Boldly Sharing the Amazing Love of Christ

In addition to our monthly ministry outreach to the homeless at the men and women’s shelters downtown, I occasionally have the privilege of speaking at the Thursday morning devotional time at the Union Gospel Mission Dallas. The audience is a mix of staff, disciples, prospects, and clients. The time is always rewarding and a time of great blessing to me. It is always good to see God at work in and through the lives of the last, least, lost and lonely homeless population here in Dallas. The Union Gospel Mission began as a street ministry in 1949 when a group of Christian businessmen took to the streets of Dallas, telling the poor about God’s love for them. The Mission has continued to grow and prosper in the years since, reaching countless men and women for Christ, transforming thousands upon thousands of lives, and continuously shining the light of the Gospel downtown.

After lifting our voices in song and hearing a number of testimonies about how God is impacting the lives of all those present this morning, we opened God’s Word, examining and exploring the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5.

2 Corinthians 5:1-21 (ESV)

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We are born with a longing, a God-sized hole in our soul that only the Lord himself can satisfy. Paul assures us that the Lord is faithful, and that He has prepared for us an eternal home, free of the burdens of this world. Even though life is difficult, Paul exhorts us not to be dismayed, but to remain steadfast in our courage. Yes, we long to be with God. But until then, He has given us His Spirit to make the journey with us. We are not alone. He has not forgotten us. God has not forsaken us. To the contrary, He supplies us with everything we need to overcome the trials and tribulations we face. Through Jesus Christ, God has already won the victory for us. God gave His son, Jesus Christ, so that we might live in Christ, and Christ alone.

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Because of what God has done, we have a mission and a purpose. We proclaim the Gospel–the Good News—-and demonstrate the love of Christ, through our words and our deeds. Love, after all, is a verb. Love is an action. Often times, the only Good Book people will read is in how they see us live out the grace God has bestowed upon us. We are Christ’s, no doubt. He has bought us with His blood. He controls us. We cannot keep quiet about the grace and mercy he has showered down on us. We have to shout it from the tallest building. We must proclaim it from the highest mountain. The Good News of what Christ has done for us must travel as far as the East is from the West.

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We live for the one who died for us. We are new creations. Behold the old has passed away and the new has come. We are ambassadors for Christ Jesus and the Good News His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection secured. In this generation, you and I may be the only Gospel anyone sees and hears. Shine brightly, speak boldly.

Continue to walk by faith, not by sight.

Amen.

 

Photos courtesy of the fine artists at Pixabay.com

Whatever You Do For the Least of These

Chances are you’ve seen them as you’ve been driving around Dallas. Maybe you’ve been at an intersection, about to get on a nearby freeway, and you spot some cardboard or a backpack and a sleeping bag roll strategically placed under a bridge or perhaps you’ve even spotted signs of a village consisting of tent roofs nestled out of notice, in the blind spots we generally don’t notice while scurrying about the city.

About 6,000 disenfranchised homeless people live on the streets of Dallas. Roughly 10% of these souls are chronically homeless. DSC07603

For over 65 years, Union Gospel Mission Dallas has faithfully ministered to the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of the last, least, lost and lonely in the Dallas area. Since 1949, the UGMD has helped the “tore up, busted and disgusted” (as one of their clients describes it) restore their lives. Every day destitute men and women are encouraged in their Christian faith and taught the necessary life and job skills needed to lead productive lives. Daily, children, of all ages, are given shelter from the hard life found on Dallas streets.

Our daily endeavor at UGM is to get to the heart of the matter with those we serve. First, we introduce our clients to Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.Bill Thompson, UGMD Executive Director

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Operating from three main facilities, UGMD provides shelter, meals, chapel services, showers, on-site clinics, and clothing. At Calvert Place, volunteers and staff serve over 25,000 meals every month.

Discover more at: https://ugmdallas.org/learn/about/our-mission/#sthash.4rSZWnjD.dpuf

Their Discipleship Program, which takes a minimum of a year to complete, combines the basic services UGM provides with Bible study, counseling, life-skill classes, preparation for employment and job training. Upon completing the Discipleship Program, UGMD helps their clients find transitional housing. UGMD provides ongoing access to their trained counselors throughout the entire process from the time the client first enters the shelter to the time they take their first steps out on their own.

 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…to clothe them, and not to turn away…? ISAIAH 58:7 (NIV)

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Beginning in 1963, Trinity Bible Church has ministered to the men of Union Gospel Mission. Every 4th Friday of the month, a group of us from church go down to the Men’s Shelter at Calvert Place and host a chapel service featuring music, speakers, a message from God’s Word, and prayer before the men gather together to share in a meal. The Shelter hosts a nightly chapel service along with each evening meal. It has been a sheer joy for our band of brothers and sisters in Christ to spend time with these precious souls trying to find their way and get their lives back on the right track.

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There are a myriad of various reasons people find themselves homeless, unsure of their next meal, uncertain of finding safe shelter, and exposed to the harshest elements of nature and man. For the greater majority, being homeless wasn’t a conscious decision they chose to make. There are people who lost it all and never got it back when Hurricane Sandy hit. They have kindred spirits in those left devastated and unable to recover after Katrina and Rita. Learn more at: https://ugmdallas.org/learn/about/#sthash.gJr1Ss0e.dpuf

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Sadly, some of the people in our shelter are military veterans. In the catacombs of the different shelters serving these forgotten members of our society, you’ll meet guys who fought in ‘Nam and men and women who served in the First Gulf War as well as those who served in Gulf War #2. For whatever reason, when they came back home, they fell through the cracks, unable to get back to the “norm” of life.

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Some of the men I’ve come to know through our church’s 4th Friday outreach served time for almost every crime you can imagine and because of their criminal past find themselves cast out from society. Other men I’ve met, like me, battle addiction. The veil that separates us from them is thinner then we like to believe it is. But the truth is that a great majority of us live paycheck to paycheck and are only one impending disaster away from finding ourselves on the outskirts of society.

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Each time our group goes down to minister to these men, we strive to bring a message of hope and redemption. We offer encouragement to these men by letting them know they are loved and that they are valued. We sing with them. We share God’s Word with them. We pray with them, asking God to heal their hearts, their hurts and free them from their habits. At the end of our time together, they gather and share a meal cooked by the Mission’s staff and other volunteers.

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“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ” James 1:2-4 (ESV)

All of us that go there to minister to the people there feel immeasurably blessed and extremely challenged by our experience. It is incredibly rewarding to see the spirit and joy these men have in the midst of finding themselves in the most dire of circumstances. They choose to live life victoriously, in spite of their situation. It’s challenging for a multitude of reasons–for example, no military veteran who served our nation should have to live this way…there is just something extremely wrong with that picture. It’s challenging to see people who are hurting, regardless of what brought them there. Maybe it was something out of their control–like an unexpected disaster. Maybe it was something that got control of them–like addiction. At the end of the day, we do our best to encourage them to continue, as the Apostle Paul did, pressing on.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Herews 12:1 (ESV)

Life deals us unexpected hands. It’s not a matter of if, but when. When it does, you can’t quit. You have to keep moving forward.

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