I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers, night and day. Longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, that I may be filled with joy. -- 2 Timothy 1:3-4
Suddenly the new phrase, “Social Distancing” is an integral part of our culture’s vocabulary, thanks to a pandemic none of us expected.
In a recent Heartbeat International staff meeting however, our staff was considering another way of thinking about this new catchphrase. Instead of saying, “social distancing,” we’re inviting ourselves to say, “Physical distancing and social connecting.”
“. . . First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
The verse above completes one of Jesus’ teachings on judgment, outlining how we should address another’s challenges regarding faith and life. But it’s fascinating that this verse is probably the least quoted in this section of The Sermon on the Mount.
For instance, we often hear people tell us, “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which is the first portion in this teaching. It’s true, we’re not ultimate judges. We should not suppose ourselves to be the final arbiters of another’s life. It’s not our job. Quoting only this verse, however, leaves us with only a small part of what Jesus is trying to say.
Jesus goes on, letting us know we do have a role to play in helping others dealing with their failings and the baggage they carry.
Jesus begins by reminding us about human nature: We’re quick to see someone else’s faults, which He describes as a speck in the eye. Of course, He’s right. He’s also correct by telling us we have issues, too,
But here’s the problem: A speck in our own eye, even if we don’t want to deal with it, causes such disruption to our lives that its impact—on us—is that of a log in our eye.
The good news? Instead of walking away after pointing out the hypocrisy of berating others for their “specks,” Jesus brings hope for us.
His answer? “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
In Pregnancy Help Ministry, many of us—perhaps all of us—can bring our own “logs” into our work. Our issues may be pregnancy related, or from another area of our lives. Or—and let’s hope this isn’t the case—we could carry a log of pride into our work which screams, “I’ve got it all together and you need help.”
Jesus’ counsel on this is so powerful. First, he says, let’s ask ourselves if we have a log needing removal. If we do, let’s take the time to carefully do the heavy lifting. It’s not easy. Because, if we think about getting a log out of our eye, we understand the eye is one of our most sensitive areas.
But, once we’ve done the painstaking work of removing our own log, we’ll see clearly once again. With this clarity and our experience in removing our own log, we’re ready to help another. When we do, we’re more likely to listen carefully when they describe how the speck got in their eye. We’ll pay close attention to how it is affecting their vision and their decisions. We’ll note—with empathy--the pain it is causing.
Once we’ve taken the time to take in all this information, we’ll think once again about how challenging it was to remove our own log. So, when we gently reach to remove our friend’s speck, we will do so with reverence and caution, remembering the sensitivity in our own eye and how the slightest abrupt motion could damage the process.
In this work, we’re “Speck Removers.” It’s an important role for any of us, and we can’t shy away from it. Our apprenticeship begins by asking, “Do I have a log needing removal?” If we’re willing to do this—and to take on the work needed to remove our own logs, we’re well on our way to becoming outstanding speck removers, characterized by both sensitivity and patience.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistHeartbeat International
They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. Acts 2: 46B-47A
In Luke’s account of life in the early church, he gives us a few sentences of how the early Christians—after suddenly growing from a group of 120 people to more than 3,000—found a way to thrive and expand even more.
According to Luke, they listened to powerful teaching from the apostles, they hung out together, they prayed together and . . . they did a lot of eating together (v. 42).
In addition, as wonders and signs took place through the apostles, these brand-new Christians trusted each other enough to share whatever they had to support the cause.
But toward the end of what we know as the second chapter of Acts, Luke points out something we—as those involved in pregnancy help ministry—can easily latch onto every day. The early Christians, he says, took “their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God (italics mine).”
Aha! The first followers weren’t just eating together (which is always a good idea for volunteer and paid staff gatherings) because they needed food. They did so with sincerity and gladness . . . which seems like joy to me. These folks loved each other. Cared for each other. Over food, they delved into each other’s lives.
Here’s the thing: While those outside of the faith didn’t likely see any of this fellowship time, something happened as a result. Let’s let Luke tell it:
“. . . and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
You see what happened? Because of what was taking place around the tables, those outside the faith saw a palatable difference in the new Christians. This difference was so powerful, “all the people” were impressed. And the result? The Lord added to their number.
Of course, Jesus predicted this. In John 13:35 he told his disciples at the Last Supper, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not surprisingly, he was right.
It’s a lesson for us. We do a lot of training in how to share Christ’s love with those we see, which is certainly good. But the most important way to reach others is behind the scenes, when they can’t see us. By developing a love for each other—maybe even over food—we create a culture which others can see so clearly, they want to be part of it.
Our thought for today? If we want our clients to embrace faith, our most effective starting point is each other. When we spend time together, we create a culture of sincerity, gladness and praise—one which is so obvious, others want to join in.
And to Ram was born Amminadab; and to Amminadab, Nahshon; and to Nahshon, Salmon; and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab . . . Matthew 1:4-5
If we read quickly through Biblical genealogies, we’ll skip right over his name and assume “Salmon” always refers to a tasty fish. But there he is, mentioned two times (Luke’s narrative is the only other time Salmon pops up), and we never hear about him again.
But to us, Salmon should be both a hero and an example.
Salmon married Rahab. As in, the prostitute. The harlot. The woman of the evening.
C’mon, who marries someone like that? A hero, that’s who.
We know the story of Rahab, the harlot who hid Israel’s spies before the Battle of Jericho. She and her family were the only ones spared when Joshua and his army poured into Jericho in one of Israel’s first—and biggest—conquests.
Salmon is what happened next. He’s not mentioned in the Book of Joshua, however. Or, anywhere else in the Old Testament. It is only when Matthew and Luke put forth Jesus’ genealogical line that we see this man, the one who married Rahab.
We know nothing about him, Biblically speaking. But we know enough. For instance, we know he had the courage to accept someone outside of the Hebrew people. He not only accepted Rahab as one of his own, he married her. That’s a big step of faith.
And, we also know he married Rahab based on her present, not her past. Rahab’s past was, in short, a mess. What man wants to marry someone who has been with multiples of men—for money? Not only this, but everyone in the Israelite community knew it. No doubt, word got passed around about where the spies stayed during their visit. Of all things, they probably said, the only place they could find to hide out . . . was a prostitute’s lair! By the way, some scholars say Salmon was one of the spies. One day, perhaps we’ll find out.
But yes, everyone knew. And let’s not assume the children of Israel were super-human with their outreach and kindness to others. Like all of us, they had their failings. And if we think all of them surrounded Rahab with nothing but love, devoid of judgment, c’mon. Let’s be real.
Salmon however, did. Whatever was said behind his back, he chose Rahab. They gave us Boaz.
And Boaz? He married another outsider, Ruth. Which, according to Matthew, brought us to David . . . and Jesus.
When others saw a prostitute, seems like Salmon saw a woman of courage. When others saw Rahab as an outsider, Salmon saw a hero for his fledgling people.
Salmon saw a hero in Rahab, but he is a hero to us as well. Because his marrying Rahab led to our savior.
And, Salmon is an example we can all emulate. He didn’t focus on Rahab’s past, but on her present. When we see people—anyone—as Salmon saw Rahab, we do well. Because, many of those who come to our doors are begging to rid themselves of their past so they can have a better present.
Let’s choose to see with the eyes of Salmon. When we do, we may be better equipped to change the lives of those who need us most.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
So they were saying to him, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.” John 8:19
When Jesus met the adulterous woman, he confronted those who wanted to stone her by asking only those without sin to cast the first stone. After her accusers left, Jesus asked, “Did no one condemn you?”
When she answered that no one had stayed to pass judgment, Jesus told her, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”
It’s interesting. There were so many Jesus met who crossed the line of sin—people like tax-collectors, a woman at the well, and this woman, caught in adultery. Yet Jesus never seemed angered about their lives, their sin. Instead he refused to condemn these people, many times connecting with them on a deeper level and changing their lives.
But some people did anger Jesus. He said mean things to them. Called them snakes, vipers, hypocrites. Not the kind of things to be shared in polite company. As a result, Jesus probably didn’t get invited to the high-society parties.
One of these verbal rebukes comes just after Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman. Once she is gone, the Pharisees show up with questions, as they always did. They were the religious leaders of the day, the smart people who declared themselves purveyors of truth and righteousness.
Jesus claimed to be the light of the world, and the Pharisees were not interested. A debate ensued, leading to their question, “Where is your father?”
The answer could have been, “In Heaven, where He sits on His throne.” But Jesus’ answer wasn’t about where his father was. It was about who his father was. And his answer cut them to the quick.
“You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.”
Think about it. Jesus told the very people who thought they knew religion better than anyone that they didn’t know God at all. And oh, by the way, they didn’t know him, either. Quite a statement.
Jesus saved his anger for these people. But the adulterous woman? No condemnation for her, only love and a desire to see her whole again.
You know what? This is what we do. Our mission is not about calling out religious leaders, but it is to reach those who Jesus touched with kind words. Many come in our doors feeling condemned and worthless—even if they don’t admit it. Let’s love them. Build them up. Help them find a second chance.
And if someone comes along to condemn those we serve, maybe we need to call them out. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
“For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. John 4:18
The Woman of Samaria (or The Woman at the Well) is one of our favorites in pregnancy help ministry, for good reason. In this story we see Jesus talking to someone with a checkered past, living with a man outside of marriage. But instead of condemning her, we see in verse 18 that Jesus affirms her for her honesty.
Then, later in the story, Jesus tells this woman something he has yet to tell anyone else: That he is, indeed, the messiah she’s been waiting for.
Leading up to this moment, Jesus talks to the Woman at the Well about the living water he offers. She wants this, badly. But Jesus gives a condition: “Go, call your husband and come here.” Why does Jesus say this? I’m not sure, but perhaps a clue comes in her answer, “I have no husband.”
Aha. Jesus knew this, and his reply is more than she could have imagined. “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband,’” he says. “For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband. This you have said truly.”
It’s easy to look at this and say Jesus was correctly pointing out the woman’s past sin (Five divorces? Whoa!), and proving he knew she was again . . . in sin. She was shacking up, right?
But what if there is something else here? Remember what Jesus was talking about, the living water? And offering her this living water, a water that would bring life to those who were dead, a life which would never end?
Maybe, just maybe, this woman’s biggest problem was not her sin, but her shame and brokenness.
In her culture, it wasn’t women who filed for divorce. It was the men. A guess? Not one, not two . . . but five men, at different times, dropped her like a bad habit. With a piece of papyrus, they told her, “Get out.” In her heart, she had failed five men. She was unwanted, dismissed as a worthless piece of property.
And now, she was living with a man, probably thankful anyone would have her even if he saw no reason to marry her. She was broken. Ashamed. Head down at a well, drawing water . . . probably for someone else.
Perhaps for the first time in a long, long time, someone affirmed her. Remember, she could have lied, saying the man she was living with was her husband—just hoping Jesus wouldn’t figure it out. Instead, she was honest and transparent. And Jesus thanked her.
It’s a lesson for us all. Many of those who come in our door can be seen in two ways. We can address the sin, but while we might be “right,” we may be missing the bigger picture.
Jesus went deeper, addressing the shame the woman at the well dealt with every day. Instead of condemning her, he affirmed her. This launched a new conversation which led to her reaching out to other villagers, who then followed the messiah. The Woman at the Well, then, was one of Jesus’ first evangelists.
As we reach out to those who come in our door, it’s easy to see the sin. But if we look deeper, we might find the shame at the root of our new friend’s problem. Let’s go deeper, because when we do, healing can begin.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling . . . .” Eph. 1:18A
We pray for friends, family members, and many times for those who come in the door of our pregnancy help ministries. When we do, we might pray for specific situations, such as health, relationships, employment, finances and more.
As we pray for those in our circle of influence, let’s ask this: “How would the world be different if God answered every one of my prayers this week?”
One pastor, made this point by asking his congregation, “If God answered all your prayers, what would happen? Would you merely see your food blessed, a few people get over their colds and have traveling mercies to grandmother’s house? Would that be all?”
But look at what Paul prays for his Ephesian friends. Let’s peek at Paul in his prayer closet:
“ . . . That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Eph. 1:17-19A)
Now that’s praying. Paul goes beyond the requests we so often think of and straight to the heart of the matter. Because he knows, if his friends in Ephesus capture a clear understanding of God’s love, everything else is going to fall into place.
As he continues, Paul’s greatest desire is that those receiving his letter have eyes to see the hope of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus Christ.
Which is something for us to remember. When a friend, family member or client asks for prayer, what is our primary focus? Do we focus on the situation in front of us? Or on the greater need?
Me? I tend to see the surface need and focus my attention on whatever I’m asked to pray about. But what if I also asked for something bigger, that my friend understand, “the hope of His calling” and to effectively grasp God’s love for us?
Paul focused on the greatest needs of his friends. As I pray for others, it’s a good idea to do the same.
by Kirk Walden, Heartbeat International Advancement Specialist
And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:14
The synagogue official, staunch defender of tradition, must have been a fun guy to hang out with. Because after seeing the miraculous healing of a woman who spent 18 years with a sickness which kept her from ever standing upright, his first thought is to defend a man-made rule which God never intended when He created the Sabbath Day.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day voiced plenty of complaints about their Messiah. They didn’t like his friends, weren’t happy with His drinking habits, and vehemently opposed how Jesus spent His Saturdays.
In their minds, Jesus was nothing but a rule-breaker; a tradition-stomping, disrespectful insurrectionist who wanted nothing more than to thumb his nose at anyone with authority.
But we know Jesus was quite the opposite. He was—and is—the authority, a man who loves His Father so much that He defended the Father’s love . . . above the rules men created for their own benefit.
Love doesn’t care what day it is, because every day is the perfect time to love the hurting. Love doesn’t fret over the status of someone else, because everyone is worthy to be loved. Love isn’t bound by tradition because love has no shackles, no limits.
What about those of us in the pregnancy help community? Thankfully, we don’t have man-made religious rules which keep us from loving.
On that Saturday, Jesus saw a woman who was, for 18 years, beyond healing. For 18 years, her illness kept her from standing upright. Nothing helped. Likely in pain every single day, no one’s prayers made a difference. Others probably took care of her.
But somehow, on that Saturday she made it to the synagogue to see Jesus. And on that day, everything changed. It was her right time, regardless of the rules.
If we are reflections of Jesus, part of our mission is to love enough to see those who come in our door as at “just the right time” for healing of emotional, spiritual and possibly even physical wounds. Because for love, there’s no time like the present. And that’s a rule we can always live by.
Servants of Excellence
“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” Luke 22:26
“Leadership” is today’s burgeoning industry. Bookstores are filled with books on leadership, online classes populate the web, day-long leadership seminars abound and leadership coaches reach out to us, ready to provide assistance as we seek to be . . . leaders.
This isn’t wrong, in any sense. In fact, many Christians are leaders in this field because they first learned the importance of leadership from Jesus. They are successful because they teach what Jesus taught regarding leadership—and it works.
And, just like Jesus, they teach that anyone can be a leader, by following one simple rule: Leaders serve.
There it is. No challenging formulas, no fancy steps.
Yet, servanthood is the opposite of what so many believe leadership is about. Jesus dealt with this during The Last Supper, as the disciples—about the time Jesus was washing their feet—argued over who was the leader of the pack.
Jesus stopped the conversation in its tracks. He pointed out that in the world, those with titles and money were “leaders,” but in his kingdom things would be different.
“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader becomes the servant,” Jesus told them.
Then he asked, “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves?” Before anyone could answer (probably a good thing), Jesus continued. “Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
It would be easy to end the entire leadership conversation with, “If you want to be a leader, go out there and serve.” And this is true. In Mark, (9:35), Jesus said as much: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
But there might be something even more basic in what Jesus said at The Last Supper.
Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus was asking his closest followers not to focus on leadership, but to instead live a life of service—regardless of whether one becomes a leader.
This world needs good servant-leaders, no doubt. But perhaps just as much, we need those who serve, those who wake up each day determined to do at least one act of service, for no other reason than this is what Jesus taught.
Today then, let’s find just one way to serve. Let’s build our lives so this is our habit, our way of life. Will we become leaders as a result? Maybe. Maybe not.
But one thing we’ll know for sure, we’ll become incredible servants. And maybe this is what Jesus wanted all along.
“Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:5
Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet during His final Passover meal is only mentioned in one of the four gospels (John), but for centuries Christians have focused on this moment’s significance, impact and lessons for us today.
Clearly, this act—on Jesus’ final night before His crucifixion—is one of servanthood. We would not think the king of the coming kingdom would serve anyone. He should be served! But Jesus chose instead to paint a poignant picture of who we need to be as His followers. And He did so by washing the grimy, calloused feet of those who followed Him.
Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing?
While many still practice actual foot-washing as a reminder and example, because we aren’t as likely to wear sandals (well, we do wear Chacos) and walk on dirt roads all day, what is 21st century practice which follows Jesus’ powerful act of service?
May I offer one, which I often overlook? Listening.
Here is why.
In today’s world, society is wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re texting, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming and Linking In. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.
Today, we don’t worry about dirty feet too much. Still, our lives get messy. And sometimes, the only way to wash off the dirt in our lives is to vent to a friend who listens, as we try to make sense of it all.
Our modern dirt is often found in a metaphorical desert, where our spiritual life converges with the challenge of trying to live out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions as we try to walk out this faith, our spiritual feet get dirty.
Our dirt may not be a sin with which we are struggling, and it may not be a situation which demands fixing. In fact, because social media and first-world standards almost force us to hide our grime, it’s difficult for anyone to see the muck and mire which clutters our lives.
And, we try to ignore our messes as we rush to keep up with the frenetic pace at which we live.
Still, we need someone around who will listen. Because for all of us, that moment comes when we look down at our feet—trying to walk forward in this path of faith—and see they are covered with the cares of life. They need washing.
Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, stopped. He took the time needed to thoroughly wash each man’s feet. He listened as Peter asked, mistakenly, for more. And we can be sure He listened to others as He carefully cleaned those feet which had taken the journey with Him over three years.
Sometimes, the best example of servanthood we can offer to another is the gift of listening. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers. Just. Listening.
If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience a refreshing rain as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for another next step toward the One who loves us.
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