Being a Family Solves So Many Dilemmas
Just to describe the different kinds of cultures—when someone said, “What about poverty? What about distance? What about this? What about that? What about brothers that work third shift and through the night?” If you’re having home church meetings and you have saints that work strange hours, they can’t attend the meetings. But if you’re having a Family, they’ll still see you. We have brothers who worked third shift. We have all sorts of different situations. If people lose their job, others care for them and help them find a job. Their needs are taken care of while they’re looking for a job.
In other countries that we are engaged with, there’s a lot of poverty and they still find ways to live closer together, so that all men can see how they love each other. It’s because of those great needs that men can see that these needs are being met. They are attracted to the Jesus that solves people’s problems and meets their needs.
Our first stop on this trip was in a federal penitentiary in California. The whole place is a fourth-level, high security prison, which means almost everyone in there is a murderer or serial killer or something really serious. They are in prison “for life,” pretty much. There are a bunch of brothers in there now that are no less Christians and no less strong and wise and loving than any Christians we know anywhere in the world or even when we look at ourselves in the mirror. These are quality brothers that have the wisdom of God and the Spirit of Jesus. They stand for righteousness.
They live their lives in a federal penitentiary. They are told exactly what time to be in their cells. They are told where they can go and what they can do. They’re cut off from each other a lot because they’re behind bars. The people in one building are allowed out on the grounds at a different time than the people in another building, and there are Christians in both. So when do they see each other? They find ways to see each other. We’ve been there with these believers several times. They said that word has been spreading “all over the yard” about us visiting them in the prison (there are about 6 buildings that share a yard). It’s just shattered people’s perspectives because they’re seeing the Life of God raised up in convicts and felons and murderers who are totally changed and who love each other in a way that’s just not normally possible.
There are people in the prison shooting up with heroin and stabbing each other. Then there are these believers who are shining like stars in the universe in a federal penitentiary, where their culture makes it so hard to be with each other. Yet they still find ways to be with each other, enough that the guards and the people in all the buildings know about them and want to know what’s going on. We’ve known them for a few years now and it’s just been spectacular, as they’ve given input into our lives as well as the other way around.
In Africa and Brazil, which have ghettoes like no other, there are twenty million people and most of them are living in tin cans. It’s just a cesspool of street people and homeless children. In any environment you want to name, even in a federal prison, we’ve seen God work out all of these same principles, as long as the people were committed enough to be with each other so that “…all men will know you are my disciples.” It can be done. It’s going to take some time to begin to work out the details, and there’s no automatic way.
What are you going to say to someone in a federal penitentiary about meeting together all the time? The guards tell them when they’re allowed to see each other. They don’t get to decide. Even so, when the seed of God’s Word is planted and you’re committed to that, regardless of any personal cost, then God brings about ways to do it as long as we’re not making excuses and trying to find ways OUT of His Word. If we want to embrace His Word, He will show us how to manifest that in the different environments that we live in.
You’re right; it will look different than Brazil, than Peru, than Indianapolis, than a prison, than Africa, than Johannesburg. It will look different everywhere, but the principles are the same. The principles of what is most important to us and what price we are willing to pay to get there are the same. If we get that part right, God will show us how to work it out.
The Scriptures are full of examples, and history also tells us that, even with the best of vision, if we compromise things in our own hearts, if we let the circumstances talk us into lowering the vision or compromising Truth, then we pay a high price. Sometimes the circumstances stay difficult and a little confusing on purpose, because God wants to see if we’ll hold close to what He said and if we’ll trust Him even when it’s difficult.
The call to all of us is to not let the circumstances or the situations as they look to us, cause us to compromise the vision. We can’t let circumstances lessen our willingness to obey or to somehow say, “Well, that works somewhere else, but that doesn’t work for us because of this circumstance.” We all have circumstances; God makes sure we have circumstances because He wants to see if we care. He wants to see if this is important to us. So as with Israel, He leaves the giants in the land. He could have abolished all the giants, but He leaves some there on purpose, to give us the opportunity to grow and to find Him and to fight for it. He wants to see us fight for His principles.