Good morning and happy March 1st! Hard to believe it, but we are beginning the last month of the first quarter of 2021. How is your Bible reading plan coming along? After what I experienced at the Dallas Convention Center during Snowmaggedon 2021, I ditched mine. Don’t worry. I’m still engrossed in the Word, but I’ve changed my focus. I’ll explain more about that later in this post. I believe Bible reading and studying Scripture are extremely important. As a Christian, it doesn’t take long to recognize that God’s Word relates to our modern 21st-century lives as much as it reflects the lives of people living during those ancient times. For me, time in the Word is crucial.
As I mentioned in my slightly trending LinkedIn post and in other social media platforms, during Snowmageddon 2021 I participated in an incredible ministry event that helped save lives and feed souls. It was a marvelous time spent seeing God work right in front of my eyes. Numerous times, I felt like our team had been dropped in the middle of a Bible story during which we saw both magnificent and horrific things, including experiencing God provide beyond measure by utilizing people from different backgrounds and walks of life, seeing the painful impact of frostbite on human flesh, dealing with unexpected twists like a water line bursting and raining water from the ceiling, and witnessing spiritual warfare with our own eyes, complete with demons grumbling. But more about that later…
During a speech he was presenting at an event hosted by Samaritan’s Purse, I heard Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly say that there is no safer place than being in the center of God’s will. Since hearing Brantly make that statement, I have encountered numerous opportunties to test its truth and validity. When God’s got you, there’s nothing that can stop you or keep you from doing His will.
No doubt, God uses us if we look to see where God is at work and when we obediently pursue His will. The work He calls us to may be wrought with challenges and ripe with difficulties, but we know that He will provide what we need for us to remain faithful to Him in carrying out the call on our life.
Tuesday afternoon, after the ceiling had rained water on us and my boss had been physically assualted, I found myself praying in the midst of a difficult event while standing at the precipice of seeing the Lord work wonders through a group of humble servants seeking to help the homeless and the hopeless amid a historic winter storm bringing life to a freezing halt during a deadly pandemic.
Prayer is something I don’t believe anyone of us ever masters. But, prayer is a powerful tool to the Christian. Through prayer, we connect to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16). As the storm we were facing threatened to overwhelm us, our team turned to God in prayer and we could sense the tide turn and the spiritual storm begin to still. Prayer helped us navigate the choppy, uncharted waters me and my OurCalling teammates unexpectedly found ourselves swimming in. People saw God move mountains. Men and women turned their hearts over to Christ. The Holy Spirit emboldened us to combat the challenges we faced with love and grace.
Who is my neighbor?
In the Bible, while being questioned by the religious leaders and authorities of the law, Jesus turns to them and says, “The most important command is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-34)
This begs the question of “who is my neighbor?” Your neighbor is anyone who is not you. Your neighbor is neither defined by what they look like nor limited by there physical address. Your neighbor is not based on if you like them personally, agree with them politically, condone their lifestyle, or are in accord with them spiritually. You neighbor is any person who is not you. How are you to treat them? With love. Yep. Show them love.
Love is good. Since love is good, it expresses truth, justice, grace, mercy, and kindness. Love cannot be and is not anything dark or evil. That goes against love’s nature, just as darkness and evil are against God’s nature. Scripture tells us that God is love. God is holy. God is good. Therefore, love is holy and good also. I’ve often heard it said, “Yes, Christian, lead with love but also truth.” To me, the two are inextricably connected. There can be no love where truth does not exist. Love does not lie. It does not keep track of wrongs. Love is not boastful or arrogant. Love is kind. It is patient. The apostle Paul teaches us that love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with truth. He says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
This then, is how we ought demonstrate love to our neighbor—who is anyone other than ourselves.
Feeding the Multitudes
At the Dallas Convention Center, what started out as a few hungry mouths to feed—150-200 men and women—quickly and expontentially grew from one meal to the next until we found ourselves feeding nearly 1000 people, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Back in early December 2020, when I first sat down with John Williams for our first face to face meeting about joining the homeless discipleship ministry of OurCalling as their new “food guy,” we had no way of envisioning what the Lord would be doing through us just a few short weeks later. We found God entrusting our team with the responsibility of caring for people in the largest homeless shelter in Dallas history.
Sometimes, when you pursue God’s call on your life, things don’t always make sense. However, standing in a room full of hungry people looking to be fed was something familar to me and something that I had done countless times during my many years working with Babe’s Chicken. In this moment, I just wasn’t entirely sure where the food would be coming from. However, I did not need to fear but I had to be willing to let go while trusting and relying on God’s provision through the hands and feet of other fellow servants who were hurriedly working to supply us with meals. This was difficult for me. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit did not give up on me.
In a scene straight out of the Gospels and akin to feeding the multitudes, I watched God multiple food and volunteers with each meal. At one point we had so much food that we were able to give each of our nearly 900 guests two plates the FIRST time they passed through the line. As a bonus, we were blessed with 250 pizzas that we were able to handout for seconds and thirds. A week that had begun with us carefully portioning bowls of rice blossomed into a flood of food pouring in from a myriad of places through a blend of diverse partnerships that only God could have woven together.
Mark 6:30-44 (The Passion Translation)
30 The apostles returned from their mission and gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.
31 There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal. So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.” 32 They slipped away and left by sailboat for a deserted spot. 33 But many of the people saw them leaving and realized where they were headed, so they took off running along the shore. Then people from the surrounding towns joined them in the chase, and a large crowd got there ahead of them.
34 By the time Jesus came ashore, a massive crowd was waiting. At the sight of them, his heart was filled with compassion, because they seemed like wandering sheep who had no shepherd. So he taught them many wonderful things.
35 Late that afternoon, his disciples said, “It’s getting really late and we’re here in this remote place with nothing to eat. 36You should send the crowds away so they can go into the surrounding villages and buy food.”
37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”
“Are you sure?” they replied. “You really want us to go buy them supper? It would cost a small fortune to feed all these thousands of hungry people.”
38 “How many loaves of bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” After they had looked around, they came back and said, “Five—plus a couple of fish.”
39 Then he instructed them to organize the crowd and have them sit down in groups on the grass. 40 So they had them sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, gazed into heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the bread and the two fish and distributed them to his disciples to serve the people—and the food was multiplied in front of their eyes! 42 Everyone had plenty to eat and was fully satisfied. 43 Then the twelve disciples picked up what remained, and each of them ended up with a basket full of leftovers! 44 Altogether, five thousand families were fed that day!
You aren’t alone.
One thing quickly became clear. We were not alone. God was with us, as were a sea of ministry partners, donors, and volunteers collectively striving to help us carryout our mission.
The bitter cold can prove to be deadly. People aren’t meant to live outside in 15 and 20 degree temperatures. Bad things happen to the human body when it gets too cold. Parts come up missing. People die. We all understood the gravity of the work we were doing. But it was too much for any one person or any one group to do alone. God needed to weave a network of people and sew them together in one accord. And, He did.
Yes, I know in our First World culture these things seem far-fetched and tend to raise eyebrows. When you read the New Testament, demonic activity is quite the norm.
During our time serving the homeless and down-trodden at the Dallas Convention Center, we quickly realized that we were standing in the midst of a spiritual storm. Making this realization, caused us to turn to the Lord in prayer and lean into Him out of sheer, utter dependance. This marked an important turn in what we were doing. We had signed up to feed and house people who lived on the streets of the city. We also found ourselves doing battle with forces from another realm.
One example of the spiritual battles we faced occurred in the wee hours of the morning. We were busy unloading an 18-wheeler in the exceptionally cold darkness. The secondary camera crew from a national TV morning show stood near us, preparing to take a live shot in a few minutes. Our group of men unloading the truck began hearing a grumble, similar to a heavy metal growl but more omnious and angry. An older homeless man stood at the shelter entrance. His groaning and growling grew louder and louder until he began cursing and shouting at other people passing by him. Seriously, all that was missing was the clanking of chains.
Another instance involved a young man lying on the floor, his body writhing and convulsing as he came under attack. Initially, we thought he was undergoing some sort of medical episode, but paramedics quickly deduced that was not the case. A team of prayer warriors spent nearly an hour and a half praying over him before he was freed from the attack. I saw spiritual battles around me nearly all day from morning to night, from the time I stepped into the building around 6 a.m. until I left around 10 p.m. Each morning before breakfast, there I witnessed an older man punch himself in the face as he shouted obscentities at himself, his face fresh from where he had clawed at it the night before. It all reminded me of scenes straight out of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 1:21-28). ‘
Demons are nothing new. The apostle Paul taught us long-ago that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, and powers of darkness in this world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12). Our battle is not just against the seen, but also the unseen. We fight, not simply the natural, but the supernatural. As an old friend once shared with me on this subject, “Perhaps you don’t believe because you’ve never experienced it. But trust me, it’s real.” In the Gospels, Jesus encountered them at nearly every turn as our Lord taught and healed throughout Galilee. In Acts 19, we learn about the extensive spiritual battles going on in Ephesus during Paul’s time preaching and ministering there.
You might be thinking that there are other more reasonable explanations for what we witnessed. Perhaps, it’s simply a matter of needing the right medication or identifying the underlying mental illness. I don’t disagree that there is a lot of mental illness involved, especially among this particular population of our street friends. But, in these cases that I mention, there’s something different present that words cannot adequately describe and you can only understand from experience. Again, demons are nothing new. The New Testament stories are filled with antecdotes and encounters that Jesus and the Apostles had with spiritual forces beyond this realm. I think in our modern world, the real inconvenient truth is that we tend not to see what we don’t want to see.
Mark 1:21-28 (New International Version)
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
In the Aftermath
I mentioned earlier in this post that I scrapped my Bible reading plan and shifted how I spend my time in the Word. After my recent experience, I am drawn to an intensive reading of the Gospels. My reading of the Gospels will be accompanied by reading Psalms and Proverbs.
I believe we are often blind to the spiritual battle we are in which also means we don’t see miracles or understand parables as readily as we should. If you’re blind to one, you tend to be blind to the other as well.
In the aftermath, I can see the many lessons we learned some of which we will explore in future posts. One valuable lesson the Lord taught me centered on how to think in abundance. A mentality of abundance helps us be generous, show compassion, and live victoriously.
When you find yourself standing in the center of God’s will, turn your eyes to Jesus and pray. You don’t have to go it alone. God is with you wherever you go. I pray that as you go out into the world and face the daily challenges that life inevitably presents that the Lord might grant you the ability to see your neighbor through His eyes. If we can begin to see people as Jesus sees us then real change can begin.
I can’t tell you how exhausted I was on Saturday, February 20. Our team simply had no more get up and go left. We were spent mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’ve had the last week to recover and reenergize. We’ve also had some time to unpack and process our individual experiences. At the end of the day, when we laid our heads on our pillows, we knew, by the grace of God, we had done some good and that our presence made a difference. We gave people shelter from the frigid cold. We provided them with a cot to sleep in and food to fill their bellies. Last, but not least, we loved them like Jesus.
There are things that happen in our life that permanently change us. We can’t go back to who we were before. There are moments that readily come to your mind that fit this synopsis. I know this past two plus weeks impacted me in a way that I am only beginning to unpack and process.
The work in front of us continues. Pray for us. Pray for the homeless. Pray for our neighbors. I pray that you may begin to see the miracles all around you and that your time in the Word is fruitful.
God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.
The Devotional Guy™