Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Is Your "Gutter?"

So...  I've been reading another GREAT book.  The books I'm reading seem to have a theme, they all seem to be about stepping out of our comfort zone and ministering to those whom Jesus called "the least of these."  I haven't done that too well in my life, and God is really doing a number on my heart.

I just finished another great book called, "Under the Overpass," by Mike Yankoski.  I highly recommend it.  It's about 2 college guys who give up their cushy life for 5 months and live as homeless men in 5 different cities across America.  Once again it really challenged and convicted me because you can't read the book and not see how the church is clearly not being the church that God intended.  Sure, in pockets it's happening, but as the collective body of Christ, we are just falling so short.

And let me say this, before I go any further, I am not writing to make anyone feel guilty.  Guilt is a weapon of the enemy, he burdens us with guilt and a sense of overwhelm and freezes us from ever taking action.  God has not been making me feel guilty with all of the things He's showing me, He's been convicting my heart.  I feel sad yet determined to allow Him to transform me...  That's what conviction is all about, it's about a journey that leads to transformation, it's not an overnight, magical change.

So, that leads me to the book I'm reading now...  It's called The Gutter, by Craig Gross.  Criag Gross is the founder of, the ministry aimed at helping Christians break addictions to pornography.  But it's been sad to me to read how "the church" shunned him in the beginning because he and his friend were going to porn conventions in Las Vegas.  Not to see pornography, but to be where pornography was being marketed and sold...  It was the gutter that Christ called him to minister in...

Here's what he wrote about a porn producer that he met, "Jimmy D. is searching.  Like everyone else in the gutter, he's there because he's lost, and whether he knows it or not, he's searching for something and someone to help him get out of the gutter...  We have to get a little dirty in order to help the Jimmy D.s of the world out."

In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."  Now I'm not in anyway suggesting that we go to "the gutter" to make people our projects, as Mr. Gross says, they are not another notch in our "Christian belts."  But I am suggesting that we go to our gutter, however God defines that for us, and we love the people that Jesus loved and died for...  People just like you and me...  You know, we were all rescued from one gutter or another.

Well, I just love God's timing... I've been reading the minor prophets in my quiet time and this morning I was to Jonah, and I read it with a whole new set of eyes.

Jonah was a man who was afraid to go the gutter, to Ninevah...  I wonder, was he more afraid or was he more self-righteous and didn't think he should get his hands dirty among such a pagan and idolatrous people (who in reality weren't that much different than the Israelites, or the rest of us for that matter!)...

So he runs from the Lord's presence and he ends up on a ship in the midst of a GREAT storm.  His fellow shipmates end up hurling him into the sea, right into the middle of the storm and he gets swallowed by a big fish.

That got me thinking...  How many times has God been leading me to reach out to what I would consider 'the gutter' and I've been too afraid of the storm that might be the fallout?  And let me just say, maybe you find the word 'gutter' offensive...  But for so many of us, that's the attitude of our hearts when we first think about some of the places God might want us to go...  So, it's not a statement about the places we go, it's more of a statement about how we think about those places...

A few years ago, probably 6-7, my husband and I went somewhere else in the south for our anniversary.  I was shocked at how many homeless people there were, we saw them everywhere, and do you know, we didn't do one thing for one homeless person?  How SAD is that?!

I was afraid...   I didn't have a clue what to do...  I avoided their eyes...  and if I'm really honest, I was judgmental.  I remember thinking, "If we gave them anything, they'd probably just use it for alcohol."  Maybe they would have, but who am I to be the judge?  My responsibility is to obey God, it's their responsibility how they steward God's blessings.

But here's the thing, I left that city and I have NEVER forgotten them.  Their eyes haunt me... their huddled forms laying in door ways after dark, one with a sign in front of him that said, "God hates me," never seem to be too far from my thoughts.  And what did I do to show him any differently, that God doesn't really hate him?  Not ONE thing!!  Not one darn thing!!

I don't know if Jonah was afraid or just so full of disdain and self-righteousness that he ran from God.  But whatever storm he was afraid of that he might encounter if he obeyed God, he ended up in one far worse, one that almost cost him his life.

And it really made me think...  I would much rather end up in a storm that comes up as a result of obedience to God than one that came up as a result of running from God's presence.  I am much more afraid of a storm that is the result of disobedience!

So where in your life are you wrestling with obedience?  Is God calling you to get in the gutter but you're afraid of what might happen?  Maybe he's calling you to Africa, or Haiti, or India, or the inner city of your hometown, or your neighborhood school, but we're all called to find 'the gutter' in our lives and be Jesus there.

Yes, like Paul on so many of his missionary journeys, we may encounter lots of storms, but we can rest that God is with us!  And more importantly, when we stand before His throne someday, we can be assured that we will hear the words, "Well done good and faithful servant." 

It's time to ask God where my gutter is and then go get my hands dirty...  How about you?

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I found your blog through a friend. What you have written is SO true...beautifully put. There have been times when I have followed the Lord's whisper to "the gutter" but many more times when I have shied away in fear. I think He also asks us to go because He wants to meet us there, to show us His power, His compassion and more than anything His face. How often do I sit back comfortably instead of going to that "edge" where the lord leads? Thank you for challenging me today!