Chicago is…let me see,…that way

Several years ago, in the mid 90’s, I was privileged to go to El Salvador to speak. That opportunity took me to the Houston airport where I had a 3 hour layover. Internet and smartphones were not quite as advanced then as they are now, so I bought a copy of the Houston Chronicle to read.

I decided to save the sports section for reading on the airplane, so I separated it from the rest of the paper, laid it on the seat and sat down on it. I then proceeded to read the rest of the paper.

As I finished a section of the paper, I would lay it on the chair next to me. At some point, a gentleman came and sat in the next chair. He picked up my discarded paper and read it. When he had finished, he noticed the sports section peeking out from under my leg. He leaned over and said, “Excuse me sir,” then pointing at the section I was sitting on he asked, “Are you reading that?”

Now you’ve gotta know me. When presented with this kind of opportunity, I often speak before I think. Actually, I was in full think mode. I asked myself, “Now, how shall I answer that?”  I decided that since I didn’t know this guy I was going to go full bore sarcastic and hope he had a sense of humor. I stood up, turned the paper over, sat back down on it and said, “You can have it as soon as I finish this last article.”

Thankfully, we had good laugh and he said, “That really was a dumb question wasn’t it?” Obviously, he knew I wasn’t reading the paper, but even though he knew the truth he chose to overlook it.

Our enemy has only one battleground and just three weapons to use against us. The battlefield is the mind and the weapons are lust of the eye, lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Essentially, he uses our mind and thoughts against us. He presents an idea as truth, we process that thought and either accept it or reject it.

If we reject the thought we win but if we accept the thought we give access and in giving access, we give legal authority for satan to set up camp and begin the construction of a stronghold. With steady repetition the lie is reinforced until brick by brick, thought-by-thought, an inescapable prison is built.

How is this even possible? How can a life be so under the control of such power? Why do people fall for the lies? Well, the answer is simpler than you might think. One of two scenarios applies when we are confronted with a lie. We either 1) don’t know the truth or 2) we choose to ignore the truth.

Yo no hablo español

I was studying in my office at the church not long ago when the doorbell rang. When I answered the door, standing there was two poorly dressed young men. It took me about two seconds to realize they new very little English. Somehow, with what English they knew and what little Spanish I knew, and with a lot of animation, I learned they were from Guatemala and had arrived in our town by hopping a train from Houston, Texas. They were trying to get to Chicago where they had a cousin who supposedly had jobs waiting on them.

They had some questions for me. 1) Do you have any food? 2) How far is Chicago? and 3) Where can we hop a northbound train to get there? Well, I knew where a local diner was and it just so happened there were train tracks across the street from it so I put the gentlemen in my truck and drove them there. It seemed to me I had solved their problem. As they got out of my truck one of them pointed to the train tracks and asked, “Which way is Chicago?” Now, I’m not usually directionally challenged but in that moment I was, so with a little hesitation I pointed to my left thinking that way was generally north. I gave them enough cash to get a meal, got in my truck headed back to the office.

On the ride back I was questioning my answer to them about which way Chicago was so when I got in the office I immediately got on the computer and pulled up Google Maps. To my chagrin I realized I had given those guys bad information. In actuality I had sent them west, right back to Houston.

Boy, Chicago looks a lot like Houston!

This little incident illustrates my point. Those guys didn’t know the truth and when I unintentionally told them a lie they believed it. I can see them now as they jump off the train. “Something about this place is familiar. Chicago looks a lot like Houston.

This little incident illustrates what can happen if you do not know the truth. Here’s the real truth:

John 8:32 says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The other option we have is to ignore the truth. How often have we have done this? We rationalize and say, “I know this will be bad for me but…” or “I know I shouldn’t do this but….” I could give real life examples but I have a feeling you’ve got your own list of experiences to fill in the blanks. There’s a scripture for this one.

James 4:17 says “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

How do we learn the truth? It’s quite simple really. Just get into God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Write it down. Listen to it. Pray it. Live into it until it becomes the definition of who you are. Win the war for your mind by winning one battle at a time with the power of the Word of God.

Yes, we are living in a messed up world, but here’s the deal, ever since the fall in the garden of Eden, the world has been messed up. And yes, sometimes life throws us a curveball that sometimes looks like a never-ending flood. And yes, sometimes our patience is tested, our faith is put on the line, and we will suffer loss. But fact remains that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Some of you have endured situations I would never want to have to face. Others have dealt with addictions or other hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Sometimes it seems you are just living life in a circle, always coming back to the same old same old. You try to win only to come back to loss. Its like your trying to get to Chicago but you keep ending up in Houston.

I’m telling you today that grace is here to change all that once and for all. Grace is here to help you get control of your life by helping you taking control of your mind.

As I close this devo, may I remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul. He wrote in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Happy 3rd Birthday, SafeHouse!

One of our SafeHouse babies. #love

This month (December 2016) we celebrate the third birthday of SafeHouse. For those who may not know, SafeHouse is a community outreach to the poor and homeless who “live” in the city of Lafayette. Over the past three years SafeHouse has provided over 10,000 hot meals at our SafeHouse campus on St. Antoine (where our average attendance is about 150) and with our hot dog cart at a downtown park (we serve 50-100 people) that is considered “home” by many. The dedication of all our SafeHouse volunteers has made it all possible.

SafeHouse is also the umbrella that covers our Celebrate Recovery program and Jail Ministry. Every week, our volunteers are privileged to meet with almost 200 or so people who have made bad choices and are now paying the price for them. Then there are those who are in Sheriff’s Rehab who are trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. We feed them hot meals, have meaningful conversations with them, hug them, and let them know they are loved unconditionally.

Someone approached me not long ago and said, “You know that most of these people you are giving this food and stuff to, are taking you for a ride.” I replied, “I know that some might be doing that but the majority are wonderful people who are grateful for our kindness.” I went on to say, “We understood the risk when we started this outreach and we decided it was one we were willing to take.”

Love me some SafeHouse ‘pasketti’

It has been a few months since that conversation. Today at our Landmark 10 AM Sunday service, I watched as people responded to the preaching by streaming to the altar. Over 75 hurting, broken people had heard a message of hope and deliverance and now they stood there, hands raised, hearts open, with tears flowing down their faces. Standing with them were others who had come through SafeHouse, CR, and rehab who’s lives had been impacted by the beautiful people of Landmark and changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart did a double back flip as I witnessed this incredible            ministry moment.

It was in that moment that it hit me. SafeHouse is not about the hot meals or the coats or the mosquito dope or the shoes or the toiletries or the articles of clothing we give away. It’s not about the hours spent loading and unloading our SafeHouse trailer. It’s not about the money spent on equipment, food, and fuel. SafeHouse is about building relationships…even with the ones who are “taking us for a ride.” When I saw that, all of a sudden nothing else mattered. So what if they are taking advantage of our kindness. It just might be that that little “sacrifice” of selflessness will give them a glimpse of Jesus. If it takes them “taking me for a ride” for me to show them where hope is, then so be it.

SafeHouse volunteers at our very first event!

Another person said of our SafeHouse ministry, “Y’all are just dumpster diving, looking for half eaten hamburgers.” I pity the person who said that. They will never know the pure joy of seeing what God does at the bottom of the pile. Here’s the deal…the way we see people, in their poverty, addiction and need, is what Jesus sees when He looks at us. “All of us are just,” as T.D. Jakes said, “beggars showing other beggars where the bread is.”

As I looked at the scene around the altar I thought, “What an incredible honor it is to serve them,  to serve with them, to love them, to call them my family. They are no longer “those people,” they are my people, and I love them so much. They are not encumbered with the usual trappings of religiosity. They’re just desperately messy people who have found hope at the foot of His cross. Yes, some of them have lied to me. Some have taken my kindness for granted. Still others have abused my generosity and most of them have relapsed so many times I’ve lost count. Yep, they are a mess but they are my mess and I will defend them, fight for them and stand beside them. And, I will celebrate with them when they win.

A portion of the crowd at one of our events. Each gathering includes a meal, worship, preaching, and altar call.

Matthew 25:35-40 NLT

35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’