weekends of my life. And I have so, so much to grow into. And my growing is too slow. And the way, in spite of all I saw, is still upstream.
That experience showed me another way. A better way. Something to strive for. To pray for. To surrender myself for.
And to not stop looking for opportunities to re-present Him everywhere I go.
Because the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk or excuses. It’s a matter of POWER.
Because I don’t simply want to admire Christ – I want to be like Him!
Because I’m called to continue Jesus’ loving and supernatural ministry here on this earth.
Yeah. I’m called to re-present Jesus to this world.
His hands. His feet. His prayers. His comfort. His love. His healings.
And as I connect to His righteousness in me, His Kingdom will become my everyday experience.
Can you imagine that?
An everyday experience?!
Because everywhere He went, Jesus brought hope.
Everywhere He went, He took the time to look people in the eye. To see their need. To see their soul. To offer His time and His love and His tenderness. And the Good News of His salvation!
“Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
Every day, occupy the street you find yourself on. The train you’re riding to work in.
The line at the grocery store. The library you’re checking out books for your kids at.
The mall you’re shopping in. The club where you’re exercising.
Occupy it in His power, in His authority, by His grace, showing the world that God loves them and sees them and longs to set them free and make them His very own. For all eternity.
I read somewhere that it’s said that Jesus’ real ministry was the person He found standing in front of Him.
Who’s standing in front of you?