12:57:00 PM

There is something about contrasts- black and white, happy and sad, death and life- that makes you see things clearer. Contrasts open your eyes, refocus us.

I saw two very different lives this weekend. Or maybe their lives weren't so very different- but their reactions to their lives.
Every third Saturday of the month, my college group volunteers at Cast Your Cares ministry which is basically a family's home on Kensington Ave in Philadelphia which they use to care for the needy of Philadelphia and provide them with food, clothes, but most of all the incredible Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every Saturday of the month they open up the alley alongside their house to the homeless to come and sit down and eat. We set up picnic tables and another church brings a ton of incredible food and we serve it and speak with the homeless with the aim to share the gospel and pray and minister to them. A lot of the people we serve aren't homeless though, a majority are addicts who are temporarily residing at halfway houses in the area. Some are business men, in their business suits, who are just so addicted to drugs and alcohol that they go to work, but then come back to the halfway houses to try to recover from their addictions. What brings a man who has achieved the American Dream to the place where he is finding his next meal in an alley sitting next to a man who hasn't showered in weeks? Surely it's their need for God that they tried to fill with drugs, sex, and alcohol...and so we desire to offer these people Hope from the One who is our Hope...

Last month a met a kid named Bradley. I shouldn't call him a kid, since he is 21 like me, but his youthful countenance, joy in life, excitement for the day, makes me see him as young- but not in a bad way. Bradley had been a drug addict, but had been clean for a couple months now (he could tell you the days without skipping a beat). He attributed it to the Lord. He was so refreshing in a city full of lost dreams, failure, and pain. He had hope- he had the Hope. He knew that God was able, and he'd learned that he wasn't.

This month I met a man named Danny. Danny was still intoxicated when he sat down at the table I was serving. He'd drunk the night before, and he'd drunk again that morning after realizing he'd screwed up. Danny's goal had been to get out of Philly his whole life. Make a better life for himself, for his family. The failure to do that left him with alcohol to wash away the pain. I guess Danny had not met the business man a few tables away who had found a better life for him and his family, who lived in suburbia, and was still as empty as Danny. Danny's hand was cut up and bloodied from the fight he'd been in the night before. Danny had an irish temper as his excuse. Danny was so ashamed. He'd been the one the men in the halfway house had looked up to. And he'd failed. He'd failed himself and them, he said. I felt so bad for Danny. I know what it's like to fail.

I caught up with Bradley before the afternoon was over. 166 days clean. Still full of life and vigor. Still trusting the Lord to be his strength.

Danny and Bradley were such a contrast to me. Danny was middle aged, eyes blood shot, countenance so heavy, totally despairing, and then there was Bradley: young, sober, full of hope and a future

How do we respond to failure as children of God? How do we respond to His chastening? His discipline? I love Hebrews 12: The Lord knows us and He knows how we get when we fail. Our spirits give up. We shut down. We act hopeless and despairing. We forget that God was able to save us in the first place from all of our sins, is He not still able to pick us back up? If He loves us before we were saved in all of our trangressions, will He then cast us aside when we as His children fall? Hebrews 12 is such an encouragement to not despair, to not allow our failure to conquer us, to not allow ourselves to be condemned...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:1-13

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