Hey Friends! Today’s post comes from the heart of my sweet husband! We are partnering with Kayla Shai for the Christmas Comfort Project this year! Donations start today! So get involved! Enjoy the read from my husband, I know it’s a lengthy read, but I also know his heart for writing and I know you’ll enjoy it! For partnership opportunities please click the link in the post below and you can also find her on Facebook as well by typing in Kayla Shai! Start sharing, start hastagging: #2015christmascomfortproject
My Sweet Husband Gared preaching the Word of God!
In between Halloween and Thanksgiving is when major-line supermarkets and department stores begin to usher in the sales and marketing for Christmas products and services. We see the name brand cookie packaging in the supermarket turn from traditional orange and black Halloween themed colors to traditional red and green Christmas themed colors . These colors evoke the thought of sitting around Christmas time with family and enjoying cookies, and because the cookies are so delicious, you only leave out one green and red cookie for Santa and give him the plethora of stale peanut butter or oatmeal cookies. Our favorite coffee shops and products change from the pumpkin spice Halloween specialties to the mint and mocha Christmas specialties causing us to think we are actually able to smell a Christmas tree in our coffee cup with grandma’s potpourris. The decorations for homes and businesses are being purchased, plans are being set in stone, or are coming into fruition, and we can begin to sense the “Christmas spirit.” Personally speaking, during this holiday season I begin to develop a “Phileo” love known in the Greek to describe a more brotherly or friendly love caused by society and marketing to make me feel almost guilt-ridden for not being able to purchase EVERYTHING I want for EVERYBODY I think of. Regardless of how I think or feel regarding the finite, I still have assurance of the hope and comfort from the One who I live and move and have my being in, as I hope you have it too.
Regardless of a socioeconomic station in life. Or a recent loss of all possession like God’s most faithful servant Job, we all can recollect the instances above and have probably been affected by them one way or another. When I reflect on the person who is homeless walking into a supermarket looking to make a purchase that meets their minute budget, such as spam or Vienna sausages, what comes to my mind first is “where is this person’s family?” ” Is this person able to enjoy the aromas of a home full of baked goods and “Christmas” scents such as a real tree and mint coffee during these seasons?” “Does this person have a wish-list?” Then curiosity strikes and I begin to conjure up questions such as “How did this person transition into this station of life?” Not necessarily from a psychological aspect but just a practical day-to-day aspect despite any psychological disorders which may have had an effect, granted there is a significant amount of mentally disabled people without homes, but is it funding; or the lack of, keeping them on the street?” Furthermore, I begin to feel guilt-ridden for not being able to bring these people and families into my home for the holiday seasons so they can feel loved and not be alone. After this feeling begins, my mind becomes filled with even more thoughts such as “who’s going to love this person?” “Does this person have anyone who does love them?”
Now, I know there are some individuals in this world whom I have had the pleasure to speak with and they are simply put, not motivated to reach a new socio-economic level to possess the comfortable house and reliable car or “American Dream.”. They simply enjoy the free-spirit of their journey guided by the direction of the winds . Nonetheless, these “free-spirits” are still people with feelings no matter how much they try to suppress them or those who aren’t homeless try to repress them. These beautiful people are created with a desire for relationship. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of children and families across the US who are homeless and alone on the streets during a season of thanks involving giving, and receiving. These individuals and families, who for a maybe seen or maybe unseen reason were reduced socioeconomically to a homeless station and even alone with no friends or family to call on but God. Jesus, a friend of sinners.
Approximately a year and a half ago I worked at a high volume call center with over 200 employees that hired just about everybody who applied for a sales position. Here were the stipulations to get hired and join the sales team! As long as one could make it to work, sit in their chair at their booth, and read a script for the sales call, they had the job. Furthermore, they would be terminated if they didn’t sell. For this job I am thankful. Very thankful. This thankfulness isn’t just some false piety. The wisdom I gained in sales and for the sales environment as well as the appreciation for work is insurmountable. When I couldn’t find a job anywhere else, this call center put me to work and they paid me well. I found out the high level of satisfaction from a goal-oriented paycheck. One Saturday afternoon I met a young man when our managers were distributing paychecks. I found the young man was so excited about earning a paycheck and I couldn’t help be happy for him as well. In the midst of me making eye contact with him and smiling, Jesus by His Holy Spirit brought to remembrance Matthew 6:33 “but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Matthew 6:33)” With a desire to encourage the young man by the work of The Holy Spirit I quoted this Scripture to possibly be used to set his mind on heavenly thoughts. I remember so vividly he stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me and said something to the effect of “you know bruh, you’re right.” The Spirit of God opened the door for conversation and we began speaking about God and His goodness. He mentioned he had his Bible in his backpack and how he reads it every day. It overwhelmed me with joy to know I had brethren on my sales team. After conversing with him some more he shared with me he was living at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. I gave him a ride home that night and about a week went on of conversation and rides home to the Mission and I eventually invited him to church and we fellowshipped. I began bringing him to the Tuesday nights men’s group I was attending at the time and I began to hear his story. After one Lord’s Day service (Sunday service) I learned that he was adopted and his mother and father were separated or divorced. Him, his mother, and siblings lived in New Jersey and his long lost father lived in Tampa, Fl. As his story unfolded more and more, he shared how his adoptive mother passed away and his siblings split everything in the home and left him with nothing. He continued to share with the group how he made enough money and saved up for a bus ticket to Tampa to try to find where his father was living. When he arrived to Tampa, Fl, he hardly had any money, no family to contact for any support and he visited the only place where he was told his father might have been. When he arrived at the house where he was told his father may have been residing he knocked on the door and a person answered whom my friend never met. My dislocated friend asked the individual something to the effect of where his father is and the tenant had no idea where his father was because his father moved a long time before my friend’s arrival and the new tenant had no relation to his father. Eventually my friend, brother, and coworker made his way to Orlando, Fl about two hours north east of Tampa to begin life all over. He was working fulltime, commuting (without any transportation besides Florida’s public transportation) about 60 miles a day which takes about four hours total on Florida’s public transportation. Ultimately, deep-down, he was emotionally wrecked. His only hope was in Christ, our risen Savior whom he trusted.
I don’t share this story with you to make you think I did something great and pious by sharing God’s Word with this young man or bringing him to church. But the truth is our brother in the faith lost his job, had nowhere but the shelter to go, and lost his cell phone service. And I didn’t help him one bit after these occurrences. Could one infer from these occurrences that my brother is not blessed? God forbid!
The reason I couldn’t help him, I never saw him or even heard back from him. His cell phone didn’t have any service and I cannot find fault with him, sometimes people retract for reasons beyond our comprehension. God calls his preachers, teachers, and evangelists to plant and water so He can give the increase(1 Cor. 3:6-7). God’s sovereign plan was at work and how unsearchable are His ways and so mysterious I cannot fathom. But I do trust that He was working all things, even now, together for the good of my friend’s salvation since he loved Christ and was called according to His holy purpose(Rom. 8:28)
For the sake of provoking proper biblical thought and planting and watering so God can efficaciously give the increase according to His will, I want you to know God is sovereign. Some may have heard that term “sovereign” on many occasions. The objective for me to say God is sovereign is not for it to go “in one ear and out the other.” But the objective is for the term to sink into the core of one’s being with the understanding that God is in complete control and reigns and rules and declares His authority in all of His creation and through all of His creation.
As my pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, one of the most prolific Pastors and theologians of the 20th and 21st century once said “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled (Sproul, R. (1994, September 21). A quote from Chosen By God. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/432531-if-there-is-one-single-molecule-in-this-universe-running).”
Furthermore, teaching fellow Dr. Steven Lawson of Ligonier Ministries once said “When we have a biblical and robust theology it will always give way to a biblical and robust doxology (Lawson, S. 2007, June 1, Ligonier Ministries. Retrieved August 28, 2015).”
One of the most important objectives we can train our minds to do and to continue to do is to see God as he ought to be seen in Scripture. When we see sick and suffering people; whether it be from lack of health or wealth, or any other vicissitudes and factions of life, we especially as Christians tend to say “I wonder what sin he was guilty of?” Or, “I wonder what she did to deserve such a lot (Pastor Burk Parsons of Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Fl, 2015)” One of my Pastors; Reverend Burk Parsons instructed us as his congregation to be cautious of such entrapments of the devil and our flesh. These are some of the most ungodly and judgmental thought processes a Christian could assert in regards to painful circumstances in the lives of others (Pastor Burk Parsons of Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Fl, 2015).
When Joseph was tormented by his brothers day after day, listen to what Joseph said to his brothers after forgiving them for their evil actions towards him. “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Gen. 50:20).” Now, skipping ahead to the New Testament in the book of Hebrews. Chapter 11, also known as the Bible’s Hall of Faith, our faithful author writes in regards to Joseph’s justification by faith alone. Verse 22, “by faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention to the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Heb. 11:22).” You may be saying “okay, I don’t see the point?” Well, let’s continue a few verses later in the same chapter. Looking at verses 39 and40, This is the conclusion to the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” Starting with verse 39 the text reads ” And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,(V.40) since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Heb. 11:39-40).” What this text is stating about God’s people is that though they were pilgrims of faith during the Old Testament era, they still partook in God’s plan of redemption. Listen to what the new testament contributors of R.C. Sproul’s Reformation study Bible have to say more specifically about these Scriptures. They comment “V 39-40, Although some Old Testament promises were fulfilled, their true hope ( the promise of the coming Messiah was yet to come(v.33 and note). This verse summarizes the message of vv.13-16 and applies it to the second half of the chapter. V. 40 asserts both the redemptive-historical difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament periods, and the unity of the people of God in both eras. Though the Old Testament believers lived by faith (10:38). they were not privileged to witness on earth the fulfillment of the great promise of God. Nevertheless, they too participate in the benefits of Christ’s high priestly work, and along with the new covenant saints, they are “made perfect.” Those of the old and new eras together await the perfection that will appear only at the Second Coming (12:26; 13:14; Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:9,10)(Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Commentary from Hebrews 11:39-40.).”
You may be wondering ” I thought this was a project on love, comfort, homelessness and Christmas.” If this is your thought process you’d be correct. In addition to the overall theme of this beautiful project by God through Kayla Shai, is that suffering is in the midst of this crucial season. Suffering is in the midst of homelessness. Suffering is in the midst of love. How else do we know what comfort is like unless we have endured the suffering to be grateful for the comfort? I love the Bible and think about the sufferings the saints of the old testament era endured as well as the suffering the saints of the new testaments endured. Abel being killed by his brother. Abraham’s mental turmoil procuring the sacrifice of the only son he loved and dreamt to have(Gen. ch. 22). Job with his wife cursing God, leprosy, and material and familial loss(Job ch. 1&2). Jeremiah with depression. Daniel in the lion’s den. Stephen being stoned to death. John the Baptist being beheaded. ” Three times (Paul) was beaten with rods. Once (he) was stoned. Three times (Paul) was shipwrecked; a night and a day (Paul) was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from (Paul’s) own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is daily pressure on (him) (for Paul’s) anxiety for all the churches ( Reformation Study Bible, ESV, 1 Cor. 11:25-28-with emphasis added).” “Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-of whom the world was not worthy-wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.(Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Heb. 11:35-38).” And for the sake of redemption planned from eternity past(Acts 4:26-28; 2 Tim. 1:9), sinless as He was (Heb. 4:15); and is, and is to come, the Son of God was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification including these saints who suffered (Rom. 4:25).
These examples are all a wide range of hardships that the devil and his minions meant for evil but God meant for good, just like the Holy Spirit said through Joseph to his brothers. The devil may have meant someone’s loss of home to be for evil, but God means it for good for those who are His. God has a plan and purpose for the sake of His people’s salvation. His decrees from eternity past cannot be trumped (Rom. 8:30, 9:19b). When the Holy Spirit is speaking through the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28 saying ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:28),” God would never lie and say “all things” if it weren’t true. The truth is God may give a person wealth, fame, and power and never allow that person to enjoy it (Ecclesiastes 6:2); whereas, He may also strip another person of their possessions to bring them to humble reliance on Him and His Spirit. Be it as it may, it’s a possibility that person may suffer for a while and reap a multiplication of restored blessing just like Job contingent to God’s design (Jb. ch. 42).
Furthermore, in regards to sleeping without shelter and being homeless, we see the saints of the old era and new era engaged in the same circumstances and sufferings as many regenerate and unregenerate people who are homeless today. We see Adam sleeping in the garden of Eden with nothing but God and nature (Gen. 2:21). We see Jacob sleeping in the wilderness with his head on a stone ( Gen. 28:11). We see the Apostle Paul in a transient station of life; sleeping, while lost at sea, in the wilderness, and in prison, etc… (2 Cor. 11:25-28). We see God’s blessed people with His favor upon them “wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Heb. 11:38b).” The Apostles who actually had the opportunity to meet Jesus in the flesh had to sleep in mountains and gardens during their discipleship (Matt:26:40; Lk. 9:32). And ultimately our meek and mild Savior wasn’t born in a hospital room or comfortable home, He was born in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn(Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Lk. 2:7).” And when Jesus began His ministry He most certainly was not welcome in His hometown(Lk 4:24; Mk 6:4, Matt: 13:57) without a place to call home (Matt. 8:20; Lk. 9:58).
The purpose of this partial exegesis and scriptural layout is to show that “…(I)N THESE THINGS(!) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:37, with emphasis added).” In these things! Not outside of them are we blessed. IN THEM! This is one of my favorite scriptures and totally debunks the grab-it-and-blab-it, name-it-and-claim-it, health, wealth, and prosperity preachers. I’ve read this scripture so many times and so easily glanced over the words “in these things.” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered(Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:36-36).”” “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:38-39).”
No matter the sufferings we go through as Christians, be it homelessness, we have an ultimate hope that is guaranteed through our blessed assurance that God has us in His hand, bestowed with His love, and making sure ALL things work together for our salvation. The Apostle Paul says in the Epistle to the Romans ” …(W)e rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 5:2b-5-with emphasis added). The testimony of Kayla Shai allegorized within her Layla Sue Series ‘Comfort’ is one that testifies to these scriptures of suffering, hope, comfort, and Jesus.
I read a book about a month ago recommended by one of my pastors by Edmund P. Clowney titled “Called To Ministry” in preparation for a robust, pre-seminarian mindset and understanding the service to God and His people. Within author Edmund P. Clowney’s book ‘Called To Ministry’ he articulated differences as well as similarities within Christians in regards to general and specific callings we each have.
Generically speaking, E. Clowney writes “The “Come!” of Christ separates us from the world to his name; the “Go!” of Christ sends us to the world in his name (Clowney, E., 1964, Called to the ministry, Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub.).” E. Clowney goes on to say “The Lordship of Christ over all things means that every calling that serves men’s needs can be Christ’s calling (Clowney, E., 1964, Called to the ministry, Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub.). ” This statement made by Reverend Clowney confirms Kayla Shai’s mercy ministry to our homeless brothers and sisters
Kayla Shai is a woman of God who understands comfort because of the sufferings she’s endured. It’s a comfort she can in one sense feel in her bones. Her heart is for the proclamation of the good news while meeting the needs of her community. For the fulfillment of her ministry she isn’t just going into a book store, or church, or political fundraiser, or open house in an academy, or local business; but she is going into the streets of Atlanta, Ga. One of the most populated cities in the United States with one of the top murder rates in the country with an exponential amount of homelessness where there is not only internal but external cases of visible and spiritual distress. As men and women come together to serve side-by-side with Kayla Shai, we are fulfilling the calling for the mercy ministry of Christ. To be a blessing to someone without a hopeful Christmas season is a blessing in and of itself. For it is better to give than it is to receive!(Acts 20:35). Upon illumination from God’s Word by the Holy Spirit and love and encouragement from Kayla Shai’s book ‘Comfort,’ people might be delivered from a state of homelessness and restored into a life with faith, hope, and love and financial stability. I know Kayla Shai has a heart for the hurt and destitute. She has a heart for those without and is always willing to give a “hand up.” Kayla, just like myself, my wife, and I’m sure many others, desire to see people, whether Christian or not, restored back to financial stability to not be in such dangers like the Apostle Paul without food, water, and shelter.
Praise God for our earthly pilgrimage yet there is still a heavenly citizenship we possess (Eph. 2:6; Rev. 13:8)! And since we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them(Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Eph. 2:10), we are investing in the sake of other’s salvation and restoration who we may not even know, yet by doing so we may also entertain angels and help in the procurement of their spiritual ministry (Gen. 18:1-19:22; Heb. 1:14, 13:2b; 1 Pet. 1:12). I ask that the person who is reading this that is not in a state of homelessness to “lean in” and help one way or another. The rescue missions are always looking to fill slots on Lord’s Day for people to preach to the brethren. You can always donate old clothes. Adult men’s size clothes are always needed as well as men’s shoe sizes 10-12. There are housing ministries you can refer an individual or family to that enjoy giving the homeless a home. Just ask your local Bible preaching, gospel preaching church. There are also ministries and organizations that help with job placement as well as training for people to learn to use computers and fill out resumes and interview better such as ‘Goodwill.’ More specifically, you can help with Kayla Shai’s very own project! The name of this project is: ‘The 2015 Christmas Comfort Project.’ Here is a link to connect you to the story and to the donation site. http://www.kaylashai.com/project1. The launch day for accepting donations starts September 1, 2015. This project is hosted by author, Kayla Shai. The goal is to give 300+ gifts to 300+ friends in a current state of homelessness in Atlanta. These beautifully wrapped gifts will be composed of three items; the first book of the ‘Layla Sue’ series, ‘Comfort’ (written by Kayla Shai), a composition notebook (where they can jot down their personal stories, experiences, or creative writings), and a writing pen. You may ask “How do the donations work?” Well, you can buy spots through PayPal for $10 each. The $10 donation will cover the cost of one book, one composition book, and one writing pen for one friend currently in a state of homelessness. You will be able to change the quantity of spots you want to purchase if you plan on donating more than $10. One of my prayers is that someone who is in a state of homelessness reads this. If you are, my prayer is answered! I hope you are content in all things resting in the hope and comfort of Christ. Your current station of life doesn’t have to last forever. My best advice is to put your best foot forward and take baby steps to getting back on your feet and of course pray without ceasing. My hope and prayer as well is you have found Kayla Shai’s ministry to be a blessing as well as the resources above. I hope these Scriptures bring you comfort amidst your trials and tribulations. You don’t have to give up! You can do all things in Christ who gives you strength! You are not alone!
If you are reading this and are not a Christian. I hope the good news of Jesus Christ gives you comfort and hope in the midst of your suffering no matter your circumstances. I desire to share with you that Christianity is the only religion that we have to admit our wrongdoing to be accepted by Him and His saints into the covenant community to enjoy and glorify Him forever (The Westminster confession of faith and catechisms: As adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: With proof texts. (p.355). (2007). Lawrenceville, Ga.: Christian Education & Publications Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America). God isn’t looking for someone to be good enough to climb a righteous ladder and say “look at what I’ve done. I’ve made it. Now let me into your pearly gates.” Every other religion who asserts there is a god requires such pride. But not Christianity. Our One True Living God is a God who understands our spiritual death by sin because of our federal head Adam. God, rich in His mercy and love and in the fullness of time, condescended to our weaknesses because we could never ever be as good, holy, or righteous as Him and are completely lost and dead in sin without Him. Christ came in the flesh and took the form of a human servant and considered it robbery to be equal to God so He could pay the penalty of the world’s sin by death on a tree. My exhortation for you is that you find a Bible, find a Bible preaching- gospel preaching church, put your trust in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross, and rest in Him.
Clowney, E., 1964, Called to the ministry, Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub.
Clowney, E., 1964, Called to the ministry, Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub.
Lawson, S. 2007, June 1, Ligonier Ministries. Retrieved August 28, 2015
Pastor Burk Parsons of Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Fl, 2015
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Commentary from Hebrews 11:39-40
Reformation Study Bible- ESV, 1 Cor. 11:25-28-with emphasis added
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Eph. 2:10
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Gen. 50:20
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Heb. 11:22
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Heb. 11:39-40
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Heb. 11:38b
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Heb. 11:35-38
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Lk. 2:7
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Matthew 6:33
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 5:2b-5-with emphasis added
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:28
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:36-36
Reformation Study Bible-ESV, Rom. 8:37, with emphasis added
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, Rom. 8:38-39
Reformation Study Bible, ESV, 1 Cor. 11:25-28-with emphasis added
Sproul, R. (1994, September 21). A quote from Chosen By God. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/432531-if-there-is-one-single-molecule-in-this-universe-running
The Westminster confession of faith and catechisms: As adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: With proof texts. (p.355). (2007). Lawrenceville, Ga.: Christian Education & Publications Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America
TO GOD BE THE GLORY, AMEN.