This past week I had the opportunity to speak at the Adult Teen Challenge in Minneapolis, MN., and bring the men and women there a message of Hope!
I have spoken in many places and at many venues over the last 8 years, and this one was definitely a highlight!!
I was invited to speak at their chapel service which was attended by approximately 300 men and women who were either in the short term program or new arrivals. All who were there were there on their own accord, no one is forced to attend Chapel. On top of that, it was 8:00 am!
I was able to speak to a few of the residents before the service started and had the opportunity to hear some of their heartbreaking stories, but also heard some great testimonies. Stories of rival gang members worshipping together in the love of Jesus Christ, stories of rape and abuse, attempted suicides and overdoses, stories of the loss of loved ones through drugs, suicide or murder, and on and on the list goes.
But during this time, nothing but raised hands, weeping, and voices lifted high in worship to the One True King, Jesus Christ. All problems forgotten, and the pain and misery and chaos and depression and confusion of life temporarily replaced with the adoration of the God of love, Grace, and Mercy. My face was awash with tears as I worshipped our Lord next to so any broken people. It was an experience I will never forget and one I wish I could continue to do at least weekly.
I was so emotional after the worship set was over that it took me awhile to compose myself as I got up on the stage. I don’t even remember most of what I shared with them that morning as the Holy Spirit took over and gave me the words He wanted these men and women to hear. I do know I shared about their identity.
Ya see, most of the people caught up in this lifestyle have been living a lie about who they are. They, like myself, have been told by so many for so long how worthless they are that it ends up defining their lives. And after they begin living that lie and trying to find purpose in things like drugs, alcohol, gangs, sex…they receive even more judgment, pointing fingers and devaluation from so many in our society that just continue to get worse. It get’s to the point that they don’t even know who they are anymore and the enemy has full control.
But every human being on this earth was created in the image of God, and my main point to them was just that. That they were valued more than they will ever know. They were so valued that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for them. That each of them was “fearfully and wonderfully made,” each of them was masterpieces, created in the very image of God.
Tears flowed as this was the first time some of these people have even heard anything like that! Then I shared with them how God views them, quoting scriptures like: “(Jesus) came to seek and save the lost,” “Oh Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear,” “He raises up the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap,” “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit,” “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you,” “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you…”
These people we see as outcasts, as worthless, as burdens, as misfits, as drudges of society; God sees in a different way. These are the people He seeks out, these are the people He died for. We want to see them removed, but Jesus thought they were to die for! And these people will make the greatest warriors and positive impacts on our society once He gets hold of them.
I treasure these times I get to worship alongside REAL people rather than the many fake ones who inhabit our worship centers today. And, at the end of the service, after inviting them to be as bold in making a decision for Jesus as they were in the things they sought out to find fake purpose in their old lifestyle, to come up and give it up to Jesus… The stage area was packed. I don’t ever say: “x amount of people came up and gave their lives to the Lord,” because I don’t know that. Only the Lord knows if they really did. But I can say there weren’t many seats open and the stage was packed with people weeping and crying out to Jesus. And even if They didn’t make lasting commitments, at least for the moment, they understood their need and desire for a God that loved them enough to die for them!