Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

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Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America is a book about two young men named Mike and Sam who decide to live on the streets of America for more than five months. They decide to do this because they want to know if their faith is as real as they say it is; if they can be the Christians they claim to be, the Christians that Jesus calls us to be. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV). They wanted to completely rely on God for the provision of their next meal or their next place to stay.

On their journey, Mike and Sam experienced many things and got to meet amazing people that changed their lives forever. This post will focus more on the churches Sam and Mike visited and what their response was to a couple of homeless men in their congregation. It will also focus on what we as Christians are called to do when it comes to the issue of homelessness.

The book opens up to an all out brawl of homeless men in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. There were many flying fists and a lot of blood. This was just one thing that Sam and Mike had to worry about while on the streets. Not to mention hunger, infection, injury, and sickness.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:40-45 NIV). Many of these things describe homeless people. Things like hunger, thirst, needing of clothes, and taking care of those who are sick (not just physical sickness but spiritual as well). Jesus makes it pretty clear how we should treat those without food or drink or clothes; he tells us to love and care for them.

Sam and Mike were in Arizona and were journaling near a church when they saw men and women carrying dishes of food into the church. They wondered if they were having a Saturday service which happened to include food. While pondering this, a man walked up to them and told them they couldn’t be there and that they needed to leave. They didn’t understand why so they stayed and journaled for a few more minutes. Then the same man walked back up to them and yelled at them to leave. So they did, and went and got breakfast at a nearby restaurant. How could this man do this? He could obviously see that they were homeless and most likely hungry. And yet he yelled at Mike and Sam. How can we as Christians be taken seriously by non-believers if we don’t practice what we preach? Well God had a plan for this man who refused to do what Jesus commands us to do. The next day, Sunday, Sam and Mike went to the man’s church. They got many stares and no one sat within three pews of them. After the service as Mike and Sam were about to leave, they were approached by the man who had yelled at them the previous day. He walked up to them, gave them a big hug and begged for their forgiveness for what he had done the previous day. After Mike and Sam left, God humbled this man. He even went searching for them in his car to bring them back. Sam and Mike forgave him and all was good.

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV)

One of my favorite quotes in the book is this, “If we are the body of Christ—and Christ came not for the healthy but the sick—we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken. And it has to be more than just a financial presence. That helps, of course. But too often money is insulation—it conveniently keeps us from ever having to come face-to-face with a man or woman whose life is in tatters.” And essentially I think this is true. We are willing to help someone unless it brings us out of our comfort zone. I think that this is the crux of the matter.

This reminds me of a popular Bible story. The one where Jesus heals the man with leprosy. Leprosy is a very serious and very contagious skin disease. In Jesus’ times people with leprosy were outcasts and considered “unclean”. This man probably hadn’t had any physical human contact in who knows how long. The fact that Jesus was willing to touch this man shows how loving Jesus was, is, and forever will be. Not only was the man healed, he was also forgiven and was shown love. It is that very love we need to reflect to others.

Thankfully, not all the churches Sam and Mike visited were like the one I described earlier. On one occasion, Sam and Mike were at a church and after service the congregation was invited to a pot luck. Having mainly only eaten 99 cent hamburgers from McDonald’s most of the journey, the young men seized the opportunity that was provided by God. An elderly woman saw them and was genuinely filled with joy to see them at the potluck, despite the way they looked and smelled. Sam and Mike recall not seeing her sit down and eat herself. She was kept busy by making sure that everyone else was being taken care of. It is this sort of servant attitude that we need to adopt. Matthew 20:26-28 says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV). This woman took these verses into her heart and applied them to her daily life.

I feel like I could go on forever about this subject. But for now I will end with a very strong recommendation to read this book and a few more Bible verses.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17 NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

In God’s grip,
Alex

Water into Wine

The first miracle Jesus ever performed was turning water into wine at a wedding banquet. John 2:3-10 records this miracle. “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Nearby stood six stone jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew…”

What I got from these few amazing verses, was not only did Jesus perform an amazing miracle to spare the embarrassment of the host, he was also making an allusion to the creation of the universe. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning– the sixth day.” How many jars of water were there? John 2:6, “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.”

In this miracle, Jesus was representing that with the power of God, anything is possible. To make wine taste good, you have to age it. John 2:10 says, “‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.'” The water Jesus turned into wine was the best and therefore, logically to the host had been aged longer than the rest of the wine. But as you and I know, it is quite the opposite. The turning of the water into wine represents that because God is outside of time, something that would have naturally taken a long time to make, takes no time at all, i.g. creation.

Isn’t it amazing to see how powerful God is? He not only tells us the story of creation in Genesis but also in the miracle of turning water into wine. God is good! Amen?

In God’s grip,

Alex

God Loves You More!

I was listening to K-Love Radio last Sunday and a song came on that completely blew me away. The song is called More by Matthew West. It is a song that I have come to love because it shows how much God loves us.

The song is sung from the perspective of God. The first verse goes like this: “Take a look at the mountains. Stretching a mile high. Take a look at the ocean. Far as your eye can see. And think of Me Take a look at the desert. Do you feel like a grain of sand? I am with you wherever. Where you go is where I am. And I’m always thinking of you. Take a look around you I’m spelling it out one by one.” God wants us to see that even though we seem so small in comparison to all He’s created, He wants us to know that no matter what He is thinking of us and is with us wherever we go. This reminds me of a verse in Isaiah. Isaiah 40:22 says, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers…” To get an idea of how small we are in the universe, I have a video for you guys.  How crazy is it that despite how seemingly small we are compared to all around us, God loves us more than all of it!

The chorus is my favorite part in the song. “I love you more than the sun and the stars that I taught how to shine. You are mine and you’ll shine for me too, I love you! Yesterday, and today, and tomorrow I’ll say it again and again. I love you more!” I love this because despite all the beautiful things God has made, things like the sun and the stars and just creation in general, He loves us more than all of that! Despite what we look like inside and out God called us “very good” (Genesis 1:31). How great is it that despite how ugly our hearts are, God still loves us?

“Just a face in the city. Just a tear on a crowded street. But you are one in a million, and you belong to me. And I want you to know that I’m not letting go. Even when you come undone.” This verse is talking about how even though we feel like we just a face in a crowd to God, He calls us a one in a million. That even though we are hopeless wretches, God won’t ever let us go. After this, the song goes to sing the chorus a few more times.

The next time you feel inadequate or small, just think of how much God loves you, no matter what you do, or what you’ve done, or what you will do, God will always love you. He loved you so much that He sent His one and only Son carry the weight of all sin on the cross. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, your sins and imperfections are all washed away and we are made perfect in the eyes of God. All you have to do is accept Jesus’ sacrifice and believe that he rose from the grave.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” -John 3:16-17

“We love because he first loved us (emphasis added)” -1 John 4:19

In God’s grip,

Alex