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Running Into Burning Buildings


I love reading or watching reports of courageous men and women who willingly put themselves at risk to save total strangers. I think we’d all like to believe we would do the same, if we were in the same situation. I’m not sure. We'd all like to be the hero, but few are willing to take the risks, or pay the price.


Christians need to practice running into “burning buildings.”


Here’s what I mean by that. There are people all around each of us whose lives are falling apart. They may not be coming directly to you or me for help out of shame, fear of rejection or they may not even know you. But they are so deep in trouble, financially, relationaly, or spiritually, many have given up hope of a rescue and have settled for mere survival. Christians not only need to be running into those burning buildings, those lives, but looking for them.


Last year, a man approached me in the parking lot of Panera Bread, “My family and I are homeless and staying in a hotel nearby. Our rent is $285 a week. I’m $110 short and I need it by noon tomorrow, or they'll throw us out.” This man’s life was burning down around him.


Not being an official saint yet, there have been times I’ve either replied, “no thanks,” or given men like that $20, more out of guilt than compassion. But just that morning, I’d been reflecting on something I wrote in the 10 Second Rule.


"In the story of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, Jesus makes no distinction between visiting prisoners who are innocent or those truly guilty, between going to the hospital to visit a person injured by a drunk driver and visiting the drunk dying of cirrhosis of the liver.


However, they got broken, lonely, hopeless, poor or jailed, for whatever reason, Jesus seems to move them to the head of the line and then says to us, “Care for them – and maybe I’ll tell you why someday.” And when we do, 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 it for me.” Matthew 25:40"


So, in some mixture of guilt and virtue, I drove the man back to his hotel to verify his story, paid the balance of his bill,then invited he and his “wife” (girlfriend with a child, I think) out to dinner and asked them to share their story with me.


I tried to find him a job, but he never seemed to show much interest. I think they both had a drug problem. So was that all a waste? I don’t think so. The Holy Spirit used that "failure" to trigger my interest in why families are homeless in the first place and for the last year I've been on a mission to try to understand and help homeless families in our city. Funny how the Spirit works sometimes.


Jaded, cautious people observe that we can’t save every person who has a need. True, but we're not asked to rescue everyone. Just one, then maybe one after that. Then again, like my encounter with the homeless family, perhaps God has some larger purpose you can't image today, and this is just a test to see if you're ready for a new assignment.


"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much...." Luke 16:10 What Jesus is saying in this passage, if you are faithful in the little things, you've proven you can be trusted with more.


So, today ask the Holy Spirit for spiritual radar to identify a life in trouble, for whom he wants you to make a rescue attempt. Maybe there's a single person from your office who's been on lock down, and would love to know somebody cares about them personally, and not just about business. Or is there a family in church, who lost their job due to Covid, who is scared to death how they'll pay their rent, or mortgage? Don't assume some else is helping them, unless you know that for sure.


Keep your fireman’s hat handy. There’s a good chance you'll have the opportunity to respond to a three-alarm fire in someone's life, if you have the courage to ask God and are brave enough to run into situations for which you may be totally unprepared.


If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17

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