Restoring Hearts Ministries

Joy in the Lord

May
29

In the news this morning for Trenton, “…police received a call regarding a female screaming for help around 11:11p.m… they found a woman who appears to have suffered from multiple stab wounds.”  They found her dead. The police have no leads, no description of the attacker.

This happened just a few blocks from where we do ministry.  The article though brief and without much detail left me hurting, naturally, for the woman who had died. I just can’t conceive of a death like that, can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine calling for help because you are dying in that manner.  Calling for help only to have none arrive, to be found dead, no help arriving in time. Horrible, it’s evil what happens in this place at times.

Earlier in the week in the “Homicide Watch” a member of our ministry found an article that caught her attention because we knew the offenders mentioned.  The article mentioned two teens, both of which we met, one of which our ministry knew and was actively trying to reach, they were arrested for Human Trafficking and a number of other serious charges involving a 12 year old girl.  Crushing.

We had known of the character of one of these teens, but hadn’t imagined it was as dark as this. His violent tendencies were known to us, but I also saw him struggling to be better. He always said hello to me, always treated me with respect, even when I was pressing down on him about his lifestyle, but I could never seem to reach him deeply enough to break through.

With my mind on all this, before heading out to study with the folks at the train station this morning, before any ministry in fact, prayer is a must; to cleanse my heart before the Lord, to place the day, my walk and the results of the days effort into the hands of the Lord, to ask the Lord to work before, through and in me and this morning after seeing that article and considering the prior week I was feeling a bit down so prayer for me was even more important.

Certainly the cloudiness of the morning and rain sets a mood, but considering the darkness we have seen this past week, I was feeling a bit low this morning during my prayers and time with the Lord.

Prayers completed, I set out, and often before studies with our folks living on the streets, I sometimes get into the city early to survey the area, to see who is out on the streets.  I ride in, cruising past a few spots listening to worship, praying or listening to last Sunday’s message.  I check out the normal spots for our gang and hope to see them well.  This morning because of the rain, I didn’t see many folks on the street.

At this one spot I saw a homeless elderly man, sitting in the rain, under a sign with a cup of coffee next to him in a paper cup.  Ugh, my heart broke a bit, because I couldn’t stop to talk with him because the schedule meant I needed to be at the train station study in just a few minutes, but hoped to stop back there later in the day….I went back afterwards and he was gone 🙁

That sight always kicks me in the gut and heart, it’s cold and damp and no man of that age should be alone and on the street, in the rain, that man should have a home. I thought, “Father, this world hurts so much sometimes.”

I drove to the train station to park and by the short term parking meters was a man named, Lorenzo. Likely in his early to mid thirties. I walked up and he said, “Sir if you are parking here for just under 2 hours this is the correct lot to be in. Please step up and enter your lot space and select the correct time and then just slide your card in for payment”… I giggled to myself because Lorenzo is homeless and not a parking attendant, but clearly he was looking for some kindness and a bit of financial support.

I introduced myself and asked what Lorenzo was looking for today in the way of help and he requested money for a train ticket, round trip, on the light rail to Camden and back.  We as a practice in ministry do not give out cash, so I offered to buy him a ticket, realizing that this ticket could be used for a few things and sold, but hoping it would buy him a few hours in the station in warmth without harassment from the Transit cops. (With a ticket they can remain inside the station for two hours without being asked to leave) … also realizing the ticket could be sold for cash to others and that could roll into some things that wouldn’t be helpful, but my hope was that this would give me a chance to pray with Lorenzo.

We tell people all the time in ministry, people don’t care what you know, until they know you care, so if a $1.60 showed I cared and bought me a moment of prayer with Lorenzo, it’s an investment worth making.  I bought the ticket, and we prayed together and then I headed into the station for study.

Though the streets were fairly empty, the station was packed with friends trying to stay dry and warm.

As I walked back into the train station to study with our friends, I invited a few folks to join us and some did, some did not.  As I walked into the area where we study, some folks were waiting for us, others were just walking up and pulling tables together and chairs together, we ordered food for everyone – pork roll egg and cheese (the king of NJ breakfast sandwiches), and a mixture of other sandwiches, folks got coffee and we sat to study 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

Study at the station always comes with lots of interruptions, and questions, some on topic, many not, but regardless it is a good time of fellowship and study.  It takes focus, sometimes extreme focus.

I’m embarrassed and sad to say, I was having issues reading the Bible aloud, my heart still struggling with the start of the day, the mood in the city, the dark feel of the station… so I handed the reading off so I could refocus to teach.

Graciously, the Lord responded and the study was effective and that was good.  Sometimes effective is all that is needed and the power of the Word itself delivered as written is more then enough to break chains and encourage hearts.  The study went well as it normally does, but even with prayer and a proper devotional time, sometimes the weight of what is happening around us is heavy and heartbreaking and simply giving the Word is all we can manage and the results are left to the Lord.  Honestly my heart wanted to cry, but that might have shaken a few of the folks we minister too, including those I minister with.

Ministry isn’t always about joy, in fact recently it’s been pretty tough.  Not a struggle, just tough.

Left to me this ministry would be a mess, but how blessed are we that we have a Lord that manages every result to His good end?  How blessed are we to have a Lord that takes an open heart and works through it? How blessed are we that someone showed up to hear the Word of God? How blessed am I that some showed up to help minister? How blessed are we that hearts were lifted up to the Lord?  How blessed are we that our “readiness” doesn’t impact the Lord’s goodness and love and His effectiveness?

So blessed.

People have a lot of perceptions about ministry and those that work in ministry. I suppose some expect those involved in ministry to be happy often, without a care in the world and often this is true but sometimes having Joy in the Lord doesn’t always mean being happy or at peace, sometimes it means being heartbroken for the City you love and the hearts within it and in that moment knowing beyond knowing that you don’t walk alone.  That although your heart is sad and breaking, God is there.

Today is such a day.  Pray for our capital city, and the homeless hearts within it.  They walk in a tough place, in unsafe conditions.

So, even though it is memorial day, if you can remember it, along with your prayers for our nation, would you please also lift up the homeless today and this capital city of Trenton?

 

 

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What is love?

May
25

Love … likely the most important pursuit for all people and of all time. I recently had an opportunity to teach at Calvary Chapel of Mercer County about something that we see so often in ministry – people’s misunderstanding about what is and what isn’t love.  Thankfully, GOD has given us His definition of Love in these passages here;

1 Corinthians 13 – English Standard Version (ESV)

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 In the following sermon, I discuss God’s definition of love and what is and isn’t love.
I hope you are touched by this.

In Christ,

Erik

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Homeless abuse

Apr
11

We’ve been hearing from our homeless friends about the Trenton Transit Station and about how certain Transit Police are badgering the homeless over the past few days. This happens from time to time and every once and a while it reaches a crescendo, a high point and then suddenly people are getting maced and arrested. We are at this point again now.

The ministry we are involved in spends multiple hours with the homeless in Trenton every week. We sit with them, talk with them, study with them, connect with them, we take day trips with them; we do all we can to connect and value them. The goal of the ministry is share the love of Christ with them, to give hope and love. We know that Christ can rebuild any life, save any soul and ultimately those that grab hold of the relationship that Jesus offers will be better off. We do supply practical needs, we respond in emergencies with supplies and hotel stays and we care for as many as we can. We attempt to help them through the broken social services system and help them find jobs and housing. We even attempt to help them restore family relationships. We do our best to keep them safe, fed, protected and loved. The cost is immense financially and emotionally for our ministry and team.

All of these folks have emotional baggage, most much deeper then you and I. There are some with serious mental illness. The fact that there are seriously mental ill people on the street is heartbreaking, but in your mind, set these folks aside for a moment for this conversation. I’m not referring to this section of people on the street right now. For the sake of helping you understand the division I am trying to create, let’s call the remaining group of homeless, high functioning homeless.

This group can manage on the street and deal with the basics of being homeless. It’s important to understand, homelessness is just a state of being, it doesn’t describe the person. Once you establish trust, you’ll find most homeless folks to be caring and compassionate, humble and deeply hurt. Once you establish trust you see their desperate desire to be valued and loved. Please, it’s important to understand, that establishing trust takes training and months if not years of consistent caring contact.

Homelessness for most is a gradual decline, it doesn’t suddenly jump upon someone. For some it does, but in the majority it is a slow walk to reach this place. Regardless of the journey to this spot, the result is a hurt person, that feels betrayed, devalued, unloved, unprotected and alone that is truly helpless. They are always on guard against danger and abuse, from other homeless folks, from passer-byes, the police, even from ministries. They can strike out as a first reaction, in what seems to be an unbalanced and over the top reaction to the simplest thing. It is a scary thing to see and experience.

As an individual, Even as a 6’4” 300lb plus man, I find it scary at times. There have been rare occasions when even I wondered how far this reaction would go, wondering if I was in danger. Trust me, this is real and I mean this, but training as taught us as a ministry how to de-escalate these incidents.

But commonly there is a dysfunction in the way these folks handle relationships. When you consider the journey, the condition on the streets and months and months or years of abuse received on the streets, the constant barrage of betrayal and abuse provided there from so many sources, you see quickly how a verbally over the top or violent reaction to a perceived threat to a homeless heart is, to them, the best form of self protection.

They have no where to run, no house to go to, no place to retreat too. An emotional or physical response that communicates “Get away from me!”, is the best defense. If you’re heart is not breaking now, you might need to re-read this post again to this point.

Now, we’ve attempted to paint the emotional and spiritual picture for you. Now consider the physical… Add now no good sleep, no soft bed, no regular showers, no consistent health care. Get the picture now?

They are defenseless, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Now, We try and respect law enforcement. We see the challenge of the job, but when we hear of and see badgering of homeless individuals, about the constant rousting of them from places that are essentially public, We get upset.

We understand law enforcement and the need for it, the need for public safety in public places and I understand trying to handle unruly people and situations. But We don’t understand waking a sleeping man or woman to have them “move along”. We don’t understand following a homeless person, once they’ve gotten up to move, by command, and badgering them while they move out. We don’t understand, detaining people in hand cuffs you see everyday, in the same location and harassing them. We don’t understand denying people access to city and county homeless outreaches inside the train station, when you know these outreaches are for the homeless and the person you are preventing from accessing the outreach is homeless. We don’t understand police officers that yell at and degrade people in handcuffs. We don’t understand giving tickets for simple, in many cases, provoked reactions to the homeless, that we know they cannot pay, and will eventually for most become warrants. We don’t understand why no police official, no DA, judge, no political representative sees the issues here.

If they do, We don’t see the reaction or a plan to fix this.

We know the plan that the Transit Center police have to “help” the homeless – arrest them. That plan was shared with me, directly from the mouth of a Transit Police Officer who is directly involved with the homeless and partners with the City of Trenton and some other organizations, like VOA. We are sure destroying any future chances to gain employment or contributing to the emotional distress of that individual or creating further mistrust, or driving an individual further and further away from normal society is a help to the homeless… are you kidding?

Can you see the scenario here? 1) the plan is to arrest them. 2) the homeless are helpless, with no where to retreat too, carrying deep emotional scars and a over the top reaction is sometimes their only defense 3) the police are at times all over these people, like this week.

Can you see it? It’s a system built to abuse the homeless. And please understand, we know these folks well, we see the unbalanced understanding around acceptable behavior and what is normal, but honestly, most have no idea or what normal looks like for a homeless person and what they have to carry around each day. The police should.

We pray and We continue to pray for help, for solutions, for favor in this ministry around this problem. We have contacted the divisional HQ for the Transit Police, I’ve contacted our City contacts and We are waiting.

We run Bible studies at that location, 2 sometimes 3 a week each feeding and ministering up to 25 people a study. We spend about 6-10 hours at that building at week, either inside or outside and frankly we are am just waiting for the day when they kick us out at well.

God himself warns of our treatment of the poor, explains to us how He holds them dear in His heart.

We have put this before God, I have laid this at His feet, but admittedly my heart is still not at rest. Certainly not because We don’t trust God, We certainly do, but because it’s another day, and another day of the guys having to worry about being safe or left at rest. So We wait for wisdom and direction from God. We can see when ministry includes advocacy and advocacy goes to protest. Admittedly, We are a bit distressed by the reports from our friends and the responses of the officials We have been talking to over the past few days and those that haven’t returned our calls.

While we wait, We just think more people need to hear these things, need to see and feel the conditions on the street, the policies and practices and real life for the poorest of the poor in our area.

Would you please lift this up to God with us? Lift up the men and women on the streets as well as the police and please lift this ministry up for provision, wisdom and guidance, while we attempt to be useful in this place.

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God’s work in progress

Apr
11

This morning we had a meeting with a ministry partner after Bible study at the transit center. Though they are not a ministry and do not serve the Lord as directly as we do, they are aligned with us in trying to positively impact the homeless issue in our area for a specific subgroup in the homeless community.
Restoring Hearts Ministries cares for believers and those that do not believe at that site. We care for those that are seeking the Lord through the Word of God and those that are seeking a free meal and we provide both freely regardless of whether they believe or not.
At these studies, we seek to introduce others to Christ by displaying His heart and teaching His Word. Many come and sit and eat and some listen, some don’t. Some allow the Word to impact them, some just eat and rest with us in the safe place that the Lord has provided.
Now it’s only by the Grace of God, for those 2 hours we are on site, that this space is safe from judgement and safe from harassment, a safe place where they can be fed spiritually and physically.
That alone is an amazing thing, the fact that space now exists as a safe place, even if it is for a small amount of time, the fact that people are hearing the Word of God consistently there, the fact that we have the provisions to feed anyone at all is amazing to me, The fact that the transit police are starting to work around us without issue is amazing, but most of all we are blessed to see hearts changing there. They come back, time and time again and slowly and surely the Lord is changing hearts.
We know this to be true. God is working and we heard confirmation of that fact during this partner meeting.
We invited this particular partner to come and sit with us this morning to meet and talk with two of the men that we are ministering to, in order to help us find housing for them. The meeting went well, even though both men showed no optimism in regard to the meeting, we ourselves were optimistic as connecting the dots to get help can be very challenging. We know there are viable programs for these two men that will lead to some help, even if housing them isn’t the end result, the connection itself will bring many helpful tools to battle their homelessness.
Our hopes are high, and our prayers will follow, but of the two men, this organization knew one well. They had interfaced with him before and they have attempted to assist him in the past, but to date he has proven to be resistant to help, even difficult to work with. This man from this organization had personally experienced that before and this data was also in the records that this organization had for him. He was in their database as a difficult client who has refused housing before. And I believe that assessment WAS true; he was resistant to help and a user, he was difficult to work with and he was refusing housing…
But not now… He’s been attending church, he’s been reading the Bible, he’s been coming to study, allowing our ministry to pray for him, engage him in friendship and the Lord is changing him.
This man, from this partner organization said to us, “That was great! That was the most I’ve ever been able to talk with him. I can see he is changing.” … we already knew that 🙂
Our God cares! We know it, and now this man, from this organization knows it also.
See, unlike the many helpful programs out there, our “program” has no requirements to meet, no ID is needed to work with us, no particular background is required. We take the sinner or saint, the believer or non believer, the criminal, the user, whatever… all we ask is that you can be respectful of others, be truthful with us, have a heart to listen and are open to love.
Oh yes, we have a “program”, it’s Name is higher then any other, it’s requirement simple, it starts in the heart, works in the heart and overflows into the world to end hopelessness, it expresses love, mercy, compassion and grace… Our program is Jesus, our manual is the Bible and the results are undeniable.
Results that look miraculous to others, are a significant work of love by our “program” leader. Changes occur without notice in His clientele, He calls them His children and He is actually the Father of all.
At this programs end you receive no paperwork, no referrals, just peace, contentment, love and forgiveness and freedom on earth as well as the right to be called a child of God, Oh yes and a room in His house in the best place for all eternity. 🙂
We praise you Jesus for this ministry, this vehicle of your love, thank you Lord for the work you are doing in the hearts of these homeless souls Lord.
Days like today are the reasons we serve, to see others see you and your work in hearts that so many thought were lost, too difficult to work with, those that others thought had no desire for help, yet you Lord turn them without forms or IDs, ignoring the past, you save over and over again.
It’s days like this we are reminded of the reason for this ministry, we see the mission exposed so clearly, we more correctly understand phrases like “standing in the gap”, like “carrying our brothers burdens”, like “do not neglect to do good”, like “rightly handling the Word of truth.”, it’s humbling to see you work Lord.
Jesus you reach into the ruins of the world and save the low and the hurt. You are God, you are Love and we are thankful for you Jesus! Thank you for allowing us to see you work today and everyday.
Praise you Lord! All Glory and Honor to you, Jesus! Amen!

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Making an investment…

Oct
16

This week I am working to clear out a house that’s contents have been donated to Restoring Hearts Ministries. The owner passed away after a long struggle with a resilient illness and the family out of the kindness of their heart and a deep love for their lost loved one, wants the contents to go to people in need.  They have taken the keepsakes from the home, had a yard sale and now the remaining contents are being donated to ministries to bless others in need.

There are rooms of furniture in the house, some beds and appliances, end tables and assorted knick-knacks.

As I have been working in the house alone a few things have struck me that I want to share with you;

First, you cannot escape the reality of the emotion in this house.

It’s true, I knew the person that die. I ministered to him at his bedside at the hospital, but you cannot avoid the emotion in this house.   There is a feeling of heaviness and of sadness.   You cannot avoid the facts here; you can feel the sadness.  It’s not my sadness; it’s someone else’s sadness.

This brings me quickly to the fact that we live in a world that is not merely what we see physically, but what we know to be true, there is a spiritual realm that is governed and has rules and is as real as what we touch and see every day.

I’m thankful for that reminder, because as these emotions linger here and I am driven to think of the man who once resided here. I believe he accepted the Lord into his life before he passed on and I am thankful for that.  This is a decision each of us have to make, we each decide what path to take into the eternal realm.

We know Christians that we will all die. Ten out of ten of us will die but, we who have acknowledged the eternal, the truth and power of God the Father, the saving Grace of Jesus Christ, the loving guidance of the Holy Spirit; we know we will stand with Jesus in Heaven, eternally. Sadly, not everyone we know will take this same path.   Some out of pure defiance will chose to take a path that leads to destruction, to eternally live out of the sight of God and thus feel the pain associated with that stance.

Most religions believe in Hell or something like it and believe in the punishment associated with it, as do we. The Lake of Fire, the Abyss, the Pit, Sheol all reference Hell and the burning and undying thirst which I believe is the constant craving of our soul seeking the divine light of our Father and Creator.

Sadly there is another group that we reach out to, the ones that do not know God. They have never been introduced.  They have never heard the truth.  They stand as risk and it is our job to stand in the gap for them and give them the loving truth — to make the introduction to the loving Triune God, our Father, Our Savior and the loving Helper the Holy Spirit.

We have the gift of salvation, but this brings me to the other problem in this house.

As I walk around and inventory the items within it, that are going out for donation, I am stunned by how much personal property is here that obviously meant something to this man. He was an avid fan of a rock band.  There are boxes of cassettes and vinyl records, autographed pictures, posters and long with these things collected other things that he took great care to organize and display and now after been routed through, they are on the floor, dusty and crumbled, cracked now rubbish, trash on the floor.

I’m thrown thinking of the time he must have spent and the time it must have taken to amass this quantity of “investments”, things that undoubtedly had great value to him while he was here but have ZERO value in the eternal.

That’s the word we use right? INVESTEMENTS – It’s the word used to justify a needless purchase; to place value on something that interests us, but these things have no value wherever he is now.

It took me just a few minutes to sweep it all up and how many years to gather it?

These investments we make in life take us away from the two most important commandments;

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.e 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark Chapter 12, Verses 29 thru 31 (NIV)

I wonder if we could appropriately understood the difference between life on earth and life in the eternal, would make the same investments?  I bet not.  I hope not.

See, life here would be invisible as number if we measured it against the eternal number. That’s how big eternity is. Yet the things we invest in here are the things that set our path in the eternal.  We have a very short period of time, truly, to make the most important decision of our lives.   Will we live eternally with God or eternally in thirst and pain?

Amazingly it is a SINGLE choice that sets this course and yet we distract ourselves with things, these investments that confuse from the truest path.

Can we afford to make these types of investments?

I hope when the time comes, when someone is rooting through the stuff I’ve collected, after I have passed on, all they find in the majority are things that set me on a firm course for the eternal with my Father and when these things get passed on to others, they can assist them as well.

But before that happens, let me urge you to think about your investments.

Your Eternal 401k

Let me suggest a new investment strategy — >> Mark 12:29-31.

What might be the best way to live out these commandments? I say let’s make investments that lead others to our Lord, that secure our and their eternal 401k.  Let’s do love one another, by ensuring they know the Truth, our Father, our Savior and The Spirit.   Let’s invite people to Church constantly.   Let’s love without expectation of payment.  Let’s help the poor stand up and find dignity.  Let’s love the lame without fear in our hearts.  Let’s not worry about what others think, but only what God thinks and let’s worship and pray always and without end.

I think this is a good entry strategy, do you?

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New changes coming to the website…

Oct
10

Well folks,

Recently we lost our website content, so we are a bit light on displaying the work we are doing in the area.   We are working hard to regenerate the site… Please check back soon and see all the wonderful work that the Lord is allowing us to partake in.   Praise you Abba, we love you Jesus!

From Erik and the rest of the RHM staff

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