I will never forget our first trip to New York City when Paul and I were in the valley of decision as to whether we were going to move our whole lives here (including our three children under the age of five) to plant a church. When we landed on the runway at JFK I was expecting to feel some semblance of “home” but if I am totally honest, I didn’t at first.
New York is one of the world’s greatest cities, yet from the moment we landed my heart was burdened for the people here. I felt overwhelmed by the scale of the need that surrounded me. I saw loneliness in so many peoples’ eyes. I saw a sea of people… many of them searching, looking, desiring to find what they were looking for. You only have to ride on the Subway for 20 seconds to see it. It’s a city of contrasts and extremes.
On one of the first few nights in the city in our hotel room, I was in one of those “valley” moments where I was questioning God…
What are we thinking? Why would we move our kids to a city that never sleeps? I might never have the so-called “dream home”, living in an apartment with no back yard! What if we fail? God speak to me, give me a sign! This makes no sense!!!
And He spoke in a rebuke (like only a Dad can…) Isn’t the great commission enough for you? There are lost and hurting people here, they are your call.
I love it when God speaks like this. It leaves absolutely no room for grey. Direction is clear and so is future discomfort.
The next day we woke up to find ourselves outside the 9/11 Memorial. It is in a beautiful church called St. Paul’s Chapel that is literally in the backyard of where the Twin Towers used to stand and where Freedom Tower is now being built. What took my breath away about this church at first glance was the fact that it didn’t come down during the Revolutionary War, and it did fall down during the Civil War, and it also didn’t collapse when the Twin Towers fell in its backyard and brought many other buildings down with it. And I heard, in an almost audible voice from God…
And I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) Do you see what I want to do in this city? I want to build what is lasting… What is eternal. This city needs the Church because no matter what, the gates of hell won’t bring it down, try as it may.
Tears began to roll down my face… I was moved beyond measure. One thing I know though is that being moved is one thing… but it’s being moved to action that actually brings change.
We walked inside, looked at pictures, read quotes from those that volunteered during the aftermath of 9/11 and those that were helped and changed by the local church that brought people together, served them and loved them and took care of their practical needs in a devastating time. Everyone inside was weeping silently with complete reverence. And then God spoke in a resounding voice that brought me to silent sobs deep from the depths of my soul.
These people are your people…
I cry now even as I write these words. I was broken, changed, moved, and my heart was set. I don’t care how hard this gets, these people are my people and I am called to serve and love them all the days of my life. So to that end I will pour myself out for this city and the people that call New York home.
Whatever burdens you, wherever there is need, wherever there is pain, wherever there are people… lost… searching…desiring community… that is the call. Comfort is not. Our home, our final destination is in eternity, and our “homing beacon” is constantly drawing us in that direction.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)
We want that “home” here and now, so as Christians it is up to us to bring the eternal to earth and to those around us. The Church is the closest to “home” we can get on this earth, so to that end, all the days of my life I will desire and try to bring heaven to earth to all those that cross my path.
Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven. (Genesis 28:17 The Message)
How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28:17 NIV)
He purchased the Church with His Blood
That says it all…