Days like last Wednesday I just want to sit home and listen to B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and the boys. It was flat out nasty. Thirty-seven degrees and raining is my least favorite weather because cold and wet are deadly. It would even be better for the temperature to be below 32 because at least then, the precipitation would freeze and it would be possible to stay dry. The coldest I have ever been was goose hunting up in the panhandle. It was just above freezing and I got wet. We essentially lay in shallow graves all day covered by wet peanut stubble waiting for geese to fly over. I did not have the right gear and in all of my adventures including time in subzero temperatures, I have never been so cold.
I am sitting here in a heated office drying out my boots and pants after the morning breakfast run and my heart keeps going out to my friends who are still exposed to the elements because they have nowhere else to go. The despair we saw on so many faces Wednesday morning was palpable. I asked one friend J. how he gets through the night when it’s so miserable and he said, “you just have to ball up in the blankets and pretend the world isn’t around you.” J. knows the Lord, but the suffering still wears on him.
One of the first guys we saw that day was newly homeless and told us he had just buried his 18-year-old daughter on Tuesday. As he stood shivering and crying, lamenting the loss of his daughter and everything else in his life, we did our best to offer comfort and condolences but it didn’t feel like enough. There are moments when the Holy Spirit takes away all distraction and makes clear that the only appropriate words are His Gospel. This was one of those moments. Nothing I could do or say would comfort him physically or emotionally, but I had hope to share that transcends even the worst of circumstances.
The first chapter of 1 Peter has been a deep well for me this year. We spent over 4 months going through it verse by verse at The Austin Stone during our time in Community Corps. When we got home to Midland I felt the Spirit lead me to share it with my friends at Church Under the Bridge when I somehow ended up preaching at the last minute one Saturday morning. It is hard to imagine what it must feel like to lose so much and on top of that be without a home out in the cold and rain. I often wonder if the hope I have in Christ would be such a comfort to me if I were freezing, suffering, and alone, but then I look to His word which promises in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. I believe it with all my heart. No matter what happens, I have hope. I have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for me. Jonathan Edwards said, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” Praise God for that! Since we didn’t do anything to earn it, we are not able to do anything to lose it! We are guarded—kept by our Father.
On Wednesday afternoon, we met back up with the man we found mourning in the street. Our aim was to find out how we can help him. Though we do not know the whole story of his life, we were able to deduce that there is tremendous brokenness. I have to be honest, I don’t know for sure if everything he told us is true. My fairly well trained discernment senses were tingling. Over the years I have been taken for a ride more than a time or two. Early in my service to the homeless there were occasions that I was convinced that people were in desperate need, only to find out later that they were being dishonest and taking advantage of me. I could have just quit there and written everyone off as swindlers, but Jesus didn’t do that and neither should we. In fact, Jesus pursued the con artists and the worst of sinners. If we only love those that are easy to love, what benefit is that to us (see Luke 6:32-36)? His blood is sufficient to make even the chief sinners righteous before a Holy God, and I am sure thankful for that on a personal level. We are the recipients and bearers of that glorious news and so was Zacchaeus.
If you believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is, aren’t you glad that He loved you while you were a sinner so much that He died for you? (Romans 5:8) In light of the word of God, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that we should absolutely give ourselves away, even if it means that sometimes we get totally fleeced. So give that couple of bucks to the man on the corner if the Spirit leads you. Be vulnerable enough to see opportunities to share the good news of the Gospel. You will get wounded along the way, but you will experience the richness of following Christ. May your imperishable, undefiled, and unfading hope shine light into the darkness of our world.
· A longtime homeless friend has not been seen for nearly a month. Pray that he is ok and no longer on the streets.
· There is a group of homeless friends that are young and we have seen evidence of heavy drug use. Please pray for them.
· Pray that our four friends from Midland that attended the Symposium for Goodness Sake at Community First Village in Austin will come back full of fire and drive to help us make the vision a reality.
· Upcoming doctor visits for our niece.