James 1:27

27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

One thing that God taught me at the Iris Ministries Harvest School in Mozambique, and that He has taught me over and over since then, is the importance of stopping for the one.  So what exactly is stopping for the one?  I believe it is appreciating the value of every human life — that God is passionately and madly in love with each person that He has created. Even when it makes you uncomfortable, or it’s inconvenient, or it doesn’t fit in your schedule…

I remember back when I was in grade school, my mom used to take night classes at Murray State University.  She came home one Wednesday night with an awful but hilarious story.  She and another lady were driving to school together and ran out of gas right within sight of an exit ramp.  She called the state police from her cell phone and asked if someone could bring her a gallon of gas.  They said “Sure, no problem, we have a post right at the top of the exit! Someone will be there in a few minutes.”  Of course, it was an over an hour before anyone showed up.  But while they were patiently waiting, a man pulled over and asked them what was going on and if he could be of any help.  She explained that they had ran out of gas and that she thought the police had forgotten about coming to help them.  She asked if he could help her get a gallon of gas from a gas station off the exit in front of them.  You know what his reply was?  “No ma’am, I’m sorry, I don’t have time.  I’m on my way to church to teach Bible study and I can’t be late. But good luck and God bless!” He promptly got back in his car and took off.  He must have missed James 2:15-16 in his studies — “15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

A few months ago, me and some friends were making a midnight run to Walmart after a night of prayer and worship.  When we were driving off, we noticed a guy walking across the parking lot with a huge duffel bag.  We decided to stop and check on him and you can probably predict how the conversation went.

“Hey man, you need a lift anywhere?”
“Where are you going?”
Where are you headed?

Long story short, we found out that he had mostly walked that day to Tennessee from his former home in Alabama.  His wife, daughter, and step-daughter had died in a car accident seven months ago and he had just finished paying off the funeral that day.  He didn’t get along with his in-laws and having no family of his own left in Alabama, he just took off walking, hoping to get back to Chicago where his family lived.  As we were helping him to a hotel room, I noticed he was walking in terrible pain.  I offered to carry his duffel bag and he said, “Thanks, but I broke my back 10 years ago and this is just a part of my life now.”  And then something in me clicked.  “I can help him with THAT!”  I started giving him testimonies about all the backs that I had seen God miraculously heal through prayer, as did my friend.  He looked at us with tears in his eyes and said, “So are you going to pray for me or what?”  God healed and straightened his back right there, relieving him of all the pain and giving him better mobility.  We also ministered to his heart and he rededicated his life to Jesus.  Being out of prescription pain pills for his back, he hadn’t slept well  in months, but when we went to pick him up the next day he told us he slept like a baby until 11:00 that morning, and he felt better than he had felt in years!  It was amazing to see how quickly God rescued him — physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  He had set out at 5:00 the morning before and less than 24 hours later, God had rescued him off the street, healed his back, started the healing process in his heart, given him a place to rest, and provided him with a bus ticket home to Chicago.

I wonder how many divine encounters we miss because we simply turn our heads and drive or walk on by.

I remember one time last summer I was walking from the Dondo base to the vegetable market to pick up some food.  I was in a hurry for some reason.  Seems like I had people coming over for dinner and I had run out of potatoes and needed to go buy more.  I was literally power walking down the dirt road as fast as I could and saw a crippled kid in a wheelchair and another little boy pushing him.  He ran up to me and stuck his hand out and started saying “fome, fome” which means “hungry, hungry” in English.  I told him “I’m sorry” in Portuguese and kept on walking.  Needless to say I got about 10 steps away and I stopped dead in my tracks.  Major conviction set in and it was if God was saying, “For real?  Why did you even come here?  Why DID you fly all the way to Mozambique this summer?”  I turned around and went back to the kids and explained the best I could in Portuguese for them to stay there because I was walking to the market and would buy them some food and be right back.  Needless to say they were very happy, and more times than not when I walked to the market, I would see them on the way.  I made sure to stop and pray for them and bring them bread, vegetables, etc.  I could pretty much count on buying a little extra food and running into them every trip.  I say that not to make myself look good, but to prove a point:  Really, what did it cost me?  My time.  I bet you the whole summer it never cost me more than $5 in American dollars to feed them abundantly.  And it would have been a sin to pass those little kids by.  The kid in the wheelchair did not ask to be born with deformities.  He and his brother did not ask to be orphans begging on the streets.  And who am I to walk on by when God has blessed me with two legs to walk and money in my pocket to buy food?  Seriously?!

But it must flow out of intimacy with Jesus, or it’s for nothing.

Jesus said it best in Mark 14:7 – “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, had criticized a lady for “wasting” expensive ointment on anointing Jesus’ head and feet when it could have been sold and the money spent to feed the poor.  (Of course, as it says in John’s account of the story, Judas was just being a selfish thief.)

The lady had brought almost a year’s worth of wages and literally poured it out at Jesus’ feet in worship to Him, and Jesus rebuked those who scolded her for it.

God has called us to be His hands and feet to the physically poor and spiritually poor.  He has called us to give the best of our lives to Him in both intimacy and in action.  However, if we’re so busy with our families, our jobs, our ministries… that we don’t see the people in need right in front of us, we are going to miss out on a tremendous blessing, and in reality, so may they.  I wonder what would have happened to the man in the Walmart parking lot if we hadn’t stopped that night.  Would God have convicted someone else to stop and help him?  Maybe.  Would they have been obedient?  Maybe.  And then again, maybe not… We do have free will after all.  Freedom to choose God’s perfect plans and timing, and freedom to turn our head and drive on by.  You may be in that same place of need some day.  What kind of harvest are you sowing?

Romans 12:1 – “1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship..