Living In The Truth (Bridge Message)


Many years ago, I was a taxi-driver. I worked the graveyard shift. It wasn't easy. It quickly became one of the most difficult times of my life. 

I would drive cabs 6 days a week and up to 14 hours a day. What got me wasn't the long hours, it was more about trying to follow Jesus and live the way He wanted me to live, while being surrounded by people who were basically saying "forget that! Have fun! Eat, drink and be merry!" It filled me with jealousy and made me depressed.

It seemed, every night, all I saw or heard were things contrary to how I was trying to live. It seemed that every person who entered my cab loved what they were doing and would shove it down my throat. It seemed that everyone who entered my cab was doing what they were born or destined to do! They had their money, had a free night and they were going to make the most of it!

My evenings normally started with people sitting in my cab and endlessly rambling on about how they were about to fulfill their plans. Plans to party, get drunk, get high, get laid and so forth. As the night moved on, I'd see celebration and laughter if they'd conquered their mission or I'd see anger and tears if they'd failed. The way everyone spoke and acted, it seemed like the whole meaning of life centered around what happened in that night's actions. To them, it was their truth and they loved to tell me all about it.

Imagine hearing and seeing all this for about 70 to 80 hours a week, every single week. It makes you weary. It brings you down! It's tough! It's depressing. It makes you want to forget everything and embrace the same lifestyle.

In reality, I didn't know what was going on these people's lives and hearts, all I saw was a drive and passion to fulfill that night's lusts. I don't know where they stood with God, but I know I was drifting further away from Him and making an effort to distance myself also. I went from wanting what God wanted for me, to conforming to those I came in contact with.

Logic tells us that it shouldn't have been that difficult: I was brought up in a strong Christian family, had graduated from Bible College and had just done some overseas mission, but all that didn't matter, the pressure consumed me and I started believing that gambling, partying, getting drunk, getting high and having sex was what life was all about! I started believing life wasn't about loving Jesus and our neighbors, it was about making ME happy! I strayed from the truth and wanted what I thought they had. I believed the lies. I believed the people who jumped into my cab had the Truth, and I wanted to be set free. 

When I started this job, my initial goal was to be salt and light to all I came in contact with. My cab was going to be my mission field, but it didn't work out that way, I was affected by others far more than I ever affected them. I was overwhelmed. I felt like a lonely sheep surrounded by countless wolves. 

When all we encounter is people who glorify money, sex, alcohol, drugs and power; these things will take us down. We need to realize how weak and fragile we truly are. It took me far too long to realize I had been sucked into believing their passions. It took me far too long to realize I was also too weak to fight it on my own. I was trapped! I was depressed! I needed Someone to rescue me.

Jesus said in John 8:31-32; "If you continue to accept and obey my teaching, you are really my followers. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

While driving these taxis I had drifted from this truth; I may not have acted on all these fantasies, but my mind had strayed big time and I was worshiping things other than Jesus. 

When we are coming up against the world, and we are convinced we are in it alone, it's hard to keep fighting, it's hard to find the freedom that Jesus is speaking about. It's easier to go with the crowd. It's hard to go against the flow, it's hard to accept and obey the teachings of Jesus, especially when we think we're fighting the battle alone.

Even the great prophet Elijah sunk into depression because he thought he was the only one, but God assured him, there were 7000 like-minded people in Israel who had the same goals, passions and drive for God as he did. He wasn't alone, and neither are we! In fact, when Elijah cried out to the Lord about feeling alone, God provided him with a faithful companion who would go through his battles with him until the day God took him up to His new Home. God hears our cries and He doesn't want us to be alone, so when He does provide, accept His gift and run with it, just as Elijah did. 

We also need to find people who think like us. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there'll always be people who'll take us down the wrong path, so we need to carefully choose who we're going spend quality time with. We all need others to lift us up. When I was driving my cab, I had isolated myself, there were like-minded people around, but I wasn't pursuing them. In a way, I pushed them away!

During this time, I sunk really low. There was plenty of internal wailing, feeling sorry for myself and prayers fro deliverance. Even though I pushed God away and had said regrettable words to my Heavenly Father, He didn't forget me. He called out to me and I realized how far I'd drifted from Jesus, and that's when I sought the truth of the gospel again. That's when I realized what a self-centered fool I'd been. That's when I realized again that truth comes through Jesus, and not the lusts and cravings of nihilistic people. 

Knowing it's foolish to want change, but continue living the same way, I made sure I reconnected with people who'd lift me up, encourage me and even rebuke me when necessary. No matter what we're doing, or where we're living, we all need others as we travel along our rocky paths! 

I eventually stopped driving taxis and came back over here to Chicago. It was a hard, but very important decision I had to make, because I knew my weaknesses and I knew that if I wanted to accept and obey the teachings of Jesus and if I wanted the truth to set me free, I needed to be around and among people where we could lift each other up. It wasn't a good longterm solution for me to keep driving cabs, it was too isolating and there were countless temptations every hour of every night. I came to realize that if I wanted to live and work among people, places and things that would bring me down, I needed to surround myself with a good support network, and I knew I had that here in Chicago. 

I learnt this lesson the hard way, we are all going to be around people, places and things that can bring us down. It doesn't matter if we're living on the streets, working in the financial industry, working in a church or anywhere else, we will be tempted to live a lifestyle other than what Jesus wants. So if we want to "run the race with perseverance", we all need to make sacrifices and also surround ourselves with people who will lift us up! 

Paul encourages us with these words; "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:9)

We all struggle with different temptations, cravings, passions and so forth. We need insight into our weaknesses as we pursue our hopes and dreams. I've always felt that God wanted me to work with and among people struggling with homelessness, addictions and being in prison, but I also learnt that if I wanted to not lose heart, I needed people who are on the same page as me and would lift me up along the way. If we want to "not lose heart in doing good", if we want to "not grow weary", we need to dedicate ourselves to the only One who can set us free and surround ourselves with those who desire the same thing! 

I want to close with a story about someone who dropped by to see us at CCO last week. His name's Lonny.

For years I'd known Lonny as this guy who stumbled around Uptown because of his chronic addiction and homelessness. He was a nice guy, but he always got caught up with the very people, places and things that he should have dodged. Because of this, he remained homeless, inebriated and suffered short and seemingly pointless stints in jail. Lonny had no money, he needed shelter and Uptown was his stomping ground, so it was nearly impossible for him not to be around the very people who offered him a drink, give him a blunt or help make some quick cash.

Then out of the blue, we started seeing a difference! Even though he still lived in the hood and still had to deal with the same crew, things started changing. We'd hear him talk about Jesus, he wasn't walking around the neighborhood with the same old guys and he wasn't tipsy every time we saw him. After years of resistance, Lonny listened, he made up his mind to accept and follow the teachings of Jesus, and we saw the change. We witnessed how the Truth set this man free.

I'm not going to say the battle has been easy for Lonny; but now he has this joy. He hasn't lost heart in doing good. He has stayed on course. He hasn't grown weary. Despite all the obstacles, he has continued to fight and rely on the Lord. He has also connected with folks throughout the city who lift him up and encourage him to keep on pushing forward. The other day, when I spoke to him, he had this massive smile on his face because he had just celebrated a year in his own apartment, a couple years of sobriety and he remains overjoyed of all the Lord has accomplished in his life.

Lonny gives us hope! When I look at him, I see a new man and I see how Jesus wants to set us free! Despite how alone we may feel and despite what our circumstances are, Jesus makes the same offer to each one of us tonight! He wants to set us free! 


A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
 
This was a sermon preached on 8/2/16, in response to this question; "Living In The Truth!"
How can I live a truthful life when I’m surrounded by people who don’t believe the truth? How can you be honest when people do not believe the truth, and can’t be honest with themselves?
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