October 19: Authenticity; Faithfully by Faith

Read Daniel 6:1-28

When Daniel’s jealous enemies got the king to make an edict against worshiping the One True God, they weren’t trying to turn Daniel into a pagan.

In fact, their intention was quite the opposite. Daniel’s enemies wanted to fault him for his faithfulness because they knew his faith was immovable. Day after faithful day, Daniel served his God, and they could see his righteousness. The kind that came by faith in Almighty God. And they didn’t like it one little bit.

So for Daniel, it might have looked like his faith brought him trouble. Had Daniel’s faith been anything less than authentic, he might well have given it up — the kneeling to pray three times a day, the giving thanks to God Almighty.

Clearly, thought, Daniel’s faith was sincere. Authentic to the core. And so he proceeded, faithfully by faith, to go before God and trust Him wholly.  No matter what the king said. Because he trusted his God.

Daniel’s no-matter-what faithfulness was not out of compulsion.  It was by faith.  Faith alone.  Because he authentically trusted the One Who sees what he did not. And in the end, the king, who by his own decree sent Daniel to the pit of hungry lions, saw the faith in his faithfulness.

That’s why King Darius couldn’t sleep that night.  He didn’t just really like Daniel, he respected him.  King Darius was learning to revere Daniel’s God.  The One True God.

When it was all said and done, the King who had decreed that all his subjects bow to him, was proclaiming the sovereignty of God the Lord.

Because, by faith, Daniel was faithful.

So God brought glory to Himself.  Through Daniel’s very real trust, He spread His Name throughout a Gentile nation and made Himself known.

God wants to work that way in us. He uses our trust in Him, our genuine faith, to bring others to Himself. When someone opposes us at work, our boss might see our authentic, unruffled faith and notice God in us. When a neighbor shuns us for sharing the truth of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood, another one might notice the faithfulness of our faith and somehow want to know more about the One True God.

Maybe, just maybe, God will use our faithfulness like He used Daniel’s, to do His bidding and attract someone to Himself.

brw

Posted in Uncategorized

October 18: Eyes of a Shepherd

Read Matthew 9:1-38

  • A paralytic was made to walk.
  • A sinner was forgiven.
  • A man of reputation was invited to follow.
  • A dead girl was raised.
  • A suffering woman was finally made whole.
  • Two blind men were given sight.
  • A mute man was given speech.

The truth is, there was no disease or sickness that could withstand the healing power of Jesus. As He travelled, He restored them and taught about a kingdom, in which He was King.

Did it ever get old? Did the needs ever seem overwhelming? Like the exhausted parent who has given and given and given, did He ever lose His sensitivity? It would seem not. Verse 36 indicates that the thing driving Him was the compassion of a shepherd’s heart. Compassion was this gnawing emotion that He felt deep inside . . . an emotion that kept Him teaching, proclaiming, and healing. The action, you see, flowed out of an emotion.

And the emotion stemmed from an observation. When He observed the people, He did not make the first glance observations that assessed appearance and assets. He did not see well dressed, young, upward mobile, professionals who had life by the tail. He did not see people who seemed to know where they were going and how to get there. No, the Good Shepherd saw sheep. Sheep that were troubled. Sheep that were harassed by life and by their own ways of thinking. Sheep that were dispirited, having lost a sense of direction and purpose in life. He saw sheep without a shepherd. He saw people who needed Him as the Good Shepherd.

You see, it was that observation of needy sheep that led to the emotion of deep compassion and ultimately gave rise to the action of teaching and healing.

There is no doubt that the ministry needs around you are overwhelming. Jesus said it Himself, and He invites us to pray that God would raise up workers (vv. 37, 38). But for those already serving, make sure that the steam, the motivation for your ministry is not depleted. Ask God to enable you to once again see people the way He does. It is out of that observation that compassion and action will flow.

Perhaps this YouTube video will help you express that desire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

sbk

Posted in Compassion

October 17: Recognizing Needs and Throwing Money

Read Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-13

You may be surprised to hear that this is the only miracle that is recorded in all four of the gospels. But that fact makes the feeding of the 5000 no more historically true than a miracle that is recorded in only a single gospel (like the turning of water into wine in John 2). It does, however, present us with the opportunity to discover details in one account that may have not been included in another.

Feeding people was not their responsibility! Jesus had previously sent the disciples out with the job of healing and preaching. Feeding hadn’t been in their job description. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Luke’s gospel tells us the disciples recommended that Jesus “send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging…” (Lk. 9:12) Sure, nourishment was a real need, but they didn’t do food. I wonder, do we miss out on real opportunities to serve others because we don’t see it as something we should do?

Feeding people was a financial impossibility! Some commentators estimate that the 5,000 men could have represented 20,000 total people (counting women and children). John’s gospel points out Philip’s response, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (Jn. 6:7) Indeed, he was right. Money is a limited commodity. While it is vitally important to many aspects of meaningful ministry, it is not the sum total, and it can only make a small dent in a world filled with needs. I wonder, is our tendency to throw money at a need when God would have us be more personally involved in the lives of people?

Once Jesus made clear that this was a need they were to meet…once He communicated that the solution was not financial resources…once the five fish and two loaves were placed in His hands, the disciples became an integral part of blessing thousands of people. They were the ones distributing the food (Lk. 9:16). They were the ones collecting the leftovers (Jn. 6:12, 13). They participated in meeting a need, for which they wanted to take no responsibility. They participated in meeting a need that money could not address. And on that day, not only were fish and loaves multiplied, but so was their understanding of ministry and compassion.

sbk

Posted in Compassion

October 16: From a Friend in Need to a Father Who Cares

Read Luke 11:1-13

The disciples had observed something in Jesus that they wanted to experience.  They were aware of something John had done with his disciples that they wanted Jesus to do with them.  They wanted to learn to pray, and they wanted Jesus to teach them.

Who could be a better teacher?  Jesus had prayed early in the morning and in the late hours of the night.  They had heard Him pray publicly and knew full well that He prayed privately.  With prayers comprised of simple phrases, they had seen the Father respond by calming storms and healing diseases.  His prayer life was one to be envied.

So the master gave His followers a model prayer.  It is a sample that points us to express the Father’s greatness and our commitment to His plan and priorities.  It is a prayer example that communicates our dependence upon Him for sustenance.   It expresses our need for His forgiveness from sin and His strength to stand against the temptation that leads to it.  Don’t miss the heart of those words.  Don’t mindlessly cite them as if their mere utterance unleashes some kind of mystical force.

And, having been invited to teach about prayer, Jesus took advantage of the opportunity by using parables.  If we compare our vertical requests of the Father with horizontal requests of others we know, we can learn much.  To a friend’s middle of the night request, we would likely respond . . . if for no other reason than their “shameless audacity” (v. 8).  Won’t the God of heaven, who neither slumbers nor sleeps and who cares infinitely for us, respond to our needs.

Or take a human father whose loving care for his children knows virtually no other parallel.  Certainly, this father has the welfare of his children in mind.  Even though he is a sinful man, he looks for every opportunity to say “yes” to the requests of his children.  (And even his “no” stems from that same loving care.)  How much more does our heavenly Father joyously give us good gifts.  And arguably the greatest gift of them all is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His children.

Your Father gives good gifts to those who ask!

sbk

Posted in Compassion

October 15: A Woman in Need of Grace and Truth

Read John 8:1-11

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (v. 11)

While there is some question as to whether this section of John was part of the originally inspired writing of John, one must admit the content is consistent with the ministry of Jesus.  In fact, the final words of this section cited above depict the words of John 1 —  Jesus is “full of grace and truth.”  But let’s go back in the story as we allow our appreciation for grace and truth to grow.

It was early morning in Jerusalem.  Not too early, however, that people were not up and about.  In fact, a crowd had already gathered in the temple.  They were assembled to listen to Jesus as He taught.

Earlier still, scribes and Pharisees had been busily scheming.  Imagine the embarrassment as they brought in a woman caught in the very act of adultery!  Their scheme was to bring the woman to Jesus . . . not so much out of their own uncertainty of what they should do, but in order to test Jesus.  How would He weigh in on the teaching of the Old Testament law?

The law clearly gave them the freedom to initiate a stoning.  The woman could be put to death for her activity.  Most likely, the scribes and Pharisees thought they had Jesus trapped.  If He said to stone her, the crowds that had become accustomed to His grace-filled teaching would flee.  If He said to let her go, they would accuse Him of being no friend of the law.

As you know, He gave permission to stone her with the qualifier that the first to throw was to be without sin.  No one qualified.  All of the accusers left.  The only ones left center stage were Jesus and the woman.  She stood, perhaps, head down in her shame.  He stood as the only sinless person . . . as the One who, according to His own qualifier, had the right to initiate the stoning.  Instead, He extended grace – “Neither do I condemn you” – and truth – “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

That tender balance and those twin realities are to be part of the message and the experience of Christ’s unstoppable church.

sbk

Posted in Compassion

October 14: Jesus’ Far-Reaching Hand of Compassion

Read Acts 8:4-40

He had used Stephen’s martyrdom, and the church’s persecution, to spread His Word.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (v4)

The Holy Spirit was at it again. His mission: grow the Church. Further the Kingdom of God. Spread the Good News that Messiah had come with salvation for all who would believe and receive. Love the unlovely.

The apostles witnessed His truth all over Jerusalem. In all Judea. Now it was time for Samaria and on to the ends of the earth. (See Acts 1:8.)

So even the Samaritans believed and were baptized. Even the Samaritans, those dirty dogs ever-so-hated and looked-down-upon by the “righteous” nation of Israel, accepted the gift God had offered in His Son.

I imagine a bit of fond remembrance when the apostles heard the news that included even the region despised by so many for their mixed and sordid heritage. I’ll bet their minds raced back to that day by the Samaritan well, the first time they saw Jesus love those unlovely people.

I bet they pictured the woman Jesus sat next to that day. Their conversation. The way He knew all her filth and loved her anyway.

They couldn’t have been at all surprised that the gift of the Holy Spirit was for even those Samaritans.

I wonder what Peter and John talked about as they traveled there. Did they argue over who would pray? Who would lay hands on their deep-seeded rivals? Or were they anxious to extend the love and life of Jesus Christ to that region? The one Jesus had so intentionally not forgotten?

Had the rivalry ended for them that day there with Jesus? The day He made it clear He’d come for the despised, neglected, even dirty Samaritans.

Did they remember the fields Jesus spoke of, the ones ripe for harvest? Did they remember details of that day? The way the woman looked? The others who’d believed?

When John and Peter laid their hands on those they’d always deemed so unlovely, believing Jesus’ grace for any who’d receive, Jesus showed Himself true for all that He’d taught.

And the Samaritans got the gift of Jesus. In Spirit. In truth.

Are there people you think aren’t worthy of the Holy Spirit? People about whom Jesus has changed your mind? Have you let Him convince you that He loves even them? That He wants to live in even them?

brw

Posted in Compassion

October 13: The Beautiful Beggar

Read Acts 3

I’d seen him a few times around the city. He looked normal enough. Except for the sign he held stating his need.

I remember him well, even after eight years. He always looked so sad leaning against the wall holding that sign. Early thirties was my guess. Clean cut. Not your normal beggar-type.

That’s what struck me. It’s why I remember him.

We walked by one day, both kids in the stroller, headed into a store. We had fresh milk in our basket for the next morning’s cereal. Fresh milk and comfortable countenances from the provision we’d long taken for granted.

I’d used my last few coins on the milk, so I had nothing left to give him.

That’s when I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge, the words spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, anyone who gives . . . a cup of water in my name . . .

So I grabbed the milk, walked up to the man on the street, and I asked,

Would you like some milk?

I will never forget the look on his face. It was as if I had offered dignity in the form of eye-contact and some words.

As I looked him in the eye and smiled, he answered yes and thank you.

Sure, that man needed milk. But more than that, I believe he needed to know he’d been noticed. That’s why the Holy Spirit led me to offer it to him. Wanted me to show him Jesus’ love in the form of His attention.

I wonder if that’s why Peter responded the way he did when that beggar at the temple gate asked him for money.

Look at us! (v4)

They would give him what he needed. Not just money, but the love of the Creator. Not just a word, but the notice of God.

Peter offered this man dignity he’d likely not known for many years, if ever.

Relying on others to carry him to “work” every. single. day. Avoiding eye contact with so many “godly” men who passed through the gate called Beautiful, even as they passed judgment on him for the shame he could not shake.

I read this story and wonder at the gift the Holy Spirit gave that beggar that day. Beauty fulfilled in a life restored.

The beautiful beggar noticed by God. Shame erased. Healed completely.

By the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Himself. Alive in His people. Acting by His Word.

brw

Posted in Compassion