This past Sunday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and headed to the local homeless shelter with a group of guys from my church. As part of an effort to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission, we are starting a Bible study at the shelter.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, – Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about going. With encouragement from my wife though, I got in the car and drove down the street to the shelter (which is about 5 minutes from my house). Now, the rest of the guys had decided to meet at church (about 20 minutes away), so I had decided to meet them at the shelter. Longest 10 minutes I have waited in quite awhile. Sitting in the shelter parking lot, I looked in my rear-view mirror to see rough looking guys sitting out back smoking. I felt so out of place. Soon though, the guys from church arrived, we prayed, and went into the shelter to get settled. Now I have to say that I truly wasn’t comfortable until we had all sat down and started the study. From the moment we opened with prayer, I was reminded that God is the great equalizer. No matter what stage of life we are in, economic circumstances, etc. we are equal in the eyes of God. I was so humbled by this thought. To think that God doesn’t care about how much money we have or how we are dressed…but looks at the heart.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV)
So picture a large room, 30 guys from the shelter in attendance with 8 guys from my church there to minister. It was wild! We quickly got into Matthew 1. For those that have never read Matthew 1, the chapter starts out with genealogy of Christ.
1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. – Matthew 1:1-17 (NIV)
As one who studied history in college, I know that there is significance in tracing Christ’s roots back to Abraham. I will also admit though that I usually skip the genealogy due to how boring it is to read through a list of names. One of the guys in our group, Clint, pointed out some of the different names in the list. He noted that Christ’s genealogy was not perfect, in fact, it was filled with people who had messed up in life. What was cool though, what Clint pointed out, was that God was able to use these individuals despite their flaws. In the setting of the shelter, I was struck by the fact that God uses people like the guys we were there to minister to. The people that society doesn’t care about. God is able to restore and use a man who is down on his luck.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
We continued our discussion with talking about the shock that Joseph must have been in. Can you imagine being in his place? To have a fiance that claims she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? Notice though that Joseph was faithful to God and did as he was commanded. Even if it might not have made much sense to him…
Overall, stepping out of my comfort zone wasn’t a very big deal. I found the guys at the shelter to be super smart (some talking about things that would be on a graduate level in seminary) and very nice.
Earlier, as I was driving to the shelter, I prayed that God would use me, that He would fill me up and help me to minister to the guys at the shelter. What is funny, is that the guys at the shelter ministered to me! I praise God for being the One who overcomes social boundaries. May His will be done.
*Awhile back I wrote a tad more on this, you can find it here.